Last fall, Comedy Central’s Drunk Historypresented a whimsical romp through the life and times of Julia Child. It was a deliriously entertaining episode, walking through the abridged biography of this culinary doyenne—all while narrator Lyric Lewis became more hammered, slurring consonants and belching mid-sentence.
The five-minute segment shed light on an aspect of Child’s life that’s largely been reduced to a footnote in her biography. Child, before she devoted her life to cooking, worked in the Office of Strategic Services during World War II as a typist and researcher.
On Tuesday, ABC Signature, a subsidiary of ABC Studios, announced it had acquired a show with the working title Julia. It's an hourlong, “darkly comedic dramedy” that’s set in an alternate reality, imagining what may have happened had the CIA capitalized on Child's newfangled celebrity and dragged her back into the world of intelligence as a spy.
The idea for the show had been percolating in writer Benjamin Brand’s head since he came across PBS’ Cooking Secrets of the CIA, a show that aired in the late-90s on PBS. Brand remembered being intrigued by that show’s title, but he was disappointed to find that the show wasn’t about the intelligence agency at all, but, instead, the Culinary Institute of America. Brand figured that the world could use a show about cooking and espionage, those two wholly dissimilar topics. Julia is a corrective to this malady.
Shop the Story
There’s unfortunately no word on when the show will hit airwaves yet. I can only hope a show that sounds this peculiar on paper won't languish in development purgatory, slouching slowly towards eventual death. Child would’ve been 105 this Tuesday, and, in spite of the fact that her cooking shows are regularly syndicated, I miss her dearly.
I wonder who'll play her this time around. Child is quite a demanding role, after all. Those vocal inflections! Those gesticulations! There are boundless renderings of Child on screen. Her spirit has been revived time and time again—by Meryl Streep with labored, infectious charm, most famously. The Drunk History segment featured Michaela Watkins in a non-speaking role. Don't forget Dan Aykroyd on Saturday Night Live. Come back, John Candy.
It takes a special kind of actorly command to do a dead-on impression of Child. I’m ready for an actor who will be able to meet that directive and show us a side of Child we’ve never seen.
Mayukh Sen is a James Beard Award-winning food and culture writer in New York. His writing has appeared in the New York Times, the New Yorker, Bon Appetit, and elsewhere. He won a 2018 James Beard Award in Journalism for his profile of Princess Pamela published on Food52.