In the black hole that is Netflix’s search function, it’s pretty hard to find a show that defies categorization. But somehow The Curious Creations of Christine McConnell does just that.
Let me try—and probably fail—to describe it to you: Have you seen Stranger Things? Ok, cool. So you know the Upside Down? Imagine the Upside Down version of The Great British Baking Show mashed up with the world’s most aspirational Pinterest board. Now throw in some super twisted puppets courtesy of the imagination factory that is Jim Henson Company, a grim six-episode story arc (with frequent mentions of murder, let me say now that this show isn’t for kids), and the queen of the whimsically macabre herself, baker/Instagram star/perfect human doll Christine McConnell. What you end up with is a horror-baking-crafting show (but not really), a puppet show (also off the mark), and a scripted show-show (kind of) all rolled into one. It’s eccentric, but it works.
And apparently that was the point. McConnell has a singular pretty-but-a-little-evil aesthetic—let’s call it Dita Von Teese meets Lily Munster with a sprinkle of Debbie Jellinsky—that’s earned her loyal throngs of Instagram followers. When it comes to crafting and baking, she’s also 100 percent self-taught. After going viral in 2015 for transforming her parents’ L.A.-area Victorian home into a very impressive work of art, she was approached first to write a book (check) and then to create a show.
It took a few years, but the latter finally came to fruition with an assist from Wilshire Studios and Henson Alternative, Jim Henson Company’s edgier arm. “I had seen Christine’s photos on her Instagram and saw that she had all of her own styling, photography, and lighting,” says Curious Creations executive producer Brian Henson. “It was one of those rare instances in which we were meeting a true artistic genius—there is continuity to all of her work.” So Henson and his fellow executive producer, Vince Raisa, asked themselves: Would it be possible to bring McConnell’s as-seen-on-Insta world to life, drop her into it, then populate the whole thing with some very odd creatures?
Uh, duh. These are the same people that brought you The Happytime Murders. So yeah, it would be possible.
Which is how The Curious Creations of Christine McConnell ended up with the motley crew of animals who live alongside McConnell in her home: Rankle, a vitriolic cat who claims to be an Egyptian deity, Rose, a Frankensteined piece of roadkill with a fork for a hand and a penchant for murder, and Edgar, a straightforward werewolf-type. There’s also an octopus sort of thing who lives in her fridge, a ghost who lives in her mirror (played, fortuitously, by Dita Von Teese), and a few other ghoulies who crop up here and there.
If we’re being honest, the creatures, and especially Rose, are what carry the show. It’s fascinating to watch McConnell in her element, to be sure, but her crafts and bakes assume a certain level of knowledge from her audience that we absolutely do not have. (I think I speak on the general population’s behalf when I say most of us don’t know how to draw a six-story home much less build a 3D one out of cookie dough, but in the episode where we’re all supposed to build one like McConnell’s, little to no instruction is offered on the subject.)
Since we can’t make most of her incredible goodies, what the show is left with is the unconventional relationship between McConnell and her pals, which McConnell herself had a hand in storyboarding. “I want to take most of the credit for Rose,” she says. “I originally wrote her as a mummy raccoon, but I love what she became.” And what she became—largely thanks to Colleen Smith, the puppeteer who voices her—is a sadistic but overwhelmingly endearing psychopath, one who’s totally down to throw a ball gag into a neighbor’s mouth and threaten him with nipple torture but who’s also heartbroken when she thinks Christine forgot her birthday. “Part of the reason I wanted the show to be on Netflix was because I knew I wanted to tackle some risqué topics,” McConnell says. “And I got a lot of what I wanted. Not all of it—I think I wanted Rose to put a girl scout into a wood chipper, and they were like, ‘um, no’—but a lot of it.”
The series has been out for a few weeks now, but its final episode takes place on Halloween—instead of bingeing on candy tonight and waking up with food regret in the morning, binge this sweet and salty show instead.
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