There are more cooking shows than any of us could possibly watch. There are competitive shows, gimmick shows and oodles of other content that is either plainly silly or amounts to food porn. Do we need another one?
Yes. Meet your new cooking-information infatuation.
Mary’s Kitchen Crush (Sunday, CTV, 7 p.m. and on-demand on Crave) is anchored by Mary Berg, the winner of MasterChef Canada in 2016. Berg, a twentysomething charmer, is all geeky enthusiasm and concentrates on simplicity. “Nothing too fancy!” is something she blurts out often. She has both presence and a natural sense of self-deprecating humour.
The series is made with an unusual quality of visual style for this genre. All bright colours and the most basic of visual flourishes, it allows Berg to come alive. With her bangs, big glasses and long arms waving willy-nilly she’s an idiosyncratic figure, all plain-spoken quirks and enthusiasm. When you watch you recognize how many cooking shows are overproduced and often ridiculously formatted. Berg makes a simple meal for herself and another person. They eat it. As simple as that, and all the more delightful for that.
In the period since she won the competitive show, Berg has only launched a small catering business and done some TV appearances talking about her recipes. You can tell she hasn’t an ounce of cynicism about TV nor has she developed the kind of egotism that so many TV cooking stars display. It’s a delightful, attitude-free new series.
In the first episode, it’s Berg’s mother Myra (who never liked toiling in the kitchen) who comes along to enjoy the meal – herb-and-garlic-stuffed lamb tenderloin with oven-roasted asparagus, garlic-and-herb flatbread, and a strawberry-rhubarb galette for dessert. It has more charm than one hundred other cooking shows combined. “Woo-hooo! It’s the easiest home-made bread ever,” Berg shouts at one point. True, perhaps, and making a series with this kind of agreeableness isn’t easy at all.
Also airing this weekend
The Red Line (Sunday, CBS, 8 p.m.) is a new eight-hour drama (two episodes will air each of four Sundays) and a highly usual series for CBS. It aims to tackle urban social issues in a way that prestige cable has done. But with more heart, you might say.
The pilot follows Harrison Brennan (Corey Reynolds) a doctor on his way home from work at a big hospital in Chicago. He’s going home to partner Daniel (Noah Wyle still best known for ER) and their daughter Jira (Aliyah Royale). Stopping to buy milk he’s caught up in a robbery situation, and is shot and killed by rookie cop Paul Evans (Noel Fisher). What unfolds is how the shooting has an impact on the cop’s family and the victim’s family, and the entire neighbourhood. Complicating things is the fact that Jira’s real mom, Tia Young (Emayatzy Corinealdi) is running for local election. The speechifying Tia says at the end of the first episode, “It’s up to us to make these neighbourhoods a city. Call me a crazy optimist but if we can get Chicago right, then maybe we can get America right."
It’s different when a network drama tackles race and crime, and the Black Lives Matter cause. Everything is more heartfelt and unsubtle. As drama The Red Line isn’t bad, but more compelling as a social study than storytelling.
Chambers arrives on Netflix this weekend. It’s a supernatural thriller that has Uma Thurman and Tony Goldwyn playing the parents of a heart donor who discover that their daughter may not be quite as dead as they first thought. That’s because the young woman who receives the heart appears to become a very different kind of person.
Don’t forget The Simpsons (Sunday, Fox, City TV, 8 p.m.) features Canada and the much-hyped insertion of PM Justin Trudeau into the storyline. And in sports, Canadian soccer has a milestone moment. The first match of the new Canadian Premier League is played, with Forge FC of Hamilton playing York 9 FC of York Region, in Hamilton. (Saturday, CBC, 1 p.m.).