“Julia” is a four-course banquet of pure joy

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Friendly Warning: Don’t Watch the New HBO Max Series Julia with an empty stomach.

You’ll want to savor every sumptuous dish prepared by the legendary television personality and French cook host Julia Child, embodied with grandeur and vertigo by the wonderful British actress Sarah Lancashire (Happy Valley, Last Tango in Halifax). It also helps to have the appetite for life, because few series are so generous in serving up a platter of pure joy.

“All you have to do is dive in,” Julia told her elated audience in 1963 as she ended her first television season on Boston’s WGBH and Beyond with a celebration of the classic soufflé. “It’s the key not just to cooking but to life itself.”

With a slight comedic flair that only enhances the jaw-dropping depth of his midlife romance, Julia is a four-course delight, dramatizing with customary creative liberties its growing pains in the low-budget world of nascent public television. His pioneering experience in the culinary arts in front of a camera, born from his groundbreaking book Master the art of French cuisinemakes Child an unlikely media star with her ungainly figure and high-pitched voice, punctuated by sudden bursts of laughter as she navigates her primitive setting.

Lancashire captures all of Julia’s larger-than-life qualities, both earthly and regal, as she defies doubters with an unassuming enthusiasm that has charmed and inspired generations of devotees back home. “One of the benefits of being like me is that you learn at a young age not to take no for an answer,” she tells her wary bosses at WGBH.

(Credit: Seacia Pavao/HBO Max)

Her ambitious producer Russ Morash (Fran Kranz), who prefers to make serious civil rights documentaries, doesn’t see the potential at first, until her underrated assistant Alice (Brittany Bradford) – a composite character who is not only a woman but Black so doubly invisible — sells The French cook to other hungry markets. Publishing giant Blanche Knopf (always expert Judith Light) thinks Julia’s loyal rising editor Judith (Fiona Glascott, an Irish find) is wasting her time with a simple cookbook author.

But Julia has an asset in the hole: her No. 1 fan, husband Paul (the divinely funny David Hyde Pierce), a sadly retired diplomat who rallies to her mission after initially rejecting television as a fad. . Their mutual respect and tender love, tested but later strengthened by his newfound fame, is so warmly portrayed that Julia can be considered the most romantic series of the year. another plum fraser alum, Bebe Neuwirth as the Avis children’s widowed friend, provides even more essential moral (and alcoholic) support.

Julia relies on hero worship a bit thick at times, and fictional Alice’s romantic and professional subplots seem glued from a different series, but who cares when the entry is this tasty? Her entire support team is there for Julia when her confidence is shaken at the end of the series by an encounter with the fearsome feminist Betty Friedan. Enter a future PBS icon to assure her that she is fine as she is.

No arguments here. Julia feeds the soul to the brim.

JuliaSeries premiere (three episodes), Thursday, March 31, HBO Max

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