A Trump-less Apprentice, an old-school podcast, some new recipes, Nicole Richie, and Judy Blume

A Trump-less Apprentice, an old-school podcast, some new recipes, Nicole Richie, and Judy Blume

NOT OPTIONAL takes a quick weekly look at some essential releases, some recent, some not.

The Apprentice (U.K.)
It may be a bit cruel to deem The Apprentice (U.K.) “not optional,” given that it’s not legitimately available in the United States. But I know how resourceful A.V. Club readers can be: In February, mere hours after I lamented that I couldn’t get a clean copy of a somewhat obscure Wim Wenders film, a reader emailed to point me in the right direction. So I’ll trust that if you want to see the British Apprentice, you’ll figure it out. And it’s worth the trouble, because it’s vastly superior to the Donald Trump version in every way: classier, smarter, and funnier. Hosted by British magnate Alan Sugar, the show puts more thought into the design of its weekly tasks than its American counterpart. My favorite is the annual scavenger-hunt challenge: Given a list of obscure goods, the competitors not only track the items down in the streets of London (with no Internet use allowed), but they also have to negotiate the lowest prices possible. If you haven’t seen it before, track down the earlier years. Having recently begun their ninth season, Lord Sugar et al. have inevitably lost a step or two—though they still put the Donald to shame. [John Teti]

Judy Blume, Starring Sally J. Freedman As Herself
In two weeks, Tiger Eyes, the first (!) movie adaptation of a Judy Blume book, will hit theaters. But before Davey and Wolf there was Sally J. Freedman and her wannabe Latin lover, Peter Hornstein. Starring Sally J. Freedman As Herself succeeds on both societal and personal levels—Blume gently reveals ugly issues like segregation and anti-Semitism, but also explores, with sometimes painful accuracy, the inner turmoil of a preteen girl (Will I fit in on the first day at a new school? Will I ever kiss a boy?). On top of all that, she plays to the superhero fantasies in all of us. Sally never dons a cape or mask, but in her frequent daydreams—always starring Sally J. Freedman as herself—she saves the world from Hitler (who, unbeknownst to all except Sally, is cleverly disguised as Mr. Zavodsky, and lives quietly in Miami Beach). With recent hits like the Harry Potter series and The Fault In Our Stars, we’ve become accustomed to adults reading kid-lit, but Blume wrote Sally, the most autobiographical of her novels, in 1977, and it looks back to just after World War II. And yet despite the quaint touches that date it—inkwells on school desks, Jane Russell’s breasts, Esther Williams’ graceful swimming—the wonderfully imaginative Sally J. Freedman endures. [Laura M. Browning]

Candidly Nicole
I’ve been a fan of Nicole Richie’s for years, ever since she rose to public prominence alongside the far inferior Paris Hilton. Where Paris was vapid and kind of mean, Nicole was smart, funny, and knew exactly who she was. She also managed to turn her celebutante status into a solid industry, launching her own cute fashion line, House Of Harlow 1960, and popping up everywhere from NBC’s Fashion Star to various jokey talk shows. Her newest project is Candidly Nicole, a kind of mini-reality show that runs every week on AOL On. It’s only about five minutes long, but it’s always funny, with Richie taking on everything from floral arranging to teen slang. The episodes generally find her hanging out with friends, ostensibly to do something she’s tweeted about, and they make viewers feel like they’re in the gang, just watching some old pals joke around about how horrible sunflowers are or why old people don’t use Keek. It’s hard to explain why Richie is so appealing, but she is. [Marah Eakin]

Never Not Funny
The podcasting world is full of self-proclaimed pioneers, and comedian Jimmy Pardo is one of those—only he’s kidding when he assigns himself the designation. He doesn’t have to joke; his podcast, Never Not Funny, has been at it for seven years, which is the podcasting equivalent of being on the Apollo 11 mission. Pardo may not be Neil Armstrong, but he was one of the first guys to do a comedy-oriented chat show, a format that’s a full-on podcast template these days. Each episode features a guest, generally from the comedy world, with Pardo leading and ASpecialThing honcho Matt Belknap acting as a sort of sidekick, along with a pair of off-mic production guys who Pardo comically abuses. With his broadcaster’s voice, Pardo is a natural for the format, and his quick, self-effacing wit—punctuated with funny, mock-blowhard outbursts—keeps the episodes lively. The podcast is subscription-based, so a year-long “season” costs $24.99 for audio and video access. But that translates to less than 50 cents per episode (which can last up to two hours), or roughly a quarter per hour. (A 20-minute clip of every episode is available for free.) That’s a good deal for such a reliably enjoyable podcast. Never Not Funny was one of the first, and it remains one of the best. [Kyle Ryan]

Macheesmo.com
It’s a long weekend coming up, so why don’t you take one of those days and cook yourself something amazing? If you already know what you want to make, you can always search for it on Google or FoodGawker.com, but if you’re less certain, why not head over to my favorite recipe site, Macheesmo.com? Run by Nick Evans, the site is geared toward new-ish chefs, those who need to gain the confidence in the kitchen Evans defines his site’s name as, but there’s plenty here for cooks of all experience levels, from a tasty, time-consuming (but not all that complicated) chicken tikka masala to a sausage and egg biscuit that will put any fast food versions to shame. Yes, you can find recipes like these elsewhere, but Evans makes the site as fun as it is. Just a little bit nerdy and always self-effacing, he’s not afraid to share his massive failures right alongside his successes, and his conversational tone makes it seem like just about anyone could tackle any of the dishes he shares on the site. Go ahead. You’ve got time. Cook something. [Todd VanDerWerff]

Filed Under: Comedy

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