Review: The Baker and the Beauty 1×1 (US: ABC)

In the US: Mondays, 10/9c, ABC
In the UK: Not yet acquired

Does comedy translate? Does romance translate? The answers to those questions might seem obvious, but with The Baker and the Beauty, a US remake of one of Israel’s highest ever rated scripted shows, להיות איתה (Beauty and the Baker), it seems those answers are ‘a little but not really’.

Translation, after all, is an art and the biggest problems with The Baker and the Beauty aren’t so much with the original text as with the way it’s been translated.

The princess and the pauper

The basics of the plot of the first episode are more or less unchanged. On the night of his four-year anniversary with his girlfriend (Michelle Veintimilla), Daniel Garcia (Victor Rasuk) runs into Noa Hamilton (Nathalie Kelley), a famous model, shortly before his girlfriend Vanessa dumps him when he refuses her marriage proposal. Noa, claiming she feels bad for him, picks Daniel up and offers him “three wishes” for the night. Soon, they realise they’re both attracted to one another.

In itself, it’s a classic ‘different worlds collide and find love’ story, which has worked thousands of times over hundreds of years. That’s not the problem.

Family ties

The problem here is more the lack of class system in the US. There is one, but it doesn’t really work in the same way – at least not in a way that’s conducive to drama and is largely based on money, rather than culture.

Instead, it has family. Everything on US TV is about family. So essentially, the two worlds meeting isn’t about rich v poor. It’s not about working class v upper class. It’s not even about famous v unknown.

It’s about someone with a lot of family and someone without much family. And that’s not really a culture clash.

Even the fact that Kelley is Australian isn’t used. Americans understand Cubans. They understand Latinx culture – or at least have a much better idea about it. They don’t understand Australians. At all. Certainly, not to write a nuanced cultural clash romantic comedy depicting the differences between upper class Australian culture and working class Cuban-American culture.

As a result, everything on Kelley’s side is just the standard “she’s rich and famous so lonely and has servants instead of true friends and family”, compared to Rasuk’s far more emotionally involved and nuanced family life.

Undercooked

Lastly, Kelley’s a little charmless. She gets the lines, but she doesn’t really know how to make them endearing. Rasuk isn’t that much better, but he gets both lines and situations that make you warm to his character, which helps.

Indeed, written by a man, this is very much a male-eyed view of romance, with everything hinging around his emotional life, his perspective of Kelley and whether she can be trusted or whether she’s just toying with him. We never really learn from Kelley about her feelings.

It takes two to tango, and while you might want to watch Rasuk tangoing, his partner for this romance is a bit of a no-show.

The Baker and the Beauty is at least a reasonably enjoyable hour of TV, even if it has few characters you really like – Rasuk’s secretly gay teenage sister is the only one you really care about, but Veintimilla does offer some humour at least.

But for a romance to work, you have to fall in love with the couple themselves. And that really doesn’t happen with The Baker and the Beauty.