Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

The Good Place salutes an “Employee Of The Bearimy,” plus David Chang on Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner

Marc Evan Jackson, David Chang
Photo: Colleen Hayes (NBC), Courtesy of Netflix

Here’s what’s happening in the world of television for Thursday, October 24. All times are Eastern.


Top pick

The Good Place (NBC, 9 p.m.): If you’re not caught up on the best sitcom on TV, you might want to skip a little further down the page. Go on, scroll away! There’s an interview with David Chang down there!

So, what do we think? Is that Michael for sure? Or is it Vicky (Tiya Sircar) in a Michael suit after all? Has Jason sent himself off on a terrifying mission, risking a mouth full of bugs and a penis-flattening, with a demon in tow? How will Eleanor and Tahani hold down the fort without any sort of Janet to help them? And most importantly, who is the “Employee Of The Bearimy” promised by the episode’s title?

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By 9:30 p.m, we’ll know. Or not. Who knows. But Dennis Perkins’ recap will be there, either way.

Regular coverage

Daybreak (Netflix, 3:01 a.m.): pre-air review
How To Get Away With Murder (ABC, 10:01 p.m.)

Wild card

Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner (Netflix): In Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner, David Chang and a famous friend travel to some far-flung (or not so far-flung) location, where they talk about food, life, memory, politics, survival, parenthood, and a potential new series called American Chubbz; while they chat, they eat. (Hence the title.) This series, a companion of sorts to Netflix’s smart Ugly Delicious, arrived yesterday, but David Chang is a busy guy. We had some questions for the celebrated chef, restauranteur, TV producer, podcaster, and doer of other cool things, so we figured it was worth waiting to highlight this solid four-part series until after he had time for a chat.

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The A.V. Club: What makes a good travel companion? How did you know that these four [Seth Rogen, Chrissy Teigen, Lena Waithe, and Kate McKinnon] were the right people for the job?

David Chang: Honestly, you don’t know. What we’ve learned is that so many things could happen in someone’s life. They could be a great travel companion literally right before they get on a plane, but they read an email and it goes south. So you never know. It’s just the way life goes, I guess. But we had, you know, we had a sort of dream list [of guests], and thankfully we were able to get all of them—but you just never know. And I think that’s what made the show so fun, and also difficult to shoot, too, because there was this constant unknown.

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AVC: The conversations you have can be unexpectedly vulnerable. One minute you’re smoking a joint with Seth Rogen, the next you’re talking about culture and personal growth and feeling like an outsider and the nature of failure. Is that something you were hoping for, something you went in intent to discover?

DC: No, no way. We didn’t have any idea. The Seth thing—it was just us hanging out. I knew that I was gonna have to smoke a lot of pot, and I just wanted to make sure I wasn’t going to lose my mind. I know Seth has a side that maybe people who have just watched his films don’t know. There is an intelligence and thoughtfulness, and a trajectory in his career that he hasn’t always maybe displayed to other people. He’s also in his hometown, which he’s so proud of. So that was all really unplanned. A lot of these conversations, we had no idea. Morgan [Neville, executive producer] and the team in the field for the shoot—we’d have an idea of where we were going to go eat. That’s about it.

AVC: What, in your opinion, makes a good conversation?

DC: I don’t know. I think I’m trying to figure that out myself, as I continue to do this. This is not something that I feel like a professional at. I’m trying to get better. It’s not my main job. That being said, I think for me what’s important about a conversation, whether it’s one of my best friends or someone I’m getting to know, is if somebody’s gonna be real, if someone’s going to be vulnerable. To me, it’s about strength and vulnerability, if someone’s going to say something and not worry about being cool.

AVC: On the subject of this not being your main job, how would you describe your work as a person who makes television? Does it come from a different part of your brain than the part of you that creates recipes and works with people to create these dining experiences?

DC: This is the first time I ever thought about it that way. From a 10,000-foot perspective, with all of our restaurants that we’ve opened up, even just a fried chicken sandwich shop, there are all kinds of reasons to be there, specifically. Even going back to Milk Bar. With Christina Tosi, at that time in 2008, to have a pastry shop meant you had to be a French man doing macarons and stuff like that. To be anything else was “less ambitious,” and I thought that was a bunch of shit. That was a reason. Noodle Bar was, “Can you do great food at an affordable price with the same ingredients that I worked with when I worked for [restaurants with three Michelin stars] in New York City?” Everybody wants to eat well, right? And still, that’s not even a perfect idea.

So every restaurant sort of starts with an idea. With TV or with conversations, the goal is really about a sense of discovery. Are you willing to learn something? Are you hopefully going to think, “Wow, I disagreed with that at first, but now I see things in a different light”? And that’s a big goal. We’re not always gonna hit it. All we can do is try to get that moment where you change someone’s opinion about something. Maybe the best example is when you listen to a record you really like, but originally when you listened to it, you didn’t like it. Because it challenged you. With Morgan and the team that makes these shows, we’re trying to figure out different ways to challenge you without challenging you. It’s in a very open way. It’s much more indirect.

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AVC: The title sequence for the show bills it as “Ugly Delicious does Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner.” How do these two shows exist in conversation with each other?

DC: Besides having almost the same team on both shows, the question we asked really early on was if we were going to do something that was a departure. But I guess the foundation for BL&D was there in Ugly Delicious. We just sort of isolated the travel-and-eating experience. And Ugly Delicious was about creating a setup for that sense of discovery, whether it’s that I learned something, or the audience learned something. And the goal besides just eating and travel in Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner was that sense of discovery as well—whether it’s the guest, or me, or [the audience]. Knowing that the food-and-travel show is very well-worn territory already, that was the goal. We tried our best. And I think that’s going to be really hard to hit every time.

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AVC: Each episode opens with a kind of surreal, non-literal sequence. How did those come about?

DC: I’m going to chalk that all up to [director] Jason Zeldes and Morgan Neville and the rest of the team. I am not a filmmaker, they are. They thought a different way to set [each episode] up would be as a nightmare, because doing that kind of stuff? That’s a nightmare for me. During filming, I was such a ball of anxiety, so [we thought], “What would be my nightmare, doing this?” And that’s sort of how we tapped into it.

AVC: You’ve played David Chang on a couple of TV shows—Treme, Billions, others. Is that also something that fills you with anxiety, or is it something you enjoy?

DC: Yeah, no, no no no no no, no, not at all. I’ve never wanted to be an actor. No. I’m a huge fan of David Simon, and when Tony Bourdain was helping Simon on Treme, I got a call from Simon saying, “Hey, we want you to play a role in the show. You’re gonna play a version of yourself, basically. And you can’t say no.” What am I supposed to say? I think the line when they called was, “Hey, we’re trying to find big Korean dudes in the culinary profession, and we can’t find any. So you’re the last choice. You’re the last resort, so you’re playing a version of yourself.” And I was like, “This is a nightmare.”

But of course I did it. It was a hallucinogenic experience. 100 percent. It’s in New Orleans, and I’m with Kim Dickens, this tremendous actor, and the walls were moving, and you have to shoot everything, and we’re still cooking—that was not something that I thought I’d ever be doing, at all, or be good at. And it was not something I think about doing again. For my entire life, I’ve been making fun of a lot of my servers that are actors, and I take everything back.

AVC: You mentioned Anthony Bordain. Do you see any relationship between this show or Ugly Delicious, and Parts Unknown?

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DC: Obviously it was something we thought about. We thought a lot about how to be respectful to it. Before Tony passed, I’d never done anything that was TV without asking him for not just advice, but for his blessing almost. He paved the way for so many of us, and particularly for myself… Even though the genre of food-and-travel existed [decades ago], I think that anyone that does any kind of food TV, or TV about travel or cultural exploration, owes a debt, owes its DNA to what Tony and the [Parts Unknown team] did, there’s no question about that.

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About the author

Allison Shoemaker

Contributor, The A.V. Club and The Takeout. Allison loves television, bourbon, and dramatically overanalyzing social interactions.