By Meredith Brody
You may have noticed that there's precious little new stuff to watch during the holidays - a period which The New York Times describes as "a profound holiday slumber of repeats and musical specials." But we can't even find any musical specials, and are reduced to re-watching A Colbert Christmas , which in a marketing stroke of genius was broadcast before Thanksgiving and available on DVD immediately thereafter. ("Remember, every time you buy a copy of A Colbert Christmas, an angel gets it wings.")
So far we haven't tired of watching Colbert and his guests Toby Keith, John Legend, Feist, Willie Nelson, Jon Stewart, and most especially Elvis Costello, whose own Spectacle talk-and-music show on the Sundance Channel has continued to program new episodes during the holidays and is both erudite and entertaining. (Catch the marathon on New Year's Eve - four episodes featuring Elton John, Lou Reed and Julian Schnabel, Bill Clinton, and Tony Bennett!)
But HBO has thankfully enlivened the holiday slumbertime by programming a new documentary, Le Cirque: A Table In Heaven, which premiered Monday December 29th, and will be in heavy rotation on all the HBO channels.
The show is about the efforts of famed New York City restaurauteur Sirio Maccioni and his three sons to re-open their famed Le Cirque flagship restaurant in a new location two years after closing it down. Le Cirque, a Reagan-era favorite, famed for inventing pasta primavera and popularizing crème brulée, had survived a previous move, but times have changed and the operatic Italian family has major disagreements about everything from décor to menu to dress codes.
For fans of stars gone by, glimpses of Cindy Adams, Tony Bennett, Robert De Niro, Rudolph Giuliani, Billy Joel, Henry Kissinger, Regis Philbin, Nancy Reagan, Liz Smith, Martha Stewart, Donald Trump, and Vera Wang are included. For a neat contrast, we're shown Maccioni's wife Egidiana cooking meals in the miniscule kitchen of what seems to be a not-very-impressive New York apartment. It looks like the Maccionis wouldn't be able to afford to eat in their own restaurant.
Le Cirque at one time received four-star reviews (under departed chefs Daniel Boulud and Sottha Khunn) from the very influential New York Times. In one of the most notorious restaurant reviews ever written, Ruth Reichl famously removed one of the four stars in her Times piece "A Tale of Two Restaurants," because she was badly treated when they didn't know who she was, and fawned over when she was recognized on a return visit. So extra drama is provided by the Maccionis anxiously awaiting what they will receive from the Times on this go-round.
We won't spoil the surprise. But we will tell you that the title comes from a conversation between Maccioni and a Pope, who asked how long in advance he needed to call for a reservation (!). Maccioni, good Catholic boy that he is, responded that the Pope could come anytime, he didn't need a reservation. In my imagination, he adds "Wear the hat!".
But in reality (or story-telling, whichever is better), Maccioni asked "What about making [me] a reservation for a table in heaven?"