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A Reckoning With the Dark Side of the Restaurant Industry

Chefs and restaurateurs talk about the harsh work culture and stigma of mental illness in their industry. Photo Illustration/Video: Natalia V. Osipova/The Wall Street Journal
Chefs and restaurateurs talk about the harsh work culture and stigma of mental illness in their industry. Photo Illustration/Video: Natalia V. Osipova/The Wall Street Journal

When television personality and former chef Anthony Bourdain killed himself in June, Charles Ford, the general manager of a high-end restaurant in Chicago, took the news as a personal call to action: He would no longer be silent about his three suicide attempts.

“I don’t want to hide it anymore,” says Mr. Ford, 31, who says he slashed his wrists on three occasions between late 2015 and spring 2016. Workers with suicidal impulses and other emotional crises often hide their pain in his profession, Mr. Ford says. “We need to do everything we can to turn this around, and the first step is saying it out loud.”

‘I don’t want to hide it anymore,’ Charles Ford, general manager of S.K.Y. restaurant in Chicago, says of his past struggles.
‘I don’t want to hide it anymore,’ Charles Ford, general manager of S.K.Y. restaurant in Chicago, says of his past struggles. Photo: Natalia V. Osipova/The Wall Street Journal

Mr. Ford is one of many for whom Mr. Bourdain’s suicide was a reckoning with the dark side of the $800-billion restaurant business. Insiders have long worried privately about the lifestyle of people who work in the restaurant industry, which has one of the highest rates of illicit drug use and alcoholism and a tradition of masking mental-health struggles. A number of groups have begun exploring why the business has these problems and what might be done about them. The death of Mr. Bourdain—an idol for many in the culinary world—has given these efforts greater urgency.

Through Mr. Bourdain’s literary manager Kimberly Witherspoon, the late chef’s family declined to comment for this article.

The brutal nature of restaurant-kitchen culture is part of the problem, many in the industry say. Physical and emotional toughness is prized and workplace conventions like 40-hour workweeks, breaks and professional courtesy can be foreign concepts. At the same time, young people raised watching “Top Chef” and Food Network now enter the profession with high expectations—and debt loads—once rare in this largely blue-collar field.

Jessica Largey, 32, in September opened her own restaurant, Simone, in Los Angeles. Throughout her career, she has been on the receiving end of extreme behavior in kitchens and has also dished it out, she says. Years ago, in a rage, a chef threw a plate of food across the kitchen that crashed over her work station and ruined what she was preparing, she recalls. Working 12- to 16-hour days and insecure as a young chef, she herself yelled at colleagues who failed to meet her standards of perfection. “When I first became a chef, I was so stressed because I was so young,” she says. “My reaction was one of anger.”

‘When I first became a chef, I was so stressed because I was so young,’ says Jessica Largey, who recently opened her own restaurant, Simone, in Los Angeles.
‘When I first became a chef, I was so stressed because I was so young,’ says Jessica Largey, who recently opened her own restaurant, Simone, in Los Angeles. Photo: Natalia V. Osipova/The Wall Street Journal

Just over 15 million people—roughly 10% of the U.S. workforce—are employed in some part of the restaurant industry, according to the National Restaurant Association. The industry’s long hours, intense work, high stress and scarcity of employer-subsidized health insurance are all classic contributors to mental and behavioral health problems, says David Ballard, the head of the American Psychological Association’s Center for Organizational Excellence.

Quantifying mental-health struggles is difficult. Many studies track diagnosed disorders, which means they only cover people who have sought professional treatment and likely had insurance to cover it, he notes. However, a growing body of studies and surveys point to greater-than-normal struggles in the restaurant business. Employees in accommodations and food services were found to have the highest illicit drug use compared with 18 other occupational sectors, broadly covering the U.S. workforce, in a study published in 2015 by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. They had the third-highest heavy alcohol use, after miners and construction workers.

“We are dealing with an epidemic of mental illness in our industry,” says Cat Cora, a 51-year-old chef with nine restaurants around the country who has been a fixture of food television and magazines. Of Mr. Bourdain, she says, “He was the last person people thought would commit suicide.

‘We are dealing with an epidemic of mental illness in our industry,’ says Cat Cora, a chef who has been a fixture of food television and magazines.
‘We are dealing with an epidemic of mental illness in our industry,’ says Cat Cora, a chef who has been a fixture of food television and magazines. Photo: Associated Press

Organizations from large trade groups to individual restaurateurs have launched efforts to support restaurant workers. In July, the National Restaurant Association started a health plan in partnership with UnitedHealthcare that offers medical and mental-health coverage. The American Culinary Federation, which has 14,800 members, rolled out a group health-insurance program for members for the first time this year, says Renee Brust, director of marketing and communications. Unilever Food Solutions, a unit of Unilever that serves the restaurant trade, in May started “FairKitchens,” an initiative aimed at changing the culture that includes a code of conduct for restaurants to sign onto.

When John Hinman, owner of Hinman’s Bakery in Denver, became a pastry chef in the mid-1990s, he learned through a tradition of apprenticeship. Many restaurant kitchens are run in a strict hierarchy where rising within a pyramid structure confers the right to dominate those beneath. “It’s brutal, the berating that goes on. You had to be tough. You had to be able to take it,” Mr. Hinman says.

John Hinman, owner of Hinman’s Bakery in Denver, in May co-founded a group called CHOW that hosts weekly gatherings for industry members to talk about stress management.
John Hinman, owner of Hinman’s Bakery in Denver, in May co-founded a group called CHOW that hosts weekly gatherings for industry members to talk about stress management. Photo: Annette Slade Photography.

The food industry often draws non-conformist, Type-A perfectionists attracted to the unusual hours and the camaraderie of a kitchen crew, he says. However, that spirit can lead to an unhealthy partying lifestyle. Mr. Hinman, a recovering alcoholic, in May co-founded a group called Culinary Hospitality Outreach & Wellness—CHOW, for short—which hosts weekly gatherings for industry members to talk about coping mechanisms and stress management.

“Drinking into oblivion traditionally was a badge of honor” in many restaurants, says Steve Palmer, founder of Indigo Road Restaurant Group, with 16 locations in the Southeast. Mr. Palmer was an alcoholic and cocaine addict for the first half of his career, until getting sober in 2001. “It was petrifying,” he says. “I didn’t know anybody who was sober in the restaurant business.”

In 2016, Mr. Palmer co-founded Ben’s Friends in Charleston, S.C., a group for restaurant workers to gather and talk about substance abuse. It is named for Ben Murray, a chef friend who killed himself that year after a long struggle with alcoholism, Mr. Palmer says. Ben’s Friends chapters have arisen in Raleigh, N.C., Richmond, Va., Atlanta and in Minneapolis, he says.

The food industry’s higher profile over the past decade, stoked by food-themed television programs, has helped increase professionalism, Ms. Largey says. At her new restaurant, she aims to provide manageable work schedules, promote civil behavior, and train new managers to be humane leaders. “None of the staff is allowed to drink at the restaurant,” she says.

On the other hand, young cooks’ heightened expectations don’t always take into account low wages or difficult labor, restaurateurs say. Dreams of fame and fortune have driven growth in culinary schools and programs and encouraged thousands of students to finance this education with debt.

Last year, 672 culinary programs were accredited by the ACF, compared with roughly 100 in 1998, Ms. Brust says. More than 39,000 students matriculated from two-year or four-year culinary degree programs accredited by the ACF last year. Yet the Bureau of Labor Statistics forecasts the creation of only 14,100 new chef and head-cook jobs by 2026. There will be 10 times as many “cook” jobs, but these pay half as much.

Restaurant cooks make a median wage of $12.10 an hour, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Culinary-school graduates are no exception, even at top-tier restaurants in expensive cities, a number of restaurateurs say. While some top chefs can earn six figures, the median annual wage for chefs and head cooks is $45,950, according to the BLS.

Jacob Funk, a sous chef at the Vig in Chicago, says that after graduating in 2014 from the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, N.Y., he carried $65,000 of debt, with a $700 monthly payment. His first several line-cook positions, in Boston, Charleston and Chicago, paid between $10 and $14 an hour. To cover his cost of living, he worked overtime, and throughout his career has routinely worked 60- to 84-hours a week.

With $65,000 in debt after graduating from culinary school in 2014, Jacob Funk says he has routinely worked 60- to 84-hours a week to cover his cost of living.
With $65,000 in debt after graduating from culinary school in 2014, Jacob Funk says he has routinely worked 60- to 84-hours a week to cover his cost of living. Photo: Natalia V. Osipova/The Wall Street Journal

This summer, after spending many nights sleepless and finding himself trembling during his shift, terrified of making a mistake, he sought help from a therapist.

Mr. Ford, the Chicago general manager, says his suicide attempts happened at a time when his relationship with a girlfriend was ending and he felt very lonely. The stress of his first job as a general manager at a restaurant where 70- to 80-hour weeks were typical, added to his hopelessness.

After he cut his wrists for the second time, on a Saturday night, he got up the next morning and worked a 12-hour shift, he says. A third attempt prompted him to quit the job and take time off.

Mr. Ford says he wore long sleeves for two years and didn’t tell his co-workers or his family about his ordeal. Though he didn’t seek out professional help, a roommate who is a therapist provided support, and a new job as the general manager of S.K.Y. restaurant in Chicago makes him feel more positive, he says. He is in a new relationship and focuses on a healthy diet and getting enough sleep, he says.

“There are so many great things about the business, I’m good at it, and I love the people I work with,” Mr. Ford says. “It just happens to be so stressful.”

Write to Katy McLaughlin at katy.mclaughlin@wsj.com

Cornering Your Boss, Snapping Pictures at Your Desk: It’s Take Your Parents to Work Day

Lindsay Williams's parents, Sandy and Joel Williams, attended a Parents Day at her office in Houston.
Lindsay Williams’s parents, Sandy and Joel Williams, attended a Parents Day at her office in Houston. Photo: Lindsay Williams

Every so often, a gaggle of middle-aged visitors drifts through the Santa Monica, Calif., offices of Cornerstone OnDemand , a cloud software company. They stare. They point. They take photos.

Watching people talk on the phone and tap out emails might not sound exciting, but it’s a delight to this crowd. They are parents watching their children at work.

“It’s almost like we’re in a zoo, and we’re the animals,” says employee Kristy Gould.

Take me to your leader
Take me to your leader

All across the country, parents are turning up at offices to see what their adult offspring do all day, often as part of “Bring Your Parents to Work Day” events. Companies see it as a way to please young employees who are close to their moms and dads.

“The workplace is the new soccer field” for parents who want to see their children perform, says Liz Ross, chief executive of Periscope, a Minneapolis-based creative agency that hosted an event. One set of parents turned up in matching T-shirts that read “Josh’s Dad” and “Josh’s Mom.” Her own father, Ms. Ross says, has taken a photo of her at her desk in every job she has ever worked.

The parents of Periscope employee Josh Nelson showed up at a Parents Day wearing T-shirts that let everyone know who they were.
The parents of Periscope employee Josh Nelson showed up at a Parents Day wearing T-shirts that let everyone know who they were. Photo: P4 Studios

Prosek Partners, a New York-based communications consulting company, has a young staff, so it hasn’t yet needed a Take Your Child to Work Day, a staple of big companies. But it does have a parent day.

“Family is part of the workplace,” says partner Karen Niovitch Davis, 45 years old. “It’s all blurred now.”

Hosting parents, however, can be a lot trickier than hosting pint-size office interlopers, who can be corralled with coloring books and children’s games.

“You have to hope the stock is up on Bring Your Parents to Work Day,” says Kimberly Cassady, Cornerstone’s chief talent officer. At a recent event, a father grilled the CEO about why the company’s shares had slipped.

Adam Miller, the 49-year-old chief executive whose own parents often travel to watch him give client presentations, launched into an explanation of the company’s business model.

Clark Savage, whose daughter is a Cornerstone social-media strategist, visited her workplace during one such event. He says the open-plan office with candy dispensers would never work at his own accounting practice. “I couldn’t function or survive,” he says. The CEO’s office, with its walls and nice view, he admits, did catch his eye.

Jennifer Savage, a social-media strategist, with her father, Clark Savage, at a Bring Your Parents to Work Day.
Jennifer Savage, a social-media strategist, with her father, Clark Savage, at a Bring Your Parents to Work Day. Photo: Cornerstone

For some employees, having their parents wandering around their offices is profoundly anxiety-inducing.

Joann Pittman, 50, an executive assistant at Ozinga Bros. Inc., a concrete supplier based outside Chicago, recalls cringing as she watched her elderly parents try to chat up the company’s president.

From across the room, as the minutes ticked by, she says, she could sense the president’s interest waning. “Uh-huh,” he kept saying.

Unable to bear it, she hustled her parents away. The president gave her a sympathetic smile. “He was, like, ‘don’t worry about it, Joann,’” she recalls.

Her 75-year-old mother, Doris Miedema, says she was proud of her daughter and enjoyed the day. “I was nervous, knowing all the head honchos were there, but it wound up just fine,” she says.

Joann Pittman’s parents, Robert and Doris Miedema, talked to her company’s president on Parents Day.
Joann Pittman’s parents, Robert and Doris Miedema, talked to her company’s president on Parents Day. Photo: Ozinga

In Houston this summer, Lindsay Williams, 35, looked up from a client meeting she was running to find her mother snapping photos of her and posting them to Facebook. “Super proud,” her mom wrote. Her daughter, an account manager at internet-marketing firm TopSpot, rolled her eyes.

“I can’t believe she did that,” says Ms. Williams, who had asked parents sitting in to maintain a low profile.

Prosek Partners’ Ms. Davis says she was so worried about her parents embarrassing her that she laid down some rules: Don’t be the first ones there, and no questions.

Bring Your Parents to Work Day first caught on among advertising and tech companies, where many employees say their parents have trouble understanding what they do. Now around 1% of U.S. employers have such days, according to the Society for Human Resource Management, a trade group.

The president of Ozinga Bros., a Chicago-area concrete supplier, talked to visiting parents about their children’s work.
The president of Ozinga Bros., a Chicago-area concrete supplier, talked to visiting parents about their children’s work. Photo: Ozinga

LinkedIn was an early advocate. Bringing parents to the office “allows people to be very real,” says Christina Hall, chief people officer at LinkedIn, which is hosting activities including an office scavenger hunt at its event for parents on Nov. 16. Also on the activity list: encouraging parents to update their LinkedIn profiles. Nationwide, 3,700 parents have signed up.

During a previous parents day, Ms. Hall recalls, one father expressed concern about the company’s fiscal health after seeing the exposed duct work on the office ceilings. “I guess the industrial look doesn’t work for everyone,” she says.

Periscope receptionist Devra Bourne, 50, had her mother join her behind the front desk. Her mother didn’t mind the tedium of watching delivery workers come and go, though there was an awkward moment when the firm played a clip of a sexual-innuendo-heavy candy ad the company had produced. It included the line: “tiny package, huge release.”

Her 75-year-old mother, who is hard of hearing, didn’t appear to get the joke, Ms. Bourne says.

Marcus Marshall, a customer-resolution manager at United Airlines, brought his parents to work in Chicago.
Marcus Marshall, a customer-resolution manager at United Airlines, brought his parents to work in Chicago. Photo: United

United Airlines customer-resolution manager Marcus Marshall brought his parents to work in Chicago last month. Fifty parents listened to company leaders discuss childhood family vacations and their favorite onboard snacks.

Mr. Marshall says it was important for his parents to see his workplace. “I spend a lot of time there,” he says.

He says parents went away more appreciative of the work he and others do to keep airlines running. “They might have felt: I’m never going to complain anymore if I have a problem,” he says.

Write to Te-Ping Chen at te-ping.chen@wsj.com

Venom Just Passed Justice League At The Box Office

If you were to compile a list of the top ten most popular comic book characters, there’s a solid possibility that Venom wouldn’t make that list. Three characters who almost certainly would are Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman, DC’s trinity of heroes who form the core of the Justice League. That’s part of what makes Venom‘s commercial performance so impressive, as Sony’s Spider-Verse flick has now passed Warner Bros.’ Justice League at the box office.

The symbiote felled Superman and Co. on the strength of its opening in China, where the film debuted this past Friday. After a $34.2 million opening day in China, Venom exceeded expectations and then some, raking in a $111 million opening weekend, according to Box Office Mojo. That, along with the money Venom made domestically and in other markets over the weekend, vaults Sony’s film to almost $675 million worldwide, well above Justice League‘s $657.9 million total, as noted by Cnet.

The $111 million Chinese opening is the best any Sony film has ever done in the country and it is the second best opening for a superhero movie there, behind Avengers: Infinity War‘s $191 million. Venom isn’t done either; it still has the rest of its run in China and other overseas markets to go, as well as what’s left of its domestic run, which pulled in $4.85 million this weekend.

Venom currently sits at $206.2 million at the domestic box office, which still trails Justice League‘s $229 million, but in terms of total dollars from all markets, Venom has easily surpassed Justice League. This fact might seem like a way to rub salt in Justice League‘s wounds, but it does tell us a lot about how remarkable Venom‘s performance has been.

Movie fans that follow comic book films and the box office closely approached both Venom and Justice League with trepidation, the former because of its lack of an R rating and the absence of Spider-Man, and the latter because of the track record of previous DCEU films. Yet it is hard to argue that the characters of Justice League don’t have more name recognition and brand awareness than Venom among the laymen.

Justice League also followed the financial successes, if not critical, of Suicide Squad, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Wonder Woman, the latter two of which both crossed $800 million worldwide. So there was an established product to build upon. Justice League also fared better than Venom critically, but audiences seemed to connect with the parasite in a way they didn’t with DC’s finest.

Perhaps it is the appeal of an anti-hero or a superhero movie that appeared different than what audiences are used to, but either way, Venom‘s success is impressive and made all the more so by what it has surpassed, like Justice League.

So while Warner Bros. is seemingly reorganizing and taking things one step at a time following several missteps, Sony’s universe and a Venom sequel are likely full steam ahead. Sony’s Spider-Verse already had a bunch of films in the works, and now, given the audience reception and box office of the Tom Hardy movie, Sony is in a position to challenge for the #2 spot on the superhero cinematic universe leaderboard.

Check out our Holiday Movie Guide to see what you can look forward to at the theater in the coming months, and for all the latest in superhero cinematic universes and box office news, stay tuned to CinemaBlend.

With ‘Where the Crawdads Sing,’ a Debut Novel Goes Big

‘I became determined to write a novel that would explore how isolation affects a person,’ says Delia Owens, whose fiction debut ‘Where the Crawdads Sing’ has become a best-seller.
‘I became determined to write a novel that would explore how isolation affects a person,’ says Delia Owens, whose fiction debut ‘Where the Crawdads Sing’ has become a best-seller. Photo: Dawn Marie Tucker

When Delia Owens was growing up in rural Georgia in the 1950s, her outdoorsy mother encouraged her to explore nature, saying “go way out yonder where the crawdads sing.”

Ms. Owens’s debut novel “Where the Crawdads Sing” draws inspiration from her adventurous childhood and career as a wildlife scientist, first in southern Africa and later in the U.S. It was time often spent alone.

“I’ve wanted to write fiction for many years, and I became determined to write a novel that would explore how isolation affects a person,” said Ms. Owens, 69 years old, who spent 10 years on the book.

With ‘Where the Crawdads Sing,’ a Debut Novel Goes Big

Set in the 1950s, it focuses on Kya, an illiterate 10-year-old who must fend for herself in the North Carolina marshes after her mother and then her father abandon her. Published by G.P. Putnam’s Sons in August, it has sold over 290,000 copies in print, digital and audio formats, the company said, and drawn comparisons to the work of novelist Barbara Kingsolver.

In its first eight weeks, its sales exceeded those of several of Putnam’s other best-selling debuts, its editor Tara Singh Carlson said. The book has spent nine weeks both on the New York Times best-seller list and Amazon’s most-sold fiction chart. It is also one of seven fiction nominees for the 2019 Southern Book Award, given annually by the trade association Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance.

“Where the Crawdads Sing” gained a high-profile fan in Reese Witherspoon, who named it a September pick for her Hello Sunshine book club. In an email, the actress and producer said Kya’s story resonated with her own.

“I grew up in Tennessee climbing trees, exploring creek beds and using the world around me for learning and exploring,” she wrote. “I’ve always had a deep relationship with the natural world that centers me, and I think many other women do as well.”

“Where the Crawdads Sing” is Ms. Owens’s fiction debut but not her first book. She previously co-wrote three memoirs with her then-husband Mark Owens, focused on their lives in southern Africa. In 1985, they received the John Burroughs Medal for nature writing for one of them, “Cry of the Kalahari.”

It was while working there that Ms. Owens, who earned a Ph.D. studying the social behavior of carnivores, began to think about a story in which human social patterns in times of stress and isolation mirror those of animals. In “Where the Crawdads Sing,” Kya learns how to harvest mussels by watching crows and develops ideas about loyalty and friendship by watching the rituals of seagulls.

When Ms. Carlson read the manuscript, she made an offer to Ms. Owens’s agent within a week, which successfully pre-empted an auction.

“Part of what made me move so quickly had to do with Delia’s specific life experience that gives this book some of its special magic,” Ms. Carlson says. “It’s a story that speaks to where people have come from evolutionarily and about what motivates us and what causes us to do what we do.”

Ms. Owens dedicated the book to three childhood friends, including Margaret Weatherly, who lives in Thomasville, Ga., where they grew up.

“We were always out on some adventure,” she said. “Delia used a lot of things from Thomasville for the town in her book. There are places that come to mind and names, too.”

Ms. Owens, who now lives in Boundary County, Idaho, feels encouraged by the success of her first novel and is at work on a second.

“It will be another sociobiological thriller based on certain patterns of evolutionary human behavior,” she said. “I want to stick with that.”

Why It’s Working

  • The Book: “Where the Crawdads Sing”
  • The Plot: Abandoned by her parents, a girl is left to her own devices in rural North Carolina. As an adult, she is sucked into a murder investigation after an acquaintance dies.
  • The Reaction: “Where the Crawdads Sing” has sold over 290,000 copies and been nominated for the Southern Book Award, whose winner will be announced in February. It became a hit thanks to positive reviews and a mention by Reese Witherspoon for her book club.
  • The Formula: A nature-infused thriller with a strong sense of time and place.

Why Doctor Who Season 11 Still Hasn’t Completely Won Me Over

There’s a lot I love about Doctor Who Season 11. Jodie Whittaker’s performances have been phenomenal, and Graham might be my favorite companion of all time. The visual effects have gotten a massive upgrade, and we’ve gotten some pretty entertaining new villains as well. Despite this, there’s one thing about the new season that’s kept me from praising it in the highest regard, and until it includes past characters and brings back some familiarity, I’m not sure I can.

It’s an issue that, prior to the start of Doctor Who Season 11, I didn’t think I would have. Hell, there was even a part of me twitching with excitement when Chris Chibnall announced at San Diego Comic-Con they had yet to use a familiar enemy to that point during filming. After all, new enemies mean new species, and a chance for the lore to expand even further. What’s not to love about that?

To that point, I think Doctor Who has done a rather solid job establishing some fascinating new creatures with promising futures in the show’s universe. The Stenza race are outright terrifying, the Vajarian’s are grotesquely beautiful, and who doesn’t want to unleash a Pting on a Dalek army just to see what happens?

Unfortunately, it’s hard to imagine how that would even happen at the moment because the current world doesn’t even seem like one the Daleks are involved in. There’s been little mention of the Doctor’s past greatest foes, what they may be up to and why we haven’t seen them. As a fan, I find it highly unlikely a classic Doctor Who villain race has yet to cross paths with Whittaker’s Doctor, especially considering how frequent they’ve emerged in the past.

Chris Chibnall has done a really good job changing things up in Doctor Who, but he’s done a real disservice to the series thus far in his complete disregard of past seasons. It feels like I’m watching a new show with the same name, and while I enjoy it, there were bits of the old that he could and should use that would make it that much better.

For example, one of my greatest past joys of the Doctor’s regeneration was to see how it affects their personality. Seeing what the new Doctor was like was only half the fun, however, as there was the added joy of seeing that new Doctor interact with classic franchise characters and gauge their reactions to the Doctor’s new look. It’s something we haven’t had happen in Season 11 yet, which is a real shame.

An even greater shame is that we haven’t seen Jodie Whittaker’s Doctor face the same villains, as that’s where the true personality differences between Doctors can be seen. David Tennant’s Doctor would not face the Weeping Angels the same way Matt Smith’s Doctor would, at least mentally. The same goes for Eccleston’s Doctor as well as Capaldi’s, and while at their core they’re all still a brilliant time traveler, each one had a different method of facing a familiar problem.

For all their differences, none of those Doctors are as different from each other as Jodie Whittaker’s Doctor is to them. Whittaker’s Doctor is unsure of herself, a celebrity name dropper and someone who relies on her companions perhaps more than any Doctor since the reboot. One can draw lots of similarities between the four Doctors the preceded her, but it’s really hard to equate the current Doctor’s personality to any post-reboot Doctor.

It’s what makes the prospect of Whittaker’s Doctor taking on a classic villain so damn intriguing. Imagine her, right now, in a battle against the Weeping Angels. In my mind, it’s such a different encounter than any other Doctor’s previous adventures and a way of creating a measuring stick of Whittaker’s performance versus her colleagues.

This is another huge point against Doctor Who Season 11 because, without familiarity, there can be no true way to compare her performance to those that came before her. While that may have been intentional given the uphill battle Whittaker faced as the first female Doctor, it’s a necessary part of the fan experience. If it weren’t, every conversation between every Doctor Who fan ever wouldn’t begin with “Who’s your favorite Doctor?”

Granted, the argument has been made that the reason Season 11 is so different is so that brand new audiences could get involved in the series. It’s a noble and valid excuse, but on the same token, somewhat of a copout. If Chris Chibnall really wanted to include a classic Doctor Who villain in the very next episode, he absolutely could, and he’s got three characters capable of making the introduction of said villain seamless and organic.

All it would take is Yasmin, Ryan, or Graham saying “Hey what’s a X,” and the groundwork has been laid for The Doctor to explain to them and the new audience exactly what this “new” foe is all about. New Doctor Who fans don’t need to know the extended history of these aliens to enjoy them, just the base level explanation will do. Seriously, how hard would it be to explain a Dalek in three lines?

Let me state once again that I really enjoy Season 11 of Doctor Who. I also really enjoy the past 13 years of Doctor Who and don’t think it should be retconned simply for the sake of new viewers. It alienates classic fans who’ve stuck with the series for years, and again, robs them of an opportunity to see Jodie Whittaker tackle the same situations some of the most iconic Doctors to date have faced.

If Season 11 is devoid of classic foes, I’d really hope Chris Chibnall has a plan in place for slowly incorporating them into future storylines. I don’t doubt that he will given his past writing chops for Doctor Who, but I am a bit surprised we haven’t seen many connections now over halfway through the season. It’s worrisome to me as a longtime fan, and feels somewhat dishonest to act like it doesn’t bother me the further we go.

Doctor Who airs on BBC America Sundays at 8:00 p.m. ET. For more on fall television and what’s coming up before the end of 2018, visit our fall premiere guide.

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Chilling Adventures Of Sabrina Is Getting A Christmas Special, Watch The First Trailer

When Chilling Adventures of Sabrina isn’t being sued by real-life Satanists, its characters apparently celebrate Christmas — just like many mortals who don’t practice dark magic and devil devotion. The all-purpose “holiday season” is actually a perfect time for a Chilling special on the Winter Solstice, which Sabrina Spellman is getting December 14. Netflix shared a sizzle reel teasing all of its upcoming holiday content, including clips from Chilling Adventures of Sabrina: A Midwinter’s Tale:

Love how Aunt Hilda (by far the best character on the show, don’t argue) even references hunkering down to watch Christmas movies. She seems like she’d be a big Hallmark fan, despite starring on Netflix.

Sabrina launched its 10-episode first season October 26 on Netflix. The official synopsis for Midwinter’s Tale suggests it will be a standalone episode, as well as something of a bridge between Season 1 and Season 2:

Good for them for finding the perfect angle to join the rest of Netflix’s Christmas content. Half-witch, half-human Sabrina Spellman (Kiernan Shipka) lost both of her parents long ago, but it sounds like she’s going to try to contact her late human mother via a séance. That has potential to be a heartwarming and/or heartbreaking moment.

Series creator Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa also shared this adorably Harry Potter-ish solstice card to tease the episode:

OK, but “Praise Satan! I mean, Praise Santa!” is pretty classic, no? Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa is also the showrunner of The CW’s Riverdale, and even though the shows are very different and on different networks, they exist in the same universe.

Chilling Adventures of Sabrina Season 1 is now available for streaming on Netflix. It has already been renewed for Season 2, although no release date has been announced at this point. Chilling Adventures of Sabrina: A Midwinter’s Tale premieres Friday, Dec. 14 on the streamer. Here are more Christmas TV movies and episodes you might enjoy watching on Netflix. Check out what else is ahead in our fall 2018 TV premiere guide.

26 Party Shoes Under $50 You’ll Wear All Season Long

Whenever holiday season starts approaching, I like to get in the festive mood by slipping on a new pair of sparkly pumps. The right shoes can give your go-to party outfits—from LBDs to slick suits—a fresh spin. And knowing you’ll be hitting the social circuit for weeks on end, it’s as good of a time as any to indulge in some fresh footwear. My heels might be more “traditional” party wear, but there are also floral combat boots, metallic sneakers, and neon flats that’ll keep you blister-free on the dance floor well after New Year’s Day. No matter what your vibe is, holiday dressing shouldn’t feel costumey—if anything, it can be a slightly more blinged-out version of what you’re normally into.

So whether those RSVP’s have already started rolling in or you’re just anticipating the holiday rush, we have the perfect shoe pairings for all your party outfits—and they’re all $50 or less.

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36 Best Christmas Movies on Netflix

Whether you are looking to get a megadose of the holiday spirit or just need a quick escape from family time, gift shopping, or any other slightly annoying seasonal activity, Netflix has got you covered with enough Christmas movies to occupy you from now until the New Year. The streaming service has a little bit of everything, too, from holiday classics like White Christmas and How the Grinch Stole Christmas to new favorites, including A Christmas Prince and A Very Murray Christmas*. The cheesiest, cheeriest made-for-TV specials—think Hallmark and Lifetime originals with titles like The Spirit of Christmas—are also in abundance. So, below, are the very best Christmas movies you can stream on Netflix right now.

PS: Want more holiday cheer? Here’s our guides to all the new Hallmark and Lifetime holiday movies available this season.

Jude Law Has Explained A Fantastic Beasts Continuity Error In Crimes Of Grindelwald

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes Of Grindlewald hits theaters this week, but before it does, we need to clear something up. Just how, exactly, does one pronounce the name “Grindelwald?” Even within the trailers for the new film we hear it different ways, mostly because Jude Law seems to insist on pronouncing it with the traditional V-sound in place of the W. While appearing recently on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, Law explained away this apparent continuity error, by stating that, he pronounces it differently than everybody else because he has a different relationship with Gellert Grindelwald. According to Law…

The name Grindelwald is, at least historically, German, and so pronouncing the name with a V-sound would be appropriate, which is likely why Jude Law dove into pronouncing it that way without really thinking about it. However, the fact is that most everybody else that we’ve seen say the name, even in the original Harry Potter film franchise, pronounced it with the English W-sound rather than the traditional V.

Names certainly change over time, and that includes pronunciation, so it may be that “Grindelwald” is what is technically correct come the period of the film, but “Grindelvald” is likely the historically accurate pronunciation.

To explain away his own different pronunciation, it seems Jude Law feels that Gellert Grindelwald asks his closest friends to pronounce his name in the traditional fashion. It’s not the craziest idea. If everybody is mispronouncing your name, you probably get tired of correcting everybody all the time and just let them get it wrong. For your friends, however, you’d take the time to ask them to say your name correctly.

It’s as reasonable enough a cover for the apparent mistake as I can think of. It does seem odd. If the correct pronunciation is supposed to be “Grindelwald” wasn’t there a director or a script supervisor around to make sure that everybody said the words correctly? If Jude Law got it right, then what the hell happened to literally every other person in the franchise who said the name?

Maybe Jude Law gets away with it because he’s Jude Law. Hearing the way he pronounces the name certainly sounds right coming from him. Perhaps nobody wanted to correct him because it sounded so good. Check out Jude Law’s full comments from The Late Show below.

Ariana Grande Geeked Out Over An Accidental Tweet From Mark Hamill

Ariana Grande’s catchy break-up single, “thank u, next,” has become more infectious than even she predicted. The hit song has wormed its way into pop culture and become the source of memes, dissection, and misunderstandings galore. It also caught the unwitting notice of none other than Mark Hamill, who tweeted about the pop single unknowingly and made Grande lose her mind in the process. Here’s what Mr. Hamill posted on social media.

Unfortunately, however, it wasn’t long after this exchange that Mark Hamill needed to correct himself. The Star Wars actor admitted that he was out of the loop and that he didn’t intend on quoting one of the biggest songs of the year by one of our most famous pop stars. Hamill credited the whole thing to being an old man who is totally out of the loop with pop culture, and he apologized to Ariana Grande for any confusion he caused with the particular tweet.

Thankfully, Ariana Grande didn’t seem to mind the confusion. In fact, she appreciated it quite a bit. So much so, the pop singer joked about getting the whole awkward tweet of Mark Hamill explaining himself tattooed on her forehead. Well, that would certainly be a bold new look for Ariana Grande, pop singer sensation, and it would definitely stand out in a crowd. Though, of course, Ariana Grande is one of the most recognizable people on the planet as it is already, so standing out is not a problem or anything. Nevertheless, Grande wasn’t at all shy about showing her appreciation for Hamill’s words.

Twitter exchanges between random celebrities are fairly common these days, but it’s always fun when two well-known media personalities from different spaces get along and share a cute exchange with one another over the interweb. A little kindness goes a long way, and it’s nice to see Mark Hamill and Ariana Grande have a nice, civil, friendly and joke-y exchange that sprouted from Hamill’s out-of-touchiness with today’s newest pop songs.

Meanwhile, Ariana Grande has attracted no shortage of media attention — particular since her public break-up with her fiancé, Saturday Night Live‘s Pete Davidson. While it hasn’t been publicly announced why the couple decided to part ways, it’s apparent from both “thank u, next” and Davidson’s civil address to the matter on SNL that they are hoping to let the matter go away as best they can and both parties are ready to move on from here.

We’re should be hearing a whole lot more about Ariana Grande and Mark Hamill in the days and months to come. For Hamill that’s particularly the case, as there is speculation aplenty when it comes to the new Star Wars film, which continues to be the big source of major discourse. For Grande, it will be through music, that is, unless a new love interest springs up…