Julia: Is Kathleen Gordon Inspired by a Real Talk Show Host?

In ‘Julia’ season two, the show’s titular protagonist continues her journey as a rising celebrity chef, helming her revolutionary cooking show, ‘The French Chef.’ Yet, Julia’s rapid success and the added attention it brings comes with its own unique set of complications. For the WGBH Television station, the same translates as high demand for new quality TV programs that can stand beside Julia’s nationwide famous show. The producers at the station go through a few ideas, including Russ’ political docuseries, until arriving on a female-centric education show called “For Women, By Women.”

The show, pitched by Alice and Julia’s new director, Elaine Levitch, sports a distinct personality, Kathleen Gordon, as the host who leads significant socio-political conversations centering around women and their rights. Given the historical resonance of ‘Julia,’ which is based on the real life of Julia Child, viewers are bound to wonder if For Women, By Women’s host, Kathleen Gordon, has similar roots in reality.

Kathleen Gordon: The Host of a Talk Show For Women

No, Kathleen Gordon is not based on a real-life talk show host. In bringing the famed Julia Child’s journey to the screen, the show, ‘Julia’ blends fact with fiction and brings a dramatized account of her professional and personal life. While the same results in the recreation of certain real-life shows and their hosts, as with the central ‘The French Chef,’ it also leads to fabricated details. Such is the case with For Women, By Women, a fictionalized show, and Kathleen Gordon, its fictionalized host.

For the most part, Kathleen’s character sets the stage for Alice’s progressing storyline and depicts the hardships she faced in the workplace as an African-American woman during the 1960s. Alice first gets the idea for the show after a talk with Elaine, who’s steadily becoming a reliable friend for the other woman. While the two talk about safe and protected post-sex practices, Alice realizes that women need to have a reliable source of information about intimate but universal parts of their lives.

As such, Alice and Elaine pitch a talk show where an all-female panel can talk to the female audience about things like social inequality, abortion, and other issues. The idea effectively plays into the station’s need for a show attracting female audiences while also sporting an attractive concept. However, even though the show and Kathleen’s involvement in it prove to be phenomenal and groundbreaking, Alice faces pushback against its release due to its controversial nature.

Consequently, Kathleen and For Women, By Women end up playing a defining role in Alice’s storyline this season despite their brief appearance. Furthermore, even though neither has a basis in reality, viewers can find some examples in television history that may bear resemblance to them.

For instance, the 1983 talk show, ‘Woman to Woman,’ presents a similar format, where women from different backgrounds come together to discuss matters relevant to their lives. Pat Mitchell, a known name in the television industry, hosted the show, which was described as “a step in the right direction for daytime commercial television.” by The New York Times.

Even though ‘Woman to Woman’ has many noticeable distinctions from the fictionalized ‘For Women, by Women,’ as do Pat Mitchell and the fictional Kathleen Gordon, the former’s presence puts the latter in context. Ultimately, Kathleen Gordon remains a fictionalized character with little to no roots in reality. Yet, given what she represents in the show, her addition helps drive Alice’s authentic storyline.

Read More: Shows Like Julia