July 15th, 2007

Tea or poison?

Kitchen Confidential? More Like Bitchin' Confit, Dental!

In discussions of Shows Killed Before Their Time, the same few tend to show up. Firefly. Wonderfalls. Freaks and Geeks. My So-Called Life. Et cetera. But few people bring up Kitchen Confidential, which lasted a whole four episodes paired with Arrested Development before Fox gave it the shaft (a few months before they gave Arrested Development the shaft, no less). And, like many shows in the Fox graveyard, it didn't deserve to die so soon. And now, thanks to the release of the DVDs, you can see the nine other episodes Fox kept from us. For only twenty measly bucks!

Kitchen Confidential is based on the book by bad-boy chef Anthony Bourdain, who becomes Jack Bourdain here, a man who's gone down the path of self-destruction and now has a chance for redemption when he's offered a job running the kitchen at Nolita, New York's hottest new restaurant serving Small Food in Big Plates. Because it's executive produced by Darren Star, there's an equal mix of food and sex. The obvious major strength of the show is its cast.

Bradley Cooper (Alias) is Jack Bourdain, and he's sort of what you'd expect Will to be if he were a head chef, but he's much cockier and slightly less adorable in the crushing-on-Syd sense. The ladies all think he's dreamy, but I think he has a fuzzy chest. Which you get to see a lot of, if you're into that sort of thing. Owain Yeoman (some stuff I've never seen, but, hey, it looks like he's going to be on The Sarah Connor Chronicles, good for him) is Steven Daedelus (and why they never make any sort of jokes about that name, I have no idea), the British souschef with a penchant for thievery and the black market (this is the kind of show where characters employ underhanded maneuvers to acquire mushrooms...no, ACTUAL MUSHROOMS). He's even cockier than Jack, at least when it comes his luck with the ladies. Nicholas Brendon (Buffy) is Seth the dessert man, and at first, he's just like Xander in the kitchen, but as the show progresses, he makes Seth a more distinct character. John Cho (Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle) is Teddy the seafood guy, whose running gag involves appointments with his therapist. John Francis Daley (Freaks and Geeks) is Jim the new guy, a sad, pathetic little man who is picked on by everyone but just wants to be the best chef he can be. He's just as awkward here as he was on F&G, and it works. Bonnie Somerville (guest spots on shows I have watched but don't remember her from) is Mimi, head waitress, who tries to be cooler than she actually is. Now that I think about it, she's sort of like what would happen if Monica Gellar ran a restaurant (and...didn't Monica work in a kitchen once?). Jaime King (Sin City) is Tanya, the adorably airheaded hostess with the best of intentions. The recurring characters also add to the mix.

Then you've got guest stars like John Larroquette! Michael Vartan! Morena Baccarin!

I really like shows with a great ensemble cast, where all the characters have individualized relationships with each other, creating all different sorts of chemistries. It's a workplace comedy in a very unusual workplace, one that's very appealing for foodies, as storylines often revolve around preparing specific dishes like yellowfin tuna or whatever. But it never gets technical in a way that keeps you from understanding what's going on; it's just a different sort of technobabble. The plots are a mix of cooking-based and character-based, and there are sometimes three plots in play at one time. It's a busy kitchen. In more ways than one.

The unaired episodes are actually better than the ones that aired, of course, because the show works into a nice groove and sets up some multi-episode arcs. It's a real shame it was cancelled because there was a lot of potential.

It's really funny, by the way. I feel like I should mention that, since it's a comedy. But I thought it was understood, since I wouldn't be recommending an unfunny comedy. I think it's more of an amusing comedy than a laugh-out-loud comedy, but that doesn't mean it's not good at what it does.

If you're looking for a nice little diversion and you have a fetish for cancelled-before-their-time shows, then go with Kitchen Confidential. It's only twenty bucks, guys! That's over four hours of replayable entertainment for the price of two movies. Make a reservation! See what's cooking! It's a recipe for laughter!