Saturday, June 02, 2007

Serving Up: Kitchen Confidential (The Complete Series) DVD

And now a break from regular programming: I have a confession. I’m a food geek. (Hey, I didn’t say it was a shocking confession.) That means I get into anything food-related, even on television. And I’m not talking about just the shows on The Food Network. I watched the beginning to bitter end of “The Restaurant” on NBC and was one of the 16 viewers of “Kitchen Confidential,” the very short-run TV sitcom on Fox.

Fox aired just four episodes of the 2005 half-hour sitcom, based on the memoir by Anthony Bourdain, before it was pulled like some bad salmon mousse. Two weeks ago, Fox released the complete series DVD (including the nine un-aired episodes) and I got a copy to review.

Now, I’ve never actually read “Kitchen Confidential,” the book. So I can’t say whether the TV series accurately re-imagined Bourdain’s words. And I have to say, when I think of who should portray the Hollywood version of Bourdain, the young Bradley Cooper (“Alias,” “Wedding Crashers”) doesn’t necessarily come screaming to mind. (Cooper actually would have been better portraying Rocco DiSpirito. Maybe then “The Restaurant” would have been renewed for another season.)

But turns out Cooper was perfect for the role because “Kitchen Confidential,” the TV show, is all about sex, sex and, oh yeah, S-E-X. And oh, what a surprise, the show was produced by Darren Star of “Melrose Place” and “Sex and The City.” But “Kitchen Confidential” is no “Melrose Place.” (Not enough camp.) And it’s no where near “Sex and The City.” (Not enough smart writing.)

So what is, I mean was, “Kitchen Confidential”? Turns out it was a “Scrubs”-wannabe that really hit its stride just as it got yanked by the money-hungry foodies at Fox. It was really in the fourth episode, guest starring Michael Vartan as a hilarious French chef, where I started to become invested in this ensemble cast.

What “Kitchen Confidential” had going for it was a really talented cast. Sure, Cooper is sexy and really convincing as the washed-up, recovering alcoholic chef who shoots back to food rock stardom at a Manhattan restaurant called “Nolita.” But he’s also believable as a person who loves food. Still, the standouts were the rest of the ensemble, including Owain Yeoman as a charming Irish sous chef, Jaime King as the empty-headed hostess, and John Francis Daley (“Freaks and Geeks) as the rook cook. Also, special guest appearances from John Cho (“Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle”).

This kitchen gang, after several courses, gets you believing that they do work well off each other. And there are moments of silly fun that makes the DVD near hilarious. But, unfortunately, these many silly fun moments didn’t add up to create a memorable series. Unlike “Sex and The City,” which was about sex but more so about human relationships, “Kitchen Confidential” was stuck on the sex and couldn’t make the connection between food and life.

Who knows? Maybe if the show had one more season to grow (or the three seasons given to “Arrested Development” to build an audience), then maybe it may have found that voice to make a trendy Manhattan restaurant a believable setting for life’s lessons.

The DVD includes commentaries and two behind-the-scenes featurettes. Ironically, I actually found the featurette, which the cast came back together to produce for the DVD, more filled with depth than the series. I really believed that these actors thought they had a first-rate sitcom on their hands. It got me more invested as well. So if you decide to shell out the $19.99 (on to purchase this DVD set, then you might watch the featurette first before the main course. It's a situation where it's actually better to have dessert before your dinner.

Photos courtesy 20th Century Fox Studios.

1 comment:

Passionate Eater said...

Hm, I too have never read Kitchen Confidential, but the series the way you describe it sounds like it might be worth a look on NetFlix! Also, I want to let you know that I just tagged you for a meme about your five favorite restaurants in the Bay Area / San Francisco / Oakland! I hope you are interested in participating. :)