Kitchen Confidential - The Complete Series
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Jack Bourdain had it all but messed it up going wild. Four years later, he ends up with a crappy job in Pizza Chain. Then, he gets an offer to get back in the game as the chef of a famous restaurant.
Having been described as "wicked" and "debauched," Anthony Bourdain's culinary memoir was bound to be a tough sell for network TV. In Kitchen Confidential's sitcom incarnation, dark-haired Anthony becomes blond, blue-eyed Jack (Bradley Cooper). In the pilot, the recovering alcoholic moves from a pizzeria to a brasserie. The catch is that he has to hire a staff in 48 hours, so he turns to pastry expert Seth (Nicholas Brendon, Buffy the Vampire Slayer), seafood genius Teddy (John Cho, Smiley Face), and sous-chef Steven (Owain Yeoman). He also inherits kitchen worker Jim (John Francis Daley, Freaks and Geeks). In reality, Bourdain ran the shop at New York's celebrated Les Halles. In the show, Jack oversees the kitchen at the fictional Nolita. Pino (Frank Langella, terrific as usual) manages the joint, while the wait staff includes his tightly-wound daughter, Mimi (Bonnie Somerville, NYPD Blue) and the bubble-headed Tanya (Jaime King, Pearl Harbor). As in producer Darren Star's Sex and the City, the central character narrates, there's no laugh track, and more of the comedy revolves around sex than work.
While Cooper (The Wedding Crashers) isn't the most obvious choice to play Bourdain--and although Kitchen Confidential would've made more sense on cable--he does a surprisingly credible job, even if the writing lets him down on occasion. Realistic or not, severed fingers and singed eyebrows tend to play better in print than on the screen. Of the 13 episodes produced, FOX only aired four (back-to-back with Arrested Development), which is a shame as it was just starting to hit its stride. Guest stars include Bitty Schram ("Exile on Main Street"), John Larroquette ("Dinner Date with Death"), and Cooper's Alias co-star Michael Vartan ("French Fight"). --Kathleen C. Fennessy
- Disc 1:
- Exile On Main Street
- Dinner Date With Death
- French Fight
- You Lose, I Win
- Rabbit Test
- The Robbery
- Teddy, Takes Off
- Disc 2:
- Let's Do Brunch
- Praise Be Praise
- An Affair To Remember
- Power Play
- And the Award Goes To
- Kitchen Confidential trailer
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He assembles his kitchen staff from his old coworkers including: Steven, a British thug who's been known to cause plenty of mischief and will serve as Jack's sous-chef; Seth, a pastry chef with a crush on the hostess and a penchant for wearing bandannas as neckties; Teddy, an Asian seafood genius who has a volatile relationship with Jack; and Jim, the nerdy newbie who Jack inherits from the old chef. Together, the team creates an inspiring menu and helps put Nolita on the map as one of the new hip NYC restaurants.
Kitchen Confidential takes all of the best parts of Anthony Bourdain's memoir and twists it just enough to make it entertaining fiction rather than verbatim retelling. Bradley Cooper plays the part of Jack Bourdain with just enough wit and candor to remind viewers of Anthony, but with enough of his individual style to make the role his own. The supporting cast are nothing if not hilarious, and the stories of life inside a kitchen will provide fans of shows like Top Chef and Hell's Kitchen with a little fictional fuel for the culinary interest fire. As always, Fox cancelled the show after only 4 episodes aired, but hopefully with the success of the DVD sales (a la Family Guy) viewers might be in store for more Kitchen Confidential in the future.
This is getting to be routine for the Fox network. Take a great program, market it badly, give it a lousy time slot (why start a new show right before you know you're going to show the World Series?!), show episodes out of order, and then cancel it after just a few shows are aired. One would think that there should be some heads rolling at Fox. (I doubt it.) I digress - it's just infuriating to discover another great program only to discover that some morons canceled it while utter crap remains on the air.
"Kitchen Confidential" shares some of the same basic traits (beyond being canceled) with "Wonderfalls." It's tightly edited, funny, cutting edge, and pushes the envelope for network television. A few tweaks on language and nudity and it could easily be a quality show you'd find on Showtime or HBO. With that in mind, KC is a comedy for adults. If you like the humor on "Boston Legal" you'll probably enjoy this show.
That said, I can see why people didn't pick up on it at first. Yes, we're dumb animals who don't know what to make of satire, but the KITCHEN CONFIDENTIAL satire was pretty lame. The real trouble was the writers relying on the same basic plot in every episode, which gets tiresome--the plot in question, a challenge to Jack Bourdain's kitchen superiority and consequently his manhood. This pattern lasted well behind the first four episodes, and who knows, would probably still be the master narrative of the show had it not been taken off the air.
While many of the men were perfectly cast--and we loved seeing Nicholas Brendon from Buffy and little John Francis Daley now all grown up, though he'll always be Sam Weir to me, the little boy on FREAKS AND GEEKS--Bradley Cooper is maybe a little too lightweight to play the macho, womanizing, hard-living Bourdain character.
The women's roles were more problematic. They never did figure out what to do with Bonnie Somerville, what a waste, and while Jaime King was cute and appealing throughout, she never got to play anything but the dumb dingbat--really the Gracie Allen role, but tricked and manipulated into objectification by all the guys on the show. Only Erinn Hayes, as a rival chef, got to play a more three dimensional character, but even she was sometimes hard to take with her constant, abrasive, ambition and her crass sense of humor.
But in general, the show was brilliant on many levels and it will be sorely missed. Maybe it's good it went out when it did, for how many shows suffered from sophomore slump and never cough LOST ever cough HEROES got back on track again?