Friday, October 5, 2012

Kitchen Confidential: A Pretty Standard Sitcom In A Different Setting!

The Good: Moments of humor, Generally interesting protagonist, Moments of acting
The Bad: Pretty obvious, Does not stand up over multiple viewings, Perfectly average
The Basics: Kitchen Confidential is amusing enough – probably because it was well cast – but does not hold up over multiple viewings and thus is not worth the buy.

It seems lately I have managed to find some of the more obscure television shows on DVD to review. As it stands, my DVD collection has seen The Loop (reviewed here!) and the boxed set for It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia (reviewed here!) come and go. I recalled enjoying Kitchen Confidential when I watched its few episodes on Fox back in the day, so I was reasonably excited to find it on DVD and I picked it up to watch, review and enjoy it. Hey, two out of three is not bad!

The truth is, this series probably would not have garnered as much attention by me if it weren’t for three members of the cast that I truly like. As it is, sitting down and watching all thirteen half-hour episodes made me more ambivalent to the series; it was not as audacious or interesting as I remembered it and truth be told it seemed remarkably standard.

Kitchen Confidential is a sitcom set in the upscale restaurant Nolita. Nolita’s owner wants former partier and problem chef Jack Bourdain to take over the kitchen and help change the restaurant for the better. After some debate, Jack agrees and he assembles a crew of chefs and chef helpers to work with him in the kitchen, including a pastry chef, a seafood expert, and a sous-chef. Surrounded by familiars, Jack sets to keeping Nolita afloat amid problems with ex-girlfriends, the waitstaff, the owner, and the help he hired to watch his back.

Jack runs into several problems while running Nolita, like his mentor returning and requesting that Jack kill him with the most unhealthy food imaginable, a war with a neighboring restaurant, and a shipment of bunnies that needs to be slaughtered for a specialty with no one in the building willing to kill them. Jack dates – or sleeps with – many women, mocks relentlessly his help and works to avoid the temptations of alcohol and debauchery that got him into the proverbial hot water on his previous attempt to be a successful chef.

The thing about Kitchen Confidential is, it’s funny. It was funny the first time around and a few of the episodes held up through a second go around, but much after that I found myself bored. Honestly, I was bored by the time I hit the end of the series when I sat down and watched it all at once. The episodes held up a little better when spread out, but they did not survive the simple act of repetition.

In other words, outside the setting, this feels like a remarkably standard sitcom. Still, the characters have some interesting bits to them and the primary characters in the series include:

Jack Bourdain – Head chef. He is formerly a partier, alcoholic and master chef whose lifestyle cost him everything before he was given a new chance at Nolita by the owner, Pino. Jack works hard to stay sober, but he soon gets back into the womanizing and takes great joy in socializing with the patrons of Nolita,

Seth – The pastry chef, possibly Jack’s closest friend in the kichen, he is jealous and enjoys hazing. He often competes with Jim, Stephen, and Teddy,

Teddy – The seafood expert and much abused in the kitchen, usually by Seth and Stephen. He illustrates his importance by leaving Nolita, which causes Jack to chase him down and beg for him back,

Stephen – A former criminal and sous-chef, he is Jack’s biggest risk in the kitchen. He delights in tormenting Jim and making life difficult for everyone at Nolita while always trying to get himself (or Jack) laid,

Mimi – Pino’s daughter, who loathes Jack being given control of the kitchen. She and Jack have a combative relationship that revolves around running Nolita, which Mimi sees as her birthright,

And Jim – The prep worker, he is often hazed by the more experienced kitchen staff and works to find his place in Jack’s kitchen.

The acting in Kitchen Confidential is decent, though many of the characters end up as sidekicks or appendages for Jack, so it is more that the series is well cast. While most of the cast is mediocre, I was drawn in by the presence of John Francis Daley, who had starred in the wonderful Freaks And Geeks (reviewed here!) and had a recurring role on Boston Public and Nicholas Brandon, who I enjoyed on Buffy The Vampire Slayer (reviewed here!). Both actors stretch out from where we’ve seen them before in their roles here.

Bradley Cooper, who stars as Jack Bourdain was the key selling point for Kitchen Confidential for me. He starred in Alias and truly came into his own in the second season of the series (reviewed here!). Since he left Alias, I had been eager to see him in other works and while he had a bit part in Failure To Launch (reviewed here!), I was psyched about the prospect of him getting his own series, especially as a lead character!

In Kitchen Confidential, Cooper proves his acting abilities. On Alias, he portrayed a simple guy who was very nice and very real, perhaps the most human and normal character on the show. In this, he is arrogant, brash, and egotistical and he sells it convincingly. Moreover, Cooper holds his own with guest stars like John Laroquette and Frank Langella. And here Cooper reveals he has a decent sense of comic timing and a looseness to him that Alias was not presenting.

On DVD, Kitchen Confidential suffers some because it is not terribly long (only one season, thirteen episodes) and it feels very much like something we have seen before, even though the setting is fairly unique in sitcoms. The show looks good, and bonus features include five commentary tracks featuring Cooper and the show’s producers, featurettes about the making of the series and the restaurant featured in the show. The bonus features are good, but they aren’t going to entice anyone to keep the boxed set unless they enjoyed the programming.

Sadly, I don’t know who would enjoy it enough to keep it. It is thoroughly average and ends up feeling rather generic, especially after watching the whole series only twice. While it might be worth a viewing, the DVD features are not truly enough to sell it; it can be found on some of the cable channels being rerun and that might be the better way to go, unless, of course, you have a ton of money to spend on DVDs you’re unlikely to watch more than twice!

That is certainly not me!

For other shows that originally aired on FOX, please check out my reviews of:
Family Guy Presents: It’s A Trap!
Glee - Season Three
Fringe - Season Three
Arrested Development
The Lone Gunmen
Ally McBeal
The X-Files
Ned And Stacey - Season 1
The Adventures Of Brisco County Jr.


For other television reviews, be sure to check out my Movie Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2012, 2007 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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  1. In other words, outside the setting, this feels like a remarkably standard sitcom. Still, the characters have some interesting bits to them and the primary characters in the series include,

    Couple swingers

  2. Yes, for a show with such a good cast, it replayed poorly because the characters have so little going for them and the humor is very obvious.

    Thanks for reading!