|Kitchen Confidential: The Complete Series (2005)
Starring: Bradley Cooper, Nicholas Brendon, John Francis Daley, Jaime King, Bonnie Somerville, Owain Yeoman, John Cho, Frank Langella
“Arrested Development.” “Firefly.” “Family Guy.” “Drive.” “It’s a story that’s become all too common over the last few years – that of the television series cancelled before its time – and as you can tell by the short list above, it’s village idiot FOX that is almost always to blame. Taken off the air after only four episodes, “Kitchen Confidential” is yet another example of a series that was never given a fair shot at finding its audience. Despite generally positive reviews and the support of television demi-god Darren Star, however, the single-camera comedy was handed a quick death when it was paired with “Arrested Development,” another quirky comedy already going through the final stages of its cancellation.
Based on the tell-all memoir of celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain, “Kitchen Confidential” follows the down-and-out Jack Bourdain (Bradley Cooper, “Alias”) as he makes his way back to the top of the food chain. After spending the last five years boozing, using and shagging his way through New York’s finest restaurants, Jack is now working as a prep cook for a generic Italian restaurant managed by his girlfriend. But when restaurant mogul Pino Lugeria (Frank Langella) offers him the chance to run a new establishment, Jack is quick to accept, leaving him only 48 hours to put together a kitchen dream team and transforming Nolita into the hottest new restaurant in town.
Made up of industry friends like pastry chef Seth Richman (Nicholas Brendon), seafood chef Teddy Wong (John Cho) and sous chef Steven Daedelus (Owain Yeoman), Jack also injects some new blood into the kitchen with Jim (John Francis Daley), a recent culinary school grad who fast becomes the whipping boy of the group. And if convincing himself that he can start all over wasn’t hard enough, Jack is faced with the issue of convincing everyone else as well, namely head waiter Mimi (Bonnie Somerville), who would like nothing more than to see him run the restaurant into the ground.
Okay, confession time: “Kitchen Confidential” isn’t the greatest comedy series ever created. It’s not even close, but it is extremely entertaining. The writing is sharp, the cast is superb, and it’s even got a catchy theme song! You really can’t go wrong with that trifecta, especially when you’ve got talent like Darren Star behind it, who was television royalty when the show first aired. You’d think even a network like FOX would give the guy more than four weeks to prove himself, but alas, it wasn’t so. It’s a shame, too, since the show’s creators put together such an incredible group of actors that clearly enjoy working together. Bradley Cooper is without a doubt the heart and soul of the show (and he proves himself well beyond his two-dimensional stint on “Alias”), but the supporting cast is near flawless, and it only begs to ask the question: when are we ever going to see such a talented team of character actors together again?
And if the combined talents of Cho, Brandon, Daley and Langella aren’t enough to whet your appetite, the first season of the show also served up plenty up memorable guest stints including John Larroquette as Jack’s culinary mentor, Michael Vartan as a rival French chef, and Morena Baccarin as Pino’s drunken mistress. It really makes you wonder what other delicious guest stars would have signed on had the series become a hit. Oh well, at least fans of the show can finally watch all thirteen episodes in the comfort of their own home, though it won’t be nearly as special as one might expect.
Presented in a completely lackluster two-disc set, the DVD release is worse than sub-par, it’s downright despicable. Only two audio commentaries appear (one for the pilot, “Exile on Main Street,” and one for the finale), as does a three-minute tour of the set (“Tour of the Nolita”) and a short featurette where the cast/crew revisit their favorite moments of the show (“A Recipe for Comedy”). It really illustrates just how much FOX cares about canceling what could have been an excellent companion to “Arrested Development.” Then again, if they were willing to axe an Emmy Award winner, it’s not at all surprising that a show like “Kitchen Confidential” would share the same fate.
That doesn’t make its cancellation any less disappointing, however, especially since it reminded me of why I love “Scrubs” so much. The combination of quirky characters and comedic timing certainly draws parallels to the medical comedy, but it’s in the show’s courageous ability to project a sense of experience (even though it doesn’t have any) that makes it so enjoyable to watch.