Monday, June 25, 2007

TV on DVD: Kitchen Confidential

Kitchen Confidential is one of those shows, like Andy Richter Controls the Universe and Undeclared, that I always intended to watch until Fox's itchy trigger finger got in the way and I never got a chance. Admittedly, Kitchen Confidential doesn't have quite the reputation of those other two shows. Still, it was supposed to be solid, quirky fun, and it had a better-than-solid cast. Plus, I had heard great things about the book on which it was based, a tell-all about gourmet restaurant kitchens by Anthony Bourdain.

Happily, two years later, the entire series has been released on DVD, including 9 unaired episodes. Even more happily (and in the interest of full disclosure), Fox provided me with said DVDs to review. Thanks, Fox! I've finally watched all 13 episodes, and I have to say, I'm pretty favorably impressed. The show stars Bradley Cooper as "Jack" Bourdain, a recovering drug/alcohol/women addict who's given a fresh start in the form of Nolita, a fancy restaurant in immediate need of a head chef. He assembles the usual team of misfits and rascals, including Buffy's Nicholas Brendan and Harold and Kumar's John Cho, and the show pretty much goes from there. Yay, wacky kitchen hijinks!

Watching the DVDs, it becomes clear that Kitchen Confidential was really just starting to get off the ground when it was cancelled. The sixth episode in particular, "Rabbit Test," explored the characters more deeply, giving the writers access to greater comedic potential in that episode and future episodes (none of which aired in the US). Although a few of the episodes seem out of order (characters appear and disappear somewhat randomly), the story arcs are engaging, as is Cooper's portrayal of Bourdain. (However, having seen the real Bourdain on Top Chef, it seems to me that Cooper is way too adorable to truly embody the man his character is based on--a man who, let's face it, would probably make a pretty unsympathetic main character)

The show's ratings trouble may have been partly due to the fact that it straddles the line between traditional multi-camera sitcoms and newfangled critical favorites like Scrubs and The Office. It doesn't have a laugh track, and has jokes more complex than the usual sitcom fare, but fails take the format somewhere different like most of the new school of sitcoms. This may have made it more difficult for Kitchen Confidential to carve out a niche, although it is far from a weak point (lack of a laugh track is never a weak point in my book).

Kitchen Confidential's strong point was definitely its cast, although the writing provides helpful support. The actors really seem to enjoy doing scenes together, and the comedic chemistry between the lead group of characters is fantastic. My only complain is that John Cho wasn't in enough episodes--his character Teddy's scenes almost always made me laugh.

In summation, Kitchen Confidential was never going to be the next Arrested Development, but it certainly deserved more of a chance than Fox gave it. It was often smart, usually funny, and improving with every episode as the writers refined their voice and the characters became three-dimensional. While the DVDs don't have a lot to offer in terms of extras (cast interviews and commentary, mostly), they're worth checking out solely to see the remaining nine episodes of a show that should have made more. Especially if you liked what you saw when it originally aired.


Bruce said...

Kitchen Confidential was another one I enjoyed, just like Wonderfalls that got pulled before it hit its stride. I have to say I enjoy the Loop as well which has pleased me with a decent second season so far even if they are showing 2 to 3 each Sunday night which is always cause for worry.

Liz said...

I still haven't gotten a chance to see the Loop, although I've heard good things. Sounds like its chances aren't good, though, and isn't one of the stars in a new show this fall? Ah, least it got a second season, right? I'll have to check it out while it's still around.

vance said...

yeah. The Loop is gone. I just wrote about how it better get the DVD treatment and how it was pulled early like KC (as well as others. although damnit. I forgot to mention undeclared, another favorite).

Seriously. What's with FOX? then again. Whats with most of the networks (though FOx and CBS seem the worse... Creature Comforts, Love Monkey...)


Liz said...

Fox, CBS, EVERYONE... I blame America and its lack of a sense of humor.

liylak said...

they gave you the DVD? What?

I did like that show when it was on... I am so annoyed that all these shows I like keep getitng pulled about 5 eps in... If you paid for them, at least air them! I hate stupid reruns of bad shows.

Liz said...

Yeah, they sent it to me so I could review it aqui. And yeah, I'm still incredibly bitter that they're not burning off the rest of The Nine, even online! Damn you, Season of the Serial Dramas!!!