Kitchen Confidential: Exile On Main Street
I haven't seen all of the new shows yet, so this quick opinion might change after I see Invasion or My Name Is Earl or How I Met Your Mother, but as it stands right now, Kitchen Confidential is the best new show of the fall. Here's why...
But first a question. This show is based on the book Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain, a real-life chef and writer. Why did they change his name to Jack Bourdain? I mean, if you're going to use the last name of Bourdain, why change the first name? I can see making up the whole name, but using the real last name and changing the first? I'd love to find out why.
Jack Bourdain is a great chef but a bit of a screw up, having sex in the walk-in, taking drugs, getting into fights with co-workers, etc, so his restaurant resume is a bit of a mess. He's scraping the bottom of the barrel, though I'd love any barrel where a great looking woman (Andrea Parker from Less Than Perfect and The Pretender) lived with me. He's working in the crazy theme restaurant that his girlfriend runs, hoping to get out. And that opportunity comes in the form of a phone call from the owner of Nolita, a hip restaurant where he'd love to work. He goes to the interview and somehow impresses the boss (Frank Langella).
I've worked in a ton of restaurants so I can tell you that everything happens, from the hazing of the naive guy to the chopping off of fingers (happen to me slicing pepperoni on a slicer - ouch), the sex in the back of the kitchen, the arguing, the fire, the rude customers, the bitchy hostess, it's all true. Maybe it's because I have the experience that I really dug this show. The characters are well done. The fringe employees add a lot of color to the kitchen, and Langella has the right amount of gravitas and humanity. And Buffy's Nicholas Brendon? You know what? He's a funny character actor. And he seems like he could be Bruce Campbell's wiseass younger brother. Oddly, I'm not quite sure of Cooper. He was great in Alias, and he's a good actor, I'm just not sure that he has the right amount of darkness and swagger that, well, the real Bourdain has. But he's got TV star written all over him, so we go along with it. And I liked Parker in this role. She probably won't be in it that much, considering what happens at the end plus her commitment to Less Than Perfect, but I hope she's able to pop in now and then (though with the way the pilot ends, with just the right amount of "damn, that sucks" bum out for Cooper and not a little kindness, it might be better if she's not in it that much and maybe shows up for one episode much later in the show's run).
This is the most entertaining pilot I've seen so far this season. It reminds me of something we might see on FX: slightly edgy (too edgy, I feel, for the 8:30 slot, with all the sex and scenes of drug use and overall adult themes), well directed, and fairly unpredictable for a sitcom (it's actually not very sitcom-like, thank God). This could have gone haywire, with overdone restaurant slapstick or unlikable characters, but they've managed to make something that's quirky and well done enough for me to tune in again.