TV: Kitchen Confidential
Kitchen Confidential is just quirky enough to resemble certain other Fox comedies -- a single camera show with narration, like Arrested Development or Malcolm in the Middle -- but it doesn't quite hit the heights of brilliance those two shows did right from the start. That said, it's still very good. It's got a talented cast, it's got an excellent, TV-ready premise and setting (disgraced superstar chef attempts to redeem himself at new restaurant), and it's got a fair share of big laughs.
Bradley Cooper (previously of Alias) is Jack Bourdain, the genius chef who ruins his career with his various addictions. I've always thought of him as a supporting player, and honestly didn't think he could carry a show as the lead, but he eventually convinced me in the debut episode. I think he won me over in the scene where he menaces his new waitstaff while cradling a giant sea bass in one hand. His flare of anger and passion was unexpected and effective.
He's supported by a motley crew, including (just like How I Met Your Mother) an alumnus of both Buffy and Freaks and Geeks, Nicholas Brendon and John Francis Daley, respectively. Brendon is the seasoned pro pastry chef, and Daley is the newbie who is hazed by the rest of Jack's crew. Both are funny, with Daley edging out Brendon. Owain Yeoman as Steven Daedelus, "kitchen magician and master thief" (according to the subtitles that introduce each of Jack's staff), looks to be the real breakout here, a thug seemingly taken straight out of a Guy Ritchie film and transplanted into the world of fine cuisine. The sequence in which he loses a fingertip to a cleaver, and casually uses the resulting blood flow like a squirt gun, is sick and hilarious.
Frank Langella also makes a surprise appearance as Pino, the owner of Jack's new restaurant. And John Cho, who never fails to make me laugh, is seafood expert Teddy, but it looks like he's only in this pilot episode, which is a shame.
The chaos of a busy restaurant is presented well here, and the laughs when things don't turn out as expected are frequent. But the show still looks to be finding its feet. The cast is a bit too large (some, like Cho and Langella, probably won't be appearing in every episode, if ever again), and there was a bit too much of a "kitchen sink" attitude here -- Brendon starting up a poker game in the kitchen is an example -- but I liked it as it was, and I only expect it to improve. This is another of my favorites from the new season, up there with My Name Is Earl. It may even surpass Earl in weeks to come, purely on the superior strength of its supporting cast.