Gone Too Soon: An Analysis Of 'Kitchen Confidential'
Welcome to the third installment of "Gone Too Soon" where I talk about cancelled TV series that were cancelled after one or two seasons. I will be exploring what worked, what didn't work and why it might have failed to get an audience. Last time I talked about the two season stunner Eli Stone. This time we're going to be looking at the one season wonder Kitchen Confidential but before we start, THEME MUSIC!
Kitchen Confidential: What Was It?
Kitchen Confdential is a 2005 single camera sitcom based on the book of the same name by Anthony Bourdain. In the series a chef named Jack Bourdain (Played by Bradley Cooper) is trying to get his life back on track after losing his job and his girlfriend because of his addictions to drugs, alcohol and other women who weren't his girlfriend. He get's an offer to become the head chef at Nolita, a restaurant owned by a man named Pino (Played by the legendary Frank Langella) who seems like less of a restaurant owner and more of a mafia boss with how his chefs react to him.
Part of the deal means that Jack get's to hire his own crew so he calls his old friend Steven (Played by Owain Yeoman), who is basically the same guy that Jack used to be before getting sober, and get's Steven to be his sous chef. He also hires Teddy Wong (Played by John Cho) as his seafood chef and Seth Richman (Played by Nicholas Brendon) to be his pastry chef. He also get's stuck with Jim (Played by John Francis Daley) as an assistant chef, and constantly has to deal with Pino's daughter Mimi (Played by Bonnie Somerville) and Tanya (Played by Jaime King) who is the ditzy head waitress. With all this going on in his life, it's a wonder if Jack will maintain his sobriety.
What Worked In The Kitchen?
Without a doubt, this is one of the best casts to be put together in a comedy. Everyone has incredible chemistry and has created really wonderful characters that're well rounded people who have little eccentricities that make their interactions with everyone else hilarious. Seeing Bradley Cooper before his big breakout is so fun, he's naturally got good timing for comedy and knows how to work a punchline. It's a really good ensemble, and even the guest stars are spectacular. When Erinn Hayes pops up as Becky during the later half of the season, she's able to step into the boys club of the kitchen, break it open in a matter of seconds and is just fearlessly cutting to everyone.
The writing is top notch. Since it's basically a redemption story where they're trying to show Jack being met with temptation to go back to being a womanizing drugged up alcoholic, they handle him going back and forth on that with great care. Some of the episodes just have the most hilarious and simple setups, like Rabbit Test where they order rabbits in for the special but those rabbits turn up alive, so we get scene after scene of the characters trying to kill the rabbits but then somehow failing. Either their ego get's in the way, they get reminded of their childhood, or they fake a seizure and each one is hilarious.
The best part is the lack of a laugh track, this kind of show really needed to rely on the rapid fire back and forth that you can't get if you're pausing for a laugh every few minutes. It feels very real when watching it, something that was confirmed to me when I watched it with a former chef who basically said "Yep, that's pretty much how it happens"
What Didn't Work In The Kitchen?
One of the big problems I have with the show is John Cho's character of Teddy is just listed as a guest star, even though he's in 10 episodes. Sam Pancake's waiter character is in 12, also classed as a guest star. That's just a weird thing to me because those two have some of the best scenes and we could've used having a lot more of them there.
Also could've done with a lot less stories about Jack hooking up with customers or the crazy lady upstairs, we're meant to be giving him this grand redemption arc and yet for most of the series he's bed hopping, until Becky comes by and then he seems like he might be settling down with her. Apart from those two little nitpicks though, I can't really think of anything that was that wrong with the series.
Why Was It Cancelled?
So you know how Fox is the worst when it comes to giving new shows a chance? Well, turns out, Fox was the worst when it came to giving new shows a chance back in 2005. For starters they aired it opposite the pilot episode of How I Met Your Mother... and Monday Night Football. It's like they were trying to get buried in the ratings from the start.
After that, they only aired 3 episodes, then took a several month gap in airing to make room for baseball season. Well, I say Baseball season, that only accounts for the break in airing between October 10th and October 17th when the baseball was on. From October 24th until December 5th, you know what aired? Reruns of Prisonbreak. When you have a several month gap, it's no wonder no one looks for the show when it comes back to the air. The only thing that anyone had to remind them of the shows existence in that time was the episode Rabbit Test which was uploaded to Myspace on November 9th for a total of 5 days.
Kitchen Confidential would air it's last episode on December 5th 2005
Should It Have Been Renewed?
Hell yes. Kitchen Confidential is one of the best sitcoms I've seen in a while with a stunning cast and hilarious writing. It at least deserved the chance to burn off the remaining episodes instead of only airing four of them and leaving nine to not even get aired.
You know how I praised the Becky Sharp character a lot? Well, bad news, literally none of her episodes ever made it to air. The episode she got introduced in didn't hit the air, but she is in the Myspace episode... which I'm sure confused the 15 people who were going to watch a full half hour episode of a Fox TV series on Myspace back in 2005.
If it wasn't going to get renewed, it at least deserved the chance to get an audience that it was denied due to poor decisions by the network regarding when to air it and how long of a gap to put between episodes.
So How Can I Watch It?
If you're in America and you subscribe to Hulu then I got good news, the entire series is up there right now for you to enjoy at your leisure. Sadly I cannot seem to find it on Netflix or on a steaming service outside the US, but luckily there is the full season on DVD available on Amazon for about $12. That's the version I got, it even has commentaries and a reunion documentary with the cast, it's a cheap deal and worth the purchase, I promise you.
One of the great disappointments of my TV viewing life is that I didn't know about this series when it aired, I would've loved to have been able to see it back then because it has become one of my favorite shows of all time since stumbling upon it. Can't recommend it highly enough.
What's Your Favorite Episode Of Kitchen Confidential?
Also what one to two season TV series would you like me to cover on this series? I'll be doing them every fortnight so any titles would be appreciated.
UPI: 'Kitchen Confidential' streams at Myspace