Monday, June 18, 2007

The Life & Death of Jack Bourdain

I read Anthony Bourdain's "Kitchen Confidential" years ago. A fascinating read, infamously offering an insider's tour of a top NYC chef's world. The book made a big splash. It was set for a big fat movie adaptation called "Seared", with Brad Pitt set to star and David Fincher set to direct...

And then... it didn't happen. For any number of mysterious reasons that these things don't happen.

Then, by similarly mystical turns, it became a television show.

KITCHEN CONFIDENTIAL: THE COMPLETE SERIES is now available on DVD, featuring 13 episodes, 9 of them never broadcast.

SEX IN THE CITY's Darren Starr brought in writer David Hemingson, who used Bourdain's book as an inspiration for this ensemble comedy. Starring ALIAS's Bradley Cooper as a fictionalized "Jack Bourdain".

I had some issues with the show when I caught it during its abbreviated run. The depiction of sex throughout seemed forced to me. Every woman on the planet wants to fuck Bradley CooperI get it already! On what level was that supposed to be entertaining? The chef-as-rock-star conceit seemed to be aiming for a base audience.

But as the show went on, I felt like it began to find its voice. It didn't shy away from its foodie premise. The first sign of it, for me, was an episode called "Dinner Date with Death", with a fine guest star turn from John Larroquette as a gourmand who's trying to kill himself by dining on the richest foods.

That was followed by "French Fight", featuring Cooper's old ALIAS buddy Michael Vartan as a French Chef who wages a food fight with Chef Bourdain. And as far as guest stars go, it's hard to top SERENITY's lovely and amazing Morena Baccarin in the episode "An Affair to Remember".

Bradley Cooper graduated from J.J. Abrams's school of romantic comedy, and he puts it to good use here. Yes, Jack Bourdain gets entirely too much sex for us (me) to completely care about him, but Cooper manages to keep him very likable. And he's got a great ensemble cast backing him up. The writing's solid and it gets better as it goes. The show builds through 13 episodes. John Cho actually gets to kiss a girl. It was a good show!

Which is why it's such a shame that it was yanked. It really should have had a longer life than it did. With all the shows exploring the lives of cops, lawyers and doctors, I think the TV landscape could have used a good foodie sitcom.

At least Tony Bourdain's got the Travel Channel...

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