This article contains information that could be considered too revealing according to our spoiler policy. Proceed with caution. You can't unsee it!Reason The show doesn't premiere until a couple of days after this post's publication; we got a screener.
Will Feed The Beast Sate Your Appetite For Foodie Antiheroes?
AMC's new drama is what happens when No Reservations meets The Sopranos. Are you ready to order?
What Is This Thing?
Dion Patras (Jim Sturgess) is a gifted chef who is also possessed of some of the worst judgment to be found in the greater tri-state area. He ends up opening a restaurant in partnership with his sad widower friend Tommy Moran (David Schwimmer), owing to a complicated series of personal obligations and a $600,000 debt to some gangsters. ("You can use this restaurant as a laundromat for your money" is his exact business plan.) The entire show presumably balances on the knife's edge between "Dion's redemption via food" and "Dion turning into fish food when he invariably screws up again."
To put it another way: take Anthony Bourdain's first book, Kitchen Confidential, throw in a soupçon of Once Upon A Time In America, add a dash of Season 2 -- and only Season 2 -- of The Wire; then think of the saddest movie you know about a widowed person or demi-orphaned child. All of these influences swirl through the show, which is why it's funny, brutal and poignant. It's a great metaphor for the very nature of appetite.
When Is It On?
Hang on -- this gets complicated. AMC will premiere it Sunday, June 5 at 10 PM ET; two days later, it's moving to its regular time slot: Tuesdays at 10 PM ET.
Why Was It Made Now?
Because it blends two of America's pop-culture passions: food culture and antiheroes. AMC needs another Breaking Bad-type crime show, and it needs another prestige Mad Men-type show that people who read New York magazine can get overthink-y about, so why not put that peanut butter with that chocolate, and make a show that confirms every stereotype about bad-boy chefs and makes white-collar people feel good about skilled laborers?
What's Its Pedigree?
It's based on the Danish series Bankerot and retains several of its original producers, who also formerly worked on the Danish political drama Borgen; in this country, it will be produced by former Dexter showrunner Clyde Phillips. In addition to the above-named Sturgess and Schwimmer, the cast includes Michael Gladis (Mad Men), John Doman (The Wire, and more recently Gotham and The Affair), and David Patrick Kelly (of just about everything).
I never thought I'd write these words, but...David Schwimmer is very good. The entire cast is solid, and whoever thought, "We need the Dion Patras character to look incredibly moth-eaten -- get me Jim Sturgess!" is a casting genius.
The pilot's also one of the more deftly executed I've seen in some time: dozens of background details fill you in on who these people are and what makes them tick, and that spares us all the awkwardness of those "Tell, don't show" conversations so often found in television pilots.
The whole "chefs are animals" trope is really laid on thick here. Worse, it's not as funny as it should be. There's a recent episode of Bob's Burgers, "Secret Admiral-erer," which sends up this trope in twenty-two hilarious minutes, so if you're looking for some TV to make you laugh and confirm the stereotype about chefs as tattooed jerkstores, you can get that without investing in an entire dramatic series.
If you're the type of person who really enjoys the burgeoning body of chef-tagonist media -- literature (Anthony Bourdain, Michael Ruhlman, Julie Powell), television (Anthony Bourdain again, Top Chef), movies (Burnt, Chef, Spinning Plates, Ratatouille, The Hundred Foot Journey) -- then you'll probably enjoy this, because you can sit on the couch and critique the actors' knife techniques, and talk about what tropes have been lifted wholesale from other TV shows, books and movies.
What I especially like about Feed The Beast so far is how it shows the difficulty of trying to become a better self -- or refrain from sinking into a worse self -- in a universe that doesn't really care about your personal development. It's easy to understand the allure of the chef then, someone to provide a little warmth and hospitality and maybe, just maybe, ease an appetite you desperately want to satiate.
For 1991 Week we ask:
If this were New York City in 1991, the hottest food wouldn't be Greek food made by coked-up idiots but rather...?
- "Rustic bistro" fare with a lot of sun-dried tomatoes
- Gourmet hamburgers with kobe beef and truffle-oil french fries
- Squid-ink risotto