Kitchen seems miraculously to have translated the sensibility of Anthony Bourdain’s restaurant tell-all into sitcom form, retaining the author’s furious pace, grown-up content, gonzo humor (a bit about a chopped fingertip was handled with relative aplomb), high aspirations, and brazen self-confidence.
I liked Alias alum Bradley Cooper (left, with Frank Langella) as the swaggering chef modeled on the author; in fact, I think strong casting (coupled with strong writing) will be this show’s saving grace. I’m a little worried about Jaime King as a stereotypical dumb blonde who ”puts the ‘ho’ in ‘hostess,”’ as this show is too smart to stoop to such cliches. Also, it was unsettling to see Freaks and Geeks’ John Francis Daley as a wide-eyed kitchen newbie, but only because he plays a nearly identical role in the upcoming film Waiting.)
As for Out of Practice, I was expecting more, given the show’s pedigree: writers from Frasier and a cast that includes such pros as Stockard Channing, Henry Winkler, and supposed show-killer Paula Marshall. A couple roles, though, have been oddly miscast, including the central character, 30-year-old marriage counselor Ben (Christopher Gorham, who looks about 14), and 32-year-old floozy receptionist Crystal (Jennifer Tilly, who can do floozy in her sleep but can’t really pass for 32 unless you squint).
Worse, the jokes, like the characters, resorted to easy stereotypes; Marshall’s Regina has been given no character trait besides lesbianism, while her brother Oliver (Ty Burrell) is a shallow plastic surgeon who thinks he’s a ladies’ man but isn’t. So far, only Ben, who’s the only non-doctor in his family, has a crumbling marriage, and spends too much time with his mom (Channing), has character issues that could play out for a long time, but he’s a straight man at the mercy of the rest of the more vivid cast, particularly the grandstanding Channing. Let’s hope the writing improves and fleshes out the rest of the characters, or else the show will peter out fast.