There’s nothing to feast on in AMC’s boring, ill-conceived restaurant-business drama starring David Schwimmer.
Here’s one of the benefits of overwhelming choice in television — mediocre doesn’t get a second chance. And bad barely gets a first.
Time is one of the most precious commodities for viewers and, in this era of Peak TV, they are getting very savvy about ignoring offerings that will waste their time. To be in the game you have to have game, and if it’s obvious in the first 15 minutes that you don’t, look out.
Which brings us to Feed the Beast, a television show that’s actually worse than its title would suggest.
Normally you don’t see cable channels with solid track records of strong, innovative dramas swing and miss with something so clearly inferior, but AMC has done just that with Feed the Beast, a drama based on a Danish series that we can only hope didn’t bore the Danes as badly as this version bores us.
Developed by Clyde Phillips (Dexter), the series is about two close friends who once shared a dream of opening their own restaurant. There’s Dion (Jim Sturgess), the wildly talented chef with a cocaine problem; best friend and sommelier Tommy (David Schwimmer); and Tommy’s now-dead wife Rie (played in flashbacks by Christine Adams), who died in a hit-and-run the same night Dion burned down the restaurant they all worked at while planning to open their own — which means that Tommy is no longer a sommelier, he’s just a guy who sells wine and drinks some of it in the car. Oh, and Tommy and Rie’s son, TJ (Elijah Jacob), witnessed his mother’s death, so now, a year or so later, he doesn’t talk at all.
Before explaining that it gets needlessly more complicated, know this: Not an ounce of this is interesting and often it’s not even believable. Sturgess and Schwimmer seem to be acting in two different series (the former is quippy and bro-tastic, the latter is sullen and aiming for serious); there’s a ludicrous network-TV-soapy drugs-and-sex scene at a prison that’s so unconvincing it’s like everyone gave up halfway through; and at every turn there is that most awful indicator of badness, explicit exposition.
On top of this, let’s throw in Michael Gladis as Patrick, a feared mobster who carries around a pair of pliers, with menace. Because shows like Feed the Beast are obvious at every turn, yes, Patrick (who names a mean mobster Patrick?) tells this to Dion: “You do know why they call me the Tooth Fairy, don’t you?” Um, because you pull people’s teeth out with those pliers you’re waving around, maybe? The close-up of the pliers kind of gave it away, as did the sneering delivery. Oh, by the way, if Gladis’ name sounds familiar, that’s because he is best known for playing Paul Kinsey on Mad Men, the effete, pipe-smoking wannabe bohemian copywriter.
Larded with clichés and predictable, stock characters (Tommy’s dad is a racist in a wheelchair, everybody in the Bronx comes from central casting, etc.), Feed the Beast lumbers toward where it wants to be — Dion and Tommy opening the restaurant of their burnt-out dreams, which will allow Tommy to process the loss of Rie (pronounced “Ree” — really, what’s with the names?) and maybe TJ will start talking again and everyone will realize that irresponsible man-child Dion is a great chef and he’ll be able to pay off his debt to Patrick.
There are probably other intentions in this series, but I will never get there because I was bored senseless within the aforementioned 15 minutes. I got through the first episode but could not tolerate the effort it was taking to slog through the second. One bad meal followed by yet another inedible offering at the same restaurant and, yeah, it was time to walk out.
You don’t need to be a critic to know when to bail on Feed the Beast. If you’re not getting paid to watch, it’ll be a lot earlier than when I gave up. Hell, even the cooking scenes, which want to be food porn (because who doesn’t want to watch a series about the culinary arts mixed with a mobster backstory?) lack any kind of spark. They don’t make you hungry. They just make you even more bored.
I have no idea why AMC wanted this series. You might remember that it took a big swing a while back with a gritty show called Low Winter Sun, which tried desperately to be a bad-ass cable series, and if it didn’t actually get there the point of its existence was at least evident. Feed the Beast looks like a generic broadcast network show and has the same lack of gravitas and lazy narrative shortcut-taking of that ilk.
Restaurants close all the time. It’s a hard business. But television is arguably even more cutthroat. Discerning palates will send Feed the Beast back to the kitchen pretty quickly.
Cast: David Schwimmer, Jim Sturgess, Christine Adams, Elijah Jacob, John Doman, Lorenza Izzo
Developed by: Clyde Phillips
Premieres: Sunday, 10 p.m. ET/PT, then airs Tuesdays, 10 p.m. (AMC)