David Schwimmer has already proved he is a bit more versatile than playing a sad sack on “Friends.” His portrayal of Robert Kardashian was one of the many delights of “The People vs. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Stor” earlier this year.
Now he stars in a dark new cable drama about the underside of opening a restaurant.
His dream of opening a restaurant in New York was crushed when his wife died.But his buddy, recently sprung from jail, is anxious to follow through, especially since the mob is on his tail for money owed.
So you know as well as I do by the end of tonight’s pilot of “Feed the Beast” (AMC, 10 p.m.), there’s an agreement to go forward.
The depiction of the mob is especially cartoonish in the initial episode, and the swashbuckling chef Dion (Jim Sturgess) is a little too unbuckled. Other critics have been more negative about the series than I am; it’s nice to see a series about something different than zombies, exorcism, guns and blood (except for the mob parts). “Feed the Beast,” from longtime cable show runner Clyde Phillips, pauses each week for a bit of cooking, which is a nice change of pace.
And Schwimmer has already proven he’s a watchable figure on TV.
There was so little to show for “Feed the Beast” when it was presented to reporters at the TV Critics Association earlier this year, all Phillips, who ran “Dexter” and then “Nurse Jackie,” could do was read the initial pitch.
“It’s a show about damaged people,” Phillips said at last “which seems to be what I tend to write about.”
It’s based on a Danish series, “Bankerot.” which Phillips says he saw while shooting “Nurse Jackie.”
“I came home after a typical 14 hour day, and there it was in my inbox,” he says. “I’m thinking, ‘Oh, man,’ you know. And I sat down and I watched two episodes, fell in love with it.”
He requested the remaining episodes and got in touch with its makers and got together with a couple of assistants and began making the transformation to an American series about starting a restaurant in the Bronx.
“Bankerot” means “Bankrupt”: Phillips originally called his version “Broke.”
But, he said, “to me, it wasn’t sexy enough; it wasn’t original enough. It sounds like another show. And the phrase, ‘Feed the Beast’ means ,first of all, the restaurant they open is a Greek restaurant called Therio, which means beast in Greek.
“And ‘feed the beast’ means so many things. It means feed your hunger, feed your need, feed your drug need, feed your soul, feed the oven, feed the people in the other room. It felt like a really natural fit.”
one of the phrases we use is it’s a tragic farce,” Phillips says. “We’re opening a restaurant with the dark underbelly of where the money that comes in to support the restaurant is dirty.
“It shows the savagery of where the food comes from,” he says. “And when you sit down to have a lamb chop, I mean, some bad things happen before that and it shows that.”
Phillips says he’s somewhat familiar with the field.
“My father was a butcher. I grew up in Boston. And I grew up very deep in that world. My dad was also a bit of a crook.”
Amid the skullduggery, which includes a mobster who carries pliers in his suit for persuasion by tooth extraction, there is cooking, which is still a bit unusual in TV series.
But Phillips has it all planned.
“In each episode there will be one or two big moments of food being prepared. Whether they’re imagining food, or it’s on a plate,” he says. Further, “We want the food to pass the grandmother test, where if you blindfold your grandmother, your Greek grandmother, and have her taste this dish, no matter how beautiful it is and how cool it looks and how chef’s table it is, she can say that’s some good lamb, or that’s a good goat.”