'Feed the Beast' is another dark dish on AMC menu

John Doman (left) is Aidan Moran, Elijah Jacob is TJ, and David Schwimmer is Tommy Moran, who is trying to open a restaurant.

It's probably good that restaurant workers' hours often don't pair well with prime-time viewing.

Because budding food-service entrepreneurs have enough nightmares without imagining Gordon Ramsay rampaging through their kitchens, telling the world, one bleeped expletive at a time, that their signature dish is straight out of the freezer.

Not that anything like that would happen on Feed the Beast.

A different flavor of cautionary tale altogether, AMC's new drama premieres Sunday after Preacher, before moving to 10 p.m. Tuesdays two days later.

Adapted by Clyde Phillips (Dexter, Nurse Jackie) from a Danish drama, Bankerot - whose title Google translates, ominously, as Bankrupt - Feed the Beast stars David Schwimmer (American Crime Story, Friends) and Jim Sturgess (One Day) as boyhood friends trying to open a high-end restaurant together.

In the Bronx.

The Bronx isn't the cautionary part. There's talk (in the show, and in the New York Times, too) of the poorest borough possibly replacing Queens as the new Brooklyn, and where there's gentrification, there's bound to be a demand for fine dining, right?

So location isn't the reason I've been referring to Feed the Beast as "Job opens a restaurant."

The biblical hard-luck figure, or as he's called here, Tommy Moran, is played by Schwimmer, whose Eeyore-like mien is, for once, entirely called for.

A sommelier who dreamed of opening his restaurant with his wife, Rie (Christine Adams), he's now a wine salesman with a drinking problem. He lost Rie in a hit-and-run witnessed by their young son, TJ (Elijah Jacob), who hasn't spoken since.

As a single father with a mute son who's having problems in school, Tommy has, as one character notes, "a lot on his plate," and that's even before his old friend Dion Patras (Sturgess) shows up.

Dion's a hotshot chef with a coke habit who's out on parole after burning down the restaurant where he and Tommy worked.

He's also on the run from one Patrick Woichik (Michael Gladis, Extant), whose nickname is "The Tooth Fairy" and whose crime family happened to own the restaurant Dion destroyed.

Who wouldn't want Dion as a partner in an already high-risk business?

Feed the Beast continues to layer on the potential disasters in a way that was meant, I think, to be darkly farcical. But mostly it's just dark. Tommy, a wine savant, might swirl the first four episodes in his glass and detect grace notes of humor, but his own relentless misery damps them down, even in a scene in one episode where he's addressing his late wife and actually goes to the trouble of lying to her about the circumstances that have brought his racist father (Philly's John Doman, The Wire) in contact with their biracial son.

Jacob's performance as TJ may be line-free, but it's also subtle in a way that much of Feed the Beast isn't. He and Doman turn out to have a curious chemistry, and their scenes together were among the few that left me hungry for more.





Feed the Beast


10 p.m. Sunday, AMC. Moves to 10 p.m. Tuesdays June 7.