America has been screaming out for a TV show that mixes gangsters, addiction issues, dysfunctional parenting and ... fine dining?
Well, scream no more, America, because here comes “Feed the Beast,” overstuffed with addicts, damaged kids, mobster threats (and acts) and fancy wines that pair beautifully with a sumptuously garnished pan-sauteed lamb chop.
Tommy (David Schwimmer) is an ace sommelier who favors his fine wines too much. These days he’s been reduced to being a wine salesman since the high-end restaurant he worked at went up in flames. Tommy has to hold it together for his son, TJ (Elijah Jacob), a boy who hasn’t spoken since his mother died a year ago in an accident.
Enter Tommy’s old friend Dion (Jim Sturgess), whose penchant for cocaine matches Tommy’s nose for wine. Just released from prison for burning down the aforementioned restaurant, which was owned by the mob, Dion owes big money to all the wrong people.
He convinces Tommy they should open their own long-planned restaurant in the Bronx, get ahead of inevitable gentrification. What Tommy doesn’t understand is that Dion just means to use the place to launder money for the bad guys and keep his butt out of the fire. So Tommy reluctantly goes to his rich, estranged father (veteran John Doman) to ask for start-up bucks.
“Feed the Beast” works in broad strokes, with unlikely events — a beautiful Latino woman (Lorenza Izzo) volunteers to manage the restaurant for no salary — and cartoon characters; the main gangster threat is a dude nicknamed the Tooth Fairy (Michael Gladis), who carries around a big set of pliers for yanking on people.
The show’s biggest problem, though, is it’s hard to like either of its main characters. Dion is a full-on weasel, lying to his best friend and using people however he can. Tommy, meanwhile, is a major wimp, unable to help himself or his son. Together they’re somewhat unpalatable.
Tom Long is a longtime culture critic.
‘Feed the Beast’
Premieres at 10 p.m. Sunday, then moves to 10 p.m. Tuesdays