A coke addicted ex-con with a brutally mangled pinkie finger and an alcoholic widower with a son who refuses to speak decide to open a restaurant in the Bronx. Only one of ’em knows the business will be a front for a mobster with a penchant for forcibly removing people’s teeth with a pair of pliers.
Welcome to Feed the Beast — David Schwimmer‘s new AMC drama that couldn’t be farther from Central Perk if Ross Geller had lived in a run-down studio on the outskirts of Queens and never uttered a single zinger in his tragedy-strewn life.
Before you grade the pilot in our poll below, let’s do a quick recap of the action.
Schwimmer’s character Tommy is reeling from his wife’s hit-and-run death, trying to get through to his beautiful tween son TJ (who hasn’t uttered a word since the accident), and sampling way too much of the wine he’s distributes for a living.
His life gets a much needed jolt of chaos when his pal Dion (Cloud Atlas‘ Jim Sturgess) gets released from prison — not before having sex with his attorney and snorting a line up his nose — and shows up at Tommy’s door looking for a place to crash from a mob boss with revenge on his mind.
Turns out, Dion and Tommy and his late wife Rie had dreams of opening a Greek restaurant in the Bronx, but their plan disintegrated like baguette crumbs in a burner after Rie was killed, Dion got convicted of arson for burning down the eatery where all three were toiling, and Tommy found himself without a wife or his job as a sommelier.
But that’s just a hint of the overarching story. Dion’s stint as an arsonist came at the request of thuggish mobster Woichik (Extant‘s Michael Gladis, bringing several seasons’ worth of ham to the banquet) — but since he got caught, Woichik was unable to collect insurance, and he’s looking for payback. With his life hanging in the balance — and surrounded by the killer stove and brass espresso machine that Tommy’s allowed to lie dormant — Dion proposes to Woichik that a Greek restaurant in Tommy’s warehouse-y home could be a moneymaker, not to mention a great venue for laundering ill-gotten money.
Like spicy seafood broth over black orzo — the tastiest-looking of Dion’s premiere-episode dishes — the idea is all too tempting for Woichik to resist. But Dion never tells Tommy about the dark underbelly of their enterprise, instead convincing his friend that he can keep Rie’s memory alive and help TJ out of his isolation by recommitting to their culinary dream.
A few portions of the pilot are a little difficult to digest: We get a stereotypical Asian brothel worker who refers to her pimp as “uncle” and eyes Dion like a carnivore to a New York strip. (Memo to producers: It’s 2016, not 1916, K?) That scene where Dion (who snuffs and snorts like an anteater through the entire hour, even when there’s no coke in sight) uses nondescript household objects as stand-in for cooking implements is 1-800-too-much (and not in a good way). And Tommy’s glumness is so unrelenting that TJ’s vow of silence seems a little too understandable.
But maybe that’s just me and my finicky palate?