TV Reviews: Chef! A Bird in the Hand

Posted: November 29, 2009 in Holiday, Reviews
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Chef! “A Bird in the Hand

Episode Title screen. Yeah, no jokes there… sorry.

If you’ve never seen this British sitcom from the mid 90s then you’ve missed out on some really fun TV. It also means I have to recap the show for you, in as few words as possible so I don’t distract from this special from 1993. Quickly put, the show is mainly about Gareth Blackstock, the head chef at a restaurant named Le Château Anglais. He’s arrogant, nasty, egotistical and in all ways a classic British comedy anti-hero. If this show wasn’t about him, he would be the villain. One of the things I like best about this show is that it’s not really a normal sitcom. They don’t spend all their time being self-centered and getting into situations that are cringe inducingly embarrassing nor require you either to be retarded or believe they exist in an alternate universe where idiotic things occur despite simple logic. It also isn’t a show where the joke would work no matter where it was set. No, this is a show about a restaurant and its owners. In the first two seasons almost everything in the show revolved around restaurant things, which was cool. Also, a lot of the comedy was derived from Gareth being acerbic, so you could have a nice laugh at him when he gets him comeuppance as well. Also, many people enjoy the banter and wit of the program, which is really cool.

He’s about 3 seconds from biting someone’s head off, and there is a head so near his mouth.

This brings us to the Christmas special we have here. Be sure, it is a special and not part of the regular series. The first series staff is in this show, but they’re using the kitchen that they have in the second series. In fact the first series of the show ended in March of 1993 and this episode played on the 24th of December of that same year, just to give you and idea of how far apart they were. It’s not much like a normal Christmas special either, since its Christmas at a restaurant. There isn’t a whole lot of Christmas cheer about this episode. The point of the episode is that they’re going to be open for Christmas instead of being home with their loved ones. Actually there is a lot going on in this little half hour show, which is always something that amazes me when I compare British TV with American. Even on DVD they seem to get more done in the same amount of time than we do. Anyway, back to the show.

You can kind of tell she’s about 3 seconds from cracking too, can’t you? They all are.

The restaurant, despite the high paying clientele, is not doing so well. The outlay for ingredients is simply too much. This situation is illustrated with a herb dealer who has been charging too much. Gareth initially declares his love and ever lasting devotion to Mrs. Courtenay, and then looks at the amount on the bill for one month’s supply. It is at this point that he considers putting a hit out on her and then decides he’d rather do it himself. The beat down is pretty viscous, even if it’s all verbal and all stuff you can say on TV. I get shivers just from thinking about it. Poor Mrs. Courtenay is sent away a broken woman. Don’t weep for her though. The fickle hand of fate will bring her the opportunity to return with cruel and exacting vengeance.

Countdown to shouting in 5, 4, 3…

This issue resolved, Gareth and his wife Janice who manages the restaurant with him decide that they must open the restaurant for Christmas. This of course means getting ingredients, which include turkeys. Of course Gareth only wants the best which initially means he buys expensive birds, but he’s shown up by Janice as he often is. The problem is, because he was nasty about burning some packaging, they can’t seem to remember the name of the farm that produced the better bird. His own arrogance got away from him you see.

That’s a lot of pink and naked flesh for a Christmas show. Granted, they’re turkeys, but still.

So a quest is started for the name and address of the farm that produces the superior turkeys. They go through some serious hoops to discover that the farm they want is way out in the country and that it’s run by the boy friend of Mrs. Courtenay!!!!!!! Yes, the same Mrs. Courtenay that Gareth striped bare and flogged in the street (in a metaphorical strictly verbal way) now the birds he needs! Oh noes I hear you cry, and oh noes is right. Gareth ends up offering to pay three times what the birds are worth and extends a full apology to the now evil Mrs. Courtenay and re-employs her as his chief her as his chief herbalist.

This is what it’s all about baby!

While this is going on, we see the problems that the kitchen staff has with having to cancel all their plans for Christmas. This includes one who wanted to go to Vermont, one who wanted to go to bed, one who wanted a good cuddle and one who as a result of skipping Christmas is wished bad luck and misery for the rest of his life. However, it all turns out in the end since they get the turkeys, end up fully booked and it seems like a good time to be cocky. So Gareth is cocky to someone on the phone, and then has to call them back and crawl back into their good graces as well. Sadly, all those turkeys come to not because the new party of 30 is made up of vegetarians.

Almost like a happy family, only not.

Still, it all works out happily and they get to have a meal together in the dining room before the show ends. It’s sort of a sweet moment really since he gives them an extensive offer, knowing full well they’ll all ask for turkey what with the huge amount of extra he has on hand now. It’s one of the only truly Christmassy scenes in the entire production and it comes off nicely. As far as a Christmas special for a TV show goes I really like this one. It’s very true to the rest of the program which means it’s about a restaurant at Christmas rather than being a Christmas show that happens to take place in a restaurant which is a very different thing indeed. The only way to get this that I’m aware of is to buy the entire series of Chef! on dvd in one packet. It’s not very expensive though, so it wouldn’t set you back too much and the rest of the show is good too.

Official Score:
43 Degrees on the Graffiti Bridge Scale.

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