- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 18, 2005

Surface’ rises

Something wet, glowing and slippery lurks in “Surface,” NBC’s new supernatural thriller.

The series, debuting at 8 tonight, follows a group of oceanographers and regular Joes (and Janes) who discover mysterious sea creatures bubbling up from below the Earth’s waters.

Written by twin brothers Josh and Jonas Pate (who also penned “Battlestar Galactica” for the Sci Fi Channel) “Surface” marks the new season’s latest attempt to tap the “Lost” vein of otherworldly chills — and so far the production values are right on the money.

“Surface” looks grand with its artful compositions and lush scenes of military vehicles sweeping into view. Yet the series’ secret weapon may be Lake Bell (“The Practice,” “Miss Match”), cast as a scientist who’s intent on learning more about the mysterious sea creatures . The actress isn’t cookie-cutter beautiful, a rarity during the fall season rollout, but she’s utterly credible as a researcher who gets too close to “Surface’s” mysteries.

The biggest question surrounding “Surface” is its potential. Tonight’s episode reveals a good deal about these slippery creatures while hinting at a major military coverup. Give NBC points for establishing the series in firm, committed strokes.

A spicy ‘Kitchen’

Anthony Bourdain had it all — television appearances, best-selling books and a reputation as one of New York’s superstar chefs — until drugs, booze and womanizing nearly derailed his career.

He recounted the all-too familiar tale with unflinching candor in “Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly,” published last year.

Now Fox — which found success this summer with another bad boy chef, Gordon Ramsey of “Hell’s Kitchen” — hopes to generate ratings heat once more with a new sitcom based on Mr. Bourdain’s book by way of executive producer Darren Star (creator of the HBO mega hit “Sex and the City”).

With “Kitchen Confidential,” directed by Fred Savage (yes, that Fred Savage of “Wonder Years” fame) and debuting tonight at 8:30, “Alias” alum Bradley Cooper steps into Mr. Bourdain’s shoes as Jack Bourdain — who, like the real-life chef, is an egomaniacal culinary whiz whose successful career is sidelined by too much partying.

The reversal of fortune causes Jack to straighten up and fly right. However, the only job he can find is cooking cheap pasta dishes at an opera-themed chain restaurant. Not for long, though. Out of the blue, he’s offered a second chance atrunning Nolita, a fictional big time Big Apple eatery owned by the arrogant Pino (Frank Langella in a recurring role). But there’s a catch: Jack must assemble a kitchen staff and create a menu that will please the palettes of 300 hungry customers — including a jilted ex-girlfriend who’s now a restaurant critic at a major newspaper — within 48 hours.

Can he do it? And, more importantly, will viewers come back for seconds?

“Kitchen Confidential’s” premise, which centers on a wunderkind brought low by personal demons, is hardly new. Still, there’s no denying its hit potential, Mr. Cooper’s charm or the hilarious antics of the other cooks in this “Kitchen” — all summoned from Jack’s sordid past. There’s Nicolas Brendon (“Buffy the Vampire Slayer”) as pastry chef Seth Klein, John Cho (“Harold & Kumar’s White Castle”) as seafood expert Teddy Wong, and Owain Yeoman (“Troy”) as sous chef Steven Daedalus. Also stirring the pot are supermodel-turned-actress Jamie King as Tonya, Nolita’s lovable hostess; and Bonnie Somerville as Mimi — a waitress who also happens to be Pino’s daughter, an aspiring chef and Jack’s nemesis.

Bon appetit.

From MTV to WB

The stars of two MTV reality shows are coming to WB.

Both Nick Lachey and Brandy have signed separate deals with the broadcast network to star in upcoming series and/or projects created specifically for them, Reuters news agency reports.

Mr. Lachey, who with his wife Jessica Simpson stars in the MTV hit “Newlyweds,” is no stranger to WB; appearing in a guest-starring role on “Charmed.”

Brandy, star of the long-running UPN series “Moesha,” appeared in her own MTV reality series “Brandy: Special Delivery,” which chronicled the birth of her first child in 2002.

Compiled by Christian Toto and Thomas Walter from staff, Web and wire reports.

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