Oh, you know it's going to burn.
The show is called Godiva's, CHUM-TV's new six-part drama about 10 young Vancouverites who work in a hip Yaletown restaurant. Produced by Julia Keatley, executive producer of Cold Squad, and Michael MacLennan, the head writer and co-executive producer of Queer as Folk, it begins airing on Bravo! tonight at 10 EST.
Our Vancouver review panel includes: Gord Martin, owner and executive chef of Bin 941, 942 and Go Fish; John Crooke, sous-chef at Joe Fortes Oyster Bar and Grill; Brent Jowitt, head waiter at Blue Water Café; Erin Mullaly, bartender at Brix Restaurant and Wine Bar; and, Neil Ingram, sommelier at Lumière Restaurant and Feenie's Bistro, where the screening takes place.
Our reviewers admit they might have better things to do on their day off. "It's just cruel," says Ingram, as the door closes, blocking out the sunshine. To the waiter, he adds: "You had better bring us some drinks."
The opening credits begin with a lively, upbeat dance sequence that has some panel members tapping their feet. Segue to Godiva's, where a crazed, cranky chef is throwing steaks at his sous chef and cracking racist, off-colour jokes. The scene is obviously familiar to several panelists, who are quietly chuckling to themselves. No one seems surprised when the chef retreats to the walk-in fridge to do several rails of cocaine -- or when he chokes on his vomit later and croaks.
More chuckles when Kate (Erin Karpluck), the new general manager, arrives from Toronto just as the coroners are carrying the body out, makes a funny wisecrack about the cheery welcome wagon and downs a shot of tequila to christen her first day on the job.
The restaurant owner, a woman named Godiva, has taken off to Bali. Tension immediately starts brewing between Kate and Ramir (Stephen Lobo), the ambitious sous chef who takes command of the kitchen.
THE CHARACTERS: By the end of the first episode, everyone on the panel wishes the temperamental, drug-addled chef hadn't died. He was the only character, they say, who's remotely realistic.
"That GM isn't tough enough to be a hostess," Mullaly says.
"She should be renamed Anne of Green Tables," Ingram cracks.
Martin is not impressed with Ramir. "Chefs are way more hard-core than that. They're like truck drivers. And that pastry chef?" he says, referring to the hippie-dippy character (Sonja Bennett). "She's got to go."
At least the DJ, who is brought in to liven up the bar, is recognizable. "Ha! I know that actor," Crooke says. "He used to take room-service orders at the Four Seasons."
THE RESTAURANT: "Nobody's had a cigarette break yet," Martin notes, halfway through the first episode.
"Yeah, that's where all the real bitching comes out," Crooke says.
"And nobody's drinking cooking wine on the line," Martin adds. "They're not nearly stressed enough."
"They're not even cooking," Ingram says.
"Or serving any tables," Jowitt interjects. "They've only served one table so far."
THE FOOD: "Three hours of prep time for spaetzle?" Martin says, shaking his head. "What, did he [mess]up the first 400 batches?"
"Or cabernet butter sauce with skate?" Ingram sneers disapprovingly. "Who would serve that? And the GM wants him to break it down to an appetizer portion. How are they going to do that?"
"You can't," Martin says. "It's all cartilage."
"And no entrée priced over $21?" Ingram adds.
"Not in Yaletown, that's for sure," Mullaly says. "The average entrée goes for $30."
THE DRAMA: Everyone bursts out laughing when a drug-dealing bus boy gets beaten up at high school for selling "shake," or lame pot.
"Does shake still exist?" Ingram asks. "And is anyone else concerned about how much that little kid looks like Jamie Oliver?"
"Probably only Anthony Bourdain," Martin says, referring to Oliver's arch-rival celebrity chef.
Mullaly rolls her eyes when an assistant chef is caught with a dime bag of pot and gets thrown in jail overnight. Martin can't believe the duped schoolmates wouldn't recognize they'd been shafted. "These writers can't be from B.C."
Nor does Martin believe that the token Asian guy in the kitchen would be doing the dishes. "If it was a real kitchen, he'd be showing them how to debone the quail."
In the second episode, the power goes out in the restaurant and they have to close for the night. Kate laments the lost sales.
"Three grand for the whole restaurant?" Mullaly says. "That should be one server's section."
"And what's with this Charlie's Angels angle?" Ingram says, referring to the mysterious Godiva, who communicates only by phone.
"If that were a real GM," Mullaly says, "she'd be like 'Forget this, I quit.' "
THE WEST COAST: "Where are the people, where's Granville Market?" Ingram wonders. "It's not representative of Vancouver at all. They should have used more street shots and less studio sets."
The Yaletown condominium is nice. Way too nice for a sous-chef's salary, Crooke says.
And the all-too-typical Wreck Beach nude segment? "Come on," Martin says. "That waitress had pimples on her chest. Everyone knows that in Vancouver only one in 10 girls hasn't had a breast job."
THE VERDICT: Not one of the panelists would watch the show again or recommend it to their friends. They didn't have anything positive to say about it. "It's patronizing," Jowitt says. "Restaurants are a lot wilder than that."
"The relationships are all wrong," Mullaly says. "A chef would never be sleeping with the waitress. At the end of the night, he's the guy at the end of the bar getting drunk."
"There's definitely room for a show like this, but this doesn't cut it," Crooke says. "Foodies are going to hate it."
"Food is a form of show business," Ingram says, "especially in Vancouver, where the restaurant dramas are played out like theatre. You can probably get away without knowing the technical details in a show like Murphy Brown. How many people have actually worked in a TV news studio? But almost everyone has worked in a restaurant at one time or another."
"As Ricky Ricardo would say: 'Lucy, you got a lot of 'splaining to do!' " Martin says with a laugh. "Let's have another drink."