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TV Review: Nothing tasty about 'Restaurant'

Saturday, July 19, 2003

By Rob Owen, Post-Gazette TV Editor

NBC's "Crime and Punishment" makes way for "The Restaurant" (10 p.m. tomorrow), a "reality" show in the same vein, albeit with lower stakes (but presumably better steaks).



When: Tomorrow at 10 p.m. on NBC


Executive produced by Mark Burnett ("Survivor"), the series chronicles "celebrity chef" Rocco DiSpirito as he sets out to open his own Italian restaurant in Manhattan.

Like "Crime," this is simply a fly-on-the-wall docudrama. There's no prize, no competition, although seeing DiSpirito interview people for waiters' positions does bring to mind the audition segments of so many reality shows.

"I'm, like, the queen of restaurants that have gone out of business," says one applicant, which surely can't help her chances of landing a job at Rocco's.

Burnett has called the show a soap opera, which in a way it is, but in the first episode (and two scenes from the second that were provided for review) "The Restaurant" feels as generic as its title.

Of course there are people rushing around to complete the place before its grand opening. But that's what we expect. Lost in the chaos are specific characters and details.

Some of the servers wear what appear to be soccer jerseys. Why? No explanation is given. The menu looks like a page from a tabloid newspaper, but the idea behind it is never explained.

Instead, viewers get to hear DiSpirito emphasizing over and over how he wants the restaurant to be like supper at his grandmother's house. That's a fine tidbit, but we need to feel more connected to DiSpirito as a character. Initially, at least, that doesn't happen.

Post-Gazette TV editor Rob Owen is attending the Television Critics Association summer press tour. You can reach him at 412-263-2582 orrowen@post-gazette.com .

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