Chef can rattle off twenty insults in less then a minute!
Martin Mulcahey | 09/26/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"It is amazing how Lenny Henry manages to blend refined and singularly inoffensive words to create the most imaginative insults the English language has ever offered up. Not just a comedy, at times it deals with the stresses of life and marriage and the strain a career puts on both. Simply put, this is laugh out loud wordsmithing that Shakespeare would surely get a smile out of. This is the reverse Fawlty Towers, as Chef is just too good and dedicated to his chosen profession. But both provide all-time great comedy. Buy and watch it over and over, and if you are lucky you can use some of the insults at your workplace. As an aside, I agree that a commentary track would have been nice."
A. Gyurisin | Wet, Wild, Wonderful Virginia | 02/04/2006
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Am I completely off my rocker when I make the observation that this series began with so much originality and intensity that one could not help but enjoy the sarcastic wit of Lenny Henry. I loved the first season of Chef!, in fact, I thought that we were going to served a plate of classic Fawlty Towers with a side dish of Hell's Kitchen. To my surprise, we were. The first season demonstrated the comic genius of Henry and his ability to bring humor to the kitchen. Sadly, unlike most other reviews of this series, it is lost after the first season. The second season is watchable, while the final season is so glossy with obvious financing that you completely loose the characters, the structure of the original series, and everything that one could fall in love with. I had to check the box to with the final season to ensure that I picked up the right series. I nearly didn't recognize it. I have always wondered why most of the BBC's television programs only last a couple of seasons, and Chef! explained it to me perfectly. If this had continued further, we would have only deepened our loss for Henry's original obnoxious character and would have filed through nearly all of Britain's finest "would-be" actors to play the part of the ever-changing staff. It would have been a debacle of grand proportions that would have left this series with a horrible hangover that could never have been remedied.
I will state it one more time. I loved the first season of this television series. It was fresh, it was funny, and it had so much imagination that one could simply watch this first series over and over again while experiencing the same enjoyment they had the first time they viewed it. I loved watching Henry argue with the staff, continually sleep on his days off, while still showing quite a human element to his wife Janice. While they did argue throughout the program, I thought that it was nothing more than "love" spats between the two. I felt, at least in the first season, that Gareth and Janice knew each other, accepted each other, and supported each other. Similar to Fawlty Towers there was a bond between them that could not be broken. In fact, they wanted to go in to business together to support each other. This was the beginning of a great series. While this drama happened outside in Gareth's personal life, it was what occurred inside the kitchen that provided most of, if nearly all, the laughter. The connection with the staff, the education of the inexperienced and Henry's obsession with perfection created a very original program. It was bright, it was intelligent, and it was ... to sound repetitive ... funny. This was not a show that could succeed in America, and I think that is what I loved about it. Then ... as if the forced that be were against this program ... the second and third season were created.
The second season isn't bad. It does falter a bit at times, perhaps giving us a subliminal indication of what is to come, but it still can stand on its own. Gareth and Janice have their restaurant and are attempting to boost their business. They argue about the finances and the staff, but the love is still there. The staff has completely changed, but I was willing to ignore that for this time. Everton was still present in the kitchen, so I felt a bit comfortable with the lack of familiar faces. Henry is still obnoxious and himself. He stays true to his character from the first season constantly yelling sarcasm to institute perfection from his staff. The timing seems a bit off, but overall it feels like the original. Henry is determined to be the greatest chef in England and takes his profession seriously, two qualities that you cannot fault a person for. As we chuckle (not quite laugh) our way through this season, there is no way to prepare ourselves for the horrid disaster that we shall simply call, "How Money Ruined Chef!" also known as season three.
The final season was a disaster. The characters that we fell in love with are gone again, even Janice and Gareth are not the same. We are introduced randomly to new characters that we are forced to laugh at and enjoy. There is no indication of this at the end of the second season, so it felt like hitting a brick wall. Lenny Henry is not funny. I would go so far as to say that he completely lost his character from the first season. He isn't angry, his sarcasm is very weak, and he does things in the kitchen that I would have never imagined him doing in the first season. Gareth Blackstock lost his spine in this season. While he has a personal crisis happen near the beginning of the season, that does not have to be the central focus of the show. What made this show fantastic in the beginning was the kitchen, and somehow in this season we completely disregard the kitchen (the basis for the show) and bring the comedy out into the "real world". For me, that didn't work. It is obvious that this season had more money due to the crisp visuals and Americanized standards. The music was a horrid choice and displaced any humor that tried to escape. Food was not important any longer, and the structured themes that created this series were torn down with cliché lines and childish acting. This final season ruined this series for me because it wouldn't stay true to itself.
Overall, thanks to the final season, this was a mediocre television series. Lenny Henry is funny, but as the monetary dollars rose, his sense of humor seemed to fall. What began as lyrical humor eventually devolved into physical humor that wasn't funny. The changing of the kitchen staff became annoying, Everton's character never seemed to grow with time, while it only became obvious that Gareth and Janice were not cut out to run a restaurant. Janice became bitter, which wasn't funny, while Gareth threw his original food obsession out the window in lieu of personal issues. This series sank and never had the opportunity to resurface. If you must watch Chef! stick to the first season, you will be pleasantly surprised, while if you continue you may find yourself pleasantly angry by the results. Don't say I didn't warn you!
Grade: *** out of *****"
My All-Time Favorite Britcom
sda | Lockport, NY USA | 09/13/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"At LAST Chef! is out on DVD. Its long over-due. This is one of the best, funniest British comedies to grace American Public Television EVER. Lenny Henery is simply brilliant as temperamental chef Gareth Blackstock, and Caroline Lee Johnson superb as his wife Janice. Sadly, the DVD set is very much lacking in extras -- all we get are a couple little things. It would have been nice to have gotten more. But the important this is that this series is finally available.
The first disk, series 1, is by far the best of the lot. There are some absolutely classic Chef! moments in these episodes, and the first few are probably the best of the whole series. The second series on disk 2 is almost as good, and there are some great moments and episodes here, too.
Sadly, series three isn't very good at all. Blackstock is less [...] and more buffoon in series 3, and Caroline Lee Johnson isn't seen much. The chemistry between Gareth and Janice is a major driving force of the first two series, and without it series three falls flat. The stories in series three are more removed from the kitchen and focus more on outside events and characters, which also takes a lot of the wind out of the show. Also, most of the new characters in series three just aren't very good -- I truly hate the characters of Savanah and the new manager. The acting seems VERY forced, as are the laughs -- they don't come as naturally here as they do in series 1 and 2. I will likely not watch the third DVD much, while the first two get a real workout. But all complaining aside, I'm thrilled to finally get this show on DVD. Its about time."