|Worth seeing:||for a glimpse behind the menu of a posh restaurant that descends too far from the film that inspired it, into little more than a soap opera.|
|Featuring:||Vinette Robinson, Ahmed Malek, Áine Rose Daly, Cathy Tyson, Daniel Larkai, Gary Lamont, Hannah Traylen, Hannah Walters, Izuka Hoyle, Joel MacCormack, Missy Haysom, Ray Panthaki, Shaun Fagan, Stephen Graham, Stephen McMillan, Stephen Odubola, Steven Ogg, Taz Skylar|
|Key crew:||Mounia Akl, Philip Barantini, Graham Drover, James Cummings|
|Channel:||BBC iPlayer, BBC1|
|Broadcast date:||1st October 2023|
WHAT’S IT ABOUT?
A few months have passed since we saw chef Andy (Stephen Graham) curled up on the floor of his restaurant, having a heart attack. He’s now recovered from his heart attack, but spending his time alone at home, with nothing but alcohol for company.
His former number two, Carly (Vinette Robinson), is now running her own restaurant, with many of the same team.
But funds are low and the business is struggling to survive its funding crisis when so many of the kitchen and waiting staff are going through personal crises of their own.
WHAT’S IT LIKE?
Last year’s big-screen drama, Boiling Point, brought the stress of working in a professional kitchen to the fore, in a real-time, one-take feature, whose visceral power was inescapable.
The first ten minutes of this TV spin-off is filmed, similarly, in a single take, as the scene is set at Points North, with Carly’s co-owner struggling to raise enough money to keep it afloat, while the arrival of a new staff member in the kitchen provides an opportunity to introduce everyone else to the audience – some familiar, others new.
It’s exciting and invigorating as we see fantastic dishes materialising before our eyes, despite tempers raging around us.
But then we get the opening credits and the facade falls away. Boiling Point – the TV show – is not a continuation of the film but little more than a soap opera, with little to say about the restaurant industry or the characters themselves, except to say that everyone has issues.
A couple of characters have alcohol problems. Another couple of have financial issues. Another self-harms. There are medical issues, instances of harassment and problems with family members at home.
One character, desperate for money, pretends to have experience as a chef so that he can get a job – like there are no other jobs in the world? And there are no other chefs in the world that the restaurant can replace him with, when he sets the kitchen on fire?
When a more senior chef quits after being outrageously treated by his boss, we’re meant to support her?
Another character, struggling to make ends meet, has a criminal side hustle going on.
Each episode concentrates on one or two of the above issues, which are all forgiven and forgotten by the next episode, with the message that it’s OK to resort to lying – and crime – to keep your head above water – and unacceptable treatment of your staff is excusable if you’ve had a bad day.
Some of the characters are likeable – others less so – but you don’t really get to know them well enough to worry about how their audition goes or how their mother is. And none of it bears much – if any – relevance to the wider story. On top of this, some of the most agreeable characters don’t even get given a life outside work – we only get the soap opera.
Also, it’s somewhat disappointing that having marvelled at Stephen Graham’s frenetic performance throughout the film, we see him do little more than drinking on his sofa and moping around restaurant lobbies.
What worked for the film was the real-time immediacy – it felt a little arch to have so much happening on one night – but it ramped up the excitement and kept the temperature high. Taking the action out of the restaurant, concentrating on the stories of minor characters without showing their relevance to the bigger picture feels like the pot has been left to simmer, allowing the water to boil away, so the food dries up and sticks to the pan – if that’s not an analogy too far?
The dish doesn’t leave a bitter taste in the mouth, so much as it’s just a little disappointing compared with the description on the menu.