There are a few shows tucked inside AMC’s “Feed the Beast.” One of them is a heavy family drama starring David Schwimmer as Tommy, an alcoholic Bronx man whose wife was killed in a hit-and-run, and whose young son saw the accident and hasn’t spoken since. Tommy was living a dream, as he and his wife worked toward opening a restaurant in a charming old piano factory building with an apartment upstairs. Now that the dream is shattered, can he move on — maybe even date the interested woman from his grief group? If he does move on, will that help his son move on, too?
Another show is a medium-weight gangster tale — maybe something you’d see on TNT — about Tommy’s highstrung childhood friend Dion, who owes the local mob $600,000. A cocaine-loving chef just released from jail for burning down a restaurant, Dion — played by British actor Jim Sturgess — wants to pay his debt by opening a pricey eatery and making the Bronx into the next Brooklyn. The gangster is an eerily calm but cruel guy, played by Michael Gladis from “Mad Men,” who goes by the nickname “The Tooth Fairy” because he has a way with pliers. They cat, and they mouse.
Yet another, perhaps even lighter show is about Tommy and Dion and their fraught friendship as they open a restaurant together. To get the capital, Tommy hits up his estranged father, a nasty fellow in a wheelchair who hates his son but wants to know his grandson. Tommy and Dion bicker as they work, but you can tell that their bond is strong and enduring, and anyway everything always turns sweet when Dion cooks up a masterpiece and Tommy, a sommelier, chooses the wine. On this show, the food porn will inspire all kinds of audience lust, as Tommy and Dion work to elevate the Bronx.
Together, though, these story lines and their varying tones don’t quite work. And “Feed the Beast,” which premieres Sunday at 10 and then moves to its regular Tuesday night slot, often traffics in clichés, including some of Tommy’s grief as he talks to his wife’s headstone, much of his drinking problem, and almost all of the somewhat silly mob material. The acting, too, is exceedingly amped, with Schwimmer and Sturgess overdoing it to the point of irritation. Neither one aims for dramatic subtlety, which is a shame; their obviousness really works against them since their story lines are so broad and their characters so familiar.
But then the show also includes promising elements, not least of all the set design and the ongoing theme of the redemptive qualities of cooking. It has been developed for AMC by Clyde Phillips (“Nurse Jackie,” “Dexter”) from the Danish show “Bankerot,” and perhaps he will be able to make it all cohere into something less bumpy and predictable. Like a good meal, each dish, each course, needs to work well with the next.
FEED THE BEAST
Starring David Schwimmer, Elijah Jacob, Jim Sturgess, Christine Adams, Lorenza Izzo, John Doman, Michael Gladis. On AMC, Sunday at 10 p.m.Matthew Gilbert can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @MatthewGilbert.