The Booth at the End asks one simple question “How far would you go to get what you want?” In addition to that it also asks the question “whatever happened to George and Nina off 24?” and answers it with “Those two turds? They’re right here!” The titular booth is in a non-descript diner in Cumsatucky, Noo Joirseyvania like a million others around the United States and we never move from its confines. The Man (Xander Berkeley aforementioned George off 24) is our focus. He sits in the booth, sipping his coffee, minding his beeswax, scratching his nuts and receiving regular visitors. His guests have all heard the rumours about him – that he grants wishes if a certain task is performed (no not that one – no one is blowing anyone here unless they particular want to). And you know the really strange thing? The rumours are true. That’s right. You come along, order your coffee, tell him your desire, he looks in his big black book and tells you what you need to do to make it a reality. James (Matt Nolan) wants his infant son to recover from leukaemia and his task couldn’t be simpler: select and murder a little girl. Let’s hope he picks one who had it coming. Another client Willem (Matt Boren), a terminally incel schlub, wants the hot girl from the centrefold and all he has to do to tap that ass is protect the little girl James is tasked with killing. Maybe the Man is playing a weird game of shitbird chess with his visitors the pieces?
James (Matt Nolan) wants his infant son to recover from leukaemia and his task couldn’t be simpler: select and murder a little girl. Let’s hope he picks one who had it coming.
Then we’ve got Sister Carmel (Berkeley’s real-life wife Sarah Clarke, the aforementioned Nina from 24) tells the Man that God no longer talks to her which must make life as a nun pretty awkward. The Man’s solution from his big book of shite? Get pregnant. I don’t know who this guy is but he’s certainly got a way with the ladies. “Say girl, are you a Bride of Christ? Because I’d really like to put a baby in you.” Needs work.
But here’s the thing about the Man. He gets shit done. No one knows how and he sure as hell isn’t offering any clues but if you do the task your wish comes true. What is he, the devil? He certainly seems to have special powers. Anybody who can drink that much coffee and not get the caffeine jitters is not one of ours.
High concept, low-budget is the ethic and it’s an impressive foray into a new kind of TV making. Berkeley is a powerful charismatic presence and the interweaving of the stories is deftly handled. It has the tone and feel of the best arthouse cinema and offers a smart original take on its key theme of human desire and where it takes us. If you miss the weird little morality tales of The Twilight Zone then this is definitely up your straza. For a show that never goes anywhere it certainly takes you on a journey. At least that’s what your moms told me last night.
The verdict: Be careful what you wish for (but mostly be careful of murdering children because some scruffy fruit you don’t know in a cafe tells you to).
Marks out of 10: 7.5