FXX’s THE BEAR is a perfect reflection of its tough Chicago characters. On the surface, it’s all yelling and cursing. But beneath it all, as you begin to spend more time with these characters, the more you discover this is something truly special. THE BEAR is about food and family. It’s about dreams and grief. Yes there’s a lot of tension and a lot of characters screaming at each other. But there’s so much heart at its center that in spite of all the stress and drama you and the characters have endured at each other’s expense over the 8-episode first season, you end up feeling hopeful for each and every single one of these broken, but lovable individuals.
The show centers on Carmy (Jeremy Allen White) – one of the best up-and-coming chefs in the country. After the news of his older brother Michael’s death, he learns he’s inherited his brother’s gruff and gritty Chicago sandwich shop – The Original Beef. Without a moment to grieve, Carmy, along with his new rookie sous-chef Sydney (Ayo Edebiri), have to navigate through an odyssey of the financial troubles and personal dramas that plague the restaurant, as well as him and his family. But on top of that, he also has to deal with a staff of unruly, uncooperative misfits unwilling to comply with change, and his brother’s best friend and tough-as-nails current shop manager, Richie (Ebon Moss-Bachrach).
The brainchild of creator Christopher Storer (an executive producer and director on RAMY), THE BEAR features terrific performances from its entire cast, particularly White, Edebiri, and Moss-Bacharach. Every episode is filled to the brim with tension and strained relationships, but also a lot of sly humor. It’s almost the equivalent of your best friend giving you the finger to your face, but with love. The toughness of the series is ultimately a front for its tenderness. Which in turn, makes its characters flawed and complex, but also easy to love.
Even if you may find it challenging to get through the first 3 episodes due to all the yelling and chaos, it all pays off once you get to an amazing Episode 7; an installment that represents arguably the best 20 minutes of television I’ve seen all year. That episode aside, the rest of the series grabs you and holds you as you see Richie and Carmy essentially locked in an intense battle of diverging ideologies about how to keep The Original Beef alive – not just from a financial standpoint – but from an emotional one given it’s symbolic of Michael. In fact, the way the series showcases how everyone from the staff to the primary characters can be affected by the death of a loved one is positively astonishing, with every character beat from every player feeling so incredibly earned.
I’d be remiss if I also didn’t say that THE BEAR is one of the best food porn shows ever created outside of Food Network. The sequences of these characters making these amazing meals, or even the delicious looking sandwiches they feature on the show will make you hungry as a bear. You’ve been warned.
But all kidding aside, you come for the food and you stay for the family. THE BEAR is one of the finest, and most intense, yet touching shows of the year, and it deserves to be discovered. Trust me when I say, once you finish it, you won’t be disappointed.
Season 1 of THE BEAR is now streaming on Hulu.