FX’s “The Bear” is a funny, raw, real drama in a restaurant kitchen: NPR
On Thursday, all eight episodes of the comedy-drama series The bear will drop on FX on Hulu.
And that? Is amazing.
Smart, funny, raw, tense, warm but not sentimental and, most of all, genuine. Check the calendar, clear the schedule. Trust me on this. I watch a lot of TV for this job, and I do not feel that I feel the way I feel about this program so very often. I can only think of a handful of the last few years that have hit me so hard, that have made me want to shout about them from my virtual roof: Hacks. Severance pay. Girls5evah. Ramy. We Are Lady Parts.
And now: The bear.
The premise: Carmen “Carmy” Berzatto (Jeremy Allen White) is a young wonderful chef at one of the world’s finest restaurants. But when his brother (Not Gonna Tell You The Actor, It’s A Surprise) dies of suicide and leaves the family sandwich with a fat spoon in the Chicago River North area to him, he dutifully returns to run it. He mourns and collides with his sister (Abby Elliott) and the restaurant’s staff, which includes his brother’s best friend Richie (Ebon Moss-Bachrach).
When Carmy hires a sous chef from the Culinary Institute of America (Ayo Edebiri) to help him run the place, the staff dislikes both of them and resists the changes the two are trying to bring about to raise the level of the place’s food.
Sounds stupid? Zany? A classic fish-out-water sitcom? It’s anything but, happy.
What The bear is, more than anything else, is naturalistic, grounded; I say it again: real. Sure, there are stylized elements of the surreal, in the form of dreams, visions of panic attacks, etc. It’s Prestige TV in 2022, baby; that things come with the territory.
But for the most part, the series captures life on the line in a restaurant kitchen – the urgency, the excitement, the increased emotions, the raised voices. It’s by no means a chill hanging from a viewing experience – an episode late in the season consists of what appears to be a single recording, the camera wobbles restlessly through the various kitchen stations while orders pile up and everyone starts to turn on each other. .
Creator / showrunner Chris Storer, who writes and directs several episodes, also directed the series Ramy. He’s probably the main reason why when two characters talk in this show, they never seem like characters exchanging dialogue – they’re just two people talking. They reach for words. They talk about each other, past each other. They do not approach every conversation as a means of delivering arc observations or of describing how they feel.
Especially Carmy – he’s closed, even sullen. White does such a good job of portraying how miserable he actually is, that we can not help but wonder why he becomes. (We get an answer in the end, and that is a solid answer.)
If you are worried about it The bear represents another example of a show about a troubled genius – a man who treats everyone like shit, but it’s okay because he’s good at what he does – rest assured that even though Carmy may be a genius, he strives always after treating those around them with respect. Even those who do not deserve it, like Moss-Bachrach’s disgusting, bubbly Richie, a show that is as outward-looking as White’s inward-looking.
But what made me lock myself into the show is Edebiri’s performance as Sydney, the ambitious deputy head with great ideas and the ability to see through Richie’s insulting behavior. She’s just so good here, confident and confident enough to deal with the employees’ mistrust even when she’s working to win them over.
I messed up each character, in turn. Even Richie, in the end. So much so that when the series provided moments for Carmy to open up about what he’s going through, I admired the craft behind them – the writing and White’s fiery, tangible performance – but I also felt I did not need them. I already have it. So do you.
Ditto a twist in the last episode that ties a too neat loop in this place, these characters. Satisfactory? Secure. And you can not say that the seeds for it were not carefully planted. But where the best endings manage to feel both surprising and inevitable, this is just surprising.
Still: There is disagreement. (Here’s another: When you hire Abby Elliott as this series did, you should use Abby Elliott more than this series does.) The bear is a show that is generous to both the characters and the audience. It’s funny, but never joking, touching, but never cruel.
It’s a show that knows exactly what it’s doing, and that’s doing it incredibly well. See it and thank me. Not necessarily in that order.
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