It may only have been a couple years since Showtime’s Shameless ended, but I have lately been deeply missing Jeremy Allen White’s Lip on my screen. As a fan, my prayers were answered—I followed White’s presence to another network entirely. While his character in FX’s new restaurant dramedy The Bear is completely different from Lip, White’s charisma bleeds straight through the grizzled exterior of young chef, Carmy. A searing chosen-family comedy of perfect portions, The Bear serves up a plate of delicious characters and situational humor too note-perfect to resist.
In the wake of his brother’s abrupt suicide, Carmy leaves behind an New York City job at “the best restaurant in the world” to trek back to Detroit, and to take over the family sandwich shop, The Original Beef of Chicagoland. However, taking control of a bustling city kitchen with built-in issues and managing a chaotic staff will be harder than it appears. Certainly no help is Carmy’s cranky cousin, Richie (Ebon Moss-Bachrach, Girls, NOS4A2), who seems to make it his life’s mission to give Carmy shit about literally everything. All their bills are past due, Carmy’s brother Michael owes $300k that Carmy has now inherited, and multiple violations result in a disastrous C health score for the restaurant.
Help for Carmy comes in the form of Sydney (Ayo Edebiri), a new prospect who graduated from the Culinary Institute of America. Sydney may be Carmy’s only hope at whipping his staff into shape for what he has in store. Is it too much to ask to become a team together, keeping tempo to function as a legitimate restaurant? Animosity exists between Carmy, Richie, and Carmy’s sister, Sugar (Abby Elliott); Carmy’s family feels practically estranged with how little they seem to care about him. Richie, at least, does eventually warm to Carmy a bit even as the two quarrel endlessly and shout over one another. A bit in the fourth episode where Richie is committed to shoving a Original Beef of Chicagoland shirt onto a giant inflatable hot dog, exemplifies the relationship he has with his cousin. Richie eventually just places the shirt on with duct tape, well after Richie and Carmy have hassled so heavily they needed to bring the spare hot dog.
Sydney is a very intriguing girl, and she serves as the audience’s stepping stone into this world. We see her backstory more in subsequent episodes. The Bear may not be as much her show as it is Jeremy Allen White’s, however, Ayo really makes one fall in love with Sydney. As far as White is concerned, Carmy’s visions (one of which may be related to his nickname of Bear) coupled with his hasty reaction times make Carmy a sympathetic, frustrating character. Constantly, Carmy is trying to climb out of the hole of despair that has already been dug. The visuals accompanying Carmy’s lapses in reality are always carefully calculated, and often feature close-up shots romanticizing the plating of food or a giant caged bear. Direction for the series, helmed by Christopher Storer, is constantly taking advantage of stock footage, vintage photographs, and surrealism to get the point across.
Episodes are short and sweet, and never overstay their welcome; other than the finale, the longest clocks in at exactly thirty minutes on the dot. This makes The Bear easy to recommend, with only eight total episodes that will come to FX near the end of June. If one has been missing Lip on their screens from week to week, there is a lot to love here beyond his performance. A passionate ode to the beauty of the restauranteur is executed brilliantly, with the help of a fantastic ensemble of assembled talent. Quick-thinking problem solving, ratcheting tension, and improvisation, all vital to the restaurant business, are important takeaways. With a conclusion that practically begs for a second season, The Bear is a sweet culinary delight with a heart of gold, and a commendable turn from Jeremy Allen White.
The Bear screened at 2022’s Tribeca Film Festival. A new recipe comes to FX when the series premieres on Thursday, June 23rd.