Have you ever been so captivated by something that it took you by surprise? Like, you never would have expected something like it to capture your attention so intensely? Perhaps it was a movie or a song. Maybe it was a person. In my case, it was kind of all three. It was a TV-show, specifically “The Bear,” on Hulu, and it stole my attention for weeks. I regret nothing.
“The Bear” is one of the best shows I have ever seen, plain and simple. Carmy Berzatto (played by Jeremy Allen White) is a highly decorated chef who moves back home to Chicago to take over his family’s restaurant. It was left to him by his brother Michael, who had recently committed suicide. The Beef is a small, simple, family-style restaurant that served Chicago staples to the natives. A real salt of the earth kind of place. So, naturally, it suffered constantly, bearing the weight of a literal mountain of debt. Carmy had trained with the best chefs and in the best restaurants in the world, which meant countless hours of precision, cleanliness and discipline. Most chefs of Carmy’s caliber would immediately sell the place after spending a few minutes in the building.
Jeremy Allen White. My goodness. It would not be an understatement to say he carried the show. Absolutely magnificent. However, it would be an absolute disservice to the rest of the fantastic cast to say he carried it by himself. One of the elements of any successful TV show is character investment. How much does the show make you care about the main and supporting characters? Is there a balance? Does the main character outshine everyone else? Or vice-versa; do the side characters overtake the main character in audience investment? These things matter. Somehow, “The Bear” finds this balance and unravels one of the most engaging stories I have seen on a tv-show in quite some time. It utilizes its characters perfectly; from the frontmen lineup of Carmy, Richie and Sydney, to the ‘blink-and-you’ll-miss-it’ genius moments from characters like Fak and Ebraheim. The show is chock-full of amazing scenes that only succeed because of the characters and the actors that bring them to life.
I didn’t know what to expect before watching this show. I thought it would be mostly cooking, which isn’t untrue. But what makes this show brilliant is the dramatic intertwinement of the restaurant world and real life. “The Bear” sheds light on issues such as addiction, abuse, trauma and anxiety masterfully. I might even add tastefully, as that pun is absolutely genius in this context. So what happens when real life meets the kitchen? It’s like a car crash. You can’t look away. Working in a kitchen is inherently stressful and fast paced. *Adjusts toque* as a former cook myself, I can attest to the anxiety-inducing nature of the profession. Truthfully, my experience was only half the battle real cooks go through. Still, it wasn’t an easy experience. While watching, I was constantly reminded of my experience whenever shouts of “corner” and “behind” rang out. The tape on all of the plastic containers took me back to the kitchen. Characters drinking out of said containers because we cooks don’t use cups, no, we find anything else. “The Bear” doesn’t sugarcoat anything about the kitchen environment; characters are constantly yelling and rushing about throughout the series at an incessant pace. But throughout the chaos and conflict, moments of genuine character interactions shine, keeping the viewer invested and wanting for more. It’s a wonderfully-paced and shot show. Long takes and quick cuts are utilized at the perfect times. Almost every camera shot is unique, adding to the show’s frantic nature.
A final point. I love when a movie or show can hook me onto a song or two, and “The Bear” did just that. In episode four, Kirby’s “Loved By You” is played and boy, did it get to me. I had never heard of Kirby the singer before, but I’m glad it was this show that introduced me to her. “Loved By You” is an incredibly beautiful song and its use was done exceptionally well.
I try to keep these short, but “The Bear” is so uniquely phenomenal, I can’t help but ramble on and on. I’ve already watched it three times, and so should you. Let it rip.