The Bear: The Bear
June 27, 2022 1:04 PM - Season 1 (Full Season) - Subscribe

A young chef from the world of fine dining comes home to Chicago to run his family's sandwich shop.

Starring Jeremy Allen White, Ebon Moss-Bachrach, Ayo Edebiri, Lionel Boyce, Liza Colón-Zayas, and Abby Elliott. Streaming FX on Hulu.

The Bear is a prime dramedy about a Chicago Italian beef joint - AV club

The Bear never stops moving - Vulture

The Bear tackles restaurant chaos with empathy - Variety
posted by gaspode (36 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
This was wonderful!! Jeremy White is MESMERIZING!
posted by pearlybob at 4:23 PM on June 27, 2022 [4 favorites]

I was going to post my own thread so I'm glad I didn't have to.

Yes, I loved this. I kind of stumbled on it by accident. I saw it on Hulu and said "hey, that's the kid from Shameless!" I'm so glad I watched it. I love restaurant kitchen scenes so I was hooked right away.

The characters were great. I especially loved the pastry chef guy. Loved how the second he was allowed to be creative he just went nuts.

The only thing I wasn't sure of is how it would even be possible to take an established sandwich shop like that and just change it up. I'm trying to think if the historic diner in my town suddenly started changing everything, the townspeople would revolt. I wasn't fully clear on the shop, whether it was strictly a sandwich shop or more of a place with a full menu. I don't know Chicago beef places. I assumed they're dogs and Italian beef.

I want to eat at this place. I want to try one of those sandwiches!
posted by bondcliff at 4:41 PM on June 27, 2022 [2 favorites]

This was damn nearly a perfect show and I would recommend it to anyone and everyone. Highlights for me:

- The Sydney-Tina arc: Watching a cynical veteran find a new sense of meaning from a young idealist is one of my favorite tropes. Like Ted Lasso, minus the saccharine twee stuff. Both actresses were fantastic.

- Ebon Moss-Bachrach: Holy shit this guy is talented. Going from playing John Carreyou in the Dropout, to this Chicago asshole fuck up guy who runs his mouth all day? The scene where he breaks down on the phone with his daughter in front of Sydney had me floored.

- Matty Matheson: Love this dude so much, such a riot any time he's on screen. This guy was made for this kind of comedic role and I hope to see him acting in more stuff! I read that he co-produced and consulted on the show, which is probably what made the kitchen dynamics feel a little more real.

I wasn't fully clear on the shop, whether it was strictly a sandwich shop or more of a place with a full menu.

I *really* liked this aspect and it made it more realistic to me - I can't speak for Chicago beef shops, but I've been to tons of take out places where they have one specialty (like Pizza) and an otherwise kind of a confused menu (Chicken Parm, Lasagna, etc) and you're like, "who is even ordering this other stuff?" But they offer it because hey, at least some of the neighborhood regulars will actually get it - so may as well offer it as an option.

So I found Carmy's vision to basically take a place like that and elevate it's menu in a "hey, what if we actually TRIED to make *everything* good?" way, to be very valid and exciting as a concept.
posted by windbox at 7:15 AM on June 28, 2022 [9 favorites]

Liked it a lot, but the final bit with the cans fell flat for me.
posted by joeyh at 3:38 PM on June 28, 2022 [7 favorites]

I was gonna post about this, but I just got hung up on the main reason I wanted to talk about it: EPISODE 7. Holy cats, it was amazing. And it looked like one shot!
posted by minervous at 4:47 PM on June 28, 2022 [4 favorites]

Definitely the best show I’ve seen in maybe years. I binged it all over two nights including watching episode 7 twice in a row back to back - it doesn’t hurt that the entire back half of the episode is scored by my favorite version of my favorite song and it just ratchets up the discordant propulsive tension of the whole thing.

Everyone just utterly disappeared into their roles, including Matty Matheson, a non actor, which is just astonishing. It felt entirely lived in. I can see how some people would bounce hard off the what if Ted Lasso but Uncut Gems vibe but but holy shit it was catnip to me.

Also Joel McHale’s casting was brilliant.
posted by Special Agent Dale Cooper at 11:50 PM on June 28, 2022 [4 favorites]

I like the show. Watched 3 episodes last night. We intend to watch the rest.

As a Chicagoan familiar with Italian beef joints, there's a couple details about the restaurant that bug me. First, none of these places make their own bread. It's well known that bread for Italian beefs comes from Gonella or Turano, two large commercial bakeries. Also: where are the fries? Why is zero time spent on french fries, which is the standard accompaniment for a beef?

The show has a lot of heart and I enjoy it. But some of it just doesn't make sense. I worked in fine dining a bit back in my 20s. I just don't get how you'd model a "pay at the register" fast food place on a French kitchen. And I've never been in any fast food joint where the staff was yelling so much. I'd probably walk out if I heard that much yelling in a tiny restaurant.
posted by SoberHighland at 6:32 AM on June 29, 2022 [6 favorites]

This is not that great.

I’m 3 eps in and I care enough to see where the plot goes (if anywhere; would be a massive improvement) but that’s about it. It’s a surprisingly white & male show - while there are POC, they all feel incredibly one-dimensional here.

The Chicagoness of it is pretty inaccurate, so far; this type of restaurant is also a pretty weird thing to pin down, so I see it as the show struggling with its internal logic. Is it a beef stand? A deli? A sit down restaurant? They serve ice cream AND Italian ice? They also have plates for meals? And hot dogs! There’s no way the team did actual research on this show. And how the hell did it last so long? No one is coming there from Rockford. And as SoberHighland said, zero chance a place like this is making their own bread. Zero. It’s all muddled and makes the plot messier.

All of the women characters so far serve to prop up the men. Even Syd is there to work for Carmy - but at a beef place? She’s CIA trained and is at Mr. Beef, basically? No way - she’s too talented.

I also saw a huge shift in editing tone from the pilot to the regular eps. The pilot was a little more bold, frenzied, artistic… and then settled into Darkly Lit 2000s Drama.

The music selection is also pretty bad! It’s so on the nose, with no nuance. (“Via Chicago”,
and a slew of non-Chicago artists.) Like a bad Chicago beef that isn’t dipped and has no flavor.

Again, not having finished the season yet it feels like this beef joint is going to become a fine dining restaurant and successful due to some random food reviewer deus ex machina or whatever, and at the end of the season Syd will have a Big Decision to make. Paint by numbers plotting.
posted by hijinx at 8:02 AM on June 29, 2022 [3 favorites]

I love this show a lot. It hit a lot of marks I could relate to very much.

The "we make our own bread" thing was a little off, yeah, but I could accept it because it set up the pastry chef to go off.

The one real clanger is that no way would the name of the place be "The Original Beef of Chicagoland" because "Chicagoland" is exclusively used by suburbanites to signal their attachment to a town they do not actually live in, as opposed to any kind of way to refer to the city itself.

I sometimes say I live in "Chicagoland" for instance, and what I really mean is I live in suburban Hoffman Estates, forty-plus minutes away, but I often work in the city, I root for the Cubs, I eat Italian beef and deep dish, my airport for better or worse is O'Hare, and I have strong opinions about what a garbage mayor Lori Lightfoot is even though I can neither vote for or against her.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 10:37 AM on June 29, 2022 [10 favorites]


I liked that the inevitable "Good Review" trope - while predictable (it is a show about a damn restaurant) gets somewhat subverted here. The review was the catalyst for total chaos and a lot of toxic shit coming to a head, and not for a Generic Success Moving Up Montage which I could see a much lazier show trying to wrap up with.

Also Sydney losing her shit and "cutting deep" into Richie both figuratively and literally - amazing scene
posted by windbox at 11:53 AM on June 29, 2022 [9 favorites]

Some things were off in the way that TV never quite gets everything right. I think if they had made it a more generic family run restaurant, one that used to be the neighborhood favorite, it would have been a bit smoother on that front.

Some spoilery stuff below (tried to be vague).

But some of the things were off because it's about a dysfunctional family mashing up with a dysfunctional restaurant (both that specific on and aspects of the industry as a whole). Yes, when I go to a place and hear constant yelling I don't usually go back, which could definitely be part of their problem. Hence the gimmicky tournament to draw in diners.

Syd is too talented for what that place is, now. But within the context of the story: she's burned out on fine dining, her own venture didn't work out, and now a hot shot chef is back home, taking over an old family favorite? Yeah, that seems like a place that could catch her eye.

It's not perfect, even episode 7. Episode 7 definitely captured the stress just about perfectly. Marcus and Syd's walkouts* we're a bit off: not that they happened but exactly how they played out. I'd definitely like to know more about the lives of the other kitchen staff. But it's hitting more right notes than wrong ones for me.

I think ultimately Carmy and Syd want to take some of the good things about fine dining (making the recipe not just good, but perfect) and bring it back to the local neighborhood, like windbox said. Both because it's good for business, but also because they're chefs who are motivated to feed people good food. Why not do it close to home?

*On preview: Syd tearing into Richard was cathartic and part of what played right to me. Also, Richard and her in the next episode was a bit tropey (is that a word?) but I've seen milder versions of it too many times in real life to be mad and mostly appreciated it.
posted by ghost phoneme at 12:05 PM on June 29, 2022 [2 favorites]

"Um... Don't kill me."
"Oh, I can't wait for this."
"We, uh, we spilled a bottle of Xanax in the cooler."
{looking out at kids] "What, are they fucking dead?"
"No, no, no. I think they're uh, they're just sleeping."
"Actually, I'm kinda into it."
"Keep up the good work. You're killing it!"
posted by DirtyOldTown at 1:45 PM on June 29, 2022 [24 favorites]

This show just seemed like it was trying too hard. So. Many. Montages. People always talking over each other is fine, it creates an atmosphere that I can appreciate. Playing music over a scene to set mood is fine. But doing both at once constantly? I'm a little hard of hearing, so big chunks of dialogue were just missing for me.

And does a small sandwich place need so many people working in it all the time? There are like 8 of them that are always in the kitchen.
posted by Garm at 10:00 AM on June 30, 2022 [1 favorite]

And does a small sandwich place need so many people working in it all the time? There are like 8 of them that are always in the kitchen.

An Italian Beef place? Yeah. They easily could. They said their best day ever was $5K. Obviously, most days aren't their best day, so let's work with say, $3000. They're open 10 hours a day. Figuring an average order of $10, that's 300 orders per day. Figure 80% of that is during the 11-1, 6-8 spans. That's about an order a minute during busy times. And that's a generic day.

If they get busier? Whoo-boy. The big name Chicago area chain Portillo's has plenty of stores about the size of a Wendy's that have drive-through lines 12-30 cars deep during rushes, with off-duty cops hired to direct traffic. They have dual lines set up where possible, with staff taking orders on tablets on foot well before cars approach the window. Where formal dual lines aren't possible, the drive-thru lines sometimes loop over themselves. It's insane. They have a whole system.

It's also repeatedly mentioned in the show that: a) Michael was both wasteful and overly loyal; b) the labor costs seem unnecessarily high.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 1:01 PM on June 30, 2022 [9 favorites]

I didn't understand the convoluted ending. I mean I get all the high points about family and addiction and how the brother was setting up Carmy to start their dream restaurant and that Mikey and cousin Richie loved spaghetti for bringing people together and Carmy finally gets it in the last scene, but the whole treasure map note that makes him stumble into the sauce stash of money raised questions for me like:

a) what does KBL electronics stand for? The initials don't line up with his uncle's name, was there some significance to K-B-L?
b) why are they using a popular drug/cash smuggling technique to hide cash in cans of something smelly so drug/cash sniffing K9 cop dogs can't find it when you try to move them across the country? Were the cans shipped from somewhere?
c) how the hell did they get cash into sealed cans? did Mikey know someone at a food distribution company or something?
d) if it's just the $300k of uncle's mob money Mikey borrowed, don't they have to give it back? And then what will they use for startup funds to make a new restaurant?
posted by mathowie at 6:55 PM on June 30, 2022 [12 favorites]

I don't think it's exactly clear. Toward the end we see KBL stamped on the bottom of one of the cans, so there's a connection. Possibly Mike was smuggling or laundering money for someone? Or just funneling money from his uncle to Carmy? I think it's mentioned that the amount on the books sent to KBL was the same amount that Mikey owed their uncle, so that doesn't seem like it'd be part of something bigger, but who knows.

And I also don't think the balance works out, unless Mike thought Carmy would take the money and hand the restaurant over to their Uncle to clear the debt. Which of Carmy had found the letter right away may have worked, but now would probably ping his uncle's Spidey sense. I don't see how they'd reopen in the same spot, unless Carmy works out some kind of payment plan with his uncle. Which I guess could be season 2s conflict.
posted by ghost phoneme at 6:49 AM on July 1, 2022

So, yeah. I really enjoyed this as well. I maybe have the feeling it's being sliiiightly overpraised in its reviews, but not by much? I very very much enjoyed all of the performances, in particular Ebon Moss-Bachrach and Liza Colón-Zayas.
posted by gaspode at 10:04 AM on July 1, 2022 [1 favorite]

I'm not really sure it's fair to call the POC characters any more one-dimensional than Richie or even Carmy itself. While both have some layers, ultimately they're both pretty stock characters- tough guy asshole with a soft side, trauma/abuse victim put in charge. But the beauty of the show is that all of the characters get such vivid and nuanced performances, that their little character moments really shine and breathe depth even when they're all fairly stock. That's why this show is such an effective character sketch. That's why this miniseries can stand on its own, even if it never gets a second season. It doesn't need one. The Bear is a marvelous little four hour movie.
posted by Apocryphon at 8:55 AM on July 8, 2022 [11 favorites]

windbox: I can't speak for Chicago beef shops, but I've been to tons of take out places where they have one specialty (like Pizza) and an otherwise kind of a confused menu (Chicken Parm, Lasagna, etc) and you're like, "who is even ordering this other stuff?"

One of my favorite and sadly long-gone "red hot" spots served amazing burgers and fries, and hot dogs of course. But they also inexplicably had tacos, fried rice, and about two dozen other things that didn't make sense for one tiny kitchen with two people working to offer. I ordered the tacos and the fried rice exactly once each. They were terrible. But I went back regularly for the burgers and "hot fries" (just an order of fries dropped in a sack with a bunch of ketchup and hot sauce dumped in with them).

This show makes me want Italian beef and Roeser's donuts so bad.
posted by tomorrowromance at 5:49 PM on July 9, 2022 [4 favorites]

I was in tears at the end, when Sydney and Carmy talk about their dream restaurant. There is something so special and rare about shows that nail partners struggling to create a good, creative business. It’s why I loved Halt and Catch Fire so much, and this is the same.
posted by adrianhon at 1:57 PM on July 12, 2022 [5 favorites]

All right, I did finish out the season. I think the last few eps were significantly better than the first few and the whole thing was fine-to-good in my book.

I appreciated episode 7’s single take, but (again weirdly) the heavy Chicago lead-in felt tacked on, even though I enjoyed it - the highs and the lows. The episode itself was good, and I appreciated that the show was willing to try it.

The finale felt pretty overstuffed to me. The money’s gotta be resolved next season; it’s too neat an ending otherwise. Closing the Beef almost felt like an afterthought; the season didn’t neatly pull together the fine dining & beef joint combo, ever, and so this felt like - frankly - a tiny bit of a cheat. What if Carmy didn’t infuse it with fine dining and had no remit nor pressure to change the menu? What if it was beef sandwiches, forever, and spaghetti? If this show was expressing that struggle, I didn’t feel it. That could have been a little bump to make it stronger. That would be agonizing for him. That could be interesting!

Syd came back after fully walking away, and Carmy took her back… that felt rushed too. Her quitting was a major focal point of ep7, maybe the focus, and then… well, she’s back. Almost don’t buy it.

I stuck with the show because the acting was all around pretty great; I buy what the actors are selling. But there’s a lot that feels off here to me. A good diversion, but not amazing. I wish it were so.
posted by hijinx at 7:59 PM on July 12, 2022 [1 favorite]

Was there a bit of inconsistency in the hours? I could swear Sydney had a rant about what a waste it was to be open from lunch through dinner without closing for a few of the slow hours in between. And yet, eventually, it's shown that they open at 3 pm.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 6:44 AM on July 13, 2022

Important news about the show today-

Slate: Can you really do that with canned tomatoes? We asked the experts.
posted by Apocryphon at 1:42 PM on July 14, 2022

Steven Hyden talked with the show's creators about its music.
posted by Quonab at 12:31 PM on July 19, 2022

Thanks for that link, Quonab. When I finished the show, I said to a friend that the person who did the music had to be exactly, precisely my age. I was correct.
posted by minervous at 1:05 PM on July 23, 2022 [3 favorites]

The scene where [Richie] breaks down on the phone with his daughter in front of Sydney had me floored.

My wife and I are only two episodes in, and that scene blew us away. So much packed into it. I thought that was the best piece of acting I've seen in a long time.
posted by dlugoczaj at 7:13 AM on July 28, 2022 [4 favorites]

IndieWire asked the show runner about the tomatoes and got a pretty detailed answer:
There is a semi-automatic electric can-seamer at the restaurant, which is a quick process and very easy to use. Michael was most likely instructed to not put the money in the bank for myriad tax reasons. In his scattered state, the processing of the tomato cans really felt like he was starting to build something, felt more like a real plan of action to him. A safe felt too safe, too obvious.

I know it sounds completely absurd, but in researching various kitchens, I was really shocked how many stories and articles I had come across or heard about where money or drugs were found in sealed aluminum tomato cans. I guess the police dogs can’t smell anything over the acidic tomatoes and I definitely think Michael had heard some version of that somewhere.
posted by simonw at 7:36 PM on July 30, 2022 [7 favorites]

mathowie don't have answers to all your questions, but

a) what does KBL electronics stand for?
"electronics" is a red herring, but KBL is stamped on the bottom of the tomato cans.

d) if it's just the $300k of uncle's mob money Mikey borrowed, don't they have to give it back? And then what will they use for startup funds to make a new restaurant?'

This was what completely mystified me!! (although wait--do we know the uncle is connected? I thought he was just rich.) But anyway, why was everyone talking about all the stuff they could do with the cash (including revamping the shop), when the shop was already in debt that amount?

Although I think the KBL total on Mike's tabulation might have been something more like $320k or something--which I suppose would be something to get them started after paying the major debt and the back taxes, and counting the private party income. The revamp did seem to have more to do with service style than with a whole ton of infrastructure improvements. Also, running a business while not completely saddled with debt does offer up more chance for profitability.

I suspect (on another subject) that the uncle kept forking over the loans to Mike because he felt guilt about his role in the death of the sons' father. Maybe it was a bit of penance and he never really expected to get it all back.

It's interesting that we never do learn what caused the rift between the brothers. If Carmy had known his brother was addicted, that could have driven them apart. But he didn't know--and all we got was that Mike cut Carmy off with no explanation (maybe to preserve Carmy from that connection--who knows?).
posted by torticat at 11:05 PM on July 30, 2022

Yeah I got the impression that Michael had cut Carmy out because of his addiction: he was ashamed and didn't want the brother who respected him so much to see what was going on.
posted by simonw at 1:37 PM on August 1, 2022 [2 favorites]

Just three episodes in so I'm refraining from reading this whole thread yet, but wowza we love this show!
posted by BlahLaLa at 11:56 AM on August 31, 2022 [2 favorites]

This was devastating, and great, and devastatingly great.

Thanks Quonab for the music link. I noticed the Pearl Jam at the end of episode 1 and sat up for Counting Crows at the end of episode 2 and was like, woah, what's going on here. I looked forward to the credits music at the end of each ep! How often does THAT happen?!

Episode 7 was extremely hard for me to watch - all the yelling was.. maybe little-t triggering, it was tough - but also so affecting.

This was a perfect slice-of-life show of extremely normal humans trying to survive and do a thing that meant a lot to them.
posted by curious nu at 6:35 PM on December 7, 2022 [1 favorite]

This show is pretty stressful to watch, but what keeps me watching is those small moments of tender, careful attention on these flawed and very human characters. It's like the show pulls you in close and says, "Look at how much there is to love about people in these brief and almost fleeting moments. Look at all the beauty here, in the quiet spaces between the chaos."
posted by yasaman at 10:08 PM on July 1, 2023 [3 favorites]

posted by chavenet at 5:16 AM on July 16, 2023

Excellent 30k-word essay—review?—of both seasons at Film Crit Hulk.
posted by bbrown at 5:16 AM on November 2, 2023

This is satisfying in (for me) the best way. I don't know who the fuck any of these characters are in TV trope terms - even the 'tough' cousin guy is deeply weird, in the best way possible. The character of Syd is a wonder: she does not have it together in such a normal, human way. If there has to be a flat spot for me it's Carmy - I just don't buy his shtick, but that's ok because he's a really good foil. If anything, I would have liked a little more "Uncle Jimmy" because I almost always like Platt and the crook/gangster looking out at all the unconscious kids and being pleased was hilarious and insane.

The world of Chicagolandia Beff joints and etc. is totally foreign to me but I've known a couple people who worked in fancy kitchens/restaurants, the incompatible meshing of these two worlds is done in a satisfyingly imperfect way. Syd and Carey are anomalous at best, and that everyone goes along with the Brigade system is a hoot. (On the bread point - around the corner from me there's a Sudanese Falafel place that makes the I-shit-you-not best beignets I've had since ...(well, 30 years ago a camp restaurant in New Brunswick, CA. The first round were stuffed with lobster, then there were more for desert they were surreal)...These are light and yet also doughy and when warm, perfect balance. I bugged the counter staff about them a couple times until finally one of them pointed to the guy who made them - on his own time and initiative and who was not excited about being singled out. Glad you like them, says the counter guy, who many you want? )

The point that wrankled was the money in the cans... that comes from where, exactly? And if from Uncle Jimmy - doesn't it have to be repaid?
posted by From Bklyn at 4:57 AM on December 3, 2023 [1 favorite]

Re-watched this recently. I saw it first about a year ago, and wasn't impressed. There's just so much that isn't a Chicago Italian Beef shop about this place. It took a lot to get that out of my head. But on the second watch, I just let myself enjoy the show, and while it's not quite as great as the second season, it needs to be here as a foundation.
posted by hydra77 at 7:20 AM on June 6

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