FX’s ‘The Bear’ Is Funny, Raw, Real-Life Restaurant Kitchen Drama: NPR

Jeremy Allen White as Carmen “Carmy” Berzatto, Lionel Boyce as Marcus, and Ebon Moss-Bachrach as Richie.

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Jeremy Allen White as Carmen “Carmy” Berzatto, Lionel Boyce as Marcus, and Ebon Moss-Bachrach as Richie.

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Thursday, the eight episodes of the comedy-drama series the bear will fall on FX.

And that? Is fantastic.

Intelligent, funny, raw, tense, warm but not sentimental and, above all, real. Mark your calendars, clear your schedule. Trust me. I watch a lot of TV for this job, and I don’t find myself feeling the way I feel about this show very often. I can only think of a handful over the past few years that have hit me so hard, made me want to shout about them from my virtual rooftop: hacks. Breakup. Girls5evah. Rummy. We are lady parts.

And now: the bear.

The premise: Carmen “Carmy” Berzatto (Jeremy Allen White) is a young chef prodigy at one of the best restaurants in the world. But when his brother (Not Gonna Tell You The Actor, It’s A Surprise) dies by suicide and leaves him the family’s greasy spoon sandwich in Chicago’s River North neighborhood, he dutifully returns to run it. He’s grieving and clashes with his sister (Abby Elliott) and the restaurant staff, which includes his brother’s abrasive best friend, Richie (Ebon Moss-Bachrach).

When Carmy hires a Culinary Institute of America-trained sous chef (Ayo Edebiri) to help run the place, the staff resent them both and resist the changes the two try to make to elevate the place. food level of the place.

Does that sound silly to you? Crazy? A classic fish out of water sitcom? It’s anything but fortunately.

What the bear is, above all, naturalistic, grounded; I repeat: real. Oh sure, there are stylized touches of surrealism, in the form of dreams, visions of panic attacks, and the like. It’s Prestige TV in 2022, baby; this stuff comes with the territory.

But above all, the series captures life online in a restaurant kitchen – the urgency, the tension, the heightened emotions, the raised voices. It’s by no means a scary viewing experience – a season finale episode consists of what feels like a single take, with the camera weaving relentlessly through the various cooking stations as orders pile up. and everyone starts spinning on each other.

Creator/showrunner Chris Storer, who writes and directs several episodes, also directed the series Rummy. He’s probably the main reason why whenever two characters talk on this show, they never sound like characters exchanging dialogue – it’s just two people talking. They are looking for words. They talk to each other, meet each other. They don’t approach every conversation as a way to provide ark observations or describe how they feel.

Especially Carmy – he is withdrawn, even brooding. White does such a good job of portraying how miserable he is, in fact, that we can’t help but wonder why he stays. (We finally get an answer, and it’s solid.)

Lionel Boyce as Marcus, Ayo Edebiri as Sydney.

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If you fear that the bear represents yet another example of a show that revolves around a troubled genius – a man who treats everyone like crap but it’s okay because he’s awesome at what he does – rest assured that even if Carmy is a genius, he always strives to treat those around him with respect. Even those who don’t deserve it, like Moss-Bachrach’s obnoxious and swaggering Richie, a performance that’s as outward-directed as White’s is inward-directed.

But what got me locked into the show was Edebiri’s performance as Sydney, the ambitious sous chef with big ideas and the ability to see through Richie’s abusive behavior. She’s so good here, confident and assured enough to overcome the mistrust of the staff even as she tries hard to win them over.

I rooted for each character, in turn. Even Richie, eventually. So much so that when the show provided Carmy with moments to open up about what he’s been going through, I admired the craft behind them — the writing and White’s searing, touchable performance — but I also felt like I didn’t need it. I already have it. You too.

Ditto a turning point in the final episode which ties an arc too neat on this place, these characters. Satisfying? Sure. And you can’t say the seeds weren’t carefully planted. But where the best endings manage to feel both surprising and inevitable, this one is simply surprising.

Again: These are quibbles. (Here’s another one: when you hire Abby Elliott like this show has, you should use Abby Elliott more than this show does.) the bear is a generous spectacle towards its characters and towards its public. It’s funny but never joker, moving but never tearful.

It’s a show that knows exactly what it’s doing and does it extremely well. Watch it and thank me. Not necessarily in that order.

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