With Amazon’s Lord of the Rings show, Star Wars’ Andor, and HBO’s House of the Dragon, it’s becoming harder to find quality shows that aren’t already part of a shared universe. However, FX — now integrated through Disney+ Star — has consistently delivered quality new and original shows only rivalled by greats like HBO. From It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia to Atlanta, FX’s slate of television is impressive and boasts incredibly diverse content.
FX’s newest original offering, The Bear, stands just as tall alongside FX’s greats, representing a visual cacophony of chaos that is as stressful as it is heartfelt. Created by Ramy — another must-watch show — alum Christopher Storer, The Bear is one of the best new shows to peak past the pile of prequel and sequel dribble currently plaguing the television realm.
After the sudden death of his brother, protégée chef Carmen ‘Carmy’ Berzatto (Shameless’s Jeremy Allen White) inherits his brother’s sandwich restaurant, aptly named The Beef of Chicagoland, located in River North, Chicago. With the help of his honourary cousin Richie (Ebon Moss-Bachrach), donut-loving Marcus (Lionel Boyce), and newcomer Sydney (Ayo Edebiri), Carmy tries to breathe new life into The Beef and carry on his brother’s legacy even when everything seems doomed for failure.
The Bear is pure unadulterated chaos. Like a Safdie Brother’s film (i.e. Uncut Gems or Good Time), The Bear hits the ground running with no means of stopping. Unlike quaint and timeless cooking shows found on The Food Network, The Bear showcases what it’s actually like to work in a restaurant. In a bon appétit article, Michelin-starred restaurant chef Genevieve Yam describes the realness of The Bear, saying, “I could barely get through The Bear. Not because I thought it was bad television — but because it was the most accurate portrayal of life in a restaurant kitchen I’ve seen in a while.”
That said, The Bear will stress you out and get your blood pumping while you watch each of its eight near 30-minute heart attack-inducing episodes. The Bear’s dedication to its fast-paced, cutthroat aesthetic not only provides realness but gives the show a visual identity unlike anything on TV. Like a great Italian beef sandwich, The Bear’s complementary layers are what make it special. The Bear’s combination of quick editing, one-take scenes, and yelling of “yes, chef!” all come together to create a chaotic harmony of visual depth that lives and breathes Chicago (along with some of the best camera work I’ve ever seen on TV).
Unlike Uncut Gems or Good Time, The Bear also has moments of silence in the chaos using its downtime to grow and develop its characters. White’s performance as Carmy is captivating; he brings deep emotions of melancholy and resolution to a character grappling with loss, legacy, and self-actualization as everything in his life hangs by a thread. White’s ability to show Carmy’s interplay of unrelenting personal drive and deteriorating mental health is masterful, especially when Carmy’s world can come crashing down at a moment’s notice. However, there is still fun to be had in The Bear, especially between Carmy and Richie. There are some genuine laugh-out-loud moments that bring emotional and tonal balance, character growth, nuance, and wholeness to the show.
Aside from White, the supporting cast is equally strong, with Edebiri the clear standout as Sydney. Sydney is intelligent, smart, fierce, and ambitious, providing an equal foil to Carmy. The chemistry between White and Edebiri is perfectly executed as the show displays Carmy and Sydney’s mutual respect and admiration for one another while equally showing their hatred at times. Seeing Sydney earn the respect of colleagues throughout her journey at The Beef is incredibly satisfying and both performances are surefire frontrunners at next year’s Emmys.
As chaotic and stressful as The Bear is, the show has a lot of heart underneath its cutthroat exterior. Along with its masterful visuals, The Bear’s characters are deep and multifaceted, making each episode a work of art bathed in subtext. Though The Bear has already been greenlit for a season two — something that it arguably doesn’t even need — The Bear easily stands alone as one of the best new shows currently on TV and executes nothing short of perfection.
All episodes of The Bear season 1 are currently available on Disney+.