In THE BEAR (FX Original exclusively on Hulu in the U.S., on Disney Plus in Canada), a famous chef takes over his deceased brother’s small Chicago restaurant and all its problems. The result is one of the most affecting series I’ve ever watched.
This is a show about a new chef taking over a restaurant and trying to fix it, only to be resisted at every turn. The staff is resentful and set in its ways, the finances are a disaster, the restaurant owes money to an uncle with shady connections, and everything goes right before it all goes perfectly wrong. It’s also a show about a man trying to fix himself and understand his estranged brother and why he took his own life. In the end, he learns that maybe it’s less important to fix than to find something’s real potential.
Thematically, it’s even more than that if you want it. The joy of food and cooking, the comedy of a light moment, family, work, control, the self worth and pride of a job well done, and change, all wrapped in plenty of raw humanity.
The directing style is terrific, combining a gritty, almost cinema-verite approach with quick cutaways of images reflecting state of mind and big closeups showing urgency and emotion. In the kitchen, the pacing is particularly quick as we see the team that is a restaurant staff work together to prepare meals and react to the new boss trying to change their culture and how they work together.
When the shit hits the fan–and it does a lot in this show from interpersonal conflict to kitchen mishaps (often both at the same time)–the tension is unbelievable. Then there are plenty of moments where everything just sings, from relationships to the restaurant finding its groove. If I had to describe THE BEAR in a few words, I’d call it a story about dysfunctional family told with plenty of heart, though sometimes it feels far more like a heart attack.
Overall, I absolutely loved season 1 of this show, which in many ways felt like BOILING POINT, a great movie, stretched out in a story told with far more depth and humanity. Honestly, I can’t remember the last time I got this tense while laughing this much during almost every single episode of a TV show.