The Bear, a FX on Hulu series, takes audiences into the kitchen of The Original Beef of Chicagoland in this realistic drama.
Carmen “Carmy” Berzatto (Jeremy Allen White) returns home to Chicago after his brother, Michael (Jon Bernthal), kills himself. Michael’s suicide plays an important role in the series. It also adds tension in the relationship between Carmy and his sister, Natale “Sugar” Berzatto (Abby Elliott). Here’s a guy who was working in fine dining. It’s up to him to take over The Original Beef of Chicagoland and keep it up and running. The pandemic hasn’t been kind to the business but they’re getting by. Meanwhile, Carmy has to allow himself to grieve in his own while all while dealing with his newfound responsibilities. Sugar also co-owns the restaurant but she doesn’t have as many of the day-to responsibilities as Carmy does in the kitchen.
As Carmy is dealing with his grief by not dealing with it, the kitchen is undergoing a transformation. A younger chef, Sydney Adamu (Ayo Edebiri), brings her own ideas to help the kitchen run smoother. Between Carmy and Sydney’s previous experience in fine dining, it inspires Marcus (Lionel Boyce) to start baking at a higher level. Change doesn’t come easy and for some of the kitchen staff, they like to stick to the old ways. This also includes restaurant manager Richard “Richie” Jerimovich (Ebon Moss-Bachrach) and longtime employee Tina (Liza Colón-Zayas). Eventually, everybody starts working together on the same page but it’s easier said than done.
Listen, I’m not about to tell you whether The Bear is a fine representation of how restaurants work. I’d have to ask friends who work in the dining industry. What I can say is that this newest edition to Chicago media canon is a series that represents the city very well. It would have been even better with a Chicago Party Aunt reference but other than that, I can’t complain. It isn’t lost on me that there’s a Groundhog Day poster hanging up on the walls–series regular Abby Elliott is the daughter of Chris Elliott.
Series creator Christopher Sorer is a Park Ridge, Ill. native. Moreover, he’s also friends with Mr. Beef owner Christopher Zucchero. Zucchero’s restaurant on Orleans is an inspiration for the series. In terms of Chicago representation, there’s no shortage throughout the series. Series lead Jeremy Allen White is a veteran of Shameless, which shot in Chicago for ten years. You have Chicago representation by way of Edwin Lee Gibson, Corey Hendrix, and Jose Cervantes, to name a few. Amy Morton shows up as a health inspector. Chris Witaske is Sugar’s husband. Improv veterans Mick Napier, Sue Salvi, and Paul Grondy show up during the season’s fourth episode. Speaking as someone who moved to Chicago for improv, it’s always nice to see familiar faces on the screen!
One reason why The Bear is so good is because of the series uses Chicago talent. Another series might bring in LA actors in an attempt to replicate Chicago and they would fail. You need to know Chicago, what makes Chicagoans tick, and again, that’s why this series is so successful at what it does. Look at the talent they’re using and what ties they have to Chicago. Would it be nice to see them using Chris Witaske more? Sure, but again, how they use the actors is all in the service of the story. The same goes for Abby Elliott–her character isn’t a regular in the kitchen so she doesn’t have as big of a presence as others do. Otherwise, I can’t wait to see what the series has cooking for season 2.
The Bear has a fine line to walk with how the series handles grief but this is as fine a series that Chicago could ask for.
CREATOR: Christopher Storer
EXECUTIVE PRODUCERS: Christopher Storer, Joanna Calo, Hiro Murai, Nate Matteson, Josh Senior
PRODUCER: Tyson Bidner
CO-PRODUCER: Matty Matheson
CAST: Jeremy Allen White, Ebon Moss-Bachrach, Ayo Edebiri, Lionel Boyce, Liza Colón-Zayas, Abby Elliott
GUEST STARS: Edwin Lee Gibson, Matty Matheson, Chris Witaske, Jon Bernthal
FX on Hulu released all eight episodes of The Bear on June 23, 2022. Grade: 4.5/5
Please subscribe to Solzy at the Movies on Substack.