The Bear is a comedy-drama about an Italian beef joint from Chicago

Jeremy Allen White and Liza Colon-Zayas in The Bear

Jeremy Allen White and Liza Colon-Zayas in the bear
Photo: Matt Dinerstein/FX

Is there anything more Chicago than images of perfectly seasoned meat cooked for Italian beef, the most boastful sandwich in town, on “Via Chicago” by Wilco, the most boastful band in town? In the case of FX the bear, actually, yeah, kind of: Before that location-specific piece of food and ear porn in the pilot, two guys, one of them with the Chicago area code “773” tattooed on his left biceps, give each other shit in front of other very Chicago signifiers: a billboard advertising Malört, a really awful liquor, and a neon sign for Vienna Beef, maker of really good hot dogs. The city hangs over the bear everywhere, whether it’s at someone who groans or the neighborhoods “Pilsen, Wicker [Park]and Logan [Square]became “shit,” or in the way two characters in particular spit syllables with just the right attitude and non-cartoonish Chicago accents.

But the city’s most egregious reference or moment as a character is recorded until the opening of episode seven, when Lin Brehmer, the morning host of local radio station WXRT, introduces “Chicago by Sufjan Stevens, noting that “while you’ve heard all roads lead to Rome, some roads lead to Chicago. The demo version of the song kicks in, all the heavy acoustic notes before Stevens’ delicate delivery takes over the center stage, and we are struck by a montage of city life: water towers and the skyline and traffic and beautiful architecture and El and side streets captured on a morning commute and even the Superdawg Drive-In (coincidentally, the location of a Wilco photoshoot for twirl). Then it works, and some of the good, bad, and worst in the city’s history are thrown in: Barack Obama’s campaign, Al Capone, and police brutality at the 1968 Democratic National Convention, to name a few. name a few.

If this all seems a bit over the top, like too big a leap for what is apparently a very funny (if also very dark) show about what happens in a family restaurant, it’s oddly not. (And if you have a connection with this city, you can laugh at the description above – this song Sufjan? Could they be more on the nose? – but honestly, the effect is moving.) the bear has that rare ability to turn tones in no time without feeling like he’s stretching or manipulating you or undeserved, where a comedic bit about accidentally doping the Ecto Cooler at a One Minute Children’s Party is followed by an extremely emotionally guarded Chicago guy telling a tear-eyed story of a deceased family member the next day.

But back to that other guy, the one with the Chicago tattoo. This is CarmyShameless‘ Jeremy Allen White, giving a pretty standout performance and looking the part with that cloudy-eyed, greasy-haired thing that needs a smoke break, even though he’s oddly bitten for a dude running a greasy spoon) . He was a white-hot chef in New York, having been dubbed best young chef of the year (or something like that) by Food & Wine, as well as a James Beard Award. Now, after a shake-up in his family, he’s back in Chicago to run their restaurant, a River North staple called Original Beef of Chicagoland. (A very small complaint here: no space in Chicago proper would have “Chicagoland” in their restaurant’s name, as that refers to the suburbs. But we’ll assume they had to do so for contentious reasons. Anyway.) Plus, he’s there to up their game and “elevate,” as Food & Wine writer could write, a timeless, classless meal.

None of this suits his cousin, but not technically cousin—Richy (Ebon Moss-Bachrach, putting on a fantastic, hilarious, motorized twist), a family friend’s Energizer bunny, and general shit who’s got nothing but beef to keep him steady. There are too many good deliveries from Moss-Bachrach – who plays one of those characters who takes on a Chicago accent without falling into caricature, the kind of guy who throws out “sweetie” without irony – but here’s one :

“I can’t believe I’m taking orders from a fucking toddler right now. All my life, I’ve had to listen to everyone acting worried about them all the time. ‘It’s a baby. Don’t give Carmine trouble. You know? I was a baby too once, Sydney. Nobody gave a shit.

Ayo Edebiri in The Bear

Ayo Edebiri in the bear
Photo: Matt Dinerstein/FX

And what the heck, here’s another one, one of many rat-a-tat comedic exchanges between him and Carmy:

“Bullshit. This motherfucker is fucking bullshit.

“Perfect timing, I—”

“Who does he think he is? You know he’s not even Italian, right? One hundred percent Polish. Fucking insult.

“You know you’re not even Italian, right?”

“More Italian than that guy.”

Speaking of Sydney (Ayo Edebiri, also an excellent and kind presenter of the show), it is the budding young chef’s relationship with Carmy that becomes the bearfocus. Like Carmy, she attended the Culinary Institute of America. Like him, she has an impressive resume, cutting her teeth at local favorites Smoque BBQ and Alinea. Like him, she’s incredibly ambitious, taking over the kitchen as sous-chef and forcing the motley group of employees into a work order similar to that of a gourmet kitchen, especially Marcus (Lionel Boyce) who catches the baker’s bug. And like Carmy, his mentor (in this case…Carmy) can be an asshole, rejecting good ideas and losing interest when there are real problems to solve.

The bear | Official trailer | Effects

The rest of the cast is great too, both in the kitchen (Liza Colón-Zayas as a skeptic who’s been making Beef sandwiches for decades, and consulting producer, chef and Vice personality Matty Matheson, who is not quite on the payroll) and out of it (Abby Elliott as Carmy’s worried sister and Chris Witaske as the awkwardly nice Midwestern husband).

A word of warning, though: do yourself a favor and give the bear at least two episodes before passing judgment. It’s not a huge blow to the pilot, but it immerses you in a work environment so intense, chaotic and cramped that it takes a bit of time to get your bearings and see the series and its characters beyond the chaos. and flashbacks. Once acclimated, the bear becomes something of a marvel, a show with its own pace and with characters you usually want to be around, even if they lose it. This penultimate episode, the same with Sufjan’s moving edit intro, ends with one of the most impressive feats of direction I’ve seen on TV this year: a 10-minute climax which winds through the cramped kitchen as everything falls apart and the characters come to blows, this one also recorded by Wilco (a wild live jam of “Spiders [Kidsmoke]”), which is perhaps appropriate: this show, like this group, like this humble sandwich, can contain multitudes.


#Bear #comedydrama #Italian #beef #joint #Chicago

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