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Sunday, May 26
The Indiana Daily Student

Black Voices

Black Voices: ‘The Bear’ is our next great TV show

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FX’s “The Bear,” a show that depicts the stressful lives of the line cooks who work for an Italian beef sandwich shop in Chicago, was instantly met with rave reviews for its stellar performances, thoughtful writing, energetic direction and record-breaking viewership numbers when it premiered a year ago. Still, it took a bit of time and convincing for me to give the comedy-drama, set in the chaotic kitchen of The Original Beef of Chicagoland, a chance.  

I’ve found myself unmotivated to watch a lot of the output from the current TV landscape, as many shows are either limited series with massive budgets and thinly stretched plots or high-quality shows that aren't given a chance to succeed by content-hungry streaming services and end up cancelled. After having finally caught up with the first season of the hit show earlier this year, I can say that “The Bear” is an oasis in a vast desert of shows that lack the artistry and soul that I think all shows should be aiming for. 

The show follows Carmen Berzatto (Jeremy Allen-White), an award-winning fine dining chef from New York who returns to Chicago after his brother's suicide and inherits his sandwich shop along with staggering debts and a crew that is talented despite their lack of formal training. Along with the hard-working new hire Syndey Adamu (Ayo Edebiri) and his brother's obnoxious and stubborn best friend Richie Jerimovich (Ebon Moss-Bachrach), Carmen struggles to pull the chaotic kitchen together while dealing with his own grief and inner demons.  

The ensemble cast consists of veteran chef Tina (Liza Colón-Zayas), bread baker Marcus (Lionel Boyce) and Carmen’s older sister Natalie (Abby Elliott). Like Richie, Tina is another stubborn character with a chip on her shoulder who, like many older people in a cutthroat industry, is resistant to change brought by younger people with more professional experience. Meanwhile Marcus, who is still young and ambitious, begins experimenting with baking pastries for the shop after being inspired by Carmen and his award-winning work. 

"The Bear” was created by Christopher Storer, who previously directed episodes for shows such as “Ramy” and “Dickinson” as well as comedy specials for Hasan Minhaj and Bo Burnham. His direction, along with Joanna Calo’s, shows a real care toward the intricacies of the dynamics between each character as well as a great level of detail. In the kitchen, the floors are messy with oil and broken eggshells, the tables are covered with grease-stained order tickets, the appliances are old and broken, and characters are constantly talking over each other and shouting. Although, in contrast to the style of something like “Succession,” the style of “The Bear” is a lot wilder in its editing and direction, aiming for a more surreal and chaotic atmosphere where the actor’s performances have the same impact as a well-choreographed dance.  

Episode 7, “Review,” is the show’s most daring and exciting. All filmed in one -take, the episode takes place during the intense twenty minutes before The Beef opens its doors, when the shop receives hundreds of pre-orders due to an error in setting up their new online order system. Not only are these twenty of the most stressful minutes I’ve seen in a TV show, but they serve as an effective climax for the rivalry between Sydney and Richie, as well as Carmen’s grief which manifests itself in a need for perfection to do right by his brother. It’s an episode that shows Carmen that he needs to process his feelings and start to move forward — to quote the melancholic Sufjan Stevens song which opens the episode, “all things go.” 

After the loss of shows like “Better Call Saul” and “Succession” in the past year, “The Bear” is a show that not only is as impressively written but already feels like it will be a defining work of this decade. If you haven’t already, you should absolutely catch up with it before the next season. Season two of “The Bear” premieres on June 22 on Hulu and FX and stars Jeremy Allen-White, Ayo Edebiri, Ebon Moss-Bachrach, Lionel Boyce, Liza Colón-Zayas, Abby Elliott, Molly Gordon, and Bob Odenkirk.  

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