Hulu gave us a treat on June 23 when they dropped all 8 episodes of the premiere season of The Bear, filmed in Chicago, starring Jeremy Allen White, from one of Chicago’s most notable series Shameless.
Since Starz’s Sweet Bitter was canceled we have been experiencing a void in restaurant based dramedies. The Bear fills that void.
The premiere episode begins as lead character, Carmen ‘Carmy’ Berzatto (Jeremy Allen White) experiences a nightmare as he wanders onto the Michigan Avenue bridge and finds an actual bear locked in a cage. He releases the bear, who grunts, groans, and growls at Carmy as he responds, “I know” to the bear. The Bear lunges at him as he wakes to the bell ringing at his family’s restaurant and it’s now 6:05am.
The ringing bell was his meat delivery, which was supposed to be 2500lbs and was only 25lbs because apparently the restaurant only paid for 25lbs and it seems the restaurant is struggling financially. In the course of just a few seconds it becomes apparent that Carmy is taking over for a relative who recently passed away and he is struggling to pick up the pieces.
The next few minutes take us through a montage illustrating that this is a family sandwich shop and a piece of Chicago’s history and culture. We are also shown that Carmy is a classically trained chef with impeccable knife skills as he chops his vegetables into perfectly uniformed diced cubes. We also see Carmy empty coins from the arcade games, specifically one named “Ball Breakers” in the sandwich shop, which we now know is called The Original Beef Of Chicagoland, as he scrambles to find something of value to trade for meat. He ends up trading some vintage jeans, along with the arcade game quarters and the promise of a vintage jacket for the meat he desperately needs in order to run the restaurant for the day,
As he artistically prepares the meat, he also announces a “Ball Beakers” tournament at The Original Beef Of Chicagoland on social media which seems to get a lot of traction. Carmy makes a call to get the aforementioned vintage jacket, which apparently belonged to his deceased brother, and former owner of the sandwich shop. As soon as he gets off the phone, a kitchen staff applicant named Sydney (Ayo Edebiri) who is ridiculously overqualified, also classically trained, and claims that she wants to work there because when she was little, it was her father’s favorite spot and she used to go there every Sunday. She then reveals that she knows that Carmy was the best chef at the best restaurant in America and questions him as to why he is there. He responds, “to make sandwiches.”
As the day progresses it becomes painfully obvious that he doesn’t exactly jive well with the already existing kitchen staff as he has “messed up” their routines and isn’t following their “system”. Sydney is also met with resistance when it becomes clear that cousin Richie Jerimovich (Ebon Moss-Bachrach) seems to believe he is the boss of the sandwich shop even though Carmy’s brother Mikey left it to Carmy and not him. Richie and Carmy have an epic blow up in front of the entire kitchen staff which ends with Richie declaring that nothing should change.
After Richie completely disrespects Carmy in front of the entire kitchen staff, Carmy meets his sister, Sugar (Abby Elliott) at the back door to retrieve the vintage denim jacket. After giving his sister a heartfelt hug, they have a brief discussion where he makes it clear that he does not want to sell the sandwich shop to their uncle and that he intends to “fix” the place. It is at this moment that we learn he is also known as “Bear” as his sister referred to him as such. It also becomes apparent that she is refusing to enter the building, but it has not been explained why at this time.
Sydney impresses the kitchen crew with her culinary prowess when she serves up the family meal before they are scheduled to open. Because of the “Ball Breakers” tournament, a very large line of costume-clad gamers has amassed outside of the sandwich shop and they are not exactly patient as they bang on the windows and doors. Carmy asks Richie to help him deal with the crowd and Richie declines, stating that Carmy brought it on himself. When he goes outside to attempt to subdue the crowd, he is instead physically assaulted by the ridiculously costumed mob. Richie comes to his rescue by firing a handgun into the air and demanding that the crowd settle down, and informs them that they must purchase a sandwich combo as admission to the tournament.
When the cousins reenter the establishment, they continue to argue about the menu and Richie demands that Carmy make the spaghetti he has been refusing to make. Dejected, Carmy goes back to the kitchen to begin making the sauce, but just as he begins to open the cans of tomatoes, he decides he’s going to rebel against Richie and throws the partially open can into the garbage as the credits roll to Pearl Jam’s Animal.
In addition to White, Edebiri and Elliot, this half-hour series stars Ebon Moss-Bachrach, Lionel Boyce and Liza Colón-Zayas, with Edwin Lee Gibson and Matty Matheson in recurring roles.
The Bear was created by Christopher Storer (Ramy, Eighth Grade), who also serves as executive producer alongside Joanna Calo (BoJack Horseman, Undone), Hiro Murai (Atlanta, Station Eleven) and Nate Matteson (Station Eleven, The Choe Show) of Super Frog and Josh Senior, with Tyson Bidner (Ramy) serving as producer and Matty Matheson as co-producer. The series is produced by FX Productions.
All 8 episodes are currently streaming exclusively on Hulu.