This article contains discussion of themes including suicide that some readers may find upsetting.


When you sit down to watch a show like The Bear, which was met with widespread acclaim when it arrived on US screens more than three months ago, there's always a chance that your expectations won't meet reality and you'll be left sorely disappointed.

Coming to something blind, without all of the noise, is the optimum way to consume art because you're taking it as is, and not consciously or subconsciously parroting that clever metaphor you picked up in a review somewhere.

It's hard to say whether The Bear is 'The Best Show of the Year', as it's been routinely labelled, because as ever in this Golden Age of Telly, there are so many titles deserving of that crown. But if it is the best thing you end up watching this year, no one will question your taste because The Bear is very, very good.

Carmen and Richie in a standoff
Jeremy Allen White as Carmen 'Carmy' Berzatto, Lionel Boyce as Marcus and Ebon Moss-Bachrach as Richard 'Richie' Jerimovich in The Bear. FX Disney Plus

Carmen Berzatto (affectionately dubbed "Carmy" or "Bear" by those who know him) is a talented young chef who returns home to Chicago to take charge of his brother Michael's humble sandwich shop.

For context, Mikey took his own life and The Beef is in serious trouble following extensive mismanagement – there are significant debts to be paid, it's been whacked with a lousy food hygiene rating, and the kitchen itself, with its small but vocal team, is a cauldron of chaos.

Like Boiling Point, The Bear does a supremely good job of making you feel as though you're standing in a working kitchen, which springs into life long before service commences and continues long after, until the last square inch of floor has been mopped and the final piece of cutlery put back in its rightful place.

But the minutiae, from veg prep to pot washing, successfully swerves tedium, instead taking on a mesmeric, even therapeutic role, offering respite from the din.

The Bear is visceral and in your face and loud. If it's not the staff's resistance to change or the clamour and clatter of the daily grind, it's the Chicago soundscape seeping into Carmen's apartment, or the racket inside his own head as his mind races at an unsustainable pace, rattled by his brother's violent passing.

Carmen scrubbing the floor
Jeremy Allen White as Carmen 'Carmy' Berzatto. FX

Carmen's anxiety attacks, which took hold during a stint working in one of the world's best restaurants, take him by force, barrelling in out of nowhere and flattening him into a pulp. He's running on empty as he works feverishly to keep The Beef afloat, a permanently dazed expression stretched across his face as he wrestles with both internal and external pressures.

The Bear does a solid job of capturing that intensely frightening and destabilising ship-in-a-storm feeling when you lack the emotional tools to manage your condition, and all you can do is wait for it to blow over.

It all sounds pretty heavy, right? And it is. The Bear is unrelenting in its intensity. But creator and writer Christopher Storer understands the importance of easing up once in a while and giving the series space to breathe. The humour laced throughout acts like a splash of Lea & Perrins, giving the narrative a sharp kick up the backside whenever it's in danger of straying into anything that resembles moping.

Alongside that, The Bear also captures the romance of food, from the customary 'family meal' shared by the restaurant staff to the pastry chef's childlike reverence for doughnuts. You can almost feel the heat rising from the herby slow-roasted beef sizzling in its juices. The full-bodied scarlet red marinara sauce would look at home in an episode of Rick Stein's Long Weekends.

The food in The Bear is the real deal, as essential to establishing the atmosphere as the characters themselves. Watch it on an empty stomach at your own peril.

Sydney and Carmen talking in the kitchen
Ayo Edebiri as Sydney Adamu and Jeremy Allen White as Carmen 'Carmy' Berzatto. Matt Dinerstein/FX

If The Bear was a plate of food, it would be one of the hearty beef sub rolls from Carmen's shop: substantial, satisfying and an instant classic. But it remains to be seen how it will find new ways to create that all-important tension in season 2.

So much of the drama in the first chapter stems from the collision between old and new, past and present. As Carmen's new-look restaurant continues to take shape, with the team becoming incrementally more receptive to his vision, where will that pushback come from?

The aftershocks of Mikey's death, which initially scored high on the Richter scale, gradually soften into a grim acceptance as Carmen becomes more receptive to confronting his grief. There will be lapses – healing isn't linear – but further development is needed to prevent it from turning stale.

Given what The Bear has achieved in just four hours of television, however, we're already hungry for more.

The Bear is available to stream in the UK on Disney Plus. You can sign up to Disney Plus for £7.99 a month or £79.90 a year now. Check out more of our Drama coverage or visit our TV Guide to see what's on tonight.


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