The Bear


Oliver Platt is SO good in this I’d say to watch it just for him, even though his participation is limited. But during the party scene, watching him switch from angry to amenable, and him telling that story, PRICELESS! He seems like a regular guy, one you would know, like the rest of the characters in “The Bear,” not setting the world on fire, just living their lives.

This show got good reviews and excellent RottenTomatoes scores, so I put it on the list. Not that I read much about it, I just read the first and last paragraphs of reviews to see if they’re positive, because I like to go in cold, the experience is part of the magic of novels, TV and movies. Like life, you don’t know what is going to happen, you just decide to dive in.

But before we did…

I got e-mail. From one person saying he turned it off, because he didn’t like any of the people in the show, there was no one he could identify with, no one he could root for. WHEN DID THIS BECOME A THING?

I read a great tweet today by Taylor Lorenz, about there being a business in telling people what they want to hear, being optimistic, giving them hope. Especially in the music business. When I’m honest people hate it, they don’t want their dreams trampled upon. Even though in most cases they’re just dreams, they’re gonna give up long before they get close, because it’s just too much work. Why does everybody need to be boosted? And why do you need to identify with characters. Did you ever work in a restaurant, did your brother… It’s supposed to be fresh, it’s supposed to give you INSIGHT! And if it’s all negative, so what, so is so much of life. When people demand inspiration you usually end up with tripe.

And “The Bear” isn’t tripe.

But I’m not exactly sure what it is either.

You see it’s only four hours long, eight episodes, although the finale is a bit longer. It’s just a start. You mean I’m gonna have to wait a whole ‘nother year to see where this goes?

And since it’s an American show, you can predict the mood of the ending. Not that I’m revealing too much, I thought about this from the very first minute, American shows can’t leave you on a downer, I wish they would.

So Carmy takes over his brother’s restaurant, his family’s restaurant. The twist is Carmy is a legendary chef. Jeremy Allen White, who plays Carmy… I’ve never seen him before. But this is not the pre-internet era, where you know everybody’s backstory. I marvel at some actor’s performance, and then people tell me they were in some lowbrow network show… I haven’t watched network in decades. Literally. I’m looking for something spicier, more direct, in a narrower vertical. When you’re trying to appeal to a broad audience, you inherently lose me.

And what audience is “The Bear” shooting for?

I’m not exactly sure. But I’d say one that is looking for visceral entertainment.

So what you’ve got here is a deep dive into the workings of a restaurant. And as many shows as there have been about this, I’ve never seen anything close to this. It’s not feel good, pressure is high, nerves are shot, and everybody takes things super-seriously. This seems to be a characteristic of restaurants, they treat it like it’s life or death, like world peace hangs in the balance. And speaking of balance, it’s a balancing act getting everybody to deliver at the same time.

So it’s chaos. And it’s fascinating to watch. Is it appealing? To some people, maybe not. But to me? Yes. Because everybody’s caught up in their job, too many people work to live, as opposed to the opposite. There’s all this hogwash that Americans work too much, take their jobs too seriously, and I’ll say that vacations are critical, they rejuvenate you, but when it’s all on the line, that’s when it gets interesting to me. I’ve found this over and over again, people don’t want to take it as seriously as I do. Furthermore, I want to walk the fine edge. You know, the one if you push it too far you can fall over and fail. The magic for me is in that last one or two percent. That turn good, even very good, into excellent, INCREDIBLE! That’s why I buy the top of the line products in areas that are important to me. I use those features no one else does. I read the manuals. Do you know with Focus in the latest Mac OS, Monterey, if you mute your computer, IT AUTOMATICALLY MUTES YOUR iPHONE! May not sound like much, but it is. Assuming you don’t want to be interrupted, and when I’m writing, I don’t.

That’s one of the interesting scenes, at the high end restaurant, the head chef being boorish, having no tolerance for failure, needing it EXACTLY right, stuff you don’t think is really important, that most people won’t even sense. But it’s this little bit that people do sense, even if they don’t know what it is, that makes the end result TRANSCENDENT!

Like Oliver Platt’s performance. The way he laughs to himself and then laughs with the others. They’re two different things, he separates them, gets each of them right.

Then there’s Ebon Moss-Bachrach, who plays Richie, the “cousin” who is not. He’s been in a slew of stuff, but I know him as the boyfriend in “Girls,” the folk musician. He plays a somewhat similar role here, but here he’s a hothead, he’s over the top all the time. He’s highly strung. And you know people like this, they’re constantly screwing up, denying responsibility, biting back, making mistake after mistake, and then they ultimately admit it AND NOTHING CHANGES! As adults people abandon them, they’ve got fewer and fewer friends, they end up working at piss-poor jobs not because they’re dumb, or untalented, it’s just that NO ONE CAN GET ALONG WITH THEM!

Tina, the longtime employee who’s averse to change. She’s been doing it this way for years, and if you want to mess with it, she won’t do it, furthermore she’ll sabotage you. I don’t care how right you might be, getting workers to heed your advice is a huge hurdle.

And the guy who makes the cakes, who dreams of a bigger future as a baker. There are numerous players with different mentalities. You’ve got a small world here that takes everything and doesn’t deliver money so much as being part of a family.

So “The Bear” is kind of a drive-by. We want so much more. There’s all this set-up, and we want depth. We’ve been trained by streaming series. Movies? Two hours and they’re done, they’re separate from life in almost all cases. But series? You get to know the characters, you see and feel them living, you get much more invested, and you expect more!

Did you see that HBO Max just cut all European production? “Golden Life” was an HBO Max European production. This always happens, a new person comes in, in this case David Zaslav, and they think they know everything when they know so little. About HBO, CNN… When it comes to the arts, music, movies and TV, it can oftentimes be about one album, movie or TV show. No one bats 1,000. You’ve got to step up to the plate more than everybody else to win. You’ve got to give your creators free rein, you can’t be cheap, Netflix has the winning formula yet is constantly derided by the street, believing like Zaslav that it’s all about the money, making the trains run on time. Money is important, but you can balance the books in entertainment and go bankrupt. You can only win if you support artists. Let them do their thing. Where Netflix is king.

But “The Bear” is on Hulu. You should watch it. Like I said above, it’s not a huge commitment. Because it will affect you. And isn’t that exactly what we’re looking for in our entertainment?

Comments are closed