No TV series set in a restaurant is as tense and unpredictable as The Bear, well, aside from Gordon Ramsay’s Hell’s Kitchen. But everyone knows that reality competition shows are overly produced for dramatic effect.
Hulu’s The Bear, on the other hand, is a highly believable comedy-drama about a struggling sandwich shop in Chicago called The Beef. This fictional grub hub in Chi-town unexpectedly falls into the lap of Carmy Berzatto (Jeremy Allen White) after the owner, his brother Mikey (Jon Bernthal), commits suicide. Carmy is a talented James Beard Award-winning chef, but a professional of his caliber doesn’t exactly match the hole-in-the-wall appeal of The Beef.
And with inheriting the restaurant comes hundreds of thousands in debt and a dysfunctional workplace that Carmy is determined to whip into shape. He hires professionally-trained Sydney (Ayo Edebiri) as his sous chef, whose ambition exceeds her actual commercial kitchen experience. Rounding up the staff is the manager and “cousin” Richie (Ebon Moss-Bachrach), Mikey’s bereaved best friend, who is resistant to any changes made in the restaurant; the abrasive too-stuck-in-her-ways Tina (Liza Colón-Zayas) as line cook; and bread baker Marcus (L-Boy), who actually respects Carmy but is too entranced by his dream of pastry making to focus on his day job.
With this ragtag kitchen crew, Carmy tries to find ways to turn a debt-ridden business into a respectable and profitable restaurant, all while dealing with the loss of his brother.
The second season of The Bear just got a release date. On June 22, Hulu will serve follow-up episodes to the surprise hit of 2022. But if you’re hungry for more shows that remind you of The Bear, not necessarily in content but at least in the themes, tense pacing, or flawless acting, these are the titles to add to your watchlist.
Before appearing in The Bear, Jeremy Allen White played Lip in the US version of the comedy-drama Shameless. He was one of the kids of the dysfunctional Gallagher family. And though he had the smarts to make it out of poverty, Lip battled with addiction.
Jeremy Allen White’s excellent portrayal of a struggling kid brother bears some resemblance to The Bear, that even White thought the characters were cut from the same cloth. But it’s really seeing how complicated family dynamics deeply affect your trajectory in life and your mental health — as both Carmy and Lip, who are equally talented, are traumatized by their family — that gives Shameless a similar feel as The Bear.
The Chef Show
If you came to The Bear for ASMR food prep instead of the drama, Netflix’s The Chef Show is perfect for casual viewing. It’s the accompaniment series to the movie Chef, both produced by and starring Jon Favreau. He plays himself in The Chef Show and, with the help of professional chef Roy Choi and his many guest stars, he tries to learn many of the mouth-watering dishes plated in the 2014 movie and more.
If you were a fan of the movie or generally love food-centric reality TV series, The Chef Show is worth the watch. But unlike The Bear, it has a more wholesome and comforting touch.
Another TV series (and movie) on the wholesome spectrum is the long-running animated Fox series Bob’s Burgers. Bob and Linda are still busy trying to run their burger joint as the Belcher kids run into all sorts of trouble. And while the show suffered from a slight decline in quality, the last few seasons have found their footing again. There’s character development, particularly from the mischievous Louise, that long-term fans will really appreciate witnessing.
Because it’s on the more wholesome side of adult animation, there’s not a lot of dysfunction among the Belchers. They’re just a chaotic bunch, and often, it’s their dynamic that keeps the burger joint from succeeding, which is one of the core problems of The Beef in The Bear.
In spite of the title, there’s nothing about Beef that will cater to foodies. It might attract art enthusiasts more, but really it’s for any fan of good television. The Netflix comedy-drama is about two strangers involved in a road rage incident. Amy (Ali Wong) and Danny (Steven Yeun) have a hard time letting this grudge go and embark on a bitter journey of trying to one-up each other in the game of life.
Though they’re in entirely different settings, Beef and The Bear share a very similar tense atmosphere. The roles are flawlessly acted, and you start to believe why Amy and Danny must win their own fight the same way you believe that Carmy is always a mistake away from truly exploding. One difference is how The Bear starts out at an already breakneck speed while Beef tries to increase the stakes with every single episode. However, both shows build up to explosive penultimate episodes that you won’t soon recover from.
If you loved the workplace drama that The Bear depicted, then you’ll love Succession. And if you love family drama too, this award-winning HBO series is the show for you.
Succession, now in its last season, is about the Roy family of the media conglomerate Waystar Royco, which is based on several real powerful families. Logan Roy, the family patriarch, is aging and needs to find a CEO to replace him. His choices are his children, with three out of four wanting the job as much as their siblings — and they’ll do some of the worst things to get it. Even if they didn’t know it yet, they’ve been duelling for the position Gladiator-style their entire lives, and Logan is the emperor sitting on the throne.
There are several themes in Succession that interact with the themes in The Bear. Aside from family drama that also extends as their workplace drama, it deals with themes of ambition and self-fulfillment, shifting power dynamics, and loss. And if you’re acquainted with the language in The Bear, then you won’t be surprised by the amount of cussing that Succession is famous for. Every sentence they speak to each other is riddled with different versions of the same curse word.
The Bear is one of the most original TV series of 2022, but it does share some similarities with other shows we’ve seen before. From the praiseworthy performances and sharp writing to themes of dysfunction and ambition, even the vulgar language, fans of The Bear might enjoy Shameless, The Chef Show, Bob’s Burgers, Beef, and Succession before the second season comes out in June on Hulu.