I like the bear for a growing number of reasons. Aside from the great photos of sizzling corned beef, Carmy’s (Jeremy Allen White) floppy brown tufts of hair, and the hordes of people talking about how good it is on Twitter, I love how authentic it is. the bear feels. Having served my own time in the trenches (aka, the New York restaurant industry) and growing up in Chicago (the suburbs), I feel at home watching the bear.
On time, the bear doesn’t even sound like a TV show – it sounds like my own memories of Chicago and the restaurant industry. Crisp autumn days in the Windy City, huddled under a down jacket or in a dusty old car for warmth. Midwestern nasal accents. Get the “no ketchup on hot dogs, not even if you’re a kid”. “Corner” and “Behind, behind”, two of the most common phrases in any restaurant, only behind “Shit!” and “Damn!” Burns and cuts. So many burns and cuts.
But I have a bone to choose – no pun intended – with the bear. The show looks so realistic that a little failure lingered in my brain. We have at 86 (restaurant terminology for nix, get rid of, gone and long forgotten) these terrible family nicknames.
My vitriol towards these putrid word bombs came at the peak of the first episode, when Rich (Ebon Moss-Bachrach) made his way into the restaurant. He and Chef Carmen already have nicknames – Richie and Carmy – so why add another? What’s worse is that they use the same nickname for each other, “COUSIN!”, and their fake Chicago accents look exactly alike, so there’s no way to tell who’s yelling at who.
“COUSINE! We have to make spaaaaahghetti tonight!
“COUSINE! Get out of my fahkin’ face!”
Fake Chicago accents, which often sound more like olive oil stuck in your throat than actual intonations, are another story. Why did they choose the same nickname for each other? In the second episode, we discover that they are not even cousins. They are close friends. I lost my mind. Who among us calls his close friend cousin. (Sorry if that’s you, but please, no.)
They drop the “COUSIN!” little as the show progresses, but more obnoxious nicknames appear in turn. There’s “Fak”, which I’ve misheard as an insult at least 11 times throughout the series – could they have chosen other endearing nickname – and “Sugar”, a nickname Carmy gave to his sister. Sugar. A nickname for his sister. Let’s sit with that for a minute.
I had to replay the scenes with Sugar (Abby Elliott) several times to figure out that, yes, he was Carmy’s brother and not his ex-girlfriend. They talk to each other like exes, obsessing over her new boyfriend like he’s the worst person in the world, and then there’s “Sugar.” I must confess that I am an only child, but I can promise you this: if I had a brother or a sister, I would never call them something as twisted as Sugar.
Which brings me to another point: Being from the outskirts of Chicago and having worked in a restaurant, I can confirm that ballistic nicknames like “COUSIN!” and “Sugar” have no place in any of these places. As far as I know, nicknames are twists on the person real name or, in some cases, references to an inside joke. Not a random family tree title.
Sugar’s real name is Natalie. Cousin’s real name is Richie or Carmy, depending on who you talk to. Let’s stick to those. Everyone shouting “Chef” is quite confusing.
Now here I rant and rave about the nicknames of the beara TV show that may have surpassed High School Musical: The Musical: The Series in contenders for the worst TV show names of all time. Nicknames are one thing, but they sound like the biggest offender of all. I haven’t figured out why yet the bear is titled the bear. The presence of a bear in Carmy’s dreams is not enough. Chicago being the home of the Bears and Cubs can’t be the reason.
If I could go back in time, I would position myself to have the right level of power at FX. I would tie myself to an untitled Jeremy Allen White cooking show. When the time comes, I’ll tear down the ground to title this new show the bearrather recommending a double meaning as Beef. While I was at it, I would also cut every use of the word “COUSIN!” and “Sugar” in the script.
So, the bear would be the perfect show. Or rather, Beef would be the perfect show.