John Landgraf, the FX head who for years has been capable of predict the fortunes of the TV trade with uncanny capability, just lately stated that this 12 months will see “peak TV” lastly peak. By his accounts, 357 scripted exhibits have been launched within the first six months of 2022 alone, up 16% from a 12 months in the past. This, clearly, is extra tv than anybody individual can presumably watch. The excellent news is that with Netflix faltering and HBO Max intent on cratering earlier than our very eyes, a contraction is due any minute now.
The unhealthy information is that there at the moment are extra TV exhibits than concepts. It has grow to be simpler than ever to seek out premises and plots which were unknowingly shared between totally different collection, as you will notice should you’re diligent sufficient at following the thread alongside one in all this 12 months’s hottest traits: the stressed-out chef present.
The largest of those, and the one that appears destined to hog the headlines, is FX’s The Bear, quickly to drop on Disney+ within the UK. The Bear has already made sufficient of a splash within the US to be concurrently dubbed “the sexiest present of the 12 months” and “probably the most tense present of the 12 months”.
UK viewers received’t have to observe for lengthy to see how the latter tag took place. The Bear follows a down-at-heel fine-dining chef who, after his brother’s suicide, finds himself making an attempt to shore up his household’s sandwich store. Its massive trick is discovering the urgency within the mundane; even if, within the present’s signature kitchen scenes, we’re simply watching individuals make sandwiches to order, there’s a chest-bursting panic to all of it. We always really feel the stress of the job bearing down on its lead, performed by Jeremy Allen White. Invariably, every part involves a head later within the run, throughout a single-shot episode so frantic and tense that it seems like a half-hour coronary heart assault.
As for the sexiness? That’s a more durable name. On paper – except you’ve gotten a shameful bread kink – The Bear isn’t a really horny present in any respect. There are not any Bridgerton-style romps, no will-they-won’t-they plots. However what it does have is starvation. The web has already carried out a bang-up job of objectifying White who, along with his floppy hair, sleepy eyes and brooding obsession, comes throughout as half Marco Pierre White and half Anthony Bourdain. However greater than that, the entire present is splendidly tangible. It’s unglamorous and unpretentious. You possibly can really feel the sweat prickle on the characters’ backs as they toil within the kitchen and the ache of their legs as soon as they’ve completed a service. It’s uncooked and earthy, the type of present that will get all the best way beneath your fingernails. It’s actually superb.
However simply because The Bear appears destined to be the awards darling of subsequent 12 months, it doesn’t imply that it’s the one new scripted chef present round. Jez Butterworth’s much-anticipated Amazon present Mammals may invoice itself as a “relationship whodunnit” – with Butterworth promising that every part that occurs after the opening six minutes is a series-destroying spoiler – however it’s no secret that James Corden performs, you guessed it, a grumpy chef referred to as Jamie.
These two exhibits come scorching on the heels of Julia, Sky Atlantic’s drama collection about Julia Youngster. Admittedly Julia tweaked the system slightly – Youngster was a cook dinner somewhat than a chef, and one who made her fame by projecting undimmed outward heat – however Sarah Lancashire’s efficiency is nonetheless one in all quiet, cautious obsession and ambition.
It isn’t exhausting to see why TV writers flip to cooks every time they need to depict raised stakes. Skilled cookery thrives on pace and precision, warmth and ego. As depicted in The Bear, it requires you to maintain your foot firmly planted on the job’s throat always, in any other case it is going to stand up and devour you. Executed proper, it’s completely thrilling. Then once more, if stressed-out cooks aren’t your factor, one thing else is sure to come back alongside earlier than too lengthy. That is the height of “peak TV”, in spite of everything.