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The Bear: When Jamie Lee Curtis and Olivia Colman sign up for cameos, you know you’ve hit the big time

Television: Back for a second season, Disney+’s surprise hit sticks to the recipe that sustained the first series

Season one of the surprise Disney+ hit The Bear was a simple dish cooked to perfection. The Chicago-sandwich-shop setting had a refreshingly gritty charm while Jeremy Allen White put in a star-making turn as a fancy New York chef going home to save his late brother’s downmarket restaurant.

It was a dreamy blend of Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares and Breaking Bad if Breaking Bad had been about sandwiches rather than crystal meth. It was also that rarest of things: a word-of-mouth smash that bubbled up seemingly from nowhere. But the show returns for season two (Disney+, from Wednesday) in vastly changed circumstances. A stonking 13 Emmy nominations confirm it as a tastemaker favourite. And with Disney’s recent Marvel spin-offs proving conspicuous flops, the service needs a hit.

Savvily, the series’ creator, Christopher Storer, sticks to the straightforward recipe that sustained season one. The Original Beef of Chicagoland is about to become The Bear, a statement eatery into which Carmy (White) is putting his life savings. Actually, his life savings don’t stretch far enough. So Carmy and his crew do a deal that could save the enterprise or doom it.

Each 30-minute episode whizzes by with the frantic tempo of Friday night at a heaving restaurant. As before, it isn’t the foodie setting that makes The Bear but the cast, as Carmy is rejoined by his deadpan sous chef, Sydney (Aho Edebiri), and his cousin Richie (Eboin Moss-Bacharach). They’re a rough and ready crew, making it up as they go but united by an underdog charm. You can’t help cheering them on to beat the odds.


A blitz of cameos underlines that The Bear is now a roaring success. Will Poulter is a restaurant owner in Copenhagen. The director and comedian Robert Townsend is Sydney’s father. Olivia Colman is a celebrity chef. (She does enough for us to forgive her hugely hammy turn on another new Disney+ offering, Marvel’s Secret Invasion.)

Most impactful of all is Jamie Lee Curtis as Carmy’s mother. She’s a whirlwind of wine-glugging and slow-burn grief, her appearance a reminder that The Bear is ultimately a study in bereavement. (Carmy’s brother died by deliberate overdose.)

Yet that underpinning of angst draws out the other flavours of the series, which, like life itself, swings from anger to joy, surprise and sadness. As Marvel unleashes flop after flop on to Disney+, this small show keeps getting bigger and better.