‘The Bear’ is probably the greatest scripted series television has ever done that’s set inside a dining establishment

We Americans are fascinated with food and the people who prepare and serve it. A quick glance at all of the reality cooking/competition shows on television will confirm this. You’ve got everything from “Master Chef” to “Iron Chef” to “Next Level Chef” to “Chef’s Table,” “Chopped,” “The Great British Bake-Off” and “The American Barbecue Showdown,” for starters. But the legacy of scripted TV shows about cooking and restaurant-ing isn’t nearly as epic, which is why FX on Hulu’s “The Bear” was such a revelation when it launched last summer.

“The Bear” introduced up to the pressure-cooker life inside an Italian beef sandwich shop in Chicago. It captured the visceral, adrenalin-pumping chaos of the food industry in a way nothing had before, showing us just how unglamorous and dangerous (and yet colorful and compelling) a kitchen can be. After just eight episodes, it’s already probably the greatest scripted series that television has ever done that’s set inside a dining establishment. The show quickly became an awards magnet in its first season, as did its star Jeremy Allen White (who won the trifecta of the Golden Globe Award, Critics Choice Award and SAG Award early this year) and is an early co-favorite along with Jason Sudeikis for the lead comedy series actor Emmy. Costar Ayo Edebiri has also been a breakout in the cast.

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There has never been another show in the restaurant genre remotely like “The Bear” in terms of realism and intensity. It’s almost like the show has created its own TV category. This isn’t to say there haven’t been shows that have tried to mine similar territory. Let’s explore 10 of those efforts below, in order of when they originally aired.

  • “It’s a Living”/”Making a Living” (1980-82, ABC, and 1985-89 in syndication) – A sitcom with two different names set in a posh restaurant at the top of the Bonaventure Hotel in Downtown Los Angeles (where this reporter once had an office), it focused on a group of wisecracking waitresses serving up high-end dishes and chaos. The cast included Ann Jillian, Sheryl Lee Ralph (yes, that one), Louise Lasser of “Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman” fame, Crystal Bernard and Susan Sullivan.

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  • “Cheers” (1982-93, NBC) – It was the bar where everybody knew your name, and let’s face it: the show was far more about characters and personalities than alcohol and appetizers. In fact, we barely ever got a glimpse of anything being made, so it doesn’t necessarily count as a food-and-restaurant show. Starred Ted Danson, Shelley Long, Kirstie Alley, Woody Harrelson, Kelsey Grammer, Rhea Perlman, George Wendt and John Ratzenberger.

  • “Tattinger’s” (1988-89, NBC) – A single-season wonder that starred Stephen Collins and Blythe Danner as a divorced couple who continue to run a posh Manhattan restaurant despite, you know, not liking each other much. Jerry Stiller and Mary Beth Hurt also had prime roles in a dramedy that never quite caught on. Only 11 of its 15 episodes ever aired.

  • “Chef!” (1993-96 over BBC One) – This popular British-produced show aired 20 episodes over three seasons, starring Lenny Henry arrogant, tyrannical, mouthy chef who verbally abuses every member of his restaurant staff (hence, the exclamation point at the end of the title). He and his wife wind up buying the establishment, increasing their headaches.

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  • “Kitchen Confidential” (2005, Fox) – This sadly short-lived restaurant sitcom is remembered mostly for helping launch the career of star Bradley Cooper, who stars as executive chef Jack Bourdain (a character based on the late great Anthony Bourdain and his book “Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly”). In the show, Cooper’s character portrays a recovering former alcoholic and addict making a career comeback.

  • “Godiva’s” (2005-06, Bravo) – This Canadian-produced comedy-drama is probably closest the closest thing in style and tone to “The Bear.” It revolves around the work lives of 10 young friends working at a hip, fast-paced bistro in Vancouver, B.C. Like “The Bear, it’s chaotic and intense and full of food-borne drama among a unique cast of characters (including a manager, a head chef, a sous chef, a bartender, a pastry chef and various servers.

  • “Chowder” (2007-10, Cartoon Network) – A surreal animated comedy (hence its presence on Cartoon Network), the series follows the exploits of a young cook named Chowder and his daily adventures as an apprentice in Chef Mung Daal’s catering company. He often lands himself in wacky predicaments due to his perpetual appetite and the fact he’s such a scatterbrain.

  • “Bob’s Burgers (2011-present, Fox) – This very long-running animated comedy centers on the Belcher family – husband Bob, wife Linda and their three kids Tina, Louise and Gene – who run a hamburger joint in an unnamed seaside community.  It’s a surprisingly vivid depiction of a working-class family running a food business, even with all of the requisite jokes and quirky characters interspersed.

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  • “Midnight Diner: Tokyo Stories” (2016-19, Netflix) – The Japanese-produced series (with subtitles) is a surprisingly deep show about after-hours life in an off-the-beaten track diner in Japan, serving up small plates and small tales of interpersonal relationships in equal measure. On the backstreets of Shinjuku, customers combine a love of cuisine with intimate coinversation.

  • “Sweetbitter” (2018-19, Starz) – This original drama series is based on a 2016 novel “Sweetbitter” by writer-creator Stephanie Danler and based on her time working in New York City’s Union Square Cafe. Not your run-of-the-mill restaurant saga, it’s the story of Tess (Ella Purnell), a waitress who lands a job at the restaurant and subsequently learns all about drugs, booze, love, lust and chaos.

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