Business leaders are resorting to desperate measures to entice workers back to the office, my colleague Emma Goldberg reported recently. “It’s been three years of scattershot plans for returning to in-person work — summoning people in, not really meaning it, everybody pretty much working wherever they pleased,” she wrote. “Now, for the umpteenth time, businesses are ready to get serious.”
Will inducements like $10 donations to charity for each day workers show up, as Salesforce recently announced, prove powerful enough bait? Perhaps an in-office pickleball court, or a desk-delivered sauvignon blanc from the roving bar cart? One idea I haven’t seen floated is to offer screenings of the series “The Bear,” whose second season was released in June on Hulu.
The show is about Carmy, a James Beard award-winning chef who returns to run his family’s sandwich shop, The Original Beef of Chicagoland, after his brother’s suicide. He finds a business mired in debt, a grieving staff set in its ways, a kitchen in shambles. When it debuted last year, “The Bear” was praised for its authenticity, for depicting the chaos of a real restaurant kitchen. “Work here is furious, violent and relentless,” James Poniewozik wrote in The Times. “Flames roar up the sides of pans, pots clatter like artillery, slabs of beef are dragged and hoisted like casualties. Hands are burned, fingers slashed; the pace of the prep rush turns the kitchen staff into sweating, shouting bodies, meat cooking meat.” Hardly a convincing argument for in-person work.
But watching the new season, I found myself focused less on the anxiety-inducing mayhem (of which there is plenty!) as Carmy and the gang scrounge up money, knock down walls, hire a staff, remediate mold and develop new dishes to transform The Beef into The Bear, their new upscale dining concept. I was more interested in the fantasy of collaboration the show portrays, of a group of cantankerous misfits begrudgingly working together toward a common goal.
Each episode of “The Bear” is short; some come in under 30 minutes. But the amount of action packed into each is dizzying — how does this show manage to create so much drama, to develop such fully realized characters in so small a space? My days in the office are not nearly as frenetic, but I’ve similarly been amazed at how full a day of in-person work seems compared to the plodding predictability of remote work. As much as I cherish the commute-free flexibility of working from home, there’s not much action in the dust-filled sunlight of a 2 p.m. living room.
Please don’t get me wrong: “The Bear” is still committed to a depiction of “work as a kind of barely restrained combat,” as James put it. But its music-video-style montages of the characters taking pride in their tasks, toiling toward a common goal, do make for a romantic vision of teamwork. Contrast this with “Severance,” another recent workplace drama. That show portrays office work as an antiseptic nightmare, where the price of work-life balance is a literal subjugation of your true self. Season 2 of “Severance” will be delayed because of the writers’ strike. In the meantime, “The Bear” offers us another version of the workplace drama, a scenario that’s complicated, anarchic and, for all its dysfunction, sometimes pretty rewarding.
“The Bear” captures the panic of modern work.
The show “suggests that there’s a better way of playing this game,” wrote James Poniewozik in his review of the new season. “You can win without being toxic; you can be a genius without being a jerk.”
Tejal Rao wrote that “it conveys an unexpected optimism about the restaurant industry and the people who make it run.”
Every Wirecutter pick spotted in Carmy’s kitchen.
Unrest in France
Other Big Stories
Instead of saving the world, the quest to build artificial general intelligence will make things only worse, Evgeny Morozov writes.
Here are columns by Nick Kristof on the British monarchy and Ross Douthat on Chief Justice John Roberts.
The Sunday question: Will the Wagner group’s mutiny bring down President Vladimir Putin?
Although Putin’s government remains standing, “cracks in the perception of power, often after military setbacks, can quickly lead to real collapses in power,” Jonah Goldberg writes in The Los Angeles Times. But Russians support Putin because of “a very genuine fear of war coming to their porch,” a belief Wagner has only validated, Leonid Ragozin writes for Al Jazeera.
Lives Lived: Peg Yorkin was a feminist activist who helped bring the abortion pill to the United States. She died at 96.
TALK | FROM THE TIMES MAGAZINE
Since breaking out with her Emmy award-winning television series “Fleabag,” Phoebe Waller-Bridge has co-written the James Bond film “No Time to Die” and is now co-starring in the new “Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny.” I spoke with her about the potential pitfalls of moving from smaller, more personal projects to bigger franchises.
Going from “Fleabag” to James Bond and “Indiana Jones” isn’t the most logical move. What do you think the people behind those projects see you bringing to them? With Bond, there is something transgressive about that character, and it’s the same with Indy. In the kernel of these characters is something dangerous. So it was less like, “I want to go do this big movie,” and more, “I want to play in the sand pit with these rascals.” That’s one way of looking at it.
Is there another way? Well, I’ve been having these conversations with myself. I’m trying not to overthink it.
For these purposes, overthinking is good.
Knowing that someone from one of these massive franchises has watched “Fleabag” and gone, “What happens if we put this with this?” — I’m intrigued by that. When I spoke to [“Indiana Jones” co-producer] Kathy [Kennedy] early on, she was like, “This is about aging. This is about regrets.” I can look at that and go, “That’s similar to some things I’ve made.”
I’m curious about the actual practical balance between those dramatic ideas and the day-to-day making of the movie.
That deeper stuff is essential to me. Which is not to say that I won’t one day be wearing a cape and jumping off the back of an airplane being like, “This is all about saving animals!”
Read more of the interview here.
More from the magazine
25 years later: Bridget Jones deserved better, particularly in her professional life, Elisabeth Egan writes.
Our editors’ picks: “Be Mine,” a novel about a man taking his terminally ill son on a road trip to Mt. Rushmore, and eight other books.
Times best sellers: The N.B.A. star Chris Paul’s memoir of basketball and of family tragedy, “Sixty-One,” debuts on the hardcover nonfiction list.
THE MORNING RECOMMENDS …
Stream three great documentaries, including one about Pablo Picasso’s methods.
Listen to vinyl again with these tips from The Times’s pop music critic.
Pick the best sleeping pad for camping.
See “Hamlet,” The Public Theater’s production in Central Park.
THE WEEK AHEAD
What to Watch For
Wimbledon starts tomorrow.
Independence Day is Tuesday. U.S. financial markets close early tomorrow and will remain closed Tuesday.
Monthly U.S. employment numbers will be released Friday.
What to Cook This Week