The Bear, Which Demands Discussion, Is Dropping All Episodes at Once. Here’s the Case for Episodic Drops for New TV

Spoilers

The advent of streaming television a little over a decade ago changed TV forever. One of those was the idea of releasing entire television seasons simultaneously.

Traditionally, on network television, TV series have been released one episode a week throughout their season.

HBO and other premium cable networks have also released one episode a week, although the seasons are usually shorter.

However, when Netflix debuted its first significant prestige series, House of Cards, in 2013, it released every episode simultaneously.

For several years after that, Netflix released nearly all of its shows that way.

Anxiety and Failure -tall - The Bear

As other streaming services rose to compete with Netflix, they used different models.

Max, for instance, has retained HBO’s traditional model of usually one episode per week.

Ironically, during this era, whole seasons of The Sopranos, Sex and the City, and other shows were released on DVD at once, likely encouraging the binge-watching habit.

Hulu and Prime Video have used different models at different times, and even Netflix has sometimes gotten away from an all-at-the-same-time model, often releasing multi-part seasons of Stranger Things, Bridgerton, and other popular shows.

The Bear Season 3 First Look Image

Some streaming services use a hybrid model, releasing the first two or three episodes at once and then one a week after that.

Bear With Me

One series that has often been the subject of controversy regarding its method of release is The Bear, the prestigious series that is cobranded by FX and Hulu.

The series, about a chef (Jeremy Allen White) who takes over a sandwich shop in Chicago, is a great show that is equal parts funny, poignant, sad, and well-acted.

It’s incredibly well-made and well-produced and evokes a sense of place in Chicago, even though about 90 percent of it is indoors.

It also features, without a doubt, the best music of any current TV series, from Wilco to Weezer to The Replacements.

Eyes of Steel - The Bear

The show’s first two seasons — eight episodes in the first and 10 in the second — were released simultaneously in late June 2022 and 2023, respectively.

More of the same in Season 3

FX has announced that The Bear will return for its third season in June.

All ten episodes will be available at once when The Bear returns on June 27.

It’s not hard to understand why FX and Hulu would make that decision.

After all, the all-at-once model has worked pretty well for The Bear so far. 

Sleek New Kitchen - The Bear

The series, created by Christopher Storer, has been one of the most acclaimed on television since its arrival two years ago.

The Bear has collected awards, winning ten Emmy Awards and four Golden Globes in two seasons.

The reviews have been nearly uniformly excellent, and while independent streaming ratings figures are elusive, Hulu called the Season 2 premiere its most-watched premiere in the history of the service. 

The Bear has been popular enough to be renewed repeatedly, including a pickup of a fourth season that will shoot directly after the third.

Cousins Arguing - tall - The Bear

Because the episodes are each about a half-hour long, binging the entire season can be done relatively quickly.

So it’s not hard to see why the bosses at FX and Hulu would want to stick with what has worked fabulously so far.

A better way to Bear

Claire and Carmy at a Party - The Bear

That said, there’s a good reason to wish The Bear would arrive more slowly.

The Bear is a very dense show.

 A lot happens in every episode, and some episodes have huge developments and excellent scenes that can be stunning to audiences.

Discussions of the show often center on one episode in particular: The Bear Season 2 Episode 6, “The Fishes.”

It features a flashback to a particularly tense Christmas dinner a few years before the series’ main events.

Partners in Cuisine -tall - The Bear

The episode featured a surprising cast of guest stars, from Jamie Lee Curtis to John Mulaney to Bob Odenkirk.

It was wildly tense and awkward, reminding many viewers of their past unpleasant interactions with family.

It was also wildly acclaimed as the most praised episode of The Bear’s second season.

It was so tense that it encouraged some fans of The Bear to take a break from the intensity.

How to talk about the show

When the episodes are all released at once, they allow for simultaneous discussion about what happened in the episode the night before, whether online or at the office water cooler.

Claire Bear  - The Bear

That’s how TV was often experienced during the heyday of Lost, The Sopranos, and other popular series of the pre-streaming era.

However, the way the show’s second season was released, fans discovered the Fishes episode at different times.

It was just one way that the now-fragmented world of television has become less communal over time.

Another major factor with The Bear is that each season arrives in the summer when there is much less competition from other shows than when they debut in the fall or spring.

It’s all about the characters

New Adventures  - The Bear

One weakness of the binge model has always been that viewers will watch an entire season on a weekend and then not think about the characters again until the next season, a year (or more) later, when they have forgotten most of what was happening.

That’s less of a concern with The Bear, where the characters are more memorable, and the series is so character-driven.

But even so, season-long arcs on the show, such as Richie’s (Ebon Moss-Eberach) personal growth throughout the second season, might be more potent if viewers watch one episode at a time.

It doesn’t appear that FX/Hulu has heeded fans’ or critics’ calls to release The Bear once a week, and it’s possibly not surprising that they stick to what works.

But something must be said for putting out this fantastic series a bit more slowly.

Stephen Silver is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. You can follow more of his work on his Substack The SS Ben Hecht, by Stephen Silver.You can follow him on X.

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