The most (and least) distracting celebrity cameos on ‘The Bear’


“The Bear,” FX’s beloved, anxiety-inducing dramedy about a Chicago restaurant and the damaged but well-meaning people who work there, isn’t afraid to bend the rules of television. The show returned to streaming on Wednesday with a full-season drop, including a premiere that avoided traditional storytelling altogether, instead taking us inside the head of chef Carmy (Jeremy Allen White) in a dreamlike full-episode montage. After that, though, came some familiar “Bear” pleasures: The old gang bickering and reuniting in a frenzied kitchen setting. Needle drops. (This year’s soundtrack standout is an English Beat song.) And a lot of celebrity cameos.

You can understand why so many big names in Hollywood and the dining world want to stage in Carmy’s kitchen. And often, these appearances taste great, like a surprise course. Other cameos are a bit … distracting, particularly on a show that promises high-wire immersion in its back-of-the-house setting. Instead of injecting a new character into the story, these guest spots often just scream “famous person” and remind you that you’re not there in the restaurant, but just watching TV.

Which is which? Who is who? Tuck in.

Most distracting: John Cena

Cena’s pop-in as Sammy, one of the brothers to the Fak family’s Neil (Matty Matheson) and Ted (Ricky Staffieri), was a scene-stealer. His terrorizing tactics against Ted, while also smoking cigarettes, all over SD cards he suspected his brother of stealing, were worth every second of Episode 5, titled “Children.”

Still, it’s John Cena. Wrestling fans like me will always be distracted by seeing the 16-time world champion on the screen, particularly when his character is so very, very Cena-like.

The early 2000s heartthrob is somewhat in the midst of a Hollywood comeback. Hartnett appeared prominently in 2023’s “Oppenheimer” and stars in this year’s M. Night Shyamalan thriller “Trap,” as a killer avoiding arrest during a pop concert.

He’s here as Frank, the fiancé to Cousin Richie’s ex-wife Tiffany (Gillian Jacobs). He’s seen briefly when Cousin drops off his daughter, Eva, (Annabelle Toomey) at Frank’s house in Episode 4, “Violet.” Frank seems to be a good father figure for Eva, who calls him “Waldo.”

The moment? Meaningful. The cameo? Well, we’re meant to compare Richie to the guy who’s replaced him in Tiffany’s life. How would most of us stack up to Josh Hartnett?

Taylor Swift (well, her music anyway)

Hartnett’s brief appearance included a small cameo from Taylor Swift, sort of. You can hear “Long Live (Taylor’s Version)” from her “Speak Now (Taylor’s Version)” album playing in the background. It’s a fun callback to Season 2’s episode “Forks,” the Richie spotlight in which he memorably sings Swift’s “Love Story” loudly in his car.

Colman, like several others, makes a return to the show following her Season 2 debut as Terry, the executive chef of the restaurant Ever, a high-end three-star destination. Colman’s character brings a number of celebrity chefs together in the finale for the Ever funeral dinner. At this point, though, her appearance isn’t too distracting, given her time-tested immersion in “The Bear” universe.

McHale’s work as Carmy’s former boss who loathes him doesn’t distract you during the mind-warping first episode (it’s actually one of the few comfortably familiar moments). But it is a soft reminder of what Carmy went through during his rise to the top. Later in the season, McHale returns as David, arguing that his abusive manner helped build Carmy into a better chef.

The advocate for Batman turning himself in from Christopher Nolan’s “The Dark Knight” plays Sugar’s doctor in Season 3. Not super-distracting, but certainly an appearance that’ll have you reaching for your phone to see where you know him from.

Definitely a “Hey, that guy!” moment, with Zayas, of “Dexter” fame, showing up as Tina’s husband in her own memorable spotlight episode, “Napkins.”

Is this really a cameo appearance, or the return of a vital cast member? Either way, Curtis is back in Episode 8, titled “Ice Chips,” and doesn’t so much break the spell as cast a new one, injecting anxiety into the proceedings as we wonder whether she’ll blow up. That said, her baby-face turn helping Sugar through labor was a welcome surprise for the character who is best remembered at this point for driving a car into her own house. (See: Season 2, Episode 6, “Fishes.”)

Similar to Curtis, Bernthal returns for another scene-stealing performance in the Tina-centric episode about how she came to work at The Original Beef. Bernthal has become a “Bear” mainstay at this point, only appearing in highly important flashbacks. Such is the case in Season 3, where Bernthal as Mikey offers Tina a chance to work at The Original Beef restaurant. Definitely less … bearish than when he battled Bob Odenkirk in Season 2.

Fresh from last year’s big role as a golden-skinned superbeing in “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3,” Poulter returns to “The Bear” like a familiar dish. He previously appeared as Luca in Season 2, when Carmy sent Marcus to Copenhagen to learn some tricks of the trade from a restaurant meant to be, or at least be like, the world-famous restaurant Noma. In this Season 3 episode, we see how Carmy and Luca work together. Carmy appears to push Luca more as he develops as a leader in the kitchen.

Least distracting: All those chefs — unless you’re looking for them

We could list them individually, but they all pretty much fit into the same category: Popular, even celebrity, chefs, most of whom you’d be unlikely to pick out of a crowd. Like main cast member Matty Matheson, the famed Canadian chef and personality who plays Fak, a hapless handyman. Immersive!

Some of the other big-time chefs included in the show include Paul “Uncle Paulie” James and Dave Beran. “The Bear” also brings in celebrity chefs from restaurants where Carmy worked, including Daniel Boulud of New York City’s Daniel, René Redzepi of Noma and Thomas Keller of California’s The French Laundry.

The finale also includes brief cameos by Grant Achatz, Christina Tosi, Kevin Boehm, Anna Posey, Rosio Sanchez, Malcolm Livingston II, Wylie Dufresne and Will Guidara, among others.

And don’t forget actor Adam Shapiro, who returns as … Adam Shapiro. The real-life Shapiro owns his own bakery, the Shappy Pretzel Co.



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