Everything you need to know about ‘Beef’

The Easter-binge-worthy TV show us just about to drop on Netflix

Phil de Semlyen
Written by
Phil de Semlyen
Global film editor
Photograph: Andrew Cooper/Netflix

You’re about to hear a lot about Beef, a new ten-part Netflix series that lands on the streamer just in time for an Easter binge. And, trust us, it’ll be time well spent.

Produced by A24, it charts the escalating feud between two motorists who clash in a dangerous road rage incident and just can’t let it go. Created by Lee Sung Jin and loosely inspired on the Korean showrunner’s own experience of a similar traffic tantrum, it explores in painfully funny and just plain painful detail what happens when these two LA-dwellers, Danny (Steven Yeun) and Amy (Ali Wong), allow their rage to slowly take over their lives. Think Michael Douglas in Falling Down – twice over. Here’s what you need to know about the show.

When is Beef streaming on Netflix?

All ten 30-minute episodes land on the streamer worldwide on Thursday, April 6.

Is there a trailer? 

Yes indeed. Watch it below.

Who happens in Beef?

Wealthy plant designer Amy Lau (Wong) and struggling handyman Danny Cho (Yeun), a pair of equally strung-out Angelinos, have a near-miss in the car park of a hardware store. She hits the horn of her Mercedes SUV and flicks him the bird. He snaps, tears after her in his pick-up truck and unknowingly sets in train a series of events that will soon come back to bite them both. 

The hapless but hardworking Danny, who packs some serious early-season Jesse Pinkman energy, is close to the end of his tether. His dream of building a dream house for his Korean parents is as distant as ever, his handyman business is failing and he’s all out of cash. Amped up by a stewing sense of unfairness, he has nothing to lose – and everything.

Photograph: NetflixAmy (Ali Wong) plots her next move in episode 1

To heighten the show’s stakes, Amy’s seemingly picture-book life is about to be enhanced by a multimillion dollar buy-out of her business by billionaire tycoon Jordan Forster (Maria Bello). The last thing she needs is the unpredictability and aggro of a livid, vengeance-seeking stranger. 

What follows is a canny, comedic exploration of how dissatisfaction and depression can metastasise into unrestrained anger. It’s charted in a snowballing series of hilarious-horrifying mini-catastrophes. Will someone apply the handbrake before both their lives fall apart?

Photograph: Andrew Cooper/NetflixDanny (Steven Yeun) cuts loose with his brother Paul (Young Mazino) and cousin Isaac (David Choe)

Who stars in Beef?

Playing Danny and Amy are Minari’s Steven Yeun and superstar stand-up Ali Wong. The former will be familiar to fans of The Walking Dead, while Wong broke through via Netflix stand-up special Baby Cobra, and then as a co-writer and star of Netflix’s 2019 romcom Always Be My Maybe. 

Danny’s younger brother, Paul, a gaming pothead looking for guidance, is played by Young Mazino, while artist-musician-actor David Choe is the brothers’ fast-taking, firebrand cousin Isaac. He’s fresh from prison after being implicated in a fire at the Cho’s parents’ motel and is quickly luring Danny into his latest shady schemes.

Joseph Lee plays Amy’s husband George, a mostly zen stay-at-home dad who dabbles in designing Seth Rogen-esque vases. His mum, Fumi (Patti Yasutake), is a thorn in Amy’s side, as is her meddling sister-in-law Naomi (Emily in Paris’s Ashley Park).

Photograph: NetflixSteven Yeun as Danny in episode 1

What’s the deal with the soundtrack?

Although set contemporaneously, the needle drops have a distinctly ’90s and early ’90s feel. Tracks that play out the early episodes include Hoobastank’s ‘The Reason’, The Smashing Pumpkin’s ‘Today’, Bush’s ‘Machinehead’ and ‘Lonely Day’ by System of a Down.

There’s an appearance, too, for Tori Amos’s ‘Cornflake Girl’, which by coincidence also features prominently in season two of Yellowjackets, and Keane’s softboi anthem ‘Somewhere Only We Know’ from 2004.

So why all the Woodstock ’99-era jock-rock anthems? ‘There’s [a] nostalgic element,’ explains showrunner Lee Sung Jin. ‘Part of me feels that because these characters are stuck in their ways and are clinging to things in the past and can’t seem to move forward – it felt appropriate to use these older songs that we haven’t heard in a while.’

‘When I started developing the show the ’90s were not back in the zeitgeist yet, so at the time I thought it was such a novel idea to only have ’90s grunge alternative tracks,’ jokes the showrunner. ‘When I pitched that idea, everyone was like, “That’s crazy!” And now three years later, it feels almost derivative.’

Photograph: NetflixAmy with her husband George (Joseph Lee)

What’s the art on the title cards?

All the cool-but-confronting art works pictured on the title cards at the beginning of each episode are the work of David Choe, who plays Danny’s ex-con cousin Isaac in the show. The one exception is the first episode which opens with Renaissance painter Pieter Aertsen’s ‘A Meat Stall with the Holy Family Giving Alms’, a visual reference to the literal kind of beef (and there’ll be others).

The name of each episode is inspired by a quote from a notable figure, ranging from Werner Herzog (‘The Birds Don’t Sing, They Screech In Pain’) and Simone de Beauvoir (‘The Drama of Original Choice’), to Franz Kafka (‘I Am a Cage’) and Sylvia Plath (‘I Am Inhibited by a Cry’).

Beef launches on Netflix worldwide Thu Apr 6.

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