In The Patient, the great new Hulu show from the creators of The Americans, Steve Carell plays Dr. Alan Strauss. His silver hair is immaculately coiffed, and his salt-and-pepper beard has not a single hair out of place. He’s friendly, warm, and easy to talk to, all the perfect elements of a great therapist. He even wears a comforting cardigan.
Despite his innocuous, calming nature, things don’t go particularly well for Dr. Strauss. He awakens one morning chained to a bed in the basement of one of his patients, who demands the therapist help curb his unstoppable desire to kill.
In a show where he’s prisoner to a killer, desperate to escape alive, Carell comes across as one thing: sexy. Yes, what I’m saying is that Steve Carell has absolutely never been hotter than he is in The Patient, a very un-sexy show.
I know that may sound… unhinged, but hear me out: I simply couldn’t stop thinking about how tremendously handsome Carell as Dr. Strauss is, even as he spends the series chained to a bed in a murderer’s basement. Or, honestly, maybe that’s one of the many reasons why.
Since The Patient is a deliciously twisty two-hander, we spend a tremendous amount of time with Carell’s Dr. Strauss. It’s our most intimate look at Carell as a performer since he was on The Office, and it’s a phenomenal experience. He has never felt more tantalizingly accessible than he has here—and no, that’s not because he’s unable to leave the room he’s stuck in. Carell is so hot as Strauss not only of his dreamy looks and fatherly charisma, but because he’s open, honest, and strives every day to be a better person. He’s not a victim, despite his situation, and he’s not a martyr either. Instead, he’s a fully realized person.
The show makes it clear that Strauss is by no means perfect. He’s had difficulties in keeping his family together, and at times, it’s threatened to consume him. This vulnerability is vital to getting to what makes this character so desirable. Perfection is nice to think about, but it gets boring quickly, and how can anybody develop further in life if they’re (allegedly) perfect?
That said, he definitely looks perfect. Strauss is beautifully put together, the kind of guy that takes a certain pleasure in taking care of himself. I can see him taking the time to get a mani-pedi, opting for a more expensive haircut, and some artisan beard oil to keep everything looking fresh. Carell is rarely seen in movies or on television with facial hair, and his salt and pepper beard looks so swelteringly sexy that it’s a marvel it hasn’t prominently featured in every single appearance, and it also feels like there’s a chiseled jawline just waiting to be unleashed beneath it.
The show has an almost playful self-awareness about how handsome he is. Strauss definitely knows he’s a good-looking guy, but he’d never dream of flaunting it: He’s far more interested in listening to your thoughts and lifting you up at every opportunity. A nice guy who isn’t creepy and is a good listener? If you’re not sweating yet, you’re a liar.
While he cares about maintaining a good appearance (and boy, does he!), Strauss never once gives the impression that he’s vain. He’s a family man and a dedicated therapist, first and foremost. Not only does he give the vibe of being a man who will cook you all your favorite meals while listening to your problems, but he’s also ferocious. Yes, Dr. Strauss is clearly ready to eviscerate anyone who crosses you. As they say on the internet, he protec, but he also attac.
If that’s not enough, there’s a scene where he tries to unlock his chains with a plastic fork with such ferocity and energy that I almost passed out from how hot I was getting. He’s willing to fight for you—and he’s willing to fight for himself, too.
There’s also something specifically about Carell’s character here that makes me so hot and bothered: Strauss is Jewish. His recently deceased wife was even the cantor at their synagogue. There will likely be some controversy over Carell, a non-Jewish person, playing a Jewish character, particularly in a role where his Jewish identity is so important. But Carell’s performance is never offensive; his approach to playing a Jewish American man is empathetic and thoughtful. Most importantly, it allows me as a Jewish person to live in the fantasy of bringing this version of Steve Carell home to my parents, who would be ecstatic that I’ve brought a lovely, successful, Jewish therapist home. It’s a win for everyone!
Watching the actor play such a complex, unyieldingly hot character like Dr. Strauss got me thinking about what Carell is like outside of my fantasies. He is practically non-existent on social media; it might just be the sexiest thing about him. I think it’s fair to say that happy, well-adjusted rich people have absolutely no need to tweet about their daily lives, post inconsequential selfies on Instagram, or participate in the latest TikTok trend. Instead, it’s easy to imagine Carell relaxing on his couch, eating something so fancy that I don’t even know it exists, hanging with his kids, and having not a care in the world. His ability to maintain such a private life helps round out the fantasy that Carell is truly the man of my dreams.
Yeah, Steve Carell is a human being, and he probably isn’t as carefree as he is in my dreams. But that’s okay! I’m willing to listen to his problems, as he’ll surely listen to mine. Accounts of those who’ve worked with him have mentioned over and over again how tremendous a person he is, both in front of the camera and off-set. On the podcasts Office Ladies, hosted by Carell’s former The Office co-stars Jenna Fischer and Angela Kinsey, and The Office Deep Dive, hosted by Brian Baumgartner, all three hosts have waxed poetic about what an incredible guy he is.
Melora Hardin, who played one of Carell’s lovers on The Office, said on The Office Deep Dive, “Immediately, I loved working with Steve… I was so relieved and so grateful and excited whenever the cameras would roll. I felt like Steve was very playful with me on camera as far as his ability to give and take.” Give and take? I need a moment. This praise adds fuel to the sexy fire proclaiming Carell as Hollywood’s secretly hottest hottie.
Except it’s not actually so secret, in my opinion. He may not have the chiseled appearance that gets a guy hired for a major blockbuster, but these days, a six-pack is not required for sexiness. (That said, there’s something mighty tantalizing about Carell’s costuming in The Patient, which lets you believe that he has the musculature to lift you like a barbell.) Lots of people love a nice, funny, awkward guy! Even if that’s not strange unto itself, though, The Patient stands out as the first time Carell has been allowed to be hot. And that’s one of Hollywood’s biggest shames.
Take his most famous role, for instance: everyone’s (least-)favorite manager, Michael Scott. While he becomes more likable over the course of The Office, Michael’s very frequently the butt of the joke. He’s mocked by his subordinates for telling absurd jokes, wearing women’s suits, and making one terrible decision after another. Even when his smarmy, unflattering Season 1 hair makes way for a much more appealing cut—and he ends up sleeping with his hot, powerful boss—Michael is always seen as a goofball.
The times when he’s had the chance to prove his Hollywood heartthrob potential, the films didn’t fully allow it. In The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Carell plays Andy, a dorky tech store worker who hasn’t come anywhere close to having sex, despite very much wanting to. The film takes him through a fun spin on a makeover, the highlight of which comes when he gets his (significant) body hair waxed. It’s hysterical, but the goal is clearly to laugh at Andy, whose experience is amusingly torturous. His transformation is more from “total dork” to “somewhat cute dork” in the film; while there are flashes of sexual energy (he does lose his virginity by the end!), it’s always in the form of a joke.
In Crazy, Stupid Love, Carell is a recent divorcé that gets help from a sex connoisseur (Ryan Gosling) to become the kind of guy that all ladies want to sleep with. It’s the closest Hollywood has come to acknowledging Carrell’s sexual charisma. But it’s swallowed up by this concept of Cal being a loveable, comforting doofus, someone who needs legitimate hunk Gosling to teach him how to get laid. In these films, Carell needs a makeover to gain any sort of attractiveness; in The Patient, he gets to look sexy and suave from the first shot.
The Patient isn’t just a fantastic opportunity to showcase what a wonderful actor he is, but it’s also a golden opportunity to announce to the world that Steve Carell is incredibly sexy. If The Patient, a show where Carell is a freaking prisoner fighting for survival can embrace his hot guy era, it’s time for other projects to take notice. Long live our sexy, vulnerable, and maybe even attainable king.