“Bob’s Burgers” debuted during the TV critics’ press tour, and between the time crunch and my difficulty in deciding how I felt about it, I put off doing a review. But the show has grown on me, to the point where I often tend to watch it before that night’s respective episode of “The Simpsons.” That’s not a knock on “The Simpsons,” which is having one of its stronger latter-day seasons(*), but simply an acknowledgment that even a strong “Simpsons” episode circa 2011 is repeating things the show has done 37 times already, whereas what “Bob’s Burgers” is doing at the moment feels a lot fresher.
(*) The eyeball joke last night was a little too gross for me, but I’ve always had a low gross-out threshhold when it comes to eyeballs.
I have a few thoughts on the show – and then you’re welcome to discuss that, “The Simpsons,” or any of FOX’s Sunday animated comedies – coming up just as soon as I take note of your Adam’s apple…
When I say “fresher,” I don’t exactly mean “newer.” There’s a lot of “Simpsons” DNA in “Bob’s Burgers,” as well as a good amount of “King of the Hill,” and of Loren Bouchard’s own previous shows, “Dr. Katz” and “Home Movies.” But the way Bouchard and company have put the ingredients together, and the characters they’re using, makes it feel unique even as I recognize the individual components.
Specifically, I’m very impressed by how the show manages to be simultaneously weird and heart-warming without one half undercutting the others. A show set in such a strange universe, with a cast of unsettling characters like Bob’s kids, should have a very hard time with showing how sincerely Bob cares about his wife and children, and yet it pulls it off. Bob can wind up as a midnight cabbie-cum-pimp, might be hanging out with transvestite hookers and cleaning up vomit and other unspeakableness in the same episode in which he’s just trying to help his confused, hormonally-compromised daughter Tina(**) have her first kiss, and it all blends together seamlessly. There was a period where “The Simpsons” was a (relatively) down-to-earth family comedy with heart and some stray eccentric elements, and then it transitioned into a more madcap and satirical show that occasionally still had room for heart, but the two types of “Simpsons” stories – sincere and surreal – only occasionally co-exist successfully, where I feel like “Bob’s Burgers” has managed to consistently marry the two.
(**) I love all the voice acting on the show, and am always a sucker for either H. Jon Benjamin or Kristen Schaal, but Dan Mintz as Tina is definitely the breakout performance/character so far on the show. Schaal’s Louise is a (very funny) variation on a type we’ve seen on lots of other family comedies, animated or otherwise, where Tina’s blend of melancholy and discomfort with the changes her body is going through feels like something I haven’t seen in this style of show before – or, at least not seen it done this well. (“Family Guy” occasionally makes fun of Meg’s puberty, but in the same contemptuous way that most “Family Guy” humor works.)
I know the ratings have dipped a bit since the strong premiere numbers, so I’m curious who’s still watching, and how you’re finding the show. And, again, feel free to use this as a space to discuss the state of any or all current Animation Domination series.
What does everybody else think?