For my last post I tried to figure out what I disliked about the pilot of what sounded like a great show; now I’m trying to figure out what I love about the pilot of a show that sounds hopelessly derivative.
The first time I saw the pilot of Bob’s Burgers, when it debuted on January 9, 2011, I was bored to tears. Hearing H. Jon Benjamin‘s voice and not LMAO off is actually a little disorienting. But his character, Bob Belcher is just a dumpy, boring guy; another animated oaf with a family of five. I’ve only stuck with the show–and I’m guessing I’m not alone in this–because it’s sandwiched into the middle of Fox’s Animation Domination. Ratings are good but critical reaction is less than stellar.
Somehow, the show has grown on me, and when the pilot re-aired recently, I found myself cracking up. It’s definitely one of those shows–like The Office–that gets funnier the more you feel like you know the characters.
The pilot is set during Labor Day weekend, as the Belcher family restaurant is prepping for it’s grand re- re- re-opening. The whole family is part of the act; the three kids are left in the restaurant to welcome the onslaught of business while husband Bob (Benjamin) and wife Linda (John Roberts) grind meat–not a euphemism–in the basement. We also learn that it is Bob and Linda’s anniversary, which he has forgotten, and she optimistically reads his ignorance as a ruse. From their conversation we learn that they have worked hard for their little family business, even on their wedding night–again, not a euphemism.
One of the primary tasks of this pilot is to establish its mashup of family and workplace comedy. Many of the jokes stem from the supporting characters’ dual roles as Bob’s offspring and employees. “My crotch is itchy,” reports Tina. Bob’s response: “Are you telling me as my grill cook or as my daughter?”
Like King of the Hill, for which Executive Producer Jim Dauterive was a writer, the show has a slower pace than the Seth McFarlane panoply has conditioned us for. The charters even talk a little slowly. What’s gotten really old, though, is shows with fat guy protagonists who mistreat their wives and kids.
Bob’s kids are horrible. They were described (accurately) by an IGN reviewer as “two Barts and a Milhouse.” The eldest, Tina, (Dan Mintz) is the Milhouse, shuffling around scratching her genitals and mumbling.
Louise: “She’s autistic, she can’t help it.”
Tina: “Yeah, I’m autistic.”
Bob: “You’re not autistic, Tina.”
Middle child Gene (Eugene Mirman) is the showman, happily donning a giant burger suit and using a noise-maker to attract/harass customers. We learn that youngest daughter Louise (Kristen Schaal) has told her class at school that her family’s burgers contain human meat. Throwing a wrench into plans for a profitable weekend, a pasty-faced health inspector, who turns out to be an ex-boyfriend of Linda’s, slaps up a yellow warning sign until he can conduct a test on the meat. Only when the lovesick inspector works through his issues can the day be saved.
So, we’ve got horrible kids, a wife who’s a little off, but here’s the thing. As on King of the Hill, the husband is the grounded center around which the lunatics revolve. He’s imperfect–he forgets important dates from his wedding anniversary to his own birthday. Still, he’s basically a good, hardworking guy trying to make an honest living. He’s likable, something we cynics are so used to anymore. So, just don’t compare him to Archer, who despite sharing a voice, is his polar opposite, and you might find that he and his brood are pretty funny.