Feb 13, 2013

TV Recap: Bob's Burgers - "Broadcast Wagstaff School News"

Welcome to TV Recap, in which we look at modern shows and analyze them on an episode-to-episode basis. This one focuses on the cartoon sitcom Bob's Burgers, a very funny show that is capable of rivaling old school Simpsons in terms of irreverent humor and off the wall zaniness. With a cast of modern alternative comedian heroes, the story follows the Belchers as they run a burger joint. Join me as I take part in dissecting the show in its first full season. Check back on Tuesdays for the next exciting installment.

*As stated in the previous installment, I am taking the next two weeks to catch up on Bob's Burgers. Today, we will be looking at "Broadcast Wagstaff School News." The next two installments will come next Tuesday and Wednesday. After this point, the episodes will return to normal releases on Tuesday.
This episode is another Tina (Dan Mintz)-centric episode. This time, we see her turn into an investigative journalist. This is mostly because of Holly Hunter in Broadcast News. However, it is possible that making an episode centered around one of the more awkward characters is a good idea? Does the show offer anything spectacularly interesting when it comes to video journalism like it did nudity?
The episode begins with Tina putting on a green jacket and getting help from Bob (Jon Benjamin) on how best to report. She comes fast and asks ridiculous questions. Before heading out to school, the kids are gathered in the front room of Bob's Burgers to discuss what makes them special. Linda (John Roberts) claims that Louise (Kristen Schaal) and Tina got her extended pinky toe. Gene (Eugene Mirman) claims that he got Linda's child-bearing hips, but is claimed to actually have more in common with Bob. This leads him into an existential crisis involving gaining weight and losing hair. This leads Louise to cut out Gene's hair, and start the process of Gene turning into a miniature version of Bob.
At school, the journalism class is meeting in front of a green screen to test all possible choices. Mr. Grant (Will Forte) is leading the class. Students trying out include Andy (Laura Silverman), Ollie (Sarah Silverman), Tammy (Jenny Slate), and Zeke (Bobby Tisdale). Tammy is trying out for head anchor like Tina. She sabotages her by requesting that Tina talk really slow. Along with her body becoming nothing but a floating head thanks to the green jacket, she essentially doesn't get the part. She is requested to be an assistant to get everyone juice boxes. When she tries to act professional and offer suggestions for stories that matter, they are overthrown by Tammy's choice to get in on hot gossip.
Meanwhile, Tina is talking to janitor Mr. Frond (David Herman), who has a hot lead about something that has been pooping on the second floor of the school. Tina tries to make this news to the staff, but essentially is ignored for broad, lowbrow topics. Louise decides to help Tina turn into an investigative journalist by helping her film by way of an old camera and a video of Gene being born. She claims that it looks like nothing but a softball coming out of a purse.
Meanwhile, Gene is turning into the mini-Bob and freaking Bob out. At first, Bob uses it to his advantage by forcing him to replacing him in a conversation with Teddy (Larry Murphy). However, when Gene begins imitating him and spilling advice to Tina, Bob gets upset. Everyone else is also having problems telling them apart. 
After Tina films a story that shows how the poop is not just coincidence, it begins to become school news. Mr. Grant demands that Tammy go after Tina to try and get her secrets. Meanwhile, the mysterious person has been dubbed the Mad Pooper (or Buttler as Linda puts it). Tammy incriminates Tina with a reenactment video and the entire Wagstaff News department telling fake stories of how she was responsible for the whole thing. This gets to the point where she is called into the principal's office, where her parents are also called.
However, Tina also gets wind of the possibility that the Mad Pooper is planning to attack at an anti-smoking assembly that also involves juggling. She investigates after Louise creates a distraction. She finds an operating crane and decides to go towards the ceiling of the gym, where she believes that the Mad Pooper is hiding. Suddenly, it is discovered to be Zeke. He tries to poop onto the stage from a suspended passageway to an enthusiastic crowd. This also gets Gene to break character and become a kid again.
Louise ends up pushing Tammy out of the way of the flying poop mistakenly. Tina also gets enough respect to land her own segment on the journalism show. Zeke doesn't get in trouble because his family moves around a lot. It ends with the Belchers watching the broadcast and being proud of Tina for her new position, even if she is consistently wearing the green jacket that suspends her head in the background.

Rating: 4 out of 5

This is a peculiar episode, as it continues a belief of mine that the show is somehow masterful at censoring itself. Last week, it managed to avoid the nudity clause in a very clever way. This week, we have a central plot around poop, but never is there really an interference of the matter seen onscreen. It is always implied. In some ways, it helps the show to maintain a certain level of dignity and therefore actually makes it stronger. The fact that the poop is just as unseen as the Mad Pooper adds to the quality of the show and its choice not to sink to graphic, vulgar humor a'la Family Guy. It also helps it to maintain a sense of wonder and innocence. 
Still, I think the more interesting aspect of the show is how journalism is depicted among children. It may be a stretch to believe that a teacher would actually call the 5W's to include "Whu-what?" but the rest seems almost too meta in choosing to report on the declination of journalism as a credible source of news. By showing scenes in which Gene gets hit by a dodgeball with ridiculous music playing over, it manages to encapsulate the child-like nature in which journalism has become. It has turned into a gossip show with lowbrow jokes and empty-headed anchors. Also, the choice not to report on hard hitting news only shows how insignificant it feels at times.
Still, the choice for Tina to be the hero in the story seems more of a triumph for a character that feels often times pushed around. She may not like Tammy, but instead of doing her normal routine of backing out, she decides to take her own route, with help from Louise. She reports the facts and provides the interviews. She becomes a hero that hopefully will be seen many more times before the show ends. She may not have an intimidating factor to her, but her desire to have rational discussions with Tammy as she is ramping up just show how levelheaded Tina actually is, despite all of her bizarre fantasies.
I am also pretty happy with the results of Gene as a mini-Bob. Gene is already a mixed up kid with no sense of identity. To try and imitate Bob only leads to a sense that he is going to be him. In fact, he looks kind of like him with that mustache.His words of wisdom and belief that he is the father to his sisters is perverse and crazy, but is a gimmick that works for the episode. In a sense, this is an episode in which Gene tried to find personality as a way of connecting with his father, even if it doesn't seem as blatant. It doesn't work out in the end, but I believe that it leaves a moral that you need to follow your own path.
The journalism aspect of the show may not have seemed as inspired as many other show's attempts at the same subject (notably the Simpsons and South Park), but it delivered a solid episode nonetheless. It didn't really bond the family as well as "Nude Beach," but I am beginning to feel more and more like Tina is a good person who just needs to stand up for herself more. While the ending is a little ridiculous, I still feel like even the humdrum episodes this season have something of strong merit to say, and overall is proving to be quite the great animated cartoon we need on a major network.

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