Nov 12, 2013

TV Recap: Bob's Burgers - "My Big Fat Greek Bob"

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.


It seemed strange that as Bob's Burgers would go through the line of tropes that it would take so long to do an episode based around college pranks. While it is something familiar to that of the Simpsons, I do feel like the episode does have plenty to offer in the way of laughs, and it does manage to bring the family dynamic to new, interesting places. Maybe it isn't the most interesting episode, but putting the Belchers in different environments does make for some interesting results.
The episode begins with Bob (Jon Benjamin) getting called up to a frat house to be a cook while another one is away. The frat ends up being one of the lame groups full of nerds, notably Turd (Kurt Braunohler), Hefty Jeff (Hannibal Buress) and Pud (Dana Snyder). Even if Bob is initially turned off by the group, he is quickly accepted when he begins to offer them priviliges, including getting back at the Alpha frat house that toilet-papered their house and forced them to accept their weaknesses. There's even several cult actions, including Beta, an iguana who was hollowed out and made into a beer dispenser. There's also a karaoke corner made by a former frat member named Dr. Yap (Ken Jeong) for very special purposes.
Meanwhile, Linda (John Roberts) is left with the kids as she participates in a group activity involving ladies' goods. Things quickly turn awkward as Gretchen (Larry Murphy) introduces vibrators into the mix. She is selling them and quickly seeks assistance from Linda to coax people into buying them. While she ditches the kids, she becomes enthused with selling vibrators, as she feels like she is making friends.
The kids end up getting stuck with Bob and the fraternity. After discovering that there is a room of secrets, the kids begin to wonder what's inside and tries to break in. Meanwhile, Dr. Yap comes back to discuss the rise in pranks on the fraternity and how they need to fight back. He decides to go after the Dean Dixon (Jonathan Katz) at an assembly that is being held. The group is slowly talked into it, if only as a way to get back at them for stealing and abusing their Beta while sending back photos.
One thing leads to another and the kids discover that the room of secrets is mostly a laundry room. Also, it features Beta and a whole lot of random things. When brought to Bob's attention, he tries to convince everyone not to go through with Yap's plan: to have a keg of spit blow up on the Alphas and get back at them once and for all. 
After interrupting Dean Dixon's speech, he gets the group's attention and they refuse to. That is, for everyone except Yap, who goes through with the mission. Instead of getting Dixon covered in spit, he gets Bob covered. Defeated, he is expelled for being involved in the prank. As he returns to feed the fraternity at Bob's Burgers, he discovers that Linda's group of friends are still there, dancing and shaking vibrators in the air.


Rating: 3.5 out of 5



Much like "Broadcast Wagstaff School News," this feels like an episode that only works because of the mystery surrounding it. Even if the introduction into the plot is familiar, there is very little mystery at the front that would make this seem like an exciting episode. Sure, Bob manages to make the most of a ridiculous situation. He drinks beer out of an iguana's anus and gets covered in spit. Maybe the latter was a little much and makes Bob's punishment this week seem a little harsh, but these set pieces are rather strong examples of how effectively Bob's Burgers infused college humor into this week's episode.
While it isn't an outright, raunchy Animal House-style satire, it does feel like a college film as fused through the series. The losers even have a lot of things established that makes the payoff slightly more rewarding than a series of jokes. The toiler papered house that ends up being used as literal toilet paper was genius, and only shows just how desperate these people are. Even if they don't stand out as quintessential nerd-bait as the show suggests, it does make them seem lesser and likely to be the victims of bullying.
The only thing that could have been changed is the Linda story line. While not necessarily boring, it felt like there wasn't much there beyond being edgy by showing vibrators on a local channel. It had some charm, but it went essentially nowhere and almost seemed to be dumped halfway through only to come back as a joke at the end. In fact, the episode could have arguably been stronger had it focused more on the fraternity and given us a sense of who the opposing frat was. We are aware of their pranks, but without any strong representation, save for Dean Dixon and the presence of a cop (David Herman), we don't really understand the mechanics of the college. Maybe it was intentional, but it only made Dr. Yap's overall demise as the villain seem more predictable.
Though it is admirable to make Dr. Yap into the bad guy. Besides being a really creepy dentist that may come back later, he just wants to be loved as a typical college frat guy. He ruins his own frat's world in order to motivate. There is something admirable and endearing about that, even if he is kind of pathetic simultaneously. Along with the room of secrets, this episode had plenty of surprises that paid off, though it almost felt too simple, probably due to having a b-story cut in between moments. 
I will admit that it moved quickly and effectively, though this episode was essentially a Bob episode. Even if the kids and Linda were involved in some ways, this was all about Bob getting to live a fantasy. We get to see him almost have some form of a youthful joy in his life, and that made the moments work. Sure, his increasing age is a detriment at points to how weird it looks, but in a pathetic frat, he appears to be king, and that is something to applaud. He quickly makes it up the ranks and is a hero of sorts. Bob needs to be a hero more often, if just to keep it from feeling like he is being punished for his family's issues.
It was a solid, though not great, episode that was plenty funny. It didn't offer too much new to the college humor world, but with this being one of Bob's Burgers more average episodes, it is a relief that it manages to be successful at all. Even if the mystery is weak, it gives the episode something to strive for and ends up making the moments stronger. The reveals and set-ups are ingenious, especially for a comedy of this nature. If last season brought us Regular Sized Rudy, hopefully Dr. Yap will be part of the recurring roster somewhere down the line. He is too great to pass up.s

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