Dec 10, 2013

TV Recap: Bob's Burgers - "Bob and Deliver"

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.

With the family dynamic firmly in place after four seasons, it is great to see the show finally integrate their characters more into the school. While we have seen the students interact in the school, it almost seems wrong to have never had the parents step foot at Wagstaff. However, everything is about to change and it ends up producing one of Bob's (Jon Benjamin) best episodes in which he doesn't hallucinate or get spat upon by his family or friends. It is the moment when we see Bob do something besides cook.
The episode begins with Bob getting ready for the first day of substitute teaching at Wagstaff in the home economics class. After picking out clothes with his kids, he gets there only to discover that the very idea of teaching the class is a nightmare. Zeke (Bobby Tisdale) especially makes the class a nightmare and causes him to seek solace from fellow teacher Mr. Frond (David Herman). He soon discovers that home economics isn't just a cooking class, but a place where they stick the dumb kids to hopefully learn to make ice. Along with Zeke, Tina (Dan Mintz) is in the class.
As time goes on, Bob figures out how to connect with his class. After a lunch lady attempts to be mean to him, he decides to make a competing business. After the lunch lady refuses to give him eggs, he makes a restaurant out of the home economics classroom, using dishes from Bob's Burgers and the assistance of the students, who grow more enthusiastically as they find out the joys of cooking. However, Tina finds it a little offensive and transfers to shop.
Meanwhile, Linda (John Roberts) decides to teach Teddy (Larry Murphy) how to dance for a wedding. He slowly evolves from a bumbling fool into a full fledged boogie machine. He gains confidence over time and even begins to convince strange customers to dance with him. It may seem strange to Bob as he keeps coming back and forth to pick up dishes, but it gives Linda something to do, so who cares?
Back at Wagstaff, Bob has to deal with a lot of problems. The lunch lady is growing increasingly upset by the decision to make a competitive business. Even Mr. Platt (Brian Huskey) threatens to shut down his home economics restaurant. As things continue, Bob is forced to do just that, but not without students standing on their desks and reenacting the Dead Poets Society "Oh captain, my captain" routine by pouring uncooked popcorn onto the tables. It gets Bob thinking and soon he attempts to get things back up and running.
However, as he gets a cart to wheel supplies around, he finally notices that Tina is missing. He searches for her in metal shop, where she isn't making too many friends. As they run the cart around, a wheel goes loose and is only saved by a piece of metal that Tina had welded together. As they make it to the cafeteria for a moment of glory, the Mr. Platt fires him and the restaurant is permanently shut down. He also learns the joys of children, as he thanks Tina for saving the day with her piece of metal.

Rating: 4 out of 5

I will admit that I am conflicted on the subplot of this week's episode. What was the essential nature of it besides giving Linda something to do? It wasn't necessarily lacking in quality, but it was also very one note. Teaching Teddy to dance has some merit at first, but eventually it is just a matter of making him look ridiculous while moving. I guess if it is judged merely as filler, it is tame and acceptable. However, it did lead to a hilarious credits sequence in which he gets sick in a bounce house. It is a nice change of pace to see them go from doing songs over the credits to extended gags. In fact, this may be one of the few episodes without any music in it. While it is dumb to think that the show is lazy, it does seem eerie. Will we be seeing random events over the credits in the future?
I also kind of love that Bob became adored for his cooking in a way that exactly parodied Dead Poets Society. I feel like while the Belchers have managed to develop strongly as a knit family, they don't seem to interact in each other's lives, notably the students. Usually one is stuck in the subplot field. Here, we get to see Bob join forces at Wagstaff and create something fun and inventive. It is almost like a revolution that wasn't good enough to last. Even Zeke's density wasn't problematic and more served as a voice against Bob's high ambitions made even more funny by it being a lower division school. Even there, Bob dreams of making it big.
In a lot of ways, this episode doesn't remind me of the Simpsons, but King of the Hill. That series featured numerous episodes where parental figure Hank had to deal with issues at son Bobby's school. We got a sense of what made the educational system work and the motives as parents. How did they raise their children and make them function? It was a dynamic that gave the show depth and intelligence. Even if "Bob and Deliver" lacks the high octane power of their crazier episodes, it does feel grounded in making us understand what Bob wants out of his kids and the school that they go to. There is a sense of urgency and care.
There's also great potential in the lunch lady, provided that she returns. Much like Regular Sized Rudy, there is a chance that this expansion of the universe will become more endearing over time. They may seem rather one note now, but the community aspect has elevated many performers. Where Teddy and Mr. Fischoeder started out sort of flat, they have evolved to sympathetic and humorous sidekicks. Bob's Burgers continues to expand on the world with a lunch lady that is pretty ruthless and probably not that great of an employee. I don't want the school to just be a rundown place of corruption, but I wouldn't mind meeting the rest of the strange people that reside there.
This isn't an episode that works because of relationships, but more because of the dynamic. Save for Linda's subplot, this was a moment for Bob to serve as the audience and understand the school. Not as a student who has a more skewed vision of their educational system, but an adult who is isolated from daily experiences and can commentate with concern. I would love to see Wagstaff get more credit in the future. As for now, "Bob and Deliver" may be one of the most solid Dead Poets Society parodies in awhile, if just for the idea that shutting down a cafeteria could potentially work. It's not like they serve great food anyways.

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