Jan 28, 2014

TV Recap: Bob's Burgers - "Easy Com-Mercial, Easy Go-Mercial"

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.

In what feels like Fox's own way of promoting next week's Super Bowl, Bob's Burgers participates in making their episode somewhat Super Bowl-centric. Where The Simpsons opened with almost four minutes of football content before changing story, Bob's Burgers attempted to make an episode around one of the most beloved past times: gathering at restaurants to watch the game and heckle the moves on screen. But what about from the standpoint of a business? Is Bob's Burgers capable of being more than just a little burger joint with a TV? In a sense, it does, but only in modest terms in making an episode that unites the family in a common cause.
The episode begins with Bob (Jon Benjamin) and the family staring out the window at Pesto's Pizza across the street. They are trying to figure out why Jimmy (Jay Johnston) is starting his Super Bowl advertising so early. It gets the family thinking and soon they decide that the best way to fight this is to start up their own advertisement. Bob decides to withdraw $3000 from savings in order to fund a commercial, which he believes will pay off doubly. 
With the commercial, Tina (Dan Mintz) wants to get Jimmy Jr. (Benjamin) to notice her. Louise (Kristen Schaal) wants to get her work recognized and decides to write a script that they will shoot. Gene (Eugene Mirman) is withstanding from going to the bathroom in order to do what he calls a "Super Bowel," or a really massive evacuation of his bowels after holding it in for days on end. Linda (John Roberts) doesn't care for it. However, the family quickly throws out ideas before finally coming up with one that works. They will shoot a commercial with a song.
They hire Randy (Paul F. Tompkins) for the job, who is an amateur filmmaker and someone who has a lot of problems with Louise's take on the project. They film several shots that include the family and Teddy (Larry Murphy), but Bob becomes convinced that the footage is terrible. While he promised to make the trailer based around his family, he quickly decides to hire Teddy's friend Sandy (Jordan Peele), who is a former football player and master of the can-can. 
After the reshoots, the commercial revolves heavily around Sandy. This gets the entire family upset at Bob and he is left to his own devices. He soon discovers that Sandy also filmed a video for Jimmy. This happened when Sandy left Bob's Burgers and headed over to Pesto's Pizza to get some delicious snacks. Over the course of a conversation, Sandy revealed that he was doing commercials. In fact, Jimmy spited Bob so much that it lead to him plagiarizing the phrase "____ goes good with Frye." 
When Bob unplugs Jimmy's multiple TV's broadcasting the Super Bowl, he tries to defend himself and tear down Jimmy. Slowly he realizes that the commercial was a bad call and soon he is getting slung with meatballs. This gets the family's attention, who come over support him. As the day continues, Gene finally goes to the bathroom and unleashes the Super Bowel. It doesn't go well, as it clogs the toilet. It forces Jimmy out of business for the day and leaves Bob's Burgers with some leftover customers, though admittedly only three.

Rating: 4 out of 5

I will be honest that when considering the fact that Animation Domination seemed to be forced to do Super Bowl episodes, it did make my enthusiasm for this episode dampen a little bit. It felt more forced than natural, though it seemed more blatant with The Simpsons. Here, Bob's Burgers managed to make it work by turning a story about a commercial into something that defines what the show's strengths are: family. As the song playing over the closing credits suggests, Bob's Burgers runs as a family and nothing else. This episode saw petty jealousy to be better than their competition get the best of them. It put Bob as the outcast and thus forced us to analyze what makes the Belcher family so likable in the first place.
The show's appeal has largely been in how rough around the edges it can be. For instance, very few of the songs have high production values. It feels very D.I.Y. in execution compared to the equally crude drawings of the veteran shows. However, that is its charm. In a sense, the commercial was commenting on the quality of the show in some brilliant subtext way. While the trailer itself looks rugged on the screen, there is some charm to them. If you remove it and make it about the starts, as witnessed by the Sandy commercial, it loses its charm and becomes very stilted. Bob's final cries may as well be the show saying that they hope never to sell out to the big times in order to sell more.
While I don't feel the analogy works if you consider Pesto's Pizza a larger entity, it does feel like this subtext gives the episode more weight. Think about it, Gene makes poop and pee jokes at varying points of this episode. This isn't meant to be the mainstream hit that needed a former football star. It had plenty of esteem to survive on its own. It never felt right in the other ways because it would just be accused of plagiarism.
There isn't much to dissect as far as the commercial goes otherwise. It is the show having fun and making every joke possible. It makes plenty of mistakes in the process, but we have come to embrace those moments. Even the final Super Bowel moment feels like a literal shit on Fox for forcing them to make a Super Bowl episode in the first place. It may put them out of business temporarily, but it does give them a few new customers along the way. 
Whether this dissection is spot on or far off, it does feel nice to know that the Belcher family are an alternative to the Super Bowl nonsense that seems to be pumped into every Fox show right now. While it did provide us with the great Sandy gag of being in everyone's commercials, I do feel like this is one of those episodes that if dissected correctly, could be one of the more profound episodes in the show's catalog, even if that is among some juvenile jokes. 

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