Apr 8, 2014

TV Recap: Bob's Burgers - "I Get Psy-Chic Out of You"

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.

While Bob's Burgers has never been one to be up-to-date with its concepts, it does seem strange for the series to tackle the idea of somebody being psychic. With notable examples on The Simpsons and South Park having mined the category more than five years ago, it seems like there isn't that many fresh ideas out there. However, much like their brilliant E.T. parody last season, they are willing to be creative and find something new and even fresh about the concept, even if the episode isn't all that climactic as a result.
The episode opens with Linda (John Roberts) fixing a TV hanging on the wall. She is using the counter as a footstool and everyone is growing paranoid that she may fall off. She manages to fix the signal, but upon standing on the ground, she trips and bumpers her head. She is soon able to predict several situations, including Mort's (Andy Kindler) missing wallet and that Bob (Jon Benjamin) will fall down a flight of stairs. It doesn't all happen, but when she begins to mention these things, she gains confidence and believes that she is psychic.
After solving the case of a missing statue at the pier, she joins up with Sergeant Bosco (Gary Cole) to solve a case involving a thief who dresses up as little children. Things don't go entirely well as he buys her hot dogs and waits for her to give ideas. Instead, she gets really gassy and burps a lot. Bob is paranoid to walk around stairs on the grounds that he may fall. The case isn't going well and Linda takes a break to stop by Bob's Burgers for a conversation with Bob. This results in everyone coming over to yell at her because her predictions were wrong.
Meanwhile, the kids decide to go with Teddy (Larry Murphy) to the race track after tricking Linda into giving them horse bets. During the break in the race, Tina (Dan Mintz) decides to ask the jockey for an autograph. While looking through his bag for a pen, things fall out relating to the case, which causes Teddy to call Bob and inform him that the thief was actually disguised as a jockey this whole time. Cop cars show up on the track to arrest him.
Back at Bob's Burgers, the family gets together and has a revelation that Linda is not psychic at all. She is even beginning to think that maybe she was just using common sense to figure things out. She recalls all of the clues that caused her to figure things out. As she is coming to terms with her new found vulnerability, Bob leaves the room and goes down a flight of stairs where he falls, asking Gene (Eugene Mirman) to come help him.

Rating: 3 out of 5

This is not necessarily a complex episode nor is it a particularly involved one. It tells a straightforward story that relies on a simple gimmick: Linda's naivety. This isn't meant to be a knock, as all Bob's Burgers episodes do not need to push boundaries nor do clever tricks within the constructs of an animated series. The simple twist that the jockey was also the thief is enough of a clever moment to allow this episode to work. It may have not been set up all that well, but it doesn't matter. This one is meant to be all the more fun.
I will admit that Linda is somewhat problematic when she is the central character. This is notably because she is the most aloof of the Belcher family and there isn't much one could do with her to work around that. At least when Bob is around, there is a sense of logic that could be applied to an episode. Linda by herself seems somewhat of a hopeless character unsure what to do with herself. Working with the sergeant was great and all, but with the joke being that she wasn't a psychic or at very least a terrible psychic, the punchline wasn't as gratifying as it could have been. Her victory came at the hands of someone else and even then, the episode was solved without her. That kind of is a shame.
There isn't much really to discuss other than this episode's strengths lied more in the jokes. In particular, the idea that Tina could pull off doing Gene's jokes. There's something inherently funny about trying to switch up the dynamics. Even the idea that Tina loves horse racing and wants the jockey to sign autographs like a horse has plenty of great undertones. I also like the idea of Teddy as a responsible babysitter in this universe. Hopefully we'll be getting more of that as time goes on.
Even if the episode was full of predictable moments, it still managed to pack a lot of weight with the characters. They all admit that Linda is a terrible psychic. Unfortunately, this is a joke that was popularized back in the 00's, especially with the South Park episode "Cartman's Incredible Gift," which took the idea of celebrity psychics to a new, perverse level. By comparison, this episode does little of interest with it other than to suggest the obvious: that it is empty and doesn't do much. One is better noticing clues in real than actually pretending to have visions. In this regards, Bob's Burgers fails. However, it still knows how to use its characters, so that is perfectly fine.

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