Mar 17, 2015

TV Recap: Bob's Burgers - "Adventures in Chinchilla-Sitting"

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.

Up front, I will like to admit that I am not at all familiar with Adventures in Babysitting, which is the film that this likely is based off of. I am unaware of its status and if it is a classic. However, I do know that it joins a whole slew of modern parodies like The Warriors, E.T. and The Goonies, which the series has embraced in seasons past. For the most part, the show is great at doing either holiday parodies or riffs on movies. With all of this said, this week's entry is a simple one, but it definitely keeps the season strong with a lot of great gags and once again two great plots roaming side-by-side.
The episode opens with the news that Louise (Kristen Schaal) is forced to take care of the class' chinchilla over the weekend. This makes a fellow student named Wayne (Andy Richter) rather jealous. He gets so jealous that he ends up stopping by the Belcher's house to steal it back. In the process, he leaves the door open and Louise lets the animal out of its cage. As a result, they have to go in search of it all through the night.
But where are the parents? Bob (Jon Benjamin) and Linda (John Roberts) are at trivia night. Bob is hoping to score points for getting questions right on 80's movies. This doesn't actually happen and they fail miserably. However, what happens is that on her way to the bathroom Linda finds a cheat sheet with all of the answers. They get the majority of the remaining questions right. As they get too cocky, they annoy the host and reveal themselves to be cheaters. It made for a great date night, even if they didn't win.
Meanwhile, the kids are being babysat by Tina (Dan Mintz) who is nervous about not being in bed before mom and dad get home. As she searches with Wayne, Gene (Eugene Mirman) and Louise, they come across a series of obstacles. This includes stopping by where Dave (Doug Benson) works, a teenage party and meeting up with Tammy (Jenny Slate) along the way. They end up finding him at a roller rink where he suffers from an epileptic seizure due to the lighting.
When they return to the house before mom and dad, they make a tough decision. Should the chinchilla go home with Wayne or Louise? Louise wins, but she ends up feeling guilt and lets Wayne take care of him. This results in Bob driving her out to his house. This makes him incredibly happy and the results are peaceful.


Rating: 4 out of 5


I cannot vouch to the accuracy of the episode to Adventures in Babysitting. However, what I can say is that this ends up being one of the strongest episodes of the season. While there isn't much point to a lot of it, it is a series of moments tied together in a madcap journey to rescue an animal. It is odd and tightly wound in a way that remains compelling and funny the entire time. If anything, this feels rather reminiscent of "Full Bars" in its ability to adapt source material and turn it into something wholly original and exciting.
I do especially enjoy how things unfold. With Louise's obsession in being the victor against her enemies, the story manages to unfold as this feud between her and Wayne. She wants to be right, but she ends up accepting that Wayne is the better caretaker. What starts off as a petty fight between the two children ends in a surprisingly mature manner. This is likely what makes the episode so good. Where it could just end with Louise having her way, the results show that she is mature enough to realize that some things mean more to other people. When this show has a heart, it manages to work a lot better than it usually does. 
In fact, almost all of the kids are in top form. Gene is great with his one-liners and the growing cast as they look for the chinchilla is excellent. I feel like letting the kids deal with such things as farting in public and hiding from Teddy (Larry Murphy) adds a certain madcap vibe to the show that gets lost in their headier episodes where every plot point feels tied to exposition. In this case, the moments wash together in a way that allows for the absurdity to build in a cat and mouse fashion before ending with an oddly sweet moment. Louise sure has come a long way since the start of the series. Even if she still has a maniacal side, it is nice to know that she doesn't revel in other people's misery if they're well intentioned anymore.
Meanwhile the b-plot is pretty strong as well. Bob and Linda going out on a date night is a story that has been done before. However, the growing insecurity of the date based on the lack of 80's trivia feels nicely meta. The show has embraced 80's culture in an offbeat way and with this being an Adventures in Babysitting parody, it allows for that joke to actually work. The moment that took it over the top was when Linda got the cheat sheet and they were allow to have fun. It may have been juvenile at points, but it still allowed the characters to unwind in one of the most enjoyable forms of the season so far.
As a whole, this season has been one of the stronger ones. They have been more focused and haven't relied on mean spirited humor as much. Maybe the series is finally becoming a little like The Simpsons and embracing its warmth in a way that has given it this very odd five season longevity. Nonetheless, it benefits from a surprisingly strong cast and the supporting players only continue to get more interesting. I'm glad to know that as the show has evolved, it has managed to find its niche and use it to its fullest effect. It also works because even if I don't know the parody, it isn't distracting. That may be this episode's biggest benefit.

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