Mar 10, 2015

TV Recap: Bob's Burgers - "L'il Hard Dad"

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 the season has been very light on Gene (Eugene Mirman) centric episodes, this manages to pick things up and go in interesting directions. I find that when teaming up the Belcher men, things usually end up uncovering a lot of very interesting ground. In this case, it allows for another bonding moment that is over something immaterial and is actually pretty funny. It may not be the most heartfelt of premises, but at least Bob's Burgers knows that sometimes a little Gene can go a long way.
The episode opens with Bob (Jon Benjamin) getting a remote control airplane in the mail. It is a model from the movie True Lies. As he takes it for a test run, he finds that it was a shoddy model and that it quickly breaks. Meanwhile, Tina (Dan Mintz) is reading "Call of the Wild" for a book report and is about to become victim to boots falling on her head from a telephone wire. Gene sees it happen, but he doesn't react. Bob reacts and leaves Gene to have some existential conflicts about himself.
Tina is reading because she has a book report that is due the following day. In a panic, she turns to Linda (John Roberts), who offers her an alternative plan. She says that it would be best to put on a big production to hide the fact that she didn't read. This happens with the help of Linda crafting an elaborate song. Meanwhile, Gene and Bob decide to go to see the seller Sheldon (Dana Snyder), who refuses to give a refund because it was allegedly Bob's fault. After discussing buying another one with a rival company, the two begin to face off against each other in a remote control airplane fight while Bob hangs over the side of a building. Gene watches from below, demanding everyone to stop their fighting.
Gene somehow becomes the hero and saves his father from trouble. Meanwhile, Tina freaks out at the last minute and destroys her elaborate set-up. Since this is in front of the class, she manages to pass it off as performance art and she gets credit for embodying the themes of the play. Her entire family watches from outside the window as Tina gets the good grade.

Rating: 4 out of 5

While I cannot consider Gene to be necessarily the most interesting character, I feel like the series has slowly stopped using him as frequently as they used to. In the past season, he has felt more like a secondary sibling, often serving as nothing more than comedic relief. True, he is still the boy who makes noises with his electric piano. However, I do feel like there's so much more that makes him an interesting character. The aloof remarks surely had to come from somewhere. While we saw it earlier this season, it was more of a kids-centric episode and didn't have time to let Gene be Gene in a way that was at all fully interesting and allowed for something grander to happen.
True, this scenario is not in any sense grand. However, it does feel like a crisis that Gene would have. He needs to feel like he is a responsible adult and finds fault in not being so. It is nice because where Gene could easily seem like a self-centered brat, he ends up having a little bit of a heart and doing something valuable for the team in the process. It also helps that the scenario is reliably ridiculous and milked for laughs at every turn. It is something that does seem plausible given Bob's desire for things, or "the principle" as he puts it, to go the right way. He is an admirable dad to say the least.

Which makes the flip story particularly interesting. Where Bob is seeking honesty, Linda is trying to lie Tina's way through a book report. It involves her familiar showboating and desire to take the spotlight. For the most part, it is Tina having to nervously deal with her mother as they pull together a show that ends up not coming true. In a sense, her refusal to do her mother's routine allows for Tina to have her own moment of honesty that while antithetical, manages to get her a passing grade on the report. It is a nice juxtaposition in terms of the episode's bigger themes on the subject of honesty.
Overall, it has two very strong plots. Where the average episode is overshadowed by one, I feel like this is one of the few that manages to make us care about both coinciding stories without one seeming like filler. I will admit that Bob's story was a lot more interesting than Linda's, but that's only because we're already familiar with Tina and how she handles pressure. Gene is predictable as well, but we hardly have any personal time with him to watch him grow as a character that these moments, as absurd as they could be, end up having a lot more merit than they get initial credit for.
It may not have any resolution that is as heartfelt as other episodes this season, but at least it doesn't skimp on the laughter either. It is refreshing to hear Gene not reserved for nonsequiturs and forced to fit into other stories. For him to have his own story allows for a different kind of sentiment to form. One that feels very creative and exists solely to allow for a very odd relationship to form between father and son. They may each be dysfunctional in different ways, but they still manage to bring out something more compelling about the characters.

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