Mar 24, 2015

TV Recap: Bob's Burgers - "The Runaway Club"

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.

It seemed inevitable that Bob's Burgers would eventually try and tackle John Hughes. The show is obsessed with 80's films whether they be Jaws or even last week's Adventures in Babysitting episode. This time around, it manages to make for an odd tribute to The Breakfast Club. Is it because the film just turned 30 last month? It has to be. Otherwise, it is a really odd parody to make and one that doesn't entirely work. Still, it's a fun time to see what the kids are up to on a Saturday morning.
The episode opens with Bob (Jon Benjamin) driving his children to school. They are annoyed because they are going to miss a carnival where they can eat cotton candy. Why are they there in the hands of Mr. Frond (David Herman)? Tina (Dan Mintz) got a bracelet and was jealous of Tammy (Jenny Slate), who also had the same one. Mr. Frond did it after a fight broke out and forced the children to all show up to school for detention. Jimmy Pesto (Jay Johnston) also taunts Bob because he only has one kid going to detention.
However, things quickly reveal themselves when Mr. Frond decides to throw a fashion content where the students compete against each other. The catch is that the winner gets to leave early. The Belcher kids team up, all wanting to get to that cotton candy festival. Things go through the rounds as random staff members ask them to make clothes. Tina learns to be a runway model by imitating horses. Jimmy Jr. (Benjamin) and Zeke (Bobby Tisdale) make a couch costume for a staff member who wants to watch a David Schwimmer marathon. Everything is going okay, until Mr. Frond decides to send them all back to class.
Then it becomes a contest of students versus Mr. Frond. As the kids dumpster dive, they pull together outfits that include a lettuce based one that is glued together by peanut butter. The issue is that there isn't enough for the end of the sleeves to stay on. In an effort to win, Tina and Tammy take off their bracelets and combine them to make the winning costume. Mr. Frond is left embarrassed as the kids are allowed to leave right before the principal shows up.
Meanwhile, Bob and Linda (John Roberts) have to deal with Trish (Brooke Dillman), who is trying to raise money for a funny sounding camp. After she guilts them enough, they sign up for subscriptions. Jimmy Pesto finds out and he gets more subscriptions. This ends their little tirade and causes the Belchers to be relieved that everything worked out.

Rating: 3 out of 5

There isn't wrong with the episode. In fact, I like how the credits end with a parody of Simple Minds' "Don't You Forget About Me" where it is called "Don't You Love Cotton Candy?" I like the parody in that sense. However, I don't entirely like the general premise of the episode in which the detention lead to a fashion contest between the students. What was it all for? I don't exactly know. It felt kind of lazy and save for the subversive factor, I didn't really get much out of the ideas that motivated the story through to the conclusion. It felt kind of useless.
With that said, the show is reliable even in moments of bafflement. Once you get past the general idea being a little too much of a stretch, it gets interesting. It forces the kids to work together in interesting ways and their primitive outfits make for some great comedic beats. To watch them struggle to find enough stuff to make outfits for various staff members was pretty fun. Even the lack of commitment from the staff to play along at times made for some great comedic moments.
Of course, the real magic of the episode comes in the petty nature that Tammy and Tina have always shared with each other. This time it was a bracelet that they both happened to be wearing. It was tacky and very childish in ways that fit the characters. I don't entirely like the conclusion, but the choice to play up sentiments allowed for the results to be heartfelt enough where it added a clarity to what the episode was going for. Sure, kids can be rough, but much like "Mazel-Tina," it is all about accepting each other in spite of spite. This is what makes this episode particularly interesting in some respects.
As for the supporting story with the parents, it was fine. I cannot really find much to gripe with. It felt like it was setting up a joke that Jimmy Pesto would be willing to buy more subscriptions because he likes being bigger than the Belchers. This is a pretty good joke, but I didn't feel like there was much more to it. If anything, it felt like an awkward series of moments that were aware that they were filler. Thankfully the crew know how to carry a scene, even ones as inconsequential as this.
Bob's Burgers is reliably strong when it comes to satire and goes to odd places for their substance. I will admit that I would not have considered this route for a Breakfast Club parody. It definitely is one of the more inventive approaches that I have seen. However, I still don't think that it entirely works because I simply don't understand why it needed to happen like it did. However, I do like the episode and Bob's Burgers at its worst is still pretty good, only more sporadic with humor. Still, for a filler episode, this was a lot better than it had any right to be.

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