Apr 28, 2015

TV Recap: Bob's Burgers - "The Itty Bitty Ditty Committee"

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's been over a month since we last checked in with Bob's Burgers. While this is the norm for Fox during baseball season, it didn't make sense why this happened at this moment, save for the roll out of their new hit The Last Man on Earth. The one benefit is that the show still manages to maintain its muster with an episode centered around Gene (Eugene Mirman) that focuses on what I have been wanting to see for some time, at least since "The Unbearable Like-Likeness of Gene" last season in which his musician skills are brought into question. How does he handle quitting his passion? Well, it kind of has great results.
In order to muster up business for Bob's Burgers, the kids are out front performing music with Louise (Kristen Schaal) and Tina (Dan Mintz) playing straws while Gene plays his keyboard. It is rallying up attention, but nobody is going inside. As the word spreads, Trev (David Herman) and Regular Sized Rudie (Brian Huskey) join the band. Darryl (Aziz Ansari) is also in the band as a singer. As they practice, they begin to realize that Gene is a one trick pony. He is unable to play more than one key. As the band gets picked to play at a birthday party, this creates conflict and the Belcher siblings get kicked out of the band.  
This throws Gene into an emotional turmoil and a desire to quit his musical passion. It is hard, especially since even his methods to think of ways to not play involve song. 
Meanwhile Linda (John Roberts) is having problems with her armpits. She is forming a rash and must find a way to take care of them. She stops shaving. She begins wearing a tank top to let their air out. When Hugo (Sam Seder) finds out about it, she is forced to wear a hair net equivalent. She begins to try random online remedies to combat her problems and eventually solves them. However, she is not interested in shaving her armpits anymore.
As Gene realizes that he has no choice but to play music, he turns to a music teacher in order to learn how to become a master. When he realizes that it will take longer than the two days he has to become the best, he gives up. Louise and Tina convince him to play out in front of the restaurant yet again and everything is back to normal. The band hires him back because they realize that it isn't the same without him. The crowd that has formed outside of Bob's Burgers follows them to the party. The credits end with Gene playing one of his band's original songs about burgers and fries.


Rating: 4 out of 5


Here is one of the odd problems with Bob's Burgers. For all of the great moments that Gene has had, he can be quite the background character of the Belcher siblings for most weeks. With Louise and Tina getting the better stories this season, it seems like Gene is reduced to the familiar punchlines that while funny, don't really expand his character or makes him feel all that necessary. He is still endearingly weird, but if he's not central to the plot, he is more problematic than necessary. Thankfully, this episode highlights how to use Gene well.
As I have stated earlier, I do think that there's something to exploring Gene as a confused artist. There have been excellent episodes like "Gene It On" in which he is forced to make something of himself and produces one of the best childlike things on the show. His ambition is clearly more interesting than his actual talents, but you can't help rooting for him. The same can be said for this particular episode where it somehow manages to turn his passion into an existential crisis. Where most existential crisis involve more gloomy elements, this one simply involves Gene accepting his limitations and exploiting them for his own amusement. He is good at being innocuous, and there's no offense to that.
In fact, the whole thing plays out like a childish and petty version of a band story. There's the formation and the conflict. Nobody is particularly great when crammed into the same confinement. Yet somehow it works as a raw energy of people playing their hearts out and thinking that they know what's best. For the most part, it forces Gene to collaborate with others instead of using his imagination of what the perfect band would be. It is a clash of egos and one that reflects how children take to the interests without showing any discipline. 
I don't expect this show to be emotionally rich every week, but it usually is at its best when it is exploring characters' desires in great detail. Whether it is exploring the complicated relationship that Teddy (Larry Murphy) has to Bob (Jon Benjamin) or the Louise/Linda dynamic that has been strained from the start. Here, we get a deeper sense of who Gene is and while it ends rather abruptly and without major conflict, it is nice to see him do something beyond his typical shtick. Also, while the music may not be of the highest production values, there's still plenty of innovation to it that makes me argue that Gene should get more creative arts episodes because they are his strongest ones.
I will choose not to go in depth with the Linda subplot because it wasn't particularly exciting. I feel that the show's weaker points come in the balance of quality stories between the kids and adults. While Linda's issue allowed the show to have plenty of gross moments, I don't feel like it really did much that was interesting beyond that it came and went. Sometimes that's all that is needed. However, with Gene's story being far more fascinating, it kind of raises the question on why the story needed to exist at all. Sure, there's cringe-worthy moments that are excellently animated in ways that have the words do the disturbing details, but it bothers me that the show still goes overboard in making a complex and interesting main story and a ridiculous supporting story way too often. It isn't distracting, but it does raise questions, especially when episodes end as abruptly as they do here.
I can only hope that Bob's Burgers doesn't keep going on hiatus like it has. For starters, IMDb is fickle and it was impossible to tell if "Runway Club" was the finale due to The Last Man on Earth getting excessive airplay. However, I am glad to have the show back and it is definitely another strong episode in a surprisingly strong season. I look forward to hopefully seeing it play out for the rest of the season without too many other delays, though who knows at this point. Still, I am so glad that an episode like this finally happened.

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