May 20, 2015

TV Recap: Bob's Burgers - "The Oeder Games"

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.
This is it, everyone. This is the end of another season of Bob's Burgers. As we say goodbye to the Belcher family for the summer, and foreseeable future, we should remember why we like them. There's no better way than an all out war. Continuing in the vein of last year's two part Wharf episode, this one focuses on issues that are more indicative of the Belcher family and the numerous residents: rent. In this case, it is a war for lower rent and this time, it features a whole lot of water balloons.
Upon the news that Mr. Fischoeder (Kevin Kline) is raising rent, Bob (Jon Benjamin) decides to lead a coup to strike against it. What starts off as a friendly protest quickly evolves into Mr. Fischoeder throwing a game onto his clients. Involving water balloons, he has people on his property fight for a chance to get 30% decrease on their rent. Where Bob tries to tell everyone to work together, they quickly disperse and find ways to attack each other. Gene (Eugene Mirman) and Louise (Kristen Schaal) find a teehouse where they hide out and find Chet (Zach Galifianakis). Bob meanwhile tries to escape the clutches of everyone else.
This quickly leads to everyone running out of balloons. When he has the last one, he accidentally crushes it. This causes Mr. Fischoeder to have everyone try and attack Bob. He finally convinces them to join forces against Mr. Fischoeder. When this happens, he decides that the best way to celebrate is by having a water balloon fight. Mr. Fischoeder admits that he was only raising rent to buy a pool. He decides against it.

Rating: 4 out of 5

This is how the season ends. While "Hawk and Chick" managed to resonate a lot more emotionally, this is Bob's Burgers just having fun. It would be futile to go into all of the different scenarios that are in play in this episode. There's Tina (Dan Mintz) having to choose between Jimmy Jr. (Benjamin) and Zeke (Bobby Tisdale) and her siblings in the treehouse. There's so much there that could easily be dissected at length. However, it would take away all of the great jokes that are in play. Even the introduction of Sal (Fred Stoller) was a nice touch, even if he doesn't give all that much of a strong impression. 
This episode is a better example of how Bob's Burgers works as a community. Much like how The Simpsons learned to use a lot of characters to make interesting stories, this feels like one where every important character gets their own little moment. As the chaos unravels, we get to see each of them get hit in humorous ways. I feel like if anything,this embodies how the show has evolved over time to include a wide array of characters. True, we don't get the Wagstaff students or any of the staff, but we do get a nice face-off between Bob and Jimmy Pesto (Jay Johnston) and then a tacked on moral from Linda (John Roberts). However, the best part is that even as dickish as the initial move was, everyone learns to like each other and just have fun.
The show has been working towards this, especially as Teddy (Larry Murphy) has taken on more of a paternal role in the Belchers' life. He has gone from comic sidekick to beloved friend of the family. Even the characters that we don't see so often get to have their moments spliced into this with some gusto. It may not be the strongest episode, but it does feature a lot of gags and manages to make fighting for rent, and a presumed The Hunger Games parody, work on such an unexpected level that it becomes in some ways inspired. 
At this point, anything that Bob's Burgers does is going to be a victory lap. It didn't seem like the show would last five seasons, let alone become one of the mainstays that define the Sunday night line-up. While the Animation Domination flag has been dropped and it means every show now has a lot more risk of being cancelled, it does seem impressive that this show has held on. It's just been too bizarre to keep going. However, in its fifth season, it produced one of its strongest seasons yet. Whenever it decides to return next season, here's hoping that it manages to continue to remain as baffling as it is interesting.

*NOTE: Bob's Burgers season 5 TV Retrospective coming tomorrow.

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