Written by Sombrero Grande
Imagine you’ve just entered a new restaurant, sat down and ordered your food, and then you start to notice the general griminess of the place, the mold on the walls, the shouting coming from the kitchen, and you start to wonder if you really made the best decision coming in here. That’s how I initially felt about Bob’s Burgers.
This is, in fact, the second review I’m writing for the first season of this animated sitcom. The first you won’t get to read, because I changed my mind.
I started writing that initial, now-aborted review after watching several episodes of the show and thinking to myself, “okay, I’ve seen enough.” I just didn’t find the show funny beyond a scattered chuckle here or there. I found the character designs ugly and downright unpleasant to look at. I found little redeeming about this show and felt it was squandering the talents of several members of the voice cast, while the others just plain annoyed me (most of the female characters on the show are actually–and quite obviously–voiced by men). I was ready to write-off the whole endeavor at that point and began to write the aforementioned somewhat-scathing review.
But then something happened. I ran out of examples for some of the points I was trying to make. So I returned to watching additional episodes on the DVD… and found myself laughing more and more. I started to develop a fondness for these ugly characters. I started to like Bob’s Burgers.
Having sampled every episode and bonus feature on this two-DVD set, I can honestly say that Bob’s Burgers has grown on me, much like the green mold on Bob’s restaurant’s walls. After getting off to a rough and underwhelming start, the first season of this show eventually managed to find its voice, its style, and won me over.
Bob Belcher is the owner and chef at Bob’s Burgers, a little mom-‘n’-pop burger joint that sits next to a funeral home in a sleepy coastal town. Bob’s wife and kids help him run the place, which is always lacking for customers and continually beset with troubles.
Bob’s Burgers was created by Loren Bouchard, one of the masterminds behind Home Movies, so it comes as little surprise that Bob’s Burgers embodies that same sort of dry humor that that show possessed, but with a decidedly more vulgar FOX-animated-series slant. The first episode alone jokes about genital rashes, cannibalism, and child molestation. In short, it’s not a show for children’s eyes, but the antics of Bob and his family still manage to exhibit more heart and family togetherness than any of the FOX dreck Seth MacFarlane is responsible for.
The inimitable H. Jon Benjamin voices Bob and allots the otherwise bland character probably more laughs than he’d get from any other voice actor. Benjamin isn’t given the kind of goofy, over-the-top character he usually hits out of the park (like Archer from Archer or Coach McGuirk from Home Movies), but Bob gets a few moments in the comedic spotlight. Bob’s wife Linda is voiced by John Roberts in a manner more nasally and grating than Marge Simpson, so it took some time to warm up to the masculine voice emanating from this character.
While Bob and Linda are both rather “normal,” the comedic gems of the show are their kids, voiced by the hilarious Kristen Schaal, Eugene Mirman, and Dan Mintz. The oldest, Tina (Mintz), has just become a teenager and is struggling with her budding sexual feelings, which confuse her greatly because they often include zombies. Gene (Mirman) is a continually hyper wanna-be DJ who samples the sounds of farts (among other things) on his keyboard and doesn’t believe there’s a difference between the terms “entertaining” and “annoying.” Louise (Schaal) is a nine-year-old maniac. Never seen without her pink bunny ears hat on, she can’t seem to help messing with others’ heads, exploiting others for her own gain or changing the name of Bob’s Burger of the Day to something ghastly on the restaurant’s chalkboard.
A nice bonus feature on this DVD set is that every episode comes with at least one commentary track. The ones that feature the cast members are more entertaining to listen to than the ones that don’t but tend to wander off into talking about other shows instead.
Other bonus features include Audio Outtakes, a brief music video for the song “Lifting Up the Skirt of the Night” (featured in episode “Sheesh! Cab, Bob?”), and a short cartoon “Louise and the Chalkboard,” in which Louise attempts to describe her family as different types of Burgers of the Day. The last bonus feature is the original pitch reel and pilot introduced by Bouchard. While the original pilot varies only slightly from the episode “Human Flesh” (Mintz’ character is a teenage boy), the pitch reel provides a very different take on the family by making them all Sweeny Todd-style cannibals. Bouchard asserts that after watching the pitch reel, FOX execs asked if the family had to be cannibals, to which Bouchard replied simply, “no.” And thus Bob’s Burgers was born.
Fans of dry humor and Home Movies should give Bob’s Burgers a try, but the show is definitely an acquired taste. The first season starts off slow but by final episode, “Torpedo,” had me hooked and looking forward to another serving.