TV Review: BOB’S BURGERS

The newest addition to Fox’s Sunday night animation block surprises us… by being great.

Any day now the world will fall in love with Jon Benjamin. This is what I’ve been telling myself for years. And because of Bob’s Burgers, I’m a half season away from being a prophetic genius. Or, based on Fox’s track record, a genius who is prophesying farther into the future, after the network has prematurely canceled the show and people discover it too late. As I am willing to settle at being just a normal prophetic genius, I hope the success of Benjamin’s Archer (picked up for the second season in early 2010) on FX will help keep BB on air.

Benjamin started as a comedian in Boston (along with BB‘s Sam Seder he was previously in the comedy troupe Cross Comedy, started and led by David Cross) and first worked with the BB‘s writer Loren Bouchard in 1995 with the highly influential, highly comedy-nerd-pornish Dr. Katz and later on the adorably hysterical Home Movies.

Bob’s Burgers’ main character, voiced by Benjamin, is a married father of three who is brutally honest about his disappointment in his children and his business. Part of what makes Benjamin’s work so interesting is the precise manner in which he expresses his frustration and failures with rambling unexpectedness.

That’s part of what makes Bob’s Burgers so refreshing, its ability to be both unexpected and smart. Sure, there are crotch-scratching jokes and cross-gendered voices, but it also starts without tedium, setting up every character with more subtly than you’d typically find in a half-hour sitcom pilot about a family running a burger store near the ocean.

If Benjamin won’t pull you in, the supporting cast should. The show also stars a ton of great comedians like John Roberts as Bob’s sweet wife Linda. There’s an early scene in the episode in which Bob and Linda discuss what qualifies as a “surprised response” that feels like the best kind of improv, relaxed and natural, and shows the chemistry between the characters. Kristen Schaal is Louise, the filthy and perverse youngest daughter who, instead of intentionally screwing up, sets traps that will ultimately end in disaster. Eugene Mirman is Gene, the laser- and fart-smithing son in a burger costume who seems satisfied to antagonize anyone. Lastly is Dan Mintz as Tina, his eldest, non-autistic (there’s a pretty amazing series of jokes that references the seemingly-played out toothpick scene in Rain Man) daughter with arguably some of the best delivered lines in the first show.

You may have missed the first episode, but it’s available on Hulu right now, and you can catch the show weekly on Sundays at 8:30pm. I’m not going to say that Bob’s Burgers is a fresh piece of meat sandwiched between two stale buns known as The Simpsons and Family Guy. But I will say that pre-Bob’s Burgers, Fox’s Sunday night programming had me yelling “WHERE’S THE BEEF?” (And now I will fall over with depression.)

Comments