A Reader Suggests – Bob’s Burgers

I’ve always been a fan of cartoons. Like most kids of the eighties, I looked forward to the Saturday morning cartoon block every week. Smurfs, Gummi Bears, He-man, She-Ra, Voltron, Strawberry Shortcake, Scooby Doo Mysteries and The Jetsons were among the staples of my childhood. As I grew older, I continued to have an affinity for animated programming and was a regular viewer of The Simpsons, King of the Hill, Beavis and Butthead, Daria, South Park, Family Guy, SpongeBob Squarepants (don’t judge) and Archer. So when a friend and blog reader suggested that I check out Bob’s Burgers it wasn’t that much of a leap for me.

I was aware of Bob’s Burgers but had never tuned in for two main reasons. The first was that the lead character on the program, burger restaurateur Bob Belcher, was voiced by H. Jon Benjamin, who is also the voice of Sterling Archer on Archer. Unlike many people who do voice-over roles, Benjamin doesn’t change his voice at all for the various characters he speaks for. So I feared that it would always bother me that the same voice that comes out of the dashing and smooth secret agent would now be coming out of a frumpy burger cook and father of three. I wasn’t sure I would be able to wrap my head around it; it routinely freaks me out when I see interviews with Family Guy creator Seth McFarland, as his regular speaking voice is what he uses to give life to Brian the dog on the show. So this fear was not unfounded. It also possibly means I am not very smart.

The second issue was that Bob’s Burgers is part of Fox’s “animation domination” block of programing on Sunday night. Sunday nights are generally pretty tough for me; during football season, I’m pretty exhausted after spending the day at the bar and watching the Bills lose, so early evenings I usually catch a quick nap. The fact that Fox also carries football games means that their Sunday evening programming is routinely delayed when games run long, making it hard to DVR shows to watch later. It becomes hard to count on the shows airing at their regularly scheduled times in the fall and by the time football season is over, I’m too far behind to easily catch up. Sundays have also become one of the busier nights of programming between the stellar line ups offered by AMC (Walking Dead), Showtime (Dexter, Homeland) and HBO (Boardwalk Empire, Treme, Game of Thrones). So on top of the football issues, I’m less likely to want to pick up a new show on that night. My schedule is already pretty crowded.

In the summertime, however, I have more time to try out some new shows. Bob’s Burgers has only had two seasons and both have been abbreviated (13 episodes and 9 respectively) as the show has been used to fill holes in the schedule because of cancellations. 22 episodes that are each about 20 minutes are pretty easy to breeze through and the simplicity factor was further increased by the seasons being available on Netflix streaming (season 1) and Hulu Plus (season 2). So with no further excuses and a dearth of other television commitments, I decided to listen to my friend (Hi Colin!) and take the plunge.

Bob’s Burgers chronicles the life of the Belcher family. Bob and his wife Linda run a struggling burger joint which they also live above with their three children Tina, Gene and Louise. The kids also pitch in at the restaurant, though it is debatable how much help they really are. Bob is devoted to his burger business and is probably the most grounded of the family. Linda is devoted to “Bobby” and the family, though sometimes her attempts to help or give advice to the children are misguided, though well intentioned. Tina is 13 and socially awkward and coming to terms with her budding sexuality and becoming an adult. She is obsessed with classmate Jimmy Jr. and writes erotic fan fiction that is mostly about people touching other people’s butts. Gene is 10 and like a puppy in that he is enthusiastic about just about everything; he’s loud and is often seen donning a burger mascot costume to promote the store.  Louise is nine and appears to be a sociopath in the mold of Stewie from Family Guy, but without the concrete plans for world domination.  She simply likes to stir up trouble – in the pilot episode she inexplicably informs her entire class that the family uses human flesh in their burgers. She always wears a pink bunny rabbit hat.

I have to say, I really enjoyed Bob’s Burgers. It is a weird and quirky little show that isn’t often laugh out loud funny, but is very amusing. I found myself smiling a lot through the episodes as I watched the adventures of the Belcher family. It isn’t 100% consistent – some episodes are much better than others – but on the whole I thought it was quite enjoyable. One of the reasons I like animations is it removes some of the limits of reality, and Bob’s Burgers takes full advantage of that. The family may be nuts and always getting into trouble, but they obviously love each other in the end (even Louise). In the first two seasons, Bob manages to be taken hostage in a bank robbery, Linda tries to run a bed and breakfast out of their apartment, the family tries to cash in on the food truck craze and deal with a negative review by a food critic. The kids are my favorite part of the show and they have some fairly quotable lines. I also enjoy the running gags in the show: in the opening credits, the name of the store next to the burger joint is different in every episode, as well as the name of the extermination company (starting in season 2). The burger of the day also changes episode to episode, sometimes several times over the course of an episode. All the names are fun puns – some of the burgers of the day have included the “sit and spinach burger,” the “It’s fun to eat at the rYe-M-C-A burger” and the “Roquefort Files burger.” They are fun little Easter eggs that reward the viewer that is paying attention.

I’m not sure how easily Bob’s Burgers will fit into my schedule once season 3 debuts in September, but I’m going to make every effort to keep up with it. I’ve gotten used to H. Jon Benjamin’s voice and have come to really enjoy all the characters and the odd sense of humor that the show has. I’d recommend checking it out. I was disappointed when I realized I had watched all the episodes to date. Might not be everyone’s taste, but I found it endlessly entertaining. I’m glad I finally checked it out.

Bob’s Burgers season 3 will debut on Sunday September 30th at 8:30 pm ET on Fox. If you have a suggestion for a show, movie, book or band you want me to check out, leave it in the comments section.

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