nenena: (Default)
nenena ([personal profile] nenena) wrote2013-02-17 10:00 am

Why you should all be watching "Bob's Burgers."

Bob's Burgers is well into its third season now, so I figured it's about time I made a post about how awesome this series is.

Reasons why y'all should watch Bob's Burgers:

1. It's not a typical FOX animated sitcom.

If you're like me and you shunned Bob's Burgers during its first season because it looked too much like (and was marketed as) just another Seth McFarlane-flavored animated sitcom, well then you're as wrong as I was. The tone of the show is much closer to The Simpsons in that most episodes end in affirmative, heartwarming moments. There's also a definite lack of the "ironic" racist, sexist, ableist, and homophobic humor that McFarlane shows rely on. Having said that, though, the verbal humor flies fast and furious in most episodes - and H. John Benjamin's deadpan delivery of some of the funniest lines in the show makes them somehow that much funnier.

2. The main cast is perfectly balanced as comic foils for each other, and most of the humor is character-driven.

Bob is the straight man surrounded by over-the-top personalities. He takes burgers very, VERY seriously. His wife Lynne is dramatic, theatrical, and not unlike Suzumiya Haruhi is constantly on a quest to make her life more exciting. Their oldest daughter Tina is an awkward teenager who has no idea how to appropriately express her budding sexuality and the show treats her sympathetically. Middle son Gene is a wannabe comedian who's actually as funny as he is obnoxious. And youngest daughter Louise (voiced brilliantly by Kristen Schaal) is a too damn smart for her age so she channels her bored genius into becoming a manipulative, Machiavellian sociopath. The family is surrounded by a growing cast of characters that are all equally hilarious, although Bob's supervillain landlord voiced by Kevin Kline and the delusional school counselor deserve special mention.

3. Tina.

At first glance Tina seems like just another Meg Griffin-type character: She's a teenage girl, ugly, socially awkward, uncomfortable in her body, and desperate for popularity and a boyfriend. Does the show milk her pubescent awkwardness for humor? Yes. But is she constantly the butt of every joke the way that Meg Griffin is? NO. Like I said before, the show treats Tina sympathetically; we laugh at her as much as we root for her. Most episodes give Tina a happy ending and the show constantly validates her in going out of its way to show us that she DESERVES the things that she wants in life but that it's also OKAY for her to BE HERSELF. One of the best examples of this is in the season 1 episode "Cab, Bob?" in which Bob and Lynne go to extreme lengths to throw Tina a super-special thirteenth birthday party. Despite the fabulous party, Tina is depressed because all that she wants is to share a dance and a kiss with her crush Jimmy Pesto Jr., the son of Bob's archnemesis. Jimmy Pesto Sr. forbids Jimmy Jr. from going to Tina's party just because he hates Bob's family THAT MUCH. Without Jimmy Jr. at the party, Tina falls into a depressed funk and the party spirals into a disaster. Finally, however, we get the happy ending when Bob finds a way to blackmail Jimmy Sr. into letting Jimmy Jr. go to the party; the entire episode builds up to the triumphant moment when finally Tina and Jimmy dance beneath a disco ball and share their first kiss. Okay, so, how many other animated sitcoms (other than The Simpsons) actually have episodes like that in which all of the characters WORK HARD TOWARD, VALIDATE, AND ROOT FOR a teenage girl's fantasies to come true, rather than just using the teenage girl character as the butt of sexist jokes and tearing her down at every opportunity? Not that many, unfortunately. And that is one of the reasons why Bob's Burgers is consistently so fucking great in the way that it treats its female characters.

4. Louise.

The "precocious sociopath" is a tried and true staple sitcom character, and for good reason. Because smart, evil children are funny. And Louise is no exception to the rule, although she IS portrayed in a much more realistic way than many of her sitcom peers. The show is very clear in presenting her as a bully. We laugh at her antics but we're not supposed to want her to succeed, UNLESS it's one of the episodes in which Louise uses her schemes to protect/save her family from outside threats (which are really the best episodes). I hate to say this, but I see a lot of kids who are just like Louise in some of the classes that I teach: Hella smart but fundamentally insecure, and masking their insecurities by using their smarts to bully and manipulate others. Yep. I'm sure you all know people like that in real life, too. But again, the show is just great in the way that it presents Louise's character to the audience. Yes, we're supposed to be feel sympathy for her when we're finally shown how insecure she is or how frustrated she is when her intellect is devalued all the time. But no, we're not supposed to feel sympathy for her all the time, especially not when, you know, she's being a legitimately horrible person. Louise's real saving grace, however, is how loyal she is to her family, even if her loyalty often manifests itself in her extremely unhealthy quest to bully Tina and Gene into becoming better/stronger people. It's impossible not to see echoes of Vriska and Tavros in Louise's relationship with her shy, awkward older sister Tina. Louise is frequently horrible to Tina but in her mind she's just helping Tina become more self-confident. And you know what? This is hilarious to watch. (It's made hilarious because, as I mentioned above, Tina usually ends up having her true personality validated/having a happy ending, unlike poor Tavros.) But I feel it's also worth mentioning that in season 3 Louise finally gets a worthy opponent and a true character foil with the addition of Logan, a spoiled but intelligent bully who can actually match Louise scheme-for-scheme. Louise is great and all, but all quasi-evil protagonists need a good foil to keep their quasi-evilness in check, and it's about time that Louise got such a worthy opponent in her show.

5. "The Unbearable Like-Likeness of Gene."

This episode is so great that it deserves special mention here. So the plot starts out with standard sitcom fare: Gene has a secret admirer at school. The secret admirer turns out to be Courtney, the most obnoxious girl in the entire school: loud, awkward, and absolutely torturous to be around for more than a few moments. Courtney literally corners Gene and asks him to go out with her, and Gene is too cowardly to refuse her. Bam. So they start dating, and Gene hates every minute of it. So you'd think, at this point, that the rest of the episode is going to be standard ha-ha-look-at-this-horrible-overbearing-girl-torturing-this-poor-put-upon-nice-boy fare, right? WRONG. Gene's family is horrified to find out that he's dating Courtney despite not really liking her, so what do they do? They put the responsibility on HIM to break up the relationship, they blame HIM for stringing Courtney along, and they tell HIM that Courtney deserves better than a guy who doesn't really like her and that he'd better break up with her soon goddamit. WHO'DVE THUNK, RIGHT? I mean, our television and movies are FULL of examples of female characters being blamed and castigated for "stringing along" those nice well-meaning guys that they're just not really that into. But how often do you see the opposite, a male character being (rightfully) blamed for stringing along a girl despite not really liking her? And the show is very clear that Gene is the one who's really doing something "wrong" in the relationship despite also being clear that Courtney is a completely, totally obnoxious girlfriend. Courtney's only crime is being herself, whereas Gene's crime is lying to Courtney about his feelings. The show is very clear as to which crime is worse. And things take a decided turn for the horrible when Gene meets Courtney's father, who is a really awesome cool guy, and Gene decides that he wants to keep the relationship with Courtney going so that he can hang out with her dad. WHOA. Again, Gene's family is horrified to hear this and they VERY clearly call him out on his behavior. And, as predicted, things finally reach a climax when Courtney annoys Gene so much that he completely snaps and dumps her in the most humiliating way possible... at her own birthday party. Which causes Courtney to have a literal heart attack. "Um, do you think I ruined her birthday?" Gene asks as Courtney is loaded onto an ambulance. YES, GENE. YES YOU DID. But in the final few moments of the episode we get a) Courntey exacting a hilarious revenge upon Gene and b) Gene laughing sheepishly and agreeing that he deserved that (BECAUSE HE DID). Everyone reconciles, Gene learns his lesson, happy endings all around. And again: WHOA. How many other sitcoms with a storyline about one of the main male characters agreeing to date an obnoxious female character actually blame the male character for stringing along his girlfriend when he clearly doesn't like her? How many sitcom storylines about the "obnoxious girlfriend" let the girlfriend GET REVENGE on her crappy boyfriend and VALIDATE HER AS DESERVING SAID REVENGE while the male character actually hangs his head, laughs at himself, and agrees that he deserves it?!

Oh Bob's Burgers, your unabashed feminism makes me so happy. And it is definitely no surprise that the most female-positive episodes of the show are all written by women. The show actually draws from a diverse pool of constantly-changing episode writers and directors, and that diversity of creative voices is clearly paying off in terms of just how goddamn great all of the episodes are.

Recommended episodes

Season 1: "Sexy Dance Fighting" (a great Tina episode), "Bed and Breakfast," "Burger Wars"
Season 2: "Beefsquatch," "Bob Day Afternoon," "The Belchies" (easily the best Louise episode to date)
Season 3: "The Deepening," "Tina-rannosaurus Wrecks," "The Unbearable Like-Likeness of Gene," "Broadcast Wagstaff School News" (a fantastic Tina/Louise episode and featuring some of the most erudite poop jokes ever put on television)

In short, you all should watch this show because IT'S REALLY GREAT.
lavannah: (Default)

[personal profile] lavannah 2013-02-17 11:02 pm (UTC)(link)
I've watched a bit of it. One of my animation professors from last semester was the storyboard artist for it. His favorite was the thanksgiving episode which parodied the scene from My Neighbor Totoro when the children found Totoro in their backyard and helped the big tree grow. Bob was very, very drunk, and 'Totoro was a giant prepped Thanksgiving turkey. It was cute, though the humor of the show isn't entirely to my taste. I've tried, I can say I have, but it just doesn't make me laugh.