It's hard to find good help these days.
Take Bob Belcher, proprietor of the greasy little spoon known as Bob's Burgers. His fry cook scratches herself in unfortunate places. His marketing whiz thinks savvy advertising is a bullhorn that makes disgusting noises. His counter help spreads rumors that Bob's using "beef" from the crematorium next door.
"I'd fire all of you if I could," Bob says.
But because they're his children—and because they presumably work cheap—Bob and his meat-grinding wife, Linda, make due. I mean, you get what you pay for, right?
In the case of Bob's Burgers, which (thanks to Fox) is piped into your television free of charge each and every week, that's ever so true.
Bob's Burgers slides comfortably into Fox's Sunday night animation lineup, sandwiched between the likes of The Simpsons and Family Guy. Network execs consider this to be a savory dinnertime block of family shows. But that's only because Fox defines a "family show" by whether it has a family in it, not by whether families should watch it. And this cartoon's take on the modern nuclear family is purely Grade D—lean on fun, heavy on questionable additives and very likely to give you indigestion.
It's not completely without merit. Bob, our longsuffering restaurateur, digs his family in a mumbling, exasperated sort of way. Linda is devoted to her hubby in spite of his many faults, and she encourages him to pursue his short-order dreams no matter how many times he gets splashed with metaphorical fry oil. The Belcher children, for all their oddities, show flashes of near humanity. And episodes often conclude with a touchy-feely moment.
But Bob's Burgers lacks The Simpsons' wit, warmth and—I never thought I'd be writing this—tact. If The Simpsons is that college roommate who ate all your Ramen without permission, Bob's Burgers is the guy who stole your refrigerator and set fire to your mother's quilt.
Episodes are filled with something I can only describe as ickiness, with plot lines and gags revolving around such atrocities as cannibalism, talking feces, bestiality and pedophilia. Truly funny moments are as rare as tofu on Bob's lunch menu. Or, to put it another way, the characters, with their grating voices, grating habits and grating jokes, are about as funny and edifying as a meat patty left in the hot summer sun for, oh, a couple of weeks.
In the series premiere, Bob asks Gene, his son, if he could please stop using his bullhorn to make farting noises at folks passing by the diner.
"There's a line between entertaining and annoying," Bob tells him.
"No!" Gene hollers. "That's a myth!"
Bob's Burgers is written by a roomful of Genes.
A documentary filmmaker shows up at Bob's Burgers with a cow (actually a steer wearing a wig) named "Moo-lissa," demanding Bob either send it off to be slaughtered or apologize for his cattle-killing profession. Louise seizes the opportunity to create emoticons from the animal's feces, tricking Tina into believing the steer is communicating with her—"like Gram-Gram used to do."
Moo-lissa, the cross-dressing steer, inspires a raft of bestiality-inflected jokes, from Gene's insistence that the animal's only a "4," to Bob's bizarre dream in which he ends up French kissing the animal. The filmmaker is unfamiliar with the anatomy of cattle, insisting that he "milked" it. When the animal urinates on Bob's rug, Gene is inspired to drop his drawers (we see his animated backside) and follow suit.
We hear about Tina's bra, how Louise's gun license has been approved, a joke about how marriage emasculates men, and lots of talk about "murder" in the context of beef. We see cattle carcasses, cuts of meat and a bloody scythe whish through the air. Characters misuse God's name frequently, along with "a‑‑," d‑‑n" and euphemisms for the f-word.
Bob celebrates his restaurant's grand re-re-re-opening, but finds that business has slowed ever since Louise told her classmates that the burgers come from human meat. To make matters worse, a health inspector shows up and turns out to be Linda's ex-fiancé.
Tina perpetually talks about her crotch itching. Characters blurt out sexually charged double entendres, and Gene makes flatulence noises with his bullhorn. Louise introduces a burger she calls the "Child Molester" (it comes with candy), and the family discusses which child would be more likely to be molested. Gene ends up feeling left out because his father thinks he's safe from predators—perhaps because he's overweight. Louise cheers him up by squeezing his cheeks and saying, "Who wouldn't want to molest this face?"
Linda and Bob share a sloppy kiss. (Saliva drips from their mouths, and later Louise calls them a "couple of sluts.") Gene asks Linda if the health inspector is "going to be our new dad." Linda looks for an anniversary present in an occupied coffin. In a moment of despair, Bob tells himself that he and his entire family are failures. God's name is abused nearly a dozen times.