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TV Reviews

MPAA Rating
Comedy, Animation
Voices of H. Jon Benjamin as Bob; John Roberts as Linda; Dan Mintz as Tina; Eugene Mirman as Gene; Kristen Schaal as Louise
Paul Asay
Bob's Burgers

Bob's Burgers

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 do. 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. Network execs consider this to be savory dinnertime entertainment. But that's only because Fox defines a "family show" only 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 Beef—lean on lessons, loaded with questionable additives and 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' 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.

Though it sometimes aims for the heart, its gags hit somewhere south of there. In other words, cleanly funny moments are as rare as tofu on Bob's lunch menu, never mind that the series was awarded an Emmy for Outstanding Animated Program. And while it's less objectionable than any one of Seth MacFarlane's slew of comedies (see: Family Guy), episodes are still filled with quips that give noxious nods to cannibalism, talking feces, bestiality and pedophilia, among other things.

Bob once asked 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!"

Which neatly sums up the philosophy, it would seem, of Bob's Burgers.

Episode Reviews

"Father of the Bob"

It's holiday time, and Bob's whole family moseys over to his father's diner for Bob Sr.'s annual Christmas party. Bob, who never felt appreciated by his pops, puts a 15-minute limit on the visit. ("It's like speed dating with your dad!" Gene says.) But those plans quickly go awry, of course.

Bob and Bob Sr. showcase some truly dysfunctional family dynamics, but Bob eventually apologizes while the two line dance … in a gay bar. While scouring Bob Sr.'s basement for a present for his dad, Gene strips to his underwear and lounges in a box full of baked beans. He contemplates giving the "bean bath" to his dad as a gift (after adding a "little bit of pee"), but when the box breaks, he spends the rest of the episode running around in his underwear soaked in bean sauce.

There's a wink at incest. Children pray to "Lord Santa," and when Bob says that Santa's not to be prayed to, Gene hollers, "Lord Santa, strike him down!" A patron can't decide whether to attend Christmas Eve services or play basketball. A sign in Bob's Burgers advertises a special: "Cheeses Is Born Burger." (And God's name is abused as well.) Linda believes "Christmas magic" may be contained in all manner of alcoholic beverages. Bob says "Merry Freakin' Christmas," and we also hear "b--ch" (three times) and "d--n" (once).

"Sacred Cow"

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.

"Human Flesh"

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.