Recently, The A.V. Club spoke with Bob’s Burgers showrunner Loren Bouchard about the show’s third season. Following part four, this part covers episodes 20 through 23, beginning with “The Kids Run The Restaurant” and ending with “The Unnatural.”
“The Kids Run The Restaurant” (April 21, 2013; written by Steven Davis and Kelvin Yu, directed by Boohwan Lim and Kyounghee Lim)
When Bob slices his “finger crotch,” Tina, Gene, and Louise are left behind to mind Bob’s Burgers. Instead, they open an underground casino in the basement.
Loren Bouchard: “Kids Run The Restaurant” is almost a misnomer. They don’t spend much time actually trying to run the restaurant. They each have their own pop-up restaurant for what’s seemingly about three minutes.
The A.V. Club: As you were breaking the casino story, did you make an effort to portray The Meat Grinder as a kid’s version of a casino? There wasn’t a version where they suddenly understand the rules of roulette?
LB: We find it immensely pleasurable to keep things scaled appropriately to our world and to our characters. The kids run a casino—the joke isn’t that they run an incredibly successful gambling operation and make a lot of money and have a bunch of grown-ups there gambling real money. Louise has all these greater ambitions, so in her mind she’s got to put on the jacket and act like a pit boss and use Zeke to scare the kids that are cheating at Battleship. In her mind, it’s grown-up, but it’s still just these kids playing for quarters.
AVC: Did you find that there was a lot to orchestrate when it came to plotting “The Kids Run The Restaurant”? Once the kids start the casino, there are multiple stories within that story.
LB: The nice thing is, if you have Gene and the girl group, in a way, almost anything that he ended up doing with them was going to be a pleasure to write and to see. We ended on this idea of this “Dreamgirls with a twist” feel for that story, but that’s a great runner, no matter how you slice it. Gene and his girl group, The Cutie Patooties.
AVC: So what is the actual clinical term for the “finger crotch”?
LB: [Laughs.] I don’t know. Whatever it is, I think it can only ever be called that.
“Boys 4 Now” (April 21, 2013; written by Lizzie Molyneux & Wendy Molyneux, directed by Anthony Chun)
Dragged against her will to a live performance by teen sensation Boyz 4 Now, Louise forms her first crush on Auto-Tuned towhead Boo Boo (Max Greenfield). Meanwhile, Gene learns a little bit about himself through the art of tablescaping.
AVC: With “Boyz 4 Now,” did you enjoy unlocking the Tina side of Louise?
LB: Of course. It was such an immediately appealing story. Wendy and Lizzie Molyneux pitched it—you never want to say it writes itself, but just that idea that Louise has her first crush and is undone by it and wants to be rid of it through this strange, but somehow believable and very in-character ceremony of slapping the subject of her crush—it’s just such a great way to have Louise peek over the other side of adolescence and look into the abyss.
AVC: In terms of having a yearlong lead time on these episodes, do you find that you need to be non-specific in the type of parody illustrated in “Boyz 4 Now”? You wouldn’t want the band to reflect this group or that group, because another group could’ve come up and develop a following before the episode can make it to air.
LB: Yeah, we wanted it to be all boy bands and not necessarily just because we were afraid of it being dated or keeping it evergreen. It’s more that everyone who’s touching the show had a different boy band that made them chuckle. I checked out all the One Direction stuff, just because I wanted to see what the state of the art was and because I hadn’t been that interested in Boyz II Men or Backstreet Boys or N’ Sync. There were lots of opinions about what their clothes and hair should be like, and ultimately I just left it to some of the many talented women who work on the show who had much stronger feelings about boy bands than I did. My favorite part of the boy band was Matt, the guy who’s claiming to be 17, but is clearly in his mid- to late- 30s and probably has a family that he’s supporting by playing bass on the road. [Laughs.] That little bit of him when he says, “Call your parents. If I had a daughter, I’d want her to. [Beat.] But I’m 17 so I don’t!” That’s Benjamin doing that.
AVC: Did the boy-band harmonies make the music for this episode more complicated than other episodes?
LB: Not really, because [writers] Steven Davis, Kelvin Yu, and Scott Jacobson just took “Will You Be Mine (Coal Mine)” and put it together before the table read. So way before post, way before any of the other music, before any of their voices had been recorded, we had this amazing song. And they did it, as far as I could tell, in one night, by themselves. It came out so good and it just laid the groundwork for all the other music to come. The Elegant Too did music, and then we got Max Greenfield to come in and then we blew out that last track—“I want to hear your secrets / I’m so interested in you.” We realized that was the one that had the least exposure in the episode, but wanted it to be the final song that you listen to. The lyrical possibilities seemed really interesting, so we finished strong with that one. We knew what that band sounded like from very early in the process.
AVC: Where did Wendy and Lizzie learn about tablescaping?
LB:I don’t know. They’re connoisseurs of strange things that you find on the Internet, so I can only assume that they stumbled across that. I do not believe they ever participated in tablescaping—but before they lived here, I believe they lived in Indiana and they had some involvement in 4H. So it was 4H-esque. I think they kind of knew what flavor of thing they were looking for.
AVC: What makes tablescaping such a perfect afterschool activity for Gene?
LB: What makes it such an exciting and thrilling sport to be involved with? I think it brings together Gene’s nascent interest in design and fashion and—no, I don’t know, actually. I think Gene was probably telling the truth when he said it was the only non-athletic afterschool activity. I suspect he tumbled into tablescaping and then accidentally succeeded.
“Carpe Museum” (May 5, 2013; written by Jon Schroeder, directed by Tyree Dillihay)
Having grown closer to her mother with the help of the Phenomemom seminar, Louise gets her bonding moment with Bob on a school field trip. Meanwhile, Tina finds she has a lot in common with a fellow weirdo (guest Jim Gaffigan) and Gene joins Zeke on a quest for historical breasts.
LB: This was John Schroeder’s episode and he knew exactly what he wanted to do with it: He wanted it to be a Bob and Louise story. He wanted it to really get to that sweet moment that you get to at the end. Along the way we had a lot of fun dipping into an old-school Mixed-Up Files Of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler feel: That sneaking away on a field trip story has got a lot of appeal for us. We loved having Bob and Louise—and then adding a kid, realizing we could stick in Regular Sized Rudy and have him be this sort of third wheel on this misbehavior adventure with Bob and Louise. Brian Huskey came in and did Regular Sized Rudy and just killed it. He was so sweet and so funny. We just had such a good time meeting that character as he performed it. That was enjoyable. And then he has this incredible ability to wheeze like that. And we immediately wrote him into the baseball episode.
AVC: If Jim Gaffigan had been available, could his character, Henry Haber, have fit into “The Unnatural”?
LB: He could have. Doing that particular storyline was really fun. I like that Henry and Tina each think the other is a dork. And he did a great job. I like Jim Gaffigan a lot. I have really fond memories of him on Dr. Katz His voice just always seemed like a natural for animation to me, from the very beginning. And I also like the way his design came out. I just thought he looked really funny. I like looking at that character while he’s talking.
AVC: He and Max Flush both have a very Muppet-esque look to them. Are The Muppets a design influence on the characters of Bob’s Burgers?
LB: Absolutely. That underbite, that big floppy chin—in general, that sense that you could put your hand up inside their heads and move their mouths.Muppets: big influence on a lot of aspects of this, big influence on the music. That sort of lightheartedness with which they would do musical numbers on The Muppet Show and in the movies and just the sort of looseness—the way they approached music and comedy really appeals and feels important somehow. They really nailed it.
AVC: With five main family members to play with every episode, what are some character combinations that you’re exploring for season four?
LB: We have some big episodes and that’s really fun to do—to just see how far you can go. There’s a really pretty big camping episode where they get lost in the woods and the kids and the parents get separated from each other. Bob and Linda are nude and swept down a fast-flowing river and have to make their way back to camp. There’s going to be a seaplane episode where Linda wants to take seaplane-flying lessons and Bob says no—he has no interest in that whatsoever—so in a huff she goes to take the lesson by herself, and it turns out the guy is kind of a serial seducer of bored housewives. So Bob and the kids have to, to some extent, rescue Linda from this pilot played by Will Forte.
We’re doing three holiday episodes, all of which we’re excited about. The Halloween episode is going to be this “kids trapped in a fort of their own making” thing. We’re just putting the finishing touches on that. There’s a Thanksgiving episode that’s sort of small in scale, but should feel really eventful. That’s the script we took on the road when we did Bob’s Live in Seattle, Portland, L.A., San Diego, and San Francisco. It’s had a strange life of it’s own even before being animated. We’ve been performing it live and it’s really nice to see that one coming together. It’s a kind of a whodunnit. It’s almost an Agatha Christie kind of thing of, “Who’s putting Bob’s turkeys in the toilet?”
AVC: Do you think you could ever do that tour on a national scale?
LB: We can do it in any city that will have us. The economics of it are a bit tricky, but we’re determined to solve that and take it on the road again. The performers, what they do is so funny. They each do a little mini-set in the first half of the show—Larry Murphy, who’s sort of our sixth man, came to a couple of those dates and also performed. For me, it’s so heartwarming to connect that to Bob’s. I hope we get to do more of it.
AVC: Zeke takes Gene under his wing for his “Boobie bender” in “Carpe Museum.” Aside from Bob, are there any other older male role models in Gene’s life?
LB: I don’t know. That’s a good question. He’s such a great brother to his sisters. I love the little lines we’ve sprinkled around here and there. “This is why I’m only friends with women”—that’s in “The Belchies” when he sees Zeke and Jimmy Jr. wrestling. In a way, I like keeping him in the hen house. He’s perfect there.
“The Unnatural” (May 12, 2013; written by Greg Thompson, directed by Wes Archer)
In the season finale, Gene takes a swing at rec-league baseball—and misses by a mile. Enter “The Deuce” (Rob Huebel), who doesn’t help Gene improve his game as much as he swindles the whole neighborhood out of a big chunk of change.
LB: In “The Unnatural,” you get a little taste of Gene trying his best to do the all-American-boy stuff. He seems to make peace with it in the end. He’s not happy in the beginning, obviously. Nor should he be. This lousy experience—being worst on his team—I think a lot of us can identify with. I like where he ends up. He’s pretty happy playing what he perceives to be baseball at the end.
AVC: He’s definitely caught up in the pageantry of baseball. Was there an effort to look at the game and pick and choose what Gene would actually enjoy about that kind of activity—like the “capris”?
LB: Direct quote from my 8-year-old nephew: My sister says, “What do you like best about Little League?” and he says, “The outfit.” “Oh yeah? What else?” “The parade.” [Laughs.] He knew exactly what he wanted to get out of Little League.
AVC: After voicing a sleazy producer in “Family Fracas,” Rob Huebel returns to the show to voice The Deuce. What is it about his voice and his presence as an actor that make him such a perfect fit for characters like these?
LB: He’s got this ability to be this blowhard guy, but you’re still rooting for him. There’s something so pure about his douchiness that it doesn’t come off douchey. He can do so much in such a small amount of space. He uses his voice well—and yeah, you just like the guy. When we recorded him as the pick-up artist character in “Dr. Yap,” the writers went crazy and wrote a small manual of one-liners from that character. We had him read them, and then he was also improvising his own one-liners, and it was such a guilty pleasure to hear him say, “Don’t make her pancakes. Get her to make you pancakes.”
AVC: A subplot in “The Unnatural” finds Tina getting hooked on caffeine, thanks to the espresso machine Bob buys for the restaurant. Were you looking for a way to do an addiction storyline on a show that is mostly made up of kids?
LB: I hadn’t thought of it that way. The idea of Tina getting addicted to caffeine had actually come up before, though [episode writer] Gregory Thompson didn’t know that. I was worried that it was asking too much—that we were going to break Tina. But the way Greg pitched it, and the longer we sat with it, the more I felt comfortable that it was going to be good. Suddenly it seemed like, how could we not see what happens when Tina is amped up on caffeine? All those beats are really funny, especially that scene when she charges out of the restaurant and keeps pace with Jimmy Jr. on his bike. Then speeds up, turns around, and walks back the other way—all without breaking stride.
AVC: What made you think that this was the right story on which to end this season?
LB: It wasn’t originally going to be. It wasn’t conceived of as a finale. The camping episode that you’re going to see start the next season was written, originally, as the last one in our lineup. The schedule just kind of dictated that one was going to get lopped off and pushed into the next season and I found it, actually, liberating to sort of free ourselves up to imagine that a kids story—this Little League story—could be our finale.
We had some great kids stories this season: like “O.T.,” “It Snakes A Village,” “Kids Run The Restaurant,” “Boyz 4 Now,” and “Carpe Museum.” And so it’s nice to see “The Unnatural” as finale material. Once the network said, “Yeah, of course, that’s a great episode to end on,” it felt really good.
AVC: Scheduling concerns aside, do you think that re-orients your thinking of what is big and eventful for Bob’s Burgers?
LB: Not necessarily that particular incident, but just in general, yeah. We’re finding different flavors of “eventful.” There’s big, cinematic eventful like “The Deepening” or “O.T.” where we get to do Bob’s-meets-Spielberg. But it’s nice to also do eventful in other ways—“Topsy” was this strange musical; “Boyz 4 Now” was almost a coming-of-age, road movie; “Indecent Thanksgiving Proposal” was a farce; and “Lindapendant Woman” ends with Bob and Linda kissing in the super market while shrimp attached to balloons rains down around them, which I believe is the definition of eventful. If you look it up—“Shrimp rains down”—that’s what it says in the dictionary.