As Bob’s Burgers transitions from short seasons to a longer series, it’s going to need to focus on its different characters as individuals. While it can do this successfully for Bob and Louise, I think it’s had less success with the other characters. Linda’s a difficult character to begin with, but Gene and Tina—so great in the group—are still somewhat problematic. Last week’s Tina-centric episode was sweet and subdued, but it lacked the crazy energy of the best Bob’s Burgers episodes. In “Beefsquatch,” an episode focused on Gene, we get that crazy energy, but it gets excessive. There’s a lot of shouting here, without much to balance it out.
The kids have tended to work best when they’re used as a collective unit. Bob or Linda do or say something weird, and each responds in turn. You have Louise’s conniving anarchism, Gene’s scatological hedonism, and Tina’s quiet, geeky horniness. Tina goes soft, Gene goes loud, and Louise leans loud but can switch between the two. All of them are funny, of course, but the balance is the crucial part. You get several different types of humor in just a second or two.
“Beefsquatch” leans almost entirely Gene, separating the kids from one another for most of the show. Linda encourages Bob to audition for a cooking segment on the local morning show, which he does awkwardly, but Gene crashes the tape in his new Sasquatch mask. The two go on the show, and repeat the dynamic, to the audience’s delight. Bob grows unhappy with Gene’s antics, so the two start a prank war with one another, each recruiting Louise. Naturally, things get out of hand, but are resolved by the family’s weirdness. There’s even a nice emotional hook, of a father trying to maintain his relationship with his growing son, which mirrors last week’s mother-daughter relationship.
But again, so much yelling. Gene is always like that, and that’s great. But Bob has his intensity dialed up, and both are egged on by Louise as well as the show’s host. The secondary story, involving a boy more awkward than Tina attempting to date her, is rather slight, running less parallel to the main story and more underneath it. It also doesn’t help that the boy is so over-the-top awkward that it isn’t really a respite, just more crazy.
This all might sound like I disliked “Beefsquatch,” which certainly wasn’t the case. Manic energy makes Bob’s Burgers work best, so having a little too much of it isn’t likely to turn the show bad. It’s more that it’s exhausting and not necessarily satisfying. I’ll be interested to see what Bob’s Burgers does with Gene (and Tina) in the future, because giving them depth may work against what makes them great.
- “I smell fear on you.” Yes, Louise. Yes.
- “In this country, no backsies means something. NOW GO POP AND LOCK!” I just love that Gene knows enough about popping and locking in order to teach someone.
- “Dynamite in the burgers.” “More subtle.” “C4.” “Move off explosives.” My favorite exchange of the episode, and probably another example of why Bob’s Burgers’ method of recording actors together live is one of its greatest strengths.
- “Pam warned me about this when she was binge drinking!”