It’s almost an honor to watch Bob’s Burgers week-to-week and have the chance to review it, yes, but it's also nice to develop a relationship with it and watch it grow. As a critic who writes weekly reviews, you develop an odd kind of connection with a show. Obviously, you want it to be good, because that tends to make your life easier. In mediocre shows that often means searching—some might say grasping—for a silver lining. But in shows that are good, bordering on great? That means maybe being a little harsher on them when they’re not quite there, so that you can shower them with praise when they get there. That’s where I’m at with Bob’s Burgers, and that’s why I’m delighted to be able to say that “Burgerboss” is one of the best episodes of anything I’ve seen this year, and as good or better than “Art Crawl,” the previous gold standard for Bob’s Burgers episodes.
The quality starts immediately. Five seconds into the episode, we hear some 8-bit video game music, see an arcade machine in the restaurant, and Gene says “That’s the song I wanna lose it to. Mm mm mm.”
And it just doesn’t stop. I don’t think there’s a 60-second span in the episode without a joke that doesn’t just land, but, rather, lands hard. I couldn’t even begin to pick a favorite line from the episode. It wasn't merely chuckles from start to finish; it was a variety of spit-takes, guffaws, belly laughs, and sly smiles.
The episode seems perfectly structured to allow for Bob’s to be at its best. Bob gets an arcade machine of his old childhood favorite, Burgerboss, which he believes will help make the restaurant more money. The kids enjoy having the game around, and the entire family starts planning on what they should do with the money. “Okay, let’s not get ahead of ourselves.” “Fart Island.” “Sailing lessons.” “Guh.”
Then Jimmy Pesto comes along, and gets in a “peeing race” with Bob about the machine, demolishing Bob’s high score and, adding insult to injury, making BOBSUX the new high score. Bob gets obsessed with beating it, gives himself carpal tunnel, ruins his life, and forces Linda to get rid of the arcade box. But he tracks it down at a local arcade which demands kids be present with adults, so he drags his brood along and cuts them loose while he practices. His guide? A gifted video game player named DRL, voiced by Aziz Ansari, who offers to help in exchange for Bob’s help beating up Tyler.
All of this works to give Bob’s Burgers a variety of different forms for it to use its humor and keep things fresh. The family dreaming of the money? That allows the chaos of every character shouting their dream at once. Bob getting into a pissing contest with Jimmy Pesto? It lets us see Bob, who’s usually the sanest of the family (for whatever that’s worth), as the most insane. It also lets H. Jon Benjamin get shouty and crazy, which is just as good here as it is on Archer. Add in his new wrist braces, which the kids all try to describe (“Wrist corsets!”) and pills that get him wasted for most of the rest of the episode, and it’s like the show can do no wrong.
But wait! There’s more! Once the episode gets to the arcade, Bob has fantastic interactions with his new friend DRL. Aziz Ansari is funny on Parks & Recreation, sure, but damn does he do well at voice acting here. I hope DRL comes back regularly, like the Silverman sisters have. Bob ignoring the kids to let them run free also yields dividends, as they crash every party they can until they get bored, then crash a big one at the yacht club. That happens to be where Linda thinks they are, since they’ve taken her “sailing lessons” dream and used it as a lie. This gives Linda the chance to believe the best of everyone living in her personal fantasy world, which is derived from reading books like Ahoy, Mating!
This all leads to a manic climax at the yacht club. Bob, wasted on pills, starts seeing DRL’s bullies as the villains from Burgerboss, and chases them to the club where Tyler’s dad is. The kids are already there, running their usual scams to get free food and attention. Linda gets called in to deal with the situation, and dresses in her finest sailing gear to get ready to have her dream come true. It’s a marvelous way to bring the episode to a close, tying all the characters together, and giving each of them some kind of resolution.
And yes, this episode was ridiculously funny, but the cherry on top of it all? It was still heartwarming and meaningful from a characterization perspective. Bob’s masculinity-based rivalry with Jimmy Pesto is always something that’s fun to explore, and his mostly-but-not-entirely coming to terms with it by the end of the episode is satisfying. Linda, meanwhile, is probably the most inconsistent character of the core family, but this was probably her at her best. Her excitement came across more as childish with glee than the sometimes-annoying childish wish demands.
Honestly, the characterization and humor were both so good in “Burgerboss” that I have no idea how Bob’s Burgers can top this episode. But I’m starting to respect that they can, and that will be an interesting day.
- “This can’t happen now. Maybe I should see a doctor.” “Good.” “Otherwise I might have to stop playing.” “Aaghh.” When I was in college, I played so much Soul Calibur I started using a wrist brace. It happens.
- “He had sex then we happened. Deal with it!” Kristen Schaal’s second-best line reading of the night.
- If I had to pick a favorite moment, it would be Bob channeling Sterling Archer for a moment: “I got a bully too. Name’s Tyler. Picks on me every day.” “Oh, that’s cool, so will you help me?”
- “We’re gonna breeze right past you now, thank you.” Kristen Schaal’s best line reading of the night. This line had to be absolutely perfect to work for the scene to make sense logically and still be funny. Schaal surpassed that. Wow.
- “I decided I don’t wanna be like you. A 60-year-old man, still battling his bully.”
- And yeah, the pixel art closing credits deserve a mention. A wonderful coda.