One of the narrative threads I appreciate most in Bob’s Burgers is its occasional focus on the practicalities of the restaurant: Bob’s had to handle health inspectors, the pressures of food trucks, bad reviews, and the questionable work he gets from his kids. The show’s too inherently focused on the oddball offspring to ever really be a show about the restaurant, but there’s something to be said for a show that puts a plot about a calculated business risk in an episode that features a scene of Bob arguing with a murderous zucchini.
Bob’s decision to best Jimmy Pesto’s Super Bowl preparation by airing a zero-budget commercial during the game brings the entire family together in a single plot. That’s always a good time with the Belchers, and probably not unexpected in something that’s essentially a holiday special (mere weeks after the last holiday special). But it also feeds neatly into the barely-hidden exhibitionist streak that runs a mile wide in this family. While the pacing on this show can be frenetic, keeping everyone involved in the same task makes it easier to streamline and build up what’s essentially a single joke into a surprisingly effective episode.
An ensemble episode means less spotlight time for everyone but a chance to enjoy the wider group dynamic, which in Bob’s Burgers has proved itself to be reliably funny. And in the initial version of the commercial, directed by Randy, each Belcher gets a pitch-perfect moment to shine, in which they naturally fail spectacularly: Linda sings; Tina flips her hair so hard she loses her glasses; Gene and his burger costume lay waste to a scale model and shower it with mustard-pee. (Louise, a screenwriter frustrated in her directorial ambition, is too busy wresting power from Randy to act.)
Naturally, Bob tries to scrape the best out of a bad situation by hiring ex-NFL star Sandy “Can Can” Frye as a celebrity endorsement. But when Bob decides to cut his family out of the ad entirely, it brings up an uncomfortable and lingering truth: Bob’s frustrations with his family run deep. His defense of the change with “Sandy’s so great and likable” would be doubly hurtful if anyone in his family had any insecurities. (Instead, everyone just forms a can-can line of family recrimination, because they’re Belchers.) His punishment is, of course, that his commercial gets scooped by Pesto’s own Frye-feature, robbing Bob of his big idea and his potential customers in one fell swoop. When Bob storms over to demand justice, he finds the world an indifferent sea of strangers—until the Belcher clan forgives him enough to come rescue him from projectile meatballs.
Unfortunately, the Pesto restaurant faceoff includes the B-plot (and I was trying to avoid accidental poop jokes and it’s probably already too late). I’ll admit that I’m never going to be the audience for scat humor, but even given that, I’m not sure how many more fart-and-poop-centric subplots the writers can pin on Gene. Both Louise and Tina have grown as characters—even so far this season—but Gene’s lagging behind, and it’s starting to show. His shameless enthusiasm can hopefully be steered to other things soon, because despite its eventual plot relevance, the Super Bowel just didn’t seem of a piece with the rest of the episode.
Overall, though, this is another solid installment of a great season, with the inherent gimmick of the Super Bowl suitably drowned in the sublimely talentless Belcher charm. And yes, we do get to see the all-family version of the commercial, which is just as great and terrible as you imagine. I hope we see it again.
- I was excited to sub for Pilot, who’s off filming a Super Bowl commercial, probably. She’ll be back for the next new episode, which will air… sometime in February?
- One of the best things about a show that’s found the groove this one has is the internal shorthand the characters have with each other—and that the show has with its audience. The episode’s funniest rapid-fire sequence is Gene muttering “Get it out now” as Randy pulls up, at which point everyone agreeably lets loose with their biggest Randy resentment.
- Not a fan of Gene’s gastrointestinal humor as identifying trait, but never has someone made a more impassioned defense of their bowel movements: “I’m their family! I raised them!”
- Tina’s unswerving loyalty to her family pops up in the best ways (“I’ve got nothing.” “No, Dad. We’ve got nothing”), but she also refuses to untie Bob’s apron after he cuts her from the ad. The North Remembers, Bob.
- Bob’s utter lack of gay panic continues to be stealth-charming. When Louise makes fun of him for wanting to marry Sandy and becoming Bob Can Can, Bob’s only scoffing objection: “I wouldn’t take his name.”
- No seriously, name one movie where puppets get water.