Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Bob’s Burgers: “Christmas In The Car”

Illustration for article titled Bob’s Burgers: “Christmas In The Car”

Was there any doubt that a Bob’s Burgers Christmas episode would be anything less than wonderful? The show has done it before—“God Rest Ye Merry Gentle-Mannequins” was an original and fun episode—but it’s in my nature to worry a bit. It’s not exactly a reflection on the show, because Bob’s Burgers has proved that it can even melt my anti-Thanksgiving heart, but more of a worry built out of television in general. The problem with watching too much television (and I use the word “problem” loosely because, come on, there is no problem with watching too much television) is running the risk that everything eventually starts to feel too repetitive. This definitely applies to holiday episodes—how many times can you watch a retelling of It’s A Wonderful Life or listen to a bookended narration that’s a slight variation of “’Twas the night before Christmas” before it feels stale? Fortunately, Bob’s Burgers has pure creativity on its side so “Christmas In The Car” is stellar.

True to its name, “Christmas In The Car” takes place primarily in the Belchers’ vehicle as they set off to get a Christmas tree on Christmas Eve after their last two trees died (one was bought right after Halloween, the second the day after Thanksgiving (this is reasonable, right?) but caught on fire twice). After cutting off a trucker and accidentally antagonizing him by beeping “Jingle Bells,” on the car horn the Belchers find themselves in a road trip horror film scenario. The trucker follows them and tries to run them off the road, often reappearing when they think he’s gone. Going horror on Christmas is great but going horror with Christmas elements—the truck is a giant candy cane!—is fantastic.

For an episode where the Belcher family is often in immediate danger, “Christmas in a Car” is full of Yuletide magic. The children, particularly and predictably Louise, are obsessed with the idea of catching Santa Claus and have built a booby trap in the house; we learn Tina may or may not still believe in Santa; Linda’s love and obsession with Christmas (and her planning for future holidays) is a running joke throughout; even the seemingly psychopathic trucker has Christmas-related reasons for his actions. Also, there’s Teddy!

The entire B-story centers on Teddy! This is my idea of a television Christmas miracle. I love Teddy, and he’s perhaps my favorite side character on Bob’s Burgers (Andy and Ollie Pesto tie for second; Regular-Sized Rudy is quickly rushing up the list). He’s strange but funny and virtually impossible to hate—plus major kudos to Larry Murphy’s voice acting. He is one of the best examples of a character that’s utilized perfectly: He’s so unique that you don’t want to see him in every episode, but when you start to realize how much you miss him, he tends to pops up.

He was a key player in last week’s secondary storyline and a great pairing with Linda. This week is even better. Bob leaves a ham in the oven before the family ventures out on the Christmas tree hunt and when he realizes that he isn’t getting home anytime soon, he recruits Teddy to turn off the oven . But Teddy needs very detailed instructions on how to actually turn it off, before looking at the oven and hilariously realizing how easy it is. Teddy also gets caught in the children’s Santa trap which isn’t surprising, considering he’s a person who wonders if cookie trees and cookie reindeers taste any different, leaving him trapped and lost in his thoughts. There is a really great and kind of weirdly beautiful moment where Teddy is sitting on the floor of the Belchers’ kitchen, shoes off, surrounded by food, and seemingly accepting his fate when he looks at something offscreen and remarks, “That’s a dumb place to keep bowls.” It’s a simple throwaway line and a cutaway scene but it lands so well that it almost makes me angry about how funny Bob’s Burgers can be with just a few words.

Anyway, the Belchers continue on their strange trip, stopping to make a pit stop at a diner where pleas to an unhelpful police officer go ignored and eventually are still stuck in the car past midnight, thus officially celebrating Christmas inside of the car. There is a final face-to-face encounter with the trucker stalker (when Bob leaves the car for a showdown, the family offers helpful advice like “tell him you had asthma when you were a boy” and “you have bad night vision”), but the trucker turns out to be a pint-sized sad guy. Another example of great delivery: H. Jon Benamin’s “Oh, you look like that” upon seeing the trucker. The ending is both very Christmas and un-Christmas: The Belchers forgive Gary and give him both a tree and food, but Gary also punches Bob in the stomach. They all return home to find Teddy stuck underneath a toppled fridge, just wishing Bob would finally read his Christmas card. And it’s perfect. Meowy Christmas.


Stray observations:

  • Linda’s “You all come from my vagina” had me rolling.
  • “Finally, a truck you’re allowed to lick!” If there are any pop-punk bands looking for sound bites to sample at the beginning of songs, I highly suggest anything Gene has ever said in any episode.
  • “Maybe if you slap more waitresses…”
  • Linda gets her Christmas tree the day after Halloween. My family would definitely approve of that.
  • “This is very good. You can’t even taste the baby.”
  • This episode reminded me of that Joy Ride movie which made me very ashamed that I have seen Joy Ride.
  • I love that Bobcat Goldthwait voiced Gary, and if anyone wants to talk about Goldthwait’s odd but intriguing career with me, that’d be a great Christmas gift.