“Food Truckin’” is a throwback to the early episodes of Bob’s Burgers. Back then, the show was amusing, yes, and there was certainly potential, but it took half a dozen episodes before it really began to meet that potential. A significant part of that reason was that it was over-reliant on a single plot form: Bob attempts to deal with a straw-man “liberal” meddling with his family or business.
I described the characters introduced by this trope as “liberal” last year, but that’s not really the best word for them, as it implies an overtly political slant that Bob’s Burgers doesn’t have. It’s not about Republicans and Democrats, of course. Rather, the antagonistic characters are more worldly, or more “hipster,” or bring more variety into Bob’s world. Bob is a burger guy, which is arguably the most traditionally American form of food. His enemies are capoeira instructors, frou-frou school counselors, or Michael Moore-style documentarians. The show isn’t consistent with showing the change they push as something inherently negative. After all, Bob’s burger specials include ingredients like kale and chorizo. But the show does better when it makes its antagonists more grounded in the norm of Bob’s Burgers, like Jimmy Pesto or Bob’s landlord.
So it’s not a good sign that “Food Truckin’” brings back that documentarian, Randy, as a foil for Bob once again. Randy’s voiced by Paul F. Tompkins, which is a plus; however, he still isn’t much of a character. In tonight’s episode, he’s out of the documentary business and in the food truck business, selling from a truck called Ode To Soy. This persuades Bob to start his own food truck, rather than attempting to compete with Randy’s mobile eatery from a single, stationary location.
And, it turns out, the family loves it. They’re delighted to spend all day in the food truck, even though it doesn’t actually make them any more money. So Bob talks to Randy again, who gets them on the Internet and brings them to more truck-friendly customer bases, including a food/music festival. This is where the episode’s drama hits: Bob sends his kids out to help them compete for a Most Popular prize at the fest, and the kids mess it up. I particularly enjoyed Tina, taking a mishearing of her name and running with it, letting “Dina” be the extrovert she dreams of being. Every time a festival attendee asks her if the regular old burgers are some kind of gluten-free, bison, etc., she says yes.
But, because Bob can never win unambiguously, everything backfires. Letting Louise run the public “Chowster” account was never going to be a good idea. She just talks shit about the other competitors. Linda’s road rage in the too-big truck doesn’t help either, and Tina’s pleasant lies are eventually revealed, causing the festival-going stereotypes to riot, forcing the family, and Randy, to flee.
So much of the episode hinges on the Bob-Randy relationship, and their move from rivals to, well, more-friendly rivals doesn’t lead anywhere. Most of the rest of the episode workes, though not as well as normal. The kids’ antics are muted, and Bob is the straight man for most of the half-hour, which, given how Bob’s Burgers clicks when its titular character goes crazy, is probably not the best form for the show to take. After the highs of this second season, “Food Truckin’” is a mild disappointment.
- “I never buy anything off a truck except stereos and stamps. Love that stamp truck.” A stam truck sounds awesome, actually.
- “NOT OUR PARENTS — HELP!” reads the sign Gene and Louise make for the truck’s window on their road trip.
- “It’s not a lie if you tell it to vegetarians. You taught us that!” “I did teach you that.” Perfect example of Bob’s rejection of “abnormal” culture. Also the funniest line of the evening, which helps!
- Megan Mullally voiced a Tori Amos parody singer, who was supposed to be annoyingly over-the-top and came across as annoyingly over-the-top. Oops.