Bob's Burgers reviewed: Fox's new animated sitcom.

Bob's Burgers reviewed: Fox's new animated sitcom.

Bob's Burgers reviewed: Fox's new animated sitcom.

What you're watching.
March 29 2011 3:59 PM

Bob's Burgers

There are some good jokes in between all the fart jokes.

Animated series "BOB'S BURGERS." Click image to expand.
Bob's Burgers

Bob's Burgers (Fox, Sundays at 8:30 p.m. ET), set at and around a greasy spoon of a family business, is animated comfort food in the familiar Fox style of postmodern primitivism. Airing between The Simpsons and Family Guy, it energetically covers a middle ground between the easy sophistication of the former show and the deft, cruel crudity of the latter. It is as sweet-natured as it possibly could be, given its reliance on story lines that involve stubbly transvestite hookers crashing children's parties and oil paintings of animal anuses. Bob Belcher is a familiar type—put-upon and ground-down, a victim of his wife's demented wants and his children's warbled demands. He is rescued from overfamiliarity by the lively line readings of H. Jon Benjamin (who also lends his dry groans and grainy barks to the anti-hero of Archer) and by the hard whimsicality of series creator Loren Bouchard (who apparently picked up some misanthropic tricks as a producer of Dr. Katz, Professional Therapist). Bob has a rude U-shaped flap for a nose, a broad smear of a bad moustache, and three lines crawling from the back of the neckline of his T-shirt to indicate an endearingly unattended expanse of back hair. He makes a token attempt to comb over the bald spot on his level head. Bob—unlike so many of his fellow members in the fraternity of sitcom patriarchs—is not at liberty to be a dope. The cloddishness of Al Bundy was balanced by the brass savvy of Peg; Archie Bunker had Edith around to try to squeal some sense into him; even upstanding Cliff Huxtable relied on the superior sensibility of Claire. But Bob's better half—Linda, voiced by one John Roberts in a kind of honking coo—is the lesser angel here, or at least the more embarrassing. There is the sense that, with her kids out of the rug-rat stage, she is attempting loonily to enjoy a second spring. Distracted by telephone gossip and neighborhood grudges, she manages to smother her kids from a distance. An episode titled "Hamburger Dinner Theater" concerned Linda's efforts to shine for three nights as the star of a murder-mystery musical, thus lending some literality to the idea that she is a diva behind oversized red eyeglasses. They have three thankless kids to raise. Tina (Dan Mintz) is slightly androgynous and highly anhedonic—sour beneath a bland bob, plaintive eyes filling out chunky eyeglasses, flat voice wafting complaints about unrequited love and other early adolescent frustrations. Gene (Eugene Mirman), built to wobble without falling down, has the greatest claim to being "normal" and the greatest responsibility for setting potty jokes into motion. Last Sunday, he entered a scene hoisting a toiler plunger. Bob: "Oh, Gene, what did you do?" Gene: "Nothing yet. Just planning ahead. The standout is little Louise, a faintly sociopathic cutie pie, who is voiced, which is to say gleefully screeched, by saucer-eyed indie darling Kristen Schaal. Louise is always wearing a pink winter hat topped with bunny ears, a kind of deranged tiara, an indication of a certain manic impishness. The chief pleasure of Bob's Burgers lies in the rhythms of the dialogue, and Schaal's droll way with Louise's smart-mouthed sparring —Bob: "Don't say 'suck.'" Louise: "Don't say 'suck,'please!"—is topped only by her talent for ripping into lines with a manner that's at once coarse and infantile. She has a way of sounding like a baby pit boss. Those are the Belchers. And that is the problem— tee hee, they said, "belch." The show, in its quest to deliver gags at a rapid pace, depends a bit too heavily on easy low humor. On average, the viewer must wait through two tossed-off fart jokes in order to savor one lovingly crafted one. Bob's Burgers is done medium well.

Troy Patterson is Slate’s writer at large and a contributing writer at the New York Times Magazine.