Like a great deal of people my age, I enjoy FOX’s animation domination Sundays. Sure, each of its shows has problems, but overall, they’re all pretty enjoyable. I laugh when I watch them, even though they’re not quite as sharp-toothed as South Park or Archer (which, funnily enough, stars the same voice actor as Bob’s, H. Jon Benjamin), cable TV’s animated comedies. But don’t let that fool you about Bob’s Burgers – while watching the pilot episode of FOX’s newest addition to its Sunday block, I found myself rarely even cracking a smile. The characters are bad, the plot is trite and contrived, and the jokes are racy for the sake of pushing the envelope. When the show has some genuinely funny moments – and to be fair, there are a couple – it’s genuinely surprising. But then the show makes another base joke about itchy crotches or autism, and the show immediately goes back to square one of being just bad.
Now, when I say the characters are bad, I don’t mean the voice actors. Being familiar with some of them, like stand-up comedians Eugene Mirman and Kristen Schaal, it was a bit of fun to hear their voices coming out of the chinless mouths of the Belcher family… But the fact that the characters are all so unlikable just kills it. With shows like Family Guy and The Simpsons, you care about every member of the family. Stewie Griffin is lovable even when he’s plotting to kill his mother, and Lisa Simpson has saxophoned her way into our hearts. Hell, we even care about Brian the dog from Family Guy, but I just can’t bring myself to like any of the members of Bob’s obnoxious family. The writers of the show have forgotten one golden rule: even in a cartoon, we first have to like our main characters before we can laugh at the silly things happening to them. But Bob’s Burgers doesn’t give us a chance; we’re immediately subjected every bit of their annoying personalities. (Bob, the exception, is responsible for the show’s only funny moments, including the “It’s your birthday?” montage, a dryly demeaning pep talk to his family, and a soliloquy to his own reflection. I have to say I rather like Bob, but he doesn’t get nearly enough time to stand out as the rest of his family.)
The plot of the pilot episode, “Human Flesh,” wasn’t as bad as much as recycled. The health inspector storyline has been played out on countless sitcoms, as has the forgotten anniversary trope. It’s nothing new, and its delivery doesn’t save it from being something we all feel like we’ve seen before, even if we can’t put our finger on where. It’s tired, unfortunately, and so is Bob’s Burgers.
I hate to be so cruel to a fledgling show, but Bob’s Burgers has very few saving graces. Maybe we’ll see improvement with the second episode, “Crawl Space,” but I can’t imagine that many will be convinced to stick around on the merits of the first episode. D
Bob’s Burgers will premiere January 9 on FOX.