The reliable Fox sitcom reaffirms its best qualities in the first two episodes of its newest season.
If you’re a sitcom that reaches season 11, you’re either doing something right or wrong. On the one hand, you might be a show that has just been running so well, why would anyone want it to stop? On the other hand, you could also be a zombified show that’s gotten this far simply appealing to the lowest common denominator. Of course, Two and a Half Men was still running at season 11. The show was always on autopilot; why grind it to a halt that far in?
Luckily, Bob’s Burgers has reached its newest season with a quality level that’s far more Mystery Science Theater 3000 than Big Bang Theory. At this point, Loren Bouchard’s animated sitcom knows exactly what it wants to be, who its characters are, and what kind of jokes it wants to produce. Like the best comedy TV shows, the cast of Bob’s Burgers has become familiar faces you enjoy spending time with. It’s cozy rather than groundbreaking, and that’s not a bad thing at all.
The first episode of the season is entitled “Dream a Little Bob of Bob”. In this story, Bob (H. Jon Benjamin) goes on a hunt for Tina’s (Dan Mintz) birth certificate. This coincides with Bob feeling like he can’t do any basic adult things right. While searching through his car for a key he needs to access Tina’s birth certificate, Bob ends up taking a snooze. While sleeping, he has a dream in which a miniature version of Bob searches through his car for the key while confronting his own insecurities.
Though the show itself has always been more grounded compared to fellow Fox animations like Family Guy, Bob’s Burgers is no stranger to enjoyable flights of fancy. The episode nicely reflects this, giving the dream Bob the chance to talk to a rubber band ball (Jack McBrayer). Other stylized escapades include a run-in with an army of ants (insert reference to another Benjamin cartoon here) and a smarmy self-help cassette tape.
The gimmick of Bob being so tiny allows for some fun animation, particularly in the anthropomorphizing of inanimate objects. The episode also allows one to appreciate just how good Benjamin is as a voice actor. Much of the comedy in the dream sequence comes from Benjamin’s voice acting opposite a pair of talking inanimate objects. His understated delivery treats his companions like ordinary people. Juxtaposing the quality of his voice work with the inherent lunacy of the story proves quite amusing.
Save for a B-plot surrounding Tina’s inability to clap and recite rhymes simultaneously, much of “Dream a Little Bob of Bob” fixates on the title character. The season’s second episode, “In Terms of In-Rear-Ment”, is much more of a group effort as the whole Belcher family comes out to play. Linda’s (John Roberts) plans for the whole family to go out to the symphony meet a snag when Gene (Eugene Mirman) comes down with a case of pinworms.
Bob’s Burgers is the TV equivalent of a reliable restaurant serving up a long-time favorite dish. There are far worse places to be after almost a decade on the air.
Subsequently, the Belchers become paranoid about even being in the same room as Gene, let alone touching him. Of course, these efforts prove vain as more and more members of the family begin to come down with pinworms. Granted, its parallels to the coronavirus pandemic are unintentional, but it’s still eerie. How can the sight of a family frantically washing their hands not evoke the modern world?
Don’t worry, though: “In Terms of In-Rear-Ment” isn’t here to depress you. The episode has plenty of the wacky bathroom humor that Bob’s Burgers is known for. Gags involving butts, scratching butts, and even a musical number involving singing pinworms make up the lion’s share of the episode. Even with that singing digression, the episode lacks the uniqueness and visual opportunities of its predecessor.
Still, the second episode delivers its fair share of giggles (particularly in the animation of Gene rubbing his posterior across the carpet). Even better, this episode’s being an ensemble piece gives each lead a chance to shine. Kristen Schaal, for example, has nailed Louise Belcher’s manic yet youthfully oblivious energy down to a tee. Granted, the newest episodes are unlikely to convert the uninitiated. But that’s not the point: Like the best sitcoms that run this long, Bob’s Burgers is the TV equivalent of a reliable restaurant serving up a long-time favorite dish. There are far worse places to be after almost a decade on the air.
Season 11 of Bob’s Burgers premieres on Fox this Sunday, September 27 at 9:00 pm.