With the arrival of the very funny Bob’s Burgers, it appears FOX has finally found a successful animated comedy that’s not the aging (some might say decrepit) Simpsons or something from the Seth MacFarlane stable of diminishing returns. Created by Home Movies’ Loren Bouchard, Bob’s Burgers boasts an impressive voice cast and a fairly loose, casual construction that ensures even when the plots feel a little threadbare (not uncommon), the jokes still retain plenty of room to breathe.
Seeing H. Jon Benjamin’s name atop the cast list is sure to inspire confidence in most comedy fans, and he doesn’t disappoint as Bob, the patriarch and boss of his family-run, perpetually struggling burger restaurant. In Archer, Benjamin plays the character constantly causing consternation in others, but here, he’s the one being put-upon at every turn, and Benjamin’s exasperated but resigned voice work is inherently funny.
Benjamin leads an ensemble almost as good as Archer’s, with John Roberts as supportive wife Linda, Dan Mintz as hormone-addled wallflower Tina, Eugene Mirman as unbelievably enthusiastic middle child Gene and Kristen Schaal as potentially psychopathic Louise. Each episode finds Bob doing his best to grow the business but running into constant obstacles, like neighbor Jimmy Pesto’s much more popular Italian restaurant, the muckraking expose of a Michael Moore wannabe or Louise’s own claims that the burger meat comes from the dead bodies at the mortuary next door.
The first season DVD set collects all 13 episodes on two discs, and offers a good chance to get into the more deadpan, slow-paced rhythm of the show. The series gets off to a bit of a slow start and most of the storylines aren’t laden with originality, but the joke writing and the voice actors’ comic timing is superb. The more time you spend with Bob’s Burgers, the more its charms — both vulgar and heartwarming — reveal themselves.
The two-disc set includes commentary tracks for each episode, split between writer-heavy tracks and actor-heavy tracks. The writer tracks offer more background information on the series and its long gestation process while the actor tracks tend to be packed with anecdotes and are generally more entertaining. Disc one includes a music video for “Lifting Up the Skirt of the Night” from episode “Sheesh! Cab, Bob?” and audio outtakes from the recording of episodes “Sexy Dance Fighting” and “Bed & Breakfast.” Disc two includes a short segment on Louise’s chalkboard drawings and two demos for the show, including an early version where the family members are cannibals, complete with introductions by Bouchard for each.