Now on DVD is The Complete 1st Season of the FOX animated series, Bob’s Burgers. From the mind of Loren Bouchard (Home Movies) comes a series about an odd family that runs a hamburger joint called, appropriately enough, Bob’s Burgers. All thirteen episodes from last spring’s initial run are collected on this two disc set, along with bonus features.
Husband, Bob (H. Jon Benjamin, the star of Archer), is the boss and owner. He’s a stubborn, ignorant, loving family man, who does the best that he can, which isn’t always all that much. Benjamin plays this character wonderfully, getting to be both the butt of many a joke, and the guy who is as close to normal as this family gets. He keeps them grounded, and cares deeply about his loved ones.
Bob may struggle with moral dilemmas himself, but when it comes to his kids, Bob has a pretty strong moral compass. Not only is he willing to do anything to protect them and raise them correctly, he is also willing to let his business suffer because of it. Unlike other fathers in the Animation Domination block, Bob is genuine and sweet almost all the time, without being overbearing. He gives his kids good advice, but allows them room to make mistakes and their own decisions.
Wife, Linda (John Roberts, no, not the Supreme Court justice), falls into the traditional sitcom wife role, never really getting too mad at Bob for forgetting their anniversary, and being happy with her mediocre lot in life. As the episodes go on, Linda does get the chance to pursue some of her own interests, but they never last more than an episode. The impression is that, while Linda sometimes plays second fiddle to Bob, it’s good that she has his steady presence in her life.
Eldest daughter, Tina (Dan Mintz – what’s with the guys voicing the girls?) is in love with the boy across the street. The middle child, Gene (Eugene Mirman, The Flight of the Conchords), is as dumb and as in a world all his own as his father is, but still has that youthful, naive joy about it. He will certainly grow up to be just like his dad.
Youngest daughter, Louise (Kristen Schaal, The Daily Show, 30 Rock), is definitely the funniest character. She makes up wild stories, would like to be a criminal mastermind, and just tries to keep life interesting. Louise seems to live in a world all her own, but unlike other characters in that vein, say Stewie from Family Guy, Louise is bound by reality. Still, if you need a lock picked, or an idea that no one else would think of in a million years, Louise is your girl. She is also the youngest of the clan, but not a toddler, which is refreshing.
The family dynamics are realistic. The show demonstrates humor in characters that are odd, but not as over the top as their peers on other FOX animated shows. They go through the typical tribulations of a sitcom, but don’t let anything discourage them too much, and there is often a nice lesson, even if the characters don’t always learn it. While not preachy, Bob’s Burgers is certainly the most wholesome of the Sunday night cartoons, and definitely evokes the warm love of a close clan.
The series is not all about the heart, though. There are plenty of great jokes. The humor is smart and quick, and the characters are quirky and funny. For instance, when Gene wins a gold medal in the race, Linda wants to have it bronzed. This is just one example of the off-beat brand of humor that Bob’s Burgers brings to a night full of the same type of show, setting it apart.
The recurring cast includes movie and stage legend Kevin Kline as Bob’s landlord, Mr. Fischoeder. How many animated shows can boast that much gravitas? Also, Sarah and Laura Silverman play twins.
The animation is crude in the first episode, making it harder to enjoy than later installments. This is not unusually for a cartoon, so it can be forgiven. Bob’s Burgers is created by Loren Bouchard (Dr. Katz, Lucy the Daughter of the Devil), and uses his style from Home Movies, which isn’t for everyone. It’s the weird torso-neck-head shapes that really seem off. It makes the characters look non-human, and not in a good way. But because of the writing and voice talent level, it’s worth getting past.
Among the episodes worth mentioning in this set are “Human Flash,” which finds Bob’s Burgers being accused of serving human flesh because Louise tells her class this is so. In “Bed & Breakfast,” the family turns their small living space into a retreat for guests. “Hamburger Dinner Theater” has some fun twists when the family tries to stage a murder mystery production in their restaurant. In “Torpedo,” Bob gets to meet his hero, who does not live up to the image Bob has of him.
There are plenty of extras on Bob’s Burgers The Complete 1st Season. There are more audio commentaries than episodes, with certain half hours having multiple options. Writers and actors contribute to these. There are seven minutes of audio outtakes. Steve Agee (The Sarah Silverman Program) and Samantha Shelton (Judging Amy) do one of the most bizarre music videos ever for “Lifting Up the Skirt of the Night.” There is also a two minute short of Louise arguing with the restaurant’s chalk board, and making up Burgers of the Week for each of her family members.
Best of all is the twenty-two minute look at the evolution of Bob’s Burgers with series creator Loren Bouchard. He talks about putting together the cast, how the family were originally envisioned as cannibals, and shows a rough sketch scene. Also included is the full animated ten minute demo presented to FOX to see the show, which features a son named Daniel instead of Tina, though the voice and the personality of both characters are identical. The look of the series is also a little different. It’s very cool to see a glimpse at the process from early work to making it on the air.
Bob’s Burgers is a gem of a series, and I highly recommend buying The Complete 1st Season, on sale now.