Catching up on "Bob's Burgers"

The Simpsons is the standard to which every animated family sitcom is compared. Fair or not, America’s Favorite Family continues to loom large, despite a continuing decline in quality. Seth MacFarlane has built a career out of copying the Simpsons template, taking three slots of Fox’s Animation Domination block (even if only one – American Dad – is worth watching these days). Fox is the House that Bart Built, and they’ve always been eager to develop new cartoons as long as they mesh with the flagship.

Bob’s Burgers, currently finishing its first season on Fox, is no different. The show focuses on the daily struggles of the Belcher family, with the off-beat, deadpan humor that creator Loren Bouchard brought to Dr. Katz, Professional Therapist and Home Movies. Considerably more grounded in realism (in a sitcom kind of way) than MacFarlane’s shows, Bob’s Burgers has the simplicity of early-season Simpsons and King of the Hill. There aren’t too many zany, premise-based cutaways, and you won’t find a talking dog/fish/alien/baby, just the working class tribulations of a burger joint proprietor and his strange clan.

Like Archer, Bob’s Burgers is buoyed by fantastic voice work. H. Jon Benjamin plays yet another title character, making Bob more Coach McGuirk than Sterling Archer. In a bit of gender-bending, Dan Mintz and John Roberts voice two of the Belcher women: the painfully awkward Tina and the shrill matriarch Linda, respectively. Gene is what I imagine Eugene Mirman was like as a child: willing to do anything for attention and without a sense of self-awareness. The breakout talent – and character – is Louise, distinctly voiced by Kristen Schaal (late of Flight of the Conchords). The baby of the family, Louise is one part Bart and one part Roger the alien.

Like King of the Hill, the show incorporates workplace comedy into a traditional family sitcom. Most episodes revolve the family struggling to keep the business alive, whether under threat from the health inspector (“Human Flesh”), robbery (“Hamburger Dinner Theater”), or local competition (“Burger Wars”). Pretty standard fare, but always with a subversive twist, be it cannibalism, cross-dressing, or animal anuses.

Bob’s Burgers did what most Fox shows don’t: it got renewed for a second season. It is currently on hiatus until early May, but the first ten episodes are available on Hulu. If you miss the heart that The Simpsons used to have, or if you’re tired of the lowest common denominator comedy of Family Guy, watch Bob’s Burgers.

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