Culture

“Bob’s Burgers” review: “The Frond Files”

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Let me start by saying that the Super Bowl and Olympic breaks, hiatuses, etc. that have affected the come-and-go airing of Bob’s Burgers is one of the main reasons I hate Fox. It’s not so much a jab at the network, but rather the mentality that no one is going watch these shows the day after, or even that night. In the case of the Olympics especially, nothing about the primetime airing of curling made it any less appealing to flip over to Fox for a laugh or two.

With that, I move on and hope to not be interrupted again until the season ends. Also, quick warning: I watched True Detective right beforehand, so there’s a lot going on in my head.

We return to the Belcher family this week as Bob and Linda spent an evening at Wagstaff for “Why I Love Wagstaff.” All of the students have written essays about why they love their school. The only essays not present are Tina, Louise, and Gene’s. Guidance Counselor Frond, local coward, did not present them because they are offensive. This sets up a trio of stories about why the kids love Wagstaff. The three short stories episodic structure is familiar to sitcoms and to Bob’s Burgers’ predecessors, The Simpsons and Family Guy. While it’s reused over and over, it’s always fun to watch narration change hands.

Louise’s essay depicts the Wagstaff universe as the setting of science fiction movie. Frond has built and sent a robot back in time to destroy Louise. Yes, this is a Terminator homage, and it makes me love Louise more and more. As a boy growing up in the nineties, my two greatest non-Disney influences were Terminator 2: Judgment Day and Jurassic Park. So when I saw robotic Frond run into the reflection of what appeared to be Gene hiding in an oven, twice, I felt that the Bob’s Burgers writing staff values me as their customer. Louise’s story pulls together so many elements from these films and appropriates them for the Bob’s Burgers world. Darryl (voiced by Aziz Ansari) returns in the Kyle Reese role to provide only exposition and absolutely no weapons. Robot Frond picks out other characters’ clothes after he arrives in the present day. I could go on for days.

After the primer was laid for the short story structure, Bob chimed in appropriately on the quality of the reference. I recognize my bias, having seen these aforementioned movies too many times to count. So it was sobering when Gene’s story made almost no sense to me. I couldn’t define its source for parody. I’m guessing School House Rock, but the whole show feels like School House Rock in animation style. I sometimes worry about how little Bob’s Burgers defines its only son. An entire anthem about farts is quintessentially Gene, but he’s shown possibilities for more. Toilet humor seems to be his most important quality in an episode like this. It’s not surprising that his jokes seem to land more in his sisters’ stories. He’s a side character desperately trying to be a member of this family.

All of five minutes go by in Gene’s story/music video, and the grand Tina finale has plenty of ground to make up. In stand-up comedy, it’s typically a team effort to warm the crowd up for the headliner. An opening act like Louise provides energy, Bob and Linda emcee to keep the laughs rolling, and Gene falls a little flat to lower your expectations. Perhaps Gene set the bar a little too low, but regardless, Tina doesn’t disappoint. Her obsession with zombies and butts has been put on hold in recent months but, damn, does she come back with force. In Tina’s world, her flirtatious nature is confident, but she’s humble about her strengths too. It doesn’t take long until there’s a massive outbreak of zombie students and Hall Monitor Tina must lead survivors to safety. As a very subtle reference to Night of the Living Dead, I love the use of black and white. Tina’s a master storyteller, though. She is her own deus ex machina. Her ability to flirt and be fabulous will always win the day. Easily the funniest act, Tina’s zombie love story is loose on plot but high on substance.

Now, none of these stories are offensive. Frond, as it seems, is present in all of them as a villain or a coward, but there’s not enough said of that relationship to say for sure that the kids and Frond are enemies. However, an exasperated Frond exclaims, “Why don’t they like me?” Bob, knowing his kids all too well, assures Frond that nothing they wrote should be taken personally. These are not mean-spirited kids. They’re just artists using the canvas in front of them. Maybe now he will know that you can’t be The Yellow King and get away with it!

Wait. Sorry, I may have crossed shows at the end there. Anywho, next week: a Bar Mitzvah!