For the past two weeks, I’ve been patient with Bob’s Burgers, hoping to see it improve with time. The first two episodes were amusing and filled with potential, introducing a promising location and a mixed bag cast of characters. Some shows take a while to find their footing, and time will tell if Bob’s Burgers falls into this category, but last night’s disappointing third episode was the first one to make me consider losing faith in the show.
The episode in question, “Sacred Cow” involves a filmmaker Randy Watkins (ably voiced by comedian Paul F. Tompkins) ruining Bob’s 100,000th burger celebration by making him the subject of a documentary about the brutality of the meat industry. Randy and his crew place a cow named Moolisa in front of Bob’s store, giving him five days to decide whether it lives or dies. Bob takes a liking to Moolisa, bringing her into his apartment on a rainy night when Randy doesn’t seem to have thought about the cow. This is the most heart we’ve seen Bob demonstrate so far; past episodes have wrung a lot of comedy from him treating his kids like an insensitive taskmaster. It was good to see another side of Bob, giving his character more complexity, but I’m not sure I love that he shows more care for a cow than he has for his entire family combined. I’m not saying I want to see the Belchers become a caring, loving Huxtable-like TV family, but I would like some more complexity and depth to their relationships beyond the whole “Bob’s kids frustrate Bob by goofing around”/”Bob makes the kids work too hard” dynamic.
Paul F. Tompkins, though, deserves some credit for his work here. In his standup, Tompkins is constantly toying with his voice, taking on different intonations and accents. Doing animated voice work is a natural fit for him. Although Tompkins has done a little voice work in the past, I’m surprised we haven’t heard more of him in these types of shows. As Randy Watkins, Tompkins nails the absurdities of the gotcha-style filmmaker, demonstrating his self-importance in a funny and subtle way. If you’re a fan of Paul F. Tompkins and have yet to check out his podcast, The Pod F. Tompkast, or his frequent guest appearances on Comedy Death Ray, I highly recommend doing so.
The B story, involving daughter Tina thinking Moolisa the cow is leaving messages for her through its feces, was rather uninvolving. Obviously, this plotline didn’t carry much dramatic weight or build any suspense; it was just there for laughs, but I didn’t find it particularly funny. This is a show that shouldn’t have to resort to crude scatological humor to get a laugh, but this episode was filled with gross-out gags.
Here’s hoping that, in the next few weeks, Bob’s Burgers improves on its characters’ relationships and strays away from the potty humor that was abundant in last night’s episode. There seems to be a lot of potential to be found in developing the shows main characters further and introducing new supporting ones. With the show only three episodes in, there’s still ample opportunity to settle into a groove and take things to the next level, but last night’s episode didn’t bring it there.
Bradford Evans is a writer living on the edge.