The show most commonly mentioned in comparison to Bob’s Burgers before it premiered was King of the Hill, and while I certainly understand and agree with many of the sentiments that critics and press expressed when invoking the Hill family, I’ll go ahead and add another show to the Bob’s Burger’ RIYL list: Futurama.
Obviously both shows are heavily indebted to The Simpsons; such is its legacy you that you don’t need to share a creative team in common for that to be true. But the tone with which Bob’s Burgers has employed its ever-expanding cast and setting in season 1 has consistently brought to mind the total-immersion viewers experienced when they joined Phillip J. Fry in the 31st century, much more so than the relatively closed-focus family comedy that typified King of the Hill in its earliest incarnation. KotH soon expanded its scope as the writers realized what kind of fun they could have in the sandbox of greater Arlen itself, but Futurama hit the airwaves with the inborn knowledge that there was, quite literally, an entire universe to play with, and wasted no time showing us all the new, bizarre things and characters of New Earth from day one.
And so it is that we’ve come to the penultimate episode of Bob’s Burgers’ first season, “Lobsterfest”, and the trend continues of yet another ancillary character featuring heavily into the plot (what little plot there was in this episode, anyway). This time it’s local health inspector Hugo upon whom the “action” pivots. A hurricane bears down on the (still as-yet unnamed) town on the eve of “Lobsterfest” and Bob Belcher is the only crustacean-hatin’ restaurateur who’s crazy enough to stay open, leading to a ruckus of a party and some unexpected bonding between the usually at-odds pair of men. When Bob awakes, hung-over from the revelry, he finds a town spared by the hurricane, a Bob’s Burgers that’s been decimated by “Bobsterfest”, and all of his new “friends” much more interested in chowing down on some sea bugs than helping him fix up his place.
Hugo (voiced by writer/comedian/all-around-media-type-guy Sam Seder) has been around fairly often since the pilot, but unlike in “Human Flesh” and last week’s “Weekend at Mort’s”, this time he’s given an actual character arc. As with pretty much every episode of Bob’s Burgers, the show does an able job of tinkering with an established relationship, as Hugo is no longer trying to shut down Bob’s Burgers and instead gets some pretty legit Wing-Man (Wiiing-Maaan) service from Bob, a favor that he repays before reverting back to antagonist status.
Unfortunately (and as I referenced above), that’s about all that happens in “Lobsterfest.” Even the sub-plot of the kids finding and eating their first lobster don’t really represent any sort of break from the main story before ending up right back at home base, and the ramp-up to Bob threatening to ruin Lobsterfest for the town is decidedly weak. I’m as much a fan of Bob screaming his head off as anybody, but if last week’s converging plot threads felt like a chain of somewhat rote sitcom set-ups bumping into one another, most of “Lobsterfest” felt like it was just killing time to get to the big “Bob falls into a giant ramekin of melted Julia Child statue butter and Hugo saves the day” scene. You know, that old chestnut…
Okay, so obviously “Lobsterfest” still always had a foot firmly planted in the absurdity that has made Bob’s Burgers so consistently funny. And the meandering pace of the episode up until that climactic scene was actually quite fun as well, even if it lacked the start-stop dynamic and rapid-fire throw-in nature of the dialogue that’s usually one of the series’ obvious strengths (in other words: not enough Linda, Louise, Tina and Gene for my tastes). Perhaps the balance tipping away from the family this week is a small price to pay for the show being this committed to further exploring the world of Bob’s Burgers. And at the rate that its first season has progressed, I’m sure we’ll be jetting off to some other planet in next week’s finale as well.
Brendan K. O’Grady is a freelance writer, critic, and part-time academic in Austin, Texas.