Episode Grade: B+
“Simpsons did it!”
The above is not a quote from tonight’s Bob’s Burgers, but rather South Park‘s classic episode “Simpsons Already Did It”. I’ll be a bit presumptuous and assume most people reading this are familiar with the episode, but if not the gist of it is this: The Simpsons casts a long shadow over animated sitcoms, and has been on long enough that any show that follows it is going to invite comparisons and probably cover some of the same ground (this was true back in 2002 when that South Park first aired, and both of those shows are still going. God, I feel old now). The trick is for shows to put enough of their own spin on things to avoid feeling like a lesser imitation.
All that’s to say the a-plot of Bob’s Burgers tonight felt very familiar, and not because Bob’s has done this before. Linda trying to convince a New York-dreaming Tina of the value of their little beach town is strongly reminiscent of any number of episodes where Marge does the same for Lisa regarding Springfield (I’m a bit late writing this, so I’m not running down a Simpsons episode list, but I’d be willing to bet they’ve done that basic plot at least three or four times). Still, these things are bound to happen.
The question is how well Bob’s Burgers can make this plot their own, and the answer is pretty well. You know that tired old critical observation about how, in Woody Allen movies, New York itself is a character? The same has long been true for Springfield (and South Park, come to think of it), but Seymour’s Bay, for all of it’s little quirks, has never quite had the same role on Bob’s Burgers. Actually, I’m not ever sure they’ve ever even said that’s the town’s actual name. Practically, this means tonight’s episode was never about the town, so much as it was about Linda trying to make sure her daughter doesn’t make the same mistakes Linda believes she made. This contrasts with The Simpsons‘ usual approach to this subject, which tends more towards Marge justifying her life’s choices to Lisa. Linda really doesn’t have the same tendency towards self-reflection; she’s just doing her damnedest to make sure her kids have the best childhood she can give them. If that leads to her stalking a folk singer and ending up waist deep in bay-scum, well, it’s Linda. These things are bound to happen.
Linda episodes can tend to go a little off the rails as Linda’s intensity goes up, but tonight we saw the opposite take place. The a-plot started off feeling a little aimless (this is also when the Simpsons similarity felt strongest), only really getting going when Linda started ramping up the crazy. The b-plot followed a similar rhythm, initially feeling like we were headed for another ‘Bob and Teddy shouting at each other’ scenario before upping its game once Gene and Louise took over. Overall, a very solid outing, as well as probably the best Linda episode in recent memory.
Feminine Denim Men
- Storefront: Mirror Mirror On The Wool Sequin Sweaters
- Exterminator: If You See Something Spray Something
- “Did you see the statue of the bull with his grapefruit showing? That’s bucket list stuff” “I did, and they were, and it was.” We didn’t get a lot of time with the Wagstaff crew tonight, but what we did get was typically on point.
- How many thirteen year olds in real life, in 2020, are even aware of Chumbawumba?
- “I have an idea.” “You do?” “Well, I will if it means I get to yell on the radio.” Clearly, Bob and the kids’ abetting Clem Clemens’s takeover of the radio station last season gave Louise a taste for broadcasting.
- “Tell him I go to Church because they hold hands during the Our Father, and it’s the only physical contact I get all week.” So very sad, so very funny, so very Teddy.
- I’m aware I spent an inordinate amount of this Bob’s Burgers review talking about The Simpsons. I’ll be honest, at this point writing about this show, if I come up with an angle I’m going to take it. Plus I started late tonight anyway, it being Mothers’ Day and all, so it is what it is.