“It’s a Christmas miracle! We went really fast and also don’t look to closely at the quality of our work!”
Episode Grade: B/B+
You’re not going to believe this, but there are some drawbacks to my usual routine reviewing Bob’s Burgers episodes. No, no, it’s true. Perhaps due to my lack of renown as a critic of animated sitcoms, FOX does not see fit to provide me with advance copies of episodes (actually, is that even a thing networks do anymore?). This means I get to see each episode at the same time as everyone else who lives on the East Coast. Because most of the reason I do these reviews is to try and recapture some of the spirit of the comment section from the pre-Kinja Mothership, I like to get them up as soon as possible after the episode airs so people can get to commenting. The result of all this is I’ll watch each episode once, usually with a lot of pausing to make notes or whatnot, figure out an angle on it, then try and bash out something semi-coherent within and hour or two.
This week, Life and Bob’s Burgers conspired together to highlight how this approach can sometimes lead me to miss the mark. Somewhat. Or, to put it another way, had I been able to follow my usual routine on Sunday, I’d likely have been a bit harsher on this episode. Instead, as things played out, I was able to get a couple of viewings in before sitting down to write this thing. Get this: it turns out Bob’s Burgers episodes improve on rewatch. Who knew?
This isn’t to say this episode was without its issues. We’ll start with Bob. Everyone knows the drill at this point when it comes to nice things happening to Bob. He can’t trust them. He’ll get progressively more paranoid and irrational until he finally snaps and undermines whatever benefit he might have gained from the situation. Sometimes, as happened this week, he’ll manage to get a small win at the very end to keep things from getting too bleak. Either way, there’s a pattern here, and it’s usually identifiable from the get-go. Eleven seasons in, it feels like they might be running out of entertaining ways for Bob to shoot himself in the foot. Short of, ya know, actually shooting himself in the foot. They haven’t done that yet, right?
The kids b-plot ran into similar problems. Yes, of course Louise is going to try and scheme her way to the front of the present-line. Yes, of course Tina is going to ineffectually try and talk her out of it, even as she goes along with her the entire time. Yes, Gene is just going to go along with his sisters, occasionally spouting off some bits of nonsense. And yes, at the end of the day, Louise will see the error of her ways and do the right thing. This is all pretty standard stuff.
It’s also the kind of stuff that will bug you more when you’re looking for things to write about an episode than when you’re just looking for a half-hour of entertainment. Yes, this episode was pretty rote in a lot of ways, but it was balanced out by some good stuff as well. Teddy-as-Santa was a lot of fun, wisely leaning into the sweet side of the character rather than the frantic, shouty one. Even Jimmy Pesto was relatively tolerable this week, although that was probably due to plot-reasons as much as anything else (in a weird reversal, I found Trev to be the more annoying of the pair this week). MVP of the episode has to go to Gus though, whose drunken abetting of the kids’ Yuletide piracy was really the engine that made this episode go.
This is all a pretty long-winded way of saying that, had I written this review on Sunday night, I probably would have gone with my original reaction of being annoyed by the repetitive elements of this episode and rated it lower. Having had the chance to watch it a couple more times, I found those elements bothered me a whole lot less, and I was better able to appreciate the things the episode did well.
- “How does the yacht club even know about us?” This actually kind of bugged the “But the continuity!” nerd in me. Glencrest Yacht Club should be pretty familiar with the Belchers by now.
- Also, when did their doorman start actually caring about his job?
- Linda’s mayor obsession was another element I found kind of irritating on first watch, but was less bothered by the next time around. I still kind of think of it as a joke the writers’ room must think is funnier than everyone else does.
- “I need to prepare my remarks. Which is what I call the drinks I’m gonna have.”
- “Now what’re we going to do?” “Go back to work and try to make the best of what little we have?” “Wow, that’s a sad thing to hear kids say at Christmastime.”
- Was struck by a twinge of melancholy by the episode’s premise, as my town holds a similar event on the river in non-plague years. Ah, well…