The unique storytelling style of an episode of Bless the Harts (SPOILERS)

All images used in this article are from FOXFLASH, Fox’s press release site. Bless the Harts ©2020 by Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation and Fox Media LLC. They are used with their permission, as they are publicity images.

I’ve been pretty bored lately, so I went back and re-watched an episode of Bless the Harts on Hulu that I wasn’t exactly too fond of at first. That episode is the most recent one titled “Invasion of the Potty Snatcher”. And while the other three shows on the AniDom block aired Christmas-themed episodes, this episode was not Christmas themed. After last season’s Christmas episode, which was a huge misfire, I can say that the writers did good not attempting another Christmas special, for now at least.

And while I wasn’t too fond of “Potty Snatcher” at first, re-watching it was a great decision. After all, I wrote this analysis essay in under 45 minutes. “Potty Snatcher”, while not very funny, sets itself apart from the other Bless the Harts episodes by using a different type of storytelling. Because it’s not just whether Jenny Hart should get a raise or not, but rather if she can learn a lesson from her stubbornness and what other people might think of her. This tackles not only the social commentary of female norms in society being prevalent, but outdated, but also gives some much needed development and personal growth to its main character.

Jenny’s been proven to be a pretty stubborn person, but she does mean well. In “Pound Pinchers”, Wayne lists all the times she put herself in danger just to prove something (the one with lions and grapes was freaking hilarious). And that’s the core focus of “Potty Snatcher”, or at least my takeaway from it, which is tackling one of the main focal points of Jenny’s character and putting it into a situation that can be the theme of an episode. If you’ve watched Bless the Harts, you know that most of the episodes like “Pumped”, “Trash Twins”, or “The McEntire Truth”, tend to revolve around how silly they can get, but in a way that doesn’t make them feel like Family Guy type of silly. But “Potty Snatcher” is different because its main emphasis isn’t the comedy, but rather the character development and empowerment.

And because of this, there was something I really missed out the initial time I watched this. The episode WANTED me to think that it was bad, but really it’s masking its identity to you so it can surprise you for what it sets up. No lie, as a fan of this show, I thought the episode was a misfire at first. However, once it uses its plot to its focal point of Jenny’s character to tackle, not only one, but TWO traits of her character, is where it really turns around. Throughout the episode, Jenny can be seen asking Louise for a raise in indirect ways, and there’s even a flashback montage in the beginning showing all the times she tried. But here, Jenny learns that it’s not that she needs to be direct with her requests like her male counterparts (Wayne, Bud, etc). INSTEAD, the lesson here is about her being able to learn how to empathize with those who share the same fears as her, being rejected for being openly direct. Throughout the episode, Jenny can be seen asking Louise for a raise in indirect ways, and there’s even a flashback montage in the beginning showing all the times she tried. Then, Jenny and all the other women are upset that a lady is taking too long in the restroom. When Jenny is tasked by Louise of getting her out, she becomes annoyed by the lady’s unresponsive behavior to her requests. And the lady doesn’t want to openly speak out because of one answer, fear.

The lady isn’t all unresponsive though. When Jenny hands her a menu, she points to what she wants. But after this, she gives in to the lady and kindly lets her be. It’s by this moment here, by giving the speech about women not being allowed to be direct in their requests because its not lady like, that the episode’s message can finally let itself out.

And Jenny can relate to that more because, like the lady in the restroom having her fear of speaking out, Jenny also has the fear of speaking directly because of the female norms. Wayne even directly tells his girlfriend to be direct and she still refuses. And it’s not until she learns that from her interactions and tireless efforts in the restroom to get the lady out, where she’s able to conquer her fear of being direct to others in her requests. It’s a moment of personal growth and character development for a character who tends to be rather stubborn, but means well.

Most of the episode at first felt like cheap, easy shots at feminism, hence why I thought the episode started off not-so-good. This show is, for the most part, produced by females, and because of this, I was concerned with how it started out. Turns out that it was being intentionally bad on purpose by making viewers like me and you think that it was bad because of this lazy style of writing. However, because of how it turns its narrative and structure into a social commentary at feminism and a moral for the main character, it sets up something that needs to be said in society. How it goes from the cheap shots at feminism and women, to showing how they can withstand all the society problems and still be stable makes it more empowering, and also interesting, to me. I don’t directly have the female experience, as I am a male. However, I might be able to sympathize with the show’s message because of how empowering it is.

And if you thought the moral was that “women have the right to take a massive dump”, then you’re clearly missing the point. While that’s what it may seem like at first, the social commentary on how females should be restricted to a specific type of norms really spoke to me. Older animated comedies didn’t really tackle this because it would be seen as “out of the norm.” However, “Potty Snatcher” uses the current climate to its advantage to send its message. And while it doesn’t explicitly say this, it’s also the same with males and their norms. Society is actively changing, and so should the norms that society believes in. For example, just because a male cries or is too sensitive doesn’t make him any less of a man. And with here, Jenny finally being able to conquer her fear of being direct, doesn’t make her any less of a woman.

I won’t talk too much about the subplot, since I literally just wrote an entire essay on the message of this episode, but Betty’s segment felt annoying to me for the most part. Almost none of it was funny and it’s another episode that shows how trashy she can act. I mean, the teacher filed a restraining order on her for a reason. However, I will praise those puns and innuendos that Betty, David, and Violet used with chemistry and romanticism in the classroom. In addition, I did like how Violet tried to make Betty feel better after being rejected by her teacher, by telling her that she’s “peaking” in her age right now. That was nice to see. The episode as a whole was weak on the comedy, but made up for it with its unique type of storytelling that we rarely see in television nowadays.

Although this episode is still on the lower end of the second season, it’s one that I can appreciate much more for what surprises it sets up. Bless the Harts may not be anything innovative or groundbreaking like Primal or Bojack Horseman; However, I would be lying if I say it hasn’t set itself apart from the other sitcoms on the Fox animation block. The first thing that sets it apart is its family status. Wayne isn’t married to Jenny, but is extended through being her boyfriend. The second thing is the use of an imaginary friend. Jenny’s interactions with her imaginary friend Jesus, usually just make for funny one-on-one time. I love all his pop culture references and advice that he gives. Finally, while the recent episodes of both The Simpsons and Family Guy try to see how many jokes they can pull off or brag about their guest star who gets nearly zero screen time, it’s nice to see that there’s another animated comedy on Fox that can put solid storytelling before anything else. Because at the end of the day, if your episode isn’t all that funny, you can still do okay with solid writing and storytelling. However, if your story structure is poor, then your jokes are all irrelevant to the plot as well, thus the entire thing is more likely to flop.

That being said, we still have 11 or 12 more episodes of Bless the Harts to look forward to this season. And I hope we can get back to the season soon, because I am anticipating the return of the AniDom block. Based on what I’ve seen of Call Me Kat and Last Man Standing, I believe Fox tends to do better with animated comedy than live-action comedy, so I kind of wish they drop live-action sitcoms completely and focus fully on animated sitcoms. While they may not do well in terms of live ratings, the animated streaming retention rate is incredibly high, due to animation appealing to more younger adults and audiences, who are more attracted to streaming services. And because of Fox’s dedicated Sunday block to animation, they have something the other three main networks lack. Animation is a medium, not a genre, and hopefully, the other networks catch on with the trend and order some cartoons. Because that mindset of “cartoons are only for young people” really needs to change.

And Bless the Harts proves that you can have an adult animated show that’s not entirely crass and full of swears and shock humor, (think Crossing Swords, Paradise PD, or modern Family Guy) and that animation can appeal to everyone. Again, it’s not innovative, but it’s a step in the right direction for Fox on noticing what people don’t want in their adult animated shows. Showrunner Andy Bobrow has said that writing for animation is different than live-action, but the writers have been able to take their style of writing and put it into animation. After all, this show is technically the spiritual successor of The Last Man on Earth, since over half of the writers and producers from that show are now on this. While it may not appeal to true animation fans, I think this style of writing can appeal more to general audiences, and only reinforces my point more that cartoons are for all ages.

Bless the Harts returns with all-new episodes on Sunday, February 14, at 7:30/6:30c on Fox. If you miss the live airings, you can watch the next day on FOXNOW or Hulu.