Over there in the endless and numbered days of my puberty with Tina Burger Quarantina Shirt, there was no block on television that I liked more than Fox Animated Sundays. This was a time when The Simpsons still had some gas left in the tank and where series such as King of the Hill, Futurama and Family Guy lived their most inspired spinning moments. Soon after, however, Futurama and Family Guy would be canceled – only to be revived years later – and The Simpsons would soon enter his unstoppable slip down the slide of mediocrity and decline. Animated series for “adults” on television seemed destined for failure.
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A few years later Cartoon Network gave its well-known Block Adult Swim a chance in Latin America but, apparently, programs such as Aqua Teen Hunger Force and Sealab 2021, with their absurd and repetitive humor, failed to enchant the region’s audience and the block was withdrawn without penalty or glory from programming after a few months. One of the Adult Swim series that caught my attention most in that short period was Home Movies, a curious and idiosyncratic animated series about a child with a fondness for shooting movies. The point of all this apparent digression is that Loren Bouchard, the mastermind behind Home Movies, is also the creator of the series at hand today: Bob’s Burgers, which, as might be assumed, is about a man named Bob Belcher, his family and his modest burger restaurant.
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Released in January 2011, Bob’s Burgers was the first animated series – without involving Seth McFarlane – to be released by Fox in a good time and expectations were high. The debut was auspicious in terms of ratings but critics were not very convinced and as the season progressed much of the audience left the ship. Still, Fox gave him a vote of confidence and after that rocky start Bob’s Burgers managed to head the way to becoming one of the most acclaimed shows on television. This is where I must admit that I was late for the party. The fall as series like The Simpsons and the play of cancellations-renewals of others as Futurama made me wary of the animated series so it cost me a try to give Bob’s Burgers a try. A few months ago, pushed by good reviews and its availability on Netflix, I made the decision to get toothed and I’m glad I did. Why? For the following reasons in list format, of course.
That a family is at the heart of an animated series is no innovation, but that does not detract from the excellent characterization that Bouchard and company have given to all members of the Belcher family, particularly its three female members : Linda, the enthusiastic singing-loving matriarch; Louise, the precocious youngest daughter who mixes chaos and affection in uneven parts and Tina, a puberty in the midst of hormonal revolt obsessed with horses and butts. Part of the success here is due to the brilliant work of the actors, in particular Kristen Schaal as Louise.
Ocean Avenue is the name of the small, generic East Coast town in which the series takes place and over the seasons a long list of its endearing inhabitants have appeared, including Bob’s eccentric and staunch homemade , Linda’s lonely, illusory sister and the sad and charming bobalicón who is the restaurant’s most frequent customer. Even when he mocks them, Bob’s Burgers always holds a great affection for the gang of misfits and freaks who parade over their episodes and that makes the series never fall into cynicism or hurtful satire. This series never found a pun that you didn’t like and so originate many of the show’s recurring jokes, such as the slate with the names of the specialty of the day in the restaurant or the pest control truck in the opening sequence. The humor of the series, in general terms, is a mixture of the everyday and the ridiculous, the subtle and the anarchic, with a good quota – particularly in its beginnings – of eschatological jokes. Whatever is described, the result is hilarious.
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Bob’s Burgers is one of the few series whose main characters can be considered as members of the working class. Bob and his family do not live in the suburbs, live in a small rented apartment in the city, and while they have their own business, the proceeds from this are barely enough to make ends meet. The series doesn’t make too much of a drama out of these situations, but it doesn’t hide them either; indeed, Bob could be considered a kind of heroic loser, a guy whose unwavering determination to keep his unprofitable business is both his main strength and his great weakness.
As I mentioned above, the series had a complicated start, with a first season that was not to the liking of many and that had it on the verge of cancellation. However, Bouchard and his team managed to fine-tune details and correct bugs and along the way they found a voice of their own for the series and for its characters. Each new season is better than the previous, with more inventiveness, more risks in the narrative and positive changes in characterizations that can make a previously relegated character, like Tina, a favorite for the audience. The series finished its fourth season just a few days ago and the fifth is on its way. Luckily, the first three seasons are on Netflix so more than 45 episodes are just a couple of clicks away and a stolen password. For the suspicious neophytes it is recommended to buy Tina Burger Quarantina Shirt and start with the second season: its small size (9 episodes) makes it a perfect sampler to taste the riches of the series.