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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Bob’s Burgers: “Mother Daughter Laser Razor”

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Over the course of Bob’s Burgers’ run, I’ve written my fair share about how good the show is at adding a certain level of sweetness to its chaos, how the members of the Belcher family actually love each other, how the show embraces misfits, and so on. You know, all that reviewer stuff that we’re supposed to go on about because theoretically we have some kind of skill in looking beyond the surface aspects of a show. “Mother Daughter Laser Razor” certainly has the potential for that kind of examination, due to its direct examination of parent-child relationships, but that’s not what comes to mind when I think about the episode.

What comes to mind is “Holy shit, that was funny.”

Bob’s Burgers gets this done with a simple, clever division of storylines. Linda and Louise (who don’t really understand each other) are on one side, while Bob and Tina (who likewise don’t really understand each other) are on the other; Gene, meanwhile, provides commentary. This works because it divides the show’s two biggest chaotic laugh-inducers, Gene and Louise, while also allowing stressful situations. So you get Gene demanding scrotal waxing on one end, Linda and Louise engaging in dueling musicals on the other, and a massive split-screen family scream-fest quickly follows. The cherry on top? Gene has no reason to be screaming, and yet he runs by, yelling anyway, because it’s hilarious! Although this is a good character episode for the other four main characters, Gene comes across the best, simply because he’s detached from having to do anything except be funny off to the side. The way he leaps onto Tina’s legs when she needs a shield may be the funniest bit of the evening. “Gene! Hide my legs!” “On it!”

This is not to say that the relationships between the parents and children aren’t funny. What stands out in “Mother Daughter Laser Razor” is that while there is meaning here, the comedy is the priority—except for a quick, semi-ironic line or two at the end. Linda’s foray into mommy blogs and the terrible advice of the Internet (particularly for Louise) is great for Linda to be the crazy one, but the lengths that a parent would go in such a situation also rings true. Likewise, Bob getting waxed is inevitably comedy gold, but his confusion at Tina’s pubescent moods with his willingness to help fits in with Bob as a good dad who loves his kids.

I’ve previously voiced concerns that some of the show’s best episodes, as good as they can be, utilize narrative styles that could prove difficult to maintain. This episode isn’t a example of that. It’s a perfectly sustainable sort of storyline: Bob’s Burgers could churn out 40 more of these over the next three seasons and it would be at golden-age Simpsons level, and that’s a great level to be at. Part of the reason is that the conflicts are so simple, low-key, and universal. A mother thinking her daughter doesn’t like her? That can go almost anywhere, and if that means an 8-hour seminar and a laser-tag session, so much the better.

Because, really, just look at that Louise-Linda singing scene. In order to work as well as it does, Bob’s Burgers has to have five things in place: it needs an episodic storyline that gets the two Belchers into a situation where this is plausible. It needs to have a strong enough character base for Linda that Louise can imitate her well, and also that Linda would get so caught up that she couldn’t help but play along. The “songs” themselves need to be funny. The animation needs to be good enough to convey the mockery. Finally, the voice actors need to be excellent. Bob’s Burgers had all those things tonight. It’s not the first time that it’s happened. And it looks like Bob’s Burgers is getting to the point where it can pull this off on a regular basis. This show’s placement in our the top 10 of our Best TV of 2012 list was a bit of a surprise for me given the competition, but one week in, it looks like Bob’s Burgers is going to contend for the top spot in 2013.

Stray observations:

  • “ALL RIGHT YOU KNOW WHAT! CHANGE YOUR OWN DIAPER!” I admire Linda’s parenting approach.
  • “No, Gene, not scrotal, just leg.”
  • “Itsabeautifulstoryofloveandacceptance. Ugh! My stomach!” I liked seeing Logan again, although he was much less threatening as a rival for Louise.
  • “Ah the bellybluff!” This is a good one, although I also recommend the sinus infection. Except when you actually have a sinus infection. Then it gets weird.
  • “Where’s mommy’s gun?”