In ‘Bob’s Burg­ers,’ plenty to beef about

New Fox car­toon serves up a charred sense of com­edy

The Washington Post Sunday - - ARTS & STYLE - BY HANK STUEVER stuev­erh@wash­post.com

Fox’s new an­i­mated se­ries, “Bob’s Burg­ers,” is an­other gross car­toon­wherethe­laugh­s­get­burnt to a crisp, this time about a beach­side ham­burger joint owned and op­er­ated by the Belch­ers, a fam­ily of in­de­ter­mi­nate eth­nic ori­gin.

Greek? Ar­me­nian? The sim­ple, ver­ti­cal lines drawn up and down Bob Belcher’s arms seem to sym­bol­ize a swarthi­ness, some­thing en­dear­ing yet un­de­sir­able that the cre­ators are try­ing to sub­lim­i­nally con­vey to view­ers. Or no, prob­a­bly not. I’m al­ready ex­pend­ing too much brain­power in try­ing to de­tect an orig­i­nal theme here.

Point­lessly vul­gar and deriva­tively dull, “Bob’s Burg­ers” is wedged into the net­work’s Sun­day night an­i­ma­tion lineup — a land first set­tled long ago by “ The Simp­sons,” fi­nessed by Mike Judge’s “King of theHill,” and later over­pop­u­latedan­dover­workedby Seth Mac­Far­lane’s manic out­put of char­ac­ters in “Fam­ily Guy,” “Amer­i­can Dad!” and “The Cleve­land Show.” (Speak­ing of “King of the Hill,” one of “Bob’s Burg­ers” ex­ec­u­tive pro­duc­ers came from that show, but you’d hardly know it to look at the new show; less faint are “Bob’s Burg­ers’s” cre­ative com­mons with FX’s “Archer” and Com­edy Cen­tral’s 1990s hit, “Dr. Katz, Pro­fes­sional Ther­a­pist.”)

Al­though the an­i­ma­tion in “Bob’s Burg­ers” at­tempts a cou­ple of al­lur­ingly sim­ple touches (the Belch­ers have no chins, lend­ing them a quirky, Beaker-from-theMup­pets qual­ity), the script and char­ac­ters ex­hibit a cheap empti­ness in­ter­ested only in ex­plor­ing the ever-out­wardly-shift­ing lim­its of what you can and can’t say on broad­castTV. No one gig­glesmore than I do when a car­toon for grown-ups mines some naughty, new fron­tier — but “Bob’s Burg­ers” just isn’t that funny.

The first episode finds Bob fret­ting about draw­ing more busi­ness for the La­bor Day week­end rush. The crowds keep pass­ing his place by, and keep­ing the res­tau­rant open ap­pears to be an on­go­ing is­sue. The on­lyem­ploy­eesareBob; his wife, Linda; a daugh­ter, Louise, who keeps com­plain­ing that her crotch itches; a son, Eu­gene, who has ADHD and a fart horn; and, Tina, a younger daugh­ter with a twisted sense ofhu­mor­who takes a piece of chalk and rechris­tens the burger-of-the-day spe­cial as “ the ChildMolester.” (“It comes with candy,” she ex­plains.)

Two health in­spec­tors ar­rive and start tick­ing off a litany of code vi­o­la­tions. Dur­ing show and tell at school, Tina tells her class­mates that her fa­ther’s ham­burg­ers are made from hu­man flesh pro­vided from the cre­ma­to­rium next to the res­tau­rant.

Laugh­ing yet? The lone ac­com­plish­ment of “Bob’s Burg­ers” is mak­ing “The Simp­sons” (which once bril­liantly stood for the end of po­lite sit­com civ­i­liza­tion) and “Fam­ily Guy” (which made good on that prom­ise) seem even more like clas­sic, in­tel­lec­tual tele­vi­sion. All of which is a bum­mer for “The Simp­sons,” which still works hard to re­main re­bel­liously rel­e­vant and hi­lar­i­ous. It’s not ex­actly thrilling com­pany for Mac­Far­lane’s ilk, ei­ther.

And some­where, once again, Fred Flint­stone weeps.

FOX

A REAL GRIND: Bob and his wife, Linda, make burg­ers, not laughs.

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