In the past I’ve had a bit of a strange relationship with Bob’s Burgers, for the first three series I admired it a great deal and went around telling everyone I know that they must watch it or I’d set fire to their houses in the middle of the night, only rescuing their pets, or something along those lines anyway. But then I began to lose interest in the fourth season, it felt a little predictable with too many jokes based around Tina’s love for boy’s butts or Gene’s obsession with farting. Halfway through the season I stopped watching and it was only when season 8 began and I heard good things about it that I gave the show a shot again and fell back in love with it. After that I went back and watched the episodes I’d previously struggled with and though there’s the odd weak episode (as there are with pretty much every sitcom) most I enjoyed a great deal. So I don’t know, maybe I had a small stroke at the time or some kind of mental illness, but the main thing is, and the point of all this rambling, is that I’m so glad I did return to it as it really is a gem of a series.
By the time they get to the ninth season a lot of comedies start to go off the boil, it was infamously when The Simpson’s level of quality started to fluctuate, that being the year of the controversial “The Principal and the Pauper” episode which saw Principal Skinner turn out to be an imposter with no one caring, and the all rather stupid “Trash of the Titans” where at the end of the episode they supposedly relocated the whole town five miles away. There were still strong jokes in the episodes and it was no way near as bad as what was to come, but it was the beginning of a severe and depressing decline for the show. So it’s pretty impressive that right now in it’s ninth year Bob’s Burgers is having one of it’s best ever seasons, each episode so far has been consistently funny throughout and charming to boot, and this includes this latest episode, “UFO No You Didn’t”.
In it Tina’s partnered with Susmita for a science experiment and they decide to build a radio telescope and try to listen out for aliens. But fellow student Henry worries that this will lead to world domination by the type 3 civilisations that exist in our universe (and no Gene, that’s not a type of diabetes) and sabotages their plans by sending fake messages, leading them to believe that aliens may well destroy the world. Meanwhile Bob and Linda get a subplot where Bob buys five coat racks for the shop but they accidentally turn out to be for children and so they have to attempt to sell them.
One of the best things the show does is effortlessly capture how kids interact with each other, it’s what South Park used to do so well but now often fails at. Tina’s desperation for friendship and her obsession with boys, Louise’s love of causing chaos and Gene just being up for any kind of daft adventure all feel true to life and character, and it’s a combination that provides many funny moments. The best of which tend to revolve around them going on daft tangents and gently mocking their short attention spans, best highlighted here when after sending the fake alien message Gene says “What are they freaking out about? Oh…Yeah”. And though it might not be true of all children, Bob’s Burgers often shows their essential kindness, when Tina believes that this may be the last day of Earth’s existence she spends it kissing boys and telling her family that she loves them, the latter being incredibly sweet. And sure, Gene and Louise may betray their sister in the episode but they soon feel guilty about this and come clean.
My only complaint about the episode is that Bob and Linda don’t get the best subplot ever, it’s a fun enough diversion but the series is at it’s best when they give all the character’s a lot to do. Yet there’s still a lot to enjoy here, especially Bob’s regret at not laughing at Teddy’s joke and their eventual win. Indeed it’s an upbeat ending for both stories as Tina gives a great speech about the importance of taking risks and hoping for change, which is a strong moral message that we should all live by. The series is great at creating new characters too, or involving those who have mostly been seen in the background, and this applies to this episode as well where Susmita and Henry get some of the best lines and an endearing romantic subplot. Most importantly there’s a lot to laugh at, from Gene’s take on aliens – “What if they want to harvest our penises, and who could blame them?” to the fact that you’ll learn how to say Tom Hanks in Morse Code, Bob’s belief in the importance of coat racks and the boys reactions to Tina kissing them. And as always there’s a great song at the end, all of which work even better now that they’ve decided they don’t have to find a way to shoehorn them in to the episode and can just do whatever they want.
If you’ve never watched the series before now is a perfect time to start (before then going back and binging on every other episode), or if like me you were stupid enough to stop watching this episode is a great example of what makes the show so good. The Simpsons, Family Guy and South Park may have gone off the boil and you’ll never know whether they’re going to be watchable or not, but right now Bob’s Burgers won’t give you such concerns.