Bob’s Burgers: “World Warf II” – Bad Things Are Bad
Of all the animated shows in Fox’s Sunday night Animation Domination block, Bob’s Burgers is by far the most grounded. Family Guy and American Dad are prone to their fantastical breaks from reality, while latter-day The Simpsons is almost unrecognizable from the real world it originally was meant to satire. Therefore, Bob’s Burgers can feel almost quaint in its grounded, character-driven stories. When it does break from reality, like, say, with a two-part episode featuring a murder plot and multiple musical numbers, the series demands attention to its uncharacteristic stylistic choices.
Unlike many other episodes, the season finale’s two-episode arc involves a soapy plot. A murderous gold digger, familial betrayal, and an episode-long murder attempt against Bob drive the story. Perhaps, a cynical viewer could attribute the heightened stakes to a ratings grab, but perhaps there is something deeper going on here.
The scene draws attention to its own artifice. Each singer stands in a beam of light, inspired by theatrical spotlights. Likewise, the scoring is simple and straightforward: compared to other orchestral pieces common to modern television music, the accompaniment here is a piano line, which wouldn’t be out-of-place in a small musical theater setting.
Next, let’s look at the musical nature of this scene. The musical number in part serves to link this second episode to the first part from the previous week. In “Wharf Horse,” Bob courts Fischoeder in an upbeat companion song called “Nice Things are Nice,” sung to the same tune, albeit in major key. In this episode, we get a tenser, larger group number that draws attention to the life-threatening peril that Bob has fallen into.
From a lyrical perspective, the chorus is so simplistic as to be tautological. Of course bad things are bad. The verses are comparably silly, as the supporting cast fails to recognize the importance of Bob’s disappearance. Andy and Ollie suggest that Bob may be in a vase, Jimmy Jr. can only talk about his pants, and Teddy is overly concerned about the loss of his favorite burger joint.
So what’s Bob’s Burgers doing here? Perhaps it’s mocking its own sense of high-stakes, by throwing a self-mocking musical number into the most dire scene of a life-or-death situation. As the most grounded Fox animated sitcom, it won’t go so far as to demolish the fourth wall, but it will draw attention to the constructed-ness of its situation. Of course the titular character won’t be killed off, and Bob’s Burgers is winking at the audience to let us know they’re in on the joke.
Angela Jorgensen originally hails from Iowa. She currently resides in Los Angeles and aspires to write for hour-long television dramas. She’s currently producing a documentary called The Longest Straw [www.thelongeststraw.wordpress.com].