Bob’s Burgers is back at a new time, following Family Guy, and this time it’s here to stay (until the winter holidays anyway). So it’s a little disappointing “Friends with Burger-fits” is such a lightweight. The last two episodes build to these classical climaxes, big events that push the characters to heartwarming conclusions. This episode has more of a rambling sense of humor. It’s funny, and it gets where it’s going, but it doesn’t really build. It’s a slice of life.
Take the Linda half. While Bob’s off with Teddy, Linda hosts a children’s ice-pushing competition in the walk-in freezer. It started with the kids trying to freeze a fart in a jar, and then they get the idea to freeze the floor. They invite the other kids over, Linda finds out, and then they reconvene in derby costumes for the competition itself. See? It takes a while to get where it’s going.
That’s not a bad thing. “Friends with Burger-fits” really squeezes as much comedy as it can out of its setup. One of the best scenes comes when Bob wakes up early to go running with Teddy. The alarm clock blares so long (the buttons don’t work) that Louise screams from another room to turn it off. As Bob’s getting ready, Gene walks in with a one-liner (“Why are you running if you don’t want to? Just tell your teacher you have sciatica”) and just climbs into bed with Linda. Over the course of the scene, Bob leaves and one by one the kids wind up in bed together. No sooner are they nestled there with Linda than Louise’s alarm clock goes off down the hall and all the kids have to go check on the ice rink they made. It’s all about the exposition, giving us the next plot point in Bob and Teddy’s story and launching the kids’ story, but the rat-a-tat banter and the staging make it one of the funniest parts of the episode.
The only disappointment is the ice-pushing competition itself. After a good amount of build-up, in Linda’s hair if nothing else, the competition comes down to a few little matches, all of which together probably fit within that bed scene. That’s part of the joke when Louise effortlessly takes out Rudy, but the other matches are mostly about trash-talking. It comes down to Louise vs. Zeke, and Louise wins when Gene subjects Zeke to the dinosaur-killing odor of the frozen fart. And that’s it. That’s all there is to it, except for Louise’s victory song. Sing along! “Everybody kiss my butt!” Repeat several times.
The main story has to do with Bob and Teddy. See, Teddy has a bad doctor’s visit, which he reports in “blah blah” mode: “Your cholesterol’s off the charts. You absolutely must change your eating habits or you will die.” But Teddy orders a cheeseburger at Bob’s every day. Suddenly Bob feels like Teddy’s life is in his hands, so he tries to help fight Teddy’s cholesterol: sneaking him a veggie burger, jogging (walking) in the morning, going to a stuntman boot camp. After a restless night of listening to Teddy’s snoring, Bob collapses on the morning run. His instructors are very disappointed. “You don’t have the mental fortitude of someone who wants to train to not be an actual stuntman!” Bob snaps. He tells them he’s just there for Teddy, and Teddy’s not even his best friend. Teddy’s his best customer.
Clearly there’s a lot more to this story than the other one, but even this takes its time getting anywhere scenic. For most of the episode Teddy’s health is the focus rather than Bob and Teddy’s relationship, whatever it may be. Teddy considers Bob his best friend, but Bob is embarrassed to call Teddy his best friend. That’s the meat. But “Friends with Burger-fits” dresses it up with a whole lot of toppings.
For instance, maybe it’s the new timeslot behind Family Guy, but it’s hard not to notice a Seth MacFarlane-style cutaway gag. In this case it’s Bob and Linda recalling the only other time they’ve seen Teddy carry a briefcase, which was when he was in a play. Cut to Teddy saying, “Put the coffee down! Coffee is for closers only!” Notably, that scene isn’t in the play, Glengarry Glen Ross, but was written for the movie. It was surely irresistible for Teddy’s community theater producers.
Speaking of that memory scene, which plays through a brownish filter, one of the great unsung elements of Bob’s Burgers is its visual form. Animation can do anything, but Bob’s Burgers sticks to a specific way of telling its stories that makes things like cutaway gags stick out. This show is more about balanced compositions, big shots that show everyone in the family, or that shock zoom-in-and-out technique that highlights a bunch of people’s reactions to something. Bob’s Burgers has as sharp a sense of style as if it were filmed with cameras. Take the joke when Mike the mailman brags about his calves. “I walk 9 miles a day. Look at my calves.” The animation starts to pan down, and suddenly he says, “Wait, don’t look at my calves. They’re not that impressive.” Or take the turning point, where Bob rants about how sorry he feels for Teddy and then the animation pans over to reveal Teddy on fire. The instructors point out that he’s going to scar on the outside and on the inside after this.
So Teddy and Bob leave early, and Teddy demands to be let out at Dusty’s Feedbag, his new burger joint. (Another example of the episode’s rambling: Teddy storms off, but he can’t seem to find the entrance to the place, so it takes him a while.) When Bob finds out Dusty’s serves a five-pound burger called the Belly Buster, he realizes he has to save Teddy from it. But the manager doesn’t take too kindly to Bob trying to poach a customer: “I don’t remember hiring a fat Burt Reynolds.”
That’s when Bob threatens him with his training this weekend. The manager taunts, “I hope you got trained to get your ass kicked!”
“Actually I did!” Bob yells, and then gets promptly thrown through the window.
Naturally Bob and Teddy make up. It’s a little light on words, but the actions say it all. Teddy doesn’t need Bob to say they’re best friends, because he just watched Bob take a fall through glass and onto cement for him. However thin it is, “Friends with Burger-fits” ends with one last example of the show’s visual intelligence. It’s Bob lying on his back on the frozen floor of the walk-in, and his family is around him trying to help him feel better. Another surprise pan reveals Teddy’s massaging his feet, too. Linda’s comforting him. Tina’s the one who came up with the idea of lying on the ice for fun. Bob admires Tina’s victory belt. Gene offers the frozen fart, which Bob admits is pretty great. Everyone’s contributing to this vision of relief, even Teddy, in another crystallizing Bob’s Burgers visual.
–Bob wakes up from a guilty dream and says he’s gonna kill Teddy. Linda responds in a haze: “Wha? Are you gonna kill Teddy? Okay. Car’s gassed up. I guess I could homeschool the kids.”
–Bob says Teddy’s not his friend but his customer. “I really value that 30 inches of formica that’s between us.” Gene: “Are you talking about your ding-dong, daddy? Brag!”
–Linda improvises a song to celebrate Bob and Teddy’s friendship: “Best friends till the very end! / He crashes on your couch when he loses his job / A guy pulls a knife and you step in front / You take the blade right in the gut, ow! / Then he holds your hand till the medic comes / You’ll feed him soup when he breaks his jaw / You help him pee when he has that thing / He’s your best friend!”
–Zeke beats Tina: “Yeah, I did it! I pushed a girl, and not because I like her and didn’t know how to show it.”
–Gene: “You might have beaten me, Louise, but blood is thicker than ice, but not really.”