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Flavorpill’s Favorite TV Shows of the 2011-12 Season

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If the weather was as warm where you were as it was in New York over the long weekend, you probably didn’t spend much of the past few days watching TV. But Memorial Day isn’t just the beginning of the summer season — it also marks the end of May sweeps month, the official close of the television season, when network programming packs it in until September and we’re forced to make do with generally crappy filler, reruns, and the occasional fantastic basic or premium cable series. What this means (besides that we should all step away from the screen and get some sun) is that it’s time to crown our favorite TV shows of the 2011-12 season. Our picks, featuring the astute input of Flavorwire’s editorial staff, are after the jump.

Community

“It’s not exactly a bold, brave stance to pronounce Community one of the best shows on television, particularly with the high emotions swirling around Harmon-firing-gate,” writes film editor Jason Bailey, who joins just about every Flavorwire staffer (and, in case you haven’t noticed, the entire Internet) in supporting the series. “And the few grumblers who have loudly objected that, hey, the show was a little uneven this season are right (and that’s an if that I’m not quite ready to cede), then it should be noted that Community on an off night is better than just about any other television comedy at its best. And when Community is on… well, you end up with episodes like ‘Pillows and Blankets (Part 2)’ (aka the Ken Burns episode), ‘Regional Holiday Music’ (their killer Glee parody), or ‘Remedial Chaos Theory’ (the ‘darkest timeline’ episode). When that last show rolled its closing credits, this viewer felt something I hadn’t felt since the first time I saw the ‘Contest’ episode of Seinfeld: that I’d just seen perfect television comedy.”

Sadly, we won’t find out whether the show will become trapped in its own “darkest timeline” until September — but the news that writer Megan Ganz will be back does offer a shred of hope.


What’s On at Flavorpill: The Links That Made the Rounds in Our Office

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Today at Flavorpill, we wondered if Cosmo cover girls are getting younger and younger. We questioned if this indie film was the most disturbing movie ever made. We hoped these 10 other animals would get their own version of Shark Week. We thought Animaniacs and Skrillex were perfect together. We read 15 reasons to watch Bob’s Burgers this fall. We spotted the original character descriptions for the cast of Friends. We enjoyed the dancing of Marquese Scott. We did a double take at this real-life Walter White. We explored this Tavi Gevinson timeline. We suddenly realized how much Agent Scully said, “Oh my god,” in The X-Files. We checked out a music of Finland playlist. And finally, we read Brooklyn poet Paul Legault’s translation of 26 Emily Dickinson poems. “Angels are plotting to destroy you,” and other gems made a lot of sense.


Funny Cartoons Taking Over the Pages of Harlequin Novels

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Los Angeles-based cartoonist and illustrator Jay Howell — creator of popular zine Punks Git Cut — was working on an animated series called The Forest City Rockers that caught the attention of Fox. They recruited him to create art for their new show Bob’s Burgers, about a family that runs a hamburger joint next to a crematorium. Since then he’s been developing a pilot for Nickelodeon, while also working on a new zine called Dark Wave. Today, however, it’s his drawings on Harlequin novels that got us excited.

The cartoon-style drawings are set on the title pages of the mawkish best sellers, conceptualizing the art-text relationship in funny ways. “I was in a thrift store maybe six months ago and I noticed that the titles in these books were just so funny,” Howell said in a recent interview. ”I was doing all these drawings about people reading books with funny titles, [because] I really like making up fake names and fake book titles. Then I saw those books, and it was just so perfect.” Click through to see Howell’s lanky and monstrous characters take over the pages of Harlequin novels in our gallery below.


Image credit: Jay Howell [Spotted via Booooooom]


The 15 Funniest TV Characters Right Now

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Is Andy Dwyer the funniest character on TV? We know we struggle to keep a straight face every time Chris Pratt is on the screen in Parks and Recreation, between his sweetly doofy lines and his perfectly timed pratfalls. (As our colleague Kim Gardner reminds us, he makes an excellent FBI agent, too.) Our love of Andy got us thinking about who else might qualify as television’s most hilarious character right now, so we surveyed the Flavorpill staff to get their picks. See the 15 they shouted out — including now fewer than three more Parks and Rec characters — after the jump.

Schmidt, New Girl

“I’m a big fan of Max Greenfield’s Schmidt on New Girl,” writes Emily Temple. “Yes, he’s the perfect mix of ludicrous surrealism and oh-god-I-have-that-friend, but it’s really Schmidt’s joy at his own douchebaggery that has me giggling into my tea at night.” Asha Saluja agrees that the character is “annoying but brilliantly written and reliably hilarious. Plus,” she adds, “his preference for brown girls makes lots of his quips specifically relevant to me and thus more quotable to my friends.”


Watch Tina as a Boy in the ‘Bob’s Burgers’ Test Pilot

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When a show is as great as Bob’s Burgers, it’s fascinating to see how it got its start — and especially how its many hilarious characters were originally envisioned. So we’re thrilled that Splitsider has pointed us to the cartoon’s test pilot. The 13-minute clip, which features a similar plot to the series premiere, finds a health inspector visiting the restaurant to investigate a rumor that the burgers are made of human flesh. Despite some small differences in animation style, the demo looks very much like the Bob’s Burgers we know and love — except, of course, that instead of the Belchers’ oldest daughter, Tina, there’s a son named Daniel who has the exact same voice and itchy crotch. Comparing the two characters, it’s easy to see why Daniel became Tina; she’s a million times funnier as a girl.


This Week’s Top 5 TV Moments

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There are scores of TV shows out there, with dozens of new episodes each week, not to mention everything you can find on Hulu Plus, Netflix streaming, and HBO Go. How’s a viewer to keep up? To help you sort through all that television has to offer, we’re compiling the five best moments on TV each week. This time, lots of couples get together, and one couple finds out they’re expecting.

Nick and Jess Finally Do the Deed

Most of this week’s episode of New Girl had absolutely zero going on in the way of plot advancement considering that it was a flashback episode. But after thirty minutes of learning how Schmidt, Winston, Jess, Nick, and CeCe lost their virginities, the final minute made up for the funny but ultimately pointless gimmick by showing Nick and Jess together. Like, together together. As in looking at each other happily in bed in a Monica-and-Chandler-esque “we just had sex for the first time” kind of way. Right on!

Ron Swanson Is Having a Kid

Parks and Rec‘s season finale was remarkable on multiple fronts: the return of fan-favorite Burt Macklin, the most laugh-out-loud lines of the entire season, and the introduction of a few actual long-term conflicts into a show that’s spent too long feeling like one long, treacly celebration of friendship. Most important, however, was the last-second revelation that the pregnancy test Andy/Burt found at Ron’s cabin belonged to his girlfriend, Diane. It’s a development that has plenty of comic potential, of course, but it’s also an important opportunity to further develop a character who’s only just started to experience some personal growth this season. Swanson will likely be as ridiculously competent at fatherhood as he is at woodworking, but we’re looking forward to watching him get there.

The Mindy Project Picks Up on Its Chloe Sevigny Cliffhanger

In the opening minutes of this week’s episode, we learned that Danny’s ex-wife Christina wasn’t just stopping by the office, but showed up because Morgan mailed the letter confessing Danny’s love. In the closing minutes, Mindy delivered Danny Christina’s own letter and he agreed to ask her out for coffee. Plus one for great use of a guest star in a central player’s character development, minus one for all those fans dying for Danny and Mindy to get together. Also charming: Mindy calling Christina out for “not having the physique of someone who eats pizza on the reg” in front of her favorite food truck, where she’s ordering four slices’ worth of her favorite lunch. Christina definitely looks like the raw vegan type.

The Ladies of Bob’s Burgers Become Pseudo-Directioners

While Gene and the parents attended a “table-scaping” competition, Tina and Louise made their way over to a concert from boy band Boyz 4 Now. An obvious spoof of One Direction, Boyz 4 Now quickly convert the scornful Louise into a screaming, smitten superfan. Tina’s wonderfully nonplussed “concert scream” and the fake single “Coal Mine” were great, but Louise’s identity crisis after falling hard for a prepubescent singer named “Boo Boo” made the episode. Crazed fandom drives the Belcher sisters to stow away on the band’s tour bus, bury themselves in their underwear, and slap a booster seat-bound Boo Boo. Sisterly bonding at its best.

Deacon and Rayna Reunite on Nashville

It’s exactly the kind of schmaltzy, cliched reunion scene viewers are used to seeing on every network drama out there, but for some reason Rayna and Deacon’s end of episode bailing out on a trip to St. Lucia/doorstep confession of love/steamy sex scene worked. Not only do Connie Britton (she of the absolutely flawless hair) and Charles Esten look great together, but the show’s also done an unusually good job of building up the duo’s romantic and sexual tension over the past season. It’s reminiscent of early Gossip Girl, except Rayna is a thousand times more appealing than Lily van der Woodsen.


Flavorwire’s Favorite TV Shows of the 2012-13 Season

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Flavorwire is celebrating Memorial Day with The Year in TV, a series of features on the 2012-13 TV season, which ends this month.

Although it’s easy to forget at a time when the flexible schedules of basic and premium cable — and now online streaming services — have pretty much destroyed the idea that television has an off-season, Memorial Day does, in fact, mark the official end of the 2012-13 TV season. So, even though many of our perennial favorites (Mad MenGame of Thrones) haven’t even ended their seasons yet and others just dropped a new batch of 15 episodes on our head (Arrested Development), it’s time again to take stock of the past 12 months on the small screen. From standbys like Louie and Parks and Recreation to such newcomers as Bunheads and Hannibal, here are Flavorwire’s 15 favorite shows of the year.

louie

Louie

“When I wrote the Parker Posey stuff,” Louis C.K told The New York Times last month, “it was really verbose and long, and I was like, ‘This is supposed to be one episode.’ So I wrote a card that says, ‘This can be anything you want,’ and it sat on my desk the rest of the season. Once I got to that, I was like, ‘Hey, telling longer stories, that’s fun.’” But it wasn’t just the long stories that gave the third season of television’s best comedy its extra juice — though the Posey arc was a powerful and poignant deconstruction of the Manic Pixie Dream Girl trope, and the three-part Late Show run was as good as any 90-minute comedy film in recent memory. The idea that Louie could be “anything you want” informed the storytelling even on one-offs like the evocative “Miami” episode or the wonderfully peculiar “Barney” vignette (featuring Robin Williams’s best work in years). Even as he’s become a critics’ darling, Louie is still experimenting and taking chances, and that’s what makes his work so exciting. — Jason Bailey


Clever Script Covers From Behind the Scenes of ‘Bob’s Burgers’

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As if you needed another reason to love the odd, uproarious, and consistently brilliant Fox comedy Bob’s Burgers, here you go: according to the show’s Tumblr, Behind Bob’s Burgers, show artist and producer Tony Gennaro designs a custom script cover for every single episode’s table read, “just for the fun of it and in spite of the fact that he’s already extremely busy with real work.” Anyone who loves the show will hardly find it surprising that the covers are delightful, clever, and awesome. Check them out after the jump.

Artist Credit: Tony Gennaro

Artist Credit: Tony Gennaro


Television on the Spectrum: The Best (and Worst) Depictions of Asperger Syndrome on TV

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Asperger syndrome is no longer in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders — the DSM kids are calling it an autism spectrum disorder these days — but it’s still all over our television screens. It seems like no TV show is complete anymore without a charming and/or abrasive weirdo who has issues with social cues, eye contact, and the occasional hallucination involving deer antlers. (Although maybe that last one is Hannibal-specific.)

As both a person with Asperger’s and an obsessive television watcher, these characters are pretty serious business for me, and it’s important to me that writers and actors portray them as accurately and honestly as possible. As the latter, I also want to make sure they’re entertaining.

Using my mad meticulous and intensely focused spectral skills, I’ve assessed 15 of the small screen’s Aspergian, autistic, and “autistish” characters and ranked them from best to worst.

maurice moss it crowd

Maurice Moss, The IT Crowd

Moss has become a bit of an aspirational figure for people on the spectrum. We identify with him and his autistic-like qualities because we collect weird stuff like wires and suck at lying, too. We want to be him because most of us aren’t nearly as unapologetic and proud of those things as he is. 


The 10 Best Ensemble Casts on Television Right Now

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Another year, another Emmy Awards ceremony. Like a dutiful TV fan, I’ll be watching on Sunday night, cheering on my favorites and groaning at the by-now-inevitable Modern Family sweep. But I’m already prepared to be disappointed, because the Emmys have never honored what I love most about TV: the collaborative efforts of great ensemble casts. In a small effort to right that wrong, Flavorwire has rounded up the ten very best ensembles on television right now. And no, it doesn’t include Modern Family.

Parks and Recreation

Parks and Recreation

Forget “right now”: Parks and Recreation has one of the best ensemble comedy casts of all time. Let’s count the ways: the generous earnestness Amy Poehler gives Leslie Knope; Nick Offerman’s gruff, DIY libertarianism as Ron Swanson; Aziz Ansari creates a Tom Haverford whose delusions are as endearing as his dreams; Chris Pratt transformed what could been a one-note deadbeat boyfriend into the vehicle for the show’s best physical comedy; Aubrey Plaza makes deadpan negs and apathetic eye-rolls into an art; and Rob Lowe’s character so closely resembles real-life health nuts that if you describe someone you know as “a total Chris Traeger,” everyone will instantly know what you mean. After five seasons, even characters who are often relegated to the background — Retta’s Donna, Jim O’Heir’s Jerry — or tend to play straight man to Parks and Rec‘s many oddballs — Rashida Jones’ Anne, Adam Scott’s Ben — have become beloved. That’s because what makes this cast magical goes beyond the talents of any individual actor; it’s about the way they translate the genuine fun they have working together to the screen.


Eat Bob’s Burgers IRL: Links You Need to See

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If Bob’s Burgers has ever made you hungry, you’re in luck: new Tumblr the Bob’s Burgers Experiment aims to bring all the burgers from the show’s chalkboard to life. Despite what the internet would lead you to believe, “trolling” can actually be a festive activity, as we learned in this Mental Floss guide to grammar in Christmas carols. Can you tell the difference between fourth grade haikus and famous poetry? Take this quiz and find out. Also, be sure to watch this mash-up of trailers from 2013, and Blank on Blank’s animated version of an intimate Tupac interview that’ll definitely get the conspiracy theorists talking.


Beyonce Pissed Off NASA: Links You Need to See

Kanye West and Steve McQueen Had a Meeting of Minds: Links You Need to See

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Happy Martin Luther King Day! Here are your links for the day, which you should definitely read because what else could you possibly be doing today?

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Some folks are on Kickstarter trying to make a Cool Runnings sequel happen, and really this is only here because I prophesied it over a really gross Shepherd’s Pie last weekend and I like when my third eye is validated. [Geekosystem]

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Who’s the better cartoon mom? Tina Belcher or Lois Griffin? [Hollywood.com]

behind-the-scenes-l-word

The L Word debuted ten years ago today. [Autostraddle]

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Kanye West and Steve McQueen sat down together for Interview and it’s a pretty epic conversation. [Interview]

Lifetime-movie-Flowers-in-the-Attic-2014

Flowers in the Attic is still as cracked out as we expected and Kiernan Shipka is doomed to play severely damaged, mid-century teenagers. [Crushable]


10 TV Events to Look Out For in March

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February seemed especially bland this year, mostly due to the long, Winter Olympics-related television hiatus. Now that sports are wrapped up (no, I didn’t forget about how football took over Sundays), our DVRs will be packed once again. March is full of premieres, returning favorites, and season finales. Here are ten television events to mark down on your calendar.

Screen Shot 2014-03-03 at 3.19.08 PM

March 6: Suits and Sirens Premiere on USA

USA is adding to our already-crowded Thursday-night TV schedule with the return of Suits, a clever lawyer drama. The first half of the third season ended on a cliffhanger — Mike’s secret is once again in danger of being revealed — and the rest of the season is sure to be explosive. After that comes the premiere of Sirens, a comedy about Chicago EMTs based on the British series of the same name and adapted by Denis Leary. You can already watch a preview episode on Hulu.


Your Weekly TV News Roundup: ‘Gotham’ Casts Bruce Wayne, E! Goes Royal

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The television world moves so fast that by the time you learn of a show’s premiere, it could already be canceled. It’s hard to keep track of the constant stream of television news, so Flavorwire is here to provide a weekly roundup of the most exciting — and baffling — casting and development updates. This week, Bob’s Burgers gets an album deal, MasterChef Junior gets two more seasons, and VH1 gets the awful lineup that it deserves.

Answering all of our wishes, Loren Bouchard recently confirmed that Bob’s Burgers will release an album of songs from the show. It won’t be out until the fall, but it’s already my favorite album of the decade. [Behind Bob's Burgers]

Another week, another batch of Gotham-related casting news. We finally have our young Batman: David Mazouz, of the short-lived drama Touch. Gotham also cast Camren Bicondova as Selina Kyle (better known as Catwoman). [The Hollywood Reporter]

truTV (which is tied with SyFy for worst stylized network name) ordered ten episodes of its first sketch show. The network has previously talked about expanding its programming to include comedy — ahem, “comedic reality” — and Friends of the People is its first big step. A sketch show is a jarring move for a network that was once only known for its popular coverage of the Menendez brothers trial, but I’m all for more comedy on TV. [Variety]

VH1 announced a ton of new programs this week. In addition to the White Girls of Rap reality show, the lineup includes shows about everything from Nick Carter’s relationship with his fiancée to DNA testing to college kids doing the walk of shame. [VH1]

Timbaland has signed on for Lee Daniels and Brian Grazer’s Fox hip hop-centric drama pilot, Empire. The pilot had previously cast Terrence Howard and Taraji P. Henson. [Deadline]

2013-10-25-masterchef-junior

More MasterChef Junior! Although the second season has yet to premiere, Fox has already renewed the show for a third. It’s great news if you love to watch adorable children expertly make elaborate meals that you haven’t even heard of. [The Hollywood Reporter]

E! has ordered its first scripted series: The Royals. Starring Elizabeth Hurley, the show “is an hourlong drama that explores a fictional British Royal family set in modern-day London.” [The Hollywood Reporter]

TBS ordered a pilot from creators of Will & Grace. The comedy is about a group of high school friends working in a barbershop in Massachusetts. It doesn’t sound like comedic gold, but TBS will probably keep it on for at least three seasons. [The Wrap]

Patricia Arquette will be the lead in the CSI spinoff about cyberpsychologists solving cyber crimes on the cyber web. [Deadline]

Julia Stiles will return to television, but unfortunately not in an ABC Family teen drama based on Save The Last Dance. Instead, she’ll star in the TNT legal drama Guilt by Association.  [AV Club]

The newest celebrity to get a reality show is Leah Remini. TLC ordered 12 episodes about Remini and her family — including an “opinionated mother” and “eccentric stepfather,” who are sure to cause some zany conflicts. [Deadline]


‘Bob’s Burgers’ Season 4 Episode 13 Recap: “The Frond Files”

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Bob’s Burgers takes a month and a half off and comes back as Community meets The Simpsons?! Sunday’s episode was unlike any we’ve seen in the series’ three and a half seasons so far, experimenting with heavy genre play and extended cultural references á la Community, and three mini-stories (for each Belcher child) in the vein of Simpsons‘ “Treehouse of Horror” episodes.

I was looking forward to finding out what the burger of the day would be after all this time apart, but in general it’s nice to see the Bob’s Burgers crew trying new things outside of a family-focused plotline. That said, I feel a bit dazed after that viewing. So many styles, so much action crammed into 22 minutes. Overall, entertaining and risky, though not a terribly satisfying watch. I’m not sure the setup of the whole thing was all that compelling, and some of the details of the three stories were hard to follow (Louise’s in particular). So let’s dissect these one by one. But first, the setup.

In “The Frond Files,” Bob and Linda head to Wagstaff for what’s becoming an annual celebration, “Why I Love Wagstaff” night. That translates to student essays on display, though none of the Belcher children’s stories seem to have made the cut. At the Belchers insistence, Principal Frond takes them into his office to share Tina, Gene, and Louise’s essays, each of which reflects the author incredibly well. In that way, this episode was a series of character sketches, in which all but Gene show their growth. More on that and all the farting it entails, though his vignette was easily the most hysterical.

Louise’s essay comes first, and it immediately felt like some stunt sci-fi Community would go for: Principal Frond is actually a time-traveling robot (well, a robot with a time machine, both created by Real Frond), who ends up acting out the terrifying raptor kitchen scene from Jurassic Park before crumbling at the hands of a vat of creamed corn. Sans the creamed corn part, I mean, this is positively Dean Pelton. Anyway, all of this intel re: Frond’s robot identity comes to Louise via Darryl (voiced by Aziz Ansari), who makes a needed (albeit not spotlighted enough) return to Bob’s Burgers. How Darryl knows about Frond’s identity is the best part of the whole mini-story, though the least logical aspect: Darryl’s also working on a time machine and spends time on the same time-travel message boards as Frond, whose machine is much better than Darryl’s. Also, Darryl is older and thus has a crustache that Louise spends a solid minute shitting on (“Do they not have razors in the future?!”). She asks, ”You came back through time to tell me this, just to be a narrator, and you didn’t bring any special weapons or anything, just a bucketload of exposition and a stupid mustache?”

After a thrilling chase scene and a top-notch Ollie and Andy moment (“Mr. Frond, your skin burned off, we made you a get-well card, it’s a banana peel!”), the Belcher kids escape to Belize, presumably to live on their days wearing “un-Belize-able” baseball caps. Like I said, there are some gaps in logic, but it being Louise and all, the focus is on action. And berating people (poor Darryl).

Gene’s story involves, but of course, flatulence and his keyboard. The musical treatment/Rock ‘n’ Roll High School vibe made it shine, but I’d like to see something else from Gene besides his two defining interests. In his essay, he’s the de facto leader of a “Fart School for the Gifted,” where he and his fellow fashion victims debut his new song, “Gas Class.” Until Frond, styled here as a Ms. Trunchbull-esque schoolmarm, puts Gene’s instrument of choice in “keyboard jail.” Worry not, in Gene’s dreams his Celine-esque pipes can break locks, so they easily get his keyboard back. But not before luring away Frond’s secretary with the episode’s best joke: ”There’s a Brendan Fraser DVD just sitting in a bush outside.” Gene’s vignette ends with a Belcher jam of “Gas Class” as powerful as his own farts, which is to say that Frond is blown out of the school by sheer force. The whole thing’s below; yes, Fox made it available as a standalone music video, because apparently they love us.

Tina rounds things out with an erotic tale (in black and white no less) in which the butts of teenage boys play a prominent role. So it’s 100 percent The Tina We Know, culminating with The Tina She Could Be — if she flirted with fearless abandon and hair-flipped more gracefully. We can dream. In her world, Tina is a hall monitor who saves Wagstaff from the zombie JV basketball team by making them fall in love with her. This is, of course, only after the zombie school nurse devours Frond (“I wonder if they can taste his sadness?” Gene wonders aloud). How they became zombies in the first place is pretty great: a vaccine to permanently end jock itch, gone horribly awry. The outbreak inspires this great comedic gem: ”Stop eating my shoulder, now I can’t wear halter tops, you stupid zombie,” Tammy says; “Oh no, zombies are attacking the school, and I already bought Tammy a halter top for her birthday,” Tina responds. Tina’s story ends: ”Butts, butts, I love butts.” Once again Bob’s not exactly comfortable with his daughter’s burgeoning sexuality, but isn’t that a big part of what makes Tina such a fascinating character?

What it comes down to is that Frond doesn’t like that he’s a villain in their stories, and he’s not a very good principal (I mean, we knew that already). Chicken nuggets and email are how he guesses he can relate to students. Bob and Linda are left scratching their heads — seeing as they do seem to understand their odd kids — and Frond is left with egg on his face. I mean brownie on his butt. Louise strikes again!


‘Bob’s Burgers’ Season 4 Episode 13 Recap: “Mazel-Tina”

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I can’t decide if it says something about the talents of Bob’s Burgers writers or the typical portrayal of females on TV, but every grown woman I know who watches the show (myself included) relates to Tina Belcher on an intimate level. She doesn’t just capture the dreaded Awkward Years of early teendom/late tweendom, she gives voice to the onslaught of :/ moments that continue well into womanhood. So it comes with great pleasure to see that Tina is now officially in the club. Well, at least in the Jewish sense of the word.

After not being invited to the Wagstaff social event of the season, Tammy’s bat mitzvah, Tina angles for her family to be hired as the event’s sixth caterer. Her motivation is two-fold: social acceptance, yes, but also butts. Specifically, butts belonging to BFOS (boys from other schools). ”I need fresh faces — and fresh butts,” she announces at the breakfast table. “You’ll take the butts you’re given and you’ll like it!” Gene counters. (Best line of the episode: “She’s having BFOS from all around the world!”)

As Louise points out, Tina previously was “someone who thought Chanukah was about Han Solo and Chewbacca having a baby.” As the bat mitzvah gets under way, though, Tina’s lack of knowledge about Judaism becomes less and less important. After Louise uses the headset provided by event planner Janet to convince her to follow her Broadway dreams a la Streisand, Tina somehow becomes Tammy’s bat mitzvah schedule bitch. It’s a job she does well, despite Tammy’s inherent awfulness, a JAP (Jewish-American princess) stereotype if I’ve ever seen one on TV. Jenny Slate, the perpetual guest-star stealing the show, makes Tammy shine for the first time on Bob’s Burgers, really going whole-hog with her tween drama queen hysterics. (There’s a great line that sort of sums up the conditions that lead to Janet cracking: “If anything touches my lips without ranch dressing, I’m literally going to kill someone,” Tammy barks when they’re running low.)

While it’s clear who’s the star of “Mazel-Tina,” it’s Louise who facilitates the plotline with her usual scheming. In addition to Tammy toothpicks and a video featurette in the style of the Blossom intro, Tammy’s celebration also includes a light-up Tammy head that hangs above the crowd. When one of the eyeball lights flickers out, the head is lowered in order to replace it, at which point Louise sneaks inside. See, she’s trying to drop guacamole out of the puppet’s nose so it’ll look like snot. But Tammy catches on and follows her inside the puppet (which is oddly roomy), and this being a sitcom, the head is returned to its original position high above the dance floor with the girls still in it. (Classic Louise response: “This wasn’t the head I wanted them to find my bones in!”)

And so, Tina takes the wheel, filling in for Tammy across all of the bat mitzvah’s activities, ranging from the blessing over bread to the girl’s choice dance with hottie BFOS Justin (Tina to him: “I can’t tell where you back ends and your butt begins”). At first she does so hesitantly, only after Tammy’s loopy parents (the bisexual dad and the wino mom) dispel Tina’s fears over Tammy’s sudden disappearance. But soon Tina starts to own her power, and it becomes clear that her emerging womanhood is a real palpable thing that can’t be stopped. Tina’s eternal fumble through puberty has made her the show’s most relatable character, but within the animated genre, it’s rare to see characters grow up. Bart Simpson will always be a smarmy school-boy worm, but Tina Belcher just may work through the awkward years, even if her appearance remains the same.

When Louise sees Tina taking control of the party, she decides to keep Tammy trapped up in the head for a while longer, by not using her “broken” headset to call for help. As Tammy and Louise watch through the nostrils, the bat mitzvah moves forward as planned. Louise compares it to a reverse It’s a Wonderful Life, in which Tammy gets to see how much better her friends and family are without her shrieking at them. But Louise, for all her evil scheming, is human too, eventually calling Tina on the headset for help. Tina, on a power trip, ignores them, though they end up breaking free and reclaim the bat mitzvah… sort of.

It’s rare for Tina to be the belle of the ball and the villain, so “Mazel-Tina” was a big win for character development. It’s probably the greatest Tina-centric episode since last April’s “Boyz 4 Now.” That said, the episode was also incredibly funny, chock-full of great zingers and one-liners. The B-plot, however, got a little stale mostly because it’s been done many times before across TV and film: wedding crashing, albeit Bob and Linda style.


‘Bob’s Burgers’ Season 4 Episode 14 Recap: “Uncle Teddy”

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What do we really know about Teddy? This week’s Bob’s Burgers aims to answer that question by throwing him into a tough spot: playing babysitter to Louise, Gene, and Tina. The resulting fiasco is surprisingly humanizing, and it sort of makes you wonder: why was he so eager to watch the kids? His ability to put his foot down while still make such an effort to show warmth and interest in the Belcher children brought dimension to his character in a way we haven’t seen before. But ultimately the questions “Uncle Teddy” raised in me made me sort of sad. Teddy seems to have so little in his life, and the Belchers are at the center of what he does have.

Now that I’ve sufficiently sucked the funny out of TV’s most consistent animated comedy, let’s get to it. This episode’s first half was filled with a few gems that slipped right by if you didn’t watch closely. As Bob and Linda prepare for a romantic weekend away at a burger convention, their babysitter Jen bails with a classic excuse: “I must have [forgotten] because I’m in France with my family, bye Linda!” After going through the mental rolodex of potential choices (“What, people in a cult can’t babysit?” Linda asks accusingly w/r/t/ cousin Vanessa), Bob and Linda leave the kids in Teddy’s care. Mostly because he’s free, and Bob can’t miss meeting up with his internet message board friends and Linda can’t miss her appointment with Bob’s privates. (Am I the only one who cannot imagine Bob Belcher using a computer, let alone obsessing over a message board? I mean, Bob’s IRL universe is fairly narrow, and it’s clear he knows about things outside of that worldview, so I suppose it has to come from somewhere. But Bob’s Burgers feels so removed from the internet.)

And so “Burger Bob” heads off to the rinky-dink conference only to discover that he’s both the bully and the pariah of his message board community. “Beefer Sutherland” puts him in his place, a moment that really flips the underdog narrative largely associated with Bob, despite him being a sore loser and a stubborn guy. Bob and Line forego the conference mixer for a sexy time in the hot tub, until his haters want to use the jacuzzi too. A war erupts, and it ends with a hot tub full of mayo and relish, which… if that doesn’t make you throw up in your mouth, you should think about combined it with the mental image of Gene caressing his new hairball pet and you’ll get there.

The grown-ups’ story isn’t really that interesting, to be honest, it’s more about the kids’ mischief. Tina’s hormones are raging AGAIN, but at least there’s a new dude for her to obsess over. Reggie’s Deli gets a new delivery boy, Jonas, with blonde, surfer locks, and it’s as though Jimmy Jr.’s butt never shook. “Cold cuts just got hot,” Tina coos. Jonas shows a smidgen of reciprocation by blowing a kiss, which I want so much for Tina sometimes, I forget she’s only 13. But it becomes clear he’s only using Tina for her burgers, and sadly that isn’t a euphemism. After Tina meets Jonas at the deli (love how she asks for an order of literally whatever) and accompanies him on his motor bike, Sandwich Surfer suggests a “gathering” at Bob’s Burgers with his doofus friends. Teddy breaks it up, which only fuels Tina’s lusty fire, inspiring her to sneak out of the house later that night. In this sense, the plot was totally ordinary; rule number one of hormonally-driven teen angst: parental banning of the object of affection will, in fact, backfire.

Meanwhile, Teddy makes a sincere effort to bond with Gene and Louise, who are more interested in the fancy plumbing tools he uses to unclog the sink. (Kids! They’re weird!) Eventually Teddy notices Tina snuck out, and because this is a 22-minute program that requires problem and its tidy resolution, he tracks her down at the abandoned lighthouse just as she’s being apprehended by a park ranger. I expect we’ll see a lot more of this kind of hormone-fueled mischief from Tina, and I’m glad to see adults acknowledging it openly (“She’s a mixed-up kid who’s going through a ton of puberty right now,” Teddy notes). Most of all, I’m glad Teddy threw Sandwich Surfer’s motor bike in the ocean. BOYS, BE NICE TO TINA.


‘Bob’s Burgers’ Season 4 Episode 15 Recap: “The Kids Rob a Train”

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After several episodes heavy on the journey that is character development, Bob’s Burgers focused on a singular wacky adventure this week. In “The Kids Rob a Train,” The Belchers are contained to one setting outside the restaurant. As usual, when the Belcher kids aren’t amused, they — ahem, Louise — scheme to better the situation. In fact, all the kids played their parts to a T: Tina made jokes about the human sexuality section of the book store and fell in for the one adult male she interacted with; Gene made little sense, dressed like a member of “Come On Eileen” one-hit wonder Dexys Midnight Runners (way to slip an inside joke in there, writers room); and as a consolation prize for not being able to take over the universe, Louise tries to control her own world for a while. Oh yeah, and Bob drinks spit.

Try saying these words aloud without hearing Linda’s voice: We’re going on a wine train! The matriarch of the Belcher family was particularly dopey in this week’s episode. I hate when the writers do this; I know Linda’s supposed to be one of those grating personalities that we love in spite of it (her heart is too big not to), but she just seemed stupid this episode. First she packs wine to bring on the wine train, which Bob mansplains to her would just be a train if they had to bring their own wine. Once they’re on the train, she invites this wine aficionado to sit with them so he can tell her which wines she likes. When Bob protests under the guise of just wanting to be alone, Linda doesn’t even take the opportunity to slip in a romantic cliché and a “Baaaaw-beeee!” She sucks right up to the “pinot grouchio,” a creepball who tells them he likes Japanese women (WE GOT AN ASIAN FETISH, EVERYONE) and looks a little like the cartoon version of Ted from Mad Men, turtleneck and all. So it makes sense that Bob is miserable until the very end of the episode, when he wins a wine-off against “expert” Rick, whom Linda tells for some strange reason, that she ”loves showers and mornings and bologna and turtles.” I mean, Bob enjoys drinking wine out of the spit bucket, but Linda’s the dumb one? C’mon.

The adults’ plotline is pretty standard sitcom fare: a third wheel to change a married couple’s dynamic, another aggro male to agitate the protagonist. Which isn’t to say the kids’ plotline isn’t a little generic too: the kids get into trouble, ultimately save themselves without the adults ever knowing, are rewarded with chocolate, kids vs. adults forever, etc. But it’s forgivable when it’s not only funny, it’s tension-filled, action-packed, and includes a decent toilet joke to boot. Which is exactly what happens when the Belcher kids are resigned to the “juice caboose” while their parents get wasted (again, this is a sign of Linda’s stupidity — she didn’t even consider why it would be a bad idea to bring the kids). In this children’s prison aboard the wine train, they encounter Regular Sized Rudy, the asthmatic little freak classmate of Louise’s who made two appearances last season (“Carpe Museum,” “The Unnatural”). With the passionate bromance between Rudy and his beanbag chair, there’s almost three plots going on in this episode — and the beanbag plot was not the least entertaining of them. (No, actually, there’s four plotlines — what happened to Ramon?!)

In the juice caboose, the kids are banned from the “largest chocolate fountain on a train in both North and South America.” It takes approximately five minutes for Louise to scheme a way to get the chocolate. As she sneaks onto the juice cart to make her way towards the front of the train, there’s a bit of tension. I could have done with more of that — really play up this mission like it’s an action flick, and the consequences are dire. Ultimately the kids get the chocolate, get it on the train… and then they all fall off the train because Tina thought a toilet paper roll would make a good anchor for her to hold on to.

At this point, the episode goes somewhere we’ve rarely seen from Bob’s Burgers: a spacious adventure that could be stretched to take up feature length. The kids must get back on the train. Again, lots of tension. Except this time, the writers play it up fully, turning up the drama with Gene’s impending death by cliff fall. Ultimately his Dexys bandana is the only victim, and we see a different kind of film play out for the remainder of the episode: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. The kids pulled the whole “when you have nowhere to hide something, just put it on the ceiling and pray they don’t look up” trick, stashing the chocolate on the roof. And as we knew from earlier in the episode, when Louise burns her hand on the roof handle, it’s very hot up there. The gourmet chocolate rains down on the children like a rebirth. Meanwhile, in another car full of rage and highbrow quarreling among middlebrow folk, their parents are doused in wine. I wouldn’t call the latter a rebirth, but all parties did leave the train stained and full of relief.


‘Bob’s Burgers’ Season 4 Episode 16 Recap: “I Get Psychic Out of You”

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Bob’s Burgers went full sitcom this week, employing a mom’s-a-dope plotline about as memorable as a sandwich from an airport. In principle, it’s nice to see Linda Belcher thrust into the spotlight, but how a show can dedicate an entire episode to one character and still reveal nothing new about her… well, that’s actually sort of impressive.

It all starts when Linda falls and hits her head. When she gets back up, she makes two accurate predictions: Mort’s wallet was hiding in the bathroom and a telemarketing was on the phone. With encouragement from her children and skepticism from her husband, Linda proclaims her new psychic abilities to the world, offering her services with every order at Bob’s Burgers. Which means she doesn’t have too many clients (BURN). She takes psychics’ bread and butter — vague statements — and takes them to new heights. And she feels the need to make the most annoying sound in the world while doing it. Teddy, for example, goes out on a quest to find a woman in a yellow dress; Linda had guessed the color yellow on the fourth try. Most of her predictions, including Teddy’s, turn out to be horribly wrong.

Linda does manage to get something big right: the whereabouts of the missing Dizzy Dog statue at the pier. Using common sense — something lacking in the Belchers’ community — Linda figured out that Dizzy Dog had fallen into the pier. This prediction earns her the title of “local psychic” and a spot on a police investigation team. They’re searching for the Little Boy Bandit, who’s likely not a little boy but rather, a short man in those mall-rat roller shoes and a wig attached to a baseball cap. Nothing’s triggering Linda on the perp, and like we’ve seen in many cop portrayals in fictionalized media, the detective on the case is getting antsy and threatening his informant. Which brings us to our B plotline this week.

The ever-scheming Louise, secretly a middle-aged man teeming with vices, comes up with a plan to bet on the ponies using Linda’s predictions. They pull Tina’s $82 life savings, and Teddy takes them down to the track. But Bob finds out what’s going on and races down to the track, only to find the kids getting autographs from the jockey of the horse they bet on. While the jockey’s looking for a pen, a roller shoe and a wig attached to a baseball cap fall out of his bag, which tips Bob off. He calls Linda, who brings the detective down to the track. Little Boy Bandit caught, case closed, Linda’s psychic career over, episode tied up in a perfect little bow. It was annoying how easily this episode was resolved. All that’s left is an embarrassing memory of how gullible Linda was, yet again. Stupid mom, remember when she thought she was a psychic? Dad called it, though — and he cracked the Little Boy Bandit case. Dad’s the hero, mom’s a fool. Like I said, total sitcom stuff.

Though Linda took the lead this week, the real stars of the episode were Gene and the Burger of the Day board. On the latter, Bob squeezed in two solid cultural references: Charbroil Fair with parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme, after Simon and Garfunkel’s “Scarborough Fair”; and Beets of the Southern Wild, after the 2012 drama Beasts of the Southern WildAs for Gene, he was full of butt and ball jokes rather than fart jokes, and Tina was particularly quiet on the butt front this episode so I’ll take it. A few Gene highlights:

Bob: “…just two small coincidences.”
Gene: “That’s what I call my testicles!”

Tina: “She [mom] can tell us the next trend in teen fashion.”
Gene: “I’ll bet it’s butt hats, hats for your butt!”

Louise: “…You guys have money?”
Gene, apropos of nothing: “If you’re asking me to sell my hair, the answer is no.”


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