When the title character in “Bob’s Burgers” tells his moronic son, “There’s a line between entertaining and annoying,” the kid responds, “That’s a myth.” Alas, that philosophy largely guides the humor in Fox’s latest animated series. Crude but seldom clever, it’s another low-brow example of employing (very) limited animation to create a low-key, disarmingly dirty sitcom where the kids never age — a recipe that’s neither rare nor, in this case, particularly well done. While tonally compatible with the network’s so-called “Animation Domination” block, this junky addition is ultimately all-bun, no-beef.
Sandwiching the half-hour between “The Simpsons” and “Family Guy” ought to create an opportunity to get the merchandise sampled, grizzle and all. But if this is all that’s on the menu, don’t be surprised if the location again winds up under new management.
The eponymous burger shop is run by Bob (voiced by “Archer’s” H. Jon Benjamin, whose deadpan delivery is easily the show’s strongest asset), a guy so hard-pressed to make ends meet he employs his wife and three children, despite the fact they’re completely inept at their jobs.
In the premiere, the shop is preparing for its “Grand Re-Re-Re-Opening” when health inspectors show up, accusing Bob of peddling human flesh from the crematorium next door. If only.
How blue is “Bob’s Burgers?” When Bob asks his oldest daughter to man the grill, she responds, “My crotch is itchy,” triggering a series of jokes about that. Later, his youngest features a daily special called “The Child Molester” — as in a burger with candy.
Even if you’re going for cable-type naughty, opening with itchy crotches and child molestation, what’s left for an encore?
As played by Benjamin, Bob’s voice — a dull drone that gives way to bursts of rage — can produce grudging chuckles. (Men voice most of the female characters as well, which proves a trifle distracting.) But the writing by producers Loren Bouchard (“Dr. Katz, Professional Therapist”) and Jim Dauterive (“King of the Hill”) would qualify this as only about the fourth best animated show on Comedy Central. And when you use the itchy crotch in the premiere, even if you’re going for cable-type naughty, what’s left for an encore?
As is now par for the course, jokes fly by quickly, but without the rat-a-rat frequency of Seth MacFarlane’s animated posse — and the hit-miss ratio is lower. Being tasteless doesn’t mean “Bob’s Burgers” is completely devoid of flavor, but the show too often falls on the wrong side of that “entertaining”/”annoying” divide.
Perhaps that’s why about halfway through the pilot, part of me began feeling uncomfortably itchy, too.
Fortunately, it was just the thumb that turns off the DVD player.