3.5 / 5 stars
by Scott David, Meet In the Lobby
This just may be the year of H. Jon Benjamin. After years of cult stardom on Comedy Central and Adult Swim, the actor/writer/stand-up sketch comic has a starring role on network TV. In the new animated series Bob’s Burgers, Benjamin once again teams with producer Loren Bouchard (Dr. Katz, Home Movies) in order to showoff the deadpan, wry voiceover skills that has made him a darling in the eyes of late night cable watchers.
Airing on Sunday nights after The Simpsons, Bob’s Burgers stars Benjamin as a struggling burger joint owner with a string of bad luck and a family that doesn’t seem to help much. In the pilot episode, the shop suffers from rumors that they serve human meat; worse yet, the health inspector has it out for the place since he used to date Bob’s wife Linda (John Roberts).
It may be a bit hackneyed in plot, but the cast works together so well, each playing their part with a certain style and freshness, that even if the laughs aren’t as raucous as one would expect, the show still leaves you hanging on the edge of your
seat waiting for the next line of dialogue.
The real standout is Kristen Schaal (right, Toy Story 3, Dinner for Schmucks) and not just because she is the only woman in an all male cast. Her high-pitched, childlike voice is a perfect fit for the youngest kid, adorable but precocious Louise (she began the rumors of cannibalism in an effort to one-up a classmate during show-and-tell).
Rounding out the cast is son Gene (Eugene Mirman) who is more interested in garnering attention and laughs than helping the restaurant, and Tina (Dan Mintz), the eldest, dullish daughter who spends the pilot episode fretting over her itchy groin. Altogether, they make for a much more charmingly dysfunctional family than any of the vastly unoriginal, overrated, overviewed Seth MacFarlane shows.
Full disclosure: I’m a fan of Benjamin and Bouchard, having enjoyed both Dr. Katz and Home Movies. That said, Bob’s Burgers may have lacked some consistency in its pilot, but it seems to have a wealth of talent and potential to become a great show. In any case, it’s a wonderful diversion from the umpteenth season of The Simpsons. Hopefully Bob’s Burgers, coupled with the airing of second season of FX’s Archer (also featuring Benjamin), will finally give H. Jon Benjamin the stardom and mass acclaim he is due.