Friday, May 2, 2014

"Brokedown Merry-Go-Round" Show of the Week: Bob's Burgers, "The Kids Run Away"

Tina's elaborate plan involving hunky zombie basketball players doesn't seem to be helping alleviate Louise's toothache.
Every Friday in "'Brokedown Merry-Go-Round' Show of the Week," I discuss the week's best first-run animated series episode I saw. "Brokedown Merry-Go-Round," a two-hour block of original score tracks from animated shows or movies, airs weekdays at 2pm Pacific on AFOS.

Bob's Burgers' latest episode, "The Kids Run Away," takes an old story that's been done before in similarly small-scale family sitcoms like The Cosby Show and Leave It to Beaver--a kid becomes afraid of dentists--and manages to outdo all those previous dentist's office episodes, thanks to Bob's Burgers' winning blend of warmth and Adult Swim-style weirdness. Instead of the comedic one-two punch of Peter, the Huxtables' silent kid neighbor, and special guest star Danny Kaye in an accent that's as zany as Bill Cosby's "obeekaybee" dental patient shtick, "The Kids Run Away" soars due to inventive writing by Rich Rinaldi (who transmogrifies an entertaining dentophobia story into an even more entertaining story about the craziness of fanny pack-wearing Aunt Gayle), as well as a return visit from Megan Mullally as Gayle, a nicely subdued additional guest shot by the usually not-so-subdued Ken Jeong as Dr. Yap and an incomprehensible homemade board game that somehow makes Cones of Dunshire look like Candy Land.

"We've been playing this game for six hours, and no one has even made it past the Cliffs of Huxtable!," groans Louise during Gayle Force Winds, Gayle's homemade board game, while hiding out in her aunt's apartment to avoid being taken by Bob to another appointment to Dr. Yap's office. The Huxtable reference is, besides Louise's fear of the dentist, a sign that "The Kids Run Away" is an homage to The Cosby Show, particularly its characters' love of dressing up or playing pretend (whether those characters were the Huxtables or friends of the family like the Danny Kaye dentist character). It's the one major trait that the Belchers and their friends inherited from The Cosby Show.

Bob's dramatic acting achieves Shatnerian levels of hamminess.
The comedic centerpiece of "The Kids Run Away," in which the Belchers, Gayle, Teddy and Dr. Yap role-play as characters in an imaginary spy thriller in order to help Louise overcome her dentophobia, takes a page from one of The Cosby Show's funniest episodes, "Theo's Holiday." If you haven't watched "Theo's Holiday" in ages (it's currently available on Hulu in the form of a badly truncated syndicated edit, but none of the episode's best gags were sliced out), it had Cliff, Clair and their daughters pretending to be apartment landlords, bankers, businesswomen and modeling agency employees, as part of Cliff's elaborate lesson to teach aspiring male model Theo about how money works in the real world.

But in "The Kids Run Away," the game of make-believe to ease Louise's fear and get her toothache treated isn't Bob's idea. Instead, it's Gayle's idea, and I like how the climax of "The Kids Run Away" gives the crazy cat lady, whose attempts at art, poetry and board game creation tend to puzzle and confuse her sister Linda's husband and kids, a chance to shine and prove how great an aunt she can be. The combination of invisible-gun-toting absurdity and low-key sweetness elevates "The Kids Run Away" from obeekaybee to excebeellentbee.

Stray observations/other memorable quotes:
* The animation for Gayle's self-absorbed cats is brilliant, as is the little background touch of Gayle's computer looking like she first bought it back when CompuServe was still a thing.

The last time I saw a computer like that was when Sharon Stone fucked the AOL mascot in bed.

* Tina, trying again to flirt with an uninterested Dr. Yap: "You know, we don't always have to make this about business. I'm more than just a mouthful of perfect teeth."

* "I was only seven when I packed this go bag. I guess I was just a kid back then."

* "Wagstaff was my platoon in 'Nam. Oh, man, they said there'd be people like you when I came back. Serving my country, protecting your ass."

* "Louise, what a surprise! I'm so glad it's you and not a murderer."

* "Hello?" "Gayle, it's Linda." "Hey, Lin, it's me, Gayle!"

* "Oh, good thinking, Lin. You're the smart one, I'm the hot one." "No."

* "Happy Things We Should Send Into Space: A jar of mayo, magazine clippings of Scott Baio..."

* "Hmm. Hey, Aunt Gayle, I wish there was a board game that we could play that stimulates the imagination but that was too good for the major board game companies to even touch." "*GASP* I made a board game that stimulates the imagination but that was too good for the major board game companies to even touch!"

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