Friday, January 9, 2015

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

I kind of wish Gene Belcher would turn Midnight motherfucking Run into a musical as well.
On some Fridays, I discuss the week's best first-run animated series episode I saw. It's the "Brokedown Merry-Go-Round" Show of the Week. "Brokedown Merry-Go-Round," a two-hour block of original score tracks from animated shows or movies, airs weekdays at 2pm Pacific on AFOS.

"Midday Run" is the second episode during Bob's Burgers' fifth season to riff on a classic movie that was released in 1988. "Work Hard or Die Trying, Girl," the show's fifth-season premiere, transformed both Die Hard and Working Girl into school musicals, with memorable and intentionally awful-sounding results ("I'm Grubin'/I'm Hans Gruber and I'm Grubin'/And sometimes that could mean shootin'/Mr. Takagi in the head!"), and now "Midday Run" pays tribute to another movie from 1988, and it's one I adore even more than Die Hard: the extremely foul-mouthed and eminently quotable Midnight Run.

The Robert De Niro/Charles Grodin buddy flick wasn't a big box-office hit like Die Hard and Working Girl, but it has a cult following that includes the likes of Dan Harmon and Paul Thomas Anderson, whose first feature film, 1996's Sydney (a.k.a. Hard Eight), is basically a spinoff movie all about Philip Baker Hall's Midnight Run mob lawyer character Sidney (spelled differently in PTA's movie due to what I presume are legal issues that PTA was clever enough to skirt around, unlike Larry the Cable Guy). Midnight Run is special to me because it's where I first learned the terms "chorizo and eggs" and "white-collar criminal," as well as 132 different ways to say "fuck." Like I once said to another Midnight Run fan on Facebook, Midnight Run was my Sesame Street when I was in junior high.

Episode writer Scott Jacobson must have felt the same way about Midnight Run when he was younger because he bases Tina's zeal for her duties as a Wagstaff hall monitor on Jack Walsh's intensely driven mission to deliver the Duke to L.A. (so that means in addition to her male butt-obsessed erotic fanfic author side, Tina's also got a stern lawwoman side). In Tina's case, her Duke is Zeke (Bobby Tisdale). He's in trouble for stealing the costume of the school mascot, the Wagstaff Whaler, so Mr. Frond (David Herman), the guidance counselor and hall monitor supervisor, assigns his toughest hall monitor to deliver Zeke to the principal's office. Of course, Zeke constantly attempts to escape, and like Jack, Tina finds out her prisoner is a much more noble soul than she originally thought: he stole the costume to entertain his grandma (also voiced by Tisdale) at her retirement home before she goes into surgery.

What I like most about "Midday Run" is that instead of referencing the not-so-prime-time-friendly dialogue from Midnight Run (the one bit of movie dialogue that's reenacted in "Midday Run" comes from a different movie, The Fugitive), the episode opts to reference Midnight Run's ambience, particularly on the musical side. Bob's Burgers creator/composer Loren Bouchard and his fellow composers Chris Maxwell and Phil Hernandez, the duo known as the Elegant Too, are the MVPs of "Midday Run." They amusingly channel themes from Danny Elfman's bluesy and lively score to Midnight Run, which is currently in rotation on "AFOS Prime" on AFOS.

You can make out bits and pieces of "Walsh Gets the Duke" and "J.W. Gets a Plan" throughout the "Midday Run" score. After that score he wrote for Midnight Run early on in his film music career, Elfman went on to pen scores that are far more profound or popular--whether for Tim Burton or various tentpole franchises--and yet, the Midnight Run score remains my favorite Elfman score (for a brief time in the late '80s, the Midnight Run score was particularly popular with trailer houses). While Elfman's work for Burton frequently brings to mind the weirdest moments of his Oingo Boingo days, the Midnight Run score channels Boingo at its most tuneful and dance floor-friendly (it's no surprise that Elfman's Boingo bandmates took part in the recording of the Midnight Run score). The "Midday Run" score is the best tribute to a rather underappreciated Elfman score that doesn't often receive such tributes.

The part of Dorfler will now be played by Regular Sized Rudy.

As a story that's primarily about the Belcher kids and their Wagstaff classmates (speaking of which, another appearance by Brian Huskey's likable hypochondriac Regular Sized Rudy, who looks up to Tina as a hall monitor role model, is always welcome), "Midday Run" is more pleasant than laugh-out-loud funny, but Regular Sized Rudy and Zeke nicely receive substantial character development here (while Mr. Frond remains an inflexible and clueless bureaucrat, and why does he seem to be in charge of everything at Wagstaff, as if he's a mini-Mr. Belding who, as many comedians would say about Belding on April Richardson's Saved by the Bell podcast Go Bayside!, just can't seem to go away?). The episode's amiableness also brings to mind a second work in addition to Midnight Run. This particular work is an animated show the Bob's Burgers writing staff might not have been aware of while working on "Midday Run": the forgotten early '00s Disney show Fillmore!, which was created by a pre-Walking Dead Scott M. Gimple.

Fillmore! was a '70s cop show spoof where the buddy cops were a pair of middle school hall monitors, black skater kid Cornelius Fillmore and his goth partner Ingrid Third, and all the characters on the show were named after San Francisco streets, an odd touch I especially enjoyed because the Bay Area's my home turf (the San Francisco street thing was actually both Gimple's way of paying tribute to the '70s cop show The Streets of San Francisco and a shout-out to Bay Area friends whose couches he previously crashed on). Like "Midday Run," Fillmore! wasn't laugh-out-loud funny, but there was much to like about it, whether it was the '70s-isms, the diverse cast or the Latino kid who acted as the show's version of the obligatory irritable police captain (he was voiced by then-SNLer Horatio Sanz). There's this Fillmore!-esque vibe to "Midday Run," particularly in the scenes between kiddie cops Tina and Regular Sized Rudy, that makes the episode appealing, in addition to all the Midnight Run score references.

Ingrid was clearly modeled after Beetlejuice-era Winona Ryder, but I have a feeling she outgrew her gothiness and grew up to become Krysten Ritter.

And now that Bob's Burgers has just been renewed for a sixth season, I wonder what other movies from 1988 will get the Bob's Burgers treatment (as this ode to the movie year of 1988 reminds me, the summer of '88 also included Big, which I could envision being turned into a Gene story where he thinks he's been magically transformed into a grown-up but he actually wasn't, or maybe it should be a Louise story), as well as what other facets there are to Tina's unique and unusually confident personality. We've seen the erotic fanfic author with a crazy imagination, the investigative journalist, the avid Equestranauts toy collector, the "bat-zilla" who craves attention and now in both "Tina Tailor Soldier Spy" and "Midday Run," the lawwoman. It's not a bad life for an oddly heroic kid who doesn't consider herself a hero because she puts her bra on one boob at a time like everyone else.

Memorable quotes:

A message...

... from you, Rudy

Zeke attempts to escape...

... from what's known as the hidey-hole.

The hidey-hole sounds like a strip joint in the motel district outside Disneyland.

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