Sunday is animation night on Fox, and there are two strong forces pushing at it. On the front end is The Simpsons, a show that both enjoys and is burdened by success that is unprecedented in prime time TV. This is a rebel show that won its rebellion, and now has lived so long that people compare it solely to itself. There are people graduating college now for whom this show is the baseline against which all TV is defined, because they have never known a world in which it did not exist.
And on the other end is the Family Guy and the whole Seth McFarland block. Family Guy started as this hollow copy of The Simpsons, a traced work without its depth, and developed its own texture – a texture which clearly serves some audience, but at least as clearly that audience is not me. Every time I get exposed to another little bit of any of this set of shows, it just reminds me how right my initial judgment was.
But now they’re slotting in a new show, and… while it doesn’t have the specific texture of either (it’s got a rapid staccato rhythm of its own, and one that I’m not sure favors the comedy much), in my mind it’s getting filed more with the latter, in the “not to be watched” category. Some of the’ DNA of Bob’s Burgers comes from a show that I liked many years back, featuring creative folks from the barely-animated Dr. Katz, but the emotional set-up is very different. This is a comedy about a family-run restaurant, and it felt like the character sheets on the various family members all started “this character is annoying because…” In the first episode, we have humor attempts grounded in flatulence, cannibalism, disgusting food practices, and crotch infections, any of which would be forgivable if they were actually funny, but they overwhelm the few moments of actual clever humor, and just make the half hour uncomfortable to watch. There’s not enough here to say “if they just fixed this part or that, it’d work!” This is not a show which I’m expecting to watch again.
(To folks on the show: if you’re reading this, please remember that I also don’t like the shows that follow it, so you shouldn’t assume my bad review condemns you to anything less than the success that Family Guy has obviously enjoyed.)