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Dec. 13 – Bob’s Burgers – “The Bleakening: Part 2”

In part two of “The Bleakening,” the Belchers search for their missing tree. Will they be reunited?!

Well fellow cartoon Christmas enthusiasts, we’re in a new and interesting place today. We’re coming in for the second part of a two-part story we started looking at yesterday. In the first part of “The Bleakening,” the Christmas special from Bob’s Burgers which originally aired in 2017, the children of Bob and Linda Belcher were out hunting for the mythological being known as The Bleaken. It is he whom the children have accused of stealing their mother’s dainty little Christmas tree, which was once the top of their regular sized tree, which had been on display in their restaurant for a Christmas party. More important than the tree though, are the ornaments that were on it. Handmade ornaments from the kids which had become precious to Linda disappeared along with the tree. Despite a few leads, the adults were unable to determine who stole the tree so it befalls the children to do something about it.

Louise (Kristen Schaal), despite being the youngest sibling, is often the de-facto leader for these expeditions. She has convinced her brother Gene (Eugene Mirman) and sister Tina (Dan Mintz) to sneak out of the house on Christmas Eve to chase down a lead they uncovered from the police station earlier in the day. Louise thinks she knows where The Bleaken is hiding out, and she’s determined to find out. Because if they fail, her mother will lose her Christmas spirit and without that, well there probably won’t be any Christmas presents.

If you’re going on a walk on Christmas Eve, be sure to bring plenty of walking cookies.

The episode picks up right where the prior one left off. There are no opening credits, probably because this one originally aired back-to-back with the first part so there was no need to interrupt it, though it does feel a little jarring if you happen to catch it without the first part in syndication. The siblings are walking in the dark down a snowy road as Tina is the apparent guide. She is also reluctantly on this mission with her brother and sister which was really only hinted at in part one when she forlornly looked up the stairs to their apartment as the three made their escape. Louise is trying to reassure her siblings that they’re doing the right thing. Gene is mostly fine, though he warns he’s running out of walking cookies, but Tina is not onboard. She doesn’t quite reveal that to her sister, but she does slyly use the family emergency cell phone she brought with them to dial their mother. When she places the phone in her pocket, she speaks rather loudly so she can be heard and announces the street intersection and what’s going on while making it sound like a conversation so as not to tip-off Louise. She’s rather clumsy, and also makes sure to let her mom know this isn’t her idea, but Louise doesn’t pick up on it. At the Belcher home, Linda (John Roberts) is freaking out hearing all of this on the phone and wakes up Bob (H. Jon Benjamin). She apparently doesn’t consider that her daughter would be clever enough to fake call, but make it sound like a butt dial, because she tells Bob that Tina butt-dialed her and she can tell they’ve snuck out.

Shit just got real!

The kids continue their search until they make an important discovery – one of Gene’s ornaments is found in the snow! Emboldened that they’re on the right track, the kids press on, but black feathers in the road portend something ominous. The Bleaken is real, and he really did take their mother’s tree! Louise is determined to find the rest despite the obvious concerns her siblings are sharing. As they walk, Louise and Gene start quietly singing that The Bleaken is going to wish he had never been born, though they aren’t convincing in their threats. Tina just hyper-ventilates to provide a beat for their walking music.

That’s one way to spend a Christmas.

Meanwhile, we check-in with Teddy (Larry Murphy) who was last seen constructing some sort of Santa monstrosity in his basement. It turns out the monstrosity is just a Santa inflatable decoration and he fashioned a crude window in its mouth so he could hide inside. The Bleaken didn’t just take Linda’s tree, it’s also been taking decorations off of the sidewalk and Teddy is determined to find out who is responsible by using himself as bait.

Someone went through a lot of trouble to hide some ornaments.

This kids turn down an alley, but a crater in the road would indicate they can’t continue down the alley they’ve found, but Louise quickly determines it’s not a crater, but an elaborate mural painted on a wall! Gene is correct to make a Wile E. Coyote reference at the sight as his sister inspects it further. She soon uncovers a door, behind it they find a chilling stairwell. At this point, Louise informs her siblings she’s armed, but the choice of weapons is not too comforting: a ruler and a keychain. When Louise introduces each, she has clever suggestions for how they could be used as weapons while Gene makes helpful, non-violent, suggestions like how rulers can be used for measuring. When Tina asks if she has anything better, she deadpans that she has a knife and some mace, but she’s hanging onto those so Tina takes the ruler leaving the keychain for Gene. The kids descend the stairway only to find they lead no where. Tina, suspecting another false wall, walks into a very real wall and lets her siblings know it hurts.

I don’t know how Bob does it.

Bob and Linda are driving around trying to figure out where the kids were when Tina called, but it turns out Tina is bad at directions and the intersection she referenced doesn’t exist. Linda is freaking out and is not particularly helpful, but to Bob’s credit he’s always so patient and tries to assuage her, even when he can’t. He points out two stray dogs “playing to the death” as evidence that this part of town in the middle of the night isn’t dangerous, but thankfully, Linda is more preoccupied with freaking herself out than truly paying attention to her surroundings. They eventually figure out the street intersection Tina must have been referencing, and Bob justifies her getting one of the names wrong on the fact that they haven’t bought her new glasses since she was 6. They get out of the car and soon find the trail of footprints and cookie crumbs and follow it. Meanwhile, Teddy is still in his Santa disguise when a neighbor walking a dog stops near him. The dog defecates at Teddy’s feet revealing to him who is never scooping their dog’s waste, so tonight won’t be a total loss even if he doesn’t find the thief. The smell of the dog poop works its way into the Santa inflatable though causing Teddy to gag.

This is what happens when you complain about the coupon books, Bob.

Louise is certain this is The Bleaken’s lair, even though they can’t find a way out aside from the way they came in. Soon someone enters from above and Louise determines there’s no way out because this place is designed to trap people for The Bleaken! The kids brace themselves against the wall, and when their would-be assailants approach they pounce! Of course, it’s just Bob and Linda who are forced to curl into fetal positions on the stairs. Bob is his ever calm self and doesn’t seem too angry with his children for sneaking out, though he does ask if someone hit him in the face with a ruler. Linda is relieved they’re okay, while Louise wants to know how they got there. They don’t tattle on their daughter, but say someone butt-dialed them. Tina fesses up, but Louise hardly needed her to. Louise doesn’t want to leave though and insists they’re onto something, and it’s actually Tina who makes the important discovery. She notices the stairs shaking and the family lifts them up to find another secret staircase underneath. The kids convince their dad to go along and find out who stole the tree, while he insists The Bleaken isn’t real. Louise produces the ornament they found and references the police map, but Bob doesn’t want to spend Christmas in a creepy tunnel. Unfortunately, he’s married to Linda who isn’t leaving until she finds her ornaments. She tells Bob to take the kids home, but he’s not leaving her so he agrees to press on. He needs a weapon so Tina hands over her ruler. Just to make sure he knows it can be used as a weapon, she strikes him on the head with it. Very helpful.

Fear will bring us together.

We check back in with Teddy whose eyes are scanning the area around him and his pipes are singing a delightful holiday song. To the tune of “Do You Hear What I Hear?” Teddy sings about finding the jerk whose gonna get a fight. He sings over the Belcher family searching the catacombs below, but their trek is interrupted when they see The Bleaken! He disappears as quickly as he appeared and Bob wants to go back, but Linda declares this place is like Ikea and there’s no going back.

This should have turned out way worse.

The family presses on until Bob finds a door. He tells his family to stand back as he takes a peek, but then looks over his shoulder to see they are indeed standing very far behind him. Bob then cracks the door open and tells the family it’s not what he expected. When they open it they find it’s a secret, underground, Christmas rave! A bunch of people dance in a large, crowded, room while a DJ spins records from a platform at the other side. And there, on top of the speakers, sits Linda’s beloved Christmas tree and all of its ornaments! She’s more angry than anything upon seeing it and declares they aren’t leaving until she gets her friggen’ tree back!

We’re being deprived of Bob’s butt crack.

The family notices some other decorations that were stolen as the DJ ramps up the volume. Linda orders Bob to get her tree while she plans to give the crowd a piece of her mind. The kids watch Bob try to climb up the speakers and let him know that not much of his butt crack is showing (they’re so supportive) while Linda is able to reach the DJ’s platform and steals his microphone. He puts up a fight, but she wins out in the end. As he searches for the kill switch on the mic, Linda starts speaking to get everyone’s attention. She scolds the party-goers for having secret tunnels and being thieves. One of the men in the audience informs her they have all of the protections in place because they’re unlicensed as this is apparently where everyone who normally parties at The Wiggle Room for Christmas has gone. If you forgot, The Wiggle Room was forced to close as recounted on a new broadcast the family watched in part one. Another raver then shouts they aren’t thieves, but she tells him to go “play Ping Pong with your ding dong,” and points out her tree, which Bob has reached. She tells them she’s taking back her ornaments, but what she can’t get back is her Christmas spirit!

More Christmas stories should have a magic Christmas drag queen.

She is then interrupted by a performance from the newly Christened Miss Triple X-Mas (Todrick Hall), formerly known as Cleavage to Beaver, who performs a saucy number to mark the fact that it’s midnight. The Belchers watch the performance of “Twinkly Lights” with awe as Linda notices Marshmallow and some of her other friends while the kids see The Bleaken dancing around. Louise interrupts him and asks him to confirm that he’s just a guy in a costume, which is the case. She insists they could have taken him, though.

Finally, the thief comes forward!

Linda interrupts the music by grabbing the mic again to reveal she is understanding, and a little embarrassed, but also to apologize because she called the cops! The crowd is upset with her, but they also insist no one stole her ornaments. That’s when Art the Artist (Adam Driver) comes forward. He was at the Belcher Christmas party and was a suspect in the case of the missing tree, but when Bob and Linda spoke with him during one of his nude modeling sessions he convinced them otherwise. It turns out, it was him as he was put in charge of decorating for the party. He didn’t have any money though, so he “borrowed” a bunch of stuff from around town. And to successfully steal the little tree, he first took it and then went out the back door of the restaurant and hid it in the dumpster there while he went and did his session. When the session was done, he came back for it. He goes on to explain the Wiggle Room party is normally so well decorated, and he didn’t want to let everyone down.

Thievery helped Linda realize her Christmas dream.

Linda realizes that she and Art shared a dream – the perfect Christmas party! And Art realized it with some help from her tree. Unfortunately, that doesn’t change the fact that the cops are outside. Everyone is upset, but Bob has an idea that may help them avoid getting shut down. He feels like they owe it to the ravers, though he points out he would have never called the cops and it was all his wife’s doing. The only thing he needs is the The Bleaken costume that guy is wearing.

Bob the Bleaken!

Bosco (Gary Cole) and another cop are driving around searching for the secret entrance to the club when they encounter Bob in the middle of the road dressed as The Bleaken. He flaps his “wings” and gets the pair to chase him. Despite them being in a car and Bob on foot, he manages to get away and runs down a street that just so happens to be Teddy’s street. He collides with his friend, who had been struggling to stand up after falling down earlier, and is still hiding in the Santa inflatable and tells him he needs to hide. Teddy says he has just the place as we see the lights from Bosco’s cruiser appear on the street. They drive by and pay no attention to the Santa inflatable and there’s no sign of Bob so Bosco decides he’s had enough and suggests they get some Kung Pao Chicken. When the cops drive away, we find out Bob is hiding inside the Santa suit with Teddy. He thanks Teddy who remarks that he told Bob there was room for both of them. Bob politely disagrees as he’s clearly uncomfortable being smooshed up against Teddy’s back. He then starts to question why they didn’t just go in the house, but Teddy keeps shushing him. When he finally demands Teddy tell him why he keeps shushing him he remarks he thought he heard something, but it was nothing. Bob then tries asking why they didn’t go inside again, but Teddy keeps shushing him some more until Bob gets fed up and leaves. Teddy is upset and tries to get him to stay shouting this could be the best Christmas Eve ever!

Linda has rediscovered her Christmas spirit, and she has spirit to burn.

Back at the club, the rave is back on. The kids are seated on the edge of the stage with their mother’s tree reflecting on the past few days. Louise seems disappointed there was no real Bleaken, but the kids find comfort in the return of their mother’s Christmas spirit. We then see Linda cutting it up on the dance floor as she screams, “I love Christmas!”

It’s also the kind of spirit that lasts all night long and into the morning.

The image then locks on Linda in a triumphant pose and fades to the next morning. The family is back home reunited with the tree and the ornaments and Linda is still dancing, just now in her pajamas. Louise asks how much sleep she got and her dad tells them she never went to sleep. Linda explains someone at the club gave her something which made her feel great, but then finally says she needs to lay down. She faceplants onto the floor and Bob assures the kids she’s fine, though he needs to check her pulse. As the camera moves outside of the apartment to linger on the restaurant we hear Bob confirm she’s fine. Merry Christmas!

Aaaaaand she’s down!

The second half of “The Bleakening” is quite different from the first. Part one is definitely a mystery story, while the second part is more about pay-off. It introduces a few twists and some intriguing moments, but it’s mostly concerned with just answering the lingering questions from part one. The real star of the show is just the cast. It’s never easy to tell how much is ad-libbed and how much is scripted, but there are some great exchanges in this one between the kids and pretty much anything Bob says. There was also never a ton of mystery to begin. Any veteran TV viewer could assume that one of two characters introduced in part one were the thief: Art or Dalton. The fact that Art was voiced by probably the biggest guest star of the episode was all the confirmation one needed. It just became a question of “why” from there and it was hardly surprising it had something to do with the club that got shut down, because why else would we be privileged to such information as an audience?

Teddy’s scenes didn’t always feel necessary, but at least they resulted in a funny exchange in the end.

It’s still a fun journey though, even if the threat of a Bleaken was never a real one. It was still going to be interesting to see how that part would be continuously sold though. The B-plot involving Teddy wasn’t great as it merely existed just so the two could intertwine at the end. On the other hand, it’s always fun to see Teddy in a ridiculous situation, by himself, where he constantly talks to himself. He’s a good character, even if this wasn’t the best use of him, but I enjoyed his awkward exchange with Bob at the end.

This is about as happy as the Belchers are allowed to be on Christmas.

And speaking of the end, this one does end rather abruptly. It’s a bit odd for an oversized episode like this one to run out of time, but then again, Bob’s Burgers isn’t the type of show that’s going to spend much time watching the family have a happy Christmas morning. There weren’t even any presents under the tree. It wants to show us the weird parts, the awkward parts, and then get out before things can get sentimental. As a result, if this one doesn’t make you laugh then it probably won’t entertain you as a Christmas special. There’s just not enough there, but what is there is relatable if you have a mom who loves those crappy ornaments you made for her as a kid or if you yourself are a mom or dad who loves that stuff. I am a dad that does enjoy homemade ornaments from my kids and I do like these two episodes. Are they my favorite Christmas episodes from this show? No, but I’m not going to turn away. Especially during the holidays.

This was Linda’s story, and at least she found what she needed to find in that secret, gay, rave.

If you would like to catch “The Bleakening” this year then like all shows that air on Adult Swim you need only keep your eyes out. It will be aired or has aired and likely more than once. Bob’s Burgers is also syndicated now and can be found on several other cable and broadcast channels and all are likely to air the Christmas episodes between now and the actual holiday. If streaming is more your thing, the series can be found on Hulu and you also have rental options in other places. Like American Dad!, this is definitely a show that’s worth stockpiling Christmas episodes on your DVR all month and then having a nice binge at some point. There isn’t an arc or anything that ties them all together like there is with American Dad!, but they are all pretty funny!


Dec. 12 – Bob’s Burgers – “The Bleakening”

“The Bleakening” originally aired December 10, 2017.

All right, we’ve been at this for a few years now so you probably don’t need much of a primer on Bob’s Burgers, right? The animated sitcom which is shockingly in its 12th season (shocking because it still feels new to me) has become a reliable spot for Christmas fun each and every year. The show seems to pride itself on doing holiday themed episodes. Their bread and butter seems to be Thanksgiving as its canonically main character Bob’s (H. Jon Benjamin) favorite holiday, plus everyone does Christmas and there is no getting the Halloween crown away from The Simpsons at this point. The show will often hit on the lesser holidays too, like Valentine’s Day and Easter, but pretty much every year they do Christmas. And just about every year, their Christmas episode is one of the highlights of the holiday season. I can’t think of a Christmas episode of Bob’s Burgers that failed to entertain me. I definitely prefer some over others, but they’re pretty much all good.

The Season 8 Christmas episode, “The Bleakening,” really shines a light on how Christmas is matriarch Linda’s (John Roberts) holiday. The kids have Halloween, Bob has Thanksgiving, but Christmas is all Linda. It was her over-excitement for Christmas that got the plot rolling in my favorite Christmas episode from this show, “Christmas in the Car,” and its her attitude towards Christmas that gets this one going as well.

Being married to Linda must be exhausting.

This one begins in atypical fashion as it foregoes the opening which means no festive shop-next-door gag and no exterminator gag – darn. All we get is the message “Four days before Christmas” as we enter the bedroom of the Belchers where nothing sexy is happening. Quite the opposite, as Linda wakes up abruptly and immediately forces Bob to do the same. She tells Bob she just had a dream they threw a wonderful, Christmas, party and he could not care less. As he tries to go back to sleep she insists it’s a sign. She’s noticed that there’s a lack of Christmas spirit this year and maybe her dream was telling her that the only remedy for this malady is for the Belchers to have a Christmas party. Bob still doesn’t care so Linda stands up to describe her dream in song. As she does so, the bedsheet wrapped around her becomes a red, festive, dress and Bob is now wearing a tuxedo. She moves to the center of the bed and then off to sing, while Bob just rolls over to sleep. He does contribute some low notes during the song though, so he’s still somewhat of an active participant as Linda dances around and samples rivers of eggnog and describes her ideal party that is definitely out of reach for the Belcher family.

Linda has that crazy look in her eye again.

The next morning, the entire family is seated for breakfast as Linda tells the kids about her dream. Louise (Kristen Schaal) remarks she dreamt her dad had a ponytail and asks if they can just do that instead, so the kids clearly are not onboard with the idea of throwing a sudden Christmas party today. On the news, the family is watching a report on a local gay bar that’s being torn down and is an apparent source of the Christmas blues. Linda, seemingly inspired by this report, heads to the living room and begins sawing off the top of their Christmas tree. As the family looks on perplexed, she explains that it’s needed for their Christmas party while Gene (Eugene Mirman) describes what is being done to their tree as a circumcision. Linda then takes some more ornaments from the tree which are all homemade ones from the kids which she adores and puts them on her new, little, tree. We see quick flashbacks to her receiving the ornaments and the joke is that her reactions are all the same and that Linda will love anything her kids make for her, as all good mothers should.

Later that day, Linda gets her wish as the family hosts a Christmas party in the restaurant. Bob is tasked with handing out Santa Sliders and Teddy (Larry Murphy) questions what the etiquette is for the appetizers as he would apparently like the entire tray (the answer is apparently four). Linda gets to show off her little Christmas tree to some of the locals, the elderly craft store owners who normally hate the Belcher family, who while impressed with the decoration would still rather not talk to Linda.

The Bleaken as imagined by the kids, or told by Teddy, I’m not sure.

Teddy then asks the kids how the Santa thing is looking this year. As he does, he mentions something called the Bleaken in passing which confuses the kids. Teddy then elaborates that the Bleaken is a vengeful spirit who visits bad kids on Christmas instead of Santa. As he spins a tail, we see basically how the children envision the character who is surrounded by fog and shadows and features glowing red eyes and antlers like a deer. He’s clearly a Krampus-styled entity and the children are pretty captivated by Teddy’s story. Apparently though, the Bleaken works in tandem with Santa, or something, because after gifts are deposited, he steals them. It’s like Santa can’t bring himself to leave coal like we’ve always been threatened with, so he hires some jerk to just take the gifts and keep his hands clean. The kids definitely seem freaked out though, and Teddy might actually be aware of the anxiety he’s causing and tries to dismiss the Bleaken as something his nana probably made up.

I feel cheated out of a proper Burger of the Day.

Jimmy Pesto (Jay Johnston) makes what he thinks is a grand entrance, but no one cares. Bob seems annoyed Linda invited him, but she insists it’s Christmas or whatever as justification. At the bar, Linda is dishing gossip and eggnog to a guy named Dalton (John Early) who has the Christmas blues. He was apparently dumped by his boyfriend, and he lets us all know the eggnog Linda made is terrible as he seems to suspect she spiked it with mouthwash. He requests something else to drink and Linda cracks open a bottle of champagne for him. After he goes, Marshmallow (David Herman) enters with her friend Art (Adam Driver) the artist, and Linda finds his name amusing. Marshmallow sincerely asks him if he wants to leave, but he lets us know that he’s easily amused too and apparently likes Linda. Marshmallow tries some eggnog (“That’s nasty,”) while Linda expresses her condolences towards the pair over the closure of The Wiggle Room, the bar from the news report earlier. Marshmallow questions if she’ll ever wiggle again.

It’s gone!

With the party over, Linda waves goodbye to those still leaving before reprising her song from earlier, “It’s the Christmas of my dreams…” She sings it outside, and a passerby interrupts her. Embarrassed, she returns into the restaurant. Despite that little episode, she’s mostly content with how the party unfolded, but things take a dark turn when Linda notices her little tree is missing! Bob asks the kids if they did anything with it and they deny involvement. Sergeant Bosco (Gary Cole) is called in and he informs the family that there has been a lot of thefts like this going around this year. He mentions it’s all little stuff and casually drops outdoor inflatables in there which gets Teddy’s attention as he has an inflatable Santa that he’s now suddenly worried about. When he asks the detective if he has any leads, he just says “Yeah, some guy. Or girl. Or group of guys…” as he clearly doesn’t really care all that much. Linda just wants her ornaments back though that her kids made when they were young and cute. When Bob suggests they have the kids make new ones, she’s dismissive of the current state of her children which Gene takes offense to (“I’m adorable!”). Linda decides she needs to investigate on her own, but Bob cautions her against going overboard. You know she’s going to go overboard.

The initial list of suspects is pretty thorough.

The next day, a mere two days until Christmas, Linda works on a list of suspects while sitting at the bar. She crosses off those she feels she can eliminate, like Mort (Andy Kindler), but then Bob tells her Mort seemed unhappy about the Santa Slider he had to take so she adds him back. Bob then puts Jimmy Pesto in her mind as the prime suspect, and the two head over to his restaurant to confront him. Linda cuts right to the chase and tells him to return the tree, but Jimmy tells her he has no interest in her tree. He thought they were coming over because they found the fudge he left in their urinal explaining that he wanted them to think someone crapped in it. He thinks the bit is hilarious, but the Belchers aren’t amused. Linda then notices his security camera, but Pesto points out he would never have his cameras pointed at their boring restaurant and Bob takes offense when Jimmy makes up a fake TV show about videos of sad restaurants. The camera though actually reminded Linda that Mort has one at his crematorium next door and maybe it could have caught the culprit in the act.

Nice to see the kids haven’t lost their imagination.

At home, the kids sit around the coffee table apparently making a coupon book for their parents for Christmas, which Bob had remarked about earlier because apparently they get this every year and the kids never honor the coupons. While working, Louise has a thought that maybe the Bleaken stole the tree which leads into another musical segment. This one is pretty upbeat, like a Pat Benatar song, but the visuals are the kids heading for a snowy mountain dressed like extras from Game of Thrones. Louise’s theory seems to be convincing though as the kids make plans for how to fight this Bleaken.

Edith looking mighty suspicious and there’s certainly no love lost between she and the Belchers.

At Mort’s place of business, Bob and Linda are able to get a look at the security footage. Linda thanks Mort for the help and assures him he was never a suspect, which just causes Mort to remark it sure sounds like he was a suspect, but they’re just going to push past that. When he pulls up footage we first see Mort skipping across the sidewalk which he quickly fast forwards past. Linda tells him to stop when she sees something and Mort freezes the frame. It’s Edith and her husband leaving the party and she is clearly concealing something in her long, winter, coat. Proclaiming “Greatest generation, my ass!” Linda and Bob head out to confront the couple.

Art’s commitment to his gig is admirable.

Bob and Linda head to Reflections, the craft store owned by Edith (Murphy) and Harold (Sam Seder). Inside they find no one, but Linda wants to go look in the back. When they push open the door they find an art class and a nude Santa serving as the model. Edith and Harold are surprised to see the pair, but Bob cuts right to the chase and asks them to give Linda back her tree. They’re confused, and when Linda produces the evidence they come clean about stealing a tray of cookies. Apparently they’ve been doing these art classes all week and ran out of food, and nudes need snacks! Linda then notices the Santa model is Art and recognizes him from the party. She confronts him, in song, about an alibi which prompts him to sing in return about having nothing to hide (clearly). They go through a little number and the members of the class back him up on the claim he came there right after the party without a tree (Harold adds he did have a bush though!) and Linda believes him. Dismayed, the Belchers exit the store empty-handed. Well, actually they got their cookies back. Apparently they’re not very good.

Now there’s our proper Burger of the Day!

It’s now Christmas Eve Day, and Linda is still bummed about her tree. Bob tries to get her to focus on what they can control, like running the restaurant, but Linda wants to go back out and question all of her suspects again. Bob is forced to remind her that they haven’t even wrapped presents for the kids yet, and by “they” he means “you” because Linda lets us know that Bob wraps like a blind, drunken, bear (Bob adds that’s how he lives). She decides to give up on the tree, but as she does the kids come bursting into the restaurant claiming to know who stole the tree. This gets Linda all fired up again, much to Bob’s displeasure. When the kids tell their parents that this is the work of The Bleaken, both Bob and Linda laugh them off. Bob then encourages the family to get over it and look forward to Christmas as he unconvincingly tries to sell the kids on how good their presents are going to be. Tina (Dan Mintz), for her part, seems convinced.

Bosco is a man who really sees no benefit to performing the duties associated with his job.

The kids take it upon themselves to visit Sgt. Bosco down at the police station. When they tell him the Bleaken is responsible for the rash of Christmas thefts across town, he flicks water at them and could not be less interested. Louise then notices a map behind Bosco on the wall with a bunch of pushpins in it. She asks Bosco if that map refers to all of the thefts across town and Bosco confirms it is. Well, he confirms that it’s some of them as he got tired of keeping track and possibly ran out of pushpins. Louise then distracts him by asking about some lamps on his desk and when Bosco looks away from her to regard the lamps, Louise whips out a flip phone and snaps a pic of the map. Louise then hastily gets her siblings out of there and once outside shows the picture she took to Gene and Tina. The markers are basically in a circle and Louise theorizes that whoever took the trinkets probably resides somewhere in the middle which impresses both Gene and Tina. She wants to investigate this further and concludes it’s up to them to uncover the Bleaken!

Just a normal family dinner. Nothing to see here!

Back home, the family is seated for a quiet ham dinner. When Bob asks the kids if they like the ham, they reply in robotic fashion and Tina remarks she’ll definitely be sleeping all through the night in her own bed. Bob has learned not to ask questions since he has weird kids and changes the subject to leaving cookies out for Santa. Linda, obviously still depressed about the loss of her tree, says “Oh yeah,” when asked about the cookies and stands up to do so. We then head into a montage of the family getting things in order before bed set to “Carol of the Bells.” Linda unplugs the tree and sighs beside it when she looks at the missing top. The kids put the cookies and milk out then head to bed. We even check in with Teddy who appears to be performing some sort of surgery on his inflatable Santa. Bob and Linda check to see if the kids are asleep, then get the wrapping paper out. Once they leave though, Louise pops out of bed in her clothes and wakes her siblings who are also dressed for adventure. When their parents go into their bedroom, the kids sneak past the stockings and down the stairs. Tina gives one, lingering, look up the stairs before closing the door indicating she’s feeling unsure about this adventure. We then see a shot of the kids walking down the snowy street from the window of their living room as the message “To be continued” is displayed.

Now this is ambitious!

What?! To be continued?! Bob’s Burgers rarely does two-parters, and a Christmas two-parter is especially rare for any show! It is what it is though, so come back tomorrow to find out who stole Linda’s tree. Was it the Bleaken? Maybe Teddy? Could it actually have been Mort? And what about the precious ornaments? All this and more, same Christmas blog address, same Christmas blog…ahh you get the idea.

Come back tomorrow to find out if these stockings get filled!

Dec. 13 – The 25 Greatest Christmas TV Specials

Five years ago The Christmas Spot did its first advent calendar countdown to Christmas and the theme was “The 25 Greatest Christmas TV Specials.” With that list, my approach wasn’t entirely forthright. I really had a list of 20 specials that I deemed worthy of such an honor and I devoted the back five to specials I felt were worth spotlighting that might otherwise have been overlooked. What I also should have added at the time was that the list is fluid. It’s going to change as we as a society of holiday consumers reevaluate the old and welcome the new. Seeing as it’s been five years, it felt right to look back on that list, re-arrange a few entries, add some more, and kick out some that have grown stale. I should stress, this is all one man’s opinion on television specials and as someone who loves Christmas I do tend to watch a lot of these specials too much and there’s definitely a fatigue factor. The list of holiday fare I indulge in year in and year out goes deeper than 25, so if your favorite isn’t here don’t sweat it. I probably think it’s fine.

For this exercise, I think it makes sense to just go down the list comparing the original to the revised edition. I’ll list the number and the entry with the previous ranking (if applicable) in parenthesis after and the 2015 entry after that, like so:

25. A Flintstone Christmas (#9) (Moral Orel – The Best Christmas Ever)

I like A Flintstone Christmas a lot, but I’ve also seen it a lot and I think it just doesn’t affect me in the same way now as it did years ago. As for Moral Orel, it’s a fine, dark, Christmas special and not something I need to watch every year.

24. American Dad! – For Whom the Sleigh Bell Tolls (UR) (Winnie the Pooh and Christmas Too)

American Dad! has become one of the titans of Christmas as it has a new special almost every year. “For Whom the Sleigh Bell Tolls” is bloody and insane, which is what makes it the most memorable for me, but there are a lot of contenders from this show. Winnie the Pooh’s foray into Christmas is plenty sweet, but also not very remarkable.

23. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (#13) (Robot Chicken’s Half-Assed Christmas Special)

Rudolph is a classic, but let’s not kid ourselves, it’s mostly included on all of these lists because of its classic status. It’s kind of ugly, and I think most of us watch it out of habit as opposed to pure enjoyment. Still, there’s no replicating that warm, nostalgic, feel it’s still capable of conjuring up. As for Robot Chicken, I very much enjoy the marathon sessions Adult Swim will air during December, but it’s designed to be disposable and the jokes are very hit or miss.

22. Olaf’s Frozen Adventure (UR) (Invader Zim – Most Horrible X-Mas Ever)

Olaf’s special wasn’t around in 2015, but it looks like it’s going to be an annual tradition for awhile. It’s funny, warm, and even features songs I don’t hate. He’s quickly become the most charismatic snowman around. Invader Zim is fine, but if you want an absurd Christmas story then I think there’s better out there (like American Dad!).

21. The Tick Loves Santa (UR) (Married…with Children – You Better Watch Out)

In 2020, offbeat and silly superhero stuff is really appealing given how superheroes rule the box office (or would in a normal year). That makes The Tick a series I can appreciate even more now than I did back in 94. And watching The Tick bumble his way through a Christmas story is a great deal of fun. It knocks off the only live-action special from 2015 to be featured on this list. Married…with Children is sort of like the sitcom version of American Dad! because it has a lot of Christmas specials, and most are pretty subversive. It’s still worth watching, but it was always at risk of being dropped for the simple fact that I favor cartoons.

20. Bob’s Burgers – Christmas in the Car (UR) (The Snowman)

Bob’s Burgers and American Dad! are battling it out to be the current king of Christmas since both are prepared seemingly year in and year out. I give the edge to the Belcher family, and while it’s hard to pick a favorite from this crew, I think “Christmas in the Car” is still the reigning champ though I seem to warm more and more to “Father of the Bob” every time I view it. The Snowman is the victim I feel the worst about. It’s not moving up the ranks, but out. I know a lot of folks adore it, but I’ve just never been able to feel the same way about it. Sorry!

19. Frosty the Snowman (#15) (It’s a SpongeBob Christmas)

Like Rudolph, Frosty is skating by on reputation at this point. Unlike Rudolph though, I still feel charmed by this one whenever I watch it. The characters are goofy, some of the plot points make no sense, and that damn song will forever remain catchy. As for SpongeBob, worry not for him, for he will appear later on this list in a more prominent position.

18. Beavis and Butt-Head Do Christmas (#18) (Beavis and Butt-Head Do Christmas)

Hey! One that didn’t change! Spoiler alert, but this one is just the first to not move a spot. This one is wonderfully stupid and subversive. Many confuse Beavis and Butt-Head for just stupid, but there’s a lot of satire to be found with the duo. It’s not for everyone, but it sure is funny.

17. Futurama – Xmas Story (#12) (A Muppet Family Christmas)

Futurama hangs on slipping just five spots. It wasn’t in any real danger to fall off as I love the show and I love it’s take on Christmas. The Muppets, on the other hand, were mostly on the old version for the novelty of their special and nostalgia. Admittedly though, the special isn’t great and has maybe 2 or 3 good laughs during its hour-long runtime. Plus that ending goes on and on…

16. A Charlie Brown Christmas (#4) (Yes, Virginia)

Hoo-boy was I coward in 2015! Charlie Brown is a classic, but it’s also quite dull. It’s quotable, has great music, and the good-bad voice acting is somehow really charming. It’s near the top of many lists because it’s been around so long and boomers love it while younger generations were forced to enjoy it. Top 16 is still good, but we all need to be more honest when it comes to Charlie Brown. Yes, Virginia is super sweet and I love the ending, it’s getting there that’s tough. The special is pretty slow and the CG is downright ugly. This one would have been a lot better as a short, but maybe someone will return to it and do just that. And if you hadn’t heard, A Charlie Brown Christmas is airing tonight on PBS at 7:30 PM local time (6:30 CT) which is big news since It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown was frozen out of a broadcast airing in 2020 for the first time ever.

15. A Pinky and the Brain Christmas (UR) (Frosty the Snowman)

This one was just an oversight on my part back in 2015. I had not seen it in years, but when I re-watched it for The Christmas Spot in 2017 I was reminded of how wonderful a viewing it is. That ending gets me every time.

14. The Night Before Christmas starring Tom and Jerry (UR) (A Very Special Family Guy Freakin’ Christmas)

Another one I forgot about and overlooked, Tom and Jerry’s battle under the Christmas tree is full of the usual gags the duo is known for. The animation is gorgeous, especially the backgrounds, and it tops it all off with a really sweet ending. Family Guy was generously ranked in this spot in 2015 and actually was a tough omission this time around. I do still like that special, easily the best Family Guy Christmas episode I’ve seen, but I basically gave it the boot in favor of the superior show, American Dad!

13. Duck the Halls (UR) (Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer)

It’s Donald Duck and it’s Christmas – it was practically made for me! Duck the Halls is hilarious and the animation is great. Sure, it isn’t ink and paint like the old days, but I find it plenty pleasing. Tony Anselmo gives maybe his best performance ever as Donald, and if anything I’m penalizing this one because we have more Donald to come.

12. Rocko’s Modern Christmas (UR) (Futurama – Xmas Story)

I love Rocko, but in 2015 I had all but forgotten about his Christmas special. Well, not this time as I’m putting him just outside the Top 10. The story is fairly simple, but Rocko is so likable and sympathetic that it makes this one instantly charming. And let’s not forget the great gags like the constipated cloud and the living (until it’s not) Christmas tree.

11. It’s a SpongeBob Christmas (#19) (Prep & Landing)

SpongeBob is moving up in the world and actually is the biggest mover, in a positive direction, this time around. My affection for this stop-motion Christmas special seems to grow and grow each year. In 2015 it was still pretty new so a recency bias worked against it, but five years later I’m more than ready to declare this a modern Christmas classic. And the same can be said for the special that once occupied this spot.

10. South Park – Mr. Hanky the Christmas Poo (#8) (A Garfield Christmas)

Mr. Hanky just barely hangs onto a top 10 spot this time out. Is his spot in danger? Yes, considering my love of SpongeBob and Donald Duck. For now though, let’s just reflect on how crazy this special was when it first showed up in 1997 and how South Park used to have a new Christmas special every year. My, how the times have changed.

9. Prep & Landing (#11) (A Flintstone Christmas)

I’m surprised I held Prep & Landing out of the Top 10 last time around, but like SpongeBob, I guess I just wasn’t quite ready to let someone new into the club. The CG still looks great on this one and the story is unique, fun, and even heart-warming. New Christmas specials arrive every year, but rarely does one actually add to the whole Santa Claus lore in a meaningful way, but that’s what Prep & Landing has done. These elves aren’t going anywhere anytime soon.

8. A Garfield Christmas (#10) (Mr. Hanky the Christmas Poo)

The fat cat who loves lasagna gets to move up a couple spots, largely benefiting from folks like Fred Flintstone and Charlie Brown getting kicked further down the line. This 1987 special is still a treat to take in that blends humor with a surprising amount of sentiment. It’s a shame it lost the network timeslot it held for many years.

7. DuckTales – Last Christmas! (UR) (Toy Tinkers)

DuckTales has made a comeback since 2015 and included among the new episodes is the show’s first ever Christmas special, and it’s wonderful! It turns the story of A Christmas Carol on its head, in a way, with a time travel tale all its own and features the first mother-son pairing of Della and Duey Duck. Plus it has a fantastic cameo from the late, great, Russi Taylor. If you have yet to see it, fix that this year. Especially since word has come out recently the show isn’t being renewed for a fourth season. 2020 just refuses to stop sucking!

6. Toy Tinkers (#7) (Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire)

The Donald Duck/Chip and Dale vehicle moves up one spot this year. It matters little as this is a cartoon all animation lovers and Christmas enthusiasts should make a point to watch every year. The only negative is that the gunplay contained within this one means Disney+ will likely continue to shun it making it a tad harder to come by.

5. A Chipmunk Christmas (#3) (Pluto’s Christmas Tree)

Alvin and the gang spin a fine Christmas tale. I thought highly enough of it to rank it in the top 3 last time, but I’m bumping it down just a couple of spots this year as I basically rearrange some things. This one is becoming a little harder to come by each year as you can’t guarantee a network showing, but DVDs are cheap so grab one if you need it!

4. Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire (#6) (A Charlie Brown Christmas)

The premiere episode of The Simpsons is still my favorite Christmas special the show has done. Sure, it’s a bit rough to look at these days, but the story is great, classic, Simpsons. I just wish it and the other 80s Christmas specials on this list were celebrated as much as the stuff from the 60s that hasn’t aged so well. Well, most of that stuff has aged horribly, but there’s one notable omission we’ll get to shortly.

3. Pluto’s Christmas Tree (#5) (A Chipmunk Christmas)

Alvin and Pluto essentially switched places largely because I just love this little short. It’s just perfect. The scenery inside the Christmas tree featuring Chip and Dale is just the best. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it every time I watch this short – I want to live in that tree. The physical comedy is fantastic, and I just absolutely adore this short. Unlike Toy Tinkers, you can find this one on Disney+ 365 days out of the year. I’ll probably watch it at least a dozen times between now and Christmas.

2. Mickey’s Christmas Carol (#2)

Mickey and our number one didn’t move, and that’s with good reason. This is my preferred version of A Christmas Carol, and frankly, we don’t need any more. It’s the only one on this list other than the parody featured in Beavis and Butt-Head (I don’t really consider “Last Christmas!” an adaptation) which is kind of surprising to me, but it also feels right. This one is beautiful and features some phenomenal voice acting. I’ll never not tear-up at the sight of a crying Mickey when he visits Tiny Tim’s grave, ditto for when Scrooge informs him he’s getting promoted at the end. I’m getting misty eyed right now just thinking about it.

  1. Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas (#1)

It was number one in 2015, and it will likely remain number one for as long as I’m alive. How the Grinch Stole Christmas is just a perfect Christmas special. It features a story full of heart, humor, redemption, and joy. It’s gorgeously animated with a style unique to both Dr. Seuss and animator Chuck Jones. The music is equally as memorable and the narration from Boris Karloff is the only voice people hear in their heads now-a-days when reading the source material. There’s nothing I’d change about this special, and if I had to pick just one Christmas special to watch annually it would be this one.


Dec. 7 – Bob’s Burgers – “Father of the Bob”

 

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“Father of the Bob” originally aired on December 7, 2014. And as always, there was a delightful Christmas pun in the title sequence.

Bob’s Burgers has somewhat quietly become the best animated show on the Fox Network. Better than the modern version of The Simpsons, and better than Family Guy. It might be the ugliest of the three, but it more than makes up for that with its characters and plots. Bob’s Burgers looks like just another animated sitcom about a family of five on the surface:  the Belchers are short on money, but not on problems. Where the show really separates itself is that it’s never really operated like a conventional sitcom. The members of the family all get along and seem to like each other. There are very few plots centered on conflicts within the family. Rarely do parents Bob and Linda need to discipline the kids or worry about their performance at school. And all three kids are quite weird, and yet no one in the family pokes fun at each other. Well, the kids do point out Bob’s flaws at times, but it’s often in an observational manner as opposed to trying to make him feel bad about himself. This is a family that is incredibly tolerant of each other, almost to a fault as Bob can be a push-over. They rarely say “I love you,” to each other, but it’s obvious that they do in a very natural way that just doesn’t need stating.

 

And, of course, the show is incredibly funny. It’s also incredibly dedicated to holiday themed episodes in a way that few shows are. Every season you can almost guarantee there will be a Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas episode. Sometimes the holiday is just sort of happening in the background, which it kind of is in today’s episode, and other times it’s very much the focus of the episode. It’s certainly great for a website like this one so don’t be surprised if Bob’s Burgers ends up showing up here on an annual basis as well.

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This episode is going to take us back in time more than once.

“Father of the Bob” is actually one of the more melodramatic episodes in the show’s history. It contains a plot revolving around Bob and his father, Big Bob, and how the two struggle to get along with each other. It’s one of the more conventional plots the show has done when compared with its contemporaries, but it still finds ways to impart its unique brand of humor to the story and it largely utilizes the kids to do so.

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A young Bob crafts his first gimmick burger.

The episode opens with a flashback to thirty years prior. On a snowy Christmas, a young Bob (H. Jon Benjamin) is handling grill duties while his dad is at a doctor’s appointment. He’s talking to the burger as he personifies it with a high-pitched voice, something he will carry with him to adulthood. He then presents his burger to patron Henry (Carl Reiner). He dubs it the Baby You Can Chive My Car Burger as it has chives and little fried pickles for wheels, making it simulate a car. Fellow patrons Max (Jordan Peele) and Pete (Nick Offerman) look on as Henry decides if he wants to eat this thing as he had ordered his usual:  a tuna melt. As he looks it over, Big Bob (Bill Hader) returns from his appointment and we find out it was for a prostate exam. His remark, “So that’s what a prostate exam is,” is met with a “I think it’s fun if it’s a surprise!” from Max reminding me that there’s almost no way I can capture all of the good lines that are going to be featured here.

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Little Bob presents his masterpiece to Henry, the Baby You Can Chive My Car Burger.

Big Bob takes notice of the unusual burger being presented to Henry. As Bob enthusiastically describes it to his dad, Big Bob just looks disgusted. He seems even more irritated when he finds out Henry ordered his usual, but Bob tries to tell Henry he’ll like this. Big Bob reminds him you don’t tell the customer what he wants, but Henry suggests he’s willing to try this and thinks it looks okay. Big Bob then immediately makes a hypocrite of himself by telling Henry he doesn’t want that burger and tells him he wants a tuna melt. He dumps the burger into the trash and remarks that’s the last time he leaves Little Bob in charge.

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Turns out, this isn’t a happy Christmas memory.

In the present, it’s Christmas Eve and the family has been invited to Bob’s father’s annual Christmas party taking place at his restaurant, Big Bob’s Diner. Bob is reluctant to attend, but the family hasn’t been in seven years so he feels obligated to do so. The problem is he and his dad can only seem to co-exist for 15 minutes before things inevitably take a turn for the worse. As he explains this phenomena to Teddy (Larry Murphy), while the kids pray to Santa, we see a montage of times when 15 minutes elapsed and Big Bob said something condescending to his son. Linda (John Roberts) poo-poos him and is ever the optimist insisting that the magic of Christmas will bring them together, but Bob insists they only stay for 15 minutes and then get out of there.

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In the present, Bob has upped his game and worked Christmas puns into his gimmick burgers.

As the family drives over, the kids Tina (Dan Mintz), Gene (Eugene Mirman), and Louise (Kristen Schaal) all find out via discussion that none of them have secured a Christmas present for their father. They’re obviously running out of time and need to think of something fast. Their hope is that their grandfather might be able to bail them out in some way.

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Santa Pete is the first to welcome the Belchers to Big Bob’s holiday party.

As the family enters Big Bob’s Diner we’re introduced to Big Bob himself. He looks like an older, heavier, version of Bob and seems to be a rather low key kind of guy. He gives the kids their expected five dollars each, and Louise whispers in his ear they have an arts and crafts emergency brewing and Big Bob tells her they’re welcomed to nose around in the basement for stuff and the three head down there. Bob and his dad struggle to make small talk and it soon becomes apparent that Big Bob is understaffed, what with it being Christmas Eve and all. Linda thinks this is an excellent opportunity for the two Bobs to have a heart to heart and she insists that Bob help his dad out in the kitchen. Bob is extremely reluctant to do so, but he’s too good a person not to help his dad out or he just can’t say “No” to his wife.

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Christmas seems to have a lot of baggage for the Bobs.

We’re then a shown a Christmas from 20 years ago. A bunch of patrons are in the diner and Big Bob is preparing to give his son his Christmas present. He has something under a sheet, and he calls for Little Bob to come into the dining room. As he does, he looks really on edge as his dad goes into a little speech. He tells him from now on the diner will be Bob & Son’s diner and he shows him a piece of the new sign, which is still unfinished. As he shows him menus and goes on and on Little Bob says “No” to the offer. Big Bob can hardly believe it, and Little Bob unloads about how he could never work for his dad and that he won’t ever let him change the menu. The restaurant patrons are all really uncomfortable, and Big Bob eventually tells him to get out. As Bob storms out, he tries to come up with a new gimmick burger to mark the occasion, but isn’t satisfied with any of the stuff he’s thinking of on the spot.

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Bob awkwardly discussing the items in the kitchen with his pops.

As the Bobs settle in, Linda helps with waitressing though she clearly has no idea what the layout of the restaurant is and is forced to just call out orders to see who claims them. In the basement, the kids are rummaging through their grandfather’s stuff and trying to figure out a present for their dad. Tina seems to think she can turn her grandfather’s desk chair into something neat, while Gene decides to make drums out of some cans of beans. Louise proposes they have a competition to see who can make their dad the best present. It’s to be called the Missile-Tonies.

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A bean bath – why not?

Upstairs, the clock is ticking as Bob struggles to make small talk with his dad stumbling into an awkward discussion about range hoods. Downstairs, Tina finishes her chair present which just has a bunch of stuff taped to it. She’s rather proud of herself and dishes on her siblings. Louise seems to be unnerved by Tina’s bragging as she constructs a pyramid out of mouse traps. Meanwhile, Gene has lost focus. He emptied the bean cans into a cardboard box initially to make his drum kit sound better, but now he’s decided he just wants to bathe in the beans. He strips down to his underwear and climbs in requesting some sliced ham for his eyes.

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Things are not going well.

In the kitchen, the clock ticks 15, and Bob begins to panic and is trying to make his escape. Right on cue, his dad takes a look at the order slip Bob just finished and asks if it’s supposed to be grilled cheese, because it looks like his son prepared burnt toast. His passive aggressive approach would drive any son mad over time. As Bob tries to leave, Linda sticks her head into the window to see how things are going and Big Bob sarcastically responds they’re learning how to make grilled cheese forcing Little Bob to laugh awkwardly. Linda tells them Henry has ordered the usual, which sets Little Bob off. He declares he’s going to make Henry the burger his dad tossed out when he was 14. Big Bob declares he won’t allow any gimmick burgers in his restaurant, and then he critiques his son’s pantomime of driving a car.

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And they’re only getting worse.

As the Bobs each prepare their meal for Henry, the kids hit a snag in the basement. Tina’s chair has too much stuff taped to it and falls over, knocking over Louise’s structure of mousetraps. Gene’s box breaks open and out come the beans (and according to Gene, a small amount of pee) all over the place. Out of options, Louise instructs Tina to find a gift fast and she settles on a snowglobe. Louise pulls some newspaper out of her grandpa’s desk to use as wrapping paper and this will have to do.

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Linda tries to conjure up some Christmas magic through song, but it isn’t working.

Upstairs, Linda refuses to serve Henry either Bob invention. She instead implores the restaurant customers to sing, but no one is having it. Both Bobs decide to present their food personally as they elbow each other out of the kitchen and place their plates before Henry. The poor old man is obviously confused and conflicted. He doesn’t want to get dragged into this fight between father and son, nor does he want to upset either of them. He’s struggling to find a solution that will placate both, but it becomes obvious that won’t happen. Ultimately, he’s lured in by Little Bob’s creation and takes a bite. He loves it, and as Bob gloats before his dad. A sullen and defeated Big Bob removes his apron and plays the guilt card. He unenthusiastically thanks Bob and Linda for coming to his party as he quietly leaves the restaurant.

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Poor Henry is caught in the middle and he can’t resist the call of Bob’s burger.

Bob isn’t quite ready to stop savoring his victory, but the patrons of the restaurant aren’t too happy with him. Bob realizes he needs to do something as his kids emerge from the basement and Gene is still covered in beans. Linda urges Bob to go after his father, who has ducked into the gay bar across the street. She insists she can handle the orders and the kids will help out, and Bob is forced to relent when the kids give him his present. The newspaper they chose as wrapping paper ended up being a review of Bob’s Burgers his dad kept downstairs. It was the first ever review for the young restaurant (it was a rather neutral review) and Bob is touched and surprised his dad had kept it. Pete, who owns the bar next door, then comes in his Santa suit with a cowboy hat. He instructs Bob to put it on and come with him.

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When a Santa presents you a cowboy hat and commands you to come, you come.

Bob finds his dad alone at the bar in a cowboy hat. He sits down beside him and tries to apologize, but his dad isn’t particularly interested in conversation. He flees his son to the dance floor and Bob gets a lesson in boot-scooting from Pete and joins his father. He then starts to ask his dad what he’s doing here, and he explains he always comes here for line dancing. Before Bob can finish his next question, Big Bob assures his son he’s not gay, he just likes dancing and hanging out with his friends. Big Bob relentlessly points out how badly his son is dancing, and Bob uses that to segue into an explanation for why he blew up earlier. He’s sick of his dad always criticizing him. He apologizes though for blowing up at him, in the past and tonight. He shouldn’t have embarrassed his dad like that in front of his customers, and he sounds genuinely sorry. He thought his dad never supported him, until his kids found the review he had kept. Big Bob admits he’s a tough person to get along with, and the two more or less reconcile before heading back over to the diner.

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A defeated Big Bob wants no part of a conversation with his son.

As they stand outside they watch Linda and the kids taking charge of the situation. Big Bob tells his son he has good kids; weird, happy, kids. He also tells his son that he’s a good father, and Bob seems genuinely touched. They then go to enter the restaurant, but Gene and Louise have locked the door and taunt the two. Tina, being the elder daughter, unlocks the door and lets them in. Linda is happy to see the two have reconciled declaring it Christmas magic and the other patrons are happy to see the two. Big Bob wishes everyone a merry Christmas and the episode ends with Linda’s “Christmas Magic” song she’s been going into and out of all episode.

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Those Belcher kids and their schemes.

“Father of the Bob” is a simple, effective, Christmas episode. It doesn’t necessarily have a special message, but it tells a tale of how a son can feel unappreciated by his father and shows how that can come to a head. Bob was basically in the right to reject his father’s offer of partnership, and right to be angry with him over the gimmick burger, but blowing up and publicly embarrassing him was probably the wrong way to go about it. It’s certainly not the way to do things if you want to continue to have a positive relationship with your pops, but these things can happen when a father is tone deaf to his kid’s emotional needs.

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Gene and his beans are possibly the most memorable part of this one.

Bill Hader is pretty great as Big Bob. He brings a gravelly, grumpy, grumble to the role and I almost didn’t recognize his voice. We see how Big Bob is towards Linda and the kids, which is somewhat warm, and that he’s capable of love. He’s just not great at showing it to his son. It helps keep the audience on Little Bob’s side without full-out hating Big Bob. Nick Offerman, Jordan Peele, and Carl Reiner are also great in their roles. Henry’s conflict over which entrée to eat is probably the best scene, while Peele’s Max has some great lines sprinkled throughout. And the kids tend to steal their scenes when involved. Their B plot is simple yet outlandish given the direction they take it with Gene’s bean bath being a funny, yet cringey, moment since someone is going to have to clean that up. The two plots are tied together neatly, and the climax between the Bobs feels authentic as opposed to manufactured.

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Seeing Bob try to figure things out with his pops around the holidays proved compelling, which is something this show doesn’t often try to do.

“Father of the Bob” may be a touch sentimental and melancholy, but it’s quietly become one of my favorite Christmas specials. I think I still prefer the prior season’s Christmas special, “Christmas in the Car” (which I covered 2 years ago), a little better, but this one is right there. It helps that there’s plenty of Christmas imagery in the episode, so even if it never gets to the actual holiday it still feels like a true Christmas special.

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A hopeful image accompanies the credits.

“Father of the Bob” will likely be shown on Adult Swim more than once this season along with most of the other Christmas specials from Bob’s Burgers. You can also stream the series on Hulu, or purchase the episode as part of season five on physical media or by itself digitally. In short, this is a rather easy one to catch and it’s definitely worth your time to do so this year.

 


Dec. 18 – Bob’s Burgers: “Christmas in the Car”

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First aired December 15, 2013

Among the Fox programs airing on Sunday nights, Bob’s Burgers has become the one most likely to deliver a good Christmas special year in and year out, especially now that American Dad has fled to cable. It also still feels like a relatively new series to me, but it’s now in its eighth season. Bob’s Burgers is about a guy named Bob Belcher who runs a burger joint with his family; Wife Linda, eldest daughter Tina, son Gene, and daughter Louise. The restaurant is only semi-successful and everyone in the family is a bit odd, but they actually have a rather sweet family dynamic. “Christmas in the Car” is not the show’s first Christmas episode, but the season 4 episode is probably the show’s best holiday themed special, mostly because of its unique premise.

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Halloween and Christmas together?! Tim Burton’s gonna sue.

When the show opens, Linda is eagerly erecting the family Christmas tree on the day after Halloween. Apparently Linda is a real mark for Christmas and when Bob sasses her for her illogical enthusiasm she poo-poos him, as do the children. The show has a quick cut to the Belchers tossing out the now dead tree while all looking mournful, except Bob who saw this coming. We then repeat the gag, only Linda is putting up a tree on the day after Thanksgiving. While it’s a little more understandable (Black Friday might as well be National Decorate for Christmas Day for those of us who don’t leave the house to go shopping) to put up a tree then, a living one will have little chance of seeing Christmas Day. Which is what happens to this second tree. Now it’s Christmas Eve and the Belchers are without a tree. Linda and the kids are despondent while Bob is more concerned with finishing up Christmas dinner so they can have their traditional meal.

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There’s going to be a lot of this in this episode.

Linda isn’t going to settle for a tree-less Christmas (maybe she should just get a fake one?), and finds a lot still open that will basically let them take whatever is left. With everyone in the family against him, Bob reluctantly goes along with them and loads everyone into the car to drive an hour away for a scrappy tree. The kids though aren’t entirely eager as they have a plan to capture Santa Claus. Gene and Louise are very much consumed by it, while Tina is mostly along for the ride. Things get worse for poor Bobby since the kids are crazy in the car and try to tickle him most of the way while Linda mostly mocks him for being a “lump of coal.”

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A tree lot on Christmas Eve is kind of a depressing place to be.

When they get to the tree lot the pickings are naturally slim and unappealing on Christmas Eve. Linda has a hard time settling on one, so Bob joins the kids in their Santa scheming. They’re not eager for his help, and Bob strikes up a conversation with Tina about how it’s weird that Louise still believes in Santa assuming Tina will agree with him, but she just seems confused forcing Bob to ease out of the conversation gently. The kids stage a dry run using a port-a-potty and it gets surprisingly violent. Linda finally settles on a tree and they’re all ready to leave. Bob asks the kids to help him get out of the lot, but they basically do a terrible job and Bob cuts off a guy driving a giant candy cane truck. It gets worse as Linda yells at him and beats on the horn to the tune of “Jingle Bells.”

The truck continues on its way and the Belchers are heading home. Bob is pretty much done with this whole thing and wants to get home, but when the candy cane truck driver decides to drive at a snail’s pace in front of them, Bob decides to pass him. It gets a little Christmas Vacation-y here as Bob tries to pass the truck only for the truck to speed up and not let him by. The family freaks out as Bob is finally able to maneuver their station wagon in front of the truck only for the trucker to start aggressively tailing him. Bob loses his cool and plunges off the road to let the truck by further terrifying his family. With Gene’s bladder begging for relief, the family heads to a nearby diner so Gene can use the facilities. Bob is eager to get back on the road, but Gene takes a little extra time: “My bladder asked if my colon could come out and play, and my colon was like, “‘Sure thing.'”

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Just let the man eat babies in peace, Bob.

Linda sees the diner serves Dutch Babies, a type of fancy pancake, but they take 25 minutes to make. Bob is concerned about his ham in the oven (“Just fart, dad”), but he’s talked into calling family friend Teddy to turn off the oven while Linda waits for the Dutch Baby that she just has to have. Teddy isn’t doing anything, because he’s never doing anything, and is eager to help out. As Bob tells him what he needs to do, Teddy becomes overwhelmed even though Bob is literally telling him how to turn off the oven – nothing complicated. He then becomes concerned that Bob didn’t get his Christmas card and Bob is forced to hang up on him.

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Teddy is not the most reliable.

It’s then Bob notices a police officer sitting in a booth eating a Dutch Baby (that’s a really weird thing to type) and he decides to report the candy cane driver to the cop. The cop sits there disinterested (really similar to a bit on Seinfeld) while Bob delicately describes what happened while the kids pipe-in with sarcastic quips when it becomes obvious the cop isn’t taking their father seriously. That only irritates Bob, and when the cop starts to poke fun at him he swings his arms and accidentally hits a waitress. Then the cop starts asking him why he assaulted a waitress and things just spiral out of control with Bob angrily declaring they’re leaving without the Dutch Baby. Just then it’s ready, at 22 minutes, causing Linda to happily refer to it as a preemie, “Just like Jesus!”

The Belchers pile back into the car and start making their way home. As they do so, Teddy shows up at their apartment to turn off the oven. He basically narrates what he’s doing, wondering why Bob made it sound so complicated and why his Christmas card remains unopened. He notices some cookies left out and decides a cookie is an appropriate payment for his services today. The cookies though are part of the Santa trap laid by the kids. A note is present informing the recipient the milk is in the fridge. When Teddy goes to retrieve the milk he slips his hand through a little noose and becomes trapped in the fridge. Meanwhile, Bob and Linda are arguing about the Diner experience while the kids are concerned they’ll miss Santa, spoiling their trap. Just then, Bob spies the candy cane truck and it’s soon after them. The Dutch Baby gets lodged under the pedals while everyone freaks out, mostly about the truck, but Linda also over her fancy pancake.

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Impending doom.

Now that they’re all convinced the driver of the candy cane truck is out to kill them, the family heads off the road and tries to hide from view. Bob wants to call the police, but during the entire trip for a tree Gene has had a radio station on hold to request “Jingle in the Jungle” and now the battery is dead. While the family is hunkered down in the car in the woods they all, apparently fearing their own demise is near, begin to confess to secret shames or things they’ve been keeping inside. Gene decides to tell the family he has the best legs, while Tina admits to being the one who didn’t flush (she was apparently proud of her “creation” and Linda admits it looked just like one of her father’s). Bob just wants everyone to stop talking, but then they ask where babies come from and Linda deadpans “You all come from my vagina.”

Bob is able to spy the truck through the trees, hears it honk, and sees it drive away. Everyone is overjoyed for a minute, especially Bob who declares he saved them all, but then discovers the car is stuck in the snow. Trapped in the car, the family has a moment of levity when “Jingle in the Jungle” comes on and all seem to enjoy it. They resign themselves to their Christmas in the car as it’s now past midnight. Then the candy cane truck returns, and panic sets in.

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Turns out the truck driver (voice of Bobcat Goldthwait) isn’t very intimidating once he isn’t in his giant truck.

Not knowing what else to do, they all jump out of the car. The kids are prepared to run, but Bob seems to know he needs to confront the driver. When the driver emerges from the truck Bob sees how small he is and seems to feel a little bit more emboldened. Bob confronts him, rambles on, apologizing and also asking if the guy could help them get their car out of the snow, but the trucker just wants to fight. There’s a humorous moment when he tells Bob that he wants to “bang his ass,” and Bob kind of snickers knowing that’s probably not what the guy meant to say. Bob tries to strike a deal; help them get their car out and he’ll let the guy punch him in the stomach. Linda is not on board, but Bob just sees this guy as a sad little man and thinks he’d be giving him something worthwhile that will probably make his day. He makes the observation that this guy is probably having a worse Christmas than them, and Linda takes some pride in hearing her husband recognize that.

Bob and the trucker, turns out his name is Gary, then have a little heart to heart. Gary is just having a bad day and is pretty upset he has to work on Christmas. Bob is sympathetic and things seem to be calming down, until Gary slugs him in the stomach. Feeling great after nailing Bob, Gary is suddenly in a much better mood and more willing to help while Bob fears he has internal bleeding. Linda insists that Gary take their tree and their Dutch Baby and an incredulous Bob is unable to muster much of a fight as he’s still reeling from the blow. They get the car unstuck and return home to find Teddy had tipped over the fridge and made a general mess of things in the house. He’s less concerned with his own safety and more concerned with why Bob never opened his Christmas card. He insists Bob open the card before freeing him. It’s a cat and it says “Meowy Christmas” and the episode ends with “Jingle in the Jungle” during the closing credits.

Christmas_Car_CreditsThere’s no write-up that can be done for an episode of Bob’s Burgers that does it justice. A lot of the humor is situational relying on the timing of the voice actors and animation to make a successful joke. There’s tons of little one-liners through-out, mostly from the kids, and the sequences with Teddy on his own are pretty entertaining as he basically thinks out loud the whole time. I mostly enjoy the episode though because it’s really entertaining as an episode of Bob’s Burgers while also injecting a little Christmas spirit without sacrificing anything. The kids don’t really learn anything and no one feels obligated to apologize to Bob for not believing him about the truck, and for making him go on an ultimately fruitless quest for a third tree on Christmas Eve. The night was basically ruined, though the Belcher family, except Bob, seems immune to feeling any kind of lingering depression. They take things in stride, mostly due to their very optimistic matriarch, so it’s hard to actually be mad at them for how they put their father through hell.

“Christmas in the Car” will almost certainly be shown at least once this season on Cartoon Network’s adult swim programming block (Update: December 21 at 10 PM on Cartoon Network). Bob’s Burgers routinely airs at 10 and 10:30 each nice and adult swim is very good about unloading a ton of Christmas specials as the holiday approaches. Otherwise, you can stream it in various places (for a fee) or pick up Season 4 of Bob’s Burgers on home media.


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