In the past, I’ve stated that an animated comedy’s longevity can in many cases be attributed to the amount of minor characters that inhabit the world. Look at how large Springfield has become, creating a world of hundreds, or how in South Park, the characters are so diverse, an entire episode can be dedicated to Great Expectations, starring a very minor character. By creating a huge universe, stories can go in so many different directions, especially when the show is animated and any character at all can be created. In only the third season of Bob’s Burgers, the show is building up quite an enjoyable cast of characters, each with their own odd flourishes, allowing the Belchers to be out of the spotlight every once in a while.
The minor characters are the real stars here, as Hugo, the health department worker with a grudge against Bob, leaves his job to become a nudist. This brings around a new inspector, Tommy, voiced by Fred Armisen. Tommy is laid-back, mostly because he’s using his new job as a way to find places to perform his rock. Bob is pleased with Hugo leaving, as that means he doesn’t have to participate in hand-washing seminars or watch hand-washing videos hosted by Andre Royo, who played Bubbles on The Wire (arguably the greatest Wire cameo ever). But when Tommy starts performing in Bob’s restaurant, with songs like “Elderly Prostitute” and a personal song about Tommy buying drugs from his father, Bob knows it’s time for Tommy to go.
While a majority of these season three episodes have focused on the Belcher children, the trio takes a backseat here more than any other episode this season. They come up with a plot to earn money by charging admission to get preteen boys to check out the nude beach. Aziz Ansari’s DRL makes a return, but only really to offer his telescope and to also become flush with that sweet-ass cash.
The two stories converge when Bob tells Tommy he needs to leave, and Tommy throws rat feces all over the restaurant and closes Bob’s Burgers down. Bob goes to the nude beach to compete in the Nudecathalon against Hugo to get him back in the position.
It’s surprising how much the minor characters are really the stars of this episode. Tommy is the main focal point, and his songs are pretty great, even when you consider how fantastic the music this season has been. It’s also a testament to how great the minor characters in Bob’s Burgers are when the final joke of the episode is simply that Tommy is now performing at Jimmy Pesto’s restaurant.
It is somewhat of a shame to have the kids basically boiled down to commentators on the action, but at the same time Tina, Louise and Gene’s comments on plot are always the highlights of episodes, so it’s not such a bad idea to have that be ultimately their sole purpose. For Bob’s Burgers to grow its cast, episodes like this need to happen, making us learn more about who these characters are, introducing us to new, even weirder characters, and letting the regular cast hang back for a bit to give the new guys the starring roles for once.