Despite starting its fifth season on Fox, and garnering all kinds of critical accolades, and taking home the Emmy for Outstanding Animated Program this year, Bob’s Burgers still resides in the long shadow of the two series that air just after it on Sunday nights: The Simpsons and Family Guy. And with those two having a much chattered-about crossover episode to start the fall TV season, there must have been some pressure to make sure the first Bob’s episode out of the gate was a corker.
Well, Loren Bouchard and the gang certainly delivered the goods by emphasizing the show’s remarkable musical talent, the whip crack wit of the scriptwriters, and the strange charm of all the characters within.
The episode tonight, in part, pokes playful fun at the penchant for Broadway producers to try and mine former Hollywood successes, by turning them into long-running musicals, like the upcoming stage adaptation of Mean Girls, and the currently running version of Honeymoon In Vegas. In the world of Bob’s Burgers it is competing musical theater productions of Die Hard and Working Girl.
The former is a passion project of Eugene (Louise: “You’ve been working on that one for a while.” Eugene: “Yes, ever since I saw Die Hard and said, ‘Why is no one singing? Why is no one dancing? What’s wrong with Hollywood?’”), who gets the chance to try to unleash it on the school when the theater department asks for submissions for the fall musical. Unfortunately he faces competition from his ex-girlfriend Courtney—and her stage father—who wants to take the “sassy sister to Die Hard and set it to music.” And because her dad insists he knows Carly Simon, and promises the famed singer/songwriter will be in attendance, theirs is the musical that wins.
Of course, the story doesn’t end there, as Louise convinces her brother to stage his musical in the school’s sub-boiler room at the same time as Working Girl, which sets up a hilarious showdown which ends in the guidance counselor’s office. Through all the arguing, it is somehow decided that the best compromise is for the two plays to join forces in the episode’s titular mashup. And, as you’d expect, it’s incredibly funny stuff, with Tess McGill falling in love with Hans Gruber, and a closing number that looks towards a “tower somewhere up above…where dreams don’t die hard.”
If that weren’t enough, Bob’s Burgers goes the extra mile by actually getting Carly Simon to sing the title track to the musical over the closing credits. Who else would do something like that?
Okay… maybe The Simpsons would do something like that, but as entertaining as that show is, it hasn’t reached this level of focus, and control, and heart in years. This could be the best season yet of Bob’s Burgers. It’s just a shame that it now has to struggle to be seen while Fox honors its commitment to playoff baseball for the next month. Hang in there, Belchers. We’ll be waiting for you when you return.
Robert Ham is a Portland-based freelance writer and regular contributor to Paste. You can follow him on Twitter.