Bob’s Burgers is back… again! Due to the scourge of football and baseball seasons, and all those other sport things, nearly a month passed before season opener “Work Hard or Die Trying, Girl” and last night’s Halloween-themed episode where Tina bonds with a ghost in a shoebox named Jeff.
This episode missed the mark a little for me. Bob and Linda were under-used in “Work Hard”, and they’re relegated to a B-plot in this episode where paranormal investigators convince Linda and a skeptical Bob that there are “entities” in their basement. We thankfully get a great séance scene where Linda drinks wine and tries to call the spirits with a Ouija board (on a side note, I love how Tina seems to have inherited a belief in the paranormal from her mother–although Linda seems to use dramatic ululations to connect to the supernatural, while Tina just wants to date the supernatural), but her and Bob and even Teddy, one of the funniest characters on the show, are under-used. The two paranormal investigators Phil (Brian Huskey) and Don (Jordan Peele) aren’t nearly as entertaining as past walk-on guest characters, but Peele’s turn last year as charmingly obtuse former pro football player Connie Frye is going to be hard to top.
Jeff the Shoebox Ghost is a great foil for all the kids, and Tina taking the shoebox to a butterfly exhibit is a wonderfully weird and adorably cringe-worthy scene that culminates in her thinking Ghost Jeff is making out with her via a butterfly, while the security guard just worries that she’s going to eat the butterfly. Jeff is significant for all the kids, and he’s a device that illustrates how they’re all on the cusp of transitioning out of childhood, but can’t quite shake off being children. Tina wants romantic relationships. Tammy just wants an accessory boyfriend who’s cool. Jocelyn just wants to be cool. Jimmy Jr. is a big talker, but he’s begrudgingly jealous when it’s apparent that Tina likes Jeff. Zeke, in his clumsily shouty way (Zeke as a character reminds me more and more of Parks and Recreation‘s Andy Dwyer) just wants to believe in the beyond, and it’s great to see him, as we did in “Bob and Deliver”, that he has a sensitive and caring side, despite how hilariously misguided that side may be sometimes. Louise (dressed as “Ryan Gosling from the major motion picture trailer Drive“–evidently the trailer was as far as she got) initially uses the box to play pranks on her sister and engage in a bit of typical Louise deviousness, but we spot her sensitive side too when she realizes she feels bad about duping Tina. And Gene? Gene just wants to feel okay about watching Kitchen Nightmares alone (we can watch Kitchen Nightmares together, Gene!).
I love the Bob’s Burgers kids, and Tina is one of my favourite characters on television. But I miss their parents, and the dynamic of the Belcher family interacting as one unit instead of in mostly-separate side plots. It’s always great to see a sweet, funny episode about the kids coming of age and finding wackiness in the mundane, but we more or less saw this in season five’s opener. I may just be getting antsy because season five’s episodes are spaced out so far from each other (episode 3, “Dawn of the Peck”, won’t air till November 23rd). Air faster, Bob’s Burgers, we miss you!