After two truncated seasons in which Bob’s Burgers was finding its footing and tone, Season 3 finally charged out of the gate in 2012 looking and sounding like a show that knew itself and was having a blast existing. For the first time, we got a full 23-episode run, of which there are a surprisingly number of classic episodes. Balancing humor and heart, Bob’s Burgers continued to give us the sometimes low-key, sometimes bizarre adventures of the Belcher family as they try to run a small burger restaurant, go through school, and grow in their relationships with each other.
So many of season 3’s episodes are among my all-time favorites that it’s hard just to pick out a handful. There are a couple of them that attempt a more elaborate scope, such as the family being shangheied on a cruise ship (with each of the five going on various adventures) and a Jaws parody that involved a mechanical shark that literally rampages down the Belcher’s street. Those are what I call “Simpsons Episodes,” in that they’re more zany in a way and free with the format that you’d find on Fox’s long-running series.
But most of the episodes are smaller in scope while managing to be just as, if not more, hilarious. Gene gets to take part of a terrific E.T. parody with a talking toilet in the woods, Linda and Louise work out some mommy-daughter issues with a fierce game of laser tag, the kids are “fired” from their job at the restaurant to go have a summer of their own, Tina becomes an investigative reporter at school, and a guy who thinks he’s a mannequin (well, former mannequin) comes to live with the family over the Christmas season.
Louise comes off as the big star of this season with some of the best stories. “Ear-sy Rider,” the season premiere, has a bully take away her trademark bunny ears and force her into a deepening well of revenge. They dip back into this well for “Topsy,” which pits her against a Thomas Edison-obsessed science teacher. But her shining moment absolutely has to be developing her first crush on a member of a boy band (“Boyz 4 Now”), to her great horror and self-loathing. It’s here that we find out that when Louise like-likes someone, that guy is in for a face slapping of the greatest degree.
The school cast continued to expand this season with two great additions: the supremely annoying Courtney and the delightfully dorky Regular-Sized Rudy. Why do they call him “Regular-Sized?” Just look at him. Courtney’s crush on Gene — who isn’t anywhere close to being prepared for romantic entanglements — had me rolling, and Rudy… well, Rudy is my personal hero. This meek asthmatic kid is Louise’s soulmate, and there is no couple on TV that I want to see go on adventures together more than these two.
Other highlights from season 3 include a wickedly funny look at Florida (and Gene’s severe fear of snakes) and terrific Halloween and Thanksgiving entries. They even manage to give Linda a decent story — which I don’t see very often in Bob’s Burgers — as she goes to work for a Trader Joes-like grocery store.
Really, there are only two disappointing episodes in the whole bunch (which should speak to the quality level of this season). “The Unnatural” is a somewhat lame and out-of-character finisher for the season, as both Bob and Linda act like jerks over Gene’s lack of baseball prowess. And just about nobody likes “Family Fracas,” a depressing entry where the Belchers humiliate themselves on a game show in a vain attempt to win a van to replace their broken car. It’s an automatic skip for me every time I go back through this season. Oh, and “Two for Tina” is kind of dull, especially for a school episode. But really, that’s it.
From joke-making toilets to Die Hard on a cruise ship to a great satire of boy bands, Bob’s Burgers season 3 set the bar high — and then kept it there for many seasons to follow.