Tag: H. Jon Benjamin

Greetings to the New Series: “Bob’s Burgers”

It’s never a wise move to predict great things from a new animated series based solely on its pilot, nor is it generally safe to play the benefit-of-the-doubt game when it comes to a creative team, so feel free to call me stupid and dangerous for going out on a limb and hoping that I’m going to really enjoy “Bob’s Burgers.”

You will note, however, the use of italics…but we’ll get back to that in a moment.

First, let’s focus on the one thing about “Bob’s Burgers” that is absolutely undeniable: H. Jon Benjamin is a god amongst adult animation voiceover actors.

Bob's Burgers 1

As is the case with far too many voice actors, even if you don’t know Benjamin’s name, you most likely know his work. He’s Ben Katz on “Dr. Katz, Professional Therapist.” He’s Jason, Perry, and – yes! – Coach McGuirk on “Home Movies.” He was part of “O’Grady,” an underrated animated series that aired on The N, as well as the coulda-been-a-contender “Freak Show,” which David Cross still laments as one of the great missed opportunities of his career. Then there’s “Lucy: Daughter of the Devil,” “Assy McGee,” and, most recently, FX’s “Archer,” where he plays the title character.

Here, Benjamin is Bob, proprietor of a self-named burger joint that he runs with the help of his wife, Tina (Dan Mintz), and his kids Gene (Eugene Mirman), Linda (John Roberts), and Louise (Kristen Schaal). Even though he’s married with three children, Bob’s Burgers is really the end-all and be-all of Bob’s existence, with his intensity in keeping the restaurant rolling along such that he regularly forgets his wedding anniversary, his wife’s birthday…even his own birthday. Fortunately, Tina is so self-absorbed, not to mention slightly delusional, that they’ve managed to maintain their successfully dysfunctional relationship for many years now. As for the kids, Gene would seem to be a budding prop comedian (when outside the restaurant, wearing a giant burger costume and passing out samples, he regularly plays with a megaphone that makes fart noises), Linda’s destined for a life as a social outcast (she spends the pilot complaining about her nasty case of crotch itch), and Louise is disconcertingly cheery but seems to have no understanding of what’s socially acceptable (she changes the name of the Burger of the Day to “The Child Molester” and tells her class that Bob makes his burgers out of corpses from the funeral parlor next door)…but, of course, all of these character traits could change, since – as noted – all we’ve seen so far is the pilot.

And, say, how about that pilot?

Bob's Burgers 2

Family sitcoms may be a dime a dozen, particularly animated ones, but the concept of a family-owned restaurant is fun, and I like the idea that Bob’s so obsessed with his burger joint that his response to Linda’s question about her itchy crotch is, “Are you asking me as my daughter, or are you asking me as my cook? Because my cook wouldn’t ask me that.” But even though Louise’s antics are funny, you can’t help but think that any kid who’s smart enough to find humor in the idea of naming a burger “The Child Molester” is also smart enough to know the effect it could have on her father’s business.

All told, I wanted to like “Bob’s Burgers” decidedly more than I actually did, but thanks to the fact that it reunites Benjamin with series creator Loren Bouchard, his collaborator on two of his greatest creative successes (“Dr. Katz” and “Home Movies”), I still want to give it the benefit of the doubt that it’s salvageable. To be worth watching on a regular basis, Bouchard is going to have to lose the lowbrow that permeates way too much of “Bob’s Burgers,” embrace the uniqueness of the premise, and keep things grounded in reality rather than ridiculousness. Like I said at the beginning, I’m hoping the series will grow more appetizing in the weeks ahead, but I know it’s a tall order to fill, and my expectations are realistic: since I’m pretty sure the ingredients that leave the worst taste in my mouth are what led Fox to greenlight the series in the first place, I’m resigned to leaving “Bob’s Burgers” still hungry for laughs.

Greetings to the New Show: “Archer”


FX’s new comedy series, “Archer,” has a decidedly Adult Swim feel to it, and that isn’t at all coincidental. Created by Adam Reed (“Space Ghost Coast to Coast,” “Sealab 2021” and “Frisky Dingo”), “Archer” is everything you’d expect in an Adult Swim series – from its crude animation style to its adult-themed humor. Still, it might be a little too refined for Cartoon Network’s late night line-up, which is why it works so perfectly on a channel like FX. Though the basic cable network has succeeded in making several first-rate dramas over the years, they’ve yet to crack the comedy nut beyond “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.” They may have finally found a worthy pairing in “The League,” but if FX hopes to create a Thursday night comedy block to compete with the big boys, “Archer” is exactly what they need.

Set at the International Secret Intelligence Service (ISIS), a spy agency where espionage and global crises are merely opportunities for its highly trained employees to confuse, undermine, betray and royally screw each other, the series stars H. Jon Benjamin as Sterling Archer, a 007 wannabe who craves the perks of the job without doing any of the work. Joining Archer at the ISIS office is his domineering mother and boss, Malory (Jessica Walter); ex-girlfriend and fellow field agent Lana Kane (Aisha Tyler); head accountant Cyril Figgis (Chris Parnell); lovesick secretary Cheryl (Judy Greer); and human resources director Pam (Amber Nash).

It’s a great cast for an animated series, but despite all the recognizable names, it’s relative unknown H. Jon Benjamin who steals the show. Anyone who’s ever watched cult classics like “Dr. Katz” and “Home Movies” are probably already familiar with Benjamin’s trademark voice, but he’s an absolute riot in “Archer” and the main reason the show works as well as it does. In fact, while I had already seen the pilot episode months before during its top secret preview on FX, it didn’t stop me from watching it again. It’s easily the strongest of the first five episodes, although “Training Day,” where Archer trains Cyril to become a field agent, and “Diversity Hire,” where Malory hires a black-Jewish agent to fill a minority quota, are good as well. There’s also an “Arrested Development” mini-reunion when Jeffrey Tambor guest stars as an U.N. intelligence officer in “Killing Utne.”

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TCA Tour: FX Executive Session

John Landgraf, President of FX, just sat down and gave us his Executive Session, and here’s what came out of it:

* FX pursued six pilots this time around – three dramas, three comedies – and they’ve already picked up two of those. The first is an animated series entitled “Archer,” which stars Aisha Tyler, Chris Parnell, and H. Jon Benjamin, and is set at ISIS, an international spy agency where global crises are merely opportunities for its highly trained employees to confuse, undermine, betray and royally screw each other. (I’ve seen the first episode and it’s very Adult Swim, but that’s to be expected from a show created by Adam Reed, the man behind “Sealab 2021” and “Frisky Dingo.”)

The second, “Lawman,” was developed by Graham Yost (“Boomtown”) and stars Timothy Olyphant (“Deadwood”) as Raylan Givens, a character created by Elmore Leonard in his short story, “Fire in the Hole.”

* The network is also working with Louis CK, is looking into “Terriers,” created by Shawn Ryan and Ted Griffin, and a pilot entitled “Lights Out,” which was written by Justin Zackham (“The Bucket List”) and stars Holt McCallany, Elias Koteas, and Melora Hardin.

* Landgraf was absolutely not surprised about the lack of Emmy nominations for “The Shield.” I find that sad.

* The current “Rescue Me” season,, which Landgraf says they are “unbelievably satisfied” with, will consist of 22 episodes, and FX has picked up 18 more for next season, though they are contemplating expanding that order. When the show returns next summer, it will probably be earlier than it was this year. (The delay was predominantly due to the writer’s strike.)

* “Testees” will not be back for a second season on FX, but it will have a second season…in Canada, where it was apparently more successful.

* Announcements regarding the cast of Season 3 of “Damages” will hopefully be made within the next week or two, and Landgraf says, “I don’t think anyone in this room would guess who they’re going to.” The network was naturally disappointed with the ratings of the series in Season 2, but he admits, “It’s a very demanding show. It’s one where you can’t watch 3, 5, 7 episodes out of 13. You’re either in or you’re out.” This obviously doesn’t fit the current mindset for TV viewers, who he describes as being “more interested in dating than marriage,” but the series is what it is.

“If we came back with ‘Damages’ and it was Patty Hughes as Perry Mason, and every year she broke someone down on the stand and got her man or woman, you guys would literally be eviscerating me,” said Landgraf. “And I would deserve it.”

Lastly, here are the premiere dates for your favorite – and soon-to-be-favorite – FX series:

Sons of Anarchy,” Season 2 premieres on September 8th
It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia,” Season 5 premieres on September 17th
Nip/Tuck,” Season 6 premieres on October 14th
Archer,” premieres in the fall
Damages,” Season 3 premieres in January 2010
Lawman,” premieres in the spring of 2010
Rescue Me,” Season 6 premieres in the spring or summer of 2010

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