There are precious few guarantees in life, but one of them is that watching just about any episode of Bob’s Burgers will fill you with joy for roughly 30 minutes (less if you’re streaming the series and those pesky commercials have been filtered out). That is certainly true of the season 9 premiere, ‘Just One of the Boyz 4 Now for Now,’ which finds its characters embracing potentially objectionable things, such as a baby rat or Tina’s incessant boy craziness — aka her inability not to go “nuts for butts.” In essence, it’s another episode of what makes the series such pleasurable viewing experience: it’s basically a bunch of nice people navigating incredibly low stakes scenarios that nevertheless feel like the most important thing in the world at the time.
That the series has managed to stay funny while also keeping its storytelling at such an intimate, familial level through eight full seasons is incredibly impressive. It’s also impressive that the show’s writers can continually go back to the well that is Tina’s interest in romance and members of the opposite sex (mostly their butts), and not have it feel repetitive or conventional. It helps that those same writers are able to pepper in things, like Linda’s belief that a raccoon in the alley behind the restaurant is named King Trashmouth and that he’s renewing his vows to his husband Gary, but even without such an incredibly funny aside, it would be tough to overlook the pure joy that ‘Just One of the Boyz 4 Now for Now’ brings.
It’s a simple conceit, which is why it works so well. Tina bumps into an attractive boy about her age who happens to be auditioning to replace Boo Boo, after he left Boyz 4 Now to pursue a solo career. It comes as no surprise, then, that Tina finds herself smitten with the young man and desperate to make a connection with him, which she does by disguising herself as a boy to hunt him down at the auditions and let true love blossom. Tina’s ‘80s teen movie thinking is also an attempt to prove to her family that she is in fact not boy crazy, but that her connection with this boy she only met for a minute is the real deal.
The idea is a smart way for Bob’s Burgers to revisit one of its best and most consistent ideas, but it does so with the added value of making the character in question aware that her behavior is being scrutinized, not only by herself but by others. This makes Tina’s motivation in the episode greater than her simply going off in search of romance with yet another boy (who, thankfully isn’t Jimmy Jr.), and forces her to sit back and rationalize or maybe even justify her behavior. As it turns out, there’s nothing wrong with being a little boy crazy; it’s just what makes Tina Tina and it’s a big part of why her family loves her.
But Bob’s Burgers isn’t content with delivering charming niceties that’ll make you sure there’s some dust in the room. Instead it turns Tina’s quest for one boy into a series of musical interludes, each with a different ‘80s music video style and a song sung by the likes of Daveed Diggs, Josh Gad, and Andrew Rannells. It’s frankly astonishing that the show can come up with all the songs that it does for each season, but what’s particularly impressive in the season 9 premiere is the sheer quantity of songs and how their rapid-fire delivery actually makes it seem as though they’re building off of one another, as though Tina’s teenage mind is concocting a series of catchy, hormonally induced ditties to express the enormity of her crushes on each new boy she meets. The effect once again makes the show a funny and surprisingly insightful exploration of adolescence, while at the same time demonstrating how Bob’s Burgers consistently overachieves from a creative standpoint.
That’s saying a lot considering the other major plot in the episode concerns a baby rat Teddy brings into an eating establishment and asks its proprietors to look after for the day. That everyone falls head over heels for the tiny, slumbering bringer of disease — especially Bob, who at one point tells his family he loves the baby rat more than any of them — makes for a funny and unexpected spin on what is one of the lowest of low stakes stories this show has ever produced. Things get a little tense when Hugo shows up and overhears the tiny (adorable) squeak of the infant rodent, but things are just as quickly resolved by Bob putting a garbage-eating plague carrier down his pants.
The highs and lows of the characters’ decisions somehow deliver nothing but increasingly satisfying highs, as Tina eventually comes to terms with her boy crazy nature and Teddy’s rat is presumably returned to its tiny box so that it can grow up big and strong and one day be exterminated by a professional. It all adds up to another joyful episode of a series that hasn’t lost sight of the importance of the little things in life, especially when they seem to be so much bigger than they really are.
Bob’s Burgers continues next Sunday with ‘The Taking of Funtime One Two Three’ @8:30pm on FOX.