Episode 8 | Bad Tina


Tina is my favorite of the Belcher siblings, despite the fact that they are all a jumble of personality problems. While her younger siblings are unrestrained expressions of id—Louise is a sociopath with bunny ears, Gene is joyful to the point of idiocy—Tina is a character that comes across as the straight man to the others’ wacky antics, thanks to Dan Mintz’s clinical monotone. Despite this, I’ve always thought she’s the weirdest of the group, with a slew of neuroses and obsessions compounding her already hard transition to maturity.

“Bad Tina,” a new episode from Bob’s Burgers that takes the show’s unique take on reality and applies it to a typical sitcom trope, delves deeper into Tina’s mind. With the entrance of Tammy, this one employs the idea of a new youngster shaking up the school’s status quo (voiced by Jenny Slate, a.k.a. Stella from Bored To Death). Tina is given the task of showing the new youngster about school, and Tammy’s unusually confident demeanor begins to rub off on her new best friend, especially when that confidence captures Jimmy Junior’s attention. Suddenly, she’s accusing Linda of having a “crap attack” (dramatic sting!) and inviting Tammy over to share her collection of steamy “friend fiction” while her parents are out. (Sexy Sesame Street, Sexy Garfield, and Sexy 60 Minutes are among her erotic fan fiction favorites.)

Tina’s relationship with the outside world is so closed off that when Tammy invites Jimmy Junior and Zeke over, her new acquaintance panics, and the death of porcelain horse Horselain is enough to evict everyone. Tammy obtains a collection of friend fiction (highlights include a disco butt-touching three-way with Jimmy and Chad the zombie) and uses it to blackmail Tina into even greater depths, the most notable of which is a temporary dinosaur tramp stamp.

All of this is fine, but the episode lacks concentration in comparison to previous weeks, leading me to believe that focusing episodes only on Tina isn’t the greatest way for the show to proceed. Tina is such a passive character by definition that her actions are mainly a reaction to her more active family members, and her flashes of independence (such as her alter persona Dina in “Food Truckin'”) are muted enough to be overwhelmed by the others dragging her along on the adventure. Tammy is a pretty benign character, her corrupting influence restricted to a series of portmanteaus (Prudabaga, Glamsterdam, snorgasm) that cause Bob and Linda to become confused when Tina uses them.

The reaction to Tina’s bullying is surprisingly sympathetic in that dysfunctional that Bob’s Burgers is so good at, so the episode isn’t wholly devoid of emotion. When the secret is revealed, Gene and Louise, who had been using Tina as a bargaining chip to get her to do their duties, are furious. Yes, they’ll manipulate their elder sister’s emotions and treat her like a slave, but damn it, that’s their right as siblings. (“We’re Belchers from the womb to the tomb!” says Gene.) It’s an easy affair to swap Tammy’s rucksack with one of the Pesto twins and relieve Tina from the threat whenever their frantic energy turns on her.

Tina, on the other hand, has chosen to embrace the humiliation. Tina resolves to beat Tammy to the punch and write a brand-new buddy fiction to share with everyone after receiving some incorrect advise from Linda (who is usually so caught up in the process of assisting that she doesn’t know what she’s encouraging). Tina runs through the lunchroom in a pink leotard, liberating her classmates from oppression through the power of butt-touching. This is one of the show’s regular descents into madness, this one a tribute to Apple’s legendary 1984-themed Super Bowl ad, a split-screen affair in which Tina runs through the lunchroom in a pink leotard, liberating her classmates from oppression through the power of butt-touching. It may not be as brilliant as “Art Crawl’s” Dumbo parody (the gold standard for bizarre back-end comedy), but it’s certainly flamboyant and wild enough to be the episode’s highlight.

There are only a few minutes left in the program, and everything is settled in an anticlimactic manner: Tammy’s threats are deflated by a poorly timed fart, Gene takes advantage of it to make her into a social reject, and Jimmy Junior admits he liked Tina’s narrative. A Tina-centric episode ending with a whimper rather than a bang isn’t out of character, but Bob’s Burgers is capable of so much more than a cheap throwaway joke.


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