Some kids programming is legitimately good. Other shows are pure brilliance in their art direction and use of sound. And then there are shows that, while seemingly innocent and good for children, prove to be unintentionally some of the funniest things I've seen on TV. Bob the Builder is the cream of the crop for the latter.
For those unfamiliar, here is brief recap on the show: Bob, a local handyman and self employed business man in his town, sets out in each episode to fix or build houses, rooms, gardens, sports fields, and other local attractions. Bob does his job with a smile and is assisted by several talking vehicles, his partner in business, Wendy, and occasionally helped by Spud the Scarecrow and Travis the Tractor, though their help is typically of the "ruin everything Bob has finished so far" mentality. Got it? Good.
Now, here's how the show appears to the rest of us who can find something more to this program than sappy stories of friendship and working together.
Bob may own the business, but in reality, he is their worst worker. Bob tends to take on the easiest jobs (or sometimes no jobs), leaving Wendy and the trucks to do the heavy work. In one amusing episode, we find Wendy and the others building a Football Field (that's British football, going back to the shows roots). The heavy-duty job requires help from almost every member of Bob's business, except one truck (Muk, the perpetually useless one) and Bob. So what does Bob do at home?
He moves roughly two piles of junk (and I mean small, small piles) and sets three flowerpots outside, all in preparation for some committee to come and grade the garden. Bob and Wendy both finish their jobs at roughly the same time (that's right, cleaning a tiny little garden and building a football field take roughly the same amount of work time), with Bob ending up covered in dirt, while Wendy and the others don't get a speck on them.
Not. A. Speck.
I'm not entirely sure if Bob is dumb, useless, lazy, incompetent, or simply playing ignorant, but this sort of thing happens a lot in the show. In fact, I'd say that in almost every episode that has Wendy in it, Bob does some of the most menial jobs I've ever seen. Time and time again, we find Bob slacking off while everyone else carries the weight of the company’s success on their shoulders. And guess what? Everyone just smiles. Not a complaint, not a word, not one single "Bob, seriously, grab a hammer and do something. Okay." Nope, Bob continuously gets by on the least amount of work possible, let's his lady friend do every major project they have, and then takes all the credit (such as in the episode where he receives a gold watch for all his terrific work in the town). On the rare occasion Bob does build, he manages to either completely screw up (such as when he had to wallpaper a room for a friend) or complain non-stop about some made up injury. And so, with Bob as our bumbling lead, the show cannot fail in comedy. Watch episodes closely, and count how many times Bob fails to handle a major project, or stays home while Wendy hits the field, or how many times Bob just plain-old does nothing. And I mean "sleep in bed while Wendy builds a gazebo with walking mechanical legs" nothing (taken from an actual episode... er, sort of). I suggest inviting some friends over and making a drinking game of it. It doesn\'t hurt that the talking trucks are so child like and stupid either. Lofty wins the prize for biggest jokester in the group; his lack of confidence in using one of his ,<i>appendages</i> is mind-boggling. It's like being afraid to lift your arm. "Use your crane with confidence, you blue pile of self-defeat!" you may yell at the TV. Don\'t bother. Rather, and here is where the fun is at, just supplement the responses you'd like to give Lofty by muting the TV after he speaks. Go all out on him. Yell, use profanities, reiterate a few of Sam Jackson's best lines at him (with changes to suit the situation, of course); the point is, make what could be a very annoying character into a social event with your friends, and try to nail the best Lofty Come Back Response you can. Taking things a step further, just mute the entire show. You'll find that you can write better dialogue for most of the characters. Watch as you're Bob goes from slothful to blissfully rude and controlling over Wendy and the trucks. Laugh as Spud get verbally beaten for once again stepping in the wet cement. Add a few tantalizing pieces of romantic dialogue to the scenes, between any characters you like.
Just don't do it alone. Then it seems sad.
Overall, I highly recommend Bob the Builder to everyone. I can't think of a better way to pass the time at a friend’s house during lunch than stare in disbelief as Wendy single headedly builds a cathedral in five hours, while Bob stretches a two-minute job into a two week fiasco. I salute you Bob. Keep on passing on the responsibilities. 9/10
Wesley "SP" Babbitt