“Hug N’ Bugs”, though tasked with a lot of setup, was likable and diverting enough to suggest good things for Fox’s new animated sitcom.
This recap of Bless the Harts (Fox) Season 1, Episode 1, “Hug N’ Bugs”, contains spoilers.
It’s always hard to draw any major conclusions about a sitcom after just a 20-minute pilot, and that’s very much the case for Fox’s new series Bless the Harts, about a struggling Southern family forever on the verge of financial ruin. It was created by Emily Spivey and boasts a fine cast and a King of the Hill sensibility that’ll be pleasantly nostalgic for some and gratingly overfamiliar for others. After the pilot, “Hug N’ Bugs”, it’s difficult to say how good the show might end up being, but for now, it’s inoffensive and diverting enough to be worth a second look, even if it hardly set the comedic world alight.
Most of Bless the Harts Episode 1 was devoted to setup, anyway, as we were introduced to the Harts, a North Carolina family comprised of Jenny (Kristen Wiig), a single mother and waitress, her financially-irresponsible lackadaisical mother, Betty (Maya Rudolph), her dumb-as-a-rock but good-natured longtime boyfriend Wayne (Ike Barinholtz), and her artist daughter Violet (Jillian Bell). At the diner where Jenny works, The Last Supper, Jesus hops out of the titular painting and counsels Jenny in the voice of Kumail Nanjiani. That’s the most outlandish thing that happens in a show otherwise content to find its humor in the mundane realities of struggling to make ends meet.
The Hug N’ Bugs of the title are retro toys hoarded by Betty in a storage locker in the hope they’ll eventually be worth their weight in gold on eBay; one of the extended gags is Jenny unwittingly selling them back to Betty believing she’s accumulating extra cash to pay her past-due bills. Wayne, meanwhile, becomes hopelessly paranoid about his depiction in one of Violet’s hand-drawn comics as a lowly tree stump, while her big-shot biological father is rendered as a world-saving hero, so he endeavors to recreate the comic’s heroine’s fantastical retreat out of spare materials, violating every conceivable zoning law in the process.
This latter subplot builds to a surprisingly sweet conclusion, proving that Bless the Harts is taking its underlying themes of family seriously, and not just using its Southern-fried setting for comedy accents and gags about the broke working class. The characters find the right balance between dumb and good-natured, and there’s enough potential in the premise for Fox to take the show in some interesting directions. Perhaps they will. Until then, though, this is a pleasant, likable distraction, even if it isn’t yet anything more than that.