Why Bob’s Burgers should be your next box set
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Neil Brazier | On 12, Jul 2020
For the past nine years, Lauren Bouchard has been serving hilarious episodes of his animated sitcom Bob’s Burgers with extra ketchup. Centred on the Belcher family, the series follows the misadventures of Bob (H. Jon Benjamin), his wife Linda (John Roberts) and their children – the butt enthusiast Tina (Dan Mintz), keyboard-used-mostly-for-fart-noises-carrying Gene (Eugene Mirman) and the manipulative, rabbit-ear-wearing Louise (Kristen Schaal). Originally conceived as a series about a family of cannibals, serving human flesh to their customers, that idea was fortunately scrapped for a more family-centric sitcom. Throw in some workplace comedy, a truly excellent supporting cast and a little absurdity and Bob’s Burgers becomes one of the greatest animated family sitcoms since the early days of The Simpsons.
“You’re my children and I love you. But, you’re all terrible at what you do here”
(Bob Belcher – Season 1, Human Flesh)
What sets Bob’s Burgers apart from other animated family sitcoms is just how grounded in reality it is – you never see Bob in space or escaping a difficult question in his Bob-copter that subsequently crashes and trashes the house. The Belchers are a relatable family, in almost every situation they are put in – and there are a lot. From being so subjugated by the kids you turn to an early serving of wine and margarita mix; struggling to fit in; or a parent embarrassing you at school; there are moments the Belcher’s experience that will make you nod with the acceptance that we’ve all been there too.
Some episodes appear totally bizarre, such as when a mechanical shark terrorises the town (The Deepening), or when – angered by a bad review – Bob decides he’s going to get a do-over, even if it means holding the reviewer hostage (Moody Foodie). But even when Bob’s Burgers enters the ridiculous, there is a feeling of understanding, and there are many laughs to be had.
“You kids are a two-adult, two-bottle-of-wine-a-night job”
(Linda Belcher – Season 4, World Wharf II: The Wharfening)
The Belchers, although often exasperated with each other, accept and love one another for who they are. They never mock each other, despite their quirks, nor do they become the subject of the joke. The humour is found in the situations they find themselves in and sometimes the children’s oblivious innocence to the circumstances. Bob grew up being forced to work for his father instead of going outside and playing with the other kids, so he feels like he is punishing his children for requiring their help in the restaurant. The difference being that the Belcher kids love and respect their father and enjoy spending time with him. They have a very strong family unit which is evident in Season 3’s Bob Fires The Kids. From the other perspective, when Louise finds herself trapped alone in a taffy factory in Season 2’s The Belchies, she pines for the companionship of her family, resorting to making a friend out of taffy as someone to talk to. Every member of the Belchers has a strength and personal trait to relate to, but when they are together as a family is when they are the strongest, and often funniest.
“I’m no hero. I just put my bra on one boob at a time.”
(Tina Belcher – Season 3, Boyz 4 Now)
Bob’s Burgers helps to reinforce positive values, especially around gender equality. Aside from cast members playing various gender roles, Bob has been quoted as saying he is “mostly straight”; he tells a transgender character, Marshmallow, she is beautiful and agrees (although under duress) to do more than kissing with a French chef. Gene has often identified as a female, and there are three strong, positive female figures around him. Louise is happy with a girl’s night but also shares a strong bond with her father that she does her best to keep to herself – like her indescribable feelings for one of the show’s boy band characters. Then there’s Tina, who, despite appearing as an awkward teen, and being sometimes bullied about her strange traits such as writing erotic friend fiction, doesn’t let anyone else define who she is. Tina embraces herself and her changing body, unable to lie without getting crippling anxiety. She is a hopeless romantic and, although she can show occasional signs of selfishness – like any teenager – she is ultimately a strong, confident woman who isn’t afraid to stand up for herself. From the outside, this family can appear cartoonish, but they each present a positive role model.
“I like to play with a yo-yo, so something comes back to me.”
(Teddy – Season 3, My Fuzzy Valentine)
While Bob’s Burgers does provide a more accurate representation of modern working-class family life than other animated sitcoms, it’s also not afraid to throw itself a musical number. In fact, almost like a parody of the Simpsons, the show has spawned a soundtrack album. The tracks aren’t modern pop hits, they are more jingles that Gene has cooked up over the years, although you may find yourself singing along to “Bad Stuff Happens in the Bathroom” or “Happy Crappy Place” – which, although sound like they’re both named after the same activity, are very different and very catchy. Not every family may burst out into song and dance when “Nice Things Are Nice”, but with Gene’s musicality and Linda’s love of musical theatre, a sprinkling of songs feels right and are often used to express the true feelings or desires of the characters.
So just how do you make a show that won an Emmy for Outstanding Animated Program in both 2014 and 2017? Take a grounded-in-reality beef patty, a dollop of absurd mustard, zero human flesh and sprinkle with self-confidence and you can have the Burger of the Day served to you by a family that feel just like they’re part of your own.
Bob’s Burgers Season 1 to 11 is available on Disney+ UK, as part of a £7.99 monthly subscription or a £79.99 yearly subscription.