I was lucky enough to start watching Bob’s Burgers when it started airing, all the way back on January 9, 2011. I came into my dad’s living room to watch Family Guy, and the last few minutes of the pilot episode of Bob’s Burgers was airing. I watched these final moments, where a despondent father was talking to his wife and kids through a window. I had no background for this scene, but it was clear that this man’s life was on the verge of complete disaster. Yet as he lamented the destruction of his entire livelihood, his children just kept muttering nonsensical things and failed to understand how talking could work through a window.
“I want to talk to him too.”
“I can hear you it’s just glass!”
This scene brought a huge smile to my face and convinced me to catch next week’s episode. After that I was hooked. Bob’s Burgers quickly became one of my favorite shows, even though it took a while to find its footing. The first two seasons had some good episodes, but the show never seemed certain of what it wanted to be. Bob’s Burgers clearly aimed to be something more than the typical malicious, gross-out, McFarlane-esque cartoon, but it kept delving into the pool of fart-jokes and Louise being a Stewie-like evil genius. Yet by the end of the third season this show seemed certain of what it was and started to get recognized as a classic. Time magazine even listed it as one of the best shows of 2014, although it lamely didn’t breach the top 10.
If I had to sum up why Bob’s Burgers was such a great and inspirational show in one sentence, I would say that it has the perfect balance of heart, dry humor, and great characters. Luckily for me and Bob’s, this is a blog and I can write as much as I want. So here are all the reasons why I love this show.
REALISTIC, DRY HUMOR
“Oh my god.”
Can we examine the scene that the above photo comes from? It’s from episode 3×12, “Broadcast Wagstaff School News,” and is what I think the funniest scene from the series. Gene becomes convinced that he’ll look like Bob when he’s older, so he just takes the plunge and has Louise turn him into Bob right now. The result is one of the best visual reveals of the entire series.
Now that is magnificent.
Bob comes into the bathroom and just can’t believe what he is seeing. Bob refuses to acknowledge how amazing the resemblance is, so Gene insists on “Lind” coming in and judging for herself. Tina then comes in and says, “Oh, wow, this is confusing.” As Bob devolves into his usual groaning, hmm-ing, and screaming, Gene perfectly mirrors him. The end result is Bob nearly going insane and storming out of the bathroom with Gene in tow.
This scene is a perfect example of the show’s humor. Bob’s is incredibly written, and that comes across so strongly in its sense of comedy. Though they’re willing to experiment with cutaways, visual gags, and musical stings, the core of this show’s humor comes from the characters. Because these people all are so complex and feel real, the jokes usually land hard. To me, what proves how well the writers know these characters is that sometimes, even in the middle of an argument, Bob will realize how ridiculous his wife sounds and just laugh. It’s something that real people do, but you rarely see it on a TV show.
“When I die I want you to cremate me and throw my ashes into Tom Selleck’s face.”
“That’s a crazy request!”
There’s way too many great lines to just straight up list them all here, so I’ll just reiterate that if you’re a fan of dry humor, this show is perfect for you. I doubt that I’ll ever get tired of hearing Bob bemoaning the absurdity of his children or Tina coming up with a witty retort.
“Wow, brains and brawn…is what I would say if you had the brawn part.”
INCREDIBLE SIDE CHARACTERS
Bob’s Burger’s has become famous for its continuity and steadily rising roster of minor characters. By the fifth season there’s easily thirty people the Belchers must repeatedly deal with, and they’re all fully fleshed out characters. But to me, all of the best side characters are housed at one amazing location: Wagstaff School.
Look at these lovable rapscallions.
There are over ten students in this school that the kids deal with on a regular basis. The complex relationships Louise, Tina, and Gene have formed with these other children make Wagstaff feel like a real place that you’ve stepped foot into. I’ve never had a fictional location seem so inviting and familiar to me.
To me, most of Bob’s Burgers best episodes have taken place in Wagstaff. From the kids running for president of the school to Tina’s take on the classic “school news” story, this location is just a goldmine for the show.
And of course, you can’t talk about great characters without mentioning Regular Sized Rudy. Why do they call him that?
“Just look at me.”
I have never seen any character become so popular after his first episode. Regular Sized Rudy first appeared in “Carpe Museum,” one of my favorite episodes. Everyone went nuts for Rudy and clamored for more of him. It’s hard to analyze why this character became so insanely popular; it’s one of those things where everything just happens to click. But if I had to try to describe his appeal, I’d say it’s his zest for life. In spite of his overprotective mother and crippling medical concerns, Rudy is game for absolutely everything. Whether he’s dying from an asthma attack or under attack by dozens of insane turkeys, he wants to see every adventure through to the end. It certainly doesn’t hurt that he’s pretty much the only character that Louise won’t harshly pick on; their easy friendship in his first appearance mixed with her true concern for his well-being makes theirs one of the most natural and cutest ships in history.
At this point, half the reason I watch the show is to hope for an appearance by Rudy. The people behind the scenes are clearly aware of his popularity; he now seems to be in every other episode even if it’s just to comment on the plot for a moment.
“That was mean. Now I know who I’m voting for, for sure!”
GREAT CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT
It’s not just the side characters who’ve blossomed into people you simply want to spend time with. The Belchers themselves have had some great opportunities to grow and evolve over time, especially Tina and Louise.
It’s really hard to picture season five Louise doing this to Teddy.
Tina was never as far down the totem pole as Meg from Family Guy, but a lot of the jokes about her in early season one stemmed from how she was considered gross. Her entire role in the pilot was having a rash on her crotch. But over the past five years Tina has surpassed Louise as the show’s star and is now the embodiment of a strong, confident woman who loves every bit of who she is, eccentricities and all.
“Time for the charm bomb to explode.”
As for Louise? She still has illusions of grandeur and can be a little dangerous, but the writers wisely let a softer side of her develop. She’s not just a blind force of destruction anymore; she’s become more aware of the pain her antics can cause and often uses her amazing-ness to help others, especially her sister.
“You owe me one, Tina.” – One of the most touching and best delivered lines of the series.
Louise and Tina’s one-noteness was one of the show’s biggest criticisms in season one. The writers’ willingness to address this concern, and their ability to turn these girls into some of the strongest female characters on TV right now, is one of the best indicators of how amazing Bob’s Burgers can be.
“Marshmallow isn’t handsome, she’s beautiful.”
That’s Marshmallow up there, everyone’s favorite drag queen. Bob’s Burgers had previously shown a startling tolerance for the LGBT community, but this line really struck a chord with me. This was just such a natural, kind thing to say to someone who undoubtedly has to deal with a lot of hatred in their life.
Bob’s Burgers is absolutely filed with moments like these. I’ve said before that the most touching moments from any form of art are flanked by levity and humor; the contrast of emotions makes displays of love feel so much more real and rewarding. That’s why Bob’s Burgers often hits me so hard and makes me just smile in saccharine joy. This show’s beautiful moments feel organic and unexpected, and they never fail to bring a smile to my face.
Whether it’s Louise admitting that she truly loves her father…
“So when you run the restaurant, will you call it Louise’s Burgers?”
“I don’t know, maybe…daddy.”
…or Gene and Louise banding together to help Tina because that’s what siblings do…
“We’re Belchers, from the womb to the tomb.”
…Bob’s Burgers knows just when to put something in to make you realize why you love watching this family. Yes, they fight and the kids will pull pranks on each other. Yes, life beats them down a lot. But at the end of the day, good triumphs over evil, love beats hate, and people need each other. Bob’s is committed to spreading this message, and I love the show for it.
“Well I made this friendship bracelet for you.”
“Ah, you know I’m not really a jewelry person.”
“You don’t have to wear it.”
“No, I’m going to wear it forever, back off.”
Bob’s Burgers isn’t without an occasional flaw. Gene still stands as the odd character out; he’s been given a little depth but not nearly as much as the rest of his family. Occasionally, there will be an episode that fails to draw a laugh. But at the end of the day Bob’s Burgers is a show that wants to be more than just another pessimistic cartoon that uses its characters as a punching bag. Even after seeing one of their weaker episodes, I never regret having spent time with the Belchers. That’s because even when the laughs fail, I still love these characters, their world, and their creators for trying to do something different and special. Bob’s Burgers is a truly great show with a lot of heart, and I will always love everyone involved in it, both behind and in the scenes.
You most of all, Rudy. You most of all.
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