Bob's Burgers: 4 Key Ingredients to Its Secret Sauce
In a world where The Simpsons and South Park are both past their 25th seasons, Bob’s Burgers still feels like a relative youngster at “only” 12 seasons and a feature film. But despite its relative youth, four delicious ingredients have earned Bob’s Burgers a tasty spot in the pantheon of all-time animated comedies.
The Music Lights Up Our Brains
From The Flintstones to Family Guy, musical numbers have been a prime-time animation staple. But Bob’s Burgers takes it to eleven with a new song in virtually every single episode.
“Animation and music go together really well,” says series creator Loren Bouchard. “I think back to The Muppet Show a lot, and to some extent even Sesame Street and Schoolhouse Rock, all the Disney movies; these things are really bonded together in a really fundamental way. I’ll go a step further … there’s a lot of research out there that proves music enters our brain in a different way. They’re doing MRIs on people listening to Bach, and they’re showing that it lights up your brain in a very specific way. My theory is that I think animation may enter your brain in a different way, too.”
Who Doesn’t Love A Punny Easter Egg Hunt?
The show’s animation is packed with visual puns that reward alert viewers armed with twitchy pause-button fingers.
Take the opening credits, for example. Look close and you’ll discover extermination vans with names like “LaVermin Shirley” and “Into the Spider Hearse Exterminators.” The restaurant itself is located in a neighborhood with local businesses such as “Break-A-Bear Teddy Bear Disposal” and “Sew-Sew: Average Needle Point Supplies” (signs subject to change).
And if those puns tickle your brain, you’ll relish the endlless stream of Burger of the Day gags.
It’s An Actual Workplace Comedy
Homer Simpson works in a nuclear power plant -- except when he’s an acrobat, astronaut, or attack dog trainer. Family Guy barely bothers to give Peter a job -- he holds a variety of positions, often tied to whatever movie-parody joke the writers came up with over Amstel Lights last night.
Bob and Linda, on the other hand, have real jobs. The restaurant is a source of pride, disappointments, financial struggles, creativity, and family bonding. Did we mention they love what they do? You know, like an actual family business.
By keeping its focus tight and grounded in the real world, Bob’s Burgers has avoided some of the pitfalls of longer-running shows that resort to stunt-plots to keep the action going.
The Show Struggles with Gender -- But It’s Trying?
Bob’s Burgers has been put on blast for hiring male actors to provide voices for its female characters. Both Linda (John Roberts) and Tina (Dan Mintz) are voiced by men. Bouchard says the criticism is fair.
“I don’t know what to do except to strive to do better,” he says. “We have to have balance.”
Some of that has come with recurring characters voiced by women, such as Sarah and Laura Silverman voicing the Pesto twins Ollie and Andy. But it’s happening behind the scenes as well -- 5 of the show’s 11 writers are women. That’s a crazy-high percentage in an industry dominated by male comedy writers.
Give points to Bob’s Burgers for its attempts at inclusiveness -- and take those points right back for its clumsiness. It introduced Marshmallow, who has to be animation’s only black transgender character -- but hired a white guy to provide the voice. Bouchard responded to fan criticism and promised to recast the voice (great!) but Marshmallow hasn’t appeared since (boo!). It always seems to be one step forward and one step back, but the show’s creators at least want to be held accountable about doing better. Trying and stumbling isn’t a great look, but it’s better than not trying at all.
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Top image: Wilo Productions