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Happy Birthday Bob: Celebrating A Decade Of Bob's Burgers

 


This January marks the 10th anniversary of Bob's Burgers. Created by Loren Bouchard (previously best known for Adult Swim series Home Movies) and Jim Dauterive (a writer and producer on King Of The Hill) the first episode originally aired on Fox on January 9, 2020. 10 years later the series has eleven seasons and over 200 episodes under its belt, and a movie due out this year (originally slated to open last summer). 

The occasion became somewhat bittersweet as it coincided with the sad news that the show's lead character designer Dave Creek had died in an accident, so the team would have not felt much like celebrating at the time. We guess it's down to us to toast this wonderful show, and pay tribute to not just Creek but everyone who has worked on the show.

Since The Simpsons first hit it big some 30 years ago, Fox and other networks have tried to recreate its success. Television history is littered with failed prime-time cartoons that got cancelled after their first season- or even after a few episodes. Family Guy eventually joined it (although that only really gained popularity after it became a hit on DVD). Even coming from the creators of The Simpsons or Family Guy wasn't enough to guarantee success and Futurama and The Cleveland Show found themselves under the axe. Today Bob's Burgers has become a constant part of Fox's Animation Domination block, alongside those animated institutions.

Bob's Burgers is perhaps closer in spirit to The Simpsons than any other primetime animation. In fact, with Matt Groening's show now generally agreed to be past its prime, it could be argued that it's now truer to that spirit than modern-day Simpsons is. The newer series hasn't had nearly the same cultural impact that Homer and family had, but 2011 was a vastly different pop-culture landscape than the 90s. Still, Bob's Burgers is one of the most populated animated series on primetime and has managed to build up a loyal following over its decade on the air.

It may be another animated primetime sitcom centred around a family, but Bouchard and Dauterive's show felt different. Perhaps because its as much work-place sitcom as a family comedy. Bob's Burgers (the restaurant, not the show) is a real family business; Bob Blecher and his wife Linda even put their kids Tina, Gene and Louise to work, child labour laws be damned.

The Belchers feel like a real working-class family- they're far from rich, and it's often implied that they're just scraping by. The restaurant is in a fairly sleepy seaside town and we rarely (if ever) have seen it full. Post financial crisis, their life looks more believable to much of the audience. In contrast, the idea that The Simpson family could afford to live in a house that big on a single salary seems like pure fantasy. And where do they get the money for so many foreign trips?

In contrast, Bob's Burgers is much more down-to-earth and the Belchers rarely leave their home town. The plots in general are much more low-key and local. There are certainly some wacky characters with some majorly out-there personalities, but it doesn't stray too far from what is possible in real life. Classic Simpsons kept its more fantastical moments for their Halloween episodes or dream sequences, but that can't be said for the modern series.

What really makes Bob's Burgers a success, however, is its characters. Its central characters are all very individual and unique. Schlubby but well-meaning Bob, enthusiastic, loving but very loud Linda. And there are the kids: butt-crazy, friend-fiction writing Tina, naive, imaginative Gene and bunny-hat wearing Louise, who might just be some kind of evil genius. Side characters are also equally memorable, whether they are regulars like lovable but not too sharp Teddy, Linda's sister Gayle or Mr Frond or guest stars.

They're all extremely funny, thanks to both the excellent scripts and one of the best voice cast ensembles in animation. There's some contention over the casting of male actors in female roles (Kristen Schaal being the only actual woman among the Belcher 'girls'). Maybe they have a point, but it's now hard to imagine anyone else in these roles. And it does do it the other way round- normally by having young boys played by adult women.



Bob's Burgers doesn't do stunt-casting or celebrity cameos like The Simpsons or Family Guy, but the casting of smaller parts and guest roles on the show is extremely shrewd. It includes a veritable smorgasbord of top comic talent including the likes of Sarah Silverman, Aziz Ansari, Zach Galifianakis, Billy Eichner, Jordan Peele, Keegan-Michael Key, Stephanie Beatriz and Tiffany Hadish.

Original music has also been an increasingly big part of the show. Specially written songs pop up throughout the show (and accompanying the closing credits) but over the years they have become to be a part of every show. It's almost become a musical by stealth.

Although the series isn't afraid to show its characters getting really weird, it's also full of warmth. The Belchers aren't the most picture-perfect family but they're not dysfunctional- they're a genuinely loving family unit. And unlike something like Family Guy where the characters are merely there to be joke delivery systems or to make fun of, its clear that that this show loves them, and for that matter all of its characters- Ok, maybe not Jimmy Pesto. He's just a jerk.

This is the real heart of the show- and it's quite likely that it's what kept it on the air for so long. And hopefully, will keep it running for years to come.

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