I tend to be kind of ambivalent towards animated shows made for grownups. I’ve had “Family Guy” in the background a time or two before when I was working on other things. “Futurama” is fine but I’m probably not going to watch it on purpose. I was not allowed to watch “The Simpsons” during its heyday, so I never really got into it. All those shows just tend to be a little too cynical for me, if i’m honest. So, for a long time I thought “Bob’s Burgers”, a show about a family that owns a burger place, was probably just like that. I don’t even remember why exactly, but I gave it a shot one random day. And then, to my surprise, it's actually not cynical at all.
Now, to be fair , “Bob’s Burgers” is very weird and by no means is it for everyone. It has its own cynicism and dark moments. I wouldn’t let my kid watch it, just like many other shows that seem similar on the surface. But what makes “Bob’s Burgers” different is that it's not about making fun of institutions or biting humor designed to offend someone. It’s about a weird family, that really genuinely loves each other even though they might not be the best a running a restaurant, school, or generally being functional.
The husband and wife do at times get in fights, but you can actually believe that they are two people who love each other. The kids are weirdo and misfits, but they are weirdos and misfits with a strange affection for one another. They have that “only I can mess with my sibling” thing going on. In some ways those weirdos remind me of my relationship growing up with my own siblings. We were probably all a little odd at times, and perhaps cruel to each other on occasion. But, just like the Belcher siblings, if someone else tried to mess with one of us, suddenly we’d become a force.
Even though Bob, Linda, Tina, Gene, and Louise Belcher my not be like anyone you’ve ever met, the way they love each other feels very familiar. Which is what makes “Bob’s Burgers” so unique among animated television for grown ups. You’d never find anything aspirational in the relational dynamics of “Family Guy” (at least I’d hope not), but the way that the Belcher’s find fun in the midst of shoving napkins into dispenser, or otherwise being their dad’s free labor is actually kind of sweet. And feels real. Even though they are oddballs, they are just a hard working family with regular problems like dealing with bullies, how to pay for dances and birthdays, or how to deal with a son who steals the spotlight from you during your big tv moment by dancing around in a Sasquatch mask (okay, that one is not so normal). Their solutions to those problems are normally strange and always hilarious, but they always pull together in the end. How can I not love that?
Strange Perspective is a weekly look into all things pop culture by Claremore Progress columnist Rachel Strange.