On January 9, 2011, an adult animation cartoon aired its first episode—an episode to outshine all episodes. Bob’s Burgers was originally pitched as a cartoon surrounding a family of cannibal restaurant owners and their subsequent shenanigans, but Loren Bouchard, the creator of the show, felt that it would be too limiting, and opted for a standard sitcom premise. What followed was anything but standard. Bob’s Burgers has since made waves in the adult cartoon sitcom business, and has recently begun airing its 14th season.
The show features a close-knit family of five, the Belchers, as they go about their lives, running a small burger joint in the fictional city of Seymour’s Bay. The show makes it no secret that the family is working class, and can often be seen struggling financially in various situations, from not having money for necessary repairs around the restaurant to not being able to pay rent on a near monthly basis. Not only is this an important factor in their daily lives, it is also something the show pays fairly close attention to. Bob’s Burgers never once uses this plot-point as a way to put the characters down or to insult them. Instead, it uses it as a way to humanise the characters, following them as they get into financial trouble and punching up at the systems that continuously hurt them. Rather than going for the standard, edgy humour formula of cartoon sitcoms, they actively make jokes that are inclusive, funny, and mostly wholesome. The people behind the show care about their audience and the struggles they may be facing, and the writers, producers, and cast do everything in their power to make the show a healthy, welcoming one for viewers.
Every member of the family gets ample screen time. Linda, co-owner of the restaurant and Bob’s wife, is often seen pursuing last second dreams, Bob, the titular father and husband, is oftentimes helping neighbours. Louise, the youngest child, is typically causing unmitigated chaos for everyone in her life, Gene, the middle child, is living out his musical theatre fantasy despite being a terrible singer, and Tina, the eldest daughter, is getting caught up in many a whirlwind romance. The characters are the heart of the show, but the children are one of the things that sets this show apart from any other. Bob and Linda’s kids live a lifestyle very akin to the saying “it takes a village to raise a child”, with nearly every episode featuring a new guest character the kids tag along with while their parents are back in the restaurant. The kids learn many lessons, from customers, pedestrians, and school librarians alike. The Belcher children are able to witness life from a variety of perspectives and are exposed to a world of different cultures, ideals, and identities. Through their adventures, they become better, more well-rounded people when compared to the main characters of shows like Family Guy, where the jokes often have the very same people that uplift the Belchers as the butt of a joke.
Perhaps the greatest advantage of this show, and what truly makes it different among the many other adult animation shows out there, is the rise in content like it after its creation. Since Bob’s Burgers’ unapologetic debut, the rise in mostly wholesome, unapologetically kind adult animation has been on the rise. Shows like Great North, Final Space, and Dead End Paranormal Park have been met with great reception in part because of Bob’s Burgers’ foray into the world of adult humour. In the midst of a wholesome cartoon renaissance with the likes of Kipo and the Age of the Wonderbeasts, She-Ra and the Princess of Power, The Owl House, and Voltron, Bob’s Burgers stands out. While all of these cartoons have done wonders in recreating the nostalgia of the cartoon craze of the 90s while adding modern ideals and a different style, the world of adult humour remained mostly outside of this trend until Bob’s Burgers’ rise in popularity in the 2010s. Perhaps it is thanks to this show that we are able to introduce kindness, empathy, and above all, humour, to the adult cartoon market.