Thoughts on Bob’s Burgers’ Characters

Bob's BurgersI am a huge fan of Bob’s Burgers. It’s probably because the main characters are so well rendered. I feel a connection to each of them. That’s especially true of Bob, who is brave and a natural leader. His only problem is that he is totally lacking in charisma. He’s like Dan Hollins in The Twilight Zone episode “It’s a Good Life.” Bob’s the kind of guy who says, “Follow me! Our cause is just!” It doesn’t matter how obviously right Bob is, when he looks back, no one is following him. They are standing there as he rushes to what would be certain death if he weren’t a character in a successful television series.

Bob is very lucky to have found Linda. I know that people focus on her looniness. And it is true that like everyone else in the show, she is insane. But would a woman who wasn’t at least partially insane marry Bob? She needs to see herself in the middle of a big budget musical. For most women, life with Bob would be a sad ending to her life. But to her, she is in the middle of an exciting adventure. And as such, she is Bob’s rock. Because let’s face, Bob is even more crazy than she is. He’s just too insecure to show it often.

Tina is a hero of mine. There is no deception in her. She is entirely comfortable in who she is with her obsession with butts and zombie love. She seems like she is insecure, but it is just that she’s introverted and methodical. The world is alien and it goes by so fast. She isn’t able to engage with it in real time. So it seems awkward. And it is! For the world. But she’s used to it running ahead and she’s fine with it.

She is, of course, at that awkward age. She hasn’t figured out her sexuality. That’s what makes her earnestness all the more inspiring. But it needs to be said: she will never end up with Jimmy Jr. For one thing, he’s a jerk. And he’s everything she isn’t. He’s style, and she’s substance. Anyway, Jimmy Jr is, like so many of the characters in the show, gay. And the show’s been pretty open about this. In “Lobsterfest,” Tina creates a list of people she “can mate with to repopulate the Earth.” Gene comments, “Here, let me see that: gay; gay; mythical creature; gay mythical creature; in your dreams!”

Tina, of course, will end up with Zeke. When he first showed up on “The Belchies,” he wasn’t very likable. He was just a typical guy who was on the wrestling team. But in that time, we’ve gotten to see a lot of the softer side of him — especially in “Midday Run.” And most recently, in “The Oeder Games,” when he tells Tina that he’s interested in her, I believe it. And Tina reciprocates. Their chemistry is obvious. I wish Jimmy Jr well in his own sexual awakening.

Gene is the oddest character in the family. He is also the most feminine. Louise spoke the truth when she told Linda, “It’s time to focus on your good daughter: Gene.” He definitely takes after Linda — but without having ever developed a serious side. He has the most pure id of all the characters. He also tends to get the best lines, because he has the most clear view of reality. In “Bob Day Afternoon,” Bob is planning to tell the banker, “What does ‘past due’ even mean?” Gene responds, “It’s brilliant! There is no such thing as time!”

Louise is the most misunderstood character in the series. At first, she was the reason I watched it. She is the “puppet” character: the one who can get away with saying the most outrageous things because she is nonthreatening. But like all the characters in the series, she has been given a lot of time to deepen. And we find that she is, ultimately, a fragile little girl. She seems like she doesn’t care about anyone else, but it is just the world outside her family that she doesn’t care about. She is fiercely protective of and dependent upon her family. But I feel that I can see the future, and that eventually, she will marry Logan from the “Ear-sy Rider” episode.

Now all of these thoughts are subject to change without notice. Ultimately, Bob’s Burgers is so great because these characters continue to develop and grow. And that makes it stand out compared to other modern situation comedies. Increasingly, everything is about laughs without a lot of thought to the characters and the audience’s relationships with them.

6 thoughts on “Thoughts on Bob’s Burgers’ Characters

  1. I’ve just started watching, it’s terrific. It took me a while to realize the store next door had a different name in the credits every time. Then longer to realize the exterminator van always had a different name. A lot of the jokes are like that; don’t blink or you’ll miss them (like the burger of the day.) I’ve made it through the first two mini-seasons, looking forward to seeing if the longer seasons keep the quality level high.

    H. Jon Benjamin is a brilliant voice actor. And did you notice who the Colonel Sanders landlord is? Kevin Kline!

    It’s odd that the show has such a widespread fan following. I avoided it at first because young hipsters were gushing over it, and I could never be hip if I studied with hipster Yodas for 1000 years. But old folks like it too.

    Family sitcoms, it’s been noted, became office sitcoms, and many of both are just fine. But most of even the good ones fall into the trap of relying on your affection for the characters as they calcify instead of letting those characters develop. Not that I’m criticizing. Tolstoy did the same damn thing in the epilogue to “War & Peace.” Allowing characters to change and keeping the dynamic which made their interplay interesting is really, really tough to pull off.

    It’s a cool show. I’m looking forward to watching more. And happy I’m watching it at my speed. I hate waiting for new episodes of things every week; since I restarted watching TV again in the last ten years or so, catching up with new episodes and waiting for the next one has never not been disappointing.

    • I’m glad you like it. Actually, it gets better in the 3rd season, and then it really takes off in the 4th. They just started the 6th season, but I won’t be able to see the first episode until next week because I don’t pay for Hulu. The writing is incredibly strong. But mostly, it is just that the characters are so well formed. And that’s true of the side characters too. I’m a big fan of Ron — the beta health inspector. The show is populated with mostly insane characters — like Mr Fischoeder (Kline). But there are sane people like Ron and (most of the time) Bob. It’s also great that I (at least) like all the main characters. On the other hand, Jimmy Pesto makes me as angry as he makes Bob. Let me know what you think of “Bob Day Afternoon.” It’s one of the first few episodes of the 3rd season.

      • I never got back to this; it took me a while to get through all the seasons on Netflix because the SO started enjoying it midway and we had to start from the beginning. Which was fine! They’re worth re-watching.

        I did enjoy “Bob Day Afternoon”; a great thing about the show is hardly anybody’s a “bad guy.” They’re all deranged in their own ways, by personal beefs, hormones, class privilege, whatever. There’s an episode where a crazy cruise captain abducts Bob to be his new chef and it doesn’t fit, because the captain is actually scary.

        Since everyone’s crazy is different, it makes the minor characters memorable. When the kids need help building a go-cart motor, naturally they turn to the motorcycle gang. You don’t have to see them all the time to recall who they are. The bank robber ends up at Wonder Wharf, and says “how’re my favorite hostages” or some such, and boom, you remember his tendency towards poorly conceived plans.

        I hope we see the guy who believed he was a mannequin again sometime. And an “Archer” crossover. (“Archer” actually did this; in one episode he develops amnesia and thinks he’s a family man in a small restaurant.)

        Your analysis of the characters is spot-on. I’d add that the kids are brilliant combos of their parents. Gene loves music (mom) and wacky puns (dad). Tina obsesses over projects and wants the unattainable boy (Belchers always dream big), yet is most at ease with the poor boy who’s a great cook. And Louise is the one who is quick to be annoyed by irritating people but ultimately tolerant of their existence. Which sums up the family dynamic as a whole.

        I hope it lasts forever. And I hope it doesn’t, that it wraps up nicely when the creators want to move on. So few shows have good endings! This one definitely could.

        • Even Jimmy Pesto is such a pathetic, insecure man that it’s hard not to forgive him his sins against Bob. The ship captain (voiced by Jeffrey Tambor) isn’t evil so much as totally insane. He’s very much in the category of Mr Fischoeder. I’ve been meaning to write an article about class in the show. It’s one of the most class-conscious shows I’ve ever seen. There are the working class people — which includes the Belchers, even if they are nominally business owners. Then there is the upper class. They are presented as vile people. The one exception is Sasha who is in “Speakeasy Rider” and “House of 1000 Bounces” (two of my very favorite episodes, but the latter is Season 6, so you may not have seen it). Sasha is acceptable because he’s aware of his class privilege. He’s also something of a rebel, as you see much more clearly in “House of 1000 Bounces.” And then there are the rich, who are simply insane.

          And yes: Zeke. When his character was first introduced, I hated it. But I’ve come to love the character. Although the writers blew it in “Midday Run.” The story claims that Zeke’s grandparents met in college. Sorry. Zeke does not come from a family that went to college. Sure, you could justify it; you can come up with a reason for anything in fiction. But why not just say in high school? That’s another episode I really like though. I love it when Zeke says, “We’re gonna tell this story on our wedding day!” Tina doesn’t believe it, but it’s true. On the other hand, I’m thinking more and more that Louise is destined for Rudy. And Gene, well… Oh, so much happens in Season 6! Let’s just say that if you doubt Gene is capable of pathos, wait until “The Gene and Courtney Show.”

          • Well, Louise slaps Logan, so clearly she has a crush on him. Rudy would make more sense. His asthma causes her fierce protective mama bear side to come out.

            The class thing is a good article subject. I never saw “Titanic,” but I saw clips, and it bugged me that in those clips the rich were presented as super-verbose, sophisticated people. Huh? What? Maybe some rich folk are lucky enough to have outside influences which make them charming, but generally they’re colossal bores. And most rich folk on “Burgers” are depicted exactly that way. Fischoeder is less boring, because he’s crazy enough to be interesting; you can’t explain some of the s**t he does. There was one bit where the Belcher kids approached him while he was on all fours trying to feed cotton candy to a squirrel, and I almost lost it laughing. Why the hell was he doing that? No reason! He’s rich, which in the show’s terminology equals either “obnoxious dullard” or “borderline lunatic.” About right, in my experience.

            Zeke’s grandparents meeting in college? I buy it. My dad was a college grad, my mom certainly smart enough to have attended if she hadn’t fallen in love, and they ended up on the bottom rung of poor. And if I had kids, they’d be around Zeke’s age. It’s spooky. My dad got suckered into one bogus “business opportunity” after another and wound up broke. He was too trusting, and after it burned him hard, he veered off towards hatred of anyone different. I’m too trusting. Nooooooooooo!

            • Has Louise ever slapped Logan? She talks about it, but I don’t recall her doing it. But her wish to slap Boo Boo is different. It’s just the only way she has expressing these very foreign feelings. She actually hates Logan. But I’ve always imagined that she would totally dominate Logan in later life. But she has genuine affection for Rudy. So maybe Louise and Logan can get married. She can divorce him and take everything he owns. And then Louise and Rudy can get married and live happily ever after. That works for me.

              The issue with Zeke is not about money; it’s that he is so clearly white trash. Now, having grown up pretty white trash, I know one doesn’t have to stay that way. But I have a hard time believing that if I had had a kid, they would have ended up as white trash. But I don’t want to fight on this because it is a minor issue. And Zeke is a wonderful and charming character. And he’s so much nicer a guy than Jimmy Jr. He was however nice in one episode of the 6th season.

              I hated Titanic. But I don’t think that’s quite an accurate view of the film. The bigger issue is that it is focused on the upper classes. But really: the best part is the first half hour or so when they are looking at the actual wreckage. After that, I found the story tired and didn’t care about any of the characters. Although I did like that it showed the poor being locked in.

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