In the course of its first six seasons, Bob’s Burgers has gone from under-the-radar cult hit to full-fledged phenonemon (want proof? Just hit up any Halloween party this year and see how many folks are dressed up as the Belchers). There’s a very simple reason for this: Animated or not, the Belchers are one of the most realistic families ever depicted on screen. They are flawed, driven by their own weird obsessions — be it Jimmy Jr.’s butt or naming the Burger of the Day — but more than anything they love each other deeply.
These are not characters who act out regularly in violence towards each other a la Homer and Bart Simpson, nor are their adventures a Family Guy-esque snark fest. Instead, the stories told on Bob’s Burgers focus on the little victories in life, or, more accurately, the endless defeats. Yet through it all their remains a core understanding that they are all their for each other no matter how weird things get.
With Bob’s Burgers season 7 getting underway, we thought we’d present our picks for the best episodes to date. Given that, as of this writing, 107 installments have aired, paring things down was a challenge to say the least. So if your fave didn’t make it, take some solace in the fact that we probably still appreciate it. After all, this is a series whose dud episodes are still in the single digits — something remarkable in today’s television landscape.
All that said, let’s get into our favorite servings of Bob’s Burgers.
Season 1 Episode 1: “Human Flesh”
The original concept for Bob’s Burgers was that the Belchers were to be cannibals. It’s yet another stroke of genius from series’ creator Loren Bouchard to remove this element from the show, as the family wouldn’t be nearly as lovable with that element added in. (Actually, they probably still would have been, damn this clan is charming!).
Nevertheless, that disbanded plot formed the basis for the series’ debut episode, “Human Flesh,” in which Bob in wrongly accused of making his burgers out of just that. That the episode manages to introduce all of the main characters and their individual quirks while still telling a cohesive and wildly funny story is a truly impressive feat that many lesser shows have attempted and failed.
Season 5 Episode 19: “Housetrap”
The Belchers are always at their best when they let their imaginations run wild. And in this episode, they run marathons. Convinced that the woman whose house Teddy has been working at pushed her husband to her doom, the family (minus Bob, who is hilariously hopped up on painkillers for a chunk of the episode) finds themself stuck in the potential murderer’s house when a storm strikes.
In a bit of fantastic misdirection here, writer Dan Fybel goes to great length’s to have the Helen character — wonderfully voiced by It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia‘s Kaitlin Olson — seem wrongly accused, only to have her admit her guilt to a high Bob towards the end of the episode. This twist helps “Housetrap” rise above the sort of Three’s Company-esque mistake-based comedy into something truly special.
Season 4 Episode 14: “Uncle Teddy”
As the above clip perfectly illustrates, Teddy is not the sharpest tool in the shed. So yes, your fan theories about his brain being rotted by years of undiagnosed Mad Cow Disease are probably quite valid. Originally a background player with Andy Kindler’s underused mortician Mort, Teddy has arguably become a main cast member. This is down to the vocal performance of Larry Murphy, who has transformed Teddy into modern TV’s most lovable lug.
“Uncle Teddy” sees the burly dolt watching the Belcher kids while Bob and Linda attend a gathering of burger enthusiasts. Things go awry when Teddy starts experiencing a series of misadventures in babysitting while Bob makes the unpleasant discovery that the majority of his peers hate him. Putting Teddy in the spotlight as this episode does gives Murphy a chance to truly shine, and once again reiterates that Bob’s Burgers has the richest supporting cast this side of The Simpsons.
Now if only the show would give Marshmallow more to do…
Season 5 Episode 1: “Work Hard or Die Trying, Girl”
Last year around this time, Den of Geek ran a list of our 10 Favorite Musical Moments of the show. As the author of said list, I will fully own up to the fact that it was an absolute travesty that I did not include the musical sequences from the would-be Working Girl and Die Hard stage shows featured in this episode. The installment’s place here is not only penance for that unthinkable act, but it also showcases the series’ core appreciation of pop culture. Unlike Family Guy however, it isn’t content with merely dropping references and moving on, but building upon them into a Frankenstein’s Monster of weirdness.
Admit it, you’re waiting for Work Hard or Die Trying, Girl to hit Broadway too. There’s no shame in that.
There is, however…
Season 4 Episode 21: “Wharf Horse (or How Bob Saves/Destroys the Town – Part I)”
This two-part season finale had, among other things, a showstopper of a musical number called “Nice Things Are Nice” (see above), a genius subplot that delves into Tina’s personality, and a surprisingly disturbing and off-model cliffhanger. Yes, nice things are in fact nice, and what is so winning about this episode is how it really experiments with the show’s possibilities while still keeping things firmly grounded in the already firmly established Bob’s Burgers universe. At its heart though, it also has some subtle and meaningful commentary on topics ranging from resisting change to the perils of gentrification that prove that yes, the show is very funny, but it also is incredibly smart.
Season 1 Episode 6: “Sheesh! Cab, Bob?”
Bob may be a lot of things, but perhaps more than anything else he is an excellent parent. Here he takes a night job driving cabs (MARSHMALLOW!) to earn money for Tina’s birthday party. And if you didn’t cheer when The Thompson Twins’ “If You Were Here” began (in a wonderful homage to Sixteen Candles), you are dead inside.
Season 2 Episode 8: “Bad Tina”
I’m sure at this very moment there are thesis papers a-plenty being written about why Tina Belcher is Bob’s Burgers‘ breakout character. (Related: Grad school is a racket). There’s a very simple reason though, Tina is so relatable because she is a mirror of our own weird adolescent neuroses.
But it would be dismissive to write her off as merely awkward or left of center. In fact, she has become a role model because no matter how off-kilter her obsessions may be (i.e. wanting to make out with zombies), Tina owns them, as she does herself. That’s an inspiring feat for any fictional character to pull off, let alone one who is so shamelessly butt obsessed.
“Bad Tina” is a further analysis of what makes Tina tick, and how we can all learn a bit about navigating the world from here.
Season 4 Episode 17: “The Equestranauts”
As a nerdcentric site, we feel somewhat obligated to include the series’ riff on extreme fandom on this list. When Tina gets a beloved toy swindled by an adult male fan of the My Little Pony-esque series The Equestranauts, Bob steps in to pose as a fan of the animated mini horses to save the day — presenting a pointed critique of Brony culture along the way. If this episode seems to understand Tina a bit more than usual, that’s because it was written by Dan Mintz, who provides her voice.
In the absence of any clip from the episode being available on YouTube, we present the above My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic/Bob’s Burgers mashup. You are most welcome.
Season 3 Episode 15: “O.T.: The Outside Toilet”
Oh hey, Stranger Things fans. Bob’s Burgers did the whole Spielbergian tribute thing first and better. “O.T.: The Outside Toilet” is a wonderful journey into the world of Gene, the series’ most enigmatic character. As he befriends a talking toilet (voiced by Jon Hamm, natch), he inspired Tina, Louise and their friends to embark on a magical adventure that will make you believe in the power of love. Or, barring that, high-quality shitters.
Season 6 Episode 19: “Glued: Where’s My Bob?”
The sixth season finale has Bob reaching the lowest point of his life. The casualty of a prank war between his kids, he becomes glued to the restuarant’s fancy toilet (in a nice touch, Felix Fischoeder’s misguided makeover of the room from “Ambergris” remains) just before he is to be interviewed by a local magazine. It gives him a chance to sing the oh-so-true earworm “Bad Stuff Happens in the Bathroom” as Louise deals with the consequences of her actions — giving her somewhat one note character some additional development along the way. In the end, Bob is humiliated, but he realizes that such things are his lot in life. And we can’t wait to see what embarrassments await him in the season ahead.