Bob’s Burgers is an unusual sitcom. At a time where the worldview of most adult animated comedy skews towards misanthropy, showrunner Loren Bouchard has made a point of weaving acceptance into the fabric of the show. In Bob’s Burgers, the primary source of comedy is not familial dysfunction (as in most other animated shows centered on a nuclear family since The Simpsons) but in a more manic form of functionality.
On a superficial level, the Belchers — Bob and Linda — resemble the married couples at the heart of their sister programs at Fox: The Simpsons and Family Guy. Bob, like Homer and Peter Griffin, is slouchy and short-tempered; Linda, like Marge and Lois, is loud and doting. But when you pull back the exterior and examine the specifics of Bob and Linda’s relationship, it becomes apparent that such a comparison couldn’t be more inappropriate.
Where the married couples of those aforementioned shows fall into one of the many variations of the “lazy husband/nagging wife” trope, the Belchers tolerate, support, and love each other. They don’t always agree or get along, but they do always care for one another’s well-being, and it’s that willingness to care that is the show’s lifeblood. Since its debut in 2009, Bob and Linda have been one of TV’s healthiest and happiest couples.
Much like Bob’s Burgers on a whole, the dynamic between Bob and Linda is composed of a bucketload of quirks that aren’t much individually, but as a collective amount to greatness. Their love is a day-to-day (or episode-to-episode) affair, a collection of habits and tics that make their relationship hum.
Throughout Bob’s Burgers’ ten seasons, Linda’s dream has been to be someone who appears affluent. While aware that, given the Belchers’ financial situation, this is something of a pipedream, it’s a fantasy that she enjoys dipping her toes into: like in “The Kids Rob a Train,” where she and Bob go wine-tasting. Linda takes pleasure indulging in the glamour of such an event, playing the part of a bougie wine-taster with enthusiasm. When she notices a stranger consuming his wine in a particularly fancy manner, she invites him to join herself and Bob at their table, excited at the prospect of learning “tips on getting tipsy” from “an expert”. For these few hours, she’s given the chance to live her fantasy.
In a 2018 interview with Buzzfeed, John Roberts (voice of Linda) was asked: “If [Linda] got a yacht, what would she name it?” After all, for Linda, the hypothetical yacht is a crystallization of the sort of affluence that she dreams about — an ideal combination of opulence, leisure, and drama. Roberts’ answer? “The Bobby.” Linda couldn’t possibly conceive of a situation where she would achieve her dreams without having Bob present. Equally as important as the act of fulfillment itself is having him by her side when she does so.
For Bob, the same mentality applies. He dreams of becoming a successful restaurateur, which would be marked by his burger store being turned into a commercial chain. In “Pro Tiki/Con Tiki,” Bob is visited by an old school friend who wants to invest in the restaurant, but he is put off when they try to give the restaurant a tiki theme — ultimately turning down their investment (and the success it represents) because it would distill the aspects of the restaurant that he loves most. In Bob’s mind, the family is the theme, Linda and the kids are the heart, and if he’s going to succeed, it’s going to be with them.
Neither Bob nor Linda ever explicitly state how their relationship figures into their dreams. Where other shows would manufacture a scenario that culminates in Bob and Linda making overwrought declarations of love, Bob’s Burgers chooses not to. The closest the show ever comes to a great romantic moment is in the premiere of season ten — “The Ring (But Not Scary)” — when Bob buys Linda the wedding ring as an anniversary gift, as he couldn’t afford one when they married (on account of her urging him to use what little funds he had to set up the restaurant). The kids, in typical fashion, find and then lose the ring at a water park.
The subsequent search proves fruitless, and when Linda finds them at the water park, Bob admits that he screwed up the anniversary. Linda responds that Bob doesn’t need a ring to prove that he loves her — “our love is in everything we built together,” says Linda. Indeed, their love is present in Linda’s equal involvement in the business, as Bob trusts her to run the restaurant when he’s not there. It’s present in Bob’s refusal to be a hands-off dad, instead choosing to share responsibilities equally with Linda — a “two-parent, two-bottles-of-wine-a-night” approach. They’re a team, and so to try and capture their relationship in one big moment wouldn’t suffice; instead, it’s there to be seen in all of the small victories that they’ve fought for together.
(“Fought” is an ideal description, as Bob and Linda’s every day involves some kind of battle. Sometimes that battle is external — like Bob’s endless feud with his direct competitor Jimmy Pesto, whose tacky Italian restaurant across the street does far better than his own — but it can be internal, too. Their relationship has its lumps, where they don’t always see eye-to-eye, but they always work through the significant and the not-so-significant by just listening to each other.)
In one of my favorite episodes — “Gene Jacket” — Bob and Linda have a rare evening to themselves and decide to go on a date. Between parenting and running the business, dates are few and far between, so Bob plans it all ahead of time. The only issue is the type of date that he settles on: pub trivia. At first, the evening is abysmal; the questions are obscure, the pub atmosphere is prickly, and Linda is visibly disappointed. But rather than dismissing Bob’s hard work by leaving early, she searches for a more creative solution — settling on stealing the answer sheet from the quiz host’s bag. Bob is shocked but rolls with it, and the evening quickly evolves into a tightwire act of deception. By the time they get discovered they’re both having a blast; their date, which could have been a disaster, ends up being the best they’ve been on in a while. As they leave, Linda boldly declares they should “cheat at karaoke next time.” As far as dates go it’s a little unconventional and a lot unassuming; in other words, it’s exactly them.
Bob and Linda have a relationship that refuses to conform to the standards of romance that we might expect from mainstream entertainment. Instead, it adopts the standards of reality. They’re oddly formed and full of strange little quirks, but most importantly it’s a relationship built on a foundation of genuine love and support. They’re always going to be on the same team and have each other’s backs, and when they do disagree, you know that they’ll work through it — the episode will end with Bob declaring “that’s my wife,” and Linda saying “I love you, Bobby.”
As far as romances go, Bob and Linda’s is neither the biggest nor the boldest, but it’s entirely their own. There’s nowhere they would rather be than by each other’s side, no one they’d rather come home to at the end of a long day. And that’s its own kind of spectacular.