The Season 5 premiere of Fox’s inventive, brainy and altogether hysterical animated comedy feels like the culmination of a long-brewing plan. Brilliantly titled “Work Hard or Die Trying, Girl,” the episode combines two iconic ’80s films with Gene’s love for theater for an all-out musical extravaganza. After so many outstanding songs over the first four years, what’s in store Sunday night will undoubtedly be an event for the ages in Seymour’s Bay.
A musical episode may be nothing new — TV shows do them all the time — but the good people at “Bob’s Burgers” have a knack for making the old feel new again. So, inspired by the writing staff’s creativity, we came up with these 11 big ideas culled from popular television tropes, Tina’s knack for “friend fiction,” and our own twisted minds. Here’s hoping we see a few made real.
“The Bad Louie-tenant: Seymour’s Bay: New Jersey” (Crossover Episode)
So we all got to see Bob pop up in last week’s “Family Guy/Simpsons” crossover episode — which was great. Really. Always glad to see Bob. But we want more. “Archer” already provided us the H. Jon Benjamin-linked crossover between the FX and Fox properties, but wouldn’t it be fun to see it go the other way? Or — better yet, considering Bouchard & Co’s knack for creativity — to see the Belchers co-exist with a whole new world, er, series?
Bob making snide comments about the adventures of Finn and Jake on “Adventure Time” comes to mind as Priority A (or Bob might think he’s trapped in a hallucination for the entire episode), but seeing Tina interact with the foul-mouthed children of “South Park” — as well as Louise going toe-to-toe with Cartman — would be an equally exciting treat. If we could invite a live action show to Seymour’s Bay (which many critics suspect is in New Jersey), I’d bring Louie and his two daughters to have a disastrous meal at Bob’s Burgers, causing them to be so sick they have to stay the night at Linda’s revived B&B. Just imagining the insightful comedian sitting on a bar stool next to Teddy is enough to sell the whole episode.
“Guess Who’s Coming to Linner” (Meet the Parents Episode)
We received an introduction to Linda’s swinger parents in the Season 3 episode, “It Snakes a Village,”
when the Belchers’ take a trip down to Florida to visit the retirement community where Linda’s parents live. Fast-forward to the present. We’re entering Season 5 and we still haven’t met Bob’s parents. Yet.
Clues are few and far between. Besides a few off-hand comments made by Bob, where he mentions spending most of his childhood working in his father’s restaurant, the topic rarely gets brought up. Once you start thinking about it, you can’t help but wonder whether there is some unpleasant backstory, especially because in “Bob Fires the Kids,” when Bob receives a package of childhood toys that turn out to be cooking and cleaning supplies, he forces his kids to stop working in the restaurant, issuing a mandate for them to have fun. The melancholy quality of the incident makes you wonder whether Bob ever talks to his parents. Have Tina, Gene and Louise even met their paternal grandparents or are they as clueless as we are?
It’s surprising that Louise hasn’t tried to pry for answers. If there is one person who can figure out the truth in the show, it’s Louise, because based on the tenor of “Bob Fires the Kids,” it doesn’t seem as if Bob is going to be in a sharing mood any time soon.
“Bob’s Fail Safe” (Live Episode)
No, we’re not talking about “Bob’s Burgers” staging something as silly as “Cleveland Live!”, “The Cleveland Show’s” failed promotional stunt. Instead, we’d like to see a real live-reading of an episode. Let the animation play out as it will, leave some room for the Belchers to fill in the gaps and make the most of their spotlight — Gene’s fart noises could be done using the ‘ol elbow pit method. Linda’s musical outbursts would be even more dramatic. Tina’s moans could be extra sexual. Not to mention, it would show how hard these voice actors work, and bring well-deserved attention to this A-grade comedy.
“Irrational Louise’s AC Vacation” (Vacation Episode)
So far, the Belchers have taken two pseudo-vacations: one to go camping (Season 4, Episode 1 – “A River Runs Through Bob”) and the other to visit Linda’s parents (Season 3, Episode 18 – “It Snakes a Village”). They’ve never taken a true vacation (unless you count their boat cruise where Bob is held hostage by the ship’s captain), and it’s about time they did. Understanding that the monetary and scheduling constraints of running a burger shop have been the primary reason the Belchers don’t take a yearly trek somewhere, why don’t we send them somewhere nearby — Atlantic City?
The family could have saved and saved, eventually hoarding enough dollars to take a trip down to the dying gambling mecca, only to have their trip upended when they discover Mr. Fischoeder gambling away his property — including Bob’s Burgers — to the loan sharks he’s to whom he’s indebted? Mr. Fischoeder has always hinted at having a gambling operation in place, and that biting his hand would be in line with the cruel ways of lady luck. While Bob tries to save Mr. Fischoeder (and earn some credit for those late rent payments), Linda could discover a love of backgammon while Louise hustles tourists on the boardwalk.
“The Girl Who Leapt Through Tina” (Anime Episode)
A few seasons into a successful series — live-action, animated, what have you — it’s not uncommon for the writing and production teams to tinker with form. At the beginning of Season 3, Bouchard and his team made it clear they are capable of manipulating the show’s format when they incorporated a magnificent homage to Japanese anime during a hallucinatory sequence in “An Indecent Thanksgiving Proposal.” (After drinking some absinthe, Bob begins to hallucinate that he’s having a conversation with the turkey he’s trying to cook for Thanksgiving.) Although the drawing style remains the same, the moment we enter into the hallucination, we are transported into a world and a narrative that bears an uncanny resemblance to Hayao Miyazaki’s beloved 1988 feature-length anime, “My Neighbor Totoro.”
Because popular culture is such a critical component of the show’s structure — from the titles of episodes to sequences like the one that pays tribute to Miayazaki’s “Totoro” — fans are more than likely to be amenable if the show’s creative team were to decide to apply Japanese anime aesthetics to an entire episode. Tina’s vivid imagination — specifically her friend fiction and non-canonical Equestranauts fan fiction — provides the precedent for a potential anime episode because her original stories (fantasies might actually be a more appropriate word) can not only lay the groundwork for the narrative but also qualify the decision to reimagine the show’s aesthetic for said episode.
“50 Worst Dates” (Tina Sexuality Episode)
Over the past two seasons, Tina has really grown into her own peculiar brand of confidence. While she has never gone out of her way to mask her weirdness from others, Tina has also never made an effort to covet her weirdness as if it were some sort of medal of honor. Recently, though, Tina has been taking risks that not only reflect her desires but also test their veracity. Which is why we want to see how far she can take it, because so far, it seems like Tina’s fantasies — particularly her sexual ones — haven’t had the chance to live up to their fullest potential.
Each time Tina gets oh-so-unbearably close to living out her sexual fantasies, they always seem to sputter out just before reaching their climax. Although Jimmy Jr. and Josh square off to compete for Tina’s heart in “Two for Tina,” both boys are quick to lose interest when Tina suggests that they share her. In the “Mazel-Tina” episode Tina becomes the center of attention at a classmate’s Bat Mitzvah. Just as the festivities reach their peak, however, Tina’s classmate snatches back the attention and Tina is forced to flee in the face of retribution.
It’s about time Bouchard and company come up with an episode where Tina’s fantasy can rise to the occasion, even if it has to be in the confines of a hallucination.
“Cinema Vera-Tina” (Reality Show Episode)
While Bob has had his fair share of run-ins with documentarians and reporters, he’s never been subjected to the uncomfortable constraints of a reality show confessional. Picturing the Belchers as talking heads pitted against each other in a contest broadcast for all their friends, family and customers to see is instantly funny: Bob would hate it (too much personal exposure). Linda would love it (just enough personal exposure). Louise would become a conniving backstabber, making and breaking allegiances on a whim; Tina could awkwardly hit on the cameraman — who’s not supposed to be seen; and Gene would try to audition for an imaginary viewership craving new talent, aptly spoofing reality stars who think they can become actors.
“Gene, Rod ‘n Bobby” (Hallucination Episode)
Whenever Bob becomes detached from reality, good things happen. Drunk Bob is akin to Fun Bobby, as is High Bob, Absinth Bob and PTSD Bob — so why not make a whole episode where he never comes down from whatever kind of high he’s riding? I imagine it as an homage to another popular TV trope, possibly paired with the occasionally-discussed “Futurama” crossover: “Bob’s in Space!” After becoming addicted to Red Bull while trying to stay up late watching “Star Truck” marathons, Bob crosses his threshold and starts living in another reality. Linda could be Commander Lin-Rod (as opposed to Linda Riker) to his Bob Luc-Picard, while Teddy becomes the new Scotty and the kids run around causing havoc — especially Louise, whose fiddling with the warp drive would send the ship traveling to various dimensions and times. Cameos and visual splendor abound. Hilarity ensues. But most of all, Bob never comes down from the sky.
“3 Days to Grill” (Guinness Episode)
Linda has always had quite the competitive streak in her. From her desire to make the cheerleading squad (with her son) to fervently practicing for a high school reunion concert in order to show up her arch-rival, Linda isn’t afraid of any challenge. Bob, however, very much is. To be fair, he’s not necessarily afraid, but he’s much more content with his standing in life and usually tries to discourage his wife from getting too caught up in anything too extreme (which, to Bob, is most things).
But if it means more money for the Belcher clan, Bob is more than ready to lend a hand — and a burger flipper. Spurred on by his own nemesis, Jimmy Pesto, who draws big crowds to his restaurant after setting the record for most menu items at an Italian restaurant (a subtle dig at a modern food trend), Bob tries to set the Guinness World Record for most burgers sold in a weekend. Linda wants to expand the menu and mimic Jimmy’s diversification, but that’s too much work for Bob, so he sets his sights on Jimmy’s customers. Using discounted prices, quick service, and one helluva Burger of the Day, Bob lures Jimmy’s hungry foodies over to his own place before they get a chance to sit down across the street.
“The Nate Gatsby” (New Character Episode)
“Bob’s Burgers” boasts a robust slate of supporting characters, some of whom show up in almost every episode (i.e. Teddy, Mort, Mr. Frond) while others (i.e. Linda’s sister Gayle, Jimmy Pesto, Mr. Fischoeder) appear intermittently. Together, these characters have helped Bouchard and his team of writers cultivate an intimate world around the Belchers; intimate but not insulated. While never overtly political, the show has repeatedly engaged with issues of class since the very first season. The Belchers’ troubles with money — particularly their inability to make the rent — serves as a major point of conflict in earlier episodes. Furthermore, Tina, Gene and Louise are forced to grapple with the issue on their own in the 2012 Halloween episode, “Full Bars,” when they decide they want to trick or treat in the wealthy neighborhood.
What sets “Bob’s Burgers” apart from other shows is its desire to create a safe space where its characters and, by extension viewers, can engage with the topic of class. The notion of a safe space is typically more common in critical discussions about gender and sexuality, but as “Bob’s Burgers” aptly demonstrates, it can be applied to other topics, such as class and hopefully sometime in the near future of the show, race as well.
“The Turd Meditator” (Flashback Episode)
Over the years, we’ve gotten a few flashbacks to Bob and Linda’s past (one even came in the pilot episode when Bob was proven bad at remembering dates), but we’ve never been given an extended look at the courtship of the long-married couple, how they founded Bob’s Burgers, or when/if they decided to have their kids. I say knock ’em all out in one extended flashback episode where Bob reveals the secret to his Burger of the Day puns: meditation. Every day he goes to the bathroom, does his business and meditates while sitting on the toilet. During his private time, Bob traces his personal history back to its best moments and we get to relive them with him one fateful morning. I couldn’t possibly create the show’s backstory for them, but boy wouldn’t we all enjoy watching it unfold?