“Bob’s Burgers” will soon cross the 200-episode threshold, a milestone that a miniscule percentage of television shows ever achieve. For perspective, that puts it in league with such major hits as “Friends” and “The Office,” to name just a few.
Yet for the creative team behind the show, one of the most important things is remaining humble despite the years of success the series has enjoyed.
“Every single person that speaks to me either in person or online and says they like the show, I truly approach that person as if they’re a little miracle,” says creator and co-showrunner Loren Bouchard.
There are now millions of those little miracles, something that 20th Television’s executive vice president of animation Marci Proietto attributes to the creative team’s continued humility. Proietto has been a champion of the adult animated comedy that centers on the Belcher family and their hamburger restaurant from the start, working with Bouchard to develop the pitch that was eventually sold to Fox.
“The characters were so likeable,” she says. “I think that’s what I responded to. You’d like these characters and you want to be part of their world. And Loren is the nicest human you’re ever going to meet. He’s so sincere and such a lovely person. It came across in his writing. It was a show that had heart and it was also funny. I think that combination together is electric.”
“Bob’s Burgers” was not an overnight success, however. It built up its audience over the years, rising to become a cornerstone of Fox alongside legacy animated shows from “The Simpsons” to “Family Guy.” Per Fox, “Bob’s Burgers” averages 10.9 million viewers per episode when factoring in multi-platform viewing, of which 8.2 million comes from non-linear viewing.
It is also now a fixture at fan events including San Diego Comic-Con, regularly attracting hundreds, if not thousands, of attendees to its panels. Co-showrunner Nora Smith says she first realized what a phenomenon the show had become during a visit with her parents.
“My Dad likes to wear ‘Bob’s Burgers’ clothing everywhere,” she says. “We took a walk around Chattanooga and two waiters in this restaurant said, ‘We’re big fans.’ And then we walked over the bridge and someone stopped us who’s a fan and then someone was a fan at a bakery. I was like ‘Oh my god, this can’t just be a crazy town.’”
In the age of streaming, “Bob’s Burgers” remains an incredibly important property for Fox. The broadcast net-work has been pivoting more and more into animation in the past few years, purchasing Bento Box Entertainment (which does “Bob’s Burgers”) in 2019. Michael Thorn, president of entertainment for Fox Entertainment, describes the show as a “distinct, institutional comedy” that serves as an incubator for writers who can go on to develop their own shows at the network.
To that end, Fox has ordered the animated series “The Great North,” co-created by Wendy Molyneux, Lizzie Molyneux and Minty Lewis. The Molyneuxs serve as executive producers on “Bob’s Burgers.” “Great North” was originally ordered to series in 2019 and is slated to debut in 2021. Fox renewed the show for a second season earlier this year.
“Loren and the team have the rare ability to write compelling, relatable and uniquely hilarious characters who don’t need anything other than the dynamic of their own relationships to keep us all engaged and watching,” says Fox Entertainment CEO Charlie Collier. “I’m certain it’s the reason why we are here celebrating this milestone 200th episode.”
In the 200th episode, which airs Nov. 15, the Belchers must find a way to keep the restaurant open when the grill breaks on the morning of the Ocean Avenue Business Assn.’s Ocean Fest on Ocean Avenue. Bouchard says it will celebrate the “pleasing sort of smallness” that he feels is a hallmark of the series. Steven Davis, who wrote the episode, teases it will harken back to the show’s early days.
“Bob revisits this statement at the end of this episode, and kind of clears the record on what he meant when he said, ‘I love you, but you’re terrible. You’re all terrible,’” Davis says. “That was his very first scene of the very first episode.
“To be able to be this far in and still be telling stories about these characters — it’s still really character-driven storytelling, even though we have to work harder to come up with premises that we haven’t done,” he continues.
Even now, with 200 episodes in the can, “Bob’s Burgers” is not going any-where anytime soon. In September, Fox gave the show a two-season renewal, which will take it at least to Season 13. On top of that, the “Bob’s Burgers” movie is due to be released in April. But are Bouchard and the rest of the team ready to go for more?
“I think doing 200 episodes of television is a little like birthing 200 babies,” Bouchard says. “So it’s heroic, maybe, but also traumatic in a good way. And I think the rest of the crew — we all want to do 200 more. So there also must be that thing that kicks in when you have a child, but then you forget how painful child-birth is if you get pregnant again. That’s my analogy and I’m sticking to it!”