With TV Club 10, we point you toward the 10 episodes that best represent a TV series, classic or modern. They might not be the 10 best episodes, but they’re the 10 episodes that’ll help you understand what the show’s all about.
Bob’s Burgers, the restaurant, may be facing financial trouble at the start of The Bob’s Burgers Movie. But for Bob’s Burgers, the TV show, business is still booming. Created by Loren Bouchard, this beloved animated series–green-lit at Fox, now owned by 20th Television Animation via Disney–was first imagined as a darkly comedic romp about opportunistic cannibals substituting human flesh for hamburger meat. Really. But in the decade-plus since that concept got canned (“Do you really want to make 100 episodes worth of cannibal jokes?” an exec reportedly asked Bouchard, whose last job had been at the raunchier Adult Swim), Bob’s Burgers became a staple of family-friendly television. Peers to the Simpsons, Griffins, and even the Flintstones, the Belchers are headed for the big screen with a whopping 238 episodes under their collective belts. Roughly 1 million fans were still tuning in weekly during season 12, which finished out with a two-part finale over the last two Sundays.
The titular Bob, a mustachioed father of three and third-generation restaurateur, is an everyman (voiced by Archer’s H. John Benjamin) who loves two things: cooking and his adorable—albeit seriously chaotic—family. Bob’s wife Linda (John Roberts) is an unrelenting optimist with a fondness for improvising musical numbers, collecting “porcelain babies,” and raccoon observation. Tina, the eldest (Dan Mintz who, funnily enough, was originally tapped to voice the character as a boy named “Daniel” before it was rewritten) likes zombies, horses, and writing “erotic friend fiction.” Middle child and only son Gene (Eugene Mirman) rocks the bowl-cut, plays a Casio, and rarely comes up short on a fart. Youngest Louise (Kristen Schaal) is a ball of rage who enjoys anime—as well as all collectible activities therein—and is practically never seen without her iconic bunny ears. Finally, No. 1 customer Teddy (Larry Murphy), who isn’t full-on family but at this point might as well be, is a hapless handyman who just really, really cares about his best friend Bob and the restaurant he somehow still incorrectly calls “Bob Burgers” despite eating there every day.
With their restaurant and its upstairs apartment on the picturesque Ocean Avenue—famously sandwiched between Mort the mortician’s (Andy Kindler) “It’s Your Funeral Home & Crematorium” and a punny rotating rental space just up the street from amusement park Wonder Wharf—the Belchers began their series with a more adult sense of humor. In addition to the pilot episode “Human Flesh,” which doesn’t make the Belchers canonical cannibals but does get them accused of cannibalism by Hugo the health inspector (Sam Seder), season one includes story arcs about sex work, radical activism, and a rash of anus paintings by Linda’s sister Gayle (Megan Mullaly) in the town art crawl.
By the time Bouchard was kicking off Apple TV Plus’ Central Park in 2020 and Bob’s writers Wendy Molyneux and Lizzie Molyneux-Logelin debuted Fox’s The Great North in 2021—both animated series executive produced by Bouchard that aren’t technically-speaking “part” of the Bob’s Burgers universe but use the same animation style—the series had taken on a more all-ages approach. Still irreverent and smart but with a sharper focus on unconditional love, the Belchers as we know them exude a consistently positive vibe that almost always results in lessons about self-acceptance and compassion that are equally applicable to kids and adults. From one-off episodes at Wagstaff School to two-part holiday spectaculars, Bob’s Burgers has spent its now 11 years on-air offering its fully lived-in cartoon world as a comforting escape for viewers who need it.
The show hasn’t done an episode specifically about the COVID-19 pandemic, but, between seasons 10 and 11, it did get a “short film” showing the Belchers sanitizing the kitchen and humming over the boredom of social distancing. It was a touching tribute, not just because small-business owners were so specifically devastated by the global health crisis, but because Bob’s Burgers helped so many weather the pain of the past few years.
And so, it’s with a deep amount of gratitude for this show that’s meant a whole lot to a whole lot of us, that we present 10 essential Bob’s Burgers episodes—perfect for watching ahead of The Bob’s Burgers Movie, actually playing in an actual theater May 27. The film, which earned a “B” from The A.V. Club, rolls dozens of memorable moments from the series into one big Belcher adventure that touts the returns of countless fan-favorite characters, including landlords Calvin and Felix Fischoeder (Kevin Kline and Zach Galifianakis), and callbacks to some of the best episodes the show has ever made. (Keep your eyes on the walls for hidden posters and graffiti Ghost Boys à la “The Land Ship.”)
This may not be a list of the best Bob’s Burgers episodes, but if it was, then you know the indisputably excellent “Bob Day Afternoon” would be on it. When criminal/surprisingly nice guy Mickey (Bill Hader) takes hostages at First Oceanside Savings Bank, Bob is enlisted to save the day. With the Belchers’ restaurant just across the street, Sergeant Bosco (Gary Cole) sets up negotiating headquarters in the dining room. Then, he employs Bob as a burger-carting bargaining chip tasked with delivering food to the active crime scene. It’s a great episode and decent prep for The Bob’s Burgers Movie on a few fronts. Not only do Mickey, Sergeant Bosco, and bank manager Mr. Dowling (Craig Anton) play sizable parts in the film, but “Bob Day Afternoon” also captures the frenetic energy that is Ocean Avenue. It’s a fine example of how a seemingly normal sitcom premise spirals out of control when given Bob’s Burgers’ special sauce.
Tina takes on competing love interests in the aptly named “Two For Tina.” Although Jimmy Jr. (Benjamin), the son of competing restaurateur Jimmy Pesto (who was voiced by Jay Johnston until the Capitol riot) has remained Tina’s main squeeze for the series’ run, this season-three episode solidified Josh (Ben Schwartz) as a major player in the battle for the eldest Belcher’s affection. It also started in earnest the fandom’s most heated debated: Should Tina be with Jimmy Jr. or not? Regrettably, Josh doesn’t make an appearance in The Bob’s Burgers Movie—or, if he does, we didn’t catch it—but this delightful tale of an eighth grader deciding who to go with to a school dance lays out everything you need to know about Bob’s Burgers’ most eligible bachelorette and the butts after her heart.
Despite describing her teenage bully Logan (Kurt Braunohler) and his pals as “acne-covered kittens,” Louise gets the scare of her young life in season three’s “Ear-sy Rider,” the only episode to show the fearsome 9-year-old sans bunny ears after Logan steals them right off her head. This episode also includes the introduction of the One Eyed Snakes, a local motorcycle gang led by Critter (Robert Ben Garant) who, yes, appear in The Bob’s Burgers Movie alongside the rest of the late great Horny Dave’s “club.” This is an all-time great display of Louise’s capacity for unbridled rage.
Season four’s “Slumber Party” kicks off with Linda inviting Louise’s “friends” (read: barely tolerated acquaintances) to a sleepover at the Belchers’ place—but Wagstaff School mainstays Harley (Katie Crown), Jodi (Rachel Dratch), Abby (Crown), and Jessica (Kathryn Hahn) aren’t the main reason to watch this one. The real stars of “Slumber Party” are the alley raccoons, who fascinate Linda throughout the series and play a pivotal role in this specific episode. The main issue at stake here: Will El Diablo overthrow Little King Trashmouth? If you don’t know the answer, definitely make time for this one before The Bob’s Burgers Movie since a sneaky little cameo could spoil it for you.
Okay, we’re double-dipping here since “World Wharf II: The Wharfening” is the second half of a two-parter that you absolutely have to watch in order. That said, we’re giving ourselves a pass since this entire adventure/season-four finale is a must-see refresher before the movie. After Bob gets talked into helping Felix and his new girlfriend Fanny (Jordan Peele) sell Wonder Wharf out from under Calvin, an even more insidious plot begins to reveal itself. This is easily the most fully realized Wonder Wharf story, incorporating backstory about the Fischoeders alongside classically charming Belcher anecdotes and some of the coolest background work on the show. Come for the promise of Bob’s Burgers in peak form, stay for Tina bike-locking herself to a carousel horse.
As with many tortured artists, Gene has a complex relationship to music, his chosen form of barking/squeaking/farting self-expression. Throughout its run, Bob’s Burgers has explored the painful realities of being a kid that was (or is) perceived as “too loud” by adults. “Itty Bitty Ditty Committee” sees that poignant through-line cranked up to 11 when Gene forms a band with Darryl (Aziz Ansari), Regular Sized Rudy (Brian Huskey), Peter Pescadero (Benjamin), and his sisters—only to get kicked out of it before their first big gig at Lenny DeStefano’s birthday party. The Bob’s Burgers Movie is a fairly straight-forward extension of this story, but the dancing and costumes are way better.
It makes sense that two super wealthy brothers who own an amusement park and manage properties all over town would have a bonkers house. But wow, did “The Oeder Games” outdo expectations. This season-five finale sees the people of Ocean Avenue band together to protest a rent hike instituted by Calvin. The eyepatch-wearing landlord still has a tricks up his sleeve, though, and convinces his angry tenants to compete in a water balloon fight for one year of free rent instead. The plot isn’t what matters here so much as it is the introduction to the incredibly intricate architectural work of the Oeder estate. You’ll be spending some critical time there for The Bob’s Burgers Movie.
Tina loves horses. She loves them so much, in fact, that season six’s “The Horse Rider-er” follows her struggle with letting go of her imaginary horse Jericho (Paul Rudd) so she can embrace Plops, the real horse she’s riding at summer camp. Featuring a hilarious helping of frenemies Tammy (Jenny Slate) and Jocelyn (Roberts) as fellow horse camp attendees, the Jericho origin story offers a rich and important perspective on Tina’s interiority. Sure, maybe that sounds overly analytical for a cartoon partially known for its superb poop jokes. But the wild dreams of Tina Belcher have accompanied plenty of Bob’s Burgers’ best episodes.
Kuchi Kopi, Louise’s favorite toy/flashlight first seen in season one’s “Crawl Space,” was once described by Bob as “a spirit that can be different things to different people.” No episode captures that sentiment quite like “Flu-ouise,” a stunningly crafted fantasy epic that forces the littlest Belcher to learn about forgiveness while battling a nasty bug. When Bob, Linda, Tina, and Gene accidentally ruin Louise’s collectible figure with no quick way to replace it, Louise must contend with being let down by the ones she loves most. Thankfully, she’s got her wild imagination and other toys Bakeneko, Akkorokamui, Dodomeki, and Mizuchi to help her sort through it. They’ll make a return in The Bob’s Burgers Movie.
For the purposes of The Bob’s Burgers Movie, Valentine’s Day-themed episode “Bob Actually” is a solid chance to remember the interminably irritating—but also very good smelling—Chloe Barbash (Stephanie Beatriz) and what it is Louise doesn’t like about her. But more broadly, this awfully cute chapter from Bob’s Burgers season seven delivers some of the most breathtaking visual work the show has ever seen. With sweeping shots across Ocean Avenue and musical numbers galore, “Bob Actually” is an all-out love fest: Linda and Bob exchange adorable gestures; Tina does everything she can to snag a V-Day kiss from Jimmy Jr. despite an upset stomach; Gene falls for substitute lunch lady Isabella (Gabby Sanalitro) and her chocolate confections; and Louise confronts that she maybe, kinda like-likes Regular Sized Rudy. Not all of these plots make it into the movie, but it has the same spirit and attention to detail that solidified this episode as one of the greats. It just doesn’t get better than Speedo Guy (Benjamin) kissing a mermaid on a unicycle, you know?