Bob’s Burgers follows a certain kind of formula that we’ve seen in adult animation, but it always distinguishes itself. The Belcher family is another set of everyday people, but they end up with a series of much tougher breaks. Many episodes explore their financial problems, which is far more relatable than the usual.
The family itself is very quirky, and they each have their own quirks, rather than simply being archetypes. But even Louise, the troublemaker, is revealed to generally be very empathetic. That’s the point of the show—to subvert expectations. After nine years, it remains innovative, with sharp and witty dialogue. Here’s the rundown on the best episodes that subverted another familiar trope—holiday stories.
10 The Deepening
Let’s start with something a little more outside the norm, which only seems fitting. Shark Week may not be an official holiday, but it’s that time of year again, and it's been running since 1988! Shark Week is an annual tradition with millions of viewers, that started out with the genuine intent of conservation and teaching. Now, it’s been very commercialized, and is filled with merchandise. What more does it need to be a holiday? In any case, this episode is a classic, parodying Jaws and its sequels. A movie prop from an old shark movie starts going haywire, and the escalation results in hilarious physical comedy. It’s an ode to 80’s horror movies, and it also avoids the weekly subplot. Tina’s empathy is very endearing, and it’s interesting that she’s the one who helps stop the shark.
9 My Fuzzy Valentine
Valentine’s Day isn’t necessarily a family-themed holiday. This generally results in corresponding episodes that divide the Belchers into various different plots. But this time, the kids find a way to take advantage of Bob’s lack of romance over the years. This puts everyone but Linda herself on a hilarious journey. They ultimately end up contending with Hugo, Linda’s ex. That’s always fun, since he resents Bob so much, and it’s fitting for the holiday. Meanwhile, Linda’s attempts at speed-dating are spoiled by a cop who convinces everyone to keep things way too real. This is antithetical to Valentine’s, and since Linda hasn’t gotten any romance from Bob, it makes sense that she takes the trouble so personally. The comedy works, even if the plot is a tad predictable.
8 Tina And The Real Ghost
Tina’s boy problems as a pre-teen really make her unique among animated families. She’s genuinely awkward, in a very endearing way. The episode starts right off with a fun ribbing of paranormal investigators. Tina’s ensuing attachment to the supposed ghost is both sympathetic and disconcerting. But once again, this show proves how well it can write escalation. There’s a lot of fun to be had in all the other kids manipulating the existence of an imaginary person. Tina proves to be more conscious of reality than believed, and her prank at the end is fantastic.
7 Eggs For Days
Somehow, this show always finds a way to ground even the wackiest concepts. Seemingly ordinary complications, which are plausible enough, escalate just far enough as allowed by animation. Frequently, it’s a comedy of errors, reminiscent of Christmas Vacation or the like. In this case, Easter doesn’t go quite right. It’s great how competitive Bob and Linda get about the egg hunt. It feels just like the kind of irrational, friendly conflict two parents can often have. Even more fun, they end up drunk. The results should be full of clichés, but it’s actually very rewarding. The highlight of the show is easily Linda’s rendition of “Rock Me Amadeus,” accompanied by Tina’s awkward dancing.
6 An Indecent Thanksgiving Proposal
For anyone who’s a fan of Thanksgiving, Bob’s intense love for a great turkey is probably very rewarding. And his passion very likely exceeds yours, given that he names and voices his turkey. This is a terrific episode that builds a lot of sympathy for Bob. That isn’t so common in the show, although you often root for him.
But this time, Bob’s family just can’t get in the spirit of the holiday. And unfortunately, they end up simulating the celebration with their landowner just to pay some rent. Linda definitely goes too far, and Bob loses it. Ultimately, this episode is about the value of family. The Belchers realize their misplaced attitudes and come to appreciate Bob after all. Nothing could be more timely.
5 Father Of The Bob
The core of many sitcoms is family, in whatever form that may take. Bob’s Burgers is certainly no exception. However, there’s a longstanding distinction in the relationship fathers have with their sons. It can sometimes be contentious, due to generational shifts in attitude and expectations. Bob’s issues with his dad are pretty interesting, involving Bob’s ambition as a cook. Like many parental conflicts, this one goes back to Bob’s childhood. There’s no better time to work things out than at Christmas, a holiday that’s evolved into more of a family celebration than a religious one. This episode finds one conflict and sticks to it. This makes the story streamlined, effective, and appropriately heartwarming.
4 Full Bars
For a family with three kids, it’s no wonder that Halloween is such an important holiday for the Belchers. Gene’s costume is hilarious right off the bat. But when Bob and Linda allow the kids to go trick-or-treating alone for the first time, things don’t work out. The kids get more tricks than treats, so they sneak into dangerous territory and pay the price. Their conflict with some bullies gets some great laughs. But the highlight of the show is easily the murder mystery, with Teddy’s pet guinea pig. It mysteriously dies at Teddy’s costume party, and things get way out of hand. It’s a fun parody with a clever, ironic twist.
3 Christmas In The Car
This is the perfect episode for Christmas. Linda is so in love with the holidays, the family ends up with a series of trees that were purchased too early. So, at the last minute, everyone heads out in a race to get a tree in time for Christmas. They end up a perfect homage to Steven Spielberg’s Duel, with the crazy truck driver commanding a giant candy cane. That in itself is also a nod to Joy Ride, which was also a nod to Duel! The main plot makes up for Louise’s clichéd plot to capture Santa Claus. Also, Teddy’s confrontation with the refrigerator is absolute gold. This episode is full of Christmas jingles, snow, and a family adventure that took the freeway scene in Christmas Vacation and ran away with it.
2 Dawn Of The Peck
Apparently, the Belchers didn’t quite learn their lesson, from two seasons ago. They still don’t care much for Thanksgiving, which is still Bob’s favorite holiday. It does make sense, for a cook. This time, Bob swears off the whole holiday, since no one else seems to care. He gets drunk to Donna Summer music, another great bit. Meanwhile, his family pays the price for abandoning Bob in a fantastic nod to The Birds. A friendly “Turkey Trot” event goes bad after the birds were mixed with a variety of feathered species, because there weren’t enough turkeys. This episode may not be especially sentimental, like the show can often deliver well, but it’s hugely entertaining.
1 Fort Night
Millie is a truly fantastic character, a talkative and psychotic girl voiced by none other than Molly Shannon. One of the most familiar tropes in horror is the premise of becoming trapped. Nothing can be more frightening. But with Halloween’s trick-or-treating at stake, there’s a ticking clock added to the plot as well. This episode really captures the spirit of the holiday, with Tina even questioning if she’s too old for trick-or-treating. The back and forth between Millie and the trapped kids provides some great humor and twists. Darryl’s betrayal is another fun throwback to the horror genre, and Darryl is actually voiced by Aziz Ansari. And ultimately, Mille does get her comeuppance, in a creative and satisfying way.