One thing's clear when talking to Bob's Burgers creator Loren Bouchard: The Belchers aren't just a TV family -- they're part of his extended family.
While many new shows have been banking on the meaner side of people's personalities, the Fox animation stands out as a family show that's wholesome yet modern, meaning we're never subjected to any very special episodes. In fact, Bouchard tries to avoid those melodramatic heart-to-hearts as much as possible. "We all knew they were weird, even back then," he admits of the staple advice of '80s family sitcoms. "Maybe they made us the great people that we are today, but they weren't as funny."
Instead, it's the Belchers' zest for life, struggle to keep their Jersey Shore burger joint afloat, and deep love for each other that makes the show so relatable. What gives it cult-like status, however, is its unapologetically feminist bent and majorly gif-able one-liners.
Now on its seventh season, Bouchard gets as excited as Gene Belcher composing a musical when waxing poetic about creating new episodes with his writing staff, especially when it comes to the show's famous holiday episodes and awesome guest stars. Ahead of Sunday's Halloween episode, the 47-year-old showrunner chatted with ET about what we can expect next from Bob, Linda, Tina, Gene and Louise Belcher.
ET: You guys are big on the movie parodies and honoring classic films. Can we expect this season?
Loren Bouchard: Oh, yeah. Our Thanksgiving episode is a gentle nod and homage to The Producers. We're really excited about that one -- it feels special. The kids try to put on a Thanksgiving pageant in school that's so bad, it gets shut down, because they want to get out early on that Wednesday before Thanksgiving and get a half-day of school. It's not a shot-for-shot homage -- it's more of a tip of the hat. Our [Mother's Day episode] is going to have this Aliens thing in it that I'm way too excited about. I love Aliens. We've sniffed at Aliens before, but we didn't know exactly how to use it. This is going to be kind of in the imagination of the kids.
Linda can't go to the kids' Mother's Day and mother-like caregiver appreciation day at school because she has a cold. She's sneezing all over the place, and she's so upset that Bob failed to tape it, which is something that we all, or at least that I've, experienced. You think you're going to be able to tape your kids' play and then the camera is full or whatever. The kids re-tell this school play to Linda to make her feel better, and Tina ends up telling this Aliens-Freaky Friday mashup. It's Ripley and the Queen Alien from Aliens, not only with Tina as Ripley, but then they trade bodies, and they kind of learn something from each other.
The kids' "campfire tales" is a storytelling device you guys have used before that I really like, because it feels in line with Tina's vivid imagination.
We try not to do too many of those episodes, but yeah, that's sort of our triptych-y style.
Thanksgiving is a very big deal for Bob, almost like the show's hallmark episode. Do you have anything big planned for the other holidays, like Halloween and Christmas, as you've done before?
We love doing the holiday episodes. It's such a pleasure. Doing them often brings out a little extra excitement just for us. In the Halloween episode, we can make the thing more filmic and scary; the Christmas episode we can make a little sweeter; and in the Thanksgiving episode, we always get really excited to go for broke. I don't know why Thanksgiving. For some reason, it feels like a Bob's Burgers opportunity.
This year, the Halloween story is a Tina story, and she becomes a witch. She also does battle with the crossing guard at school. It's got a lot going for it. We're really excited about it. One of my favorite things is it's a perfect Mr. Ambrose [the elementary school librarian] story. He's played by Billy Eichner. Billy is so funny, and Mr. Ambrose to us is so funny, so one of the things I love about this episode, which is called "Tina Witch," is the fact that we find out he is a witch, and he is the one who's been giving Tina advice all through the episode. It's just a great chance to hear his voice again. And he actually says the phrase "Witch, please."
Music has been such a huge part of Bob's, but what made you guys want to do a musical off the bat for this season's premiere?
For us, it's organic to the thing. Often when we do these cutaways, you get to see inside the minds of the characters. That's often where we stick music. It feels natural, and you can keep the thing grounded. We're willing to have the characters break into song and not explain whether or not it's a fantasy, but for the most part, we try to make it feel like the music exists somewhere inside their skulls. Then, of course, our end credits are where we pour ourselves, usually. But this one was different. It was a little girl having a fever dream, so it felt like it wanted to have that Wizard of Oz formula, this great extended fantasy that wanted to have music in it.
Will the whole season have more music than ever before?
If we over-stuff it and put too much in there, my feeling is that we are unbalancing something that's really important and fragile, which is just trying to make the show an expression of the characters. It's truly character-driven, so the music has to be character-driven as well. Everything does. Every once in a while there'll be music someplace where somebody wishes it wasn't, but for the most part, our goal is to have as many fans as possible arrive at a musical moment and say it couldn't have been anything but.
There has been so much talk about how feminist Bob's is, especially Gene, who often seems to be gender fluid. You've said before that the show is feminist, but when you first created, was it an inherent choice to make it skew that way?
It felt really natural and came about organically. We knew that Gene has this sheer delight in being alive. He is sort of a pleasure-seeker in a way that to us is really funny for an 11-year-old kid to be such a simple, hedonist. And he also doesn't care at all what anybody else thinks of him. Basically, all three kids are very true to themselves. The dynamic we've always wanted to be in there is that these three kids look out for each other so much that they eat lunch together in the cafeteria and walk to school together. We knew we wanted that -- it's this family against the world feeling. They have fights and they have conflicts among themselves, and that's good, too, because a lot of stories come from that, but at the DNA of this show is these kids against the world. So, it felt really natural for Gene to just be whoever the hell he is at that moment, and it wouldn't occur to him to worry about anyone else's pleasure but his own.
Megan Mullaly is part of the extended Belcher family, voicing Linda's sister Gayle. Will we be hearing more from her and other big guest stars this season?
Here's what we think about our guest stars: The ones we've already had are so fantastic, if we only just had them back, we'd have an embarrassment of riches -- Megan Mullaly, Kevin Kline, Zach Galifianakis and Jenny Slate, just to name a few. Our own David Herman is so freakin' good, and we sort of get to treat him like a utility player, but he is not. He's a very special guest star, and we are lucky to have him as Mr. Frond and all the other characters that he plays. I'm glad you asked if we'll get any more Megan Mullaly. Of course you are! We love her so much. We love that character. We were locking an episode [earlier this month] where Aunt Gayle brought her cat to a cat agent, played by John Oliver, and Bob and Linda, because they loan Gayle so much money, have to pay for the headshots and overnight them somewhere. They become suspicious, and Bob gets really protective and goes down to this cat agent's office to demand a refund, because he thinks he's just taking advantage of Gayle. Bob ends up getting completely sucked into this world of trying to get Gayle's cat, Mr. Business, on the box of this cat food that's re-casting. That's a perfect example, and also, it's nice to find new fantastic guest stars. John Oliver, for example, is amazing. So funny. Such a nice, generous performer, and he was so perfect as this British cat agent named Ian.
The Belchers have such a strong nuclear core, and we really get to know all five of them, but last season felt like it had more kid-focused stories than Linda and Bob-centered ones. Was that intentional?
It's not on purpose. We try to mix it up. What we want you to feel is that if you watch five, six, seven episodes, that across that spread, you'll feel like you got a good story that focused on one character. Each of the family members will get the focus at some point, and we try to make it feel like a nice bouquet, so that's on us if you got to the end of last season and didn't have enough good Bob stories or Linda stories. We always strive for that. It's an important part of our job to always go back to the characters and see who hasn't had a good story and what would be a good story for them.
It sounds like a very complicated math problem.
There are a lot of white-boards. You have to mind the schedule, keep the trains running, and at the same time, rejigger things so that if a story needs a little longer, you've got to take a little longer. These things are definitely tricky to do, but that's why it's fun and why, for me, it feels like we've only been doing this for a year rather than six.
From a fan perspective, it's pretty similar -- it's hard to believe this is already season seven.
It's really cool for us, and it's one of those things that, again, makes character-driven storytelling a great business to be in, because you're always refreshed. You don't have to have this high-concept gag-driven mentality. It's more just, this is a man, a woman, a boy, a girl, and another girl, so you can't possibility run out of stories if you just think of it in those terms. The day we feel like we've run out of stories is the day we really should hang it up, not just in making Bob's Burgers, but as writers. How could you possibly run out of stories about these characters? It just seem impossible to me.
Bob's Burgers airs Sundays at 7:30/6:30 CT on Fox.