There is a lot of TV out there these days – like, a lot of it – and only so much time to consume it. Even in the midst of a global shutdown, there are only 24 hours in a day and we’re assuming you like to sleep during a few of them.
When you’re trying on a new show, if it doesn’t catch you right away, there’s always something else to move onto, so shows have to front-load their best stuff to ensure they reel in the audience and get a renewal.
And yet, it still remains that a lot of a TV show’s best stuff doesn’t come early in the series and certainly not in its pilot episode. If I had started with the first season of Buffy, the Vampire Slayer, I never would have watched the whole series. Thanfully, fourth season’s Hush was the first episode I saw in full, which made it easier to muddle through the initial growing pains on a full watch, knowing what was to come.
Bob’s Burgers doesn’t suffer the same first-season issues that Buffy did. In fact, Bob’s Burgers’ first season, its pilot included, is actually pretty darn solid. You get a good feel for the main characters (for the most part) and the sort of show you’re going to get.
That said, the pilot isn’t one of the best episodes of Bob’s Burgers either. If you start there, you might think Linda is going to get a cliched portrayal as a nagging wife/mother and the jokes might stick a little too close to ones you’ve seen a million times before. “Nagatha Christie” might sound funny, but a dude calling his wife that (and being annoyed by his in-laws) in episode two isn’t exactly groundbreaking comedy.
The good news is Bob’s Burgers gets better. Much, much better. By episode five, the show defines itself, and in episode six, it embraces its unique personality with flare.
If you’re iffy about Bob’s Burgers, it’s best to start with some highlights. Each of these episodes features a distinctive aspect of the show’s universe, and if you’re not in love by the end, it’s likely you’ll never be.
So, without further ado –
The Five Best Bob’s Burgers Episodes to Get You Hooked
1. Broadcast Wagstaff School News (Season 3, Episode 12)
The summary: Tina tries out to be anchor of the school news. She doesn’t get the job, but takes reporting into her own hands when the Wagstaff School News ignores the most important story in school – that of the Mad Pooper.
In the B Story, Gene transforms into Bob.
For her on-camera green screen audition, Tina wears a green jacket. I’m telling you this because it doesn’t spoil anything. Instead, it’s an example of what Bob’s Burgers does so impressively well.
You know a green jacket with a green screen is going to be a joke, but it’s not THE joke. Like, you don’t spend an entire episode waiting for it to drop. They set it up, hit the punchline (funnier than expected), and move on. The jokes on this show come so many so fast they don’t need to rely on lingering set-ups.
The B story here is where they linger, and it’s in the top five bits of the entire series. When Gene realizes he is going to end up looking like Bob, he decides to go ahead and embrace it. But it’s not just a physical transition. He calls his mother Linda. He parents his sisters. He goes full-on Bob, and every joke after that lands.
2. Glued, Where’s My Bob? (Season 6, Episode 19)
The Summary: The kids engage in a goop war. It’s just how it sounds. Bob gets the brunt of it when he gets glued to the customer toilet as a journalist is on the way to the restaurant to interview him for a magazine.
Is this the finest 22 minutes of Bob’s Burgers ever made? I think maybe it is.
Aired as the show’s 100th episode and the season six finale, Glued, Where’s My Bob? takes everything that’s right about Bob’s Burgers and puts them together into a nearly perfect series of events, including cameos by many recurring characters and one of the best songs of the show.
The Belchers get into a lot of sticky situations. This is one of the most literal. It’s how they get out of those situations that make up the backbone of the show, and this ending is just the amount of heartwarming and embarrassing you’ll come to expect of the series.
3. The Frond Files (Season 4, Episode 12)
The Summary: Bob and Linda read their children’s school reports, which have been deemed offensive by the guidance counselor, Mr. Frond.
This episode features a narrative device that Bob’s Burgers returns to from time to time. A situation is presented and each of the kids has a story to tell.
In The Frond Files, the stories were for a school assignment, but on other occasions they tell stories about what would have happened the night their parents met if Bob didn’t have a mustache or about their Aunt Gayle.
The story format is ideal for Bob’s Burgers. Not only does it provide the chance to showcase the kids’ distinctive personalities (which gives the show a lot of its zing), but it allows for a complete abandonment of canon while still maintaining realism.
Translation: It’s just good offbeat fun.
4. Turkey in a Can (Season 4, Episode 5)
The Summary: It’s Thanksgiving, Bob’s favorite holiday. But Bob’s plans to prepare the perfect Thanksgiving dinner is foiled when his turkeys keep ending up in the toilet.
In the B story, Bob’s repeat trips to the meat counter makes the butcher think Bob’s hitting on him.
Holiday episodes are an important part (and some of the best episodes) of Bob’s Burgers, and this one comes with all the usual trimmings. The Belchers are all jonesed up for the big day, something new (typically absurd) happens, and the holiday is thrown into turmoil.
The punchline of this episode isn’t so much a joke as a revelation. Even if you guess halfway through who’s putting the turkeys in the toilet, just wait until you find out why.
This show is about a madcap family of bizarros, but it’s also bursting with heart. I’m not gonna lie, you might get a little misty-eyed on those rare occasions when it decides to remind you how much these characters truly love each other. (See season 1, episode 6 for further study.)
5. The Bleakening (Season 8, Episode 6)
The Summary: Linda has a dream about throwing the best Christmas party ever, but she loses her holiday spirit after someone at the party steals the top of the family Christmas tree with the kids’ homemade ornaments.
In the B story, family friend Teddy tells the Belcher kids about the Bleaken, an anti-Santa monster who steals gifts, and Louise is determined not to let it happen to them.
As stated above, holiday episodes are an essential part of Bob’s Burgers and they go all out for this one. Not only is it a two-parter that actually needs the entire runtime, it’s got ultra-cool, extra special animation sequences and the music is some of the best in the series. One particular reprise uses a well-established character trait in a particularly ingenious way.
Plus, the making-fun-of-Dad moment (there are a lot in this series) is a good one.
Watch Bob’s Burgers Online
Bob’s Burgers is still airing. it’s in its 10th season on Fox. If you want to stream it online, you can see the entire series on Hulu.
New episodes hit Hulu the day after their original airing.