Not too many original television shows make it to 100 episodes anymore, due to a combination of network impatience and the rise of the cable/streaming model, in which series get seasonal orders of 10, 12 or 13 annual installments rather than the once-customary 22.
So it’s kind of a big deal that the Fox animated comedy “Bob’s Burgers,” of all shows, has achieved the number that once stood as the dividing line for entering rerun syndication. That dividing line is still sort of there, but syndication itself matters significantly less than it did at its peak.
Nonetheless, “Bob’s Burgers” now hits the Big 100, with Sunday night’s sixth season-ending installment entitled “Glued, Where’s My Bob?” at 9:30 (in fact, the website epguides.com, usually reliable in such matters, counts Sunday’s offering as actually No. 107, but 100 is likely a better marketing hook for the season finale) . Of course at Fox, they laugh at the idea of six years and 100 episodes being much of anything, since “The Simpsons” is wrapping its 27th season while logging 596 episodes. When that’s the benchmark, everything else sounds ridiculously puny.
Nonetheless, this is “Bob’s Burgers” we’re talking about, and you could have likely received some very long odds at the outset that this thing would stick around even half as long as it has. From the time it premiered in January 2011, this has been The Little Burger Cartoon That Somehow Could. When it started, the Internet was rife with blog posts with such titles as “Why Does ‘Bob’s Burgers’ Suck So Bad?”
In truth, the animated comedy created by Loren Bouchard has never actually quite sucked. It just felt a little forced and unfunny, packed with one-liners that played a bit on the cleverness-challenged side. But as “Bob’s” moved through its early seasons, it had a tendency to grow on you, like a burger that finally found the right modest blend of seasonings and condiments to hit the spot.
Now the show is like “The Simpsons'” young nephew that’s moved from an unsteady kindergartner to a confident fifth-grader. It entered syndication last fall and is performing decently. It even won a 2014 Emmy for Outstanding Animated Comedy. And don’t look now, but a burger cookbook authored by Bouchard and the show’s writers actually ranks 9th on the New York Times Bestseller List of Food and Diet Books.
Moreover, “Bob’s Burgers” has shown sufficient heat as a consistent Sunday night performer for Fox to justify renewal for seasons seven and eight. Not too bad for a ‘toon about a guy who runs a burger joint with the help of his sassy wife and three kids that often feels like a time traveler from the 1970s.
Sunday’s 100th episode is a fairly typical single-joke excursion. It finds Bob (voiced by H. Jon Benjamin) landing his big break with an interview from a popular magazine that could put his joint on the map at last. But then, of course, fate intervenes when his youngest daughter Louise (Kristen Schaal) leaves glue on the restaurant toilet seat – and Bob gets his butt good and stuck.
Now only does this completely freak out Bob and his wife Linda (John Roberts); it also gets the attention of the entire town, leading to live news coverage and all manner of humiliation and embarrassment.
Perhaps intentionally, the half-hour lacks the tone of a special installment. It seems more or less like “Bob’s Burgers” business as usual. And that’s just fine. This remains a comedy that appears to be dogged in its insistence on underplaying rather than screaming and yelling and making a huge fuss. There is further an undeniable goofball charm in these characters who like to keep it real in a way the gang on “Family Guy” and “American Dad” never could or would.
Yet the miracle of this show hitting the century mark and having two more guaranteed seasons is that “Bob’s Burgers” is the sort of easy-on-the-eyes-and-ears outing that you’d think unlikely to generate viewer loyalty. It’s sweet but a little dull, amusing but a tad corny, whimsical but slightly dopey. The highlight in the 100th comes during a mid-episode original song that’s sneaky-funny (but not ha-ha).
However, there is something reassuring in the fact we can still be so surprised by the long-running success of a show. This series had one-and-done written all over it at the outset. But here it is, still performing well enough and growing into one of those survivors that’s always on the air (like “Criminal Minds” and “Gray’s Anatomy”).
“Bob’s Burgers” has already exceeded the runs of quite a few classic TV programs. “The Larry Sanders Show” made it to only 89 episodes, “The Sopranos” to 86, “Downton Abbey” to just 51. So in that sense, it has more than earned its keep. Just don’t compare it to “The Simpsons” in either its content or longevity.