Like most millennials, I grew up in a golden age of TV shipping. My middle school lunch table endlessly argued about whether Rory should end up with Jess, Dean, or Logan. I cheered and pumped my fists when Jim finally asked Pam out on a date. For years, my YouTube queue was clogged with dramatically edited fan videos of Corey and Topanga, J.D. and Elliot, Seth and Summer, and The Doctor and Rose — all set to songs by The Fray. I longed for a relationship like those: passionate and all-encompassing ... and regularly dysfunctional.
This weekend, I’m getting married. And as I imagine what life with my husband will be like down the road, the TV couple that I most hope to emulate in my marriage is the comfortable partnership of Bob and Linda Belcher.
Sitcom parents generally aren’t the most romantic couples on television. But Bob’s Burgers does something radical with the family, especially when compared to fellow Fox animated shows like The Simpsons and Family Guy. Rather than falling into the lazy trope of incompetent-but-fun dad and his patient killjoy of a wife, Bob and Linda are equal partners in business, parenting, and marriage.
My fiancé Brian succinctly describes this dynamic in which both partners contribute equally, as “being on the same team.” It’s a mantra that we repeat often to remind ourselves about the core of our relationship, and helped us cope when the stress of wedding planning put us both on edge.
Bob and Linda Belcher are our role models for staying on the same team through the everyday struggles that come up over the course of a marriage. When the kids try to get away with shenanigans, like climbing out the window of the dentist’s office and hiding out at Aunt Gayle’s house to avoid getting a filling, Bob and Linda present a united front. Bob doesn’t leave Linda to do the disciplining while he takes on the fun activities. As Linda tells the kids, raising them is a, “two parent, two-bottles-of-wine-a-night kind of job.”
But they also trust each other to parent how they see fit. During the aforementioned dentist escape, Bob has Linda’s back when she suggests sending Gene and Tina to squeeze their sister as a form of “creative parenting,” even though he thinks that it’s absurd.
It’s a simple, but profound relationship achievement: Bob and Linda are on the same team even when they disagree.
And they disagree often — conflict is a given in any relationship, not to mention a necessity in keeping sitcom storylines interesting. But when Bob and Linda do fight, they’re never vindictive. In one of my favorite episodes, “Seaplane!,” Linda’s upset that Bob won’t join her for a seaplane lesson, but it never even occurs to her to sleep with the flirty instructor. She has some time to cool off (while fighting off the instructor’s advances after a fake emergency landing) and they reach a compromise (before successfully landing the rogue seaplane together.) Bob apologizes and promises to be a little more adventurous, Linda apologizes and acknowledges that adventure’s not all its cracked up to be, and by the episode’s end they’re horny from the adrenaline rush. Ultimately I hope that, even when we argue, Brian and I will always seize the opportunity to make out in a seaplane.
Of all the sides of their relationship, my favorite thing about Bob and Linda is how often they make each other laugh. One of my sitcom pet peeves is when characters don’t laugh at each other’s jokes. I don’t need Monica to laugh at all of Chandler’s bad puns, but even his few genuinely good goofs are met with silence from his supposed “friends.” (Just watch Friends without a laugh track to see how weird and creepy it is.)
I don’t expect sitcom characters to laugh as much as a studio audience does, but it’s surprisingly heartwarming to see a TV couple joke around with each other in a way that human persons do. My favorite moment between the Belchers is when Bob is so excited that his favorite baseball player liked his burger, he tell Linda that he wants the kind words written on his tombstone. Linda says she’s already picked out his tombstone — it’s going to say “Order up.” He chuckles and replies, “That’s good. Let’s go with that one.”
It’s a sweet, weird exchange in a sweet, weird show, and it embodies the kind of long-term relationship I want. One in which we make each other laugh because we know each other so well. One in which we gripe about our kids but will happily go to bat for them. And one in which we’re always on the same team, even when we’re not on the same page.
Bob’s Burgers will celebrate the start of its tenth season on Sept. 29, the day after my wedding. I can’t wait to curl up on the couch and watch it with my sweet, weird husband.