Traditional North American 'family' sitcoms seem to have at their core misogyny, and either fear, hatred or disinterest in children. Wives are to be eluded and duped by any means possible. The man-child husband dreams of freedom from his wife-mommy, and creates ever more elaborate schemes to elude the horrible captivity of his family. Each week, a quick setup explains why the poor, put upon husband wants, needs, and deserves some toy, alone time, or escape. The wife explains why this is not feasible or possible. Husband decides to do it anyway, despite wife's wishes. Hubby gets hopelessly enmeshed in problems, much hilarity ensues. Wife forgives husband, they kiss and make up, and marital harmony reigns - until next week.
Decades of television, from "The Honeymooners" through to today's "Two And A Half Men" (Charlie's the bad daddy, Alan's the uptight mommy) have perpetuated the belief that it is okay for men to remain forever childlike, unable to resist temptation, and prisoners of their wives and children. Women are 'hot chicks' until they marry, at which point they immediately turn into demanding, punishing harridans who live for their children and avoid sex. Small wonder millions of men - and not a few women - support the madness Charlie Sheen expounds. It's the eternal craving for youth, irresponsibility, and freedom from societal pressures.
That's why I enjoy "Bob's Burgers." Sure, it's a cartoon, but so was "The Flintstones," a thinly veiled remake of "The Honeymooners," and "The Simpsons." "Bob's Burgers," however, portrays a family that, for all its quirkiness, has as its patriarch a man devoted to his wife and children. Bob doesn't whine about what it takes to keep a roof over their heads, or treasure his own rights over those of his family's needs, he just gets out and does it. Without complaint, Bob has taken on a second job to pay for his daughter's birthday party, shaved off his treasured moustache, and faced humiliation and physical pain to defend his children's dignity. Bob's basic goodness shines through his every deed, whether it's listening to the customer who desperately needs to talk to someone, anyone, or accepting that his burgers come from real, live, and sometimes very sexy, cows.
Bob doesn't flip out on his family; he takes a deep breath, and gets on with reality. Wife Linda wants to improve the way they live, but there's never any doubt that there is a deep love and respect between Bob and Linda, and between the parents and the children. 13 year old, hormonally ravaged Tina, star struck middle child Gene, and hyperactive evil genius Louise don't get up to anything more than your own kids would do in the same, albeit exaggerated, circumstance. Sure, there's fart and poop jokes - not many cartoons OR sitcoms shy away from bodily functions as a sure gag - but this family is 'living the dream,' and, quite possibly, succeeding better than you and I.
Dysfunctional, yes. But oh so very lovable.
You can catch "Bob's Burgers" Sunday nights 8:30/7:30c on FOX.