How do your favorite sitcoms keep things fresh? One of my favorite cartoon sitcoms is the show Bob’s Burgers. The repetition of food or business-related puns are embedded within the formula of the show; the opening theme sequence generally stays the same, yet every week the store next to Bob’s Burgers changes names. Some of my personal favorites – “I’d Hit That: Boxing Gym,” “Talk to the Hand: Glove Store,” “Earth, Wind, and Tires,” and “The Massagonist: Massages for Men.” I obviously have to acknowledge The Simpsons did the ever-changing theme sequence first, but puns are uniquely fundamental to the humor in Bob’s Burgers. In addition to the store name change, scenes that occur inside the restaurant feature an ever-changing burger of the day special pun. The puns refer to ingredients and even the theme of the episode, for example one Halloween episode has the burger special, “The Cauliflower’s Cumin From Inside the House Burger (comes with cauliflower & cumin).” Some other good ones: Poblano Picasso Burger (from the episode “Art Crawl”), Let’s Give ‘Em Something Shiitake ‘Bout Burger, I Know Why the Cajun Burger Sings, Chipotle Off the Old Block Burger, and A Good Manchego Is Hard to Find Burger. An episode about Bob being in a rut starts with his inability to come up with a good burger pun. The AV Club includes the puns from each episode review for Bob’s Burgers, and fans have embraced the word play foundational to the spirit of the show. Tropes such as this one help keep fans interested and engaged in the show – I always pay closer attention to the scenes in the restaurant because I don’t want to miss the pun.
Attempts to keeping a show interesting can also go terribly wrong and destroy the integrity of the show. The term “Cousin Oliver” refers to the trope of bringing in babies or young children as an attempt to liven up an aging show. Also known as “the Scrappy” in reference to the creation of the character Scrappy Doo on the classic cartoon Scooby Doo. Audiences often come to find the precocious kid brought on to shows to be grating and distracting from what made the show loveable in the first place. “Jumping the Shark” is a common term for the moment when long-running shows take a clear turn for the worse. It originates from a scene in Happy Days when Fonzie literally water-skis over a shark while wearing a leather jacket – the show had been on for so long the writers had lost inspiration and resorted to a ridiculous plotline which destroyed the integrity of the show.
Bob’s Burgers’ writers were smart to anticipate a long run and incorporate a trope that always changes in order to keep things fresh. Can you think of any other examples of a show you loved jumping the shark, or long-running gags that kept it fresh?