When the Fox network premiered The Simpsons in 1989, anyone looking to the future of primetime animation could have drawn a straight line directly up to the genesis (and genius) of Bob’s Burgers. Created by Loren Bouchard, the more recent comedy focuses on a family-owned-and-operated burger shop and the family that inhabits it, and Bob's Burgers definitely owes a debt to the trail-blazing original that put Fox on the map and made Matt Groening an animation legend.
Historically earned respect aside, it's a legitimate question to ask which family is the better animated pack of nutty funsters? It might seem unfair to compare the two, with The Simpsons running for more than two decades longer than Bob's nine seasons. Considering there are about 9 seasons of The Simpsons that fans consider to be the golden age, however, it makes perfect sense to take this opportunity to compare these franchises.
Is The Simpsons still the top dog in the comedy game that Fox drew up 30 years ago? Or is Bob’s Burgers the cooking contender that can take down the champ? The debate is about to begin, as we evaluate The Simpsons and The Belchers in a hypothetical Family Feud, so to speak, to determine who is the better animated family.
Let’s get cooking and start by running down each family’s individual quirks and players.
The Belchers (Bob’s Burgers)
At the heart of Bob’s Burgers is the Belcher family, in which a strong core of stubbornness and supportive energy reigns supreme. While they’re keen to bust each other’s chops to the ends of the earth, viewers can still feel the characters' caring nature surrounding them at the end of the day.
Their hardheaded natures can clash, too, getting in the way of whatever endgame each Belcher family member might have in mind. When the family isn’t on the same page, it can be entertaining to watch them getting nowhere fast, as they’ll resort to quite extreme means to get what they want. Let's run down the list.
The father of the Bob’s Burgers’ family unit, voiced with perfection by H. Jon Benjamin. Quite possibly the most serious member of the Belcher family, Bob has a business to maintain, and he can be quite the taskmaster when he wants to be, even if he's the only one listening.
In a family of meal-shilling employees, Linda is the saucy mother of the Bob’s Burgers unit. She also tries a little too hard at times to get everyone to have fun, and when she sets her mind to it, Linda can be amazingly stubborn about it. Her heart’s always in the right place, even if her methods don’t always show it.
The eldest child of the Belcher children, Tina is obsessed with boys, butts, and erotic friend-fiction. Her greatest quests and battles within the Bob’s Burgers universe deal with trying to fit into various social structures at school, and trying to land herself a boyfriend that’ll truly understand her. At her worst, she’s moody; at her best, she’s supportive and/or flirty.
Gene is the middle child of the Belcher brood. He’s the biggest oddball in this family of oddballs, with a synthesizer always on-hand to provide comic relief via music or sound effects. Mostly harmless, Gene can be quite cynical and scatterbrained, which has contributed a lot to the misadventures that Bob’s Burgers centers around. Though if he's allowed to go too far, especially under the cover of a Beefsquatch mask, he can become quite a handful.
The youngest of the Belcher kids, Louise is the definition of a precocious hell spawn. A fan of fire, megalomania, and proving this universe's world wrong in the face of her personal beliefs, Louise only has one Achilles’ Heel: her bunny ears. When she doesn’t want to do something, good luck trying to convince her to change her mind without personal cost or humiliation.
For 30 years, The Simpson clan has been respected as the top family of animated comedy. With a wry sense of world-weary humor that has morphed quite a bit over the years, this family makes wine (or Duff beer) out of the sour grapes they’re constantly dealt.
Playing in more of a defeatist sandbox of humor that steadily pokes fun at the American dream, the nuclear family, and modern society, The Simpson family operates much like the show itself.
Homer is a simple man of simple tastes and simple reasoning in The Simpsons’ family. He has a kind heart, though isn’t afraid to put his family down in the name of his own beliefs or spur-of-the-second desires, and it’s usually with a childish sense of glee, and just a hint of malicious energy.
Every family needs a serious figurehead that helps enforce things within the family unit. Marge Simpson is definitely the kindhearted enforcer of The Simpsons’ family, as she tries to lead the family down the straight and narrow in the style of a traditional nuclear family, sometimes to a fault. Her methods are old-school, and she will groaningly nag the family when/if she has to; which is quite often.
The oldest in the line of The Simpsons’ child characters, Bart Simpson is a trouble-maker with no regard for authority whatsoever, whether it's a principal, a police chief, or the country of Australia. While he’s been known to have his moments as a virtuous person, with a sporadic soft spot when it comes to his family, he’s mostly a guilty of raising hell and rabble-rousing in school or in the streets of Springfield.
Undoubtedly the smartest member of The Simpsons’ family, and quite possibly the entire Animation Domination universe on Fox, Lisa Simpson is a child prodigy that is wise beyond her years. Much like Marge, she’s also a bit of a nag who will try to steer the flock onto the right side of any particular issue, but still very much shares the family’s common traits of spite and vindictive nature. Plus, she's good for background music.
Maggie Simpson is the youngest character of The Simpsons’ family line, making her the quietest and least bothersome member. She’s still pretty sweet, and can tangle with a bully if she absolutely has to, no matter what the eyebrow shape. She is still a baby after 30 years, so while Maggie has had some iconic moments, she’s more of a background character in the family Simpson.
The Simpsons Or The Belchers: Who’s The Better Family?
The comedy of Bob’s Burgers and The Simpsons are both rooted in very similar areas. Both families have a running sense of disappointment in the world, with aspirations to do better through various schemes, plans, and occasionally some genuine hard work. Both shows feature plots that the families sometimes engage in all together, while others siphon the characters off as lone wolves.
However, the big differences between The Belchers and The Simpsons come when you look at how the families function in and of themselves. In the world of The Simpsons, the characters' constant disappointment is generally succumbed to, albeit in largely supportive ways. Homer & Co. can just sort of shrug it off, let nature take its course, and head home together with smiles on their faces.
Meanwhile, The Belchers aren’t afraid to continue to push until victory has been had, or at the very least their adversaries have been made fools of. They persevere, even when their victory is more ornamental than anything else. The point is, no matter what, The Belchers go home winners, and they don't quit just because the world works that way. While Homer is content with fooling himself into thinking he's better than Flanders, Bob needs unequivocal confirmation that he stands above the Jimmy Pestos of the world.
As far as the characters of these worlds are concerned, The Belchers win out as more fun an interesting types. When they fight, it’s not as bitter or angry as The Simpsons would in their golden age. Instead of provoking even comedic child abuse, Gene often just makes Bob want to throttle himself in frustration.
Bob and Linda Belcher are wackier parents, as they technically come from a different generation, but they remain supportive of their kids and don’t let them give up on their dreams. Family pride is strong with The Belchers, even when it involves Gene's fart noises, whereas the Simpsons' history likely features a lot of portraits where the subjects' backs were turned. Marge's side would fare better, of course, but this show isn't called The Bouviers.
The Springfield family does share that communal sense of hopelessness and defeat, if nothing else, and there are definitely lessons that have been learned in the past because of The Simpson family’s trials. And I would be remiss not to talk about how The Simpsons has definitely racked up more emotionally rich moments on average than Bob’s Burgers.
Admittedly, that speaks to each show's tonal differences in humor, as The Simpsons have swung big on heartwarmingly hilarious moments in the face of near-death experiences, familial strife, and other extreme scenarios. Meanwhile, the Belcher family is fueled by an emotional undercurrent that runs more centrist, while also playing the quirkier side of things in equal measure; perhaps it's best summed up in one of Bob’s best lines in Bob’s Burgers history, “You’re my family, and I love you, but you’re all terrible.”
There’s just no way around the fact that if The Belchers and The Simpsons are fighting it out for who the overall better family unit is, Bob’s Burgers’ Belchers best their competition by a pretty wide margin. When you’re around The Belchers, it might still be competitive and snarky, but they still carry their heads high and make sure to win some points for themselves in the end, and they feel like real people whose food you might sit down and eat one day.
The Simpsons, on the other hand, just kind of bind their collective acceptance together, and admit defeat in a more insular way. While it’s easy to identify with their pessimism-heavy nature, and there have been some sly, pop culture-friendly gags at their expense, their family unit is just primed to always carry a more prickly and depressing edge that hides behind the jokes.
Ultimately, it comes down to one other overriding question: do you want your family humor tinged with happiness and goofy energy, or would you prefer a droll, knowing commentary that that inspires laugh that are tinged with a little bit of downer energy?
Comparing Bob’s Burgers to The Simpsons is only going to get more interesting as the younger show enters its 10th season and heads towards its first film project, which is set for release next July. While The Belchers seem like the victors at this moment, their biggest test will be whether or not they can handle an extended run of TV history better or worse than The Simpsons did.
At the very least, The Simpsons and The Belchers can take comfort in the fact that no matter what they do, they aren’t as abusive of a family as The Griffins from Family Guy. Now there is a family that needs some psychiatric evaluation.
While waiting for The Simpsons and Bob's Burgers to respectively return to Fox this fall for Season 31 and Season 10 – it's happening on Sunday, September 29 – tell us in the poll below which family you think is best.