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References you missed in Bob's Burgers

Bob's Burgers is one of the funniest and most consistent comedies on TV. Since 2011, the animated sitcom has told the tale of the Belcher family, operators of a struggling burgers-only restaurant located just below their apartment. It's a silly series, what with Linda Belcher's impromptu songs and Tina's obsession with sexy zombies, but it's also a warm, feel-good show about a strong family unit. 

And like The Simpsons and Family Guy, its animated predecessors on Fox's Sunday night animated lineup, the average Bob's Burgers is loaded with allusions and references to movies, television shows, and music. The difference between these shows, however, is that Bob's Burgers can be extremely subtle with its shout-outs and a little esoteric with regards to where it pays homage. The cartoon is full of small references to major media, and major references to arcade games, movies, and bands of yore. Here are some times when Bob's Burgers buried allusions so deep that even the most sharp-eyed and culturally attuned viewer likely missed the references.

A visit from a beloved 'Neighbor'

As a guy who runs his own burger joint, food is very important to Bob Belcher, and likewise, so is Thanksgiving. In the episode "An Indecent Thanksgiving Proposal," while the rest of the family is occupied at the home of landlord Mr. Fischoeder, posing as his relatives, Bob is left all by his lonesome to prepare Turkey Day dinner, and he liberally drinks from a bottle of absinthe, a strong alcoholic spirit said to have hallucinogenic properties. 

Indeed, a giddy, booze-addled Bob starts to believe that the headless turkey he's preparing is not only real, but a magical and delightful talking friend named Lance. Reality slips away for Bob as he descends into a hallucinatory fantasy sequence. With his family gathered around for a Thanksgiving toast, Lance emerges from the oven and grows to massive size. Suddenly, a grinning Bob and the other Belchers are outside, where Lance pumps his black umbrella, propelling a giant tower of fall vegetables and Thanksgiving treats out of the ground and into the sky. The Belchers then all grab hold of the turkey, who uses his magical umbrella to soar them to the top of the tower, where they all sit on a carrot leaf. That's when Bob asks, "This is weird, right?" 

Weird, yes, but not without precedent. It's a faithful re-creation of a scene in the Studio Ghibli classic My Neighbor Totoro, where a friendly monster uses his black umbrella to grow a grove of giant trees.

Right on the Marx

The precise location of the events of Bob's Burgers remains shrouded in mystery. The Belcher family lives and works just outside of a slightly rundown seaside amusement park called Wonder Wharf, which suggests a coastal New Jersey or Coney Island-type setting. Co-creator Loren Bouchard told Entertainment Weekly that he thinks his show takes place "somewhere in the outer boroughs" of New York City "or on the northern Jersey shore." 

There aren't too many location-solidifying details in the show. For example, Tina, Louise, and Gene Belcher all attend the simply but seemingly arbitrarily named Wagstaff School. When they're older (should these animated characters ever age), they'll take classes at the nearby Huxley High School. These names come not from geography or local historical figures, but from the classic 1932 Marx Brothers comedy film Horse Feathers. Groucho Marx stars in the movie as Quincy Adams Wagstaff, the newly appointed president of Huxley College.

Tina is a Mac person

Tina Belcher of Bob's Burgers is absolutely hormone-driven and extremely frank about her physical and romantic interests. It's no secret she's in love with Jimmy Pesto Jr., she's obsessed with rear ends, and in the episode "Bad Tina," she writes something called "erotic friend fiction." It's like fan fiction, but with an amorous bent and about people she knows. Her notebook full of the stuff winds up in the hands of mean girl Tammy, who uses it as a blackmail device. Tina decides to own it, however, and reads a new story called "Buttloose" (a take on Footloose but with the addition of "touching butts") aloud in the school cafeteria. 

Viewers see Tina's mental image of the story's events as she reads them. She tells of a bleak, black-and-white Wagstaff where touching butts has been banned, only for heroic liberator Tina Belcher, clad in a pink leotard, to run through the lunchroom and free the people by touching Jimmy Pesto Jr.'s butt. It sets off a chain reaction of butt-touching among the students and teachers, transforming their world into one of vibrant color. Tina's run, and its effect, conjures images of Apple's famous 1984 Super Bowl commercial that launched the Macintosh computer. A young woman in track gear runs through a gray room full of sad people watching totalitarian propaganda, until the screen (and their dystopian nightmare) ends with the toss of a hammer.

Somebody on Bob's Burgers really loves Gilligan's Island

The '60s was some kind of golden age of goofy, high-concept sitcoms. Viewers could watch I Dream of Jeannie, which was a show about an astronaut and a genie. They could also see The Beverly Hillbillies, in which mountain people discover oil and become rich. And then there was Gilligan's Island, wherein seven strangers of various walks of life get stranded on a desert island after a three-hour boat ride. The series lasted for just three seasons, but it lives on due to syndicated reruns and an ear-worm of a theme song. 

Gilligan's Island — or at least the names of its cast members and characters —seems to have resonated especially with someone on the creative staff of Bob's Burgers, like show co-creators Loren Bouchard or Jim Dauterive. The main protagonist is a sometimes hapless regular guy named Bob, not unlike Gilligan, who was portrayed by Bob Denver. Bob is the father of two daughters, Tina and Louise. And as it turns out, the name of the actress who played glamorous castaway Ginger Grant, aka "the movie star," was Tina Louise. In fact, her character shares a name with an unseen Bob's Burgers figure, as Linda is occasionally seen talking on the phone to her friend, Ginger.

Linda just wants to put this Dumbo reference behind her

The eighth overall episode of Bob's Burgers — "Art Crawl" from 2011 — remains one of the show's silliest even years later. It revolves around an art crawl, where local businesses and galleries display paintings from local artists. Bob's Burgers participates, hanging bizarre art created by Linda Belcher's fragile, wayward sister, Gayle (Megan Mullally, making her first appearance voicing the character). Cranky art supply shop owner Edith forbids the paintings, on account of how they're all multi-colored but otherwise very realistic renderings of anuses. The whole ordeal stresses out Linda to the extent that she has a nightmarish hallucination, haunted by a rainbow variety of dancing, encroaching, animal anuses, accompanied by a haunting chant of "butts, butts, butts." This all serves as an homage, albeit a scatological one, to "Pink Elephants on Parade," a musical sequence from the 1941 Disney classic Dumbo, in which the titular elephant and Timothy Q. Mouse accidentally get drunk on spiked water and hallucinate terrifying pink elephants singing, dancing, and marching.

There's no place like 'Home'

Bob's Burgers is far and away the biggest success in the career of co-creator Loren Bouchard, running for the better part of ten years and generating a feature film. Prior to this show, Bouchard co-created and ran the animated series Home Movies. It ran for just a few episodes on the now-defunct UPN before jumping to Adult Swim for four seasons, where it became a cult hit. It was about a kid named Brendon (Brendon Small) who makes ambitious films in his basement with best friends Melissa (Melissa Bardin Galsky) and Jason (Bob's Burgers' H. Jon Benjamin) when he's not listlessly playing soccer. 

As Home Movies barely ran on network TV two decades ago, and then on late-night cable, it's possible if not probable that the average Bob's Burgers fan wouldn't be familiar with it. However, the 2018 episode "The Hurt Soccer" is loaded with subtle Home Movies homages. Bob winds up coaching Louise's soccer team, where the latter encounters a girl named Mara — who has purple, poofy hair like Melissa, and is voiced by Bardin Galsky. And when a referee emerges from a portable toilet, next in line is a young player with spiky orange hair, and he looks exactly like Brendon, Home Movies' little filmmaker.

A very 'Bloody' Valentine's Day

Original songs are almost as common on Bob's Burgers as are "burger of the day" puns and teen Tina bluntly discussing the body parts of a member of the opposite sex. Almost every episode features an original song. Sometimes it's a longer, orchestrated version of a snippet explored earlier in the installment, and sometimes it's a fully written and recorded original composition. The February 2019 episode "Bob Actually" includes an example of the latter. 

It's a Valentine's Day episode, wherein perpetually lovelorn Tina desperately wants to jump on the school's trampoline and smooch Jimmy Pesto Jr. mid-bounce — in other words, share a "sky kiss." Despite Tina's chili-eating-contest-related diarrhea, she makes it happen in a moment of glorious romantic triumph, an occasion celebrated with a song called "Sky Kiss." It's a fuzzed-out tune with mumbled, high-pitched vocals in the style of '90s shoegaze rock, a genre best exemplified by the Irish band My Bloody Valentine and its seminal 1991 album Loveless. "Sky Kiss," a Valentine's Day song, sure sounds a lot like the kind of tune that a certain band with "Valentine" in its name might perform. To drive it home, the animation accompanying the song is equally fuzzy and pink, suggesting the Loveless album cover.

A Tori story

The 2012 Bob's Burgers installment "Food Truckin'" targets the growing food truck phenomenon, as well as celebratory city food festivals. After tiring of food trucks stealing away his customers, Bob gets himself a food truck and takes it to "Lolla-Pa-Foods-A" (a riff on the music-based Lollapalooza), on account of how it offers a $1,000 prize for the best vendor. Lolla-Pa-Foods-A offers entertainment in addition to food, and its headliner is Tabitha Johansson, a well-known singer and "sexy pianist." Voiced by Megan Mullally, Tabitha delivers a sultry performance of her hit "Oil Spill." Gene says the song is "not subtle" about how it's supposedly about environmental disasters but really about her primal sexuality. 

Tabitha Johansson is quite the over-the-top character, what with the languid vocal delivery and the way she delivers thinly-veiled and highly eroticized lyrics while tickling the ivories from a bench she aggressively straddles. These are all traits Tabitha has in common with '90s piano rocker Tori Amos. "We weren't necessarily trying to make fun of Tori Amos or anybody," Bob's Burgers co-creator Loren Bouchard told Pitchfork. "But I would say we were exaggerating aspects of that character."

Bob's Burgers and laser lights

The 2017 Bob's Burgers episode "The Laser-inth" is all about the dying entertainment of classic rock laser light shows. The planetarium in the Belchers' town is discontinuing its late-night laser shows, and Bob wants to capture the excitement one more time. So he takes Gene along so he can experience the glories of this increasingly vintage form of fun, in which projected lasers tell the story of a concept album. Bob and Gene thoroughly enjoy the experience, based around an album by the fictional band Zentipede called General Inzanity. The plot of the record (and its accompanying laser light show) involves an evil robot military leader named General Inzanity who takes over the government in the far-off, futuristic year of 2007 and essentially bans rock 'n' roll. But one brave rocker — a rebel named, well, Rebel — stands up and leads a revolution.

It's so reminiscent of classic rock concept albums as to be cliché, but General Inzanity very clearly references two story LPs in particular. A suite of songs on Rush's 1976 album 2112 are about the totalitarian priests of the Temples of Syrinx, who by the year 2112 control all parts of life, but they're eventually challenged by a guy with a guitar. Then there's Styx's Kilroy Was Here from 1983, about a fascistic future government led by the evil Dr. Righteous who imprisons a freedom-fighting rocker named Robert Orin Charles Kilroy (or R.O.C.K.).

An obscure Spaghetti Western reference in Bob's Burgers

During the 2011 episode "Spaghetti Western and Meatballs," Bob and Louise flip through the channels late one night and stumble upon Banjo, a stylish, mid-century, "spaghetti western," a film which Bob absolutely loves. Gene comes into the room to watch, and Louise feels left out of daddy-offspring bonding time, particularly in the coming days when Bob acquires a massive DVD box set of the entire 18-movie Banjo franchise for him and Gene to binge-watch. The films influence Gene, who learns lessons about conflict resolution from Banjo, which he uses to take down a joke-stealing bully. 

Banjo, in turn takes its influence from the similar-sounding Django, a 1966 film (starring Franco Nero as the titular, nonverbal gunfighter) which came first in a series of real-life, Italian-made Westerns. Over the decades, filmmakers produced dozens of Django movies, including Viva! Django, Django Shoots First, and Return of Django. These would definitely be right up Bob's alley. (And yeah, if that name sounds familiar, it's because Quentin Tarantino lifted it for Django Unchained.)

The Belchers 'R' Good Enough

Some of the best Bob's Burgers episodes are the ones that focus on the Belcher kids: Tina, Louise, and Gene. These also occasionally reference movies from the '80s, which isn't hard to do considering that era gave the world many films about kids having crazy adventures free of adults. For example, the E.T.: the Extra-Terrestrial spoof, "O.T.: the Outside Toilet," finds Gene becoming best friends with a high-tech talking toilet he discovers in the woods. 

And of course, "The Belchies" is an episode-long tribute to the 1985 tweens-hunting-treasure classic The Goonies. The kids hear from Teddy that the old taffy factory, while set to be demolished, supposedly houses hidden treasure ... although he's just kidding because he draws them a treasure map in the shape of a rear end. Nevertheless, the kids take it seriously and head out to find taffy-laden treasure, enlisting some friends in their quest. Louise befriends this episode's Sloth stand-in, a man made of taffy named Taff, who turns out to be full of gold. That means Teddy was inadvertently correct about the treasure and the map, as the coast around the area really does look like a keister. This is all detailed in the episode-sending song "Taffy Butt," a perfect parody of Cyndi Lauper's Goonies theme song "The Goonies 'R' Good Enough." Who did Bob's Burgers producers enlist to sing "Taffy Butt?" Cyndi Lauper herself.

You can't grill a burger without propane

Home Movies creator Loren Bouchard teamed up with Jim Dauterive to devise Bob's Burgers. Dauterive has written a few episodes, and he serves as an executive producer. But previously, he worked in various production positions for Fox's pre-Bob's Burgers animated hit, King of the Hill. (He's also the namesake for that series' sad sack military barber, Bill Dauterive.)  

Dauterive is a big part of Bob's Burgers, of which every installment's opening sequence changes just a bit. For example, the pest control truck parked in front of Bob's Burgers always bears a different, pun-oriented name — e.g. "No More Mr. Mice Guy" or "Rat Be Nimble, Rat Be Dead." The business to the right of Bob's Burgers is new each time, too, home to small companies like "Earth, Wind, and Tires" and "Meth I Can! Methadone Clinic." However, the 2017 episode "Aquaticism" pays tribute to Dauterive's old gig with two quick King of the Hill references in the show's opening bit. The pest control truck belongs to "Dale's Dead Bug," the one-man extermination company operated by King of the Hill conspiracy theorist Dale Gribble. And the short-lived business next door to the restaurant is "Pro-Pain Accessories: Dominatrix Supplies." That's a shout out to the profession and catchphrase of King of the Hill main character Hank Hill, who sells "propane and propane accessories."

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