It wasn’t until Season 4’s “The Frond Files” that the show totally embraced the skewed imaginations of the Belcher kids, letting them each commandeer a segment in an anthology episode. Like that standout entry, and last season’s “The Gayle Tales,” the Season 6 premiere, “Sliding Bobs,” lets the kids run the show by having them put their own spin on the same story. This time, the “what if” scenario concerns how things might have played out if Bob didn’t have his thick, broom head mustache on him the night he first met Linda.
Though the episode’s framework and name come from the movie Sliding Doors, the premiere saves its most direct adaptation of the ’98 Gwyneth Paltrow vehicle for last. A larger chronology of references develops that covers everything from Robocop to Big to The Sister Act, and who picks what movie elevates the references to more than just pop culture shorthand. Gene’s a dramatist with a short attention span, so of course his version would resemble an action movie. Louise loves anarchy and irony, so why wouldn’t her take involve a disastrous wish? And Tina, the romantic of the bunch, believes fate will always put her parents together, because what’s more powerful than a force that rhymes with “great”?
The three tales provide an excellent showcase for the Belcher family as a whole, with Bob and Linda frequently interrupting the story to give notes on how they’re being portrayed. And for longtime fans of Bob’s Burgers, finding out how Bob and Linda first met makes for a nice little milestone. Even if it’s a coincidence that this history get filled in the same night that the pilot be remade in one of the stories, “Sliding Bobs” is both a laugh out loud funny premiere, and an unexpectedly sweet reminder of how rare it is that TV forces allow a show this particular to exist as long as it has.
The last couple of years in animation have seen a groundswell of support around darker comedies like Rick & Morty and BoJack Horseman, two fantastic series that use continuity to pack an extra emotional punch. It’s exciting to watch those characters evolve as their creators take them in new directions, but then all the more frustrating when that development is forgotten the next week. Bob’s Burgers and the Belchers may be static, but characters you love don’t have to change, they just have to become richer. It’s not just the mirth and warmth of Bob’s Burgers that make it the last great traditional animated sitcom: it’s the company.
Anthology episodes are a guarantee for success on Bob’s Burgers, so it’s no surprise that the premiere suggests a fun and inventive Season 6 ahead.