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How an Animated Burger Shop Saved My Family in Its Darkest Hour

It was in April of 2021 that I found out I was going to be a father. Several days later, I found out I was going to the father of twins. My partner and I, who had been together four years at the time, were beside ourselves with excitement, even though the idea of becoming an “old dad” at age 42 more than slightly terrified me. Little would I realize what true horror was, when the babies’ water would prematurely break four months later, on July 12th.

My two beautiful children, Theodore Flash and Margaret Lindsey Geoghegan, would be born and pass away the following day.

Strangely, the all-present comfort during our loss wasn’t family, as all of our blood relatives resided out of state. Nor was it friends. The average Joe has no idea how quickly their closest acquaintances will disappear upon hearing, “The twins died.”

No, our all-present comfort was "Bob’s Burgers"—Loren Bouchard’s animated sitcom about a typically-atypical couple running a barely-profitable diner while raising their three oddball children. Why? Because the infectious positivity and hope it exuded was what we needed to keep from losing our minds during the single darkest moment of our lives.

And when I say "Bob’s Burgers" was all-present, I mean all-present. I watched an episode on my phone on the way to the hospital, trying to calm down while fully aware that I was about to lose both of my children. Trying to find any solace we could, my wife and I watched it together in the delivery room any time the doctors weren’t present. And after saying hello and goodbye to little Maggie and Flash, we cued up an episode that had always made us smile—and wished that we could have watched it together with them.

My infatuation with Bouchard’s oddball sitcom goes back to its second season, precisely one decade ago. Having grown up in the “classic era” of Matt Groening’s "The Simpsons" and fallen for Seth McFarlane’s brassier programs as a young adult, it took me a good year to fall in love with the disastrously-named Belcher clan, but once I did, I questioned if I’d found a television family that, dare I actually admit, eclipsed my love of all before them?

Confidently embracing everything that worked from its animated predecessors, "Bob’s Burgers" had the saccharine joy of "The Simpsons" with just enough of the overtly adult humor I’d come to enjoy from "Family Guy" and its ilk. Here was a bisexual dad, a pre-teen obsessed with butts, and a mom who pounded red wine like a frat boy at a kegger ... yet the whole thing was handled so sweetly that it still felt somehow inoffensive when the flower shop across the street from the Belchers was revealed to be named The Petalphile.

When I met my now-wife Katie, I kept reruns of the show on in the background as I worked. Possibly quicker than she fell for me, she too was fast in love with Bob, Linda, and their ridiculous spawn. From then on, new episodes of the show became our Sunday ritual. We rejoiced in September when a new season would begin and mourned each May as they’d come to a close.

But, back to July 13th.

With our world shattering around us, Katie and I buried ourselves in "Bob’s Burgers." I can remember every single episode we watched in that delivery room, and precisely where we were in them when the solemn-faced clinicians would come in to give us more information about the unthinkable situation we’d found ourselves in.

Often, I found myself worrying that I’d go on to hate "Bob’s Burgers," permanently remembering it as the show that was playing as my children died. I dreaded the idea that my wife and I would go on to wince every time Andy and Ollie Pesto, twin children whose father owns the bistro across the street from Bob, would show up. And I feared that I’d carry an unshakable sadness. A sadness that I’d never be able to share with little Maggie and Flash something that had brought me such joy, and a sadness that I’d be unable to witness them grow up loving the Belchers just as I’d come of age cherishing the Simpsons and Griffins. 

But when we returned home from the hospital, childless and broken to our cores, on the TV went. And there, on that rainbow-hued stretch of beach the Belchers call home, goofball wife Linda continued swooning over their town’s mayor, bunny-eared little Louise rallied against her unshakable love for Boyz4Now popstar Boo-Boo, and son Gene kept referencing his non-existent albino friend Ken. The security that the abject silliness of "Bob’s Burgers" gave us in our bleakest moment not only kept us afloat, but emboldened our love for it.

As a filmmaker, I’ve spent a large part of my career wondering if what I do actually matters. Creating art seems so trivial as I watch doctors helping people re-learn how to walk, soldiers laying down their lives to protect my freedoms, and everyone from farmers to grocery store clerks keeping food on our shelves amidst a global pandemic. Meanwhile, I’m making horror movies ... blowing up Styrofoam heads and not exactly scoring any humanitarian awards.

But I’ve recently found my pride. When my father unexpectedly passed away in early 2019, I didn’t know what to do. Desperate for solace and comfort, I put on—of all things—Steve Miner’s "Friday the 13th, Part 2," a slasher film that I’d grown up loving. The familiarity of it washed over me like the hug I so desperately needed, and somehow gave me the calm I so badly required. After laying my father to rest, I asked friends and family if they’d ever done the same—and almost all of them admitted to a television program or film that gave them consolation during their lives’ most difficult moments. It turns out that art really does matter. Even the silly stuff. It comforts us. It armors us.

"Bob’s Burgers" eased my wife and I through the single most traumatic experience of our lives, and has helped us accept the hand our family was dealt. Ten months after losing them, my wife and I have found ourselves pregnant with Maggie and Flash’s younger sibling—and uncovered hope again, after so much pain.

On May 27th, Katie and I will be sitting in our favorite cinema, watching "The Bob’s Burgers Movie," wishing it could have been our twins’ first moviegoing experience.

But the truth is that Maggie and Flash will be there—laughing along with mom and dad, grateful that some silly cartoon about family held us all when we needed it most, and saved our family in the process.

We couldn’t have done it without the Belchers.

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