As far as animated television goes, you can’t get more wholesome and heartwarming than Bob’s Burgers. Well, at least not in the adult-oriented side of things. Created by Loren Bouchard and Jim Dauterive, the hit Fox series is a veritable breath of fresh air in a world populated by edgy comedies, from Family Guy to Big Mouth. Currently in between its 13th and 14th seasons, Bob’s Burgers avoids raunchy jokes and darker subjects, as well as tired tropes such as the spiteful husband and wife. Instead, the show makes us laugh with its unique brand of light humor and brightens up even the saddest of days with its portrayal of a family that loves and supports each other no matter what.
However, Bob’s (H. Jon Benjamin) burgers haven’t always been the healthy meal that they are today. Back when the show first started, the Belcher family’s sense of humor erred a lot more on the heavier side. The first few seasons of Bob’s Burgers were full of jokes about pedophilia and cannibalism, for instance, that simply don’t match the series’ current vibe. Every Bob’s Burgers fan remembers the Child Molester, Louise’s (Kristen Schaal) burger of the day that came with candy. This classic joke from the show’s pilot would definitely not fly in a 2023 episode of Bob’s Burgers. But long before there was a Child Molester (or even a Petalphile), Bob’s Burgers was a hell of a lot darker than any of its most edgy fans could ever dream of. The original concept for the show not only featured some pretty sick jokes, but it also introduced a premise that is completely foreign to the Belchers that we have come to know and love. As it turns out, in its inception, Bob’s Burgers was actually a show about a family of cannibals, and quite an ugly one at that.
What Was the Original ‘Bob’s Burgers’ Concept Like?
When hearing the terms “Belchers” and “human flesh” in the same sentence, Bob’s Burgers‘ fans immediately think of the show’s very first episode, aptly titled “Human Flesh.” The plot has Bob’s burger joint temporarily closed by the health department due to a nasty rumor about them serving food made out of human remains. The rumor, started by none other than Bob’s youngest daughter, Louise, says that the Belcher family recycles the bodies of the funeral home next door. It is, of course, all a lie, but Bob still has a hard time proving that he’s not pulling a Sweeney Todd. And the fact that one of the health inspectors is Linda’s (John Roberts) ex-boyfriend does nothing to help his case.
This inaugural episode of Bob’s Burgers was actually an adaptation of the original concept for the entire show. Creator Loren Bouchard’s initial plans were to make a whole series about a family of cannibals. In a two-minute long unaired short, Bob and Linda are introduced as a couple grinding people’s body parts in the basement to make burgers. In a crude art style that doesn’t even come close to the show’s current visuals, Linda is annoyed about Bob forgetting their wedding anniversary. Her frown is quickly turned upside-down, however, when she notices a body-less hand with a diamond ring that she believes Bob has gotten her as a surprise.
This scene actually made it into the show’s first episode, though without the mean sense of humor and the severed body parts. Bob and Linda’s discussion about the wedding anniversary is still there, and it actually plays a considerable role in the story: it is because Bob forgot their wedding anniversary that Linda is shaken when her ex-boyfriend, Hugo (Sam Seder), comes into the restaurant. Still, on the TV show, Linda doesn’t mistake a ring on some poor dead woman’s hand for a present. She merely scolds Bob for forgetting such an important date and storms out of the room. The meat they’re grinding is just regular meat.
Why Was ‘Bob’s Burgers’ Original Concept Scrapped?
This is not the only way in which Bob’s Burgers changed in between its conception and the day it finally hit television. In the show’s unaired pilot, for instance, the Belchers’ eldest child, Tina (Dan Mitz), was a boy named Daniel. The art style still left a lot to be desired. However, the scrapping of the cannibalism premise is definitely the biggest change that the show underwent. But why was Bouchard’s original idea for the show canned?
Bouchard spoke about the process of creating Bob’s Burgers in a 2016 interview with The Hollywood Reporter. According to him, the idea for a show about a family of cannibals came from his experience working on Adult Swim. At the time, coming off of a project known for shows like Rick and Morty and Robot Chicken, Bouchard thought that he had to be edgier in order to succeed in the world of adult animation. In his words, he believed that “the darker, more shocking aspect seemed like what you needed in order for an animated idea to cut through the noise.” And so he approached Fox with the concept of a family-owned restaurant that serves human flesh to its unknowing customers.
Fox, however, wasn’t too keen on the idea. Execs weren’t looking for a short-term project, but for a series that could stretch over a long number of seasons, and a show about a cannibal family didn’t seem promising enough. Thankfully, Suzanna Makkos, who was Fox’s comedy VP at the time, was already familiar with Bouchard’s work and decided not to scrap the entire project. What she did was simply tell Bouchard to lose the cannibalism. “I said, ‘Loren, do you want to do 100 episodes’ worth of cannibal jokes?'”, Makkos told The Hollywood Reporter.
Loren Bouchard thought about it and came to the conclusion that no, he did not want to make cannibal jokes for 100 episodes. And, frankly, that was for the best. Though the original concept short for Bob’s Burgers isn’t bad, it sure lacks the charm of the final product. Furthermore, it is funny to watch one scene of a woman mistaking a severed hand for an anniversary gift, but 15 seasons of this would’ve certainly been insufferable. Though, let’s face it, in its original form, Bob’s Burgers would never have gotten a fifteenth season — nor a movie. Audiences would’ve called the health department to close up shop long before that.