The Simpson’s, Family Guy, and Bob’s Burgers: What’s the Same and What’s Different


To an outsider looking in on Fox’s Sunday night lineup, it could look like really lazy television to some people. Three shows, all back-to-back, that seem like they could be stand in’s for one another. Cartoons about middle-class families, all with married parents and quirky children, and all animated. But thinking they are all the same would be like refusing to date a blonde because you had a bad experience once.

So, in essence, you are saying you would pass up an evening with Charlize Theron because you had a bad night with Courtney Love. Now do you see how asinine that logic is? These three joys are all inherently enjoyable for distinctly different reasons. Reasons I will attempt to explore in the following article. In essence, I am sitting down at the Drunken Clam with a Duff beer, ready to eat my  “Meatsiah”, and dish about these three, awesome, prime-time cartoons.

The Simpsons

Two dollars cash to anyone who can name all these characters in the comments.

Two dollars cash to anyone who can name all the characters pictured here in the comments.

Ah, the first family of animation. My love for The Simpson’s is deeply routed. As I have mentioned before, my Mom owned a second-hand bookstore while I was growing up, and she would bring me home these cartoon books by some guy named Matt Groening, because she wouldn’t quite know where they should be filed. And the books were unreal. All the Groening humor, and a great deal of the jokes from the books themselves, have made their way in The Simpsons. The series is called Life Is Hell (or Life In Hell to some), and the comic strip really set the tone and pace for the show. In an odd twist most don’t seem to know, the comic strip just recently stopped in 2012.


You can see the roots of The Simpson’s in every frame of the Life Is Hell comics.

So when The Simpson’s first appeared on The Tracy Ullman show, I was already a fan of their creator, so I was an instant super-fan of the show. Even though they looked like they were drawn by Michael J Fox…


Yup, that was a Parkinson’s joke.

From those odd, jumpy animations, and half-assed voice overs, something truly beautiful blossomed over time. A TV family unlike any we had seen since golden age of television. There were hints of Fred Flinstone, and hints of Archie Bunker, but through that ran veins of pure genius. And Bart may have been projected to be the show’s front runner, but Bart was quickly overshadowed by the greatest Dad ever on television, Homer Simpson. And thus, the tone was forever set for prime time cartoons. If you did not have the capacity to keep up with this level of wit, you will be buried alive. And even though you may not remember them, many prime time cartoons came and went since the inception of The Simpsons. I won’t name them now because that is its own article for down the road.


Yes, this was a show aimed at adults. I think it lasted 27 seconds.

How It Is Different: The Simpson’s did it first, and by all accounts, did it best. There are people who worship Seth McFarlane, and think Family Guy is funnier, by that is like comparing British humor with toilet humor. Ss much as they seem similar, outside of family structure, they aren’t. The main difference, Simpson’s is the classiest of the lot.

How It Is Similar: It isn’t. The Simpson’s set the tone, and anything that came after it, is a slight impression of it.

Family Guy


Anytime I think Family Guy may be “losing it”, they pull me back in with an awesome pop-culture reference. Because that is just what Family Guy does.

Okay, confession time. When Family Guy first came on television  I loved it WAY more than The Simpsons. Why? Well, I had never seen anything like it. Things that were taught to me as taboo my whole life were getting poked and prodded and laughed at, and for the first time in my life, my sick sense of humor felt like it had brethren.  Family Guy was not afraid to “go there” about anything that would make people cringe and cower with disgust. For example, the running joke about Herbert the pervert. The old guy who is obviously a pedophile.


Say what you want, and be as offended as you want, but this character is disgustingly hilarious.

And on top of that, Family Guy takes place in Rhode Island, where I lived for a nice little chunk, so when you see the grocery store in the show, Stop N Shop, that is a real place, and it makes me laugh how many RI and Massachusetts style jokes they reference. So, even though The Simpson’s and Family Guy appear to be the same on the surface, they are unique creatures who sort of need each other. Think of Family Guy as sort of the immature younger brother, to the wise, old Simpsons. My love only slightly waned for Family Guy because, to me, that whole “Remember that time” set up for their jokes and references has worn a wee bit thin to me. But regardless of that, Family Guy has the balls to get away with stuff that no other show would even try. Like, for example, this:


Play Family Guy for someone who is conservative enough, and their head will implode.

How It Is Different: Family Guy is streets head of the competitors in terms of edge (and pop culture references), but at the price of some class.

How It Is Similar: At the heart of all of these shows is a working class shlub, who loves his family, and loves his booze. That is where all similarities end, though.

Bob’s Burgers


You may be hesitant at first, as I was, but this family will grow on you like mold.

Again, confession time. I am fairly new to the table on this one. You see, for a long time, you had to be a REALLY good cartoon for me to not measure you against The Simpsons, as nothing more than cheap clone. And for a short while, I refused to even give this show any attention. And the irony is, now, I see how it is actually the best of the lot. Wait, wait, please don’t X out of this article. My reasoning is sound. Bob’s Burgers is the PERFECT melding of both the above shows. It has the edge of Family Guy, without being classless. And it has the charm of golden age Simpsons (first five seasons), without being dull. While it may have taken a bit for Bob’s Burgers to find its stride, but no that is has it is easy to see how it eanred that golden slot between Family Guy and The Simpsons. Also, the words “golden slot” sound sexual. Anyway, so what is the one factor that makes Bob’s Burgers shine? The kids.

Mainly, Louise, played with vigor by the always hilarious Kristen Schaal.


I like weird shit, so it makes sense Louise would be a favorite of mine.

Again, it may appear that these three shows are the same, but as you see from deeper examination, there are some nuances that really set them all apart. In this case, Bob is not as mindless as Peter and Homer, and may actually be the most rational character on the show, which really sets him apart from the patriarchs in Family Guy and The Simpsons.

How It Is Different: There is a real home-grown charm to Bob’s Burgers, that is missing in current episodes of The Simpsons, as well as Family Guy. There is also an innocence to it, but it maintains that innocence without losing its slight edge. The episode this week was about a kid who liked to shit in things, so it is not going TOO high brow, which is good.

How It Is The Same: A dad who works his ass off to provide an good life for his wife and children. On top of that, Bob’s Burgers is a wonderful melding of the best parts of both cartoons mentioned above. It has charm and sass, a lot like me.


I wish I had a bright green burger joint in my neighborhood.

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  1. Wait, Herbert is into children!? God, that explains a lot. Excellent article, man. I bristled at the title, but you availed yourself well with Simpsons cred without shitting all over the inferior (but still funny) Family Guy. bob’s Burgers I cannot avail, though. I tired to watch it once and it was not watchable for me. Maybe I should give it another try, but no. Do not want. And no Cleveland Show either, while we’re at it. I like Family Guy, I enjoy American Dad even more at times, but the number of McFarlane shows on the air is too damn high. I feel like if I watch three shows of the same style of comedy at the same time, I’m going to end up hating them all. Did you see the Bob’s Burgers parody that began this season of Archer? Now THERE’S a funny animated show.

  2. @ trashcanman,
    Do me a solid? You and I think so much alike, and like so many of the same things, I can’t help but think you will really dig Bob’s Burgers if you give it a chance, so this is what I ask of you:
    Watch two episodes. The first episode will be spent doubting that you are enjoying it. The second episode, though, it will hit you how much you actually like this family, and the enjoyment comes off of that.
    So give it two weeks, and if you don’t like it, toss it back.
    That fair?

  3. Bob’s Burgers is the best of the 3 currently, but the Simpson’s is still the best of all time. At least for now. The Simpson’s at it’s best was one of the all time greatest TV programs ever produced. Given a few years I think Bob’s Burgers could approach it though; only 3 seasons in and the show is phenomenal.

    Family Guy can be good, and when it was at it’s best it was great, but there were really only 3, maybe 4, truly good years of Family Guy before the sharp decline. McFarlane is a funny guy but once Family Guy came back he seemed to lose his filter. FOX cancelled him and then came crawling back and that seemed to validate, at least in his mind, every crazy thing he ever thought of doing. All the stuff that people criticized before, the flashbacks and risky humor, became the entire show because the people who criticized him before(i.e. FOX) had basically admitted that they were wrong. Family Guy peaked before it was even brought back. It still has laughs but it far from the best show on this list. It’s not even the best Seth McFarlane show on FOX.

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