We are spoiled rotten by Netflix. Around $10 a month for more movies and shows than you’re ever going to get through is a steal and I would honestly pay far more for the privilege (if I could afford it). It really is remarkable how much we have access to.
It’s no surprise, then, that when things change, or get taken away by Netflix, we’re in uproar. Netflix has supported a number of original shows that probably wouldn’t survive on network television; not only that, but shows that have been axed by networks often find a home on the platform and are able to thrive. Black Mirror and Arrested Development are both examples of the latter (while Arrested Development’s Netflix seasons are perhaps left forgotten, the original run is much easier to appreciate when you’re able to binge watch it).
Netflix’s original content has massively spiked in the last few years and the results have been extraordinary. This combination of new, original content and everyone’s favourite classic shows makes it pretty much perfect. Except that combination isn’t exactly a balance, is it? Netflix’s higher-ups have announced that their original content is a focus for the company. They’re certainly achieving that: there’s enough now that Netflix originals are their own category on the site, filled with plenty of brilliant shows and films that are enough to draw people in on their own.
But that isn’t why we came to Netflix in the first place.
These original shows are coming at the cost of those old favourites. Both cost a lot of money and it seems Netflix would rather spend its money on Finn Wolfhard going through puberty and fighting upside-down monsters than it would on letting you watch Parks and Recreation again. Which is fine, mostly, because the original stuff is pretty good for the most part. But there’s a line. There should be a balance; the day that balance is lost is a dark day indeed. There have been many casualties in Netflix’s battle to find the budget for its next big thing. For the most part they can be excused because it’s almost cyclical, with shows coming and going regularly. There are some shows, however, that should stay. Important works of art that should never be denied to people, no matter how many terrible Adam Sandler movies you want to make.
Some losses to Netflix’s library have been upsetting. Tragic, even. But none have burned so hard as the removal of Bob’s Burgers this month.
Animated shows are in their prime right now: Bob’s Burgers was there before that boom started and it continues to lead the way. It is a priceless jewel in a sea of mediocrity, a silly, weird and brilliant show that is everything you didn’t know you needed. It’s the rebellious little punk that The Simpsons was in its heyday. It might not be quite as revered but it’s certainly as important: it’s pushing boundaries. Not in the lazy way that Family Guy and Ricky Gervais do by just offending as many people as possible, but by simply being weird. Both are built on jokes no one else wants to make, but Bob’s Burgers isn’t out to be cruel or offensive. Its jokes can come across as strange body humour but there’s something daring about it. There’s an angle it takes, especially where Tina and Louise are concerned, that pushes boundaries about the things we’re willing to talk about. It gives a voice to things that can only ever stand as a punchline in other shows. If Meg Griffin makes a weird remark about her body, it usually culminates in her being told to shut up. But Tina and Louise have been making those weird comments for nine seasons now; entire episodes are built around it and, while the adults might not always understand it, it doesn’t get ignored or set aside. In fact, a huge part of Bob’s character arc in numerous episodes involve him learning to embrace the weirdness of his children. The humour of Bob’s Burgers succeeds because the humour never marginalizes the strange things that people experience: the jokes don’t poke fun at people for talking about these things, they challenge the people who don’t want to acknowledge them.
Bob’s Burgers is a hero of modern television. It’s one of the smartest shows to ever be so silly and it’s one of the most heartwarming shows to ever be so irreverent. We need it and Netflix took it away. And for what? To have Kurt Russell play Santa in a schlocky Christmas movie? This is the last straw. If Bob’s Burgers doesn’t come back I’m swapping to Hulu and I am not kidding. I will ruin my life for myself and you will be to blame. Yes, I’m spoiled and there are a million other ways for me to watch the show, but you’re depriving other people of a ray of sunshine in this dark world and I won’t stand for it.