When Bob’s Burgers returns to Fox’s Sunday night lineup this weekend, it will do so after a five-week hiatus—and in a new time slot. Bumped back to 7 p.m. to make room for the new science education series, Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey, the cult-fave animated series will literally be the only first-run comedy option on the tube at that time.
Because most of Fox’s promotional dollars are falling Cosmos’ way, the cast of Bob’s Burgers is getting the word out about the time slot shift on the cheap. As is their wont, the voice actors broke into song in a special promo, crooning that the move to 7 p.m. is “not our faaaaaaaaaaault!”
Last week, two New York-based Bob’s actors sat down with Adweek at the Flatiron hipster enclave that is the lobby of the Ace Hotel. (Seriously, this place is like a microcosm of Boho Boutique Brooklyn, only it’s on the wrong side of the river. Alexa Chung doppelgangers speaking Italian? Check. Guy with a Bichon Frise tucked inside the folds of his Moncler Gaston jacket? You bet.)
H. Jon Benjamin, who voices the squiggly armed patriarch Bob Belcher, is taking the move in stride. “To be fair, I don’t think Bob’s Burgers pulls in the best numbers necessarily, but I think the fan base is really tight,” he says, sipping a beer. “The people who watch the show love the show and I think it’s—what is it called?—appointment viewing. And that contributes.”
Through the first 11 episodes of Season 4, Bob’s is averaging 4.28 million live-plus-same-day viewers and a 2.0 in the adults 18-49 demo. And while its linear deliveries aren’t necessarily huge, the show’s popularity among young viewers (with a median age of 33, the audience is the third-youngest on broadcast TV) makes it a must-buy for studios, video game manufacturers and entry-level automakers.
Eugene Mirman, who voices the enthusiastic weirdo Gene Belcher, says that making way for Cosmos is slightly ironic, as he regularly sits in on Cosmos host Neil deGrasse Tyson’s StarTalk Radio program. “I saw the first episode of Cosmos … it’s really awesome,” Mirman says. “And that story at the end that he tells is so sweet, about meeting Carl Sagan. That was great. But any change of programming, I think we’ll probably be back at 8:30 next season. This is just for now.”
Neither comedian expects that the move to early prime will result in any notable changes in the content of the show, which is much goofier and big-hearted than, say, Family Guy. “That’s never really been an issue for us,” Benjamin says. “I mean, I do Archer as well, and I can tell you that the Standards and Practices rules are all over the place. They’re very arcane. You can say ‘ass’ but you can’t say ‘asshole.’ Or whatever.”
When apprised that NYPD Blue actually broke the, um, asshole barrier back in the mid-'90s, Benjamin appears mock triumphant. “See? And now you can’t say ‘Sipowicz’ any more. It’s all very arcane.”
If neither actor seems particularly worried about ratings—Benjamin notes that while both his shows put up relatively low live deliveries, they more than make up for that via on-demand viewing and the DVR—Mirman offers a number of suggestions about how to slow broadcast’s decline. “Maybe if they just kept airing the series finale of M*A*S*H they could really get people to tune in,” he cracks, before noting that adding football to every show would probably help as well.
Both comedians are weirdly well-versed in the fundamentals of the ad business—so much so that Benjamin is cynical about the accuracy of target demos. Says Benjamin, “The ad demographics are really not 18-to-34 or whatever—that’s just a thing they say. You really want, like, 11-to-18, right?” When Mirman counters with the observation that 11-year-olds don’t actually buy anything, the look of triumph creeps back onto Benjamin’s face.
“But they will. And that’s why I buy Camel cigarettes to this day,” he says.
For his part, Mirman tosses the industry argot around like an agency vet. When the suggestion is made that traditional TV spots are losing their grip in an on-demand universe, he feigns outrage: “Are you right now telling me the 30-second spot is dead? And what we need is inbound marketing?” He then goes on to note that most men “just buy their dad’s deodorant, so good luck changing that, TV.”
Mission accomplished, the two actors get up to leave. (It is obscurely disappointing that the man who plays the perpetually sozzled superspy, Sterling Archer, limits himself to a single bottle of beer.)
“Well, we talked to Adweek and the AP. That’s our marketing plan,” says Mirman, before leaning into the tape recorder. “For the record, I think Kevin Reilly is doing an excellent job! Bob’s Burgers at 7 o’clock!”