In a 2008 interview, Kerri Kenney described her role on Reno 911! thusly:
Certain characters’ job is to move things along. Tom [Lennon]’s job, as a character [Lt. Dangle], is to keep things moving. He’s the boss he’s got to keep things on track. My job is to stop things in their tracks as often as possible.
Whether it’s intentional on the part of the writers, most comedies fit their characters into similar boxes. Michael’s job on The Office was to take things too far while meaning well. Diane’s job on Cheers was to condescend. Part of the beauty of a sitcom is getting to know the characters so well you can guess how they’d fit into any situation. That’s why 12 Angry Men parodies are a stock sitcom episode. There’s always a character who will take things too seriously, there’s always a contrarian, there’s always someone who’ll get a big kick out of being sequestered.
Each member of the Belcher family plays a specific role in group’s scenes. This is not just because Bob’s Burgers is as good as sitcoms get, it’s also because real families get stuck in behavioral ruts. When you visit your family for Thanksgiving, your adult self melts away and your childhood temperament will reappear out of nowhere. After much research (falling asleep to seasons 2-6 over and over again), I’ve identified the roles each family member plays in Bob’s Burgers.
Bob, barring discussion of his passion projects like Thanksgiving, is the voice of reason in his family. If someone is going to say no, it’s Bob. If someone is going to grudgingly agree to something, it’s Bob. All other family members will hold out if they don’t like an idea and won’t back down. Bob’s compromises are the glue that holds the family together.
Linda says yes. Or more likely, Linda says “Oooh, I love it!” She agrees to schemes and points of view almost always. But Linda doesn’t heighten. That role goes to Louise. She raises the stakes. In the season 3 premiere, Louise is the one trying to get a fight started between the bikers and the townsfolk by throwing knives at people’s feet. Louise is always the Belcher most likely to throw a knife.
Gene slows things down and takes conversations to strange, new places. A lot of the best pop culture references in the show come from Gene, because he’s all about widening the narrative scope. This was best exemplified in the season 5 episode “Best Burger.” In that episode, it comes out that the family uses Gene’s name as a verb. If you mess something up because you were too busy daydreaming, you “Gene’d it.”
Tina is a WILD CARD, and I think that could be one reason she’s a Tumblr favorite. Tina does a lot of different things in Belcher family scenes. She’s frequently the punchline in Rule of Three jokes with the Belcher children. In scenes with just the kids, she takes on the parental point of view. And in scenes with just adults, she’s childlike yet horny. There are a lot of places Tina goes because Tina’s defining characteristic is being in the process of figuring herself out. If your game is constantly being in flux, you can do a lot of stuff.
You can see all those personalities at work in these clips: