3 January 2001 | Brad Eleven
Masterful, perhaps mis-targeted, surreal stream-of-consciousnessparody
"SpongeBob SquarePants" is an hilarious and often unpredictable cartoon series aired at this writing on Nickelodeon. Its regular times are Saturday & Sunday mornings, with occasional marathons and a semi-regular feature on Nick's Friday evening U-Vote feature. The massive amount of hype surrounding its release in mid-1999 suggests that the Nickelodeon staff really likes the show.
The series is clearly for adults, in the same sense as "The Simpsons" and "Beavis and Butthead" are. The marketing, however, is quite child-oriented, and somehow, the series has become associated with other Nickelodeon features which actually offer redeeming social value for children, viz "Wild Thornberrys" and "Blue's Clues". I don't mind, personally--I enjoy watching SpongeBob with my toddler-age children, although I do find myself answering lots of interesting questions ("Why is Squidward dancing like that? It's scary.", "You can't put fake arms on like that, can you, Daddy?", "Why is Patrick so dumb?")
The show features the voice talents of Tom Kenny (a perennial supporting voice in cartoons) as SpongeBob, Rodger Bumpass (another voice talent veteran) as Squidward the, well, squid, Bill Fagerbakke ("Coach"s Dauber) as Patrick the Starfish, Carolyn Lawrence as Sandy Cheeks (SpongeBob's love interest, a squirrel with an air helmet), and Clancy Brown ("Buckaroo Banzai"s Rawhide) as SpongeBob's employer, the tight-clawed Mister Krabs. I have noticed in many features that "Mr. Lawrence" is credited as a writer; I suspect a husband-wife team, given that Sandy Cheeks gets some great dialogue--but that's pure conjecture, and I heartily welcome correction or corroboration alike. There have been several celebrity appearances, most notably Ernest Borgnine and Tim Conway as the voices of fictional superheroes Mermaid Man and Barnacle Boy.
I like the damn show. I was hooked on it for at least a year, from the Clutch-Cargo-flavored introduction to the United Plankton logo at the end of each episode. The plot lines' continuity is above average, with a well-developed cast of supporting characters who populate Bikini Bottom, SpongeBob's home. There are the obvious suspension-of-disbelief requirements, such as the watery environment's inexplicable tolerance for electricity and exhaled air, but this is easily counterbalanced by the whimsical misusage of jargon (SpongeBob, in a desperate moment says, "I'll use the Shell Phone!").
Classic episodes include "Bubbles", "Moon Rocket", and "Home Sweet Pineapple".