Tuesday, February 1, 2011

SpongeBob Update # 1

"Who lives in a pineapple under the sea?"
“SpongeBob Squarepants!”

“Yellow, absorbent, and porous is he!"
“SpongeBob Squarepants!”

So goes the theme song to the most successful modern animated property of the last decade or more.

Back in THIS POST, I discussed my newfound interest in the animated series SPONGEBOB SQUAREPANTS – and profiled the main characters. Go there, and save me the trouble of describing them again, so we can get on with things.

As you recall, I’ve watched, and very much enjoyed, the First Season of SPONGEBOB SQUAREPANTS, and have the equivalent of the first five seasons. Over time, I’ve heard that, as the series went on, it lost a little steam.

Well folks, I’m here to tell you that, at least as of Season Six (which I’ve skipped forward to just out of curiosity), I see no sign of it.

If anything, the series has gotten more delightfully cynical and will occasionally tread ground I’d NEVER expect from a modern-day children’s cartoon! By this time, it will also expand on its “two cartoons per show” format, and do double-length episodes when needed.

Let’s consider four episodes from Season Six:

Gone”: SpongeBob wakes up one morning to find he is the only person left in the underwater village of Bikini Bottom. Nice variation on a Sci-Fi standard of the “character alone” that was the basis for THE TWILIGHT ZONE pilot, and was used to good advantage on both STAR TREK and VOYAGE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA.

Here, however, an ENTIRE DAY passes, before SpongeBob notices the problem. He gets up, goes to work, and comes home again unaffected. Then, he panics. He copes with the situation first by playing the roles of the entire population of Bikini Bottom himself (!) with SpongeBob’s voice actor Tom Kenny expertly parodying the voices of the other characters – and then by befriending a boat (!), which he later suspects of plotting against him! The wrap-up and explanation (which I will not spoil) turns out to be something absurdly cynical! I loved it!

Sun Bleached gives us “Craig Mammalton” the seal with the golden tan! “Legend has it…”, one enamored denizen of Bikini Bottom says of this George Hamilton parody character, “…his tan is SO DEEP – even HIS BONES are a rich caramel brown!” SpongeBob is denied entrance to Mammalton’s big party, due to the sponge’s inability to tan. (Um, how DOES one TAN underwater?) He fakes a tan, gains entrance, is exposed, but by some odd and loopy logic, both he and friend Patrick are accepted into the elite.

The oblivious crowd parties under ultra-intense tanning devices until they are totally reduced to piles of ash (!), leaving SpongeBob to fade out with the following lament: “Hey, Patrick… Do you think that TOO MUCH SUN is a BAD THING?”

The Clash of Triton”: It’s King Neptune’s 500, 000th birthday, and SpongeBob inadvertently ruins the celebration by continuously (in his own annoying fashion) bringing up, or otherwise referring to Neptune’s estranged son Triton!

As Neptune sobs, SpongeBob sets off to free Triton from the mystical cage in which Neptune had imprisoned him, for not living up to the elder god’s expectations. Father and son reconcile, but they do so to yet another extremely cynical ending that, alas, I will not spoil. Features John O’ Hurley (The Phantom Blot on Disney’s “House of Mouse”) as King Neptune and Victoria Beckham as his queen.

Finally, best for last…

SpongeBob vs. The Big One”: SpongeBob, Patrick and Squidward are swept away to a far off island – and their only hope of escape is to master the art of surfing and capture “The Perfect Wave” – the only wave powerfully awesome enough to carry them home.

However, the hapless trio can only learn this supreme level of surfing from the golden-haired, incredibly buff, surfer-god “JKL” (“Jack Kahuna Laguna”), voiced by Johnny Depp.

Depp’s character is, as noted, absurdly buff and is animated in one exaggerated pose after another – but it is his entrance that really puts this over the top.

He emerges from his small, ordinary looking hut – surfboard first, with the board carried waist-high. But the board, preceding him, is… um, INCREDIBLY LONG – and extends on seemingly forever, until Depp’s character finally enters the frame.

SpongeBob and Patrick stare in awe at the bodacious board, while Squidward takes it further still:

Oh… My… G (unintelligible sound)” and FAINTS dead away!

Of course, we ALL know that they’re wondering how JKL managed to store that long surfboard in his tiny hut! Right?

Additional milking of the situation occurs in the following exchange:

SpongeBob (to JKL): “Will you teach us how to surf, o’ great one, so we may get back home?”


Squidward (apparently recovered from the last scene): “Look, Surf Boy, are you gonna teach us how to surf, or are we just gonna stand here and STARE AT YOU all day!”

Patrick (after a beat): Uh, I kinda like STARIN’ at him!

Both “The Clash of Triton” and “SpongeBob vs. The Big One” are double-length episodes – and I’d say every extra minute is put to good use!

Even after six-plus seasons, there is clearly “gold” in them thar seas – proving SPONGEBOB SQUAREPANTS to be an animated series that “crosses generations” with its humor. Give it a try, you old fuddy-dudies! Preferably on DVD!

Rather than review individual DVDs, I’ll just have more “SpongeBob Updates” as we go!

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