Kids’ shows have always been something we all grew up on no matter how young we were. From the old-timey classics like Mickey Mouse, Popeye and Tom and Jerry to the modern legends like Ed, Edd and Eddy, Chowder, Ren and Stimpy, Steven Universe and the high rise of anime, there has been one show that has been the kids show that has absolutely defined a generation, and that show is the Nickelodeon juggernaut, SpongeBob SquarePants.
It’s a no brainer that everyone and their grandmother has heard of SpongeBob SquarePants, as it’s a show that has had an even bigger generational impact on both Millennials and Gen Z (the zoomers) than the Monday Night Wars that went on between then WWF (now WWE) and WCW which has since closed its doors in April of 2001. SpongeBob has been a show that has been going on since its pilot on May 1st, 1999, which to this day, would make it one of the longest-running kids shows ever, the sole longest-running TV show on Nickelodeon, and the most quotable show ever
Don’t lie, I can hear you quoting something right now.
In its 20 years of consistent programming, it has released 12 seasons, two very successful movies, with a third on the way, a Broadway musical, several video games, far too many quotes to count, an absolute empire of kids TV, and a near-endless amount of memes that started with YouTube Poop videos in the late 2000’s. SpongeBob has been such an impactful show on so many levels, that it’s sorta unbelievable that I’ve been around for 19 years of the show’s existence, and I’ve seen every season that’s been released including every special in between.
But how did such a show become so legendary, that it not only has been going on for two whole decades, but how it’s such a quotable show?
The pilot episode for the show “Help Wanted” was released on May 1st, 1999, and it was released during the annual Kids Choice Awards, and the episodes “Reef Blower” (the silent episode) and “Tea at the Treedome” which is a quote machine with quotes like “when in doubt, pinky out” “I don’t need it” and Patrick’s coughing that someone on the internet made a trap beat on. The pilot episode received a total of 6.9 million views, and it launched the show into the stratosphere of pop culture, as the series premiered on July 17th, 1999, and what was next for the travels of the SpongeBob story, would happen after the end of the third season.
On November 19th, 2004, what was supposed to be the end of the entire show was released: The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie. This movie was released after the third season officially ended and this movie was supposed to be the definitive ending to the show, especially since the late Stephen Hillenburg and the whole staff stopped making episodes in 2002 to focus on working on the movie. However, since Hillenburg wanted the show to end there, and Nickelodeon saw how profitable the show is, Nickelodeon decided to keep the show going up to today, and Hillenburg stepped down from his position as the showrunner, a position which he wouldn’t return to after the second movie was released until his unfortunate passing in 2018.
The fourth season officially aired on May 6th, 2005, and since the release of the fourth season onwards, fans of the show haven’t really liked watching the show so much as before. Now, most of that is due to the fact that the dichotomy of SpongeBob and Squidward isn’t the same anymore, which I can wholeheartedly agree with since the first three seasons, the compare and contrast between them was always interesting to watch, while in the seasons beyond that, the characters for a lack of a better term got their attitudes amplified to 11. SpongeBob became more of a big baby in the later seasons, Patrick was far more stupid and irritating to deal with, with less wise moments compared to the first three, Squidward basically became us in the later seasons, although he has to basically babysit SpongeBob and Patrick in some episodes, Mr. Krabs is basically the boss we would all hate to deal with and in hindsight, acts like a boomer [insert ok boomer meme here], and the Krabs v Plankton rivalry did feel kinda dragged out after a few seasons after the first movie. Although the show pulled around $13 Billion in the 20 years of programming, the show did become a bit hard to watch for most. Not in my case as I actually enjoyed watching the show and the seasons after the first movie, although when heading into the second movie, they really were pushing the envelope.
But even though the seasons after the movie weren’t as good as the first three, and admittedly, maybe the show should’ve ended after the first movie, Nickelodeon deciding to continue on with SpongeBob was probably both the best and worst decision they’ve ever done.
The best part to come from it, besides the second movie, and the third one coming in four more months, is the cultural impact the show has had, especially on the internet. YouTube Poop videos was the main source of the impact SpongeBob has made in the late 2000s and early 2010s, and even though the major lawsuit against YouTube that was done by Viacom (the owners of Nickelodeon and several other TV channels), YouTube Poops of SpongeBob still kept going, and there’s still more being made to this day. Not only that, the amount of memes that have been produced by SpongeBob is pretty mind-numbing, as there have been endless amounts of memes to come from SpongeBob, even to the point where Squidward dabbed on a parade and hit the “Woah”. Safe to say that SpongeBob memes will never die out.
As for the bad? Well, continuing the show without Stephen the first time did hurt the show on a creative level as I mentioned above, but not only that, it’s been Nickelodeon’s flagship show for a very long time, with few shows standing side by side with it in the past 20 years, like most shows, even on other programs. Futurama has been programmed for 20 years, but only has 7 seasons and got cancelled twice, with the final episode releasing on September 4th, 2013. Ed, Edd n Eddy started in 1999 but ended with the 90 minute special in 2009. The Fairly OddParents started in 2001, but has since ended in 2017 and Butch Hartman left Nickelodeon in 2018, so that show has ultimately ended. Although SpongeBob is the biggest show, it’s in a position where it’s gonna be hard to dethrone the yellow sponge.
SpongeBob SquarePants has been a show that has undoubtedly defined today’s generation, and it seems like it’ll keep on producing more seasons and another movie as time goes on for the next generation to come, and I’m glad to have been alive to see the beginnings of the show all the way to now, and watching the two movies that were released on it, in the past 19 years I’ve been alive. And if you’re wondering if I’ll watch and review the third movie, you can bet a box of chocolates and a broken leg that I’ll be reviewing that movie when it comes out, regardless of how many screaming kids will be in the theater.
SpongeBob is a legendary show that will keep on going until the very end, and Stephen Hillenburg will forever be remembered for a great show he created.
Here’s to another decade of SpongeBob.