Friday, November 30, 2018

Having a wonderful time...

For years, whenever you saw a list of the top rated original cable shows, there would be a foot note that would say something like "excluding sports and children's programming." The reason was that an accurate list would have been nothing but sports and kids shows, and about half of those ten would have been different airings of SpongeBob SquarePants.

SpongeBob was, for a while, arguably the biggest thing on cable:

Within its first month on air, SpongeBob SquarePants overtook Pokémon as the highest rated Saturday-morning children's series on television. It held an average national Nielsen rating of 4.9 among children aged two through eleven, denoting 1.9 million viewers. Two years later, the series had firmly established itself as Nickelodeon's second highest rated children's program, after Rugrats. That year, 2001, SpongeBob SquarePants was credited with helping Nickelodeon take the "Saturday-morning ratings crown" for the fourth straight season. The series had gained a significant adult audience by that point Рnearly 40 percent of its 2.2 million viewers were aged 18 to 34. In response to this weekend-found success, Nickelodeon gave SpongeBob SquarePants time slots at 6 PM and 8 PM, Monday through Thursday, to increase exposure of the series. By the end of that year SpongeBob SquarePants boasted the highest ratings for any children's series, on all of television. Weekly viewership of the series had reached around fifteen million, at least five million of whom were adults.

Seldom has television success been more richly deserved. SpongeBob, particularly in its early seasons, was a wickedly funny show. Playfully surreal and subtly subversive with an aesthetic that recalled the great Max Fleischer cartoons of the 30s. Holding it all together was the wonderfully offkilter sensibility of creator and initial show runner Stephen Hillenburg. There was always an unexpected rightness about his choices, like staging the climax of the pilot to the wonderfully obscure "Living in the Sunlight" covered by tiny Tim.

Here's the original  Maurice Chevalier.

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