SpongeBob SquarePants: The Complete 1st Season review by Mike Long

Even though I'm writing this review, please don't ask me to explain the "SpongeBob SquarePants" phenomenon. I can't. I mean, the show is good, and as I'll explain later on, it has its merits, but I saw a SpongeBob TV in Target the other day. That's just weird. (Admittedly, the big yellow TV was kind of cool, but who would really buy that?) Anyway, the show's success has lead to 7 DVD releases thus far, and now, Paramount is bringing SpongeBob SquarePants: The Complete 1st Season to DVD.

Just in case you aren't familiar with the world of "SpongBob SquarePants'', a brief tutorial is in order. "SpongBob SquarePants'' is a TV show which begain airing on the Nickelodeon cable channel. The main character, SpongeBob SquarePants (voiced by Tom Kenny) is a yellow sea-sponge, who just happens to be shaped like a kitchen sponge, and is always seen wearing his trademark shorts and red tie. He lives in a pineapple and works in a fast-food restaurant called The Krusty Krab, which is owned by the miserly Mr. Krabs (voiced by Clancy Brown). SpongeBob's best friends are: Patrick (voiced by Bill Fagerbakke), a starfish who is apparently borderline retarded; Sandy Cheeks (voiced by Carolyn Lawrence), a squirrel from Texas who lives in a plastic dome and loves karate; and Gary, SpongeBob's pet snail, who communicates by meowing. When SpongeBob isn't having crazy adventures with his buddies, he's tormenting his uptight neighbor, Squidward (voiced by Rodger Bumpass), a nebbish squid who loves peace and quiet and hates SpongeBob's tom-foolery. SpongeBob himself is a wide-eyed innocent man-child of a character, who has a job, yet goes to (boating) school, and always wants to have fun and tries to please everyone.

In the extra features on this DVD set, one of the "SpongBob SquarePants'' animators states the show is a pure cartoon. That assessment sums up the program perfectly. Now, "SpongBob SquarePants'' is not in the same league as the Warner Bros. "Looney Tunes" classics, but it does contain a similar style, as far as the overall structure goes. Despite the fact that the characters on the show are very well-established, there is essentially no continuity from episode to episode. Each episode is a self-contained story, similar to the way that Bugs Bunny could be living in his rabbit-hole in the woods in one cartoon and then be residing in the desert the next. This 3-disc set contains all 40 episodes from the series first season, and only 2 carry-over any narrative information. (For the record, those two segments are "Mermaidman and Barnacleboy" and "Mermaidman and Barnacleboy II".) And, although this is the first season of the show, there is no real pilot episode included here. The first episode, entitled "Reef Blower", is somewhat shorter than the other episodes (which typically run anywhere from 10 to 15 minutes) and contains no dialogue, only music (once again, a nod to "Looney Tunes"), but it doesn't really do anything to introduce the characters. The second episode, "Tea at the Treedome", does show SpongeBob's introduction to Sandy, but otherwise the "SpongBob SquarePants'' universe is nearly complete by the time the third episode starts. An early episode, entitled "Help Wanted", in which SpongeBob gets his job at The Krust Krab, isn't included on this set, although I don't know why.

As for the humor on the show, it basically works on two levels: dumb and dumber. The show contains dozens of sight-gags and pratfall-type humor, which probably explains why the show is popular with kids. Being a sponge, SpongeBob is very malleable, and is often beaten about and is forced to assume new shapes. But, there are some clever, but stupid jokes on the show as well. The situations portrayed at The Krusty Krab are often funny, and the show's take on actual marine life yields some nice jokes. But, for the most part, the humor stems from SpongeBob's naivety and Patricks stupidity. SpongeBob SquarePants hasnt achieved classic status yet, but its one of the better animated comedy shows on TV right now, and aside from some mild violence (and the general weirdness of the show), its fairly acceptable viewing for kids.

(For you fans of the show, heres a list of the episodes included in this set: Reef Blower; Tea at the Treedome; Bubblestand; Ripped Pants; Jellyfishing; Plankton!; Naughty Nautical Neighbors; Boating School; Pizza Delivery; Home Sweet Pineapple; Mermaidman and Barnacleboy; Pickles; Hall Monitor; Jellyfish Jam; Sandys Rocket; Squeaky Boots; Nature Pants; Opposite Day; Culture Shock; F.U.N.; MuscleBob BuffPants; Squidward, the Unfriendly Ghost; The Chaperone; Employee of the Month; Scaredy Pants; I Was a Teenage Gary; SB-129; Karate Choppers; Sleepy Time; Suds; Valentines Day; The Paper; Arrgh!; Rock Bottom; Texas; Walking Small; Fools in April; Neptunes Spatula; Hooky; Mermaidman and Barnacleboy II. Keep in mind that some of these episodes have been featured on the other SpongeBob SquarePants DVD releases.)

SpongeBob SquarePants: The Complete 1st Season comes to DVD from Paramount Home Entertainment. The 40 episodes included in this 3-disc set are each presented in their original full-frame aspect ratio. The shows look great, as there are no obvious defects on the image. The shows vibrant colors look very good and the colors never bleed together. Essentially, this transfer rivals digital broadcast quality. The episodes feature Dolby 2.0 Surround audio tracks. These tracks provide clear dialogue and sound effects. They display good stereo effects, but the surround effects are mostly limited to musical cues.

While Paramount could be accused of going for the quick cash-in with their previous SpongeBob SquarePants DVD releases, the SpongeBob SquarePants: The Complete 1st Season set is clearly aimed at fans of the show and DVD aficionados. Cast members Tom Kenny, Bill Fagerbakke, Rodger Bumpass, Carolyn Lawrence, Clancy Brown, and Mr. Lawrence provide audio commentaries for the episodes Plankton! (Disc 1) and Karate Choppers (Disc 2). These commentaries dont offer very much information about the show, but they are highly entertaining, as this group proves that they can be humorous in their own right. My favorite comment was the idea that SpongeBob SquarePants is Gilligans Island meets Faust. The remainder of the extras are found on Disc 3. We start with The Origin of SpongeBob SquarePants. In this 10 minute segment, series creator Stephen Hillenburg discusses his background in marine biology and how that influenced the creation of SpongeBob and the look of the show. With Recollections from the First Season Crew (6 minutes), we get comments from various crew members on how ideas were pitched for the show and what the overall working environment was like. The vocal cast gets their time in the spotlight in the 14-minute segment Everybodys Talking: The Voices of SpongeBob SquarePants. This featurette includes early voice-over work and behind-the-scenes footage of recording sessions. The Bikini Bottom Tour allows the viewer to use their remote control to explore the locales of SpongeBob SquarePants and examine items in the various locations. Highlighting some of these items will take the viewer to other special features. Music lovers should get a kick out of In the Key of the Sea: Krusty Krab Karaoke, which lets the viewer sing along to four songs, with the option to remove the vocals. In a similar vein, there are three music videos included here, included the Violent Femmes doing a cover of the shows theme. Background artist John Seymore is featured in a 2-minute segment called Drawing the Goo Lagoon. And finally, we have a 2-minute faux infomercial in which SpongeBob imparts his 7 techniques for better living.

7 out of 10 Jackasses

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