SpongeBob Squarepants: The Complete Second Season review by Mike Long

If Nickelodeon's constant airings of SpongeBob Squarepants and the tons of SpongeBob merchandise in stores hasn't convinced that this character is truly a cultural phenomenon, then the release of The SpongeBob Squarepants Movie in a month should. Yes, that goofy little yellow sponge has taken America by storm and there's no end in sight. But the question is, Is it worth all of the hype? There was a time when I didn't know the answer to that question, but now that I've watched the show (...a lot, thanks to my daughters...), I have to say that it is very clever and charming, although, admittedly, it isn't for everyone. The show certainly hit its stride in its second season, which is coming to DVD.

Just in case you aren't familiar with SpongeBob Squarepants, SpongeBob (voiced by Tom Kenny) is a naive, but friendly sponge who lives at the bottom of the ocean in a community called Bikini Bottom. SpongeBob's best friend is a dimwitted starfish named Patrick (voiced by Bill Fagerbakke). SpongeBob works at a fast-food restaurant called "The Krusty Krab" for Mr. Krabs (voiced by Clancy Brown), alongside his negative neighbor, Squidward (voiced by Rodger Bumpass), a squid. SpongeBob is also friends with Sandy (voiced by Carolyn Lawrence), a squirrel who lives underwater in a huge dome. SpongeBob is always getting into trouble either at work, at home, or at "Mrs. Puff's Driving School", where SpongeBob is attempting to get a license to drive a boat. He and Patrick often finds way to annoy Squidward, although they often feel that they are actually helping the gloomy squid.

SpongeBob Squarepants is certainly an interesting show, as it works on many levels. The colorful animation, cute characters, and slapstick comedy will appeal to children. Yet, the show also has a very sly sense of humor which some adults will like. The show isn't necessarily subversive, nor is it ever raunchy, never going beyond fart jokes, but the makers clearly know that adults will be watching and throw in many jokes which will sail far over the heads of children. And while much of the humor is quite broad, there's at least one joke per show which comes totally out of left field and is clearly aimed at those who like their comedy a bit different.

In my opinion, Season 2 contains some of SpongeBob Squarepants' best work. Looking through the list of the 39 episodes contained here (Each half-hour show usually contains 2 episodes, so this set contains roughly 19 half-hour shows plus the half-hour long Christmas special, "Christmas Who?"), the names of episodes which have already become classics jump out at you. For example, there's "Bubble Buddy", where SpongeBob new friends, who's a giant bubble, manages to infuriate everyone in Bikini Bottom; or "Grandma's Kisses", which has SpongeBob deciding that he's too old to be pampered by his Grandma (voiced by Marion Ross of Happy Days fame); or the one where SpongeBob and Patrick disturb Sandy while she's hibernating ("Survival of the Idiots"); how about "Frankendoodle", in which SpongeBob and Patrick find a magic pencil and SpongeBob's self-portrait comes to life; and who could forget "Sailor Mouth", where the constant profanity is replaced by the sound of a dolphin (this has got to be one of the weirdest episodes ever). I'm sure that everyone will have their own favorites from Season 2, but those are some of the highlights. By this time, the show's creators were clearly very comfortable with the characters and the SpongeBob Squarepants style of humor and the non-linear style of the show makes it very easy for newcomers to jump into the program. If you've been curious about the SpongeBob Squarepants hype, then Season 2 would be a good place to start.

SpongeBob Squarepants: The Complete Second Season swims onto DVD courtesy of Paramount Home Entertainment. The 3-disc boxed set contains all 39 episodes from Season 2. Paramount has continued to release SpongeBob Squarepants compilation DVDs which contain a handful of episodes, so some of the shows in this set have been previously available on other DVD releases. This can be looked at two ways: either Paramount is engaging in double-dipping, or their separating the casual fans, who would buy the single discs, from the true collectors, who would want the season collections. Anywho, the episodes contained here are presented in there original 4:3 aspect ratio. The images on this transfer are very sharp and clear and the colors look fantastic. The image is quite stable and offers quite a bit of depth. This doesn't really cause a 3-D effect, but it comes close. The transfer does show some artifacting at time, but there is no stuttering of the animation. The DVDs feature Dolby 2.0 Surround audio tracks which provide clear dialogue, sound effects, and music. The dynamic range is fine, and the surround channels sport mostly musical cues, but the stereo effects are noticeable and effective.

This set contains a few extras, but not as many as the Season 1 set. Various members of the SpongeBob Squarepants animation crew offer audio commentaries on seven episodes. Disc 3 offers storyboards for "Christmas Who?" and "Mermaidman & Barnacleboy III", complete with dialogue. The only other extra is "Around the World with SpongeBob Squarepants" (1 minute) which offers clips from the show in various foreign languages.

8 out of 10 Jackasses

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