22 April 2021
“Who lives in a pineapple under the sea?” Well, Spongebob Squarepants, of course. The most famous sea sponge on television, and the funniest little critter since Mickey Mouse. But his fame wouldn’t last long. Spongebob used to be one the best cartoons at the time, beating out shows like Rugrats, The Fairly OddParents, and other beloved cartoons in the late ’90s and early 2000s. So strap on your scuba diving gear, and let us dive into the rise and fall of Spongebob Squarepants.
In 1984 Stephen Hillenburg created an educational comic book that showcased fascinating and unusual things about undersea life. The star of the comic was Bob the Sponge, a talking sea sponge who gives interesting facts about sea life throughout the comic. According to IMDb.com, Hillenburg never published his comic but thought of making a cartoon series instead. He would come up with new characters to tag alongside Bob the Sponge, their names being Patrick, Squidward, Mr. Krabs, and Sandy. With several name changes and character designs, Spongbob was born.
The first episode aired on May 1, 1999, and was met with critical acclaim from viewers and critics. The show was unique, funny, and the characters were likable. The thing that made Spongebob great was its clever writing and imaginative plots. For example, in Season 3, Episode 4, “Idiot Box”, Spongebob and Patrick play with a cardboard box and use their imagination to create different scenarios. Although you don’t see what’s going on in the box, it still doesn’t change the fact that this episode is very entertaining.
“All of the episodes were different and imaginative,” Aria Plater, long-time viewer and 10th grader at Atholton High said.
Spongebob would go on to win dozens of awards for being so entertaining for kids and teens. An award Spongebob won constantly was the Kid’s Choice Awards, an award ceremony where shows are celebrated and trophies are awarded to the people who made the best shows on Nickelodeon at the time. Spongebob Squarepants would even get a movie in 2004, which viewers and critics also praised. It seems Spongebob would never fall from popularity, now that he has reached its peak. However, his fame wouldn’t last long.
In 2004, right after the movie was released, Nickelodeon demanded that there be more Spongebob. According to IMDb.com, Stephen Hillenburg wanted the series to end after the movie to prevent “jumping the shark”. Alas, Nickelodeon didn’t want to lose their magnum opus. Hillenburg would leave the show and give his position as showrunner to Paul Tibbit for the remaining eight seasons Nickelodeon ordered. You would think that this would end here, but this is just the beginning of Spongebob’s fall.
The show started showing declining views when the new season of Spongbob rolled around.
“They changed the creator, they changed the whole idea of the show,” Plater said.
The creator’s intention was to create a show that was entertaining for both kids and adults. But the new seasons are not showing that in the slightest. In the newer seasons, Spongebob would act more childish and a lot more annoying, to cater to a younger audience. This change did not help the show gain viewers. It would seem Spongebob would forever fall in this downward spiral of mediocrity and boring ideas. But there was good news for the talking sponge. On June 2, 2015, the second SpongeBob movie was released, and Hillenburg was reportedly returning to Spongebob after the movie released. Stephen Hillenburg would single-handedly bring his show to its former glory once again. Hillenburg’s newer ideas were not as popular as in his prime time, but these were miles better than the mediocrity of the other seasons.
However, Spongebob Squarepants would be hit with the most devastating news. Back in 2017, Stephen Hillenburg was diagnosed with ALS but stated that he would “continue to work on his show as long as possible,” according to IMDb.com, and on November 26, 2018, Hillenburg passed away. Stephen Hillenburg was the only one who knew what Spongebob was all about, that’s why it started getting more traction once he returned to the show. Nickelodeon would continue airing the show and produce more episodes of Spongebob, but they would do something very disrespectful to Hillenburg. Nickelodeon would announce that there would be spinoffs of Spongebob and another movie, right after Hillenburg’s death.
“No! It’s wrong because the way he wrote it worked, and that’s what made it great,” Plater said.
According to thepostathens.com, Hillenburg hated the idea of spin-offs and always declined to do one. Now that he’s gone, Nickelodeon can do whatever they want with Spongebob. At the time of this writing, the third Spongebob movie and the new spinoff were released to mediocre reception from critics and viewers alike, according to rottentomatoes.com. Spongebob was once a great show, with clever writing and imaginative plots. However, with the passing of Hillenburg and the greediness of Nickelodeon, Spongebob fell back to being a mediocre kids’ show.