Not since Steven Spielberg’s exec produced Tiny Toon Adventures has a cartoon program appealed to both children and adults as much as SpongeBob Squarepants. The Nickelodeon show found its voice early—now in its fourth season, the series is showing no signs of losing it. Collected on this three-disc set are 40 episodes from the show’s second season. Cartoon land’s Frankensteinian fusion of Pee-Wee Herman, John Kricfalusi’s Stimpy of the grossly overrated Ren and Stimpy, and Strangers with Candy’s Jerri Blank, SpongeBob is a naïve man-child whose bipolar personality is a terror to his oblivious self and the denizens of Bikini Bottom. The show’s appeal across the board is easy to explain: adults respond to the off-the-wall non sequiturs (SpongeBob’s attempts to direct Patrick’s hand onto the lid of a pickle jar in Big Pink Loser may be the single funniest moment from the show’s second season), subversive timing, and almost poetic punchlines, while kids no doubt respond to the curiosity with which SpongeBob looks at the world. Perhaps no episode embodies this mass appeal more than “Your Shoes Untied,” which begins with Gary catching a nervous SpongeBob watching sea life pornography; later the creators summon an existential panic in SpongeBob’s inability to tie his shoes. The creators repeatedly code identity-affirming challenges into their plots: in Wormy, Sandy’s pet caterpillar turns into a butterfly but SpongeBob and Patrick think the butterfly ate the caterpillar and is now going to eat everyone else in Bikini Bottom; in Big Pink Loser, Patrick actually wants to become SpongeBob; colored Krabby Patties become the rage in Patty Hype; and in the humorously titled Imitation Krabs, the evil Plankton disguises himself as a robotic Mr. Krabs in order to steal the Krabby Patty secret recipe. Over and over again, identities shift and people’s behavior confuses the impressionable SpongeBob. Lessons are learned, but for a sponge, it’s amazing how little SpongeBob actually manages to soak up. Which probably explains the show’s lasting appeal. An ageless innocent with an impossibly short attention span, SpongeBob does what no other carton character has ever done: With every episode, it’s as if he’s looking at the world for the very first time.
Like every other SpongeBob DVD release before it: sounds good, looks perfect. Well, almost. Even during its second season, the show’s color palette was at times inconsistent, with some episodes more vibrant than the next. No biggie though.
Anyone who owns the first season DVD of SpongeBob SquarePants probably won’t mind that the supplemental materials on this second season DVD are scarce at best. Besides a DVD game demo, storyboards for "Christmas Who?" and "Mermaidman & Barnacleboy III," and a measly "Around the World with SpongeBob SquarePants" featurette (which compiles the show’s opening theme song as heard in different countries), the animation crew shares its thoughts on seven of the 40 episodes (that’s five more tracks than the first DVD set!).
"Just look at him. Square. The shape of evil."