So. Season 1.
First seasons of shows are very rarely their best seasons. Sometimes they’re just awful and should probably be skipped entirely, like with Parks and Recreation. Usually, in the first season the show is still sort of figuring out its characters and their relationships to each other and what its tone should be, so there’s always a bit of awkwardness, especially in hindsight. I definitely feel a bit of that first-season-awkwardness with SpongeBob, but to a much lesser extent than with most shows. Season 1 isn’t my favorite season, but there is a lot of charm to it. Most characters are established pretty well from early on, as well as their relationships to each other, and while there aren’t a lot of episodes that make me laugh out loud, there’s something kind of… nice about them. Comfortable is the word that comes to mind. There’s just something about them that makes me feel kind of cozy and comfortable.
Pilot episodes are especially difficult because they need to introduce us to this world and the characters and get us hooked in a short amount of time. They’re usually not the strongest episodes, since they suffer the most from that first-season-awkwardness. However, sometimes they can have the benefit of nostalgia, so it’s a bit of a mixed bag.
I think I should mention here that the pilot episode of SpongeBob was not the first SpongeBob episode I ever watched. The first time I watched the show was when I happened to catch a couple of episodes from season 2 on TV, and it wasn’t until I’d already seen most of the episodes from the first three seasons that I finally saw Help Wanted. So, it’s hard for me to judge Help Wanted as a pilot the way pilots should be judged. What I mean by that is, it’s hard for me to judge Help Wanted as a way of introducing me to the show and getting me into it, because by the time I watched this episode for the first time I was already into the show. Help Wanted wasn’t my introduction, it was just another episode to me. And after seeing so much from this show already, Help Wanted felt a bit lackluster.
That’s not to say that Help Wanted is a bad pilot episode. It isn’t at all, I actually think it’s a pretty good pilot episode.
It revolves around SpongeBob trying to get a job at the Krusty Krab as a frycook, which has apparently been his dream forever. SpongeBob doesn’t exactly dream big, does he? But that’s okay, because this little yellow sponge is optimistic and sweet and finds joy and fun in everything he does, and that’s made clear by the end of the episode. Yeah, the Tiny Tim segment where he’s making the patties for all those anchovies with a spatula that wasn’t even supposed to exist? As silly as it is, it’s actually a great character defining moment, as well as a great defining moment for the show as a whole. It shows us that SpongeBob is joyful and weird and innocent and silly, and that this is the kind of thing we should expect from him and from the show.
Other characters are better defined in the following episodes, but we do get a few things established from them here. The pep talk Patrick gives to SpongeBob before he applies for his job establishes Patrick as SpongeBob’s loyal, albeit it rather dim, friend. Squidward is first seen glumly cleaning up some graffiti that happens to be a picture of him with the word “loser” next to it, which clues us in that Squidward is not as happy with his lot in life as SpongeBob is. Later, SpongeBob expects Squidward to vouch for him to Mr. Krabs and Squidward doesn’t. This establishes SpongeBob and Squidward’s relationship as being rather one-sided. SpongeBob seems to regard Squidward as a friend, Squidward is not exactly on the same page. Mr. Krabs is probably the least defined of all of the main characters in this episode, but we still get to understand a bit of who he is. Mainly, we understand that he really cares about his business, and that he’s a bit of a miser.
So as an introduction to the show, I think this is pretty good. Characters are pretty well introduced, and the overall tone and humor style that the show is going for is established well.
As an episode on its own, though? Personally, it’s not one I ever seek out to watch. It’s cute, and I enjoy it when I do watch it, but that’s about all I can say. I just don’t have a lot of use for Help Wanted, because outside of being a good introduction to the show there isn’t a whole lot about it that’s interesting. Technically, I didn’t even have use for it as an introduction, because for me it wasn’t.
I know a lot of people are very fond of Help Wanted, and I do get it and I don’t want it to sound like I’m bashing the episode. It’s just not an episode that does a lot for me personally.
Oh right, I used to give episodes ratings out of ten on my old blog. Except that I was known to give episodes ratings in the negatives and go above ten as well. My ratings were very arbitrary, let’s put it that way. It made sense to me though, and probably only to me, and it was fun so what the hell, I’ll bring it back. And at some point I’ll update my “About” section to include an explanation of how it works.
I’m not reviewing Reef Blower, by the way, because I didn’t think there was much of a point seeing as it’s two minutes long. If you want to know what I think of it real quick, here it is: it’s a cute short, and it does a decent job of getting across story and character while being entirely silent. That’s it.
Ah, Tea at the Treedome. Now this is an episode I’m fond of.
I’ll be honest, I’m a pretty big Spandy shipper. I usually can’t help enjoying episodes that have a lot of interaction between the two, and that definitely factors into how much I enjoy Tea at the Treedome.
This episode is our introduction to Sandy Cheeks, the thrill-seeking daredevil from Texas. She also happens to be a squirrel, and the episode doesn’t really give any explanation for why she lives in a dome underwater. She just kind of does. We do get something of an explanation in season 4, but for now I guess we just have to go with it.
As you can probably guess from the fact that my blog is named after her, I really love Sandy, and I love the way she’s introduced. SpongeBob stumbles upon her wrestling a giant clam. Like, how did that even happen? Was Sandy just going for a walk and got attacked by a giant clam? Did she pick a fight with it herself? Does she just wrestle giant clams for fun in her spare time? The latter is actually most likely to be canon, and that’s ridiculous and I love it. I also like that SpongeBob just kind of watches her for a bit and cheers for her, and he only jumps in when it looks like she’s in danger. Except she’s not in danger, she saves herself and then has to save SpongeBob, and it’s cute and wonderful and I love it. Once the clam is gone she and SpongeBob introduce themselves to each other, and they realize that they both love karate, and then Sandy is a show-off and breaks a gigantic boulder into pieces with one karate chop and SpongeBob looks like he just peed his pants and I love it. Have I mentioned yet that I love it?
So then we get to the main conflict of the episode, where SpongeBob is invited over to Sandy’s house and realizes upon arriving there that her home is full of air. Which he can not breathe. I’ve seen people question how Sandy could not be aware that sea creatures can’t breathe air. Remember that SpongeBob, not knowing what it was, told Sandy that he loves air, and that Sandy was surprised to have met a sea creature who did. It seems to me like she thought SpongeBob was an exception, because, well, he told her he was one. So it does make some sense. Still, you’d think she would be quicker to notice that he’s slowly dying right in front of her and that she needs to give him some water.
But that’s the thing, in general Sandy seems to be slightly oblivious to the needs of her friends. She gets so caught up in her own excitement and energy that she doesn’t really pay attention to much else (which is actually something that she has in common with SpongeBob). And SpongeBob is always trying so hard to impress her and (sometimes) compete with her, and he’s not always as vocal as he should be when he simply can’t keep up with her. This isn’t even unique to his interactions with Sandy. SpongeBob always goes out of his way to please people, to avoid disappointing them, especially when those people are his friends.
On top of being a hilarious episode with a ton of iconic jokes (impressive considering this is one of the very first episodes), I think it does a good job of introducing Sandy, as well as showing us what her relationship with SpongeBob is like. Already we can see that Sandy is friendly and sweet and energetic and prideful and a bit of a show-off, and also a bit oblivious when it comes to other people. She and SpongeBob have a lot in common (more than people realize, I think) and they have a lot of fun together, which is what makes their relationship so cute, whether you want to read it as platonic or romantic. But SpongeBob’s apparent need to impress her and Sandy’s single-minded drive can also create some issues. Like near death by suffocation.
Fun drinking game: drink every time I use the word “introduction” or “establish” or any variation of those words in this post. Jesus.