This weekend, Nickelodeon commemorates SpongeBob’s ten years of blithe, buoyant and bubble-brained buffoonery with an Ultimate SpongeBob SpongeBash Weekend (which includes TEN new episodes)!
For our favorite lemon-hued lummox, the road leading from Bikini Bottom to international fame has had a few bumps (and raving jellyfish, and overzealous chocolate lovers, and ominous snail-coddling old ladies, and sea-bears with an affinity for calamari, and some other stuff) along the way. And yes, it’s pretty much impossible to narrow a SpongeBob highlights list down to only a smattering of selections out of the entire oeuvre – but it was fun to try. Check out our timeline punctuated by a few of the pit stops, detours and scenic views that have made Bikini Bottom one of our favorite animated destinations:
May 1999: In the pilot Help Wanted, SpongeBob first dons a KrustyKrab name tag – and stumbles upon his special purpose in life by way of a spatula – after saving Mr. Krabs and Squidward from a mob of hungry anchovies.
August 1999: Mermaid Man and Barnacle Boy. SpongeBob and Patrick implore their favorite superheros to come out of retirement. Hollywood legends Ernest Borgnine and Tim Conway guest-voice as the tottering twosome.
August 1999: Jellyfish Jam. What happens when you open your home to a jellyfish with an apparent penchant for psychoactive drugs and an affinity for house music? Nothing good.
November 2000: Big Pink Loser. Just in case you need further evidence that Patrick is a few mollusks short of a clambake, here it is.
December 2000: Christmas Who? Sandy teaches SpongeBob and the rest of the gang about a weird land-lubber tradition in which “everyone pretends to like the fruitcake,” and a big guy in a red suit gives away free stuff. SpongeBob gets the whole town whipped into a greedy lather of ecstatic entitlement about how Christmas morning is gonna be the most perfect thing EVER! Yeah – that’s gonna end well.
March 2001: Grandma’s Kisses. SpongeBob endures ridicule (er, more than usual) for being inextricably intertwined with his grandmother’s apron strings. Happy Days matriarch Marion Ross guest voices as the titular smooch-happy senior.
September 2001: Band Geeks. Helping Squidward to upstage smarmy rival Squilliam, SpongeBob channels the spirit of glam-metal hair bands past in the fan favorite episode. (Relive the lighter-lifting, pyrotechnically-profound moment right here.)
September 2001: Sailor Mouth. Our normally mild-mouthed hero learns a bad word and proceeds to walk around swearing like a wounded pirate. Some funny [bleep] ensues.
January 2002: Frankendoodle. Via a magic pencil, SpongeBob infuses his crudely drawn doppelganger, DoodleBob, with life. DoodleBob has designs on Bikini Bottom – and what ensues does not a pretty picture make. SpongeBob must stop at nothing to erase the evil he has unleashed upon his beloved home town.
January 2002: Mermaid Man and Barnacle Boy IV. Before iPhones, there were superhero utility belts. These featured all sorts of awesome apps – like the shrinking ray! In the wrong hands (say, um….. SpongeBob’s?) this could prove disastrous.
March 2002: Idiot Box. One empty box + two idiots = infinite amusement. For the idiots, anyway. Squidward is not amused. As usual.
May 2002: Krusty Krab Training Video. The Krusty Krab is, unexpectedly, a workplace with perhaps the lowest turnover rate ever. But just in case any other invertebrate with barely two brain cells to rub together decides to devote its life to flipping burgers for a penny-pinching crab of a boss, Mr. Krabs has conveniently assembled an employee training video for their (and our) viewing pleasure.
June 2002: Chocolate With Nuts. In an effort to become rich, SpongeBob and Patrick embark upon a life as door-to-door salesmen of chocolate bars. They tell customers exactly what they want to hear. Words like “world domination” and “eternal youth” get bandied about. Though one guy is plenty pleased just to hear the word “chocolate.”
October 2003: I Had An Accident. Years of living fast and loose take their toll on SpongeBob, who breaks his butt in a sandboarding accident. The threat of life in an iron butt makes SpongeBob retreat to the confines of his pineapple refuge. It’s up to Sandy and Patrick (and a rampaging gorilla) to lure him back into the swing of things.
March 2004: Ugh. We are reminded that the fruit(cake) never falls far from the family tree as we meet SpongeBob’s prehistoric ancestor, SpongGar – whose modern-day relative really hasn’t evolved all that much beyond neanderthal nimwittery. Episode also provides another glimpse into the ongoing grudge match between Patchy and Potty, who unleashes his pet cyborg in Patchy’s general direction in a Past Vs. Future smackdown.
April 2004: The Camping Episode. Who would suspect that SpongeBob and Patrick are shockingly sage in dispensing sea-bear repelling advice? Not Squidward.
October 2004: SpongeBob Meets The Strangler. SpongeBob gets the noir treatment in this crime thriller, in which we learn that the best defense against a psycho killer on the loose is unflappable enthusiasm, and lots of party guests.
November 2004: The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie. Our porous, pant-wearing pal embarks upon his first big screen adventure. King Neptune’s crown is stolen, and Krabs is framed. It’s going to take some sharp sleuths to get to the bottom of this and clear Mr. Krabs’ good name. Alas, only SpongeBob and Patrick are on hand. They road trip, eat ice cream till they pass out in puddles of their own sick, and fend off the advances of a heat-lamp-wielding curio-shop owner. Somehow the whole stolen crown thing gets sorted in spite of all this. Opening #2 at the box office, SpongeBob successfully rode his television stardom – and David Hasselhoff – to big-screen glory. (Remember the hilarious theatrical teaser trailer? No? Refresh your memory here.)
November 2005: Have You Seen This Snail? Driven from home by SpongeBob’s downward decent into paddleball addiction, Gary hits the road and is taken in by a seemingly kindly old lady. Seemingly kindly old ladies are great! Unlike certain negligent sponges, they feed you baked goods, and let you stay up past your bedtime watching your favorite TV shows, and they speak to you in soothing tones about how much you remind them of their favorite deceased pet, Ms. Tuftsy, with whom they clearly had serious attachment issues! It’s almost enough to make you overlook that closet overflowing with empty slug shells…….
February 2006: Dunces and Dragons. SpongeBob kicks it Medieval style and attempts to vanquish Planktonimor, the “eviliest wizard in Bikini Bottomshire.” Bit of Potter, touch of Python, some Lord of the Rings, and overzealous Krabby patty product placement make for a fantastic-eth episode.
April 2006: Krusty Towers. Mr. Krabs can’t leave well enough alone with the big money-making schemes. In this installment, he attempts to convert the Krusty Krab into a full-service hotel that caters to the every whim of its guests. This would be a far better business plan if the likes of Patrick hadn’t decided to check in………
May 2006: Karate Island. SpongeBob falls prey to the most elaborate condo time-share sales scheme of all time after he is duped into thinking that he is the King of Karate Island. Sandy must channel Uma Thurman in order to bust him loose. In this ep, Karate Kid’s Pat Morita wielded his iconic martial arts mojo to perpetrate the ultimate hard sell.
November 2006: Best Day Ever. SpongeBob sets out to have his Best! Day! Ever! In the process, he learns a Valuable Lesson about why inflated expectations, spurred by the internalized pressures of self-delusion and an insatiable need to control the unpredictable chaos of life, can lead to anger management issues and impart existential crisis. No, wait – he learns a valuable lesson about friendship. Yeah – that’s it.
November 2006: That’s No Lady. Patrick cross-dresses. Both Mr. Krabs and Squidward play The Crying Game. Everyone feels a little bit dirty afterwards.
February 2007: Sing A Song of Patrick. Patrick branches out and goes from mindless drooling to cacophonic crooning when he attempts to write a hit song. The single is considerably less well-received than anything on the Beatles’ Abbey Road.
July 2007: Roller Cowards. SpongeBob and Patrick attempt to prove they have cojones by riding Glove World’s new mega-ultra-coaster, The Fiery Fist of Death. They lose those cojones, and their spines, and their lunch, and their dignity, and some other stuff, in the process.
November 2007: Atlantis SquarePantis. SpongeBob re-unites two halves of a magic amulet, which transports the gang to the underwater utopia of Atlantis. Everybody has their deepest fantasy met – there are piles of money! And science labs! And art museums! And…..bubbles? David Bowie voices the Atlantis uber-lord, Lord Royal Highness.
November 2007: The Inmates of Summer. Patrick and SpongeBob accidentally go to prison instead of summer camp. (Stupid shuttle boats all look the same……except for those windows with bars, and the barbed wire where the happy colorful streamers are supposed to be flying.) But that’s OK – chain gangs are fun! By episode’s end, the warden is the only one in dire need of a vacation.
March 2008: Not Normal. Dismayed to learn that he is not normal, SpongeBob goes about righting this apparent wrong by migrating to the suburbs and getting a cubicle job. Ahhhhhh, but attempting to squeeze a square peg into a round hole is never a good idea…………
March 2008: Gone. When the entire town goes missing, the role of all of Bikini Bottom is played by SpongeBob.
April 2008: Pest of the West. SpongeBob’s ancestor Sheriff SpongeBuck SquarePants must face off against Dead Eye Plankton at high noon. It’s The Good, The Bad and The Ugly, except with a way less complicated plot, and the character arcs aren’t particularly steep, and there’s no allegory or philosophical bent to it, and…..but both films have shootouts.
October 2008: Whatever Happened to SpongeBob? (A.k.a. WhoBob WhatPants?) SpongeBob goes missing after developing amnesia – which proves to be a particularly dangerous affliction for one barely able to remember his own name in the first place.
April 2009: SpongeBob Vs. The Big One. Following a surfing accident, SpongeBob must becomes one with the sea (er…….one what?) if he is to find his way back home. The Monkees’ Davy Jones cameos as that other Davy Jones, and Johnny Depp guest stars as mystic wave whisperer Jack Kahuna Laguna.