Sanjay And Craig debuts tomorrow, May 25, on Nickelodeon at 10:30 a.m. Eastern.
One of the best attributes of any truly great kids show is its ability to dive swiftly and deeply into utter surrealism. SpongeBob SquarePants is about a kitchen sponge that lives at the bottom of the sea with a squirrel, for crying out loud. Rugrats is about babies whose parents seem to entirely ignore them most of the time, leaving them to explore dank basements and urban landscapes. And my favorite, The Adventures Of Pete And Pete, was about a pair of brothers—both named Pete, because why not?—and their everyday run-ins with superheroes, vindictive school bus drivers, and fighting squids. In all of those cases, the story might sound insane, but viewers become so invested in it that they completely forget that it’s outlandish.
It’s with that in mind that I say that Sanjay And Craig looks like a really, really promising new series for Nickelodeon. Produced by Pete And Pete co-creators Will McRobb and Chris Viscardi, the show tells the story of an Indian-American boy, Sanjay, and his best friend, Craig. The two go on a series of adventures, all predicated on and hindered by the fact that Craig is a snake. The Calvin And Hobbes-like dynamic makes for tons of wacky adventures: In the first episode, the two protagonists attempt to witness a butt transplant and try to find new laughs after being convinced that theirs are the worst. So, yeah, it’s pretty weird and juvenile—but in a great way.
Voiced by Maulik Pancholy (30 Rock’s Jonathan) and Chris Hardwick respectively, Sanjay and Craig are an incredibly endearing twosome. They have secret conferences inside Sanjay’s shirt and a giggly language that, while it’s clearly just meant for the two of them, is easily grasped by anyone jumping into the series. The series’ ancillary characters, like Sanjay’s doctor mom or the duo’s pageant-girl neighbor, Megan (Linda Cardellini), are also pretty great. Sanjay and Craig also have a weird neighbor, Mr. Noodman (Tony Hale), who hates snakes and wants to kill Craig, but the threat never gets so serious as to endanger either Craig or any of the show’s action.
Each of the show’s episodes is divided into two shorts. For the series première, viewers get “Brett Venom MD” and “Laugh Quake,” both of which are smart and funny. “Brett Venom” finds the duo in hot pursuit of the aforementioned butt transplant, sneaking around a hospital and purporting to be both two “rad, awesome butt doctors” and “party doctors,” complete with a fake set of credits to what would be a reasonably compelling wacky 1980s medical comedy. As would be expected, things with the butt transplant don’t go entirely as planned, but this results in a bunch of fart sounds and jokes about 2-percent milk, so it’s all good.
“Laugh Quake” is a little less juvenile and a little more oblivious. Following a cleverly animated Dragon Ball Z-style intro, birds poop on Sanjay and Craig, leading to them each insisting that the other person/snake has the worst laugh of all time. After Tween Queen Megan tells them that, yes, both their laughs are terrible, they go on an epic quest to find different laughs. First they steal chuckles from their cool neighbors the Dixons, who perform in a legitimately awesome garage rock band called Tuff Skulls. That doesn’t pan out, with their new, Beavis And Butthead-style chortles bumming out action-movie hero/comedian/hopefully recurring character Remington Tufflips, who happens to be passing by in his hot rod with a hot slice of pizza. He invites Sanjay and Craig to see him perform in a comedy club, where they decide to try out the laughs of every other person in the joint. That goes about as well as can be expected, making for a cavalcade of Ren & Stimpy-style awkwardness. Together, the two are totally oblivious to what’s going on around them, and while that might be a horrible trait in real life, in a cartoon, it’s great. They get kicked out of the club, thrown into some garbage, and immediately pooped on by about a thousand birds. The fecal assault brings out their real, honest laughter, which they decide is actually pretty great. Some passersby find it contagious, leading to a series of broken noses, car accidents, and major fires—but it’s a cartoon, so consequences don’t really matter, as long as everyone appears to be having a good time.
I’ve only seen one episode of Sanjay And Craig and, based on that, it’s tough to know whether the show has the staying power or the comedic juice to keep going, but it seems like it does. I can’t say that I’ll be watching weekly, but I’d happily pick up a DVD when the season’s done and—this is probably the real endorsement—if I had kids, I’d gladly plop them in front of this show for hours at a time. Sanjay And Craig has wonderful messages of friendship, joy, intelligence, and most importantly, imagination, and that’s all that any parent could ask for in a show for their kids—other than, like, no guns and stuff.
- The theme song to the show, which I would guess was written by Chris Hardwick, is really, really catchy. Mazel Tov, Mr. Nerdist.
- This should go without saying, but it’s nice to see that Sanjay has a white mom and an Indian dad. That kind of diversity is easy to do in kids’ shows, and is a really solid message to subtly pass on to younger generations.
- My favorite line: After the mob throws Sanjay and Craig out of the comedy club, one of the patrons exclaims, “Oh, that one boy has no arms! Well, good for him,” before shutting the door and locking him outside. So subversive and weird—I love it.