For any show fortunate enough to have a long run on television, there’s bound to be a point where most people would say the quality of that show takes a dip. But sometimes it can be hard to know if this perceived change in quality is real, that your favorite show has lost its touch, or if it’s simply due to the fact that you’re not twelve anymore and your tastes have changed. In his ongoing YouTube series “The Day _____ Died,” user Entertain The Elk attempts to pinpoint the exact moment when popular series stopped being great and started, well, just being. The latest installment is all about that lovable quadratic sea-dweller, Spongebob Squarepants, and his unfortunate fall from grace.
The video starts by giving a little backstory on the creation of Spongebob and attempts to summarize what made the show such a smash hit to begin with. Creator Steve Hillenburg’s penchant for slapstick animation and double entendre quickly made Spongebob a show that not only appealed to kids but adults as well, with nearly 40% of the show’s audience being in the 18-34 demographic. Despite the massive successive of the show in those early seasons, Hillenburg and many of the original writers decided to walk away at the end of season three, fearing that the show may get repetitive if they stuck around.
According to Entertain The Elk, this change in show runner, which coincided with the season four premiere “Fear Of A Krabby Patty/Shell Of A Man,” marks the moment Spongebob died. Or, rather, the moment Spongebob wasn’t as good anymore. As with the The West Wing, Gilmore Girls, Community, and other shows who lost their creators at some point during their run, the new writers struggled to capture the magic of Hillenburg’s original concept.
The subsequent episodes leaned hard into kid-friendly physical humor and gross-out moments that appealed to no one in particular. It’s also at this point that the main characters fell victim to what’s known as Flanderization, wherein one of the character’s traits is exaggerated to the point of being their only trait, a la Ned Flanders’ being reduced to simply “a very religious guy” in later seasons of The Simpsons.
Luckily, in 2015, Hillenburg returned as a writer for the film Sponge Out Of Water and then returned to the show as well for its tenth and eleventh seasons. It may never again be as good as it once was, but Spongebob has been given an opportunity that’s doled out rather frequently in this age of reboots—the chance to come back from the dead.