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The original Spongebob.

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The modern Spongebob.

“I really [missed] this show. I use past tense because it’s not even the same show anymore.”

– lemonhead75

Remember when Spongebob Squarepants used to be the greatest cartoon of all time? During its golden age from seasons 1-3, it was acclaimed for its fresh humor and nostalgic elements, while also remembering that it was underwater and therefore having its own aquatic take on human society. It was–and kind of still is–one of the most iconic televised series of all time, and has received notable recognition within pop culture to this today. Everyone and their grandma remembers the “FUN Song”.

Now currently in season ten or eleven, SBSP has seen what people call one of the biggest quality declines of all time. The show seemed to start losing its flow in season four, and stuff started to get serious by seasons 5 and 6. It seemed to get more disturbing as it went on to the point where it wrings jokes out of nothing, and actually makes situations the complete opposite of laughable. Take the notorious toenail scene from “House Fancy” (a season six episode), for example. Even in the midst of this, the show tries to hit us with what we were already hit with so many years ago. The biggest connection between the two eras are nonessential callbacks to the show’s heyday. Long-time fans will say that the new SBSP lacks the charm that made the old SBSP such a hit.

And with declining quality comes declining ratings. Despite the show’s ongoing popularity, the show took a shocking dip in 2012, with a 29% drop in the number of kids aged 2-11 watching the show, according to Nielsen. Another popular theory is that the show collapsed due to show creator Stephen Hillenburg resigning and leaving the show in the hands of creative director Derek Drymon, which spawned a legion of new writers and crew members that tinkered with the show to unbelievable extents, doing something that TV Tropes calls “flanderization“.

Flanderization is defined as “the act of taking a single (often minor) action or trait of a character within a work and exaggerating it more and more over time until it completely consumes the character.” All the characters have gone through dramatic trait changes, such as Krabs, who is now portrayed as something of an antagonist to appeal to the placeholder storylines of his fetish for fortune. Spongebob’s former persona as a naive Pollyanna has turned him into an eccentric idiot. Patrick went from a slightly dim oddball to one of the dumbest characters on TV. Squidward went from being the butt of every joke to the voodoo ragdoll of Bikini Bottom. Sandy went from the peppy female companion to a ghost who rarely appears. And let’s not forget when Mrs. Puff ended up trying to murder Spongebob…

The world of Bikini Bottom got flanderized as well; it turned from a light-hearted place with a couple off-color jokes to a sadistic hellhole where surreal situations and bawdy gags ripped from Adult Swim are the norm.

However, the show didn’t just go down the drain magically…

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For many, it was the Spongebob movie that marked the beginning of the end.

The movie just so happened to premiere in the time interval between the end of season three and the start of season four. The movie was a lot heavier than most regular episodes, containing darker plot lines such as the “ice cream lady” and Dennis the bounty hunter. It was sort of a somewhat-prescient insight onto what the series was going to transform into. It makes even more sense when one realizes that this was supposed to be the showstopping finale for the series before a couple things got in the way

Try imagining that scene where Spongebob and Patrick get drunk off of ice cream, looped for years on end, episode after episode, forever (or until the show ends, whichever comes first).
In the end, despite how the writers are clearly starting to get dry on their ideas, SBSP might have a sliver of hope to redeem itself and bring back some good stuff. Maybe we’ll see Sandy again. Maybe an episode will go by without anything disturbing. Only time will tell.
What do you think? Is Spongebob truly past its prime? Leave a comment about it.
Also, make sure to follow my Tumblr at http://www.prince-of-limbs.tumblr.com. WARNING: Not for moralists.
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Authorities:
https://sites.google.com/site/tria1andfai1ur3/over-analysis/oa-tv-shows/spongebob-decline-in-quality
http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/WesternAnimation/SpongebobSquarepants
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SpongeBob_SquarePants
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Stay classy,
~S~
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