bikini bottom, Christmas, Christmas cartoon, christmas episode, Christmas review, christmas special, Christmas Who, cookie dough, holiday special, mr. krabs, nickelodeon, Nickelodeon Christmas, Nicktoon, nicktoons, Patchy the Pirate, patrick, Patrick Star, Plankton, Potty the Parrot, Sandy, Sandy Cheeks, santa claus, spongebob squarepants, Squidward, Squidward Tentacles, Stephen Hillenburg, tv review, tv special, under the sea, very first christmas
All right, I have to start with a bit of a confession:
I freaking love Spongebob Squarepants.
Yes it’s been overplayed and overmarketed to death.
Yes the internet is overly saturated with memes spawned from it.
Yes Nickelodeon has dragged it out far longer than it should have like some other animated shows starring yellow characters I could mention to the point where the characters are zombie versions of their old selves.
None of that can ruin the classic first few years of its existence for me. When it was good, it was really freaking good; like Seasons 2-8 of The Simpsons good – bright, colorful and silly with wry and surreal humor that appeals to both kids and adults without pandering to one or the other. My friends and I still quote it in our conversations and it never fails to crack us up. I still regard it as one of the best cartoons to come out of the past two decades (it’s been on air for almost 20 years now, holy shit I feel old…)
So needless to say getting to finally talk about one of my favorite episodes, the Christmas one, has got me as excited as our titular character doing double overtime at the Krusty Krab. Let’s take a look at The Spongebob Christmas Special, aka “Christmas Who?”
The episode starts with a holiday spin on the traditional theme song and opens on the very first appearance of President of the Spongebob Fan Club, Patchy the Pirate (played in live-action by Spongebob’s voice actor Tom Kenny). Patchy shows us around his house which is overflowing with holiday spirit, and engages in some shenanigans with his puppet sidekick Potty the Parrot. This segment lasts a good four minutes before the animation actually begins, but believe me, it flies by quick. Potty and Patchy’s interactions are hilarious, and Tom Kenny nails that kitschy kid’s show host humor. Finally, he tells us the story of Spongebob’s first Christmas.
Spongebob is heading over to his friend Sandy Cheeks’ dome and surprise her with some karate moves (yeah, Sandy is a squirrel from Texas who lives underwater in a big dome. I don’t question it and neither should you ‘cuz trust me, by comparison it’s one of the least implausible things on this show) But when he gets there he finds her tree is “on fire”. His attempts to put it out go awry and Sandy explains she was stringing up some Christmas lights on it, to which Spongebob replies “Christmas who?”
From there Sandy tells him the joys and traditions of Christmas, ending with the mythos of Santa Claus. Spongebob recounts this to his friends Squidward Tentacles, Patrick Star and Mr. Krabs. Greedy Mr. Krabs and light-hearted (and light-headed) Patrick are on board with the idea, but cynical Squidward is skeptical about everything. Let’s be honest, none of us really liked Squidward when we were kids but now that most of us have grown up it’s become easier to identify with him; especially if you’re a wannabe artist forced to work a thankless 9 to 5 job and deal with people who don’t understand you every day.
Of course he would be YOURS.
Spongebob decides to tell everyone else in Bikini Bottom and bring their own version of Christmas under the sea so he could spread the joy he feels and WAIT JUST A COTTON PICKIN’ MINUTE –
Thankfully instead of kidnapping Santa and stealing his job, Spongebob makes a machine that can launch messages in bottles up to the surface where they’ll be received by the jolly old elf before Christmas Eve. The citizens of Bikini Bottom line up to give their requests, even Mr. Krabs, who wants a pony…
…to carry the bags of money he asked Santa for.
Come on, I had to make an MLP/Brony joke at least once.
Squidward, of course, is the only exception. He insists that Santa isn’t real and repeatedly turns down Spongebob’s offer to write a letter for him. What nobody knows is that while the bottles that are launched do reach the ocean surface, they only float there in one place and don’t make it to the North Pole.
As all of Bikini Bottom gets swept up in the holiday, Spongebob leads everyone in a great big festive song. One of the things that fans revere Spongebob Squarepants for are its hummable tunes, from the simple catchy “F.U.N.” to its epic goofy riff on “I Wanna Rock” known as “Goofy Goober Rock”, and “Very First Christmas” is no exception. It’s humorous, upbeat, and one I love listening to every holiday season.
Squidward staunchly refuses to join in as everyone waits up all night for the arrival of Santa, even when they keep him awake with constant caroling. Nothing can take away their holiday cheer…
…until morning, that is, when it’s Christmas Day and Santa hasn’t even done a fly-over of the festivities. Spongebob is clinging on to the last bit of hope that he’ll come, but unfortunately he can’t convince everyone else to not give up, not even Patrick. They all go home disappointed.
Apparently proven that everything he said was right, Squidward takes the opportunity to rub it in Spongebob’s face. Arguably it’s the most mean-spirited he’s ever been in the show up to that point. I mean, he’s tried to break up Spongebob and Patrick’s friendship over a petty game with bubbles, pretended that they killed him and he came back as a ghost so he could boss them around, kicked Spongebob out of his home after his pineapple got eaten so he’d have to move away, made him a janitor when Spongebob asked to be a part of his talent show, tried to pop his bubble friend, and played a harmful and humiliating April Fool’s prank because he was annoyed by Spongebob’s constant harmless ones, but they all pale in comparison to this scene where he stoops to Trump levels of jackassery.
Though he’s brokenhearted through and through, Spongebob gives Squidward a Christmas present he made himself since he was afraid he wouldn’t get anything when Santa came – a beautiful wood-carved music box in the shape of his favorite clarinet. It’s the nicest present Squidward has ever been given. And that’s exactly what makes him realize he’s behaving like a –
Squidward tries to apologize, but Spongebob is so down in the dumps nothing short of Santa arriving on his doorstep can snap him out of his depression. So…
On finding the words to express his joy that Santa has finally come, Spongebob thanks him for bringing Christmas to Bikini Bottom; but Squidward Claus tells him that he wasn’t the one who did, it was Spongebob.
No sooner does that heartwarming moment wrap up than Squidward is beset by everyone in Bikini Bottom expecting their promised gifts. He dashes back and forth into his house giving away random objects that they’re pleased to receive. By the time they have all gone, Squidward has given away everything he owns except for his present. He almost regrets it, until he sees how excited Spongebob is that Santa was here.
Then he finds a message in a bottle for him…from the real Santa. Who flies over his head, in his sleigh, underwater, laughing like Santa Christ off his meds.
So let me get this straight: Santa is real in this universe. He never received any letters from Bikini Bottom. But he knew it was there, was able to go there, and yet he didn’t? Was him being a no-show just a trick by Santa to get Squidward to stop being an anti-holiday jerk? Or was he too busy/lazy to do his run under the sea and this was his way of getting Squidward to do his work for him? Did Squidward go temporarily insane at the end? Never has Spongebob raised so many questions before.
And that’s “Christmas Who?”, a new traditional holiday favorite in my book. There’s been at least two mentions of Christmas in episodes released before this one which kind of messes with continuity since Spongebob hasn’t heard of Christmas before until now, but this isn’t one of those shows that relies on those kind of details. In the end it comes down to telling a simple story and seeing how many jokes can be made from it without wringing it completely dry, and in this case it succeeds with the added bonus that there’s a lot of heart added to it as well. As of writing this there’s been another Spongebob Christmas special made in the style of Rankin-Bass with stop-motion. I haven’t watched it yet, but I’ve heard some pretty good things about it. The most commonly shared opinion of it though is that it doesn’t beat “Christmas Who?” as the best Spongebob Christmas special. Heck, it’s one of the most perfect Christmas episodes of any Nicktoon ever made, so how can you top that?
Speaking of Nicktoons Christmas episodes, why don’t we keep that theme going for a bit? Join me next week when I look at another nostalgic one…