Well, the same day I found out Red Dwarf was getting renewed for two more series (the day my blog post on that was posted – I may or may not be the master of efficiency that fact would imply), came the announcement that, in many regards, represents the end of an era in TV.
Phineas and Ferb, the Disney Channel animated sitcom, is drawing to a close. The final episode will air on June 12th.
If I may be honest, I didn’t really watch the show too much in the past year or two, mainly because I was so engrossed in the masterpiece that was Gravity Falls. I was too convinced that Phineas and Ferb had been outclassed in every way possible, and I just sorta lost interest.
Still, I can’t help but feel mournful for the loss of what was once a giant in TV. I mean… this might be one of the most epoch-making shows in animation.
I’ll admit that it constantly used a formula, which many fans of any show on Disney know, so I won’t elaborate. To some, it would be a lazy-man’s Mad Libs plot. Yet, for some reason, Dan Povenmire, Jeff Marsh, and others twisted the formula around and around, over and over.
But that’s not the impact of Phineas and Ferb.
Really, without this show, what would the state of animation – and, to a small extent, of TV – be like?
By 2007, animation had arguably taken a path of overt slapstick and vulgarity. Even once subtle, intelligent kids shows such as Spongebob, unfortunately, had evolved into slapdash, more simplistic imitations of themselves. The Simpsons, once the smartest show on the planet, evolved into an odd combination of campy plots and well-worn cliches. (By the way, The Simpsons will be on until Season 28. Think about that next time you buy anything connected to Rupert Murdoch.)
Povenmire and Marsh had just debut a show that, while campy in some areas, also had a breath of intelligence with it. Hell, even the campy elements had some form of brilliance to it. Wanna parody the campy nature of the 007 scripts? Cue a platypus fighting a businessman who dabbled in the mad sciences. (Oh, by the way, I consider Dr Doofenshmirtz one of the greatest characters of all time.) Mock the music industry? “Flop Starz”. Parody speculative fiction? “Out to Launch”. Send up the development of a civilization? “Unfair Science Fair Part II.”
What made this show awesome is that it rarely, if ever, treated it’s audience like idiots. References to Mendelev’s theory, obscure scientists, math formulae, physics, existentialism, anti-disestablishment-arianism (“I can finally stop wearing that puce ribbon!”)… all while appealing to children without pandering to them.
The artwork is stunningly both simple and fantastic. With the exception of the crisp colors, it’s hard to tell for the simple viewer that it was at least partially done by computer – same with Gravity Falls.
And the characters… oh, the characters. Candace is complex and tragic in a way similar to a Shakespearian hero. Doofenshmirtz, as far as “supervillains” go, is sympathetic and has a well-defined backstory and relationships. Phineas and Ferb, super-geniuses as they are, are escapist in a way that’s not annoying, but makes the characters, and the show, fun. Even those characters that seemed like cliches were fleshed out enough to provide for awesome comedy, and the most fleshed out characters make you care even in the more formulaic plots.
It’s hard for many shows to do all of that.
Phineas and Ferb did so.
And the end result is shows like Gravity Falls, Wander over Yonder, Adventure Time, Steven Universe – shows that don’t talk down to their audiences, that know their limits when it comes to their odd vulgar/slapstick moments, that know how to balance comedy and character development.
The series finale airs on June 12th. The 104 days of summer will fade away after almost 8 years. The only regret, I think, is that it didn’t end two years sooner – it’s sorta faded out of the national mindset until the announcement of the end.
Thank you, Dan Povenmire and Jeff Marsh, for creating this fantastic, groundbreaking show. Thank you, Disney – even if you don’t know how to schedule your cartoons, you produce and greenlight fine cartoons, and this was no exception.
I’m gonna catch up on some episodes I’ve forgotten about on Netflix.