For the second straight year, San Diego Comic Con was forced to come directly to your home. One of the many panels that are now available online includes Nickelodeon’s The Patrick Star Show. The series is brand new, debuting at the beginning of July of this year, and follows an adolescent Patrick Star as he navigates the misadventures enjoyed by himself and his wacky family. Aided by his younger sister, he produces a variety show, named after himself of course, in the vein of The Larry Sanders Show. It is Paramount’s latest attempt to expand the SpongeBob franchise, an endeavor that has alienated many of SpongeBob’s older fan base.
Earlier this year, the prequel series Kamp Koral: SpongeBob’s Under Years premiered on Paramount+. The series currently sports a 3.9/10 user rating on IMDB and a 38% audience score on Rotten Tomatoes. This falls in line with the general discontent fans have with the main series, as many believe that the series has been on a consistent decline since its 4th season. The woeful reaction to the franchise’s latest entries has made a show centered on Patrick a tough sell. Enter the panel, moderated by SYFY Wire producer Tara Bennett, and featuring the producers and cast of the show, The Patrick Star Show was afforded its biggest pitch yet:
Much of the conversation involving the panel revolved around the show’s technical attributes. Series producers Marc Ceccarelli and Vincent Waller re-iterated that the show is a visual marvel, incorporating every tool in the animation book from stop-motion modeling to watercolor backgrounds. However, what will draw most viewers in is not the complexity of the animation, but the overall execution of the humor (which, obviously, the animation is a huge component of).
To highlight the show’s comedy, the panel shows a clip of storyboards featuring one of the scenes that will soon be featured in the show. In it, Patrick (Bill Fagerbakke) has to retrieve a golf club from upstairs for a demonstration on his show. In his way is his grandfather, GrandPat Star (Dana Snyder), who needs to go downstairs so he can use the bathroom. Neither can agree to move out of each other’s way to complete this simple interaction, leading to an escalating standoff that turns into an all-out war!
What I love about the clip are the absurd lengths the two parties will go through for a modicum of control. However, what doesn’t work about it is the fact that both parties are acting like jerks in an unrealistic manner (the staircase is as wide as an RV, they can both move without getting in each other’s way), leaving us no one to root for in the situation. Compare that to two classic SpongeBob stories, one in which SpongeBob must catch a bus from Rock Bottom, and one in which his invention of colorful Krabby Patties leaves the town with discolored tongues. In both instances, we root for SpongeBob in his goals, but the situation turns awry due to unforeseen circumstances. In the Rock Bottom episode, anyone can relate to a transportation schedule that seems personally out to get you, even if it is irrational frustration. When SpongeBob re-invents the Krabby Patty, it’s a major hit that affirms all of his aspirations – until he realizes what his ingredients are actually doing to the patrons.
However, the comedy in The Patrick Star Show isn’t as well written, as it simply ups the ante on the gross-out humor and over-the-top antics to fit the show’s lead star. But perhaps that will work out for Nickelodeon in the long run – no online ratings can change the fact that the program’s primary audience is young children. Those children will not care if Patrick is relatable enough to be the main character, or if his wacky schemes make storytelling sense; they’ll only care if the show makes them laugh. The first few episodes of the show’s debut season are already available online, and they paint the picture of an anything-goes variety show. Patrick is as naive and aspirational as he’s ever been, with his goofy ideas acting as a way to unleash his endless energy. He plays off relatively well with his family, including his precocious young sister Bunny Star (Cree Summer) who is somehow the smartest member of the family. For long-time fans of the franchise, there are timely and funny references to well-worn gags such as Squidward’s awful clarinet playing, and an appearance from the “MY LEG!!” guy.
However, callbacks will not make The Patrick Star Show great TV. The show will have to carve out its own bevy of memorable moments. The question is, can Patrick become a relatable enough character to power the humor of the show? It’s easy to get behind SpongeBob’s do-gooder attitude and inventive nature, so when curveballs come his way the laughs are earned because we’re invested in SpongeBob’s POV. But Patrick will have to go through meaningful character development to make the leap from zany sidekick to leading man. If you’re a SpongeBob fan, it’s worth a watch to see if the show vibes with your sense of humor. But it’s still a work in progress, a lesson that shows franchise expansion isn’t as easy as promoting a side character. At some point, you have to develop that character further to make them worthy of the spotlight.
New episodes of The Patrick Star Show air every Friday on Nickelodeon.