Like Charlie Brown, Beaver Cleaver, and even Tom Sawyer before him, the most extraordinary thing about Doug Funnie was the fact that he wasn’t extraordinary at all. During his three years on Nickelodeon (and another three on Disney), Doug never got bitten by a radioactive spider or found an all-powerful amulet. He never stopped a speeding missile or solved a grisly murder — or even managed to grow a full head of hair. He was just a gawky 11-year-old boy growing up in the city of Bluffington (the Bumper Sticker Capital of the World!), playing with his dog Porkchop, eating Honker Burgers with his best pal Skeeter, and pining after the dreamy Patti Mayonnaise.
Which isn’t to say his life was dull. Thanks to a hyperactive imagination, Doug turned everyday events into epic adventures. His cast of alter-egos — superpowered Quailman (my personal favorite), James Bond-ian Smash Adams, dashing Race Canyon — let him be a hero in his dreams instead of the fumbling, nebbish kid he was in reality. (Anybody else feel like Doug was modeled on a tweenage Woody Allen? They even have the same hairline.) But even in these sequences, which were usually my favorite parts of each episode, whimsy was always more important than action. An episode of Doug wasn’t about high stakes or huge laughs; it was a gentle ode to the humdrum ups and downs of life, from bullies to crushes to sibling rivalry. (Special shoutout here to Judy, a misfit drama queen of the pre-Glee era.)
Even though the animation in Doug was always colorful and creative, the things I actually remember most clearly about the show aren’t the images — they’re the sounds. When I think of Doug, I immediately hear that theme song with its Seinfeld-style a cappella pops and “aaaahs.” I hear Patti’s croaky Southern drawl, Skeeter’s “Honk honk!” and of course, the beloved “beeeyouuuuuu” — the drooping noise that told you Doug had just run up against another one of the myriad disappointments of life.
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