When I was in college, the “Spongebob Squarepants” craze was in full swing. The dorm floor where I lived was full of girls who were, for the most part, really friendly. They all knew that I liked cartoons and at the beginning of one semester, they invited me to come and watch “Spongebob” with them. We all had popcorn and sat on the floor in our RA’s room, because she had the nicest TV of any of us, and watched for a solid half an hour.
I really appreciated the effort that they made to include me. It was certainly very nice gesture. I just didn’t understand the appeal of Spongebob. I-still don’t. I don’t know why, exactly, but there’s just something about the whole concept that I just don’t enjoy. Now, if you like “Spongebob”, I’m not going to get on your case. To each their own and all that. Everyone has their own opinions and that’s all well and good. Like what you like and be proud of it.
Nickolodeon hasn’t been completely devoid of cartoons that I’ve enjoyed. In fact, during most of my college years I got up ridiculously early on Saturday mornings so I could make a quick run over to food service and get back to my dorm room in time to watch one particular half-hour of television that was supposed to be primarily geared towards children. I could hardly wait to tune in and watch “Angry Beavers.”
The show was one that consistently made me laugh. It was both nerdy and silly and had a pretty darn good theme song. For some reason, it seems like cartoons need a good theme song. Off the top of my head, I can sing you the lyrics from “The Bugs Bunny/Roadrunner Show”, “Animaniacs”, “Taz-Mania”, and, even though there are only two words in it “Angry Beavers” (I can and will actually sing the melody in nonsense syllables upon request).
“Angry Beavers” is about the bachelor beaver brothers (say that five times fast), Daggett and Norbert. Daggett is shorter and more neurotic and has dark brown fur. Norbert is taller, blonder and far more laid back. Now that I think about it, Daggett and Norbert seem an awful lot like what would happen if you took all of the sibling rivalry and the angst and potential to inherit a kingdom out of Loki and Thor. The beavers both have their own very different personalities and they do need their own space, but they genuinely care about each other and they do their best to stick together as a family.
Norbert isn’t particularly stupid. Daggett isn’t particularly smart. They both get ideas that vary in their actual application to reality and neither one of the brothers is the truly dominant personality of the pair. When they start scheming together, they try to implement those schemes with a highly limited degree of success. It’s very easy to see, as a viewer, that Daggett and Norbert are capable of living away from their parents, but it’s also easy to see why the two of them need to have roommates. They are, in essence, beaver brothers of college age. It’s time for them to be out of their parents house, but they really need a transitional environment before going it alone out in the real world.
Norbert is the older of the beaver brothers by four minutes. Thus, he tends to try to assert his leadership. He also hugs his brother much more than his younger brother would like. Daggett sometimes listens to Norby and, other times, just digs in his heels and starts arguing. When frustrated, Daggett usually resorts to name calling and flailing. It’s rare that he resorts to outright mutiny.
Of course, the beavers have friends. There’s a redwood stump, known as Stumpy. He is sentient. One of their friends is a vegetarian bear named Barry. Naturally, Barry has a voice like Barry White, a nod to a segment of pop culture that most of the kids who might have watched “Angry Beavers” probably won’t understand until they’re much, much older. Still, it’s little tidbits of humor like that which kept me drawn to the show.
The show often had moments of surrealism like nothing else that I had encountered on TV, and I watch a lot of weird stuff. Not just odd stuff, but truly weird stuff. I thoroughly enjoyed both “The Maxx” and “Aeon Flux”. The “X-files” was a pretty mild show compared to some of the things that I’ve liked in the past. That said, “Angry Beavers” had a much gentler, warmer surrealism than many other shows. It never got creepy and never felt suspenseful. “Angry Beavers” was just good, fuzzy, happy fun.
Daggett and Norbert were geeks, quite a bit like me. One of their favorite things in the entire world was a comic book superhero known as “Muscular Beaver”. They would run around their dam dressed as the hero himself (usually Norbert), and one of the villains (usually Daggett). The adventures in the comics paled in comparison to the adventures in the beaver brothers’ heads. They weren’t just comic book geeks, they were cosplaying comic book geeks. They weren’t afraid to show their enthusiasm for their favorite superhero or their favorite actor, Oxnard Montalvo.
The other favorite pastime of the intrepid duo is viewing old black and white horror movies. The ones they love the most, of course, star Oxnard Montalvo. I always thought it was great that the show made such a clear break between the animation style of Daggett and Norbert’s regular lives and the movies that they watched. They also enjoy lucha libre, making them one of the top nerdy pairs that I’ve seen animated.
Daggett and Norbert were actually displaced from home because their parents, Leonard and Mom (she never seems to have had any other name besides Mom Beaver), had twin girls. The girls, Stacy and Chelsea do resemble their older brothers. They are, however, even more adorable. Stacy and Chelsea could have easily been depicted as horribly annoying little siblings. That happens a lot within the realm of animation. Most of the time, in fact, it seems like a miracle that animated younger siblings survived long enough to make an appearance on the show. Not so with these particular little girls. They get on their brothers’ nerves, certainly, but they also practically hero-worship Daggett and Norbert. When the brothers are at odds, the little girls are devastated. Daggett and Norbert, for their part, also don’t seem to hate their younger siblings. They try to be patient, though they aren’t all the time, and they also try to be nice. Again, that doesn’t always happen, but they at least make the effort. The girls also delivered one of my favorite lines in the show, a long, drawn out, slightly chirpy “Looooooooouuuuuuuuuuk!” whenever they see something that captures their attention.
Angry Beavers expanded my vocabulary in mostly very unhelpful ways. Their favorite swear word was “Spoot” and, much like the “Frak” of “Firefly” could be substituted as nearly any part of speech. There’s something about seeing an animated beaver worked into a froth about something shouting “Spoot!” that will make me laugh so hard I almost spill my Fruity Pebbles. They mispronounced words all the time, added in unnecessary syllables, and made psuedo-French out of just about everything. Beavoir (pronounced BEAV-war) was one that Norbert used frequently, especially when he was all decked out in his favorite smoking jacket. Still, the playfulness that the writers exhibited with language was almost fearless, which made it magnificent.
There were also all kinds of funny nods to pop culture slipped in. There was an “Angry Beavers” version of Woodstock, which led, memorably, to Norbert meeting the love of his life, who did turn up in a few episodes. There was a whole episode devoted to the discovery of a magical golden acorn which, when eaten, turned Daggett and Norbert into toddlers again. The episode itself should have been kind of annoying, since Daggett and Norbert ran around speaking in higher, squeakier voices, but it was so funny that it was easy to forget that these were not the usual vocalizations of the Beaver brothers.
I’d thought that, for a while, “Angry Beavers” would end up relegated to obscurity. I had a few friends who’d heard of it and enjoyed it, but by and large, most people would give me a funny look and walk away, trying not to make eye contact if I mentioned it. I’m not sure what kind of show they thought it was and I’m certain that I don’t actually want to know if any of them had cared to elaborate. It’s still not a show that I imagine is truly popular, which is a shame, because I, for one, think it ought to be.
Happily, Nickolodeon has started to release the show on reasonably affordable DVD sets. Seasons 1, 2, and 3 are all available and Season 4 is on the way sometime this year. Even better for me, I don’t have to get up at oh-dark-thirty to enjoy episodes any more, not that they’re still airing. It doesn’t matter. Now I can watch them whever I want.