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Archive for Thursday, November 10, 2005

Nickelodeon schedules more ‘SpongeBob’

Animated sea creature to star in 20 more episodes

November 10, 2005

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— Pull up for another meal at the Krusty Krab.

Nickelodeon has ordered 20 more episodes of "SpongeBob SquarePants."

That will make for a total of 100 adventures for the animated sea creature - or cash cow as they know him at Nickelodeon - when the new episodes finish airing in 2007.

"It just doesn't feel like we should stop yet," said Cyma Zarghami, the Nickelodeon network president.

Nickelodeon stopped making new episodes while the "SpongeBob SquarePants" feature film was in production, and there was some question at the time whether the series would start up again - then 20 episodes were ordered last year and are airing now.

It's the kid-oriented network's most popular show. Last week, for example, the 4.5 million people who watched "SpongeBob" on Saturday morning made it the most popular event on cable after football.

Four episodes of the cartoon ranked among Nielsen Media Research's top 15 cable shows.

"SpongeBob SquarePants" is the most widely seen show in Nickelodeon parent MTV Networks' history; a recent deal to air it in China means it's shown in 25 different languages around the world.

It has also generated nearly $4 billion in merchandise sales since its 2000 premiere.

Much of that is adult-sized; about a quarter of regular "SpongeBob" viewers are adults, more than double the typical Nickelodeon show, Zarghami said.

"'SpongeBob' came at a time when the country was maybe a little bit blue, and SpongeBob was an endlessly optimistic character that came along and gave us a boost," she said, trying to explain its popularity. "And maybe it's just because he's plain funny."

Nick is going all out to promote this Friday's special "Where's Gary?" in which SpongeBob's pet snail runs away after feeling neglected.

Nick has enlisted skateboard king Tony Hawk in the "search," and more than 700,000 youngsters have already played an online game keyed to the special.

The special is "very entertaining and it's also creepy and disturbing - like all good cartoons should be," said Tom Kenny, the voice actor who portrays the porous yellow creature.

Kenny, who said he's delighted that he'll be working for 20 more episodes, has one of entertainment's ultimate undercover jobs, providing a voice that is recognizable to millions yet retaining anonymity when he walks out in public.

Not that he hasn't had any fun with that. Kenny occasionally finds himself walking in a park where he'll see a cluster of kids having a "SpongeBob" birthday party, complete with an adult dressed up in the character's costume.

"It's very tempting to walk by and say, 'Hey, have a great birthday,"' he said, adopting SpongeBob's voice.

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