The other day my son Billy replayed for me an episode he had just watched of “SpongeBob SquarePants” (a cartoon that takes place at the bottom of the ocean). Billy, who is 9, thought I would like it, and he was quite right. In it, SpongeBob’s friend Squidward, a squid, turns on his television to see his old high-school rival Squilliam’s house (left) being featured on the TV show “House Fancy.” Squilliam shows the host around. With its solid-gold door knobs, it looks as if it must be a cartoon version of a certain president’s Fifth Avenue penthouse. Except that the episode was filmed in 2007.
Squidward angrily contacts the show to say his house is fancier. The show’s host, Nicholas Withers, says okay, he’ll be over in half an hour. To make a short, nine-minute story mercifully shorter, Squidward asks SpongeBob to help neaten up his house. Instead, he blows it sky high in a vacuum accident. When host Withers arrives with Squilliam a moment later, they see that Squidward’s house is now a smoking ruin.
Host: Hello, and welcome back to “House Fancy.” We’re arriving at the house of Squidward Tentacles, who claims that his house is far fancier than that of Squilliam Fancyson. Let’s take a look. [Pauses as he sees scene of destruction.]
Well, I-I-I’m not quite sure how to say this.
Squilliam: Go ahead! Say it!
Host: Squidward Tentacles, you seem to have ushered in an entire new era in house fanciness.
Squidward: I have? I have!
Host: What you’ve done harkens back to the illustrious post-primitive movement popularized by famous designer Saul Impkins. Say, was he a big inspiration to you?
Squidward: Why … uh, yes! I’ve studied him for … years!
Host: I would like to announce that Squidward’s house will be featured in an hour-long commercial-free “House Fancy” special. And, Squidward will be crowned House Fancy Prince of the Year, an honor that was originally to be bestowed upon Squilliam.
[Squilliam collapses in horror.]
The Encyclopedia SpongeBobia, whose very existence is a comment on our culture, has a summary of the episode, whose analysis holds that host Withers considers the wrecked house “a work of abstract art.” And of course that’s a comment on our culture as well. Likewise, the episode mocks the likes of cable shows such as HGTV. By the way, if any reader knows who, if anyone, “Saul Impkins” alludes to, please communicate. Also, Squidward’s house is the middle house below, next to SpongeBob’s house (right).
(Press to see full SpongeBob “House Fancy” episode. The “May I use your bathroom” scene is worth the price of admission.)