The following story was originally published on March 31, 2009.
Finding Phineas and Ferb tucked among horrific shows like Wizards of Waverly Place and Hannah Montana is a little like finding the savior of humanity in Nazareth: No good thing is supposed to come from Disney television. But there it is, an 11-minute show packed with intersecting plot lines, adventure in suburbia, intrigue and a pet platypus doubling as a super agent. It’s the only show that all three kids (ages four, eight and 10) plus both parents actually like. And here are five reasons why:
1. The theme song
Officially named one of the 12 Best TV Theme Songs from Current Shows by no less an authoritative a source than, well, me, Phineas and Ferb’s theme is performed by a band called Bowling For Soup who apparently have sold many copies of albums like Drunk Enough To Dance and A Hangover You Don’t Deserve. Not normally the kind of band I want my kids listening to, unless it’s the 55-second manic ska song that ends with their sister Candace complaining, “Mom, Phineas and Ferb are making a title sequence.”
2. The unbridled enthusiasm of Phineas
“Hey Ferb, I know what we’re going to do today,” Phineas says each show before launching into his latest ambitious plan to pass the summer days, whether it’s building a giant tree house that transforms into a giant robot or filming a movie or creating a time machine. And even though the stepbrothers’ grand plans escape the attention of their parents and drive Candace nuts, Phineas and Ferb remain completely guileless, telling their disbelieving mom and dad what they’ve accomplished and always looking out for Candace. Unlike most Disney shows, the siblings have a deep-seated affection for one another and for their parents.
3. The dry wit of Ferb
Ferb gets about one line per episode, but it’s always a doozy. And he’s still got his English father’s accent.
4. The evil schemes of Dr. Heinz Doofenshmirtz
Dr. Heinz Doofenshmirtz is the sole proprietor of Doofenshmirtz Evil Incorporated. His dastardly schemes involving awesomely designated devices of pure evil (the the Ugly-Inator, Age-Acclerator-Inator) are thwarted by Perry, Phineas and Ferb’s pet platypus who doubles as Agent P. The subtleties of the relationship are pitch-perfect. When Perry busts in on Doofenshmirtz when his blind date is about to arrive, Perry accomodates his rival by pretending to be his pet (“She doesn’t know I have a nemesis”). Around the 10-minute mark, both plotlines come back together as something the boys are doing affects Doofenshmirtz’s plans or Doofenshmirtz’s machines stop Candace from busting her brothers.
5. The humor
Creators Dan Povenmire and Jeff “Swampy” Marsh met while working on The Simpsons. Povenmire later worked on Family Guy, and the cleverness of both shows—and particularly the pacing of Family Guy—has wore off on both, making it one of the smartest shows on TV for people of any age.
Josh Jackson is editor-in-chief of Paste. His TV column appears every Tuesday.