As much as I love SpongeBob and watching his infectious enthusiasms and pretzel logic play out in the beguiling aquatic milieu of Bikini Bottom, as the father of two small — not discernably satiable — SpongeBob fanatics, one does upon occasion long for the oxygen of fresh Spongy content.
So it is with a glad heart and rejoicing lungs that I announce “Where’s Gary?,” a half-hour SpongeBob SquarePants special premiering on Nickelodeon Friday, November 11 at 8 p.m.
Riffing on the now-familiar “trouble with Gary” and “consequences of obsession” themes, it’s crisis time in the pineapple-under-the-sea when SpongeBob (voiced by Tom Kenny) forgets to feed his remarkably feline pet snail for several weeks while attempting to beat the paddle-ball world record.
Gary, the meowing snail, becomes disillusioned and runs away from home. While living on the rough streets of downtown Bikini Bottom, the wayward mollusk is taken in by a strange but kindly old woman (voiced by SNL’s Amy Poehler) who mistakes him for one of her other beloved pets.
One week later, when SpongeBob snaps out of his paddle-ball mania, he realizes he has forgotten to care for Gary (a la Squidward in an earlier episode) who is now missing. With the help of his well-meaning but unspeakably dim best friend Patrick, SpongeBob sets out on a town-wide search to find his little pet gastropod and return him home. Meanwhile, as Gary is wrapped in comfy blankets and indulged in an endless assortment of snacks, he discovers a dark secret about his new benefactor.
For five days leading up to the “Where’s Gary” premiere, kids can log onto Nick.com to enter the SpongeBob SquarePants “Where’s Gary?” Sweepstakes. Every night on-air, Patchy the Pirate (Tom Kenny) and guests will search in different locations for Gary. On Nick.com — which also features a sneak preview of the special and a “Trail of the Snail” Flash game — kids can get a “Trail of The Snail” tracking card and enter Patchy’s search locations in order to be eligible to win the sweepstakes.
The grand prize is a trip to the Nicktoons Studio to meet the production team of SpongeBob SquarePants and the opportunity to sit in on a voice recording session with the cast.
SpongeBob SquarePants has consistently been one of the top rated kids’ shows on television, with the Saturday airing of the series ranking as the number one rated program among children 2-11. According to Nielsen, 53.7 million viewers tune into the show each month, making it the most watched show on Nickelodeon among total viewers, including 22.1 million kids 2-11, 12.7 million tweens 9-14 and 12.9 million Adults 18+. SpongeBob’s adult viewers have increased by 31% since the premiere of the show in 1999.
“Where’s Gary?” will also be released on DVD on November 15.