Alibi V.15 No.29 • July 20-26, 2006 

Idiot Box

A Boy and His Rodent

“Squirrel Boy” on Cartoon Network

Cartoon Network has unleashed (so to speak) another “boy and his (not quite) dog” series with “Squirrel Boy.” The show follows the adventures of 9-year-old Andy Johnson (voiced by the ubiquitous Pamela Segall, who does Bobby on “King of the Hill”) and his pet squirrel Rodney J. Squirrel (Richard Steven Horvitz, who lent his vocal chords to “Invader Zim”). Andy’s your typical nerdy screw-up, Rodney’s your typical id-driven troublemaker. Put ’em together and it’s fun for the whole freakin’ family.

Produced in-house for Cartoon Network, the show has the same edgy-but-safe feel of such mid-school hits as “Ed, Edd and Eddie,” “Rocko’s Modern Life,” “The Fairly Oddparents” and “Cow and Chicken.” The show is the brainchild of creator Everett Peck, who was responsible for the oddball adult series “Duckman.” One of the main writers and the story supervisor for the show is a dude named Chris Painter. In the interest of full disclosure, I should probably note that I went to high school with Chris Painter and that I roomed with him in college. Great guy. Hands down the funniest writer I know. Needless to say, it’s good to see him doing well out in Hollywood. ... Not well enough to, you know, get me an invite to the Playboy mansion or anything, but well enough not to hit me up for rent money at least.

In the past, Chris has written episodes of “She Spies” (with Natasha Henstridge) and “Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius.” “Squirrel Boy” gives him (and the show’s other writers) a good sandbox to run around in. Basically, Andy and Rodney spend each episode (usually broken into two shorter segments) getting in and out of assorted slightly off-kilter situations. The show’s color comes from its bright animation, its zippy pacing and its occasional nonsequitur jokes. The plotlines (going to summer camp, spending a day at the fair, trying to buy a hot new toy) are sitcom standard. But characters like “Salty Mike” (Rodney’s archenemy, an irascible Latino parrot) are just offbeat enough to be memorable.

I doubt that “Squirrel Boy” will have the same multigenerational cult appeal as, say, “Ren & Stimpy” (a far, far weirder show) or “Spongebob Squarepants” (which, if you look hard enough, has a naughtier undercurrent to it). It is, however, a cute, energetic, sharply animated series with a veteran voice cast that should appeal to a wide range of toon fans. The writing is occasionally quite snappy, and the jokes have a tendency to sneak up on you and slap you in the back of the head. It’s aimed mostly at younger viewers, but don’t be too surprised if it hits a few adults in the head as well. Check it out. If you don’t like it, nuts to you!

“Squirrel Boy” airs every Friday night at 8 p.m. on Cartoon Network.