SpongeBob SquarePants performs in the episode "Band Geeks"
(Nickelodeon)

Revisiting the 11 Greatest Minutes in TV History, 25 Years Later

We all deserve that moment of joy.

I remember watching the first-ever episode of SpongeBob SquarePants. I loved watching the Kids Choice Awards because as an 8-year-old, I was very much under Nickelodeon’s cultural thrall.

Recommended Videos

I was eagerly curious to see which new Nicktoon they would premiere after all the sliming was done. And on May 1, 1999, that Nicktoon was SpongeBob SquarePants.

From that moment on, I became obsessed with SpongeBob. Unhealthily so, maybe—to the point where if anyone at my school knew one thing about me, it was probably that I loved SpongeBob. (I have always been a nerd, yes.) Pick an episode in seasons 1 through 3, and at some point in my life, I was able to play it front-to-back in my head, from memory. There’s one I still can.

I was already enthralled with SpongeBob, but when I saw “Band Geeks” for the first time, I knew it was special. Every single line of dialogue, every frame of animation, contributes to a joke. It all crescendos into an ending musical number which feels so right, yet comes from left field. There’s a unique flow and confidence to “Band Geeks” that distinguishes it from all other SpongeBob episodes—and, I’d argue, places it among the greatest episodes in TV history.

Better than ever

“Band Geeks” premiered on September 7, 2001 (a fascinating date, in retrospect), and has since been living in the brain cells of every SpongeBob fan. In the days before streaming, when I as a child would watch Nickelodeon and be treated to a random episode of SpongeBob, the airing of “Band Geeks” felt like a special occasion to me.

The episode starts off on one hell of a joke: While Squidward is practicing the clarinet (poorly), he’s visited by a doctor-looking guy who very dryly says, “Yeah, uh, we’re with the pet hospital down the street, and we understand you have a dying animal on the premises?”

In every single moment that follows, “Band Geeks” never lets up. Instead of major “pause for laughter” centerpieces, the jokes of “Band Geeks” are smaller and more thought-out—like the “dying animal” quip—but that’s precisely what makes them so genius. You’re laughing until, at the end, a tear unexpectedly comes to your eye.

Still, as we grow older, we have to reckon with the phenomenon of many things we loved as a child not aging gracefully, or not holding up to the scrutiny of the adult brain. That is decidedly not the case with “Band Geeks,” which has aged like fine wine. Especially in its first three seasons, SpongeBob was written with adults in mind, and therefore gained a healthy adult fanbase, even from the get-go—like Ren and Stimpy before it and Adventure Time after.

As someone who became a professional musician, I find “Band Geeks” even funnier now than I did as a child. The plot of “Band Geeks” is essentially Squidward doing everything he can to make the most of a sudden chance to achieve his childhood dream, even though it feels like everything is working against him—something most real-world adults can relate to on some level. As such, a lot of the episode’s runtime is devoted to poking fun at adulthood: its ennui (“looking to add fulfillment to your dull, dull life?”), its insecurities, its absurdities.

For example:

Squidward: I have a theory. People talk loud when they want to act smart, right?

Plankton: CORRECT!!!

Squidward: So if we play loud, people might think we’re good! Everybody ready? And a-one, and a-two, and a-one, two, three, four …
(The band plays so loud, the windows of the building burst.)
Squidward: Okay, new theory. Maybe we should play so quietly, no one can hear us.

This exchange goes through my head on a regular basis—because, as a musician, I have seen performances on both ends of Squidward’s suggested spectrum. And as a person who has inhabited various workplaces … we all have our stories.

Sweet Victory

If “Band Geeks” was just 11 minutes of perfectly executed jokes, it would certainly have a place in the history of American comedic television. But what makes the episode one of the best ever made is the ending.

When you make fun of the ennui of adulthood, it’s easy to come to a cynical conclusion, which could end up alienating some viewers (or just make them sad in a not-fun way). Instead, “Band Geeks” culminates in a moment so emotionally charged that it’s the biggest tearjerker moment in all of SpongeBob SquarePants.

The band pulls together and makes Squidward’s dream come true. The final moment of the episode is Squidward jumping in the air, a huge smile across his face. “Sweet Victory” is an iconic moment which lives rent-free in the minds of most SpongeBob fans. It turns a tale of struggle amidst what feels like a cycle of failure into a story of success and liberation from that cycle.

Like SpongeBob says in his immortal speech, we all deserve that moment of joy. And delivering a piece of that joy while making you laugh and grabbing your heartstrings is what makes “Band Geeks” so special.


The Mary Sue is supported by our audience. When you purchase through links on our site, we may earn a small affiliate commission. Learn more
related content
Read Article Which Season of ‘The Sopranos’ Is the Best … and Which Deserves To Be Whacked?
Adriana (Drea de Matteo) and Silvio (Steven van Zandt) driving in The Sopranos
Read Article What’s the Eco Pup’s Catchphrase Your Toddler Keeps Repeating From ‘PAW Patrol’?
Rocky on Nickelodeon's "PAW Patrol"
Read Article One Cut ‘Bridgerton’ Character Changes One of Season 3’s Best Scenes From the Books
The Featherington sisters and their husbands in Bridgerton season 3
Read Article When Can We Return to the Flames With ‘Fire Country’ Season 3?
Max Thieriot in Fire Country
Read Article Get Emotionally Wrecked by the 9 Best Shows Like ‘Heartbreak High’
Amerie, Darren, and Quinni standing at their lockers in Heartbreak High
Related Content
Read Article Which Season of ‘The Sopranos’ Is the Best … and Which Deserves To Be Whacked?
Adriana (Drea de Matteo) and Silvio (Steven van Zandt) driving in The Sopranos
Read Article What’s the Eco Pup’s Catchphrase Your Toddler Keeps Repeating From ‘PAW Patrol’?
Rocky on Nickelodeon's "PAW Patrol"
Read Article One Cut ‘Bridgerton’ Character Changes One of Season 3’s Best Scenes From the Books
The Featherington sisters and their husbands in Bridgerton season 3
Read Article When Can We Return to the Flames With ‘Fire Country’ Season 3?
Max Thieriot in Fire Country
Read Article Get Emotionally Wrecked by the 9 Best Shows Like ‘Heartbreak High’
Amerie, Darren, and Quinni standing at their lockers in Heartbreak High
Author
Kirsten Carey
Kirsten (she/her) is a contributing writer at the Mary Sue specializing in anime and gaming. In the last decade, she's also written for Channel Frederator (and its offshoots), Screen Rant, and more. In the other half of her professional life, she's also a musician, which includes leading a very weird rock band named Throwaway. When not talking about One Piece or The Legend of Zelda, she's talking about her cats, Momo and Jimbei.