Media Monday: Smash-O, Smash-O
Given that I spend each Monday writing about some piece of pop culture related to skateboarding, writing about the old Nickelodeon cartoon Rocket Power would make perfect sense. After all, it’s a show about four kids that love extreme sports, including skateboarding. You’ve got the Rocket siblings Otto and Reggie, plus their friends Squid and Twister. It would be a nice trip down memory lane for many of you, I’m sure. Like any good Millennial, I’m into nostalgia for entertainment from my childhood. Rocket Power would seem like the perfect choice.
Here’s the problem with that. I may be a good Millennial, but I’m also an older Millennial. I am a man in my thirties. Rocket Power aired from 1999 through 2004. Were I a slightly younger man, I would be imbued with feelings about Rocket Power. Instead, I was basically a teenager when the show debuted. I had grown beyond watching Nickelodeon’s cartoon offerings. This is also why I am totally lost when it comes to SpongeBob Squarepants. I can talk to you all day about The Adventures of Pete & Pete and Clarissa Explains It All, but I could only tell you the names of the kids from Rocket Power because I looked them up on Wikipedia. And yet, I remain undeterred. I still intend to write about a Nickelodeon cartoon and how it relates to the world of skateboarding. It just won’t be as obvious a choice.
The earlier days of Nick did not involve many skateboarders. You’d think Clarissa, or at least her friend Sam, would have skated a bit. They probably did, but it wasn’t inherent to their personalities. In fact, the one Nickelodeon character I distinctively remember having an interest in skating is not the kind of kid you could imagine skating. Maybe because he always wore a green sweater vest. That’s right, I’m talking about Doug.
Doug Funnie was very much an everyman in kid form. An everyboy, as it were. He lived in his imagination like some sort of Walter Mitty, but reality never lived up to his dreams. There was nothing terribly special about Doug. He seemed nice enough, but he didn’t really stand out. That’s maybe why he had trouble catching the eye of Patti Mayonnaise. Doug’s status as an everyman was also helped by the fact he was surrounded by characters with, like, blue or purple skin or green hair. Doug was also overshadowed by even his own dog Porkchop, who was quite smart for a dog.
Anyway, in one episode of Doug, the titular Doug becomes preoccupied with getting a Smash-O skateboard. He sees an ad for it during the TV show within the world “Sidewalk Surfer” which is about a cool skateboarding dude. Doug naturally dreams of being as cool as the Sidewalk Surfer. He needs that Smash-O skateboard! It’s kind of amusing to me how much this reflects real life. Surely as soon as this episode of Doug went to commercial there were ads for products that the kids watching Doug would be obsessed with giving. Doug was living the life of his audience, and the commercialism of it all felt a little on the nose.
I have a distinct memory of both the “Sidewalk Surfer” jingle and the Smash-O jingle. Especially because the Smash-O song insisted, “And dogs love it too.” Of course, we’ve all seen dogs skateboard these days, or at least that one bulldog does it. Doug, not comfortable enough in his own personality, decides that getting a Smash-O is the key not just to coolness, but to getting Patti to fall for him. Patti will like him for the things he owns, a great message for children. Don’t worry, it doesn’t end up getting to that point. Doug learns a different lesson. The Smash-O stuff is all a jumping-off point for Doug starting a business mowing lawns to get the money to buy an expensive skateboard. Doug gets his best friend Skeeter, the Sleech twin's Al and Moo, and even his dog to join his business. See, Porkchop is special! He can even mow lawns!
Eventually, Doug becomes obsessed with making money and alienates his friends. This is when he has a heart-to-heart with his neighbor Mr. Dink, the man who introduced to me the concept of a “dual income, no kids” family. That’s why he could buy all that shit that was “very expensive.” Mr. Dink tells Doug you can either treat people like your friends or your employees, and Doug realizes what he’s done. Thus, he spends his money on tickets to the amusement park Funkytown for him and all his friends. Then, Porkchop rides a Smash-O skateboard. Dogs do, indeed, love them too.
This is one of the episodes of Doug I remember the best, though I did admittedly have to jog my memory. What I really remembered with crystal clarity is the Smash-O jingle and Porkchop riding a skateboard. The rest rushed back when I read about it. Maybe that’s because it had to do with skateboarding. That kept it in my brain all these years. Doug is not a show I really like to return to, though I have out of curiosity. It’s totally fine for a kid, but it doesn’t really have the panache that keeps it interesting for an adult. Unlike, say, The Adventures of Pete & Pete. Weirdly, Little Pete never rode a skateboard to the best of my knowledge. Although, now that I think of it, I feel like Skeeter may have ridden a skateboard, and Doug was his best friend. Why was this Doug’s first time being interested in skating? It would have made sense for these two to skate together.
I apologize to any of you who would have preferred a lengthy dissertation of Rocket Power. And I doubly apologize to those of you young enough to not have really watched either Doug or Rocket Power. Take solace in the fact I will probably die at least a good decade before you do.