Doesn't Dumb Down
Too many times cartoons, especially cartoons for kids, dumb down their content in order to play to a broader audience, meaning folks who can't get the jokes. The final product becomes predictable and ultimately boring. But Phineas and Ferb is not one of those cartoons.
The animated comedy focuses on two stepbrothers, American Phineas and British Ferb, who spend their summer vacation inventing and building enormous contraptions for producing everything from a giant ice cream sundae to the ultimate chariot race. As soon as Phineas says, "I know what we're going to do today, Ferb!" you know the ride is about to start.
At this point, Phineas' (by the way, the only other Phineas I've ever heard of is Phineas Nigellus in the Harry Potter series) sister tries to bust the boys by providing evidence of their mischief to her mother, a long-suffering parent convinced her teenage daughter is just mired in histrionics. Of course, the fates always conspire to keep Candace from proving anything.
Within all this "Brady Bunch on Pop Rocks" action, we follow Agent P, who is Perry the Platypus, the family pet. (Who has a platypus as a pet?) Perry is a cross-eyed, growling platypus that hangs out with the boys, sleeping on their beds and sitting under the backyard tree. But when the evil Dr. Doofenshmirtz begins making his evil weapons (always ending in "-inator," as in "copy-inator") Agent P leaps into action, taking his orders and foiling Doofenshmirtz's plans in James Bond style.
Play It Again, Ferb
In nearly every episode, someone in the cast sings a song that is worthy of either a Tony-winning musical or a Grammy-winning pop chart topper. In fact, the infectious theme song was nominated for an Emmy in 2008. Each song is catchy with fun rhythms and clever lyrics. The Simpsons and Family Guy have also had top notch songs within their episodes, but not in nearly as many as Phineas and Ferb. Not only are the songs a kick, but the accompanying animation more entertaining than most music videos, some of which are even parodied. My favorite songs from Phineas and Ferb are "Busted," "One Good Scare Ought to Do It" and especially "Squirrels in my Pants."
Hidden (Behind the Microphone) Talent
Whenever I watch an animated show, I love to play a game with myself, guessing which actor or actress is providing the voice for various characters. For some reason, I have a very good ear for voices (as witnessed by the Starbucks drive-thru employees near my home). So it's always a kick when I recognize a voice that is unexpected for the medium, or when I can't recognize the voice and dash for IMDB.com before the credits roll. Phineas and Ferb have provided delight in both ways.
I was psyched to recognize Caroline Rhea (Sabrina the Teenage Witch) as the Mom and Allison Janney (Juno) as Dr. Doofenshmirtz's ex-wife Charlene. But when I couldn't figure out who voiced the kids, I had to look up the cast. Casting Maulik Pancholy (30 Rock) as Baljeet was brilliant. Ashley Tisdale is riotous as hysterical teenager Candace, who is really the star of the show.
But my favorite sound of all is the throaty growling of Perry the Platypus, provided by Dee Bradley Baker (American Dad). I laugh every time.
'Love, Actually' Connection
Ferb and Vanessa seem to be star-crossed lovers, ships that pass in the night. Funny enough, the actors who give the characters voices were also romantically linked characters, at a much younger age, in the romantic comedy Love, Actually.
Thomas Brodie-Sangster, who plays taciturn Ferb, was also Liam Neeson's adorable son in Love Actually. That character, Sam, had a crush on a girl at school, played by Olivia Olson, who is the voice of Vanessa on Phineas and Ferb! I wonder if that was planned?