Phineas and Ferb: Kid Inventors and a Secret Agent Platypus

Geek Culture

Phineas and Ferb is a TV show aimed at tweens kids of all ages, but it’s good enough that I’d actually watch it without my kids around.  The title characters are tween stepbrothers who have a lot of time on their hands during summer vacation, and, like kids everywhere, they have to figure out ways to fill the time: normal everyday projects like building a full-size roller coaster, becoming one-hit wonders, or inventing a shrinking submarine.  In the meantime, their teenage sister Candace tries to "bust" them with their mother, but something always happens at the very last second to make all the evidence disappear.  The boys often annoy Candace, but clearly love her, because they often go out of their way just to make her happy.

And then there’s Perry.  Perry is the boys’ pet platypus, but unbeknownst to them is also a secret agent ("Agent P") with a high-tech hideout, who reports to Major Monogram and works to thwart the plans of the evil Dr. Doofenshmirtz.  Doofenshmirtz’s evil plans are always bizarre and based on a personal shortcoming of his–for instance, in one episode he feels the statue of Rutherford B. Hayes outside his window is mocking him because he can’t grow a beard, so he plans to turn the statue into a loaf of bread and get hungry magpies to eat it.  Of course, Perry always foils the evil plans, and pretty much every time the foiling of the plans also ties in with removing the evidence of Phineas and Ferb’s activities before their mother finds out.  Doofenshmirtz and Perry have a codependent relationship built on the fact that, if they didn’t have each other to fight, neither would really have anything to do at all.

There’s a lot more, including tons of jokes that will go right over kids’ heads but will cause grownups to laugh out loud, like when Phineas and Ferb create robot doubles, and Phineas says "Look! They’ve started their own overpriced coffee franchise! (pauses) That’s so nineties."  There’s always a funny song related to the action in each episode, and there’s lots of theme music for Perry and Dr. Doofenshmirtz.

Don’t be put off by the fact that the show airs on the Disney Channel, or that Candace is voiced by Ashley Tisdale of High School Musical fame.  The show’s creators (who also direct and do voices), Dan Povenmire and Jeff "Swampy" Marsh, worked on shows like "Family Guy," "The Simpsons," and "Rocko’s Modern Life," and you can tell:  There are running gags in every show, which are changed up sometimes for extra comic effect, and there are tons of references to pop culture of longer ago than most of the young viewers of the show could possibly remember.  To my mind, that makes it an ideal kids’ show.  I can stand to watch just about anything with my kids, but I actually look forward to watching Phineas and Ferb with them.

(This post was written with help from my son, who is 7.5 and would like to express that "Phineas and Ferb" is his "most favorite show in the whole wide world.")

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