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'SpongeBob' rules

Nickelodeon airs 'lost episode' on Friday evening

My soon-to-be-12-year-old son, Jonathon, watches a lot of animated TV shows. I wouldn't exactly call him a connoisseur, but he's definitely more up on the genre than his father — despite the fact that Jonathon doesn't get paid to watch and write about TV.

His favorite animated show? "SpongeBob SquarePants."

Why? "Because it's funny."

And why is it funny? "Because Patrick and SpongeBob are stupid."

Yeah, well, that's correct. And concise.

SpongeBob, of course, lives in a pineapple under the sea. He and his best friend, Patrick Star (a dimwitted starfish), are always doing, well, stupid things. Stupid things that are funny, of course.

And generally mixed up in their adventures is Squidward Tentacles, the cranky squid.

"SpongeBob" isn't just for kids. It's for adults, too. Even adults who don't have kids.

I've seen far fewer episodes than Jonathon has, but I've liked the ones I've seen. I've laughed. I've been entertained. And I certainly wouldn't say that about all the cartoons Jonathon likes.

(Sorry, but the appeal of the Cartoon Network's "Ed, Edd and Eddy" escapes me.)

It's hard to miss SpongeBob and his pals these days, even if you never watch TV. There's SpongeBob merchandise in seemingly every store.

And "SpongeBob" is getting ready to make the leap to the big screen. The show's creator, Stephen Hillenburg, and his team are hard at work on a theatrical film — but it's not slated for release until the fall of 2004. In the meantime, they aren't producing any new TV episodes.

There are, however, nine unseen "SpongeBobs" that Nickelodeon is holding back for a bit. The first of those airs during a two-hour "SpongeBob" extravaganza Friday at 6 p.m.

Billed as the "Lost Episode," it's wrapped around live-action sequences featuring SpongeBob's biggest fan, Patchy the Pirate (Tom Kenny, who provides SpongeBob's voice). He's lost the lost episode, however, so we get three repeat episodes while he searches for the right tape — interstitials that are quite amusing themselves.

As for the "lost" episode itself, when we finally get to it we see SpongeBob trying to soar like a jellyfish. What did Jonathon think of it?

"It was funny."

Correct. And concise.