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The Best Nickelodeon Character Bracket: The Final Four

In the end, it’s come down to the absolute best of the best: the 1-seeds

Adam VillacinHarrison FreemanCharles Morales

Thirty years ago this week, a rising but not-yet-ubiquitous kids network by the name of Nickelodeon launched its first original animated series. Introduced on August 11, 1991, under the brand of “Nicktoons,” Doug, Rugrats, and The Ren & Stimpy Show would quickly become hits and change the course of animation, television, and popular culture at large. To mark the anniversary, The Ringer is looking back at Nick’s best-ever characters and the legacy of the network as a whole. Throughout the week, we’ll be publishing essays, features, and interviews to get at the heart of what made Nick so dang fun—and now so nostalgic.

When The Ringer set out to create the Best Nickelodeon Character Bracket, we asked ourselves a lot of questions. How many characters per show should qualify? Do licensed shows like Degrassi count? Is CatDog one or two characters, and is it really true their official names are “Cat” and “Dog”? But most importantly, we asked ourselves: Who are the greatest characters in Nickelodeon history? And on that count, we appear to have identified the correct answers.

Four rounds through the Nick Character Bracket, four characters remain—and they’re all the 1-seeds from their respective regions. In Bikini Bottom, SpongeBob SquarePants; in Hillwood, Arnold Shortman; in Bluffington, Doug Funnie; and in Reptarland, Tommy Pickles. As the bettors say, it’s all chalk in the Final Four. Congratulations to anyone whose bracket is still intact, and congratulations to us for seeding this whole thing decently.

Now the true test for each of these characters begins. They’ve taken down classic game show hosts and beloved sidekicks, animated icons and live-action sitcom stars. But now, there’s nowhere to hide. The 1-seeds will face a challenger on equal footing at last.

For the most part, each of these characters cruised through their regions en route to the Final Four. SpongeBob, the tourney’s odds-on favorite, had little problem dispatching CatDog, Cosmo and Wanda, Double Dare’s Marc Summers, and Chuckie, winning 77 percent of the vote on average. Arnold made light work of Ginger, Blue, Patti Mayonnaise, and—quite impressively—Squidward Tentacles, whom he beat with a comfortable 60 percent margin. Tommy’s results initially seem a bit skewed due an absolute blowout victory over Are You Afraid of the Dark’s Zeebo the Clown in the first round. But then young Pickles went on to crush Helga Pataki and Stimpy before eliminating the last live-action character standing, Kenan Rockmore. All in all, Tommy finished with the highest average of the vote, at 81 percent.

Doug had noticeably more difficulty reaching this point of the tournament. An average of 64 percent of the vote in his victories is a clear dropoff compared to his Final Four peers. But Doug also faced arguably the toughest competition of the quartet, taking down a respectable Nigel Thornberry, Mr. Krabs, Patrick Freakin’ Star, and early-’90s companion Rocko. What a lineup that is. Patrick is a particularly notable triumph for Mr. Funnie—I was sure Doug would be a goner, but in the end, he snuck past the SpongeBob favorite by less than 2,000 votes. (For context, more than 46,000 votes were cast in that matchup.)

The pair of face-offs we’re left with are truly tantalizing duels that could, in theory, see some of the narrowest margins of victory in this bracket. SpongeBob is the wise gambler’s pick to win it all, but Arnold doesn’t appear vulnerable at all and just knocked out SpongeBob’s frenemy—who might be the most memed cartoon character ever—with ease. Tommy has clobbered everyone he’s faced to this point, but Doug keeps swatting aside challengers who seem like they could beat him.

With an all-1-seed Final Four, are there really any favorites anymore? We’re set for a blockbuster finale.


Which Nick character should advance?

This poll is closed

  • 60%
    1. SpongeBob SquarePants, ‘SpongeBob SquarePants’
    (6729 votes)
  • 39%
    1. Arnold Shortman, ‘Hey Arnold!’
    (4352 votes)
11081 votes total Vote Now


Which Nick character should advance?

This poll is closed

  • 43%
    1. Doug Funnie, ‘Doug’
    (4745 votes)
  • 56%
    1. Tommy Pickles, ‘Rugrats’
    (6220 votes)
10965 votes total Vote Now

Timing for the Final Four and the final are a bit different than the rest of the rounds: Voting on the Final Four will close at 3 p.m. ET on Friday; voting on the final will then open at 4 p.m. and continue until 9 p.m. As always, you can vote right here, on Twitter, and on Instagram.

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