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.
So, it all comes down to this: a sponge … and a baby.
On Monday, 64 contestants entered the Best Nickelodeon Character Bracket. They hailed from the farthest stretches of the network’s catalog—from the early ’90s SNICK sitcoms to the 2010s TeenNick renaissance. They were off-the-wall pets and powerful fire-benders, sketch-comedy stars and fairy godparents. One by one, they duked it out for the supremacy of our collective nostalgia, but at last, on Friday, only two icons are left standing.
SpongeBob SquarePants and Tommy Pickles will face off in the Nick championship. On the heels of an all-1-seed Final Four, these childhood legends stand on the edge of glory.
Despite the chalk matchup in the previous round, both finalists comfortably dispatched their same-ranked challengers. SpongeBob took down the ever-optimistic hero of Hey Arnold!, Arnold Shortman. Football Head had been smooth sailing up to that point, averaging 79 percent of the vote in his victories. But he was no match for the Bikini Bottom dweller, who finished 18 percentage points ahead in the final tally. On the opposite side of the bracket, Tommy fared similarly well. His opponent, Doug, had staved off assaults from a daunting trio of Mr. Krabs, Patrick Star, and Rocko. But in the end, Doug’s impressive run was cut short, as Tommy toppled him with 56 percent of the vote.
Where does this leave us now? Both SpongeBob and Tommy have been emphatic in their triumphs throughout the tournament. At no point did either protagonist come even marginally close to defeat. So with the eyes of the world watching, these towering figures in the cartoon hall of fame will face off and settle this once and for all: Who is the greatest character in the history of Nickelodeon? That distinction … is now up to you.
Which Nick character should advance?
This poll is closed
1. SpongeBob SquarePants, ‘SpongeBob SquarePants’
1. Tommy Pickles, ‘Rugrats’