Sunday, February 15, 2004

Nick special shines spotlight on popular 'OddParents'



By Mike Householder
The Associated Press

The Fairly OddParents is the second-highest rated program in America for viewers 2 to 11 years old.

But kids make up only 60 percent of the show's 3.8 million-strong audience.

The Fairly OddParents, like the even bigger Nickelodeon cartoon hit SpongeBob SquarePants, is nearly as popular with teenagers and adults as it is with children.

And that's by design.

"The show is for kids, but we write what we like," said series creator Butch Hartman. "We write stories that we like and hope the kids like them too. But we definitely make sure that they skew toward a kid audience."

The Fairly OddParents follows the adventures of 10-year-old Timmy Turner and his wacky fairy godparents, Cosmo and Wanda. They grant Timmy's wishes but don't always get them exactly right.

With a premise like that, it's no wonder kids have taken to the show. But the verbal give-and-take and sharp story lines are what keep the parents tuning in.

"I think it's one of the great indicators of smart writing and great character development when adults come as well as kids," said Cyma Zarghami, president of Nickelodeon Television. "It has an incredibly broad appeal."

Take for example the episode in which Timmy wishes he could be older. Wanda and Cosmo transform him into an adult, but he's bald, his back hurts and he has no job. When he tries to help an old lady across the street, the woman is less than thrilled.

"When you're a kid, helping an old lady across the street is kind of cute. But when you're an adult, it's just plain creepy," Hartman said.

"Captain Kangaroo and Fred Rogers completely appealed to the kids themselves," said Robert Thompson, head of the Center for the Study of Popular Television at Syracuse University. "The Nickelodeon approach - which is a smart one - is to not only appeal to the kids, but to the whiny, smart-aleck adolescents those kids will become, as well as the parents."

Nearly three years after the show made its debut, Hartman's creation will get the royal treatment when a Fairly OddParents special airs on Nickelodeon (8 p.m. Monday).

The 30-minute show, The Fairly OddParents' Big Superhero Wish, will be preceded by a 12-episode marathon from 2 to 8 p.m.

Timmy, Cosmo and Wanda are joined in the special by the Crimson Chin, Timmy's comic-book hero (voiced by Tonight show host Jay Leno).

Also appearing, as always, is Timmy's baby sitter Vicki - who is the reason he has fairy godparents.

"She makes his life miserable every single day," Hartman said. "Cosmo and Wanda show up to make his life better, because fairy godparents are assigned to miserable kids."

While Hartman didn't suffer a mean baby sitter, he does share a special connection with Timmy.

"Timmy is my alter ego. He's a wise guy. He's sarcastic. He's quick-tempered.... He loves comic books. He loves video games," Hartman said. "He's pretty much my alter ego, except I didn't have fairy godparents."




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