When you're the father of two wee daughters — ages 5 and 21 months to be exact — the process of accepting their incessant "car music" comes in three stages:
(1) I bet the Jonas Brothers can't throw a football.
(2) If Miley Cyrus were my daughter, that would make me Billy Ray Cyrus, which would make me cry a great deal.
(3) Okay, fine, maybe Dora the Explorer shouldn't be tied to the outside of the space shuttle.
You eventually get used to the songs, singing along with your brood solely as a matter of self-preservation. But there's rarely genuine enjoyment involved.
That's what makes the music of Phineas and Ferb, the Disney Channel's No. 1 animated series for kids 6 to 14, such a revelation. The story of two inventive brothers, an exasperated older sis and a pet platypus named Perry (who's also a secret agent), Phineas and Ferb blends sly humor, slapstick and, most importantly, some of the best 'toon tunage in TV history.
Show creators Dan Povenmire and Jeff "Swampy" Marsh, plus music producer Danny Jacob and Disney stars Ashley Tisdale and Mitchel Musso, have nodded to krautrock, Jamaican dancehall, surf and gutbucket blues in penning an original song for each new episode. The best number so far, Gitchee Gitchee Goo, is pure power-pop bliss. I say put it on adult radio right now.
Phineas and Ferb's soundtrack was just released, and there's nary a bad cut among the 26 tracks. (Seek out Squirrels in My Pants, Little Brothers and Queen of Mars.) In fact, it reminds me of eight other televised 'toons that mastered melody far beyond a catchy theme song. Feel free to sing along:
SpongeBob SquarePants (1999-?) Surrealism has never been so catchy. "The best time to wear a striped sweater is all the tiiime." When Spongie comes on my iPod, I rarely skip ahead.
The Simpsons (1989-?) Wow, where to start with the brilliant Springfield spoofery? Let's start with Flaming Moe's, Lisa It's Your Birthday and The Monorail Song. Oh, and Rock Me, Dr. Zaius.
Merrie Melodies (1931-1969) Nothing makes me laugh harder than Bugs Bunny calling a sinister square dance for those warring hillbillies. "Grab a fencepost, hold it tight /Womp your partner with all your might!"
South Park (1997-?) The infamous combo platter of R. Kelly, Tom Cruise and Trapped in the Closet helped Matt Stone and Trey Parker earn an Emmy nom.
The Flintstones (1960-1966) Remember the Bedrock Twitch? "When you get an itch, you do the Twitch, in Bedrock!"
The Jackson 5ive (1971-1973) Okay, this is a bit of cheat, as the songs were already album cuts — and the animation was lame. But the cartoon madcappery was instantly made cooler when soundtracked by MJ & Co.
Schoolhouse Rock! (1973-1985, 1993-1999) Three Is a Magic Number, Conjunction Junction, Lolly Lolly Lolly Get Your Adverbs Here — all written by the saintly Bob Dorough for ABC's great edu-snippets. You'd be surprised (or not) at how often I still rely on those songs.
Family Guy (1999-2002, 2005-?) Seth MacFarlane creeps me out. But songs a la Everything Is Better With a Bag of Weed are a twisted brand of genius.