Remember Angry Beavers? A Nickelodeon cartoon about two brother beavers who live in their own bachelor beaver pad was - in all objectiveness - awesome. It had the free-flowing dialogue that you get in shows like Archer and Home Movies; easy, enjoyable storylines; and that "almost adult" edge that you got with Ren and Stimpy (but without the creepy strangeness). It ran for four seasons, consisting of thirteen episodes in each. That is, except for the final episode that was never aired for what may be the strangest reason ever.
The story doesn't begin in its final season though; it begins, strangely enough, in the second. In episode 24 "If You In-Sisters / Alley Oops" (which aired November 7, 1998), Daggett (the brown mean one, voiced by Richard Steven Horvitz (Invader Zim and Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy) tells his brother Norbert (Salem in Sabrina the Teenage Witch) to "shut up".
Now, bearing in mind that one of the running jokes of the series is that they curse all the time (they just say "oh spoot" instead of "oh shit"), one anonymous person wasn’t bright enough to catch onto this (and also missed the fact the word had been used twice in "Gift Hoarse / Go Beavers", the third episode of the first season that aired in May 4, 1997) and they kicked up a fuss about it. So keen was Nickelodeon to satisfy the requests of the one person with nothing better to do than complain, they actually bleeped the phrase "shut up" the second that time the episode aired.
Here is where this stupid tale gets stupider: the bleep caught the attention of all the homemaker mums who sit there kids in front of the TV, and the right-wing Christians who presumably spend their days watching kid’s shows in order to see if any of them are blasphemous or too enjoyable. Instead of one anonymous call, thousands of people called in to complain about the foul language in a children’s show: that bad language now merely being a "bleep." Nick were quick on their feet about it and for the first time ever re-recorded a line for a cartoon already on air. Norbert now said, "shush up, stupid!" The incident was dealt with, but not forgotten.
Angry Beavers was a big money-maker for Nickelodeon, but as it rolled into its fourth season, and they had bled all the merchandise out of it that they could, the powers that be decide to call an end to the show in case that the foul language incident be brought up again. If history remembers one thing about Angry Beavers creator Mitch Schauer, it will be that he is a stand up dude because his retribution was so creative it forced Nickelodeon to stop the last episode from being produced.
In the last ever episode of Angry Beavers entitled "Bye bye Beavers", Norbert learns that the show is being cancelled, and freaks the hell out. He exclaims: "there is no dog!" and has a bit of a weep before composing himself. He then tells his brother the bad news and lets him in on a secret: they have been cartoon characters all along. He goes on to point out that real beavers don't use appliances, or use bathrooms or talk, and they do so because they were only drawings. Norbert plays around a bit with the fabric of reality to prove his point, then has a mini tirade about the show ending, but still being on air as re-runs will benefit the network, but not the writers or actors involved with it. Daggett Prays to “Todd” for help; he then goes through the seven stages of denial. In a rather meta move, they refer to the show ending as them "being over", they never say they'll be dead or cease to exist, just that there going “to the over”.
I remember vividly as a child knowing that cartoons where not real. My brother had some issues with Tom and Jerry, and climbed a bookcase a few times with disastrous results; but I knew what was what, and Nickelodeon doesn’t trust the kids like me. Nick saw the script for this episode and stopped it before it could be made on the grounds of the Nickelodeon golden rule: cartoon characters must never admit they are fictitious. The company believe that if a child learns their cartoon characters aren't real, they will stop watching them. All advance film theories of audience spectator shit aside: that's balls. Kids know what cartoons are, and the ones that are confused by what they are aren't going to give them up once they learn otherwise. What Nickelodeon really had a problem with was that Norbert said they were "over". It’s forbidden for any cartoon to announce it has ended because Nickelodeon wants its viewers to keep watching the re runs in hopes the shows start anew. This is a cruel and calculated morally corrupt decision to lie to children so that they can keep advertising to them.
With the loss of that show, came the loss of a lot of our youth. Around the same time that Angry Beavers was axed, anime started to make its way into the mainstream, and there weren't a lot of weird and witty cartoons, but giant oversized robots and bad dubs. I think that the lesson here is sometimes you can go too far, but so what? The network wanted the old image of two cartoon beavers together in a series of the same misadventures to be the show’s legacy, as the episodes are repeated over and over again until the end of time. The show’s creator wanted to go out treating his young audience with a modicum of respect, and maybe give them something wholly unique to look back on years later when they were grown-up. He might not have got to do what he wanted, but how many other cartoons even tried? Hey Arnold never got to find out if his parents were alive (they did try to make a movie about it, but that's an article for another time). Catdog never got the chance to die of an intestinal disease cause by having two mouths and no anus, and the Rugrats, which claimed to be "all grown up", never actually grew as characters.
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