I’ve already said in several posts that I was inspired to write by The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius. But until now I’ve only gone over in general terms what about the show inspired me. I think it’s time I delve into a few more specifics; mainly my favorite episodes. So sit back, grab a Purple Flurp, and get ready to drown in a wave of nostalgia as I go over the 6 best episodes of Jimmy Neutron.
NUMBER 6 – Out, Darn Spotlight
The final battle of Ragoon the Space Pirate and Macbeth.
Sometimes the best episodes of a children’s series simply show kids being kids. That’s why this episode made the list. It doesn’t have a far-out story, insane action, or memorable scenes between Jimmy and Cindy. It’s just a story about a class full of fifth-graders putting on a school play, which of course spirals out of control because of Jimmy’s inventions. But the focus isn’t on Neutron’s intellect, it’s on something that could happen in any elementary school.
I think people too often forget that Jimmy Neutron was an extremely funny show. Out, Darn Spotlight is one of the best examples of this. From Jimmy’s random Keanu Reeves impersonation to Willoughby’s completely inappropriate excitement at two of his students kissing, this episode is a non-stop joy ride.
“Now, go in for the big kiss. Really plant that sucker!”
I love how down to Earth this episode is (before Jimmy’s invention sucks the school up in a tornado, that is.) All the kids have completely normal concerns. Jimmy just wants to kiss his crush in the play. Sheen wants to prove he can act. Carl needs to get over his stage fright. Cindy is obsessed with earning the eye of a talent agent, who of course goes to an elementary school performance.
Maybe this episode didn’t push any boundaries or give us something we haven’t seen before. But it has a surprisingly well-animated stage battle, a story all kids can relate to, and is utterly hilarious. Sometimes, that’s all a show needs to be great.
NUMBER 5 – The League of Villains
“We will meet in the giant chicken ship, currently docked in Gamma quadrant 6. Light refreshments will be served.”
One of Jimmy Neutron’s greatest strengths is its continuity. It’s not a serialized show and it doesn’t have the same commitment to continuation of its developing universe as, say, Bob’s Burgers. But the characters grew together over the course of the show, and they encountered a steadily rising roster of villains. In this fabulous episode, these villains band together to rid themselves of Jimmy Neutron once and for all. And it works as well as it does for 3 main reasons.
First are the villains themselves. Jimmy Neutron always had well-defined and amusing characters, and that also goes for the bad guys. Even though some of these foes only appeared in one episode for a handful of minutes, they all feel like fleshed out people. This means that not only are they a blast to watch individually, but they are utterly hilarious when thrown together. This is a rather basic idea (throw all the villains in a room and let play them off each other!), but the writers handle it extraordinarily well. They share the same goal, but nothing else. It rapidly becomes clear that these people hate each other, and it’s hilarious to watch them struggle to work together at all. What’s even more shocking is that their plans actually work, at least at first. They may not all be friends, but darn do they actually pull together and manage to nearly take Jimmy down. Jimmy was never an edge-of-your-seat action show, but the villiains come really close to taking our boy genius out here, and you start to wonder if they’ll actually succeed. It certainly doesn’t hurt the tension that there’s a minute-long hilarious discussion on the best way to kill their foe.
“I can build us a machine that would freeze Neutron in carbonite on a bed of spikes, while carbolic acid ice cubes melt down onto his head, which is mounted on a wall, while…”
Second reason this episode is amazing? The decision to split up the JN gang into two unusual groups. When Jimmy is captured, Sheen quickly follows him in an ill-conceived rescue attempt. The two end up stuck in jail together while Carl, Cindy, and Libby try to track them down. It’s hilarious to watch Jimmy quickly realize how useless Sheen is, and it’s equally funny to watch Carl lay down some ground rules when he lets the girls into Jimmy’s lab. It’s always a wise move to put your show’s characters into new pairings or groups for an episode, and League of Villains does it to great effect here.
Lastly, this episode rocks because of the very subtle Jimmy / Cindy component. Cindy agrees to help rescue Jimmy with no prodding, although she brushes off the notion that it’s because she loves him. Yet when death is seconds away, she hastily tries to confess her feelings. She’s cut off when Jimmy comes up with an idea for their escape, which leads to one of the series’ wisest moves.
Having Cindy nearly profess her love would have been enough for most shows, but not for this episode of Jimmy Neutron. When I watched first watched this episode 10 years ago, I fell in love with the above scene. But the older I get, the more I appreciate subtle moments over big ones. That’s why what happened at the very end of this episode is quite possibly my favorite romantic moment from the Jimmy Neutron series. It’s so quick, spontaneous, and subtle, yet full of meaning. As Cindy asks what will happen to the villains, which Jimmy has trapped in the past, Jimmy offers a quick explanation. But while he speaks, his eyes glance down to Cindy’s hand. Cindy’s own gaze follows suit, and then he grabs it. They both smile and walk inside The Candy Bar, still discussing the villains.
Jimmy’s quick glance downwards before grabbing her hand is one of the best director decisions I’ve ever seen. It’s so subtle and realistic; it really makes the scene.
This really shows the talent of the crew who made JN. They didn’t just want to do the bare minimum and get a paycheck, they clearly put a lot of thought into every moment of this series. And their fans will always appreciate that.
NUMBER 4 – Stranded
“We may never be found.”
The third season of Jimmy Neutron is widely considered the “Relationship Season,” and Stranded is the episode that set this tone. It’s actually quite shocking that the third episode of the season focused so heavily on Jimmy and Cindy’s relationship; one would expect this to be a mid-season or actual season finale. But scheduling aside, this is an adorable episode.
When the gang goes off to investigate whether the equator is a visible line or not, Jimmy and Cindy get thrown overboard and wash up on a deserted island. They quickly realize that they have little reason to hate each other when they don’t have to keep up appearances in front of the other kids. Meanwhile, Libby, Carl, and Sheen struggle to find them.
Many fans consider this episode their favorite, so why is it only #4 on my list? Personally, I think the idea that Jimmy and Cindy need to be isolated to be happy together is somewhat flawed. Libby actively wants them to admit their feelings, and Sheen and Carl really have no interest in whether they date. Jimmy’s not hated or even mocked much by kids at school, so Cindy shouldn’t feel embarrassed for being with him. While the boys sometimes reject the idea of liking girls due to their age, they’ve also competed over the same girl before (the episode “Foul Bull”). In short, I don’t really get why Cindy and Jimmy feel the need to keep up the appearance of hating each other.
It’s something I wish the show had addressed or rectified, but it obviously doesn’t sink this episode. There’s simply too many great moments for that to happen. Watching Jimmy and Cindy start to respect each other after saving each other’s life is really fun to watch, and seeing them share the day on the island together is utterly adorable. It climaxes with the two sitting beside a fire, holding hands and shuddering in joy while staring at the moon.
It really is a beautiful moment.
This episode also deserves major praise for knowing how to push the envelope but not break it. Yes, Jimmy and Cindy admit that they like each other. Yes, they hold hands and shiver cutely. But this episode knows to hold some things back. They don’t kiss; they don’t declare their love. They’re still children, and the whole sequence on the island is a real reflection of how people this age would act when stuck with their crush. They take small steps and savor them. I really admire how the creators showed such restraint here.
In an equally wise decision, they didn’t dedicate the whole episode to Jimmy and Cindy. Cutting between the touching Jimmy / Cindy moments and the rest of the gang searching for them was a brilliant choice. You rarely get to see Carl, Sheen, and Libby hang out just the three of them, and putting them on a tiny ship stranded in the ocean lets their interactions rise to humorous insanity. While they initially work surprisingly well together (Sheen and Libby also get a handful of very subtle but sweet moments), the cramped conditions get to them and they start turning on each other, culminating in them accidentally blowing up a cruise liner and nearly eating Carl. It’s a wonderfully fun segment of the show, and the crazy humor provides the perfect counter to the sweetness on the island.
While Stranded isn’t a perfect episode, it nevertheless gave fans their first real real taste of what Jimmy and Cindy being together might be like and how beautiful it would be, while also giving the other three members of the gang a great chance to shine.
NUMBER 3 – Win, Lose, and Kaboom
One of the things I detest from any artist is playing it safe or settling into a complacent routine. Jimmy Neutron never settled for this. They never kept returning to the same well; they didn’t have a technique or scene template that worked once so they just kept doing it again and again. They always tried to do something new and interesting. Nowhere is this more apparent than in their full-length TV movie.
In 88 minutes, the people behind this show had the JN gang rocket across the universe to compete in a gameshow for Earth’s fate. They also united a slew of alien races to stop this genocidal show, showed the kids’ parents back home trying to help, had a ton of great jokes and character moments, some well-done action scenes, and had important lessons about always doing what’s right and how you need to trust others, not just yourself. And perhaps most importantly, this movie had a sense of danger that rarely permeated the other episodes. Right off the bat, the kids know that if they lose their world is destroyed. But if they win, three other planets full of sentient creatures get blown up. The word “dead” is thrown around more in this episode than any other, and while it doesn’t exactly have you on the edge of your seat like the climactic Avatar episodes, this movie gets major points for trying something new here.
Also, this happens.
As I noted above, a major theme in this episode is Jimmy realizing that he can’t do everything on his own. To be completely honest, it was a little strange to have Jimmy learn this in the 38th episode of the series. Previous episodes had already shown he had great faith in his friends; I do think this movie would have worked better had it aired a little earlier in the lineup. But as a stand-alone story this aspect of trust is quite interesting, and it’s resolved beautifully in one of the series strongest scenes.
It’s one of the final competitions of this genocidal gameshow. The gang has to race against some aliens to a finish line, but they find themselves trapped in what they realize is a simulation of Retroville. They need to get out fast, but there’s no easy escape. They come to a cliff, and Cindy suggests jumping off might shock their minds out of this imaginary prison. Jimmy protests that this could also kill them, but Cindy firmly believes it’s their best shot. Though not necessary for the jump, the gang decides to join hands in one of the best images of the series. Then Cindy lets out one final, desperate cry.
And Jimmy does. They jump and wake up. In an action-packed sequence set to great techno-music, the gang works flawlessly together to finish the race. The gang nearly dies a half dozen times, but they have faith in each other and pull together to win. It’s an adrenaline-inducing sequence with a great blast of heart.
But this movie is more than those handful of scenes. There’s plenty else to love here. In another of my favorite scenes from the show’s entire run, this movie begins with the five kids inside the Candy Bar, split off into smaller groups each doing their own thing. Carl is trying out new ice cream flavors, Sheen bounces possible pet names off Libby, and Jimmy struggles to bring himself to sign a friendship contract with Cindy. I absolutely love scenes where these five characters are together by choice, and this whole set-up works beautifully here. It’s adorable to hear Libby calmly state, “I already like you, Sheen,” to get him to tone down his quest for affection, and hearing Jimmy and Cindy finally willing to shelve their hostilities and become friends is adorable. (A lesser show would have had the two try to sign a relationship contract; I really like how the show’s crew consistently showed how friendship is just as important, if not more so, than romance.)
There’s also a great many funny scenes with Bolbi, who the writers wisely chose to bring (rather inexplicably) along to the gameshow planet. The character of April is a great foil for Cindy, brilliantly voiced by Alyssa Milano, and throws a wrench into the Jimmy / Cindy romance without being over-the-top about it. Lastly, it’s a real treat to not only see the kids’ parents realize the trouble their children are in, but actually find a way to help. Overall this film is a real testament to how great this show can be and is easily one of the most entertaining entries in the series.
NUMBER 2 – KING OF MARS
How things have changed from the first season.
For a long time, I considered this my favorite episode. Recent viewings of another episode have caused King of Mars to drop down on my favorites list, but it’s still a very close call.
King of Mars tries to do what Stranded did, but by showing even more group comraderie, throwing in some action elements, and having Jimmy and CIndy share their feelings in front of others, it beats Stranded out.
Most of my favorite episodes are from the third season because I love seeing these kids come together, especially how Libby and even Cindy come to like the boys. The different genders couldn’t stand each other at first, but by the third season they not only can stomach their presence, but you can tell they’re becoming a family. This episode earns major points by starting off with all five of them together in the park, staring up at the stars. There’s no lengthy explanation of how they got there, it’s just clear that they all decided to hang out together. More so than any other, this episode shows that the group are true friends by this point.
Sheen has been singing since it was light out, and look at them all. They’re still smiling.
The other great thing about this episode is the Jimmy / Cindy story. Cindy is openly flirting with Jimmy for the first time in this episode and it’s utterly adorable to watch. The creators of the show clearly knew at this point that the audience wanted this, but I’m so glad they didn’t just let the show devolve into a mushy goo-fest. Instead, Jimmy is still coming to terms with how he feels about Cindy. He obviously likes her, but he still feels he has to hide it. When he pushes her away too hard, she betrays the group to get back at him. Jimmy’s furious, and Cindy says it’s all his fault for being mean to her. Then comes a beautifully written explanation from Jimmy.
“You are so clueless, Vortex! Of course I know you exist, that’s why I pretend to ignore you! … I just think you’re pretty smart, and smell nice, and kind of distract me sometimes.”
I love how there’s a great reason for Jimmy saying all this; there’s been a real struggle between him and Cindy throughout the episode. It’s also definitely something an eleven year-old would say, and Debbi Derryberry, voice of Jimmy, really nails his hesitance when complimenting Cindy. It’s an incredibly touching and rewarding moment; something fans had waited fifty episodes to see, and it was handled perfectly. Bravo, JN team.
NUMBER 1 – My Big Fat Spy Wedding
It can’t be a #1 episode without Cap’n Betty.
When Jimmy Neutron’s arch-enemy Beautiful Gorgeous becomes engaged to his spy hero Jet Fusion, he decides to prove that the villainess is merely tricking him. Such is the story behind my personal favorite episode of JImmy Neutron. Everything, absolutely everything, about this episode clicks. From animation to voice acting to direction and writing, it’s clear that everyone behind the scenes had a blast with this episode. But the highlight is undoubtedly its non-stop hilarity.
This episode has more jokes than any other, and every single of them hits hard. The whole episode is hilarious, but what really makes this episode the best is the utterly insane final five minutes. When Sheen and Carl discover the truth about Beautiful Gorgeous lying about her reformation, they make a mad dash to the Retroville Church to stop the wedding. Along the way they just keep getting interrupted by complete insanity: a marching band full of drum-playing bears, Nick skating by and breaking his leg, and of course, giant fans.
“Dang it! It’s the annual Retroville giant fan festival!”
They eventually burst into the church, earning a dramatic shot from Cap’n Betty. They say the code word (“I have the ring!”) that forces the hypnotized Jet into attack everyone in the church. Jet lets out an insane scream, and of course the solution is for everyone to say the code word causing Jet to go completely insane. As the church erupts into a soulful musical rendition of “I have the ring!” everyone starts dancing, the bears keep on parading, and in all honesty what is the funniest thing I have ever seen, the music completely cuts out as the fans go by and WHIRR loudly.
The direction and sound mixing here are, quite literally, unbelievably funny. It makes no sense how it is this hilarious.
Jimmy Neutron often had a zany sense of humor, but this episode goes way beyond that. This is pure and utter insanity, but it completely works.
The incredible jokes alone would bring this episode to the top, but luckily the writers also saw fit to throw in a few hints at how close the JN gang has come over the three seasons of this show. One of Sheen’s first thoughts upon hearing about the wedding is to ask if he can get his girlfriend to sing at the wedding; it’s a quick but touching show of him having her on his mind. (He even calls her the greatest singer in the world.) The two also have a quick and easy conversation later on, where Libby happily greets Sheen and gives him a cute smile. When Cindy prepares to videotape the wedding, she secretly calls Jimmy a “hunk muffin” in a rare show of her thinking he’s not just smart and occasionally sweet, but handsome. And in one of my favorite group moments, Cindy and LIbby immediately agree to trust Carl and Sheen’s assertion that they need to all shout “I have the ring!” It sounds ridiculous, but by this point they have trust in the boys.
All in all, this blend of utter hilarity and surprising sweetness makes this not just the best episode JImmy Neutron, but one of my favorite 22 minutes of television period.