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Some love for The Aquabats

Somewhere in the deep catalog of Netflix's children's programming, buried between Korean imports you've never heard of and unpronounceable shows about warrior cars and anime cats, you'll find the first season of The Aquabats! Super Show!.

The cover art Netflix has chosen for its thumbnail is unceremonious at best.  Just an ambiguous screencap from an episode where Crash McLarson - who isn't even the leader of the titular Aquabats - is buried up to his neck in sand and has a mildly confused look on his face.  Tragically, the immediate association that comes to mind is the poster for Fred: The Movie - hardly the sort of thing you want in your company.

But if you decide to click on that thumbnail and watch, either out of morbid curiosity or because, like me, you have children who've fallen helplessly in love with it, you'll get yourself a thirty minute dose of magic.

This is not just an average dumb kids' show.  It's a fantastic world of perpetual summer and clean fun featuring a ska punk band from the '90s that dresses in matching blue costumes and fights B-movie monsters in between performances.  It has the same vibe of goofy humor that's miraculously both funny and family-friendly that's normally only ever achieved by Homestar Runner and Weird Al Yankovic - tellingly, the latter guest stars in a few episodes and one of the creators of the former directed half the season.

The Aquabats are the most wonderful of surprises.  They're one of those acts that has the longevity and experience needed to deliver a quality product, yet a low enough profile that you are virtually guaranteed to feel like you just discovered a hidden gem.  I'd never heard of The Aquabats until earlier this year. and I'll guess that most people who live on the East Coast would feel the same.


It's not just that the show is funny and kid-friendly enough that I don't mind my daughters watching it.  It's also that The Aquabats have been performing and releasing studio albums since the mid-'90s.  There's a nearly 20-year long mythology behind them that builds into the show, and once you Google them and get over the initial surprise of, "Holy crap, they're a real band?!", you feel the whirlwind descent into fandom.

Their discography is not deep, but it is rich.  Like They Might Be Giants, they know how to deliver ear-worms with well-thought, well-planned lyrics that only sound like silly nonsense.  The early albums are more strictly ska punk, but eventually they blended other genres to come up with a good variety of rock.  So, if you don't like one, just go to the next - there's bound to be something in there that appeals to you.

They've also inspired Lulabelle to break out into arbitrary dance and shoot mom and dad with laser fingers while Sonja claps and shakes her butt.  I'm delighted to know that The Aquabats were still touring as of this July.  I don't know when or if we'll be going to a show, but they're just about perfect for my kids' first concert.

The Aquabats are living proof that, in this era, there's no such thing as being late to the party - they're happy hosts who've left the door wide open.  I'm glad I've joined.  If you're not too busy, you should swing by, too.