I wanted to thank everyone for their kind words about Flit, and to those of you who shared your own pet stories. It was very much appreciated.
I admit it. I was a Kim Possible fanboy, and I’ve become an equally devoted follower of Phineas and Ferb. Both shows have their flaws, but overall, I love ’em.
Kim Possible was about a crime-fighting cheerleader, her goofy sidekick and his pet naked mole rat, and supervillains that ranged from the mad scientist to the monkey kung fu master to Ricardo Montalban.
Phineas & Ferb is about two stepbrothers who build implausibly awesome inventions, everything from space ships to roller coasters to teleportation portals. In the meantime, their pet platypus sneaks out to fight a would-be supervillain determined to rule the tri-state area. Also, there are musical numbers.
Both shows are smart, well-written, self-aware, and fun. Both shows treat viewers with respect instead of talking down to kids or adults. I routinely quote Phineas and Ferb and get their songs stuck in my head. At one point Kim Possible had Michael Freaking Dorn guest-star as a superevolved naked mole rat from the future!
After several seasons, both shows did something risky. They changed things.
At the end of a Kim Possible special, Kim starts dating her sidekick/partner Ron. Instead of the tired old “Will they or won’t they?” storyline that drags out for far too long (I’m looking at you, Castle!), the writers simply decided that they would. There was actual smooching.
Phineas and Ferb just released a movie called Across the Second Dimension, wherein our heroes discover their pet platypus Perry’s secret identity as Agent P, crime-fighter for the OWCA (Organization Without a Cool Acronym). Perry had successfully hidden his double-life for the entire show, but now he got to team up with his humans, and it was awesome. Both for seeing how well they worked together, and for random lines like, “Wait a minute, I just realized you could have been changing your own litter pan this whole time! Oh, this is not over!”
And then at the end of the Phineas and Ferb movie, the writers hit the reset button. Everyone’s memories are erased except for Perry’s, and everything goes back to the status quo.
Whereas Kim Possible released another season in which Kim and Ron continued to date, stumbling at times, but working through the changes and stories that came with their new relationship. (I loved watching the supervillains stop in mid-battle to say things like, “Wait, you and him? Really? Nah, I just don’t see it.”)
The writers of Kim Possible took a risk, moving beyond the established formula to try something new. It could have failed, but that’s what makes it a risk. And to me, that’s the mark of a good writer.
So often we stick with what’s safe, with what we know worked before. I loved Feist’s Riftwar saga, but as I read his next books, I kept thinking, “Haven’t I read this already?” I didn’t love them the way I had the earlier books.
Safe sells. Formula sells. Just flip on the TV and watch almost any half-hour sitcom. It’s comfortable. But I believe great writing requires risks, a willingness to continue to try new things, whether you’re writing a novel or a cartoon script. And that’s why I think Kim Possible wins this particular show-down.