There’s little explaining the phenomena that is SpongeBob Squarepants (Tom Kenny) to those who don’t get it.  SpongeBob was launched as three shorts on May 1, 1999. It became a series in the summer of 1999, and quickly became one of the highest-rated cartoons on television, eventually even surpassing Rugrats as Nickelodeon’s most popular cartoon.  You have an eternally optimistic sponge whose calling and gifting in life is to be a fry cook (namely at the Krusty Krabb).  His best friend is a dimbulb starfish named Patrick Star (Bill Fagerbakke) and his neighbor is the bitter curmudgeon (and his co-worker at the Krusty Krabb), Sqidward Tentacles (Rodger Bumpass).   He works for a penny-pinching crab, Mr. Eugene H. Krabb (Clancy Brown) whose secret formula for his krabby patty sandwiches are under constant threat of being stolen by his competitor, Sheldon J. Plankton (Mr. Lawrence).

The best way to experience the cartoon is by diving in.  Nickelodeon keeps going back to the SpongeBob well, this time packaging a few episodes around a one of the SpongeBob special episodes.  The lead episode, The Great Patty Caper, is like a whodunit—secret formula recipe on the Orient Express—as SpongeBob, Patrick and Plankton ride a train in search of the Krabby Patty recipe’s latest hiding place.  Most of the episodes in this random collection revolves around the adventures of Plankton trying to steal the formula for his own restaurant.

That also illustrates the weakness of the collection.  We get plenty of Mr. Krabs, Plankton, even Pearl, but the stories don’t give a well rounded look at the Bikini Bottom universe.  Patrick is one of the most popular characters, the champion of idiots everywhere, and adds a random, dada-esque edge to the antics, yet he doesn’t get nearly enough screen time.  And SpongeBob’s hyperkinetic good cheer is best taken in against Squidward’s grumpiness.

Thematically, Plankton seems to get the limelight, with several plots revolving around his quest for the krabby patty secret recipe.  Which would lend itself to the spiritual application of being a slave to one’s ambition and greed, and the need to escape empty ways of living, but Plankton continues to live this life of quiet desperation.  The upshot is that those episodes are pretty much one trick ponies.  So, basically, this devolves into a collection of fair to middling SpongeBob episodes, with its requisite amount of gross out and general disturbing imagery (like Sandy—who showers in a bikini—peeling off her fur which Plankton wears as a skin suit), is better digested by buying a season’s collection.