Animated (in more ways than one) stepbrothers Phineas and Ferb are whiling away what may be the longest summer vacation ever. But their elaborate, reality-twisting plans are constantly under assault by their tattling older sister, Candace—who goes so far as to snitch on the boys for "making a title sequence" at the beginning of every show.
While the boys enjoy their seemingly endless summer break, their pet platypus, Perry, never takes a day off: Serving as a secret agent for the OWCA ("Organization Without a Cool Acronym"), Perry sneaks off to wage war against his nemesis, Dr. Heinz Doofenshmirtz. The resourceful platypus knows that eeeeviill never takes a coffee break, so neither can he.
Co-creators Dan Povenmire (formerly a writer for Fox's Family Guy) and Jeff "Swampy" Marsh, unsuccessfully pitched the concept of Phineas and Ferb for 16 years before Disney finally took a chance on the show in 2007. Povenmire has described it as a cross between SpongeBob SquarePants and Family Guy—a kids' show that adults can enjoy, too, with a slew of hip cultural references and a catchy song each episode to keep things interesting.
"I think it's great that the characters are cool, edgy and clever without the humor being mean-spirited," Marsh told Animation World Network. "It was important to us that they never did anything with any animosity."
"What Do It Do" & "Atlantis"
Phineas and Ferb is almost always packaged as a twofer, with two stories inserted into each new airing. In "What Do It Do," a strange, one-eyed rocket robot (courtesy of Dr. Doofenshmirtz) crashes into the family's front yard, and Phineas, Ferb and the gang decide to build another one (since they're not allowed to touch the first one), reverse engineering it to figure out what it does. Turns out, the thing's an anti-romance robot, programmed to extinguish candles, sweep away rose petals and otherwise spoil lovey-dovey moods.
Meanwhile, "Atlantis" has Phineas and Ferb discovering the famed lost city, while Candace busies herself in a sand castle building contest and Perry battles Doofenshmirtz and his army of nasty houseplants.
It's all fun and games until somebody gets smelly. And makers of kid-oriented cartoons often seem to feel that an episode can't be complete without some form of bathroom humor. These two stories do have a bit of that, but it's comparatively mild: A dog goes to the bathroom where he shouldn't, and Doofenshmirtz suggests that Perry smells bad when the platypus falls into one of the nasty scientist's fertilizer traps. When the gang traipses along the ocean bottom, one kid asks another, "Why is the water always so warm next to you?"
That reference will likely go over young kids' heads, as will passing references to Poseidon, the Greek god of the ocean. But they're there, nevertheless. As is the idea that Phineas and Ferb never really get permission to run off on their latest excursion—leaving Candace in a tattletaling frenzy.
"It's About Time!" (Parts 1 & 2)
The family goes to the local natural history museum, and Phineas and Ferb undertake to fix an unfinished time machine on display. It works all too well—much to the dismay of Candace. Meanwhile, Perry discovers that Doofenshmirtz has found a new nemesis (Peter the Panda), and Perry is crushed.
"It's not that I don't hate you anymore," Doofenshmirtz explains. "I do. But I just think it's time we take a break and start fighting other people."
Phineas and Ferb may actually be the funniest regular feature on the Disney Channel. While Disney's wildly popular live-action shows can feel, at least to adults, a bit stiff and saccharine, Phineas is full of vim and wit—all without straying into problematic content.
At least not too far.
There is, after all, a bit of violence: A bevy of secret agent animals and evil scientists get into a knock-down, drag-out battle during a daytime talk show; a T. rex tries to eat Candace; and Doofenshmirtz tells Perry that he wants to get back to hurting him "the right way—with cartoonish physical violence and elaborate traps constructed out of strange things purchased on the Internet." When a security guard reprimands Candace for yelling in the museum, Candace talks back, sarcastically saying it'd be a shame to wake anyone up.
But I can't be too critical. After all, this is a show that, when Phineas and Ferb are marooned in the Jurassic Period with only a motorized scooter for transport, they immediately look for helmets—a sentiment any safety-conscious parent would approve of. Never mind that those helmets take the form of live turtles.