Every day, Watch This offers staff recommendations inspired by the week’s new releases or premieres. This week: The unofficial start of summer has us thinking of TV road trips.
Doug, “Doug’s Bad Trip” (season four, episode 13; originally aired 6/19/1994)
Doug is at its best when the Funnie family is losing its shit. (Remember the whole “There’s a bomb in the lasagna!” bit?) At the end of the show’s Nickelodeon run, viewers see an occurrence of familial insanity take place when Phil, Theda, Judy, Doug, and Porkchop hit the open road. Mr. and Mrs. Funnie have their sights set on the painted gorge, but their kids have other plans, each hoping to persuade their parents into taking a detour to one quirky roadside attraction or another.
The episode opens in media res, with the Funnies yelling at one another as the car cruises into the night and a torrential downpour. The tension is high as Doug throws out an uncharacteristic “Aw shut up!” right before the family car and a moving truck meet head on. Before the Funnies’ fate is revealed, “Doug’s Bad Trip” flashes back to the beginning of the trip, when Phil announces via a family meeting that the annual visit to grandma’s has been replaced by something Judy exclaims to be “sublimely cubist.”
It’s lines like that one that strengthen the character study that is “Doug’s Bad Trip,” with Judy continually asserting her love for all things high culture in the way any teenager itching to permanently leave the nest one day might. She packs only highbrow literature in a huge steamer trunk and at one point throws the trip 300 miles off-course so she can run through Blythe Field, the dilapidated haunt of a fictional, but famous, poet that Judy adores. (While there, Doug comments that, “It’s just a big old desert,” fitting into the role of baby brother quite well.) Meanwhile, over-eager father Phil is forced to scale back his ambitious plans—highlights include a “moonlight hike through Copperhead Pass,” “the petrified buffalo herd,” and “stargazing with Ranger Bob”—becoming more stressed as the trip progresses. Theda is seemingly just along for the ride, and to offer one more voice when everyone is shouting—or singing.
In the end, though, a common theme within Doug shines through: Family is worth the ups and downs, no matter how eccentric your sister is, or how detrimentally determined your parents are to show you a good time.
Availability: “Doug’s Bad Trip” is available as part of the Doug Season 3 DVD set. It can also be streamed from YouTube and Amazon Prime.