‘Doug’: The Iconic Main Character Appeared in a Commercial Before He Got His Own Show

In 1991, the kids’ network Nickelodeon debuted three animated TV shows that became iconic to kids of the ’90s. Rugrats, The Ren & Stimpy Show, and Doug all began on the same day, and they all went on to become huge successes. For fans of Doug, the show was unlike anything that came before it or since, with a main character who was a normal, relatable kid.

But it seems that the series wasn’t the main character’s first time on TV. He’d actually made an appearance a few years earlier, and it wasn’t in another animated series. Doug’s first time on the small-screen was in a commercial. 

In this photo illustration the Nickelodeon logo is seen displayed on a smartphone
Nickelodeon | Photo Illustration by Rafael Henrique/Getty Images

The creation of ‘Doug’

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According to Screen RantDoug was about an 11-year-old boy called Doug Funnie. It showed the daily life of a typical middle schooler, as well as the world he created in his mind. Jim Jinkins, the creator of Doug, came up with the character when he was going through a tough time in his life. He was dealing with some health problems and had just been through a difficult breakup.

Creating the city of Bluffington helped him escape from his problems.  Jinkins modeled the characters after people he knew from his childhood. The simple premise of the show was so popular that it went on for seven years, even surviving a network change in 1996 when the series was moved from Nickelodeon to NBC. 

An unusual and honest show

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Looper reports that Doug was unique as a kids’ show because it was about normal kids and their lives. The plotlines weren’t over-the-top, like many animated series. The creators wanted to get away from the commercialism and violence of most kids’ programming. “There are shows you can give children that are smart, that will appeal to them,” Executive Producer Vanessa Coffey explained.

“Kids like to think. They don’t want to be given guns and sugar.” This approach created characters and situations that are refreshingly honest and true to life. For instance, Roger Klotz, the bully who picks on Doug, is also shown to have problems of his own. He grapples with being held back in school and being poor. 

At one point in the series, Patti Mayonnaise, Doug’s crush, develops an eating disorder after she discovers diet culture and weight loss supplements. Doug himself is even shown struggling with body image, as he worries about losing weight before a pool party. Doug’s anxiety about his life and how people see him is pretty typical for kids his age, yet TV shows that target that age group rarely show these issues. 

Before ‘Doug’ debuted, Doug was once on TV

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Before he convinced Nickelodeon to help him create Doug, Jinkins fought to find a way to bring the character to life. According to Mental Floss, he first tried to sell a book about him, called Doug Got a New Pair of Shoes, but several publishing houses turned it down. Jinkins later used the book in his pitch to Nickelodeon executives. 

But two years before the network brought Doug to its audience, the main character had already made a brief appearance on the small-screen. In 1989, he appeared in a commercial for Florida Grapefruit Juice, which you can watch on YouTube. He was shown bouncing on a pogo stick, holding a glass of juice.

It’s not easy to imagine Doug, who fans know and love as an honest, anxious kid, trying to sell anything. Fortunately, his story didn’t end with a glass of juice in his hand. Millennial kids are glad that he went on to star in a classic show to share their childhood years with.