‘Doug’: The Show’s Main Character Was Almost Named Something Odd Instead of Something ‘Incredibly Average’
When it comes to children’s TV shows from the 1990s, there are some seriously dedicated fans who still have a soft spot for the series of their childhoods. Nickelodeon and Disney each had their own lineup of iconic shows, and some of them have managed to have legitimate staying power. Some of these fan bases have been so strong that they’ve inspired reboots of the classics they love the best. One of Nickelodeon’s shining stars was Doug, a series that was remarkable for just how unremarkable it was.
In fact, the series went so far out of its way to make sure it was rooted in the ordinary that the main character’s name had to be changed.
Nickelodeon had many hit shows in the 1990s
Nickelodeon was originally a commercial-free space for educational television. Premiering in 1977, it was renamed to Nickelodeon in 1979, but the rebranding failed to give it much success, as Britannica reports.
A more successful revival came in 1983 when it started airing commercials and decided to target children directly rather than bill itself as an educational platform. This strategy proved to be a winning one, and soon the network had its own studios, paving the way for original cartoons.
These Nickelodeon original animated series began airing in the early 1990s. In 1991, three of Nickelodeon’s most memorable series premiered: Rugrats, Doug, and The Ren & Stimpy Show. By 1993, the network had added Rocko’s Modern Life to its animated lineup.
In 1994, Aaahh!!! Real Monsters joined in on the fun. By the end of the decade, the network included Hey Arnold!, The Angry Beavers, CatDog, and the incredibly successful SpongeBob SquarePants.
‘Doug’ had a short but memorable run
Doug was among the earliest of the cartoons that launched on Nickelodeon, and it has certainly remained a fan favorite over the years. This is despite the fact that it wasn’t one of the longest running series (that honor would go to SpongeBob SquarePants, which is — remarkably — still on the air and in its 13th season).
Doug only ran for four seasons — though it was later picked up by Disney and ran for an additional three. It’s the Nickelodeon version that most people remember best, however.
The series followed the day-to-day life of Doug Funnie, a boy who has just moved to Bluffington. The sixth grader adjusts to being the new kid in town while making friends, getting a tremendous crush, facing bullies, and retreating into a world of daydreams and fantasies.
Doug’s name had to be changed to keep it ‘average’
If the plot of Doug doesn’t sound particularly groundbreaking, that’s by design. The show’s creator, Jim Jinkins, was intentionally trying to capture the perspective of a totally average kid living a totally average life.
The fantastical adventures he imagined for his alter-ego aside, most of the things that happen to Doug are those that the many viewers watching along at home would encounter themselves. It was relatable and heartwarming.
Because of that, Jinkins wanted a name that fit the mood. Originally, the title character was called Brian, but Jinkins didn’t think it was quite right, as Mental Floss reports. Deeming Brian to be “too fancy,” Jinkins instead settled on Doug: “If you think about what that sounds like, it sounds incredibly average, and that’s what I was trying to do: express from that point of view.”
By giving Doug such an average existence, Jinkins created a character who has lived on for decades in the minds of the viewers who saw themselves portrayed in the cartoon.