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The Off-Beats
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Segments: 14 (3 standalone, 10 on KaBlam!, 1 special; An Off-Beats Valentine's)
Date Ran: 1995 (standalone), 1996-1998 (KaBlam!), 1999 (An Off-Beats Valentine's)
First KaBlam! Appearance: You've Tried The Rest! Now Try The Best!
Last KaBlam! Appearance: KaBlam! James KaBlam!
Directed/Written/Created By: Mo Willems
Produced By: Curious Pictures


They nervous, they nebbish, they small, and the Populars don't like 'em at all. But that's ok, life is sweet. They cool. They the Off-Beats...
~ Intro, as narrated by Mo Willems

The Off-Beats is a traditional animation segment created by Mo Willems, featured in the Nickelodeon animated sketch comedy series KaBlam!. It was seen on the show's first two seasons.

A group of misfits named the Off-Beats deal with problems, some of which are caused by their rival clique, the Populars.

Overview

The Off-Beats has a distinct art style with flat, dry colors, and accentuation towards geometry, inspired by past artists like Fiep Westendorp. Its animation is similar to that of United Productions of America (UPA) and Hanna-Barbera cartoons. The series itself, especially in story and concept, pays homage to Peanuts, especially since the majority of the voice cast are children. Each episode is musically composed with a jazz genre, featuring a combination of a piano, drums and a double bass.

Beginning as The Misfits in 1995, three standalone short animated films appeared as interstitials on Nickelodeon. Mo Willems was then informed by the network that he had to rename the segment (to not confuse it with other media of the same name), thus its titles had to be reanimated as well. After little deliberation, he came up with The Off-Beats, which the name made its debut on the Rugrats "Tommy Troubles" VHS, released October 15, 1996.

The Off-Beats was the first of the regular segments on KaBlam! to end. Before Willems left Nickelodeon for Cartoon Network (to create Sheep in the Big City and then become head writer on Tom Warburton's Codename: Kids Next Door), a half-hour special episode "An Off-Beats Valentine's" was created, as an intended finale.

Characters

The Off-Beats

  • Betty Anne Bongo — Voiced by Mischa Barton. Betty Anne is the realistic thinking leader of the group, but sometimes isn't very bright. She can usually be found singing a brief theme song "My name is Betty Anne Bong-O, I sing this little song-O, I sing it all day long-O!" that usually ends with a bongo solo.
  • Tommy — Voiced by Mark Wagner. Tommy loves his plaid coat so much, that one time it is the basis for the plot when it gets sent to the cleaners and he goes insane. On some reasons he breaks his calm nature and loses his temper causing him to shout with words coming out of his mouth, usually startling his friends as well as himself. A catchphrase of his is "Let me just say..." when confronting the Populars, accompanied by his yelling (provided by Kevin Seal). Tommy also spends most of his time being outside. Fishing seems to be a favorite hobby of his.
  • Repunzil — Voiced by Trisha Hedgecock. The youngest girl in the Off-Beats, and can be quite naïve. She is known for her floor-length long hair (named after the princess Rapunzel). Repunzil can be dimwitted at times because of her young age and does not know how to tie her shoes. She is an animal lover.
  • August — Voiced by Dylan Roberts. August is the most technologically-inclined brain of the Off-Beats, but many of his gadgets fail or backfire unexpectedly. While some episodes imply that August makes his gadgets himself, others imply that he purchases them. He has an interest in impressing the Populars and gaining their respect.
  • September — Voiced by Mo Willems. The wise-cracking talking dog of August is usually ambivalent to most situations and plotlines. Despite that, he does enjoy the company of the Off-Beats. September is paid to like August, and has a contract that permits him to have at least one day off. Despite his natural intelligence, he can't seem to open a simple can of dog food. September can play the bagpipes.

The Populars

  • Tina — Voiced by Kathleen Fasolino. Tina is the mean-spirited leader. If the Off-Beats ever show any self-esteem, she is there to squash it. Despite being spoiled and her bad attitude, she seems to be intelligent, as she is curious about Betty Anne's inability to react to her negative comments. Tina resembles a stereotypical "school diva."
  • Beth — Voiced by Tara Ketterer. Tina's best friend and sidekick in the group. It is her job to shout "ADULT!" whenever a grown-up (typically Grubby Groo) is near, and then they put on a "phony" nice act.
  • Billy — Voiced by Jimmy McQuaid. Billy wears a red beanie cap. A running gag usually involves him saying something that will upset the rest of the Populars, and they literally throw him out of the group, causing him to crash into something (most likely a trash can, given the sound effects).
  • Paul — Voiced by Tim Duffy.
  • Gordon — Voiced by Keith Franklin.
  • Virgil — Voiced by John Morgan.

Other Characters

  • Grubby Groo — Voiced by Mo Willems. The beatnik-looking adult friend of the Off-Beats, and the only one who realizes how mean the Populars are, despite them always trying to put on a nice act when they see him. He owns Café Ad Hoc, which is famous for its Junkyard Sundae. Grubby loves to play golf. The character's name originated from a Sesame Street segment "Grubby Groo, The Poet" which was also created by Willems.
  • Brad — Voiced by Bradley Glenn. Brad is Grubby Groo's nephew. Betty Anne Bongo has a crush on him.

List of Episodes

All episode listings only feature the original airdates of the standalone or KaBlam! episodes.

Standalone (1995)

The animation is choppier and the character's voices are younger. Also, the bean-shaped logo for The Off-Beats is green and a Nickelodeon arrow appears at the top of it.

The segments were later released on the 1996 Rugrats VHS Tommy Troubles in between the episodes featured on the tape before they appeared on KaBlam!.

Episode number Episode name Episode summary Original airing date
0a My Dog Can Talk In an effort to befriend the Populars, August tells them that his dog, September, is able to talk. When he says "bow," the Populars laugh, but in clarification, September commands them to bow down to him, leaving them in shock. 1995
0b Your Shoe's Untied The Populars play the "your shoe's untied" prank on every member of the Off-Beats, but it only works on Repunzil. She then asks Grubby Groo if he can tie her shoes. 1995
0c The Twig Betty Anne Bongo finds a twig and tries to save it with Repunzil's help (her hair). When that fails, they ask Tommy for advice. He yells that they leave it alone (but it kills the twig even more). As they leave it behind, August and September find it useful for a game of fetch (which is played the other way around). 1995

KaBlam! Season 1 (1996-1997)

While the intro is unchanged for the most part, the bean-shaped logo for The Off-Beats is now pink, and the Nickelodeon arrow is absent.

Episode number Episode name Episode summary Original airing date and episode title
1 The Robodog September has a day off (in his contract) from being August's dog. So, August orders a new robotic dog, which "plays 4-ever" but it soon bores him. September takes notice, so he obtains a robotic boy, which also "plays 4-ever" and causes the Robodog to leave August, befriending the Roboboy. December 13, 1996 (You've Tried The Rest! Now Try The Best!)
2 Too Much Attention for September August takes a ride in his new invention, the Helicart, but September turns down the opportunity to go with him. Then, everyone else tries to talk with or play with September, driving him insane. January 3, 1997 (A Little Dab'll Do Ya!)
3 Betty Anne's Glasses Betty Anne Bongo loses her glasses after playing her bongos. However, the Populars find them and Tina puts them on to mimic Betty Anne. The Populars hide them from the Off-Beats, who are unaware of this, but September comes up with a plan to get them back. January 31, 1997 (Resistance is Futile)

KaBlam! Season 2 (1997-1998)

The intro is unchanged.

Episode number Episode name Episode summary Original airing date and episode title
4 Tommy's Coat When Tommy has his coat sent to be dry-cleaned, he begins to slowly go insane because he misses his prized possession, so Betty Anne Bongo tries to help him. He even hallucinates the Populars having the same color pattern as the coat! September 26, 1997 (Won't Crack or Peel!)
5 The Suave-O-Matic 5000 August wants to be friends with the Populars, so he uses his Suave-O-Matic, which results in him getting taller and cooler with a deeper voice. The Populars befriend the new August, and all goes well until he decides to play paddleball, which causes the Suave-O-Matic to explode! October 17, 1997 (Harold's Glow-in-the-Dark Brand Butter)
6 Tommy's Song Tommy hears a song on the radio and sings along to it, but now it's stuck in his head. However, he is able to scare away the Populars with the song. Repunzil just so happens to have the song stuck in her head too, which gets to Tommy again, and the rest of the Off-Beats as well. November 7, 1997 (I Just Don't Get It!)
7 Repunzil and the Sweepstakes Repunzil gets an entry form in the mail for a sweepstakes with a million-dollar prize. She believes she is going to win, so the Populars befriend her in hopes she will buy stuff for them. November 14, 1997 (E Pluribus KaBlam!)
8 The Sprain Betty Anne Bongo sprains her wrist after playing her bongos, and despite all the attention she is getting, she is depressed because she cannot play anymore. The Populars are jealous of the huge junkyard sundae that Grubby Groo makes for her, so they try to fake being injured to get a sundae as well. When they do get one, all of them have their arms in casts so eating the tasty treat is harder than they thought. November 21, 1997 (Better Than A Poke In The Eye!)
9 Paddleball Record August is pursuing a new paddleball record, while September realizes he cannot open his can of dog food, so he is incredibly hungry. Thankfully, August sees this and feeds his furry friend in time. January 2, 1998 (Art + Science = Fun!)
10 The Statistic When September reads a report about the probability that a person in a group of four would be conked on the head by something falling from the sky, Tommy tries to leave the group because he seems to be the target. January 16, 1998 (KaBlam! James KaBlam!)

Specials: 1999

Episode number Episode name Episode summary Original airing date
N/A An Off-Beats Valentine's Everyone is getting ready for Valentine's Day. Grubby Groo is hosting a dance at his café. Tommy of the Off-Beats and Beth of the Populars develop a crush on each other. September reminisces about a female cat named February he was in love with. Repunzil tries to get September a new crush and tries to give an escaping Tommy a valentine gift. August tries to figure out how to get a girlfriend without the use of technology. Meanwhile, Betty Anne Bongo could care less about Valentine's Day, until she crushes on Grubby's nephew, Brad. February 12, 1999

Merchandise

Cover of The Off-Beats: Beats!!! album.

On a now-archived post of Mo Willems' blog page, he mentioned a mock album called The Off-Beats: Beats!!!, produced by Curious Pictures. It was made for the crew of the series after they finished "An Off-Beats Valentine's." According to the post, the album featured all kinds of music clips from the special, including The Off-Beats intro music, the background music played during September's tale of February and the fully voiced (by Willems himself) song played at the Valentine's party. Louis Lino, who did music and sound design, returned for this compilation.

The blog post once included three audio tracks from the album, but since the post cannot be accessed without going through the Internet Archive's Wayback Machine, those tracks are now considered lost media.

Gallery

A "first stab" at a model sheet for The Populars.

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