The Off-Beats is a series of animated shorts appearing on the Nickelodeon television series KaBlam! (originally in between-shows as standalone segments), featuring the lives of a clique of nerdy individuals, each having their own quirks. The series was created by Mo Willems, who would later create the Cartoon Network television series Sheep in the Big City. One of the similarities between the two shows was the distinct art style, which was mainly a lot of flat, dry colors and characters that moved with clothing patterns that don't. The animation was also similar to that of early UPA, Curious Pictures and Hanna-Barbera cartoons, but mostly, the series itself (especially in story and concept) hearkened back to the classic Peanuts TV specials, especially since the majority of the voice cast are children actors. Each episode is scored with a jazz soundtrack, sometimes featuring big-band music, but mostly featuring a simple combination of a piano, drums and a double bass. Each segment ran for two to four minutes running time. most of the soundtracks in the shorts are similar to The Pink Panther cartoon shorts.
The show was the first to end in KaBlam due to Mo Willems moving to Cartoon Network Studios to work on Sheep in the Big City.
The theme intro to the shorts always consisted of this short poem, spoken by Grubby Groo:
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.
Betty Anne Bongo - Betty Anne is the realistically thinking "leader" of the clique. She usually can be found playing her bongo set. She also often sang her own little theme song, the lyrics consisting of: "My name is Betty Anne Bongo, I sing this little song-O, I sing it all day long-O!" along with rapidly banging on her bongos. Voiced by Mischa Barton.
Tommy - Tommy loves his plaid coat, so much so that in one episode it is the basis for the plot when it went to the cleaners and he goes temporarily insane. On numerous occasions he will break his calm demeanor and lose his temper exclaiming him to shout with words coming out of his mouth, usually startling his friends and himself. His catchphrase is "Let me just say..." when confronting the Populars, accompanied by his yelling. He also claims he's an outsider in the pilot. He seems to love fishing as he did it in the pilot and The Statistic. Voiced by Mark Wagner, with his yelling voice provided by Kevin Seal.
Repunzil - Repunzil is the youngest in the clique, and at times can be quite naive. She is known for her floor-length hair (which is why she was named somewhat for the fairy tale character Rapunzel). She can be slow-witted at seems due to her young age and does not know how to tie her shoes. Repunzil is also an animal lover as she ordered a lot of animals (and a toaster) in the Sweepstakes episode.
August - August is the most technologically inclined of the Off-Beats, even though his inventions, are most of the time, failures. He is also the person who most wants to be liked by the populars. In one episode, he actually did gain respect from them, in the end only to be foiled by his love for paddle-ball. In the Valentine's Day special, he wears a fire hydrant. Voiced by Dylan Roberts.
September - August's sarcastic talking dog, usually ambivalent to most situations and plot-lines. Despite that, he does enjoy the company of the Offbeats. September is also paid to like August as shown in one episode and also has a contract of being owned by him that permits him of having at least one day off. Despite his natural intelligence, he can't seem to open a simple can of dog food. He can play the bagpipes as shown in the last short. He is voiced by series creator Mo Willems.
Grubby Groo - The beatnik-looking adult friend to the Off-Beats, and the only one who realizes how big of jerks the populars are as shown in the pilot and The Sprain. He works in a cafe called "Cafe Ad Hoc" where it's famous for it's special ice cream called the Junkyard Sundae, compiled with several storied ice creams and sparkling fireworks, which it was so great that he didn't even make one for the president. But he did make one for Betty Anne when she got the Sprain. He golfs as shown in the last short. He is also voiced by creator Mo Willems.
The Populars are the clique popular kids, usually seen traveling in a huge nose-in-the-air clump. Led by Tina. Whenever they come across an adult, they all put on phony smiles and pretend to be really nice. But Grubby Groo knows that they're just hiding their evilness.
The Populars seem to be the inspiration for the antagonists, The Delightful Children from Down The Lane, in Codename: Kids Next Door; a cartoon Mo Willems had also worked on.
Tina - Tina is the mean-spirited leader of the Populars. If the Off-Beats ever have any [shown] self-esteem, she is there to squash it. Despite her spoiledness and bad attitude, she seems to be intelligent as she is curious of Betty Anne's inability of reacting to her negative comments. Some of her insults mean little to no sense, or deemed too childish as in one episode, she just called paddleball "Stupid" and said that Betty Anne would get "bumpkis" once Repunzil wins the Sweepstakes. She is something of a stereotypical "school diva".
Beth - Tina's sidekick in the group. It's her job to warn the Populars whenever a grown-up is near; she usually shouts, "Adult!" Then the Populars begin their phony "nice" act. Once she and Tommy fell in love with each other, and they had to keep it secret.
Billy - A boy who wears a red beanie cap. A running gag in the series usually involved Billy saying something that would get Tina mad, and then the Populars would literally throw him out of the group, causing Billy to crash into something (most likely a trash can given the sound effects) and him screaming. His voice deepened in one episode, possibly because his actor was hitting puberty.
List of Segments
Before airing on KaBlam!, three Off-Beats pilot episodes were made and released on the Rugrats' Tommy Troubles VHS. The animation was different being more choppy, the characters voices are younger and rather being called The Off-beats, the gang was referred to as The Misfits in the first pilot. These episodes were made to promote the premiere of KaBlam!. Another difference is that the bean-shaped logo for The Off-beats was green or gold instead of pink or brown and a Nickelodeon arrow logo appeared at the logo along with presents byline.
- Shoelaces (a.k.a. "Your Shoe's Untied"): The Populars play the old "Your Shoe's Untied" prank on the Off-Beats, but it only works on Repunzil, who then asks Grubby Groo to tie her shoes for her.
- The Twig: Betty Anne finds a twig and tries to save it with the "help" of Repunzil. It does now work and they ask Tommy for advice but he suggests to leave it alone (his yelling also killed the twig even more) and then August and September use it for a game of "fetch" (which is played the other-way around).
- My Dog Can Talk: In an effort to befriend the Populars, August tells them that his dog, September, is able to talk. When he said "bow", the Populars laughed but then he corrects the Populars and commands them to bow down to him, shocking them all.
Season 1: 1996
The first season now features The Off-beats logo pink or brown and the Nickelodeon arrow logo and the presents byline are gone.
- Too Much Attention for September: August takes a ride in his new invention, the heli-cart, and September refuses to go with him. As he does this, everyone tries to talk with him or play with him driving him insane.
- Betty Anne's Glasses: When Betty Anne Bongo loses her glasses after playing her bongos, the Populars find them and Tina puts them on to mimic her. They hide them from the Off-Beats so they don't realize it, and then September figures it out and devises a plan to get them back; they disguise as the president, Bill Clinton (who was the president at the time of the episodes' production).
- The Robodog: Because of September taking a day off from being his dog, August orders a new robotic dog, which "plays 4-ever." This soon tires August, and September begins to get jealous. So September obtains a Roboboy, which also "plays 4-ever," which causes the Robodog to leave August and befriend the Roboboy instead.
- Tommy's Coat: When Tommy has his coat sent to be dry-cleaned, he begins to slowly go insane due to the lack of his prized possession, as Betty Anne tries to help him. He even hallucinates the Populars having the same color pattern as the coat! Note: This segment was produced for the first season, but held over to the second season for unknown reasons.
Season 2: 1997
- Paddleball Record: When August is too busy in trying to break a paddleball record, September goes off to party, but realizes he cannot open his can of dog food, so he is incredibly hungry. Thankfully, August sees this and feeds his dog in time.
- Betty Anne's Sprain: Betty Anne sprains her wrist, and despite all the attention she's getting, she is depressed because she can't play her bongoes. The Populars are jealous of the huge Junkyard Sundae Grubby Groo makes for her, and try to fake being injured so they can get a sundae, too.
- 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, and the Populars befriend her in hoping she'll buy stuff for them.
- 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 and with a deeper voice. The Populars befriend the new August, and all goes well until he decided to play paddleball, which causes the Suave-O-Matic to explode.
- Tommy's Song: Tommy hears a song from a radio and gets it stuck in his head, and he can't stop singing it, so Betty Anne tries to help him out. He is even able to scare away the Populars with his song because the song is now stuck in their heads. Once they finally helped him, Repunzil arrives with the song stuck in her head, which gets to the Off-Beats as well.
- The Statistic: When the gang hears from September about a probability that a person in a group of four would be conked on the head from something falling from the sky, Tommy tries to leave the group because he seems to be the target for being hit or getting someone hit. Note: This episode features more adults, backgrounds, children and locations than any other episode. It was also the last episode to show The Off-Beats as Mo Willems moved to Cartoon Network to create Sheep in the Big City.
- An Off-Beats Valentine's: This one half-hour TV special features everyone getting ready for Valentine's Day, and Tommy and Beth of the Populars develop a crush on each other. September also reminisces about a female cat named February he was in love with. Note: This is where Tommy was seeing without his hat. This is the first episode to reach 30 minutes timeline, and the first Valentine's and/or holiday special. Unlike the rest of the episodes, it aired on Nickelodeon during the Nickel-O-Zone era. The script for the episode was uploaded in Willem's website but was removed due to the website shutting down. Although the music scores are still intact.