Why are Victoria Beckham and Sebastian Bach hanging with ‘SpongeBob’?

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Grade-schoolers and college slackers aren’t the only ones taking trips to Bikini Bottom. Victoria Beckham, Sebastian Bach and John O’Hurley will make cameos in an upcoming episode of Nickelodeon’s “SpongeBob SquarePants,” joining a growing list of adult celebrities popping up on the kid-targeted underwater adventure.

Beckham’s three young sons are fans, which convinced her to appear (lend her voice, that is) on the long-running animated series.


That’s the case with a number of “SpongeBob” guest stars, among them Johnny Depp (who played a Spicoli-like surfer dude named Jack Kahuna Laguna), Amy Poehler and David Hasselhoff. But Ernest Borgnine and David Bowie? Insert head-scratching here.

Ideas for casting famous voices often come from the writers and executive producer, said Sarah Noonan, Nickelodeon’s vice president of talent and casting. The creative team sometimes writes with a specific star in mind, and it’s her job to go after that celebrity. The easiest sells are the stars with kids who are “SpongeBob” fans.

If the part is up for grabs, Noonan will search for just the right familiar-sounding voice. Along the way, she’s found that some adult stars will admit to watching the show, with or without their little ones, and don’t require much arm-twisting to join SpongeBob, Squidward and the rest of the gang. (Depp fell into two categories -- he and his kids are fans, she said).

There’s a dream list of show biz veterans that “SpongeBob” would love to land, including Jerry Lewis and Michael Caine. “Let us know if you can help us out with them,” Noonan said. (If only Show Tracker could!)

Beckham, O’Hurley and Bach will star as a royal family in a special called “The Clash of Triton,” airing on the July 4 weekend to kick off a week of new “SpongeBob” episodes. It’s the first appearance for Beckham and Bach, but O’Hurley’s already a “SpongeBob” veteran, having played King Neptune before.

There are plenty of precedents in the kid genre for drawing in top adult talent, “Sesame Street” being the granddad, and “The Muppets” carrying on the tradition for years. Preschool (and cult) hit “Yo Gabba Gabba” has picked up where those forerunners left off, attracting the likes of Tony Hawk, Jack Black and Elijah Wood, along with a who’s who of indie music darlings (a little something for the hipster parents), including MGMT, The Shins, Of Montreal and The Ting Tings.

“The Simpsons,” which has always had a dual kid-and-adult audience, is in a class by itself in being able to pull in stars from sports, business, politics, music and movies. It holds the Guinness World Record for most guest stars in a TV series -- there really is such a thing -- for drop-ins from the likes of Jeff Bezos, LeBron James, Mel Gibson, Dolly Parton, Dan Rather and Tony Blair, to name just a couple. Oh, and Jerry Lewis. Sorry, “SpongeBob.”

-- T.L. Stanley

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