When Nickelodeon Let ‘Doug’ Meet Beatles Parody the Beets
Of all the numerous Beatles parodies throughout pop culture history — the Rutles, Homer Simpson’s barbershop quartet — none are more innocent and affectionate than the Beets, the Fab Four tribute featured on the animated Nickelodeon series Doug.
The band that brought you snarling jangle-rock favorites like “I Need Mo Allowance” first appeared in “Doug Rocks,” part two of the fourth episode, which premiered Sept. 8, 1991. And for many millennial kids, the cartoon group served as a (sorta) fictional gateway band to the real thing — even if the numerous nods to Beatles lore flew right over their heads.
Like every other installment, "Doug Rocks" begins with a voiceover from protagonist Doug Funnie: “I used to be the only guy in Bluffington without a favorite band,” he says, writing in his trusted journal. “Lucky for me, my best pal, Skeeter, was totally, absolutely crazy — crazy for the Beets!”
Surrounded by walls plastered with Beets posters, Doug’s blue-tinted best friend is decked out in a shaggy wig, playing air guitar on his bed and blasting “Killer Tofu,” a salute to the joys of clean eating. (“Fast food feels fuzzy / ‘Cause it’s made from stuff that’s scuzzy,” the Beets sing. “I always thought I was such a nerd / I refused to touch that strange bean curd.” Later: “I eat my sugared cereal / But it makes my teeth bacterial.”) Skeeter introduces Doug to the joys of air guitar (“I wanted to get a real guitar,” the former says. “But this was a lot cheaper.”) and schools his classmate on the band’s history — knowledge that comes in handy when a local radio station gives away a pair of free Beets concert tickets.
The duo calls in, makes it live on the air and nails the DJ’s first two giveaway questions. (All Beets fans know “I Sneezed on My Face” was their first No. 1 hit.) But they’re stumped by the third, failing to recall which album cover features a tiny photo of drummer Chap Lipman after his gallbladder surgery. (Some fans take this as a reference to the “Paul Is Dead” / “Billy Shears” conspiracy theory.) Flummoxed, Doug blurts out “Beets Me” — inadvertently giving the correct answer. “Congratulations, you’re going to meet the Beets!” the DJ tells them, a line alluding to Meet the Beatles!
But the kids’ enthusiasm, at least temporarily, comes back to bite them: Skeeter is grounded after his dinner table drumming annoys his dad into a near rage, and the friends are forced to stage their own imaginary bedroom concert. Lucky for them, their air-guitar theatrics re-irritate Skeeter’s dad, so they’re un-grounded, allowing them to sneak off for fast food at the Honker Burger.
Miming “Killer Tofu” on the lawn, they’re stunned to see the real-deal Beets pull up in their tour bus. “Hey, they’re good,” Lipman remarks in a faux-British accent similar to Ringo Starr. “Let’s jam!” exclaims frontman Munroe Yoder, decked out in circular shades that recall John Lennon. (Guitarist Flounder and keyboardist and tuba player Wendy Nespah, neither of whom give off any strong Beatles vibes, also join in on the fun.)
Watch the 'Doug Rocks' Episode of 'Doug'
After their road manager rounds up some milkshakes, the quartet piles back on the bus, tosses out some Beets-emblazoned jackets and drives off into the night. It’s a satisfying resolution, in keeping with the show’s usual family-friendly vibe — but it wouldn’t be the band’s last cameo. Meanwhile, the songs themselves, created by composers Dan Sawyer and Fred Newman, have transcended Doug itself, with extended mixes of “Killer Tofu,” “Shout Your Lungs Out” and “I Need Mo Allowance” all available on major streaming services.
The Beets were more than just a goofy hat-tip for show creator Jim Jinkins, who, in a 2017 Vice interview, detailed paying tribute to the broader British Invasion.
“The Beets are certainly inspired by the Beatles, but it's also the Rolling Stones, the Who and many other groups,” he said. “If you notice, with the band, acrimony is at the very core of their being. So they're always having their break up last concert or reunion concert. And that's the Who. The Who just seemed like they broke up every year. Some of the ways they're drawn remind me of Robert Plant, Ringo Starr. Our drummer, [Chap] Lipman, kind of talks like Ringo. It's a mixed bag of those exotic British Invasion bands.”
Jinkins also vividly recalled soaking in the cultural explosion of Beatlemania, including the band’s first Ed Sullivan Show appearance, as a preteen. “So I am somewhere around a sixth grader which puts me right around Doug's age, which is 11,” he said. “That was a time in music that I haven't seen before or since.”