If, like me, you’re slogging through the summer with kids home from school, all home media usually blissfully off or under your control during the day has been taken over by kids’ programming. One of the favorites running on our screens at home during summer is the animated series Phineas and Ferb.
In short, the series gives us Phineas, a chatty clever American kid, and his taciturn and even more clever English stepbrother, Ferb, getting into all kinds of shenanigans as they attempt to stay busy during…summer vacation! On their tail is persistently annoyed and shrill teenage sister Candace who seeks repeatedly to “bust” them, and never manages to, thanks to serendipitous help from subplot characters: evil scientist Dr. Doofenshmirtz and his nemesis Phineas and Ferb’s pet platypus, Perry. Perry is a secret agent for the spy organization O.W.C.A. (The Organization Without a Cool Acronym). Love it so far?
Now, I, like most stay at home parents, try to tune out what I can so as to stay moderately sane. But, I found myself paying attention to Phineas and Ferb. Earworm title sequence and songs, fun characters, great writing all worked to pulled me in. I mean really: Dr. Doofenshmirtz, the vaguely Eastern European CEO of Doofershmirtz Evil Incorporated given to long monologues, on an incessant mission to control a mysterious “Tri-state area”, always defeated by a clicking purring platypus? “Ah, Perry the Platypus, as always, your timing is impeccable. And by that, I mean completely PECCABLE.” Who can resist writing like that?
So what does all this have to do with Damian Lewis you ask? Well, guess who did a cameo appearance in an episode of Phineas and Ferb? To be exact, guess who’s a specially featured guest voice in Phineas and Ferb: Season 2, Episode 6 “Elementary, My Dear Stacy”? Apparently Damian Lewis couldn’t resist the writing either and did a stint as the voice of Agent Double OO, a square-jawed, dark-haired spy armed with nifty spy tools and a tricked-out car. Sure, watch the episode, you know you want to, but, here, let me summarize it!
In “Elementary, My Dear Stacy”, the family is visiting the father’s home in England. Out of boredom and jetlag, Candace stays up all night reading Sherlock Holmes, who she determines is “the total king of busting”. Next we see, Damian’s Agent Double OO is assigned to work with Agent P (aka Perry the Platypus). Damian’s first line: “You realize this man is a platypus?” A Judy Dench-looking Inspector Initials responds: “They’re American, Double OO. Just be glad it’s a mammal.”
Meanwhile the kids are given tickets to the London Eye and left to their own devices. Phineas and Ferb go off and Candace is left to use “Holmes’ method of deduction” to investigate what the boys are up to.
Back in his evil lair within Big Ben, Doofenshmirtz’s scheme is interrupted by Double OO and Perry.
Damian: I’m Agent Double OO from her majesty’s secret service.
Doofenshmirtz: Double OO, isn’t that just…Triple O?
Damian: No, that’s not how you say it.
Doofenshmirtz: It spells “oo” doesn’t it?
Damian: It’s just Double O O
Doofenshmirtz: He’s ‘P’ and you’re ‘oo’, so together you spell…
Damian: No, they’re not O’s, they’re zero’s, all right?
Doofenshmirtz: I was going to say ‘oop’. Looks like I struck a nerve there.
Both agents are promptly captured as Doofenshmirtz apologizes for the discomfort of the shackles: “All my traps are platypus sized.” And what is Doofenshmirtz’s evil plan? His watch is too small, so he wants to launch Big Ben to the Tri-State area where it may serve as an alternative way by which he can tell time.
As Double OO tries to cut thru the shackles with a very slow watch laser, Perry hits the release button to free them. Double OO thinks it a good idea to climb the inner mechanisms of Big Ben to thwart Doofenshmirtz, who took the stairs. Meanwhile, Perry takes the elevator.
And what have Phineas and Ferb been up to this entire time? They’ve built a wicked waterslide around Big Ben. Riders are pulled up to the top and slide down, skip off the Thames, and land in one of the carriages of the London Eye. Candace catches up to them, but before she can “bust” them by tattling to their mom, Doofenshmirtz starts to launch the rockets under Big Ben. Perry catches up to Doofenshmirtz and pitches him off the top of Big Ben and into the shattering waterslide. Perry then turns off the rockets and Big Ben lands back safely on the ground sans waterslide. By the time Mom gets to the scene, all is back to normal on the shore of the Thames. The boys are off scot-free, no one has been busted.
As credits roll, we see Double OO still inside Big Ben’s clockworks, swinging on a pendulum. By the time he gets up to the top, everyone else has moved on. He struggles to look at his watch to see how much time has passed: “Gah, I do need a bigger watch.”
Sadly, after four seasons (7 years, 222 episodes!), this year is Phineas and Ferb‘s last one on air. But, you can find the first three seasons streaming on Netflix. One of the more grown-up friendly and genuinely smart children’s programs out there!
Phineas and Ferb isn’t Damian’s only turn at children’s theater. He’s done several bedtime story episodes for CBeebies where he reads a short story complete with acting out the character voices and expressions.
Watching these skits, one can imagine him equally free-wheeling and unself-conscious when his kids are getting their thirty minutes of stories every night. In an interview with CBeebies (for the grown-ups), Damian disclosed that when he’s telling his kids stories, he’ll do any voice that’s required of him, sometimes even princess voices. “But we try not to do that..my wife comes in and she gets cross, says “why do you have to make all the girls sound silly?” so I get in trouble for doing that.”
Speaking of Helen, she’s done a turn on Phineas and Ferb as well. In the episode “My Fair Goalie”, she voiced Candace’s English Step-Aunt Lucy. Lucy and her family of three sons named Beckam, two named Pele and a daughter Eliza are in town to see their favorite football club, the Snifferton Nostrils, in an exhibition match. Watch for yourself to see what that one is all about. “Nostrils on the bus!” Great stuff!
How fun are these parents for putting their not inconsiderable talent to use in kids’ play? Great actors and even greater parents!