Doug ran for seven seasons (117 episodes) on Nickelodeon and later ABC (after it was acquired by Disney). The cartoon followed the adventures of Doug Funnie, an awkward 11 1/2 year-old “trying his best to deal with his fears of failure.” Doug keeps a journal, recording his various experiences over the series, which range from learning to dance to getting a bad haircut.
Doug Funnie and his family (which consists of his parents Theda and Phil, sister Judy, and dog Porkchop) move from the town of Bloatsburg to Bluffington after his dad receives a job promotion. Bluffington is loosely based on the city of Richmond, Virginia, where creator Jim Jinkins was born and raised.
The series covers aspects of desiring to be different while coming of age. According to Jinkins, honesty is the series’ main theme:
We put ourselves through enormous pain to avoid pain and I had this notion of: ‘What if we didn’t do that? What if we just told the truth?” he said. “But that’s complicated. In the adult world, the notion of truth and not-truth is complicated, but I didn’t want to debate it. I didn’t want to show all of the ambiguity of the adult world to kids. I wanted to show kids a world where everyone took honesty seriously.”
For example, the episode “Doug’s in the Money” finds the titular character coming across an envelope of cash and returning it to its elderly owner. It created a heated debate among the series’ writers regarding honesty. In the episode, Doug is rewarded with a stick of gum. “It comes down to how we think about who is involved in a story. In that case, I wanted Doug to do something that hurt where there was no tangible reward,” said Jinkins.
After the series’ completion, much online debate ensued over the race of Doug’s best friend, Skeeter who some viewers felt exhibited traits stereotypical of African-Americans, and who subsequently drew conclusions that the character was intended to be African-American. Jinkins did not envision this discourse on the series’ colours. When creating the show, he came across his 200 design markers and employed an array of bright, wild colors for the characters. Jenkins later told The Huffington Post in 2014 that the series’ colours “came to symbolize the irrelevance of race.”