I’ve mentioned it before but growing up, like a lot of kids, I was a Nickelodeon fanatic. There seriously wasn’t a better network geared towards children and a lot of its classic programming is something that will stay with me and many others forever. There were many eras of the popular channel so first, here’s some of the Nick shows from their formative years that I remember watching during the early years of my life.
Before there was Beakman’s World or Bill Nye the Science Guy, there was Mr. Wizard’s World. Mr. Wizard actually dates back to the 1950’s but Nickelodeon brought a revised version of his show to their network in the 80’s. Each episode consisted of Donald Herbert (the eponymous Mr. Wizard) performing different science experiments with the assistance of children. None of the flash, glitz, and glamor that his successors possessed were on display here and the program wasn’t filmed before a live studio audience.
By the time I was old enough to know who Mr. Wizard was, his show was airing in reruns. I remember it would air super early in the morning in the mid-90’s. I would get up at the crack of dawn in the morning everyday and watch Mr. Wizard before showering and walking to school. Sadly, I didn’t retain any of the knowledge that was displayed here but hey, when I think of television science hosts, I will always think of Mr. Wizard first.
“You Can’t Do That On Television” was a Canadian (as evidenced by their obvious accents) children’s sketch comedy show that started broadcasting in the late 70’s. After gaining international recognition in the early 80’s, Nickelodeon picked it up and began airing it, eventually becoming a huge hit in the channel’s early stages. The show’s cast predominantly consisted of adolescents with the exception of two adult performers. Each episode introduced a theme in its opening and subsequent skits related to it. A few of the skits were genuinely clever while others were really, really bad. List most things from our childhood, some episodes hold up while others don’t.
The program was also famous for popularizing the iconic Nickelodeon “slime”, a green substance that was used to douse kids on the show and other network programming. Whenever one of the kids said “I don’t know”, they would get covered in the green slime and whenever they said “water”, they would get soaked with well…water.
Growing up, I wasn’t a huge fan of this one, mostly because there was a ton of gross-out humor and Nick would constantly play the show for what seemed like hours when I was waiting for my other favorites to air to the point where I just got sick of seeing it. I’ve learned to appreciate it over the last few years though thanks to researching it’s origins and viewing clips online.
Two recurring sketches stick out from my memory as a kid that I loved. One was a little morbid for children and consisted of one of the kids being held for death by firing squad and a guard overseeing it. Before the execution can occur, the kid stalls by annoying the guard endlessly with nonsensical quarreling. The other was where the cast would hide out in gym lockers. One would pop out of one and call the name of another cast member, then that person would pop out of their locker and exchange jokes with one another before returning to their respective cubbies. This would go on for about a minute or so and was the perfect segue between skits.
It actually ended in 1986 (the year I was born, so in a way you can say that I missed the entire show’s run) but Nick played repeats all the way through the early 90’s. You could say this paved the way for later kids sketch comedy shows such as “Roundhouse” and “All That”. In a fun little tidbit, one of the cast members who got her start on YCDTOT actually went on to become a multi-platinum selling, Grammy-winning recording artist. Her name was Alanis Morissette, whose short haircut made her unrecognizable but her performing talent shone through.
There was an early Nickelodeon game show from 1990 entitled “Outta Here!” that also offered so more of variety show feel. Two teams comprised of young kids, all wearing ugly visors, competed in various games to win big and in addition, segments would air detailing the latest trends in fashion, music, and movies just to name a few. Half variety, half game show, “Outta Here!” was certainly unique for Nickelodeon at the time. One memorable thing from the show was its announcer, Greg Lee, who went on to host the successful game show, “Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?” on PBS.
I do remember the show’s title being shouted repeatedly throughout the half hour. Probably why it stays fresh in my mind as a childhood favorite.
There was also “Out of Control”, a show that aired on Nickelodeon from 1984-85 but I vaguely remember it since it aired in reruns on Nickelodeon in the early 90’s. This comedy series starred a pre-Full House Dave Coulier as the host of a pseudo-talk show interviewing various characters while conducting sketches relating to a certain themed that Coulier would intro at the start of each show (similar to “You Can’t Do That On Television”). The show popularized the catchphrase “cut it out” which became Coulier’s trademark which he brought to everything he did after the show ended. I got a better glimpse of the series in 1999 when it aired during “Nick Knew Them When”, a block of old Nickelodeon programming highlighting future superstars.
While watching, I sat there wondering why Joey Gladstone had another show airing at the same time as “Full House”.
This was a gem. “Make the Grade” was a game show that aired on Nickelodeon around the same time as “Outta Here!”. The school themed competition was the standard three different contestants answering questions to gain points and win. Many educational puns were used (fire drill, electives, etc.) so it’s no wonder why it caught on with children early on.
I thoroughly enjoyed the show because I enjoyed the host, Lew Schneider, even though my four or five-year-old self couldn’t answer any of the questions for the life of me.
In 1991, Nickelodeon experimented with soap operas for the first (and last) time with “Fifteen”. A bit ahead of its time, this drama centered around the trials and tribulations of several students at Hillside High School. Issues such as divorce, underage drinking, jealousy, and dating were explored throughout the series’ four seasons. Pretty heavy handed stuff for a network that was mostly targeted towards towards young children.
The show was actually known as “Hillside” up in Canada where the show’s first two seasons were filmed and features a very young Ryan Reynolds years before anyone knew who he was. A young Laura Harris, who would dabble in television and film over the years even starring in the cult series, “Dead Like Me” was featured as well.
The soap was very cheaply produced, featured some of the worst acting around, and played up every high school stereotype to the extreme. Despite all that, I still loved it. Go figure. I remember having a thing for Brooke, the show’s head bitch in charge, and her sexy, short haircut. Funny story about this program: Years after it ended, “Two Guys, a girl, and a Pizza Place” premiered on ABC and me and my older brother, who also watched Fifteen, stood in awe when we saw Reynolds was one of the main stars. We both stared in astonishment and remarked “holy shit, that’s Billy from Fifteen!”.
Double Dare was THE Nick game show hosted by everyone’s favorite childhood host, Marc Summers.
This ultra-messy competition pitted two teams of two kids against each other who would gain money by successfully answering questions of a variety of subjects. The rules were fairly simple: one team was asked a question. If that team did not know the answer, they could “dare” the other team to answer for double the money. If the other team didn’t know the answer, they could “double dare” the original team to answer it for four times the original amount or they could take the “physical challenge” which was a usually sloppy task that the team would have to complete it order to gain the points. The show became known for it’s contestants getting filthy and the elaborate obstacle course which the winning team would have to complete at the end in order to win big prizes. These obstacles included: a human hamster wheel, various ball pits, crawling through pipes of chocolate syrup, and running across a replica of a human head’s ear while getting covered in an ear wax-like substance, just to name a few.
The show would go through several variations over the years, there was “Super Sloppy Double Dare” which was basically the original show just with a longer name and “Family Double Dare” where two teams of four family members competed against each other for a big gold trophy. Double Dare stopped taping in the early 90’s but reruns would play all throughout the decade. I remember there being a huge block of episodes on Sunday afternoons. The show remained popular among kids and teenagers which warranted its return with a revamped look in 2000. Appropriately entitled “Double Dare 2000”, the show used the same exact format as its former series with a new, boring host and very little excitement. This new format of Double Dare was canned after it’s first year.
The nostalgia trip is far from over! Next time, we’ll review another staple in classic Nickelodeon, Snick, as well as the rise of Nickelodeon Studios in Orlando, Florida!