Ah… slime. I’ve been watching people get slimed on TV for most of my life. It’s gross, slippery, and green. It’s a staple of the best kid’s cable network, Nickelodeon.
Last year, I read Slimed: An Oral History of Nickelodeon’s Golden Age by Mathew Klickstein. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I was very excited to get a behind-the-scenes look at my favorite shows and characters I watched while growing up.
I’ve had a few people ask if they’d like it. My answer is this: If you loved Nickelodeon in the 80s and 90s, yes. I don’t want to spoil TOO much because there are some doozies and surprises – some even shocked me. There was a lot of drama, hurt feelings, good times, and of course, slime.
This week I’m focusing on the random things that stuck out, and next week I’ll get into the drama – and there was a lot of drama. But, let’s keep it light and have some fun!
- Scott Webb was one of the early creator’s of the network, and he’s described as “bleeding orange”. He was diagnosed with an eye disease early on and became legally blind. It didn’t stop him though, and with his team, they did some amazing things. If you look at some of the sets and designs, it’s pretty inspiring that a blind man helped create that.
- You Can’t Do That on Television was one of the most controversial kids shows ever. I remember my mom banning me from this show, but I watched it at other people’s houses (sorry, mom). But, after reading all about it, I can see why she did. It was dark. It was raw. For example Barth’s Burgers joked about cutting human meat into burgers. There’s no way they would get away with that today!
- Many of the kids wore their own clothes. If you go back and watch the shows, you can see the ones that were really low budget (You Can’t Do That) and the ones that weren’t (Clarissa). They recruited a lot of kids from Canada and had them as they were. At one point, they gave a kid $100 bucks for clothes and said buy whatever. If you know Nickelodeon today, you see a big difference because everything is modern and trendy.
- The kid actors were schooled on set. There were several tutors and relatives who helped out. One lady was a hearing-impaired foreign language teacher, and many of the actors talk about how crazy it was because she could read their lips and tell whether they were speaking the language correctly.
- The crews really cared about the kids. They talk about not using focus groups and talking to the kids instead. They made sure they were safe and educated. And it’s interesting that most of them ended up becoming regular adults with jobs and families; they didn’t get into drugs and partying and blow up the press.
- The story of slime. I definitely don’t want to ruin this, but I’ll give you a hint. It was an accident, and the original idea started with rancid food. Alan Goodman, a writer and creator, says that the problem with slime today is that “grown ups got a hold of slime and made it pretty.” It wasn’t pretty back in the day.
Be sure to read next week as I talk about characters, the drama behind Doug and Ren and Stimpy, and the mess that went down when it all changed!