“What’s the point of being safe? Let’s be raw…We hoped our irreverence and the voice we were speaking in would inspire kids.” – Will McRobb, “The smartest guy in the room at Nickelodeon”
And inspire they did. As promised last week, we’re going to dive back into Slimed! An Oral History of Nickelodeon’s Golden Age, a fun book that tells the story of the network’s heyday.
So, why was 80s-90s Nick so great? At the time, it was edgy and different. All of the shows were completely different from one another, and sometimes they had little-to-no budget to make it all work. It wasn’t pretty sets and people; it was real kids doing real things. Kids played and competed in healthy ways, got dirty outside, made fools of themselves – and it was good.
Back then, Nick’s mission was to be “the network for kids”, and they succeeded by raising a generation of people who love cartoons and still have a great sense of humor (well, most of us). It wasn’t politically correct, and it wasn’t afraid to address real-world issues. If you ask anyone who grew up in the 90s if they had a favorite Nick show, they’ll say yes. They’ll probably list a few. In fact, I own all available seasons of Are You Afraid of the Dark, Salute Your Shorts, Hey Dude, and Clarissa Explains It All.
Here are a few more highlights from the book:
- Characters – I found it interesting that certain actors are very different from the characters they played on the show. For example, Joe O’Conner and Elizabeth Hess, who played Clarissa’s parents. O’Conner played a very laid-back dad, whereas Hess played the more rigid, health-conscience mom. Their interviews showed that O’Conner was kind of uptight, and Hess supported Melissa Joan Heart and her controversial career decisions.
- Child Actors – We hear so much about child/teen actors cracking from the celebrity-status pressure. I was relieved to read that most of these stars turned out well. Many of them have families and normal lives, and some continued their acting career and stayed in the business. There are a few that seemed to struggle, but that’s life, and considering how big Nick was in the 90s, it’s nice to know stardom didn’t ruin their lives.
- Doug – I’ve always wondered why Doug moved to Disney, and the book tells the story. The show wasn’t the same; it was almost too cutesy and lost what little edge Doug had (compared to other Nick cartoons). I didn’t continue to watch it, and if I wanted Disney, I’d pop in a movie. Nick knew how to do cartoons.
- Ren and Stimpy – Did you know the creator was kicked off his own show? I’m not telling the full story – because you’ll want to read the book – but it involved money, censorship issues, and a controversial episode called Man’s Best Friend, which was banned. The episode is now available on DVD, and after doing some digging, I don’t see the big deal. There are way worse things on now in content and quality.
I hope you’ve enjoyed the review and check out the book. It’s worth the read!
I also want to send out a special shout-out to the author Mathew Klickstein who messaged us this week and thanked us for our review. It helped restore my faith that some people are just so cool. Happy reading!