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What’s Up, 90s Kids? Nickelodeon Is Middle-Aged Now

The 90s live forever in my heart--and in reruns of 'Clarissa Explains It All.' If Nickelodeon shaped your childhood, then this post is for you.
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The very first cable channel just for kids debuted on April 1st, 1979. After its humble beginnings to showcase an educational TV show called Pinwheel for young children, Nickelodeon became the go-to source of entertainment for a whole generation.

via Giphy

Let’s take a stroll down a bright orange memory lane and look at some of the highs, lows, and surprising behind-the-scenes secrets.

What Was Slime Made From?

Let’s get the big question out of the way first: what was Slime made out of? The answer is… it depends. Different eras of the network made their Slime using varying ingredients. The earliest slime–seen on the Canadian sketch comedy show You Can’t Do That on Television–was a mix of baby shampoo, Cream of Wheat, and food coloring. Other recipes included applesauce or gelatin. Marc Summers claims that the Slime on Double Dare was a mix of applesauce, oatmeal, vanilla pudding, and food coloring.

via Giphy

All the recipes for Slime were technically edible–but would you really want to eat any of them? Tragically, the Slime Geyser at Nickelodeon Studios spewed its last gout of green goo in 2005 when the place closed down.

So Many Channels, So Little Time

Ever eager to expand their brand and drill down to target specific audiences, Nickelodeon’s parent company, Viacom, spun off multiple channels and programming blocks from the original network.

First, there was Nick at Nite, a programming block of vintage sitcoms that began airing “after hours” starting in 1985. The classic TV block aired when kids were supposed to be in bed, recycling programs such as The Donna Reed Show that would have been familiar from their parents’ childhoods at the time.

Not long after that, the network tried out Nick Jr. on weekday mornings to appeal to preschool kids. Noggin was their educational brand, which was eventually rebranded as The N and then spun off with TEENick to be a standalone channel aimed at–you guessed it–teenagers. By segmenting their program blocks, Nick executives were able to deliver the exact demographics that advertisers wanted to reach.

What Is a Nickelodeon?

Public Domain/WikiMedia Commons

The name of the network, which was almost always referred to as Nick for short, is kind of a mouthful. The name comes from the very first type of movie theater, which cost a nickel to access back in the early 1900s. The Odeon part of the word comes from the Greek word for a theater. The original nickelodeons showed short silent films–often accompanied by a live piano–to millions of Americans every single week.

The Glory of SNICK

For my generation, there was no greater entertainment than SNICK, Nick’s Saturday night primetime block. It lasted from 1992 to 2005, airing a teen-friendly Saturday Night Live-style variety show called Roundhouse and the near-legendary Are You Afraid of the Dark?

via Giphy

The programming block also aired reruns of Clarissa Explains It All and The Ren & Stimpy Show during the early years, eventually swapping out The Adventures of Pete & Pete, Kenan and Kel, and The Secret World of Alex Mack, among other classics of 90s TV.

Fun fact: I went to college with Larisa Oleynik (Alex Mack), and she was lovely!

Whatever Happened to Marc Summers?

Nickelodeon created some of the greatest game shows of all time: Double Dare, Legends of the Hidden Temple, and GUTS. At its height of popularity, Double Dare was the most-watched daily show on cable TV. Who among us didn’t imagine competing in the cheesy, bizarre challenges alongside our families?

Marc Summers, the charismatic host of Double Dare and later What Would You Do?, publicly announced that he has obsessive-compulsive disorder. He managed the mental health condition–which is still poorly understood by the public at large–but ended up losing his hosting gig on Hollywood Squares after he went public.

Summers later survived leukemia–including a misdiagnosis that he had just six months to live–and a devastating taxi accident that damaged his vision in one eye. Despite these challenges, Summers went on to host over 300 episodes of Unwrapped for the Food Network.

Can Nickelodeon Make a Comeback?

It’s no secret that Nickelodeon has fallen a long way from its glory days. While I remember Salute Your Shorts, Hey Dude, and Doug fondly, I aged out of Nickelodeon’s target demographic a couple of decades ago. I missed out on later shows like VicTORIous, Avatar, or SpongeBob SquarePants. Since then, Nick has taken fewer risks–including turning down a pitch for Adventure Time as being “too weird.”

via Giphy

Cartoon Network became the go-to channel for oddball animation, while Disney continues to dominate live-action programming for kids and tweens. Can Nick regain their dominance of that market? Honestly, I’m not so sure. Kids are making their own micro-TV shows on TikTok or watching creator-produced content on YouTube.

But if Nickelodeon ran non-stop reruns of their 80s and 90s shows–a Nick at Nite for the generation that grew up with the original slate of programming–it might just pull me back in. Luckily, you can get something pretty darn close to that experience on the NickRewind YouTube channel! If you’d rather binge-watch your favorites, Paramount+ announced that they have the streaming rights to a ton of classic 90s content from Nickelodeon.

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