My Favorite TV Stations Part 2
A comprehensive review of why Nickelodeon will forever reign supreme - Part 1 of 4
WARNING THIS ARTICLE IS EXTREMELY LONG
(After editing this article for several days, I debated scrapping it because of its length and broad content but I figured the worst that can happen is it gets pushed to the back page with a negative rating, so here it is)
(After editing this article for several days, I debated scrapping it because of its length and broad content but I figured the worst that can happen is it gets pushed to the back page with a negative rating, so here it is)
So part two of this little series that showcases my favorite childhood TV stations is coming straight on the heels of the first part, which covered TNT and TBS. I'm new to RetroJunk so I'm not sure exactly what the protocol for writing articles on here is yet, so if its too close together or way too long, let me know. But honestly, I'm so excited to write this one that I just couldnt wait and it was really hard to pull back and not write a novel.
Now I know that there have been numerous articles written paying homage to the great channel that is Nickelodeon, but I hope you will allow me the honor of sharing my own experiences in viewing the big orange splat. To give this piece a sense of organization, I have broken it down into 4 sections: first is the animated section, second will be live action/sketch comedy shows shows, third the game show collection, and batting clean up is the Nick @ Nite section. Each section deserves it's own amount of attention, so I'll break these sections up into 4 separate articles. Lets get to it shall we. First up, this article will focus on the Nicktoons of old.
I'm sure there are those out there in RetroJunk land that lean more toward the Disney side of childhood cartoons, but to those of us who cut our teeth on Nick, there is nothing like remembering the good old nicktoons when you are feeling blue.....or any other color for that matter. So here are some of the Nicktoons that built the foundations of the Nick kingdom. Just to clarify, Nicktoons are cartoons created by nickelodeon.
Doug - On August 11th, 1991 the world was introduced to an awkwardly dressed Jr. higher named Douglas Yancey Funny. Residing at 21 Jumbo street (a hybrid homage to the show 21 Jump street and the production company overseeing the show, Jumbo Pictures) in Bluffington USA, Doug managed to settle into his new surroundings in Bluffington by striking friendships with Skeeter Valentine, Patty Mayonnaise, and a cast of other characters that helped make the show memorable. This show set the standard of two 15 minute episodes back to back as the structure of the show, which most Nicktoons adopted as a format for years to come. After Doug ended its Nick run, it transferred to Disneys One Saturday Morning, where it died a slow painful death. Thanks to the Nick Rewind series on Amazon, we can relieve Doug and some of his alter egos such as the adventurous endeavors of Quail Man, daring exploits of Waaaannnnnaaannnnaaa...Jack Bandit, dangerous perils of Race Canyon, and suave demeanor of Smash Adams. I still find myself from time to time singing the lyrics banging on a trash can, drumming on a street light...Big, Think Big! My all time favorite scene was when Doug found a bone and thought it to be a dinosaur bone. He imagined himself excavating, and subsequently being chased by a huge living dinosaur. However, he is told that the bone is from a pot roast, at which point he imagines the same scenario, except being chased by a pot roast instead of a dinosaur. I also remember the episode where Doug is considered an artistic prodigy, and when asked to do an impromptu drawing proceeds to draw a line when it is suddenly snatched up and hailed as pure genius much to his own dismay. Thats creative writing! Doug was also notable for its characters having odd shades of pigmentation. Skeeter was blue, Roger (the town bully) was green, and Mr. Dink (dougs high tech, yet eccentric neighbor) was purple.
Rugrats - Not quite as well written as Doug, but much more commercially successful is the wildly popular Rugrats, which premiered the same day directly after Doug. While Doug only lasted until 1994 on Nick and 1999 on ABC, Rugrats ran all the way to 2004. The show followed the adventures of a group of babies named Tommy, Chucky, Phil, and Lil as they jimmied the lock of their play pen with a screw driver from Tommys diaper to explore the world. For some reason a lot of parents didn't allow this show to be viewed by their kids for fear of the attitude of Angelica Pickels, a bratty toddler, rubbing off on their young childrens impressionable minds. It was still a show with great writing. Although it was about babies, it had a certain appeal that kept me watching well into my teen years. Favorite Rugrats Moments: When Tommy and the gang think a swimming pool is a giant toilet in need of flushing. When Tommy mistakes a booster shot for a rooster shot that resulted in the victims transformation into a rooster. The episode where a goose snags Grandpas dentures and torments the babies. The scene where grandpa Pickles drives off in his car, and his license plate says Im Old. Unfortunately the production of the Rugrats Movie is what started the unraveling of the great Nickelodeon empire, speaking in terms of quality that is.
The Ren and Stimpy Show - Again, preimering on August 11, 1991 The Ren and Stimpy Show was much more adult than the other two Nicktoons. Ren and Stimpy was South Park before South Park...well not that extreme, but it was still crude for a Nick show. The premise followed random events involving a nervous Chihuahua, Ren, and an unintelligent cat, Stimpy. Memorable events and people: A muscular superhero type with Toast for a head named Powdered Toast Man (his alter ego is Pastor Toastman a cool youth deacon), who farts on toast to give it flavor, not to mention he flies backward. The game Ren and Stimpy play called Don't Whiz on the Electric Fence in which the goal is to...not whiz on the electric fence. Frank Zappas guest appearance as the pope. The sour facade of Muddy Mudskipper. The Commercial for a new toy called LOG, which is nothing more than a log, the jingle of which went like this: What roles downstairs alone or in pairs roles over your neighbors dog? Whats great for a snack and fits on your back? Its log log log...Its log, its log, its better than bad its good...well you get the idea.
Rockos Modern Life - Following in the same vain as The Ren and Stimpy Show, Rockos Modern Life had a bit of an adult edge to it, which provided many innuendos and adult refferences. The show revolved around Rocko (a Wallaby), his best friend Heffer (a steer, not a cow), and Filburt (a turtle). The trio lived in O-town and frequented the KFC parody Chokey Chicken. Rocko and his pet dog Spunky constantly annoyed his neighbor Ed Bighead (a frog). Favorite episode: The one where Ed Bighead tries to redeem himself from a past bowling gaff by entering a bowling tournament. On the last frame, Ed only has to knock down one pin, and in his arrogance gutter balls his first try. On his second chance he messes up and throws the ball through the roof, bringing down the entire building except his bowling lane, in which all pins remain standing....hilarious!!! The show ran from September 1993 to November 1996.
Aaahh!!!!! Real Monsters - This show was the blue print on which the Disney smash hit Monsters inc. was predicated. That said, you can gather from your own deduction the premise of the show...but what would be the fun in that right. So I'll indulge. The show followed 3 monsters in training named Ickis, Krumm, and Oblina as they learned the art of scaring humans in a monster school located underneath a landfill. If you've never seen this show, may I say you are truly missing out on an unsung gem of the Nicktoons universe. The show debuted on October 29th 1994 and ended abruptly on December 6th 1997. My favorite part of the show was trying to figure out if the Gromble (the head of the monster school) was a male or female. Im not sure why the androgynous nature the Gromble fascinated me so, but it kept me guessing the entire run of the show. Another notable element of the show was the use of the Villain archetype Simon, which became a model for several other Nicktoon Villains in later series creations, such as plankton from Sponge Bob Squarepants. This show was phenomenal, but unfortunately it never seemed to get the attention it deserved. The animation style was similar to Rugrats, and the plot cousin to Monsters inc. but the combination never really caught on. Therefore the show has fallen into the black hole of forgotten toons, only to be remembered by those lucky enough to have caught its Nick rotation, or NickTV syndication. Random Fact: I actually looked forward to the title card of the production company, Klasky Csupo, at the end of the show.
Im not sure why but this little closing animation was just as important as the show itself, much like the old DIC prodcutions title cards at the end of certain shows.
KaBlam! - This show holds the esteemed honor of being the only Nicktoon created spceifically for the legendary Snick. In all honesty, this show was more suited for the Adult Swim block on the Cartoon Network. It wasnt crude by any stretch of the imagination, but stylaisticly speaking, it seemed to fit more in the Adult Swim universe more than the Nicktoons universe. Take for example the Action League Now segment, which used stop motion animation with action figures, similar to that of Robot Chicken, which featured a naked action figure named The Flesh. However, the show was rather brilliant in its format. KaBlam was a show comprised of random shorts strung together and hosted by two cartoon characters named Henry and June, who often times jumped from one comic book frame to the next while hosting the show. Kablam, which started as a segment on All That, as well as having its shorts used as fillers in between commercials, began its own run as a stand alone show on October 11th, 1996 and ended on May 27th, 2000. The shorts that made up the show were: Life With Loopy, Action League Now, Sniz and Fondu, Prometheus and Bob (A short where an alien tries to educate a caveman but always ends in disaster), Angela Anaconda, The Off-Beats, Surprising Shorts, and The Louie and Louie Show. There were other shorts introduced in later seasons, but none were as memorable as the original line up. Action League Now and Angela Anaconda eventually became their own shows, but didn't last long outside of the KaBlam platform. Notable moments: Meltman constantly melting as his superpower. Stinky Diver diving in toilets. Prometheus trying to show Bob how to use a toilet. Mr. Foot (a Sasquatch camera operator) constantly pummeling Henry, but never June, throughout the show.
Hey Arnold! - By the time Hey Arnold rolled out in October of 1996, Nickelodeon had become a refined animation factory evident by the perfection of its animation styles, and increasing its production value exponentially. Not that these traits are a bad thing, but at this point you began to get the feel that Nicktoons were being created for pop culture value, and mainstream audiences. I know companies exist to make money, but when creative writing is exchanged for merchandising compatibilities it usually spells the end of a good thing. Now Hey Arnold was not a bad show, in fact it is one of my favorites, but the current horrific state of Nickelodeon shows can be traced back to around this time when Nickelodeon began to lean more toward marketability, instead of creative superiority. The Show was about a boy with a football shaped head, named Arnold, growing up in an apartment building managed by his grandparents, who also happen to be raising him. The show had a unique animation style as it used awkward features on its characters such as Arnolds head, or his grandpa phils huge chin. Now I mentioned before that this was the turning point in Nickelodeons focus, but change is gradual, and this show still had some amazing writing to it. As the show follows Arnold through his daily childhood routines we become engrossed in his challenges at PS 118 (his elementary school), constant harassment from his nemesis/secret admirer Helga Pataki, attempts at overcoming boredom with best friend Gerald Johanssen, and daring games of baseball in the streets of his city. This amazing show came to an end June 8th, 2004. Notable moments: When stoop kid finally left his stoop. When Arnold talked to the Birdman and found him to be a nice lonely old man. When Helga makes a shrine to Arnold consisting of a sculpture of Arnolds head made up of Arnolds used chewing gum. When Brainy, who is used to being punched out by Helga for stalking her, finds that for once he is not pummeled by his love interest, but he feels cheated so he punches himself in the face. This show had some of the greatest character development for a Nicktoon series.
The Angry Beavers - To me, this show produced more quoted moments than any other Nicktoon produced. The two Angry Beavers were twins Norbert (the smart and cool one), and younger brother Dagget, the less intelligent hyper one. From April 19, 1997 to November 11th, 2001, I knew of a show that would always deliver on originality, humor, and creativity. I know that in order to write any cartoon you have to have creativity, but this cartoon seemed to hit my funny bone, so to speak, every time. I mean, come on, Norb and Dag are friends with a stump that has a face on it. The show, which centered on these two bachelor beavers, reminded me of Dumb and Dumber in the beaver world. One memorable episode consisted of the brothers each getting a gift delivered to their dam from their parents. The packages were towering, and eager to see what was inside, Norb ripped the trappings off to reveal a life size train set. Dag, excited to see his gift, opened the package addressed to him only to find that his gift was a scented pine tree car freshener, and that my friends is what made the show hilarious. Those random nuances are what set the show apart from most other Nicktoons. I vividly remember an episode where Norb and Dag were watching a horror movie in which a mutated hand terrorized scientists, and when the hand moved you could visibly see a string pulling it along. The show was full of hilarious scenarios such as when Norb contracted stinky toe, or when Dag tried to steal a wig from a rare bird that is known for wearing colorful wigs. More memorable nuances of the show featured the constant use of the word spoot in place of cuss words, the constant drinking of yoohoo, and the mispronunciation of words in an attempt to speak them in a foreign language. The Angry Beavers had such an effect on the development of my own humor that I once gave my brother a scented pine tree car freshener for Christmas wrapped in a huge box.
Oh Yeah! Cartoons! - This is not what I would really consider a traditional show, as much as it was a showcase of cartoons by some of the up and coming artists in the Nick animation department. It ran from July 1998 to May 2001. It produced several full shows such as Chalk Zone and Fairly Odd Parents, of which only Failry Odd Parents gained my viewer ship.
The Wild Thornberrys - My viewing of the Wild Thornberrys was more a last ditch effort to not grow up than anything else. Was it a fantastic show? Yes. Did it hold a candle to any of the other Nicktoons? Not even close. I enjoyed watching the adventures of the Thornberry family as they trekked across the world in search of rare animals, but it seemed to pale in comparison to Doug, Rugrats, and the others. Maybe it was the fact that I was getting older and my interests were changing, because the show wasn't bad at all, but it just wasn't Doug. Although the show was heavily propagating the agenda of wild life conservation and animal rights activists, it was still able to produce entertainment for me in my childhood. Watching Nigel, Marianne, Debbie, Eliza, Darwin (the pet chimp), and the wild Mowgli type child named Donnie (voiced by Flea from the Red Hot Chili Peppers) always provided me with laughs and memories. The Premise rested on the adventures of Eliza Thornberry, who acquires the ability to talk to, and understand animals from an African Shaman, as she travels with her family whose patriarch, Nigel, hosts his own wild life program similar to that of the late great Steve Irwin. The show was an attempt to capitalize on the popularity of the Crocodile Hunter, which had begun to capture the attention of TV viewers at that time. Still, The Wild Thornberrys will forever remain a fixture of 90s TV for me.
CatDog - The ingenious creation of a half cat half dog creature living in an Odd Couple type scenario was just plane fun. I could try to analyze why this show was so amazing but anyone who has watched knows that the only explanation is that its just fun. The animation was good, not great. The writing was good, not great. The story lines were good, not great. But when all those were put together, it somehow created greatness. Part of the magic of this show was that it addressed all of the logical fallacies of a cat and dogs conjoined coexistence. For instance, one would wonder how a dog would bathe considering cats hate water. The answer was CatDog creating an airtight barrier in the middle of the bathtub-allowing Cat to stay dry while Dog took a bath. CatDog also had to deal with Winslow, a menacing mouse that lived in their half bone half fish house, as well as the greaser dog gang (Cliff, Shriek, Lube, and prospect Eddie the pulverizer, who happens to be a squirrel) that always tried to beat up cat. My favorite character however was Rancid Rabbit who always seemed to be the authoritarian in every situation CatDog found themselves in. Rancid Rabbit payed homage to the Man With No Eyes character in Cool Hand look in one episode as he acted as a prison guard to the incarcerated CatDog. The setting for the show was in a town called Nearburg, while the next town over is called Farburg, further demonstrating the just plane fun architecture of the show. Another character worth mentioning is Dogs superhero idol Mean Bob. What more could you want in a superhero with a name like Mean Bob. This was the last Nicktoon I watched religiously, and marked the end of my childhood as it were. Sure I was still young, but after CatDog ended I drifted away from the things of my youth, and took on the responsibilities of life such as serious relationships, and jobs. CatDog ran for three seasons starting in October of 1998.
SpongeBob SquarePants - This is the last of the great Nicktoons of the 90s, and I emphasize the word great. Technically the last Nicktoon produced in the 90s was Rocket Power, which was a good show, but it wasn't great. SpongeBob on the other hand was a combination of every good idea Nickelodeon had rolled into one. Granted it will never have the nostalgic value of other Nicktoons, such as Rockos Modern Life and The Ren and Stimpy Show, but it was a much more refined show that got a lot of attention, and financial support from Nickelodeon. The creativity, humor, and originality of this show will never be matched, in my own opinion. From my perspective, Nickelodeon was beginning to feel its grip on a demographic loosen with the loss of most of its flagship shows. In a last ditch effort to reconnect the older audience with the network, as well as gain a new audience from the younger generation, Nickelodeon poured all of its energy into one show, to create a masterpiece: SpongeBob SquarePants. That being said, the brilliance of this show only lasted for a few seasons, and then it began to deflate. But for those few seasons, there was hope that Nickelodeon was coming back to prominence. From the theme song, to the unforgettable characters, almost any episode you watched for the first few seasons was an instant classic. The show revolved around a sponge (whose namesake is the title of the show) who happened lived in a pineapple under the sea (your mind just jumped to the theme song right now didnt it?), annoyed his uptight neighbor Squidward, and is best friends with a starfish named Patrick. SpongeBob works at the Krust Krab, and loves his job as well as Krabby Patties more than anything. SpongeBob also has a pet snail, Gary, and desperately wants to get his boating license, but is denied time and time again by the course instructor, Mrs. Puffs. What made this show great was the absolute random story-lines. In one show, Squidward and Spongebob work the night shift, in which Spongebob is terrified of the Hash Slinging Slasher, but never gets the name right, often calling him the Hash Singing Sasher, or other variations of the name. In the same episode Squidward Scares SpongeBob at which point SpongeBob goes on a long screaming tirade. I can recall the episode where SpongeBob buys a seemingly worthless #1 soda drink hat, which turns out to be priceless in value. In an attempt to get the hat back, Mr. Krabbs (the boss of the Krusty Krab) tells SpongeBob that the hat belonged to Smitty Werben Jagar Man Jensen, an impromptu non-existent character created by Krabbs. As it turns out, the person actually existed and SpongeBob returns the hat to his grave. Im cracking up now just thinking about it. However, the creme de la crÃ¨me of the series was the epic Band Geeks episode, where the Bikini Bottom (the city in which SpongeBob lives) residents form a band to perform at a sporting event. Unfortunately, this show (which ran from May 1st, 1999 to the present) was only great for the first 3 or 4 seasons, but those seasons were unbelievably good. SpongeBob SquarePants fell victim to the marketing machine that Nickelodeon morphed into in the early 2000s. Nick had this uncanny ability to over saturate the market with every product they had, starting with the Nicktoons movies and going as far as to make candy krabby patties (which are horrible by the way). SpongeBob has become a cultural icon, but Ill always remember the show for its 90s nostalgia.
Rocket Power - August 19th, 1999 saw the creation of the last Nicktoon introduced in the 90s. I personally dont consider this a nostalgic cartoon, but it did make the decade cap by a few months, therefore needing some acknowledgment In this article. I did like this show, for what its worth, but like the last few cartoons mentioned it didnt stack up with the original Nicktoons in the early 90s. It centered on the lives of siblings Oswald (Otto) and Regina (Reggie) Rocket along with best friends Sam and Twister as they live a life full of extreme sports (skateboarding, rollerblading, BMXing, Surfing) in the fictional town of Ocean Shores, CA. Their dad Ray owned and operated the Surf Shack, a seaside restaurant, along with long time friend Tido (a hip Hawaiian philosopher). My memory of this show is that it was a good show to watch, but never beckoned me to watch it fervently. Rocket Power has the distinct privilege of closing out the Nicktoons of the 90s. Would I ever watch this show again? Absolutely! Would I buy it on DVD? Sure. But it coincidentally was the last Nicktoon of the 90s and comes in last of my favorite Nicktoons of the 90s. That said, it is a way better cartoon than the junk on now, and Id give my first born (not really) for a show like this on Nick today.
So to round out this list, I would like to highlight a few other shows that werent created by Nick, but had played on Nickelodeon at some point during my childhood, thus adding to the legendary lineup of the 90s Nick:
Garfield and Friends, Inspector Gadget, Looney Tunes on Nickelodeon, Muppet Babies, Tiny Toon Adventures.
If I had time, I would talk more about these shows because they are just as incredible as the Nicktoons, but Ill save that for another day. As it goes the 2000s produced some shows worth mentioning, such as As Told By Ginger and Fairly Odd Parents, but I wanted to limit this to 90s shows. If you made it to this point in the article you are either a die hard Nickelodeon fan, or had a lot of time on your hands to kill. Either way, thanks for reading. The next installment (covering live action and sketch comedy shows) wont be near as long, but just as nostalgic. Before the criticism on the length begins, just know that its impossible for me to cut short an article about the greatest channel during the greatest time. I know its a literary faux pas to write too much, but I loved the Nickelodeon of the 90s because it was my favorite station, and my fondest memories are in direct correlation with these shows.