If you were to say that Nickelodeon in the 1990s was easily the best network and era for programming catered to children and teens, there aren’t many that would argue with you on that statement. Nickelodeon to this day surfs on the waves of their early successes. They’ve had a few of their original animated series get the movie treatment, like Rocko’s Modern Life and Invader Zim. Polaris, the ‘house band’ for the Adventures of Pete and Pete have toured in recent years, along with stars of the series Michael C. Maronna and Danny Tamberelli opening with a live podcast. Nick’s other channels even air programming blocks dedicated to the beloved shows of an era that might easily be considered Nickelodeon’s Renaissance Period.
Sure, these days Nickelodeon has some pretty hot properties such as Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Power Rangers, but those were purchased. They aren’t exclusive Nickelodeon properties like many of the popular shows of their heyday were. While we all fondly remember shows of Nick’s past like Salute Your Shorts, Hey Dude, and The Adventures of Pete and Pete, there were a lot of shows many of us aren’t still talking about. For every Are You Afraid of the Dark? there was a 100 Deeds for Eddie McDowd. For every Secret World of Alex Mack there was an Animorphs. For every Rugrats there was a…
15. The Mystery Files of Shelby Woo
The Mystery Files of Shelby Woo was (obviously) a mystery series done in the same vein as Nancy Drew or The Hardy Boys. While the series isn’t totally “forgotten”, it isn’t talked about today in the same way that The Adventures of Pete and Pete is. We have been able to see Shelby Woo in somewhat recent re-airings on The Splat, but it isn’t seeing conventions and concerts like the Wrigley brothers have seen.
Woo boasts four seasons, but most of those seasons were only six to eight episodes long, the first season being a test season. It also had a big name attached in the form of Mr. Miyagi himself, Pat Morita, playing Shelby’s grandfather.
14. Space Cases
Space Cases was a really fun series. It had cobbled together sets, bad costumes and make-up, and it was more or less a clone of Star Trek with inexperienced kids commanding the ship instead of capable adults with years of training. The ship also seems to be living. It also appeared out of nowhere while the rest of the children’s peers were away on a field trip.
Not only did Space Cases remind us of shows like Star Trek or Lost in Space, but it had cast and crew that were cut from the same nerd-culture cloth. Billy Mumy from Lost in Space and famed comic book creator/writer Peter David created the show. Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker) appeared in the series. It’s big boast at the time was series regular Walter Jones, the original Black Power Ranger, as Harlan Band. Cast member Jewel Staite who played Catalina on the series, would go on to star in another cult classic space series, Firefly.
13. Welcome Freshmen
Welcome Freshman was a great pre-teen/teen comedy before shows like The Suite Life of Zack and Cody and Best Friends Whenever took the spot.
When the series first started, it had the format of a sketch comedy show with a cohesive thread throughout. Some of the shows ‘sketches’ featured the school Principal, Mr. Lippman, poking fun at the Freshmen in an open mic comedy night format. Other sketches included safety advice from a Tortoise named Mortis, and “hard hitting” documentaries about the seedy underbelly of the high school from student Merv.
In its third season, the series took a sit-com format that saw the cast becoming Sophomores (though still retaining the Welcome Freshmen title) except for the dimwitted Walter, who was held back but still hung out with his usual friends.
You probably remember a lot more shows on Kablam! rather than Kablam! itself. Kablam! was a framing piece for a number of animated shorts like Prometheus and Bill, Life With Loopy, and Sniz and Fondue. Some of the shows that were featured on the Saturday night only Snick series went on to become their own full-length series on Nickelodeon, such as Angela Anaconda and Action League Now.
The cartoon hosts of Kablam! even had their own show, The Henry and June Show, but it only aired for one episode. It would seem Henry and June were great characters in small doses, but weren’t the type that could carry a whole series.
11. My Brother and Me
Say it with me now, “Hit me!”
My Brother and Me made Nickelodeon History by being the first show on the network that featured a predominantly black cast and was even nominated for an NAACP Image Award. Though the show did very well, it ended after only thirteen episodes over creative difficulties. How anyone could get into a reconcilable argument over the direction of a wholesome family sit-com about two brothers is a bit perplexing. Either way, kids lost a good show and the then only portrayal of a black family on Nickelodeon as a result.
As a testament to how well received the show was, those scant thirteen episodes aired as reruns for nearly five more years. The series also came back as part of the “90s Are All That” block of programming on TeenNick in 2013. It’s also received the boxed set DVD treatment.
Fifteen, also known as Hillside in Canada, was Nickelodeon’s only true soap-opera/drama. The show, much like Degrassi, had a large, constantly shifting cast and focused on the lives of a number of teens at Hillside High School. If you actually remember this show, you might recall that the halls of the high school rarely had many students at all, probably due to budget constraints, but it was hilariously noticeable. The acting and drama was pretty cheesy but it’s likely more younger kids were watching rather than actual fifteen-year-old students.
9. The Journey of Allen Strange
While The Journey of Allen Strange isn’t remembered as fondly as The Secret World of Alex Mack, another series featuring a teen with incredible powers, it was still a very enjoyable show that boasts a pretty terrific episode and an awesome ad campaign.
In the series, an alien comes to Earth and assumes the form of a human. Allen chose the form of a young African-American male without any understanding of what that would entail. In an episode for Black History Month, Allen brings in plain black poster board for his project, thinking the month is simply for the colour and instead of the Race. This episode sees Allen learning about slavery and the Civil Rights Movement, and the gravity of his chosen identity.
Roundhouse was one of the original shows on Snick, Nickelodeon’s block of Saturday night programming that ran two hours later than usual before the network transitioned into Nick At Night. The show was a lot like a variety show in that it featured skits, dancing, and musical numbers, but it had the look and feel of a performance by an improv troupe. Each episode featured skits, songs, and dances about a normal American family, creatively named the Anyfamily. Each episode weaved a cohesive story and theme through the different skits.
7. Get the Picture
You most definitely remember Mike O’Malley from Nickelodeon. He served as the host of Nickelodeon’s awesome alternative competitive sports series, Guts and Global Guts, for a number of years on the network. What you might not remember is his earlier hosting gig on the network as the host of the game show Get the Picture.
The show put two teams of two kids against each other in a guessing game. A picture would slowly be revealed on a video monitor and contestants would answer trivia questions to get an opportunity to guess what the screen would eventually reveal. It was a sort of Classic Concentration for the younger Nickelodeon crowd.
Weinerville was probably one of the greatest things that has ever happened to Nickelodeon. Yes, even to this day. It was an insanely brilliant puppet show. It had crudely made cardboard sets, all manners of puppets, and most of the show’s key characters were all portrayed by comedian Marc Weiner.
In addition to being a puppet show on steroids, there was a major live-audience participation element and forgotten animated gems would air between segments. As the show gained in popularity, Marc was given the opportunity to create specials for Nickelodeon. He would also occasionally host Nick in the Afternoon with Stick Stickly as his character Dottie, a major character from Weinerville.
5. Ship to Shore
If you blinked, you probably missed Ship to Shore. If you were a typical kid when this series aired, the Ship to Shore theme song was usually an opportunity to fire up a video game or get some time outdoors on a lazy Sunday. While the show ran for three years and was imported to a number of countries, this Australian series about a group of kids growing up on a small island off the coast of Perth couldn’t find an audience on Nickelodeon and was dropped within a year’s time.
Most episodes focused on a group of kids, generally bored to death on this small island, pulling pranks on adults to pass the time. As the series progressed the show would take on social and environmental issues. You might have often confused it with the original version of Tomorrow People, a British series also imported to Nick around the same time.
4. The Littl’ Bits
The Littl’ Bits was one of a number of Japanese Animation series imported to North America through Nickelodeon. Among them, Littl’ bits was easily one of the top three, right next to The Mysterious Cities of Gold and The Adventures of the Little Prince. The series was a great replacement for fans of The World of David the Gnome, as it also focused on a group of small woodland humanoids living harmoniously with the nature surrounding them. Unlike The World of David the Gnome, Littl’ Bits isn’t the series that most of us remember from Nick’s glory days. Even Maya the Bee, another anime import, saw a major motion picture in recent years. Hopefully the Littl’ Bits get some love soon.
3. What Would You Do?
After Double Dare had run its course, Marc Summers began hosting another show on Nickelodeon called What Would You Do?. It was basically a show that served as a vehicle for showing off the relatively new Nickelodeon Studios in Orlando. There were a lot of man on the street segments in the park itself, and the studio audience was essentially the star of the show. What stood out about What Would You Do? was the closing act known as, “The What Would You Do Medley”. Members of the audience came to the floor and index cards were attached to their heads. The cars required the audience members to do a variety of things, one member always getting the card with “Pie Pod” written on it. The studio member with this card was made to sit down in a special pie tossing machine that would launch pies via catapults into the poor soul’s face. Since host Marc Summers also took part in the Medley, he went to the Pie Pod himself a number of times.
2. Nick Arcade
The Nickelodeon game show Nick Arcade seemed like it lasted forever, in reality its reruns lasted forever. The show only taped two seasons. While many people watched the show growing up, it’s far from being Nickelodeon’s most memorable and talked about game show. There could be only one Legends of the Hidden Temple.
When you watched Arcade as a kid, you thought the contestants were living the dream. They played a game show, which consisted of a number of opportunities to play video games, the winner’s were able to go inside a video game to earn more prizes. Watching this one was infuriating as the contestants could rarely beat what looked like the world’s easiest video game and they looked so lost and confused while trying to do it. It looked phenomenal at the time. The reality was they were in a green screen room, trying to watch themselves play on a screen. It sounds pretty terrible when you realize they didn’t magically teleport into a video game.
SK8-TV was one of Nickelodeon’s earliest sports shows – a genre that already wasn’t a norm for the network. This skateboarding series was created and directed by two of the original Z-Boys, Nathan Pratt and Stacy Peralta respectively. The show consisted of segments featuring interviews with top skaters, action footage of various skate boarders on the street, and tips for better performance. It also had segments showcasing new gear and related products.
The series was hosted by actor Matthew Lillard, who hosted under the name Matthew Lynn. SK8-TV wasn’t around on the network for very long. It maxed out at only thirteen episodes and it’s easily Nickelodeon’s most forgotten and least talked about series. This probably doesn’t ring a bell for even the most devoted of Nickelodeon Couch Potatoes.
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