An Ode to old school Nickelodeon

Lyssa Beyer

Ladies and gentlemen, the single greatest era of television for our generation is but a spec in life’s rear view mirror.

I’m talking, of course, about the wholesome 90s Nickelodeon programming that captivated our childhoods with its fart jokes and slime-covered antics. But in a day and age where people are paranoid about television corrupting children, Nickelodeon has become but a shadow of its former self, with the most controversial show probably being “Spongebob Squarepants” only because a couple preachers wanted some media face time to denounce homosexuals. “Zoey 101” has controversy potential because of Jamie Lynn Spears’ brilliant sexual exploits before she even got her driver’s license. It just goes to show you can take a Spears out of the trailer park, but you can’t take the trailer park out of a Spears.

With that said, if I wasn’t playing or watching sports as a child, I was glued to the television in hopes of catching a rare episode of “Legends of the Hidden Temple” where the Blue Barracudas put the three-piece monkey together at the last challenge or possibly seeing an “awful waffle” actually carried out on “Salute Your Shorts” by Donkey Lips, which seems like a pretty hurtful name for a kid. Keep in mind this is the 90s and political correctness hadn’t fully reared its annoyingly ugly head until the end of the decade.

On a side note, I’ve shown my appreciation for this era in my life by purchasing a Blue Barracudas shirt because it was, statistically, the least likely team to be ousted in the first challenge of the game.

Nickelodeon was innovative in the 90s for its ability to create kid version of popular shows, such as “Guts” and “All That!” carrying similar formats to that of “American Gladiators” and “Saturday Night Live.” But I’m pretty sure most of the kids on “Guts” didn’t do as many steroids as Nitro to prepare for the event. If they did, I consider that extreme dedication to win – a lesson essential to growing up.

“All That!” was part of Nickelodeon’s Snick line-up, something my friends and I planned our entire weekend around. Other shows included “Are You Afraid of the Dark?,” “Kablam” and “Kenan and Kel,” featuring the world-famous Coolio rapping the theme song as Kel chugged orange soda by the gallon. And yes, he called it soda, not pop.

“All That!’s” most memorable characters and sketches include Coach Kreeton somehow always finding a way to get hurt, Miss Piddlin force feeding students peas for lunch and Vital Information delivering words to live by every episode.

“Are You Afraid of the Dark?” was the most intriguing show because some of the stories were pretty lame and almost made me crap my pants, such as when Zeebo the clown comes back from the dead to collect his stolen red nose and when a vampire slithered out of the screen of an old theater. I’m pretty sure my friends and I ran out of their house screaming during that episode. But that stuff’s good for you when you’re seven.

On top of all that, as part of the initiation process into the Midnight Society, a new member had to tell a story that was scary enough for the group in order to hold a permanent seat around that sacred fire and strange sand bag. I always thought this was a futile effort because the creators and writers of the show wouldn’t purposely make a crappy story because people would get mad.

The best part of 90s Nickelodeon was by far the raunchy cartoons. Everything now is so toned down compared to the beautiful art that is “Ren and Stimpy,” “Rocko’s Modern Life,” “The Angry Beavers” and “Doug.” My dad and I used to watch the “Happy Happy Joy Joy” episode of “Ren and Stimpy,” much to the dismay of my mom. While “Doug” wasn’t too inappropriate in terms of content, I swear the creators of “Rocko’s Modern Life” and “Angry Beavers” had to be tripping or just stoned in general.

They allowed an interspecies relationship between Filburt Turtle and Dr. Hutchinson and Heffer the cow to be raised by a family of wolves. If the show was still running today, the people criticizing Spongebob would have a field day with all the supposed immoralities of Rocko and his friends.

Fortunately, most of these shows are available on DVD. However, I’ll take the days of my youth enjoying these shows for simple reasons over spending $40 for a memento from my past any day. Either way it’s better than whatever Nickelodeon passes off as children’s programming now.