A few weeks ago I started a 3-part series where we flashback to classic Nickelodeon programming. Last week we looked back at some Nick's classic game shows and the week before that we revisited some of the early Nicktoons. In addition to those, Nickelodeon also had some pretty good original programming as well!
While Nickelodeon was a kid's network, they also had a few high school related shows, such as Welcome Freshman and Fifteen.
Welcome Freshmen first started out as a sketch comedy show, where each episode followed a bit of a theme and the characters (were incoming high school freshmen) went about their various school days via these sketches, often reconvening in the hallway between periods. Near the end of the series though, it became more of just a standard sitcom about the cast making it through the school day. While I'm sure quite a bit of this show went over my head, my young self still found it to be pretty funny.
Fifteen (or known in Canada as Hillside) was more of a high school soap opera, following several high school kids around as they dealt with various issues teens run into, such as dating, divorce, alcohol etc. It also had a young Ryan Reynolds as part of the cast, playing one of the main teen's younger sibling. I don't remember a lot of this show as I wasn't allowed to watch it - my parents didn't think a drama about fifteen year olds was appropriate for a 7-9 year old. I remember my childhood best friend would watch it sometimes though (it aired Saturday afternoons) and occasionally I'd catch an episode or 2 but yeah...
Other Saturday afternoon original programs Nick aired were Hey Dude and Salute Your Shorts.
Salute Your Shorts was another show that took place during the summer time, as it followed the adventures and antics of a group of campers at Camp Anawanna and their strict camp counselor Ug-Lee. We had girls Telly (who was the athletic one), ZZ (who was super into nature and saving the enviroment), and Dina (who was the rich, pretty girl and often acted stuck up). On the boys side of things, we had Bobby Budnick (who was the mastermind troublemaker tough guy who had a crush on Dina for awhile), his best friend "Donkey Lips" (who was the resident fat kid at camp) and Sponge (who was a geeky, computer whiz). In the first season we also had an average boy named Michael, who Dina had a crush on and Budnick often picked on, but we learn at the beginning of the first season Michael came down with the chicken pox and his parents came to pick him up. Replacing him, was the obnoxious Ronnie Pinsky who was also a mastermind troublemaker like Budnick, but his tactics were smarter and he often butted heads with Budnick for resident bad boy at camp. I recall Dina also had a crush on him, much to the dismay of Budnick. While this series made it seem like these 7 kids were the only ones at the camp, occasionally we'd see other campers in the mess hall or walking around the grounds - apparently these 7 were the only ones that actually mattered though!
Originally created as series of shorts during the summertime, airing between shows, Nickelodeon made a full series out of The Adventures of Pete and Pete, which followed the Wrigley brothers (both named Pete) and their friends and family. Big Pete, a high school student, was often the voice of reason in his family, while Little Pete (played by Danny Tamberelli), with a tattoo of a woman on his arm he called Petunia, was often known for getting into trouble. Mom Wrigley had a metal plate in her head, which often disrupted the microwave rays, causing her to pick up radio and TV broadcasts in her head. Dad Wrigley was pretty out there too, as he cared deeply for his lawn and was very competitve. Big Pete's best friend was a girl named Ellen, who lived in their neighborhood and went to school with him - she often posed the question "Why?" which once stumped their Math teacher, giving her a mid-life crisis, and also stumped all the substitute teachers that followed. Ellen's dad was played by Steve Buscemi. Little Pete's best friend is Nona F. Mecklenberg (played by a young Michelle Trachtenberg) who often wears a cast on her arm for no other reason than she enjoys the scratchy sensation it gives her. Her dad is played by musician Iggy Pop. Both boys are friends with the local superhero, Artie - the strongest man... in the world, who helps them face their neighborhood bullies. They also have adventures both at school and in the neighborhood. Throughout the 3 season course of the series, the show had many, many guest stars in addition to the ones previously mentioned - there was also a young Selma Blair, a young Heather Mazzarato, Chris Elliot, Janeane Garofalo, Debbie Harry, LL Cool J, Larisa Oleynik, JK Simmons, Michael Stipe, and many others.
Another fun original show Nickelodeon had was the cute and clever Clarissa Explains It All, starring a young Melissa Joan Hart. This series followed the adventures of Clarissa Darling, her parents (her father an aspiring architect and her mother who was kind of a blonde) and her brainiac obnoxious younger brother Ferguson. She also had a best friend, a boy named Sam who climbed into her bedroom window via a ladder. I remember thinking back then Clarissa had the coolest clothes and bedroom - she even had a pet baby alligator named Elvis! Clarissa was often faced with some dilemma each episode or there was something going on. Often she'd imagine possible outcomes of things before she did them, helping her make up her mind, and sometimes she'd even play a computerized game of the scenario to determine if the outcome would be worth it. She also briefly had a boyfriend, the leather clad, always eating Clifford, who at first terrorized Ferguson at school, but won Clarissa over when he sang "You are so beautiful." I recall her and Sam toyed with the possibility of becoming more than just friends at one point too, but eventually decided against it, as that would just be too weird. The show lasted 5 seasons, ending with Clarissa taking a Journlism internship at New York newspaper (which was supposed to be a pilot for new Clarissa series that didn't take off). This is credit as the first Nickelodeon show with a female lead.
For the last 2 seasons of Clarissa Explains It All (which was Nick's highest rated show at the time), the it was moved to Saturday nights, as the lead show for Nick's new Saturday night programming, SNICK (Saturday Night Nickelodeon). The original SNICK lineup, starting at 8/7c, was Clarissa Explains It All, followed by the new variety musical show Roundhouse, then Ren and Stimpy, and ending the block with Are You Afraid of the Dark?
The only reason I remember the short-lived (1 season) Roundhouse was because when we went to Nickelodeon Studios at Universal Studios Florida we took a tour of the studio and they showed us the soundstage where Roundhouse was going to be filmed. Roundhouse was filmed on a round stage, that was divided into sections and would rotate around with different cast members in a different section/scene. The show included a cast of teens and consisted of comedy sketches, serious sketches, music and dancing and was taped before a live audience too. Like I said though, it was very short-lived.
Are You Afraid of the Dark? was another new Nick show, exclusively as part of the SNICK lineup. It was like a kids version of Tales From the Crypt or the Twilight Zone as each episode started out with a group of teens (including a young Rachel Blanchard) who called themselves the Midnight Society meeting late at night in the woods around a camp fire. The members would take turns each week telling a scary story around the fire, which would be that nights episode. The stories ranged from the scary, to fantasy, to paranormal to just downright strange, creepy and weird, often taking elements of things people are commonly afraid of (ie: clowns, the boogyman, video game monsters, vampires, witches, aliens, the dark, being alone, the phone police, and much, much more!). The original series lasted from 1991-1996 and was later brought back from 1999-2000, with Tucker (Gary's younger brother who would often follow him to the original Midnight Society meetings) being the only returning cast member (which also included a young Elisha Cuthbert). The series also would sometimes include guest stars from other top kids shows at the time, such as Melissa Joan Hart, Tia and Tamera Mowry, as well as others such as Jay Baruchel, Hayden Christensen, Entourage's Emmanuelle Chirqui, Neve Campbell, Ryan Gosling, Gilbert Gottfried, Tatyana Ali, Holly Marie Combs, and American Pie's Eddie Kaye Thomas just to name a few.
Roundhouse was eventually replaced by the hipper All That show, which was more like a kids Saturday Night Live, as it was a sketch comedy show with teen cast members (including Lori Beth Denberg, Amanda Bynes, Kenan Thompson and Kel Mitchell) and always featured a musical guest (which for awhile was usually the current hiphop, rap or R&B artists at the time). While Roundhouse didn't work, for some reason All That did. It also spawned several spin-offs, including the movie Good Burger, based off the sketch known by the same name, as well as The Amanda Show (a sketch show starring Amanda Bynes) and the Kenan and Kel show which was a sitcom following the 2 teen comedies - Kel playing the goofy dumb-witted best friend to Kenan's smarter character.
When Clarissa Explains It All ended, a new show with a female lead was introduced to fill its timeslot - The Secret World of Alex Mack, starring Larisa Oleynik. In the first episode, we are introduced to Alex, who is an average girl in Paradise Valley just starting Jr. High and has big shoes to fill, as all her teachers are familiar with her smart, brainiac older sister Annie who is now in high school. They live with their parents, in which dad works at the local chemical plant while mom works in public relations. Like Clarissa, Alex's best friend is a boy, named Raymond. After a rough first day at school, Alex is walking home when she almost gets hit by a truck, carrying the chemical plant's chemical called GC-161 - Alex gets doused with the stuff and quickly runs home to wash off, only the chemicals have merged with her body, giving her telekinesis, and she can also shoot electricity from her fingertips, morph into a puddle of silver liquid, and turn yellow when she experiences extreme emotions. Scared, she turns to her sister and best friend for help, where they help her cope with her new changes - talk about a rough adolescences! The majority of the series follows Alex as she copes with her new powers and struggles to make it through typical Jr. High (and later high school) experiences all while trying to keep a low profile as Danielle Atron, head of the chemical plant, has her goons searching for "the kid" that got doused with the chemicals as they want to run "scary" tests to find out what the chemicals have done. Many times does Alex have close calls with Danielle and the chemical plant and almost gets discovered (often due to some random mishap her powers have caused).
What classic Nickelodeon original shows did you watch and enjoy?