Three N's of my life... Or just one
I think that my youth can be defined by three N's: Nickelodeon, Nintendo, and Ninja Turtles. (Other runner up "N"s were Nerf and... umm, Rescue Nine-One-One (The "n' is in Nine, yeah it's a stretch))
Oh those were golden times. Where parents always got slimed, Stick Stickly always got dipped, stumped, slimed, etc. and a kid could catch quality programming at any point in the day on that faithful channel... Nickelodeon.
"Write to me Stick Stickly P.O Box 963, New York City, New York State, 10108"
Nickelodeon was the definitive children's network powerhouse once upon a time. (Before Cartoon Network started whoring itself out) There was the Rugrats and Doug to satisfy your animation sweet tooth. Ah, Douglas Yancey Funnie , your imagination will live on forever in the youth that followed your antics as Quail Man and your memories will be forever immortalized in the words of the Beets, "Oh-ee-oo, Killer tofu!"
Then there were all their live-action shows, the likes of which have never been duplicated on any other channel to the degree of success they found on Nick.
Camp Onawana, we hold you in our hearts..
Salute Your Shorts: The show that made summer camp cool. Also responsible for the wide-spread use of the word "wuss." Gave the less-attractive children of our country eternal hope with the episode where Donkey Lips finally gets the girl.
Creepiest opening for any show ever
Are You Afraid of the Dark (I'm still terrified of that dollhouse episode to this day)
Clarissa and Sam, best friends for life.
The then-so-much-more-attractive Melissa Joan Hart in Clarissa Explains it All. Every girl in the country wanted a Sam Andres, the guy who would show up at Clarissa's window on the ladder. He was also my hero, because in the final episode he got accepted into an all girls college. Go Sam!!!
Then there were the game shows.
What Would You Do? Where people from the audience would be chosen at random to perform bizarre and outrageous stunts... or get a pie in the face. ("Pick a scorpion up with your mouth, or ride the pie chair," "Do a backflip, or have your son throw a pie in your face," "Have a pie thrown in your face, or take a pie shower.")
A pie in the face could solve the world's problems. I'm not kidding.
Double Dare: The show where every child in the country would tell everyone in the vicinity of their TV set. "I could run up the slime slide, dive into the giant pizza, climb through the car wash brushes and grab the orange flag WAY better than those guys can!" It was also the only show where you could watch people your mom's age swim through giant hot fudge sundaes.
There was also Figure it Out, and probably a few others I can't remember. But my two favorite game shows I saved for last. Wild and Crazy Kids and Legends of the Hidden Temple.
Wild and Crazy Kids could have been the best idea for a game show ever. It was basically what Most Extreme Elimination Challenge is today only you switch the Japanese guys with American kids and the two obnoxious hosts for the three coolest grade schoolers in the world; Annette Chavez (This girl had spunk), Omar Gooding (Cuba's lil' brother), and Donny Jeffcoat (coolest hair ever). These kids were practically worshiped by my generation at that age. They got to go around the country and play all the most ridiculous feats of skill and endurance you could dream up. I remember one time when they put half the kids in drivable boats armed with tennis ball cannons and the rest on the shore manning tennis ball turrets, and the first team to "kill" the other one won. HOW COOL IS THAT!!!
Sometime even the parents would get in on the fun... and of course they always got pied.
Legends of the Hidden Temple was by far the most interesting and exciting game show Nickelodeon ever came up with. The show was hosted by some lackluster loser who never even managed to do more than make me yawn. The real shining gem on the hosting staff was the giant stone head named Olmec.
Easily the coolest stone head ever.
Each episode Olmec would welcome 6 teams to compete for a chance to make a run in his Hidden Temple. The teams were the Red Jaguars, Blue Barracudas, Green Monkeys, Orange Iguanas, Purple Parrots, and the Silver Snakes. Kids would quickly pick favorite teams. The majority were fans of the Silver Snakes but I always had it in my heart for the Red Jaguars. At the start of the show the big guy, Olmec, would introduce a legend of a historical figure and an artifact that they lost. It could be anything from Amelia Earhart's goggles to Pecos Bill's lost Lasso to a snow cone made from the snow of Mt. Kilimanjaro. Then the teams would compete in ridiculous games involving teamwork, physical prowess, and good listening skills (?). Then one lucky team would enter the temple to try and claim the lost artifact. Only to lose... every time. I don't think I ever saw anyone win the grand prize (some trip to Hawaii or whatnot) but I did see plenty of people reach the artifact, netting them the conciliatory prize of a mountain bike or something (lame).
No joke. One episode threw the kids into the temple to reclaim... The Bellybutton of Buddha
And if you somehow found yourself watching Nick around noon time there was no shame in watching Little Bear, Eureka's Castle, or my favorite Muppet Babies. These shows were genuinely entertaining. I found myself watching them long after I "outgrew" them, though that may say more about my mental state than that of the shows.
I think that Nickelodeon's decline from this pinnacle of youth awesomeness was when they released Ren and Stimpy. The show was great, but it marked the first series that began to turn Nick away from it's high seat of kid glory. This was soon followed by worse and worse shows; Angry Beavers, Rocko's Modern Life, and eventually Spongebob, the bane of my Nickelodeon viewing life. Who knows if Nickelodeon will ever reclaim the crown that it once held so indisputably as King of Children Programming, but it may be on its way with the following news.
It bears noting at this point that I made a glorious discovery the other day. Nickelodeon is finally making the smart choice and releasing all their glorious afternoon programming from the early 90's on DVD. Already on DVD are Clarissa Explains it All and Pete and Pete Vol. 1. Soon all our dreams will come true when our generation will finally own Salute Your Shorts on DVD. Well, at least my dreams will come true.
Wow this post went on longer than I ever thought it was going to. The turtles and Nintendo will have to wait for another day.