The '90s was Nickelodeon's prime. With unbelievable success in the later half of the decade, the network set the framework for the future of children's television and became a powerhouse brand. Today, Nickelodeon still has a strong foothold in the business, but there's no denying the fact that the hype of '90s Nick may never be replicated. With the recent emergence of The Splat, a cable sub-channel that reruns classic Nick shows from 10pm to 6am, the demand for the nostalgic programming is at an all-time high. Kids that grew up on these shows are reaching their thirties now and still wish to go back to their childhood and relive the magic that was.
The main complaints about The Splat: its only on overnight and the line-up is missing a few beloved shows. Having grown up in the '90s, I wish to nostalgically remember some of the best children's programming to ever air on television. Some of the shows that didn't make it to The Splat should have and deserve their moment in the spotlight. The Nickelodeon of today, while extremely relatable to this generation, just doesn't have the staining power of its predecessor. With respectable moral characters and themes and an unmistakable style, these '90s Nick shows will continue to live on. The Splat's lineup makes me wonder if these shows and many others were simply forgotten or if there just wasn't enough hype to qualify them for a time slot.
Kablam! Comics Come Alive
In 1997, we were introduced to Henry and June, a partnership made in comic heaven. It was their job to host Kablam!, a sketch comedy show with a sub-genre all on its own: comics and cartoons. Kablam! offered multiple animated shorts, each about 4 minutes long, during a 30 minute joy ride. It was perfect for the children of the '90s, who has an endless array of activities to enjoy from Bop Its to Tamagotchis. The shorts blended together to make one great show and kept our attention on the screen for the show's entirety.
With multiple shorts to fall in love with, there was something for every child in this show. Action League Now, a stop motion adventure starring 4 action figures with peculiar powers, became a fan favorite. Prometheus and Bob, a claymation gem starring an alien that befriends and tries to educate a caveman, created a wide comedic platform without any dialogue. Life With Loopy, my personal favorite, uses that classic '90s paper-headed puppet animation to provide a glimpse into the life of Larry: a preteen with a very unique sister, Loopy. Sniz and Fondue, a classically animated short, focused on two brothers that happen to be polar opposites. As the seasons went on, new shorts were added to the lineup, making Kablam! a diverse and always interesting experience.
This intelligent and eyecatching show was ahead of it's time Kablam! sticks out in my mind to this day when asked about the epitome of '90s programming. It had an extremely mellow vibe - the hipster of Nicktoons. Whilst looking back on the few full episodes I could find online, I found a ton of pop culture references and hidden humor that I wouldn't have ever noticed in my childhood. That is the hallmark of a good show to me: the ability to offer something for every single age group. It makes the show watchable for a lifetime. I'm so disappointed that The Splat didn't think it was important enough to bring back. It deserved to be brought back: for fans and a whole new generation.
In The Game: Nick Arcade
In 1992, video games came to life for kids lucky enough to be on Nick Arcade, an original game show with a modern (for that time) twist. Phil Moore guided 2 teams of 2 kids through an unbelievably fun set of challenges that all involve playing video games. Also in the mix are pop quizzes centered around pop culture. Rounds one and two involve the teams moving Mikey (the show's mascot) around a game grid to reach a goal line, finding quizzes, prizes and even enemies along the way.
After two rounds, the team with the most points progressed to the Video Zone, a level of gameplay that was all too real. The players were put inside a game with 3 levels to beat within a crazy short time limit. The show only stayed on the air for a little over a year, but that was long enough to make an impact. It helped intensify the interest of video games to kids, taught them to work together, and was just plain cool to kids of the '90s. When you watch it, you can place it's decade within seconds: bright colors, high waisted jeans, clashing interior design and, of course, the prizes to be won are all familiar indicators of that vintage '90s era. It was iconic and spoke to the era so well, I'm amazed that it didn't make The Splat's cut.
Sci-Fi Underground: Animorphs
Based on a series of books by K.A Applegate, the 1998 live action TV adaptation of Animorphs brought some sci-fi goodness to Nickelodeon. It follows the journey of 5 teenagers recruited by Elfangor, an alien, to assist his race in defeating the Yeerks, an evil and parasitic extraterrestrial species that plan to dominate Earth by gaining control of humans by inhabiting their brains.
The teens are given the power to morph into whatever creature they touch. They gain the DNA profile of each species and can change form at any time. If they do not morph back into human form within 2 hours, they will be locked into that animal form forever. With their world turned upside down over night, the group must adapt to their new abilities and face the harsh truths about society: some of them are already under Yeerk control and no one is immune, even their loved ones.
This show was a personal favorite of mine. The dark themes and sci-fi roots were perfectly blended in a way that wasn't too scary, but still made watching the show an intense experience. Animorphs only made it for 2 brief seasons before being cancelled, but it made it's mark on '90s pop culture in that time. Any show that can bring attention to literature is a winner. The books did a good job selling on their own, but after the show's premiere, many more children begged their parents for a set of Animorphs books. To this day, I watch the show every now and then and love to show it to new friends that don't know about it.
While the original audience of '90s Nick is aging, they all still loudly and proudly support the programming of their time. The era is getting a lot of pop culture hype right now and while I'm happy more attention is being brought to my favorite collection of TV shows, I'm also saddened that more of what made the decade so great and unique wasn't included in the lineup for The Splat. I could continue to list wonderful shows the network overlooked, but I want to leave some opportunity for you to go digging and discover your own '90s Nick nostalgia prize!
Missing shows aside, The Splat is now live! From 10pm to 6am every day of the week, you can watch most of the classics. The network also threw in vintage commercials to really take you back in time. Check your local cable listings for the channel you need to tune to. There are many great shows in the lineup including: Rugrats, Hey Arnold, Are You Afraid Of The Dark, Clarissa Explains It All, The Wild Thornberrys, All That and even Guts!
What are some of your favorite Nick show, new or classic? Let me know in the comments! Follow me here for more talk of great TV, and don't ever stop watching movies or television!