Nearly every child of the 90s has some fond memory of Nickelodeon, one of the first Cable TV channels meant just for kids. With great cartoons like Rugrats, fun game Shows like GUTS! or Legends Of The Hidden Temple, and awesome live-action series such as The Adventures Of Pete And Pete and Are You Afraid Of The Dark?, there was something for everyone to enjoy.
With the success of new late-night 90s themed programming block The Splat, it is clear that viewers still hold a fondness for the shows of this era. Here are the reasons why I believe the 90s were the Golden Age of Nickelodeon:
1. Game Shows.
Both these shows encouraged kids to get active, providing clear goals to aim for. Legends was something special, a game show that captured the imagination with the stories behind its challenges. Nothing even remotely similar exists on Nickelodeon Today. We can only hope that the upcoming Legends Of The Hidden Temple movie will lead to a reboot of the show, and inspire a new generation of children.
2. Ad Breaks Were Never Boring.
The time in between shows was filled with music videos, or fun shorts such as Inside Out Boy and The Off-Beats. A stand out were the Arnold shorts that aired regularly from the early to mid 90s, featuring early versions of the characters that went on to form the cast of Nicktoons Classic Hey Arnold!.
Watch Nickelodeon Today, and all you are likely to get during the ad breaks is a load of fast food and Toy Commercials.
3. It was Interactive
During the 90s, Nickelodeon made great use of the Slogan "By Kids, For Kids!" with many ways for kids to get involved with their favorite channel. You could apply for your school to appear on Nick Takes Over Your School, or vote for your favorite show to be aired during the U-Pick, later Nick Picks, programming block, hosted by Stick Stickly.
One particularly memorable example was Smell-O-Vision week, sometime in 1998. Kids could send away for a scratch-and-sniff card, scratching the corresponding symbol when it appeared on screen during a show. This worked brilliantly with programs like Rugrats and Ahh! Real Monsters!, which was largely set in a garbage dump.
A repeat of the promotion in the mid-2000s was not received nearly as well.
4. It Taught Good Lessons
Throughout the 90s, Nickelodeon ran 'The Big Help', a series of promos and bumpers encouraging kids to look after the Planet, and get involved in their community. This lead to events such as 'The Big Help-a-thon', and competitions to find the best Big Helper.
The concept has been revived in recent years, with help from the stars of Victorious. Only time will tell if it finds the same success.
5. Special Episodes Or Events Were Always Something To Look Forward To.
The hype around surrounding special or movie-length episodes during the 90s was always wonderful. Every single one was marked with some sort of event, usually a whole day, or even whole weekend marathon leading up to the special episode.
I fondly remember getting myself up early and racing to the TV to catch the premiere of Rugrats: Runaway Reptar, and staying up late to finally discover the truth about CatDog's origins in CatDog And The Great Parent Mystery.
For modern day Nickelodeon, Marathons any more than a few episodes long seem to be reserved for Spongebob Squarepants.
6. There Was A Much Greater Variety Of Live-Action Programming.
Nickelodeon's current roster of live-action programming is mostly limited to tween sitcoms like The Thundermans and Henry Danger.
Nickelodeon of the 90s had a much wider selection of live-action fare.
Want a good Mystery? How about The Mystery Files Of Shelby Woo, featuring the late, great, Pat Morita as Shelby's Grandfather.
Looking for a scare? Whack on an episode of Are you Afraid of The Dark?
90s Nick really had something for everyone.
7. Most Of All, The Original Nicktoons.
In Nickelodeon's early days, the iconic cartoon series that the network dubbed 'Nicktoons' formed the core of the Network's programming.
Ren And Stimpy, and Rocko's Modern Life are considered cult classics.
While there would be a gross out joke or two, especially in Ren And Stimpy, for the most part, the humor in these series is much cleverer. Re-watch them Today, and I guarantee you will catch many a joke and popculture reference that zipped right over your head as a child. There is enjoyment in these series whether you be young or old. The same may not be said about newer shows like Harvey Beaks.
Hope for 90s Nick Kids.
Got you all nostalgic for the good old days? Never fear, fellow Nick kids. If you happen to live in the US, The Splat airs between 10pm and 6am on TeenNick, featuring all your favorite 90s shows. If you live elsewhere, or don't have cable, don't worry. Over the last three years, there has been a steady flow of 90s Nickelodeon shows being released on DVD. The high sales of these sets gives great hope for future classic Nick releases.
After the early success of The Splat, Nickelodeon execs voiced their intention to delve into the vault and look into rebooting some of their classic programs. This eventually lead to the long awaited Hey Arnold: Jungle Movie, and a possible Rugrats reboot.
The most exciting piece of news was the announcement of the Nicktoons movie, a Roger Rabbit style film featuring all the most popular Nicktoons of the 90s. Characters from Rugrats, Hey Arnold, and Doug are likely to appear.
I, for one, greatly look forward to it.