I was born in 1989 and consider myself a child of the 1990s. This means I was raised at a time where the parents in the neighborhood typically let the kids outside to play with minimal supervision as long as they were home by supper. But it also means that I was on the cusp of being raised “online,” so we had video game systems and other screen-based entertainment as well.
But when I was growing up, at some point we got cable and that meant we got Nickelodeon, which was channel 38 in the part of Texas I grew up in. And it was wonderful. Rocko’s Modern Life, All That, Double Dare, Nickelodeon GUTS, Legends of the Hidden Temple, and Rugrats were my favorite shows that came on Nick. Others like The Adventures of Pete & Pete, Salute Your Shorts, and Are You Afraid of the Dark? were ones I watched but don’t remember as well. But either way, I had a very close relationship with Channel 38 and those shows, in addition to local sports, Friends, and Seinfeld are the TV shows that I grew up with.
Which is why I was so excited to see that a documentary called The Orange Years: The Nickelodeon Story as I was browsing Hulu yesterday. Here’s the trailer:
The Show Itself
Now before I go any further, I want to state unequivocally that this is not a review. I’m not going to go through and then assign a rating to this show because frankly this show has a very narrow target demographic. It’s great for nostalgia and for learning a bit about how Nickelodeon worked in the ’80s and ’90s. But I wouldn’t recommend this if you didn’t watch a lot of Nickelodeon at the time, or if you were more of a Cartoon Network fan, or if you’re looking for anything more substantial than nostalgia and a few factoids.
That said, if you are looking for those things, it’s worth a watch. They have interviews from Nick stars of the time like Double Dare‘s Marc Summers, All That and Kenan & Kel stars Kenan Thompson and Kel Mitchell, other All That alums like Lori Beth Denberg and Josh Server, and my first crush, Melissa Joan Hart of Clarissa Explains it All. As an aside, when I was a kid I would have guessed Clarissa was maybe 18 or so, but in watching the clips in the documentary, I realize she was, at most, like 14 in the first season. Crazy, right?
But all of that aside, it was a fun documentary to watch. Seeing the clips from old shows, the theme songs long forgotten, and even the Nickelodeon products like Gak and Floam was just a nostalgia overload. And the interviews sprinkled in provide some quality background information. For instance, the stories on Are You Afraid of the Dark? were purposely adapted versions of famous horror stories from the likes of people such as Edgar Allan Poe and WW Jacobs specifically so parents wouldn’t call in and complain that Nickelodeon gave their children nightmares. “How can that be, ma’am, when our show is just a retooled telling of ‘The Monkey’s Paw’?”
Or the fact that Coolio smoked some grass in his dressing room when he was a musical guest on All That one time. Apparently the kids were told to stay away from his dressing room. Or that Iggy Pop really enjoyed being on The Adventures of Pete & Pete. Crazy.
But look, I don’t want to spend forever just telling you about the stuff you could see if you just watched the show. Just watch the show. It’s on Hulu right now, but I don’t know how long it will be there, so watch it soon. I guarantee you’ll get hit with a wave of nostalgia so strong you can almost smell the Bagel Bites in the oven and taste the Orange Lavaburst Hi-C in those little cardboard juiceboxes. But whatever you do, keep the slime out of your hair if possible.