Engaged in a losing battle with my frequently unwelcome friend insomnia, my mind prances through random memories. My thoughts linger in the gated community of my childhood, digging through all kinds of cluttered recollections, throwing memories of basketball games, friends, and others in the air like a person buried under their unwashed laundry flinging clothes out of the way. That was a Freudian slip to remind me that I need to do laundry again. During this exploration into the dimly lit streets of adolescence, I constantly see an orange splattered logo on the many walls of memory lane. It’s tagged Nickelodeon, the primer cable television channel of my youth. My brain jumpstarts and I reminisce about my favorite shows. Why are you so cruel, insomnia? Why encourage a good idea that will result in me scouring the internet for information, updates, and pictures of my favorite Nick shows at this unattractive hour, especially when I have to go to work soon?
My Top Ten Nickelodeon Shows from the 1990s:
Anytime I see a list, I always ask the following questions: What was the criteria? How was this list complied? What were the requirements? What are the credentials of the person constructing the list? Is this person credible? What if I disagree with the list?
If you also have similar questions, I hope that my following answers suffice: The only requirement is that the shows aired on Nickelodeon during the 90s. Other than that I complied the list based on how much I liked the shows. For a second, I thought of following Rembert Browne’s footsteps and create a single bracket for the shows and have them battle it out like an NCAA tournament filled with upset victories and unforeseen blowouts, culminating in a show being crowned champion. But that idea did not get very far. In fact, it never passed that previous sentence. I have no credentials other than I watched an absurd amount of television as a kid. Believe me! That’s my plea for credibility. To reiterate, these rankings are based on how much I remember enjoying the show. Lastly, if you disagree or agree with the rankings, please share a comment. I am always excited to hear from my readers. No, like really I am. Write a comment, and imagine the joy I feel when I get the email alerting me to your comment’s presence.
Honorable mentions: Ren and Stimpy, Rocko’s Modern Life, and Spongebob Squarepants. The first two were simply overgrown cartoons; the topics covered went over my then middle school head. Honestly, I thought the drawings were crappy and crude and they never captured my attention. Spongebob aired in the late 90s, which, at that point, I was nearing the end of my high school career and thought that shows on Nickelodeon were too young for me. Sadly Mistaken. There goes my ageist thinking again. I did not watch Spongebob initially, but have since watched many episodes and IF I had watched it back in the 90s, it would have undoubtedly made the top ten. In fact, one of my favorite jokes hails from Spongebob. Spongebob sees his best friend, Patrick, a silly fun-loving starfish, with this angered scowl on his face. Concerned, he asks,”Patrick, what’s the matter? Why are so mad.” “I’m not mad,” Patrick pleasantly replies, “I’m just trying to look at my eyebrows.” I’ll wait while you try to look at your eyebrows and start laughing at the funny face you unintentionally make. Go ahead.
Without further ado, I present my Top Ten Nickelodeon Shows of the 1990s (in reverse order):
10. All That-sketch comedy performed by people my size and age about my topics. In many ways, this was the G-rated version of adult comedy sketch shows like Saturday Night Live or In Living Color (sidenote: I was banned from watching In Living Color because of a lie I told in third grade. Said story definitely deserves it’s own post). I was not a huge fan because the comedy was corny and sophomoric, and I thought my friends and I were funnier. I only felt that way because they were my age. Nonetheless, because I could relate to the world of weird teachers, misinformed principals, and social anxieties about dating and puberty, I enjoyed the show. Rereading that sentence made so thankful that I survived middle school.
9. My Brother and Me-this show is this low on the countdown because it only had one season. Peep the funky African American themed title shot, which reminds me of Martin, a popular black comedy show during the 90s. Maybe the artistic director worked for both shows, and really liked the multi-colored lettering. I really do not know what makes the title seem “Black.” Not sure if it is the show’s grammatically incorrect name or what. Anyway, it featured Nickelodeon’s first all black cast. ALL of my friends liked the show because it was the first time that we saw ourselves in such a positive way. Even though the show took place in North Carolina, a place that many of us never visited and only knew because it represented basketball supremacy in college basketball, we still loved and connected with My Brother and Me. This must have been how black families felt when they saw the Cosbys. We were no longer just that one or two standout token, but instead we made up the full ensemble. The cast looked like us, I cannot stress that enough. That alone would have warranted top five consideration, but it only had thirteen episodes. It’s body of work was not expansive enough to crack the vaulted top-of-the-list VIP section. At the same time, this show provided comedic gold by chronicling the adventures of Alfie, Dee Dee, and Goo in North Carolina. Two lasting memories stick out about this show: Dee became the way that my friends started to write my nickname, which was previously written as D in notes secretly passed throughout the school day. More importantly, Dee Dee gave us the classic phrase with his nasal inflection, “Hit me!” during their bullying episode that every show seemed to have.
8. Legends of the Hidden Temple-one of my all time favorite programs. You may ask, “Then why is it so low on the list?” Simple. Being a part of this era of Nickelodeon was tough competition all around. If it aired on a different network, it would have easily been top five worthy, but it didn’t and it’s not. Cookie crumbling. Back to the show, what a mix of history, mythology, geography, and physical activity. Each show featured the moat, the steps of knowledge, and the ultimate contest, the labyrinth, which was guarded by the Temple guards, grown men dressed in elaborate Mayan costumes. And the team names were teen friendly and created a sports like allegiance: jaguars, barracudas, monkeys, iguanas (they were the orange team and rarely ever won…a la my 6th orange team in color wars), parrots (I always rooted for this team because their shirt color was purple), and snakes. If anyone could get their hands on an authentic shirt, please let me know. I am more than willing to spend high dollars (no more $25) for it. Some of my favorite “legends” were the broken wing of Icarus and the walking stick of Harriet Tubman. I can’t make this stuff up. Pure gold. Tough era. Think a young Patrick Ewing, good stats, one of the all time 50 greatest players in the NBA, BUT no ring because of Jordan, Magic, Bird, Olajuwon, Barkley, Shaq, and Malone.
7. Cousin Skeeter-this show beats out Legends of the Hidden Temple because it was a family friendly comedy starring a muppet, named Skeeter, and the extra light skin black kid from Louisiana, who protected his often annoyingly naive cousin. The family seemed oblivious to the fact that Skeeter was a muppet, but everyone else noticed his “difference,” which led to some interesting story lines. Most importantly, its theme song was a remix to 702’s first hit song, “Steelo,” written by Missy Elliot. Anything written by or involving Missy at this time was guaranteed to be successful. Hence, the producers included a remix for the title track of the show. Hence, it lands at number seven.
6. Salute Your Shorts-*cue the bugle horns*
We run. We jump. We swim and play. We row and go on trips
But the things that last forever… are our dear friendships
Camp Anawanna, we hold you in our hearts.
And when we think about you (it makes me wanna fart!)
Salute the valedictorian of summer school. Our strong protagonist, Michael, is left to fend for himself (with help from Sponge, his nerdy sidekick) at Camp Anawanna against the resident bullies, Bobby and Donkeylips, with whom he shares a bunk. The camp counselor is Mr. Lee, but the kids call him “Ug” as in “Ug” Lee. Pre-teen comedy at its best. The lone black actress is great at sports and comes from a less affluent background then her peers, especially the rich and snobby Dina. ZZ is a free thinking, poetry writing, nature lover whom I deemed “weird” and laughed at everything she said or did. Wherever you are ZZ, I apologize. You were ahead of your time, and I did not understand that differences are to be celebrated. And you should also demand an apology from the writers and producers because they often made you perpetuate the stereotype of the dumb blond. Overall, there were funny adventures at the camp, which made me wish that I went to camp. And then one summer, I went to Boy Scouts’ camp, not as much fun as Camp Anawanna; there were no pranks, no
misadventures, but I did see a snake detach its jaw as it ingested an egg. Or did it ingest a live mouse? Here is the problem with memories: I would like to remember that story with a live mouse because it would sound cooler, and I can even see the mouse move down the snakes digestive track, looking like an egg moving down a thin green hose. Let’s say the snake ate both!
Come back tomorrow for the exciting finish to my Top Ten Nickelodeon Shows of the 1990s.