For those of you that are now joining the fun of counting down the top ten 1990s Nickelodeon shows today, please read part one (click here) to get caught up.
I received a few positive responses via facebook and twitter and they brightened my day, the power of nostalgia. It was also refreshing to know that I was not the only one stuck in front of a television, glued to Nickelodeon during the 90s; there is strength in numbers.
Without further ado, let us side step that over sized burly bouncer blocking the VIP section and hang out with vaulted 1% of Nickelodeon.
5. Hey Arnold-this is a tough seeing Arnold and his motley crew so close to the entrance of the VIP section. This show took place in the imaginary city of Hillwood, which looked like New York but had the feel of a West Coast big city a la Seattle or Portland. Many of my East Coast friends, especially those from New York are snickering right now at the idea that Seattle or Portland are big cities. Stop it! The reason Hey Arnold had a West Coast feel was the diversity of his crew. Arnold was a 4th grader who lived with grandparents in a boarding house. Like most cartoons, he wore the same outfit: a sweater over an untucked plaid shirt, which made him look like a kilt wearing hero. And he was; Arnold, though reluctant, did the right thing and made the right choices. One of my favorite episodes was “Stoop Kid” which was about a kid who never left his stoop since his birth. Arnold encouraged Stoop Kid to overcome his fear and take a step away from his stoop. Additionally, that extra tiny hat on top of his gigantic football shaped head was like the angel on top of a christmas tree, necessary and never moving. And Gerald, his best friend who was black with a high top so high that it was only contested by similar high tops donned by Marge Simpson and Kid (from Kid and Play, House Party fame). He was the epitome of cool, and knew all the street legends. My middle name is Gerald and I remember suddenly feeling cool sharing that name with him. I would be remiss if I did not give a shout out to middle school love manifested by Helga’s public disdain and bullying of Arnold, which secretly masked her obsessive love for him. Remember, she saved all of his chewed gum and created a gum statue, which was the centerpiece of her Arnold shrine, her personal sanctuary. Also remember her desperate attempt to become Juliet in the school play, so she could kiss her real life Romeo. Oh, puppy love! Then there was Harold the bully who cried whenever he got scared, and Phobe, the smart Hapa (a Hawaiian term to describe someone of mixed Asian/Pacific Islander decent) who had a crush on Gerald and realized that Helga really did like Arnold aside from her public showing of hate. I could go on and on because this is a great show! Unfortunately, as I got older, further in my high school career, busy with being an older teenager, I believed that I could no longer relate to Arnold and his fourth grade adventures, so I stopped looking at it, which is part of the reason it is number five.
4. GUTS and Wild and Crazy Kids (tie)-this post is getting harder and harder because the quality of the few remaining shows are all AMAZING! Here we have a tie because both of these caused a frenzied excitement every time I simply glimpsed their respective logos. GUTS touched my competitive nature; I was convinced that I could win a show! I wanted to ride that tricycle around the track going over the jumps and bumps and crashing through walls and obstacles. Any event that took place in the wave pool took the coolness quotient to the seventh power. Notice that I just spent all of my middle school math knowledge all on that previous sentence. I wanted to “spill my GUTS,” the individualized interview of each contestant they presented after a commercial break. The true jewel of this show was the Aggro Crag and those lighted targets that the contestant had to hit while they climbed it, fighting through giant foam falling rocks and other obstacles. I also felt a tinge of sympathy for the person who missed an actuator, thats what the lighted targets were called, and had to go back and light it before they could continue to the top. Did they not watch the show prior to their appearance and know that there was seven actuators, and later eight? C’mon, get it together contestants. I always wanted to know how people became contestants for this show. Needless to say that when I visited Universal Studios I went with all the intention in the world to be selected to participate in GUTS. Never happened.
Wild and Crazy Kids, on the other hand, was pure fun manifested in three separate team games hosted by Omar Gooding, Donnie Jeffcoat, and a rotating third female host with long dark hair. The games were pure magic; they were enticing, silly, and desirable; I wanted to participate in each and every contest. Though the show did not have a signature event, the lack of one made each episode that more exciting because I could not wait to see what the events were going to be. Some of my favorites are the following: three legged soccer games, giant volleyballs tossed over the net by blankets controlled by a swarm of crazy kids wearing unifying colored t-shirts, sliding down a luge popping balloons, slam dunking basketballs using a trampoline to soar ten feet, protected by the security blanket of a gymnastics pit, pillow fighting while simultaneously protecting an egg. Just thinking about these events makes me want to organize a Wild and Crazy day with my friends in Central Park. Possible Spring event. Then there was the episode that featured my forever crush, Lisa Turtle *swoon* These two shows definitely share a bottle (of my excitement) in the VIP section.
3. Double Dare-hosted by Marc Summers, this show was the precursor to GUTS and Wild and Crazy Kids. Thus, its originality lands it at the number three position. I ALWAYS wanted to be on this show with my family. I want to catch pies in my MC Hammer sized pants. Quick tangent: I really did have a pair of Hammer pants and tried to do the typewriter whenever I could, normally in the privacy of my shared room with my brother. Laugh if you want, but you did it too. I wanted to pour slime on my step-father, filling up a container on his head up to the bright red or blue line, and then watch him slip and slide his way to a larger container, in which he dump the slime and return for more until he filled the vat up to a winning line. I wanted to watch my mother clean the nasty goo from the oversized teeth with an oversized toothbrush, with the same intensity that she used when she encouraged me to brush my teeth properly. I wanted to pie my then baby brother, who was definitely not old enough for the show at the time or having pies thrown in his face. In fact, I blamed him and his age for the reason why we never made it to the show. Never mind, that I had no clue on how to apply for the show, it was somehow his fault that we did not make it. I wanted to do all this and more against another family. Mainly, I wanted to participate in the show closing obstacle course, crawling through, digging in, jumping into different obstacles, desperately searching for those triangular orange flags which were like needles in a slimy haystack. I wanted to be double dared.
2. Rugrats-Great show! It chronicled the adventures of tiny tykes Tommy, the fearless leader of the group, Chuckie, the cautious and wise toddler, and Phil and Lil, the twins who were ready for anything at anytime, true ride or die friends before the term was even invented. Their baby talk was translated for the audience and we were privy to their sophisticated discussions, laden with bad grammar and mispronounced words. They attempted to imitate the adults, having trails and other grown up activities understood though baby sensibilities. The antagonist was their older cousin, Angelica. She was three. She was so mean and so rude and so spoiled. Remember the episode where she convinced the gullible babies that she had a twin sister, who was nicer. The best part of the show was when she told them that her twin left, the babies became so upset that she was gone. You can see the slight hurt in Angelic’s face. Luckily, her foil character was the lovable friend, Susie, a black neighbor whom the babies, and audience alike, liked and cheered. Then there was the lovable pet dog, Spike, whose name unintentionally got mixed up in one of the funniest misquoted rap lines of all time. “DMX and my dog Spike.” I laugh as I type that, but the line was really “DMX and my dogs bite.” Google it. Back to the show, this show earned major points with me because this was the first openly religious family that I can remember. They were a mixed Jewish and Christian family and their holiday specials were always well done. The popularity of the show grew in part because they showed it everyday at one point. I vividly remember rushing home to see what those little diapered friends of mine were up to.
AND THE NUMBER ONE SHOW IS…
1. Doug-Doug Funnie, Skeeter, whose real name was Mosquito, Patti Mayonnaise, and Porkchop are the kings and queen of Nickelodeon shows for me. They have the largest table in the VIP section! I connected with Doug’s awkwardness as he navigated middle school, dealt with his first crush on Patti, and handled bullies, namely Roger. Doug spoke to me. He was a banjo playing, writer, left handed superhero, Quailman, and spy, Smash Adams. I loved how he would narrate the episode and then write about it in his journal. His imaginary town of Bluffington was filled with characters that seemed real and exaggerated, from their names to their different colors and sizes. Doug and Skeeter became best friends when Doug first moved to town because Skeeter helped him order his first meal at Honker Burger. Yep, I can definitely relate to that! In a similar fashion, my best friend in elementary school was the first person to help me feel welcomed in a new environment. He simply started talking to me while we waited on the breakfast line, and later introduced me to his cousin. Quickly, I didn’t feel like the new kid; I didn’t feel alone. Awww, the ease and simplicity of making friends back then. No facebook, no twitter, no text, just simple face to face gestures. Since Doug had a crush on Patti, I had a crush on Patti. There was so much to love about her. She was athletic, friendly, and pretty. Her polka dot sweater and shirt outfit, and later spandex leggings, were as much a staple as were Doug’s shorts and sweater vest over a plain white t-shirt or Skeeter’s red shirt with yellow pants that had red circles on the knees. Somehow Doug got reinvented and ended up on the ABC Saturday morning line up. His voice changed, he changed schools, and oddly Roger, the town bully became a millionaire. Doug stopped narrating the episodes. With all these new changes, I did not watch the new Doug episodes with the same awe and wonder with which I watched the Nickelodeon ones. However, he still holds a special place in my heart.
There it is, my list of the top ten Nickelodeon shows from the 1990s. I hope that many of you enjoyed this trip down memory lane with me, and remembered where you were during the 90s. More importantly, I hope you all realize, as I have, that many of these shows centered around the joy and carefreeness of being a child. Those assembled mobs for Wild and Crazy Kids did not care about race or class, they were interested in having fun and completing the mission. Arnold and his motley crew celebrated and navigated each other’s difference, as they all tried to avoid Eugene and his mishaps. Similarly, Doug and the Rugrats did the same in their respective worlds.
All in all, I am thankful for the varied programs and the memories that I have of all these shows.
Thank you, Nickelodeon!