The Orange Years: The Nickelodeon Story

If you are an older Millennial who had cable growing up, then I have the documentary for you!

Growing up, it seemed like you were either a Disney kid, a Nickelodeon kid, or a Cartoon Network kid. I was a Nick kid all the way. I was born in 1991, but I had an older sister who was three years older and both our parents worked full-time. We were either with a babysitter or after school care. TV was our savior and thank God for reruns! People didn’t care about your “screen time,” TV helped chill you out and shut you up.

Focusing on the most formative years 1984-2000, the documentary looks at the creation of the cable network and how it evolved into an overall brand. The only place for kids on TV was Saturday morning cartoons or whatever was played on PBS. Nick was different. The person who was most instrumental in making Nick what it is now known for was Geraldine Laybourne, who actually started out as an educator. When she was put to the task to develop something just for kids, she went to the source—actually asked kids what they liked and enjoyed.

The network first started with game shows like Double Dare and What Would You Do?—introducing the world to the wonderful Marc Summers—and then forged its way into scripted shows like Hey Dude and Salute Your Shorts. I loved hearing the stories from the stars and creators of standouts The Adventures of Pete & Pete and Clarissa Explains it All, two of my favorites. Clarissa’s style was on point and her best friend, Sam, was a total dreamboat. Looking back, she was kind of the first feminist for young kinds.

My birth year was when everything changed—the beginning of Nick Toons. They launched with a bang when they released Doug, Rugrats, and Ren & Stimpy on the same night. I was obsessed with Rugrats. If I wasn’t home for Rugrats at 7:00pm, I would throw a fit; I didn’t understand the concept of reruns yet. Clothes, push, toys—I had it. Really any of the classic Nick Toons were my jam: Hey Arnold!, Rocko’s Modern Life, Aaahh! Real Monsters, and Angry Beavers. Th writers were so great at including such smart and clever humor that made it enjoyable for kids and adults. Rocko and Hey Arnold still make me laugh.

The last part that was highlighted in the doc was Nickelodeon’s Saturday night programming, SNICK. That’s where you could find Clarissa, Pete & Pete, The Secret World of Alex Mack. All hell broke loose when All That came on the scene, followed soon after with Kenan & Kel. We had this diverse group of kids bringing other teens sketch comedy, it was so much fun! I’ve literally been watching Kenan Thompson most of my life first on Nick and then Saturday Night Live. The fact that he came back to talk about his time at Nick for this movie made me so happy.

If you were from this era of extraordinary TV, I highly recommend this documentary. I had so much fun walking in this wonderland of nostalgia. I had a smile on my face the entire movie.

Did you watch any of these gems growing up? Or even now? Tell me all about it!

One thought on “The Orange Years: The Nickelodeon Story

  1. […] Oh my God, if you want to watch the craziest movie about a defunct amusement park, head over to HBO Max and watch Class Action Park. Profiling the New Jersey amusement park, Action Park, this documentary takes you through the history of this train wreck from the 80’s. Not to spoil anything but as a teaser, expect: snakes in the water, drunk teens working the rides, and a deadly wave pool. Dance Dreams made me feel so good. It’s a documentary about The Debbie Allen Dance Academy and her original take on The Nutcracker. I’ve taken classes at DADA and had friends in the Hot Chocolate Nutcracker. It was so heartwarming to learn about the creation of the production and the dancers that star. I talked all about my feelings for The Orange Years last week and you can find that right here. […]

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