Nickelodeon is a legendary television network. Millions and millions of kids all around the world grew up on the channel and have incredibly fond memories. Shows like All That, The Ren & Stimpy Show, The Adventures of Pete & Pete, and Rugrats are beloved, nostalgia-filled properties that will always remain in their hearts and minds.
That being said, things weren’t exactly as squeaky clean as one’s slime-colored glasses would have them believe. Heck, even today, there are some dark secrets lurking behind the scenes. Ones that would make the writers of Are You Afraid of the Dark? blush.
Since kids only see is what is on the surface, they are blissfully unaware of some of the more unsettling events that have transpired in the background.
From underage pregnancies to hidden revealing scenes to backstage drama an infighting, Nickelodeon has over 40 years of stories that could have tanked the entire company.
For some of these, it’s a miracle that the company is still standing to this very day. Some of these entries are a sign of the times and stem from a different culture that wasn’t as buttoned up as it is today, while others… well, others had no business ever happening.
Without further ado, here are the 20 Controversies That Almost Took Down Nickelodeon.
20. Ariana Grande And Jennette McCurdy’s Real-Life Feud
After both iCarly and Victorious came to an end in 2012 and 2013, creator and Nickelodeon hitmaker, Dan Schneider decided to Frankenstein these shows together using two of their most beloved characters.
Taking Jennette McCurdy’s Sam from iCarly and pairing her up with Ariana Grande’s Cat from Victorious seemed like a match made in television mashup heaven.
When the show abruptly ended after only one season, fans were perplexed to say the least. More confusingly, the show was supposed to produce 40 episodes but only completed 36.
Fans began to speculate that there was bad blood between the duo when McCurdy no-showed the 2014 Kid’s Choice Awards. Rumors spread that Grande, whose star was on the rise, was earning more than her co-star.
19. Loud House Producer Was Fired Over Harassment
Harvey Weinstein’s constant barrage of assault was one of the worst-kept secrets in Hollywood. There have been other cases of celebrities being called out for the way the abused their power within the industry. One of the last people you would expect to be guilty of the same acts is the creator of a children’s cartoon.
The Loud House is currently one of Nickelodeon’s most popular shows. The series that depicts the lives of a family of 13 is notable for being one of the more progressive shows on television and was heralded for incorporating a bi-racial gay couple into the stories.
18. 16-Year-Old Jamie Lynn Spears Gets Pregnant
Jamie Lynn Spears first foray into the world of Nickelodeon television was as a cast member during the eighth season of All That.
After two seasons on the sketch comedy show, she was eventually given her own series, called Zoey 101. The show debuted in 2005 and was a monster hit for the Nickelodeon netword, earning the network it’s highest ratings for a series premiere in eight years.
Right before the show’s fourth season was set to air, though, Spears announced that she was pregnant. At the time, she was only 16-years-old. The network didn’t want to continue to produce a show starring a pregnant teenager and therefore pulled the plug. We’re talking about Nick here, not MTV.
17. Invader Zim May Have Led To The End Of Someone’s Life
Invader Zim was one of the darkest cartoons ever produced by Nickelodeon. It’s bizarre artwork and eerie tone makes it, to this day, a favorite amongst the Hot Topic crowd. It has inspired artwork, clothing, cosplay, and maybe even the end of someone’s life.
During the 2005 trial of San Francisco teenager Scott Dyleski, the 2001 Nicktoon was cited. Specifically, the episode “Dark Harvest”. “Dark Harvest” tells the story of Zim, the undercover alien, collecting the organs of his fellow classmates in hopes to blend in amongst the earthlings.
The prosecution claimed that Dyleski had an obsession with body parts and that this particular episode of the cult classic TV show was one of his favorites. Scott Dyleski was convicted of murder in the first degree. Zim’s whereabouts are currently unknown.
16. You Can’t Do That On Television Bans Parents
The Canadian sketch comedy show, You Can’t Do That on Television, actually aired on CTV in its native country a full two years before it debuted on Nickelodeon. The show’s messy and kid-friendly antics were extremely influential in shaping the tone of the entire network (it’s where slime comes from, after all).
One thing that the channel hopefully didn’t take from the show was the fact that parents were outright banned from being on set. The craziest thing is that the parents were cool with leaving their kids with strangers for 12 hours a day.
It doesn’t seem like anything totally buckwild happened to the actors when they were apart from their parents, but if this were to have happened today, it would be a legal nightmare. You Can’t Do That on Television? No, you can’t do that at all.
15. Child Protective Services Called On All That
All That will go down in the history of Nickelodeon as one of the most cherished series that the network ever had. It was a hilarious show that brought the world sketches like “Good Burger”, “Baggin’ Saggin’ Barry”, and “Vital Information For Your Everyday Life”. Not only was it a great show to watch, but it also seemed like the best show to be on.
However, that wasn’t the case for all of the cast members, in particular, Angelique Bates, a cast member on the show’s first two seasons. According to Bates, in an interview with The Shade Room, “I was physically, mentally, and emotionally abused in front of the producers and cast members… but nothing was done to help me.”
The abuser was her own mother. Eventually, Child Protective Services was called to set, but Bates was told to keep quiet about the entire ordeal. Thankfully, she’s been brave enough to now tell her story.
14. Ren & Stimpy’s Banned Episode
The Ren & Stimpy Show never pulled any punches when it came to cringe and gross-out humor. Ideas like “Don’t whiz on the electric fence,” “Yakmas,” and “Happy Happy Joy Joy” all had that insane comedy that helped define a generation. It was amazing that Nickelodeon allowed the bulk of these episodes to be produced.
Some episodes were pulled from the schedule after airing once when they were deemed too risqué to be shown. One segment, “Man’s Best Friend”, never even got to run on Nickelodeon because it was too violent for children to watch. The ironically titled episode features Ren graphically beating a man with an oar, leaving him battered and bruised.
Nickelodeon was so shocked that creator John Kricflausi would animate such an episode that they fired him from the series. The episode would eventually air in 2003 on Spike’s Ren & Stimpy “Adult Party Cartoon.”
13. Gak’s Secret Meaning
Seeing folks on TV slimed time after time for years made kids hope that one day they could get their grubby little paws on the gooey, green sludge. Their wishes came true when Gak was introduced to toy stores in 1992.
Children everywhere rejoiced. Gak wasn’t exactly slime, but it was pretty darn close. The substance was squishy, mushy, and best of all, it made fart noises when you pressed it between your hands.
It also had a great name. Gak– it says everything you need to know about the product in three letters. Not only is it an onomatopoeia, but it also just sounds like how the product feels. It’s perfect.
Also, it’s street lingo for a whole slew of drugs like cocaine and crystal meth, depending on who you ask. What? Whoops! Yep, sure seems like whoever named the stuff had something else on their mind…and up their nose.
12. Bella And The Bulldogs Co-Creator Wrote An Adult Movie
Bella and the Bulldogs aired for two seasons on Nickelodeon from January 2015 through June 2016 and told the story of a cheerleader in Texas who turns heads when she joins the school’s football team. It was a novel idea that had a great message.
One of the show’s creators is Jonathan Butler, who has writing credits on The Fairly OddParents and The Haunted Hathaways. There’s also a feature movie that he wrote, directed, and produced called The Cuckold.
According to IMDb, the extremely not family-friendly movie, which appears to be a quick cash grab at replicating the steaminess of Fifty Shades of Grey, is a “dramatic feature that explores the consequences and risks in looking beyond the skin in search of love.”
11. Mo From Guts’ Underage Stalker
If you’re a kid who grew up in the early ‘90s, there’s a good chance that you always wanted to compete on Guts. The game show, which was pretty much American Gladiators for children, had everyone hoping to one day climb the fabled Agrocrag and take home a “glowing piece of that radical rock.”
In fact, if you’re like some other fans, there’s a good chance your first crush was Mo Quirk, the shows referee, scorekeeper, and all around awesome character.
There was one local fan in particular who shared these sentiments but took things to an uncomfortable level. The legend goes that an overzealous viewer began sending Mo fan mail– a lot of fan mail. Eventually, the kid even began following Quirk around so much that it became an onset issue that had to be taken care of.
10. Dora’s Voice Actor Gets Suspended
Dora is known for her magical accessories like her trusty backpack and map that helped guide her throughout her adventures. However, one item you wouldn’t expect to see on the Explorer was a vape pen.
In a total millennial move, the most recent voice of Dora, Fatima Ptacek, was suspended for three days in 2015 from her private Manhattan school after her and a friend were caught vaping in the bathroom.
Her cohort was expelled and sued Ptacek for $40,000. The lawsuit was based on the claim that the expulsion was unjust and that vaping was Fatima’s idea.
9. Animators Draw A Revealing Didi Pickle
When animators have downtime, their minds can wander. Sometimes this leads them to draw things that you wouldn’t and shouldn’t see on television. However, there are often sly references slipped into the actual shows that make it on air.
Other times, what the artists draw are far less subtle and therefore have no chance of appearing on television. However, like proud parents, they still yearn to display their work somewhere.
Melanie Chartoff, who voiced Didi Pickles, discovered that one place where the animators liked to hang their masterpieces was in the bathroom. The stalls of Nick Studio’s restrooms were strewn with images of the Pickles clan’s controlling matriarch dressed in an outfit with leather and chains.
8. The Color Scheme Was Created To Rile Up Kids
Most children naturally have way too much energy. Mix in the sugary drinks and candy that they love and they’re practically ticking time bombs of sucrose. They don’t need anything else in their lives purposefully designed to amp them up even more.
Well, that’s exactly what Nickelodeon’s famous scheme was created to do. Besides stemming from the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, a time period practically defined by having the loudest hues possible, the blindingly bright orange and green were used because of how they stood out.
They’re not tones that are seen in nature, so when your brain notices them, it goes into a tizzy. By watching something as simple as a promo for the network incorporating either or both colors, kid’s brains are subliminally kicked into overdrive.
7. Withholding Royalties From Child Actors
Unions were designed so that employees are able to get fair wages without being walked all over by the higher-ups. Some productions with smaller budgets are able to bypass union rules and work without them, but it hurts the actors in the long run.
In the case of Nick stars, they weren’t allowed basic things like residuals. This meant that no matter how many times the episodes aired, the actors wouldn’t get any extra money.
That wasn’t the only way talent was treated poorly. They were also given ridiculously low pay. When they asked for raises, Nick didn’t budge.
According to Michael Bower, who played Donkey Lips on Salute Your Shorts, in an interview in Slimed!: An Oral History of Nickelodeon’s Golden Age, ” When they were going to do a third and fourth season, all of the actors said we needed more money. Nickelodeon wasn’t having it.”
6. Oggy And The Cockroaches Bares All
It’s fair to say that French and American viewing audiences have different sensibilities– but leave it to a children’s animated show to point this out to everyone.
During the airing of Oggy and the Cockroaches episode, “(Un)happy Camper!”, a poster in the background is briefly shown that depicts a woman exposing herself to the world.
Interestingly enough, this was in March of 2015, almost two years after the episode had already aired in France with no outrage. On the American side of things, the incident made parents of young children who did happen to see the episode very unhappy campers themselves.
5. Ghostbusters Tries To Sue Over Slime
Bill Murray vs Alanis Morissette, who ya got? When Ghostbusters was released in 1984, it was a hit, becoming the second highest grossing movie of the year. It’s easy to see how people would want to rip off the movie in an attempt at replicating its success. The movie was funny, scary, had great creature designs, and was full of slimy ectoplasm.
That’s why, when producers got wind that the famed Canadian show You Can’t Do That on Television was sliming people on the regular, they tried to sue them.
They claimed that the show, which is famous today for its use of slime and for bringing Alanis Morrisette to the masses, ripped them off for using the sticky, green goop.
4. Dicky of Nicky, Ricky, Dicky & Dawn Abruptly Quits
When you are portraying one-fourth of a show’s titular characters, you kind of owe it to the rest of the cast to see it through. However,that’s not how Mace Coronel, the 13-year-old star, felt when he announced to the world via Instagram that he had parted ways with the show.
Nicky, Ricky, Dicky & Dawn, which is one of the channels hit shows, still had five episodes left to film in its fourth season when Coronel made the announcement, sending production scrambling to figure out a way to change up the remaining scripts.
3. A Woman Sued Them After She Was Pied In The Face
In addition to sliming unsuspecting audience members, passersby, and celebrities, Nickelodeon had another classic weapon in their arsenal– pies. These comedy staples were a favorite of Marc Summers, the host of both Double Dare and What Would You Do?
Summers would simply take a pie tin filled with crust and whipped cream and smoosh it into the face of the deserving party– usually a stick in the mud parent. The prank was generally harmless in nature, not to mention cheap. What would the ingredients cost, $.75? Well, one pieing, in particular, cost Nickelodeon $25,000 after the recipient sued the network.
According to Summers in an interview with Split Side, he was told that they were sued, “because the lady said she can’t have s*x anymore since you threw a pie in her face.”
2. All Of The Adult References In Nicktoons
Back in the infancy of the era of Nicktoons, the network was the wild west. Animation studios seemed to do whatever they wanted while making their groundbreaking cartoons. Rugrats, The Ren & Stimpy Show, and Rocko’s Modern Life were some of the most innovative and creative cartoons on television.
The same hands-off approach from Nick that lead to such avant-garde animation was also their Achilles heel. This lead to a plethora of adult references going unchecked in these shows. The lax censors allowed things like the restaurant “The Chokey Chicken” from Rocco and Stimpy and Sven spending time “in the closet” to go unchecked.
Granted, these are all things that went over the heads of the youngsters watching. We’re pretty sure adults got a kick out of Grandpa Pickles’ video collection that included hits like Lonely Space Vixens, though.
1. Former Power Ranger Ends A Life
When Nickelodeon got the rights to Power Rangers and began airing brand new episodes in 2011, it was seen as a great get for the network. They had taken a major property away from their biggest rival, Disney, and were about to do big things.
With the new series, Power Rangers Samurai, they brought back Ricardo Medina Jr, a former Red Ranger, in a brand-new role. Medina was a fan favorite who seemed like he could continue to work on series after series. That is until he was convicted of ending his roommate’s life. He was sentenced to six years in prison.
The show is still airing on Nick with its latest incarnation being Power Rangers Ninja Steel. It’s not Medina under any of the masks, but it’s still unnerving to see a Red Ranger brandishing a sword.
Can you think of any other controversies that almost destroyed Nickelodeon? Sound off in the comment section!
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