There are some childhood memories that will always last, like watching the TV shows that were on before and after school. There were plenty to choose from, especially on Nickelodeon. The network’s shows were some of the goofiest out there, continually trying to compete against those on Disney Channel.
Nick’s shows were usually animated, and included characters who have long since become iconic. The shows weren’t always about teaching a moral, but they had plenty of episodes that did just that. Still, Nickelodeon mostly focused on the humor, which saw some interesting changes with each new series.
As the years went on, more and more writers started sneaking in adult jokes. As it turns out, it’s pretty easy to get around the network’s censors. For some shows, the creative process became more of a battle against the network. However, for the adults that ended up watching with their kids, the more mature jokes were clever and funny. Then there were some that just went way too far.
From heavy innuendo to seriously heavy subject matter, with the occasional terrifying character thrown in, Nick managed to cross the line more than a few times.
With that said, here are the 16 Nickelodeon Shows That Went Way Too Far.
16. Hey Arnold! Diary Entries
It’s a common kids show rope: the bully picks on their crush. In most cases, the meaner the bully, the stronger the crush. This was a huge part of Hey Arnold!, where Helga Pataki called Arnold “football head” every single day, but secretly worshipped him– literally, she had a shrine to him.
In fact, her love was a bit more than emotional. In “Helga’s Parrot,” we see her once again fawning over him in her closet. As she finishes up her latest diary entry, she notes “You make my girlhood tremble.” Of course this is the phrase her parrot picks up and mimics.
Nickelodeon writers were good at sneaking in some truly funny adult jokes, but this one probably led to more than a few awkward conversations for parents.
15. All of Rocko’s Modern Life
How Rocko’s Modern Life survived a three-year run on a children’s network will forever be a mystery. The show was funny and visually vibrant, but way too mature for the Nickelodeon demographic.
Take Rocko’s job, for instance. To kids, he was just a phone operator. However, most phone operators don’t have a note at their station reminding them to “Be Hot. Be Naughty. Be Courteous.”
Then, there was Rocko’s doctor, Dr. Bendova. During one visit, Dr. Bendova cups Rocko’s eyeballs and asks him to cough. Really, the writers didn’t even try to make it subtle, but they still got around the network censors.
And no one could forget popular spots in Rocko’s town, like the Chokey Chicken restaurant, or the No Tell Motel. There are countless other jokes like this throughout the series – it most definitely wasn’t for kids.
14. Victorious’ Plastic Surgery Joke
As students at a performing arts high school, the kids on Victorious always had interesting assignments. In one episode, Cat had to practice doing movie monster makeup. However, because she’s Cat, she makes a silly mistake and literally glues zombie prosthetics onto Tori’s face.
Hoping to get it off before Tori’s performance that night, they call the doctor for advice. While on the phone, Tori’s sister Trina also asks if she’d need her parents’ permission for a “minor” cosmetic surgery. When Tori asks what the doctor said, Trina starts to begrudgingly say she couldn’t, before Tori frustratedly reminds Trina that she means the makeup.
Watching closely, Trina clearly looks down at her chest while talking about said cosmetic surgery. It’s not the only bossom joke in the series, and was probably meant to discourage young girls, but was a topic that didn’t really need to be brought up at all.
13. All of Ren and Stimpy
Not much could top the insanity of Rocko’s Modern Life, except for Ren and Stimpy. If Rocko‘s jokes were R-rated, Ren and Stimpy was NC-17.
In elementary school days, jokes about butts were a popular choice. The show capitalized on this, but took it several steps too far. Butt jokes on the series usually had heavy innuendo attached, and were visually explicit. The humor wasn’t just bodily, though.
Several episodes throughout the series had to cut out references to religion, politics, and alcohol. The episode “Powdered Toast Man” had a scene where the United States Constitution and Bill of Rights were burned. Other episodes had graphically violent or more suggestive scenes shortened or cut, including a scene where Ren’s face is grated by a man’s chin stubble.
Somehow, it got even worse in its spinoff, Ren and Stimpy Adult Party Cartoon on Spike.
12. Rugrats – Grandpa’s adult movies
Lou Pickles was always shown as the oddball doting Grandpa in Rugrats, but he had his vices and he wasn’t subtle about them. Nickelodeon pushed it when, during one episode, Grandpa brought home movies for his night of babysitting. Of course he got movies for the kids, but he also got a film called Lonely Space Vixens, specifically for after the babies went to bed.
Based on, well, everything about the movie– the name, the cover art, the wink Grandpa gives after showing it off– it’s not hard to put together that it’s an adult film.
It’d be relatively easy for parents to brush it off if their kids asked what he meant in real life, but it’s still gross to think about for older Rugrats audience members.
11. Spongebob’s Prison Joke
As Nickelodeon’s longest running show, Spongebob Squarepants has managed to continually readjust fairly well over the years. It’s snuck in some good adult humor in plenty of episodes, but there was one joke that will never be forgotten.
Spongebob is a big lover of games, and had a vivid imagination. He inspired an entire meme because of it. In one particular use of his imagination, he set up a treasure hunt for him and his pet snail, Gary. For the purposes of the game, he used bars of soap as “doubloons.”
He shows them off to Gary and warns, “Don’t drop them,” making a blatant joke about a certain prison occurrence. Odds are pretty good that no kids got the joke, but this one was pretty dark, even for adults.
10. Angry Beavers’ banned final episode
There are very few Nickelodeon shows that managed to get an entire episode banned, but Angry Beavers was one of them. It was a pretty important episode too: the show’s finale. The episode written was called “Bye Bye Beavers” and deliberately broke two of Nickelodeon’s most important rules.
First, it broke the fourth wall. It broke it so thoroughly that Norb and Dag actually referred to each other by their voice actors’ real names, Richard and Nick. Second, it addressed that it was the show’s last episode. The story is about how the beavers cope with the fact that they are about to “disappear.”
9. Ned’s Declassified School Survival Guide Language
Ned’s Declassified School Survival Guide actually gave some solid advice over the years. It was always a bit goofy, but usually never truly got to the point of being over the top– except for that time when the language got a bit harsh.
Moze was a fan favorite character, known for her fierce attitude. However, every once in awhile she got carried away, especially when she was on the volleyball court. In “Guide To: Dares and Bad Habits”, Moze’s bad habit to break is trash talking. The show makes a point of inserting some strategically used sound effects to show how bad it is.
Unfortunately, breaking the habit actually hurts her game, so she has to find a workaround. The solution? Taping her mouth shut during games. It was effective, but includedsevere imagery.
8. Drake and Josh on gender roles
Drake was the ladies man of Drake and Josh, but it was Josh’s relationship that fans cared most about. He and Mindy started as rivals, which gave their dynamic a biting humor. However, since Josh wasn’t too experienced with relationships, he wasn’t too good at handling one at first.
In fact, just defining the relationship was a battle between Josh and Mindy. Eventually though, she lays it out, “We’re boyfriend and girlfriend.” Josh is on board, with one condition: “I get to be the boyfriend!“
The problem with this joke is that it’s not clear if it’s a dig at Mindy or at Josh. Either way, it wasn’t really called for, and could have some damaging effects on kids approaching a romantic relationship. Granted, times were different, but it’s still a step too far for the show.
7. Are You Afraid of the Dark? Creatures
There are horror movies out today with creatures that could never compare to the ones Nickelodeon thought up in the ’90s. Are You Afraid of the Dark? was one of the most terrifying yet successful series of the network. It snagged seven seasons, running for ten years in total.
Each episode of the series centered on ghost stories told by the kids of the Midnight Society as they sit around a campfire at their secret spot in the woods. The setting alone is enough to give viewers the chills, and not the good kind. However, the actual monsters of the stories were truly scarring.
More often than not, the stories themselves were shaky, but the design of the creatures made it all work– and subsequently gave kids nightmares for years.
6. CatDog’s mooning joke
CatDog was one of the most loved cartoons on Nickelodeon. The concept of a conjoined cat and dog proved to be more funny than disturbing, thanks to lovable characters and skilled animation. However, even CatDog had moments where it toed the line.
In one episode, CatDog and the Greaser Dogs start working at a nice restaurant. Predictably, they’re not very good at it. Finally, their boss scolds them saying, “You’re with classy people, so show some class.” At this point, Lube McDog turns around and starts to drop his pants.
5. The Fairly OddParents and Revealing Scenes
The Naked Brothers band only referred to exposed skin, but The Fairly OddParents actually made it happen. Denzel Crocker did some certifiably insane things throughout the show, but this was one of the lowest moments. Bent on exposing Timmy’s fairies, Crocker never noticed or cared about limits. Usually it made for good comedy, particularly when his plans fell apart.
In the episode “Crock Blocked” – the title being an issue in itself – Timmy wishes for Mr. Crocker to disappear. It sort of works– he becomes invisible. With that realization, Crocker shows up to school without any clothing on. However, by that point, the wish was reversed and he was definitely visible.
Crocker may have been crazy, but his immediate decision to show up to teach without clothing is disturbing, even for him.
4. All of Fred: The Show
As entertainment has grown to have more of an online presence, YouTubers have found themselves being offered television shows. Nickelodeon started the trend early with Fred: The Show.
The series centered on Fred Figglehorn, a character created by YouTube sensation Lucas Cruikshank. Nickelodeon tested the waters first with two movies for the character– Fred: The Movie and Fred 2: Night of the Living Fred– with enough success to order a full 24-episode season.
The series never really touched on sensitive subject matter, or made overly mature jokes, but it was still widely criticized. Whether it was Fred’s computerized voice or his over the top mannerisms, the show was just too much to process. It was one of the network’s least successful shows, and was cancelled after that single season.
3. Splat! Watch
Arguably the darkest joke on Nickelodeon didn’t come from show, but from an interstitial. It was a recurring bit between shows called Splat! hosted by Lori Beth Denberg, one of the cast members of All That. The bit would usually include a joke, and let viewers know what show was on next.
In one particular bit, leading into an episode of Doug, Denberg says, “I kinda want to die, but Nickelodeon has me on suicide watch.” Today, this joke would never make it onto the kids network. It’d likely be a challenge even to get it on a network meant for older viewers, given how the conversation around mental health has changed.
Surprisingly, this wasn’t the only suicide joke made on Nickelodeon. In episode of Spongebob Squarepants, they show Squidward setting up a rope– by all appearances making a noose. He’s not, but it’s a disturbing moment.
2. Cousin Skeeter’s Suspending Disbelief
With so many great shows Nickelodeon had at the time, it’s easy to forget about Cousin Skeeter. However, it’s impossible to fully erase it from memory, since it had one of the absolute weirdest premises.
It was about a boy named Bobby, and how his life changed when his cousin Skeeter came to live with his family. The weird part is that Skeeter is actually a puppet.
The things is, no one ever mentions that– not once. It was a kids show, so having a puppet character isn’t unheard of. However, he’s literally the only puppet and the family is human. It’s worth addressing at least once. Suspension of disbelief is one thing, but in this case it was asking a lot from the viewers.
1. The Naked Brothers Band Name
Before they were stars of movies like Paper Towns and Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, Nat and Alex Wolff were a singing duo called The Naked Brothers Band. Their TV series of the same name was short-lived on Nickelodeon, running for only two years, but it was loved by young fans.
Still, the name of the band is off-putting for such a young audience. Fortunately, it wasn’t because the boys were actually showing skin at any point. The true origin of the name is a bit of a mystery, but according to most retellings, the name came about based on an early family memory when the brothers were taking a bath together.
It’s a cute sentiment, but without this particular bit of background knowledge, the name was concerning, especially for parents.
Can you think of any other Nickelodeon shows that went too far? Sound off in the comments!
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