There’s something irresistible in the story of an ordinary person suddenly touched with greatness, whether it’s superpowers or super-stardom.
In Victorious' 2010 pilot, protagonist Tori Vega (Victoria Justice) isn’t looking to be a star. Then her sister Trina gets sidelined by allergies right before her big performance at the Hollywood Arts school. Who can possibly step in for her? Wait, Tori’s rehearsed with Trina, she knows the whole number! Let her sing it! And when she does, she’s so awesome she’s immediately invited to join the school.
Victorious was a success that spawned merchandise including video games and CDs of the show’s music. Fans were disappointed when it ended in 2013 after four seasons. Many of them would love a reunion special to wrap up everyone’s character arcs — not just Tori but spacey Cat, insecure Robbie, dreamy Beck, and frenemy Jade. There’s no sign of one actually happening, though.
The stories of what was going on backstage are often as interesting as what aired on the TV. Backstage feuds, continuity with other Nick shows, criticism of Victorious’ attitude toward fame, and questions about why the show was really canceled.
Here are 17 Crazy Secrets Behind Victorious.
17 Victorious targeted the Hannah Montana audience
Disney’s Hannah Montana was a massive game-changer when it hit the airwaves in 2006. '90s shows focused primarily on the kid cast doing conventional kid stuff, though exaggerated for comic effect. In Hannah Montana, Miley Stewart had teen problems, but she also faced the demands of her secret identity as a superstar teen singer. As the theme song put it, she had the best of both worlds.
The series was a hit, and other networks took note.
Nickelodeon, for example, tasked producer Dan Schneider to "follow where the kids are." If kids were into music shows, Nickelodeon wanted its own.
Casting the lead was no trouble: Schneider had already pegged Justice as the next Nick star. It proved a successful move, though never close to the Hannah Montana level of success.
16 The show didn't really run for 4 seasons
If you look up an episode guide to Victorious, it’ll show the series as having run four seasons.
The truth is though, they only had three seasons’ worth of episodes.
The cancellation axe fell on Victorious in the middle of the third season, generating a buzzing hive of speculation about the reasons why (more on that later)).
Rather than simply use up the remaining episodes right away, Nickolodeon broke Victorious' final season into two parts. Season 3’s initial twelve episodes rapped up in June 2012 with “The Blonde Squad”. The remaining episodes were broken off to become seeason 4, starting in September 2012 and running through February of the following year.
2012 was a rough time for Schneider, whose other Nickelodeon series iCarly also ended that year. Plans for an iCarly spinoff, Gibby, didn’t come to pass either.
15 Another cast member made Ariana Grande miserable
The students at Hollywood Arts were so odd, some fans speculate about whether they were mentally ill. Tori’s buddy Cat, for instance, is sweet but often amazingly clueless, and prone to screeching out her catchphrase, “What's that supposed to mean?” at unexpected moments.
According to Ariana Grande, who played Cat, working on Victorious not a great experienc: “I worked with someone who told me they’d never like me. But for some reason, I just felt like I needed her approval. So I started changing myself to please her. It made me stop being social and friendly. I was so unhappy.” Many fans assume the “someone” referred to Vega.
Despite her unhappiness, Grande did go on as Cat in a spinoff series, Sam and Cat. She's also said she’d love to return to Victorious if there’s ever a reunion show. Go figure.
14 Cancelling the show made lots of fans suspicious
Despite Victorious’ good ratings, fan base and Emmy nominations, Nickelodeon canceled the show. Schneider made it clear when he heard the news that there was nothing dubious or sinister about the cancellation. Nickelodeon simply figured 60 episodes or so is the most profitable run for a kids’ show, and ended Victorious before that magic number. Other Nick shows had suffered the same fate.
Schneider also said the cancellation was 100 percent Nickelodeon’s decision, not his. Nevertheless, alternative theories have abounded online about the real reason Victorious came to an end. For example, some fans think that Schneider ended it so Grande could move on to the spinoff show, Sam and Cat. Others believe that Justice refused to stay on the show so she could go off on a solo singing tour.
Justice and Schneider have denied the theories repeatedly, but they still circulate on the Internet, as theories always do.
13 The weird details about ketchup and mustard
Take a look at the mustard and ketchup bottles in that shot above. Do you notice they look a little short? Abnormally short, even?
TV shows, however absurd the plots, try to look like they’re set in the real world. Victorious, for example, was shot on Nickelodeon’s studios dressed to look like Tori's home and school. To back up the illusion, they used shots of a real Los Angeles high school for the outside of Hollywood Arts.
When push comes to shove, though, some things are more important than realism, like seeing the actors’ faces.
In some of the early episodes, when the cast were sitting at tables to eat, the condiment bottles blocked their faces.
The solution? Shorter bottles. If it wasn't for photos on the Internet, would any of us even notice the height?
12 Creator Dan Schneider was a teen star too
Two decades before Schneider built a series around super-gifted Tori Vega, he played an exceptionally gifted student himself.
Head of the Class was a 1986 ABC sitcom focusing on a high school class of academically brilliant students. Overachieving intellectually, they were lacking socially; one student was so nerdy that when she got a B, she grounded herself. Enter Charlie Moore (Howard Hesseman), a new teacher who set out to improve his student’s social skills along with their academics.
Schneider, who’d had small parts in various films, got his first series-regular role as Dennis, one of the students. He and his classmates were almost as weird as Hollywood Arts’ oddball students, but with their new teacher’s influence, they began to show their potential as people, not just amazing GPAs.
11 Justice’s first Nick role on Zoey 101
Like Schneider, Justice’ first steady work on a TV series foreshadowed her time on Victorious. It was her role as Lola on an earlier Schneider show, Zoey 101.
The 2005 show’s central character was, as you may have guessed, named Zoey, played by Jamie Lynn Spears. The show dealt with Zoey's experiences as the first female student at an exclusive all-boy school. In the second season her original roommate left, replaced by Justice’ character, Lola.
Like Tori Vega, Lola was an aspiring performer, with ambitions of becoming an actor.
Schneider had tremendous creative control over his shows, so bringing Justice to a new show as his star was simpler than it might have been for some producers. Like Lola, Tori was still in high school, learning her craft, when Victorious came to its end.
10 Justice's singing career hasn't taken off after Victorious
Justice had recorded some songs even before Victorious. With the series as her platform, she did considerably better: three singles from the show’s soundtrack cracked Billboard’s Hot 100 in 2011. After Ariana Grande launched a smash post-Victorious career as a singer, it looked likely that Justice would follow in her wake with similar success.
Instead, Justice’ first post-series single, “Gold”, tanked miserably. Billboard, the music-industry bible, said the problem wasn’t the singer as much as the choice of song. Where Grande’s Victorious singles had showcased her vocal power, Justice’ release was “a completely safe, forcefully pleasant pop-rock come-on.” The magazine judged that the earlier songs served Justice much better.
However Billboard thought that with the right song and collaborators, Justice could still turn herself into a singing success. Maybe there's still time.
9 The shared universe with other Schneider shows
There’s an endless fascination with the crossovers and possible connections between different TV shows. Several of the Nickelodeon shows hint at being connected; with iCarly and Victorious, it’s explicit that their worlds are interlinked.
iCarly focuses on a different kind of performer: Carly, a teenage girl who runs her own popular streaming show. In the first of four crossovers with Victorious, Carly discovers her boyfriend is also dating Tori. Hilarity ensures.
Both shows got even more crossed-over with the sequel spinoff, Sam & Cat. This was yet another Schneider production: Tori’s buddy Cat and Carly’s bestie Sam become roommates and start a babysitting business together. Hilarity ensues, but apparently not enough hilarity.
Although Nickelodeon green-lit this with an exceptionally large 40 episode order, Sam & Cat only made it to 35 before cancellation.
8 The female cast members had to change their hair colors
It’s surprisingly easy for viewers and readers to get fictional characters confused. Writing guides warn against having a Joe, a John, and a Jonah in the same story. In visual media, it’s just as important characters not look alike — for example, that they have different hair color. Simple? Sure, but look how well it works for Betty and Veronica.
In the case of Victorious, we have Cat the redhead, Tori and Trini the brunettes, and Jade whose hair has colorful streaks. Before Victorious started filming, all the girls were brunette.
Grande said in an interview that Nickelodeon told her before she started the series that they wanted a total reboot of her hair. It took some time finding a treatment and a color that was right for her hair and her character.
7 Schneider and Grande both have issues with ponytails
Dan Schneider isn’t a fan of ponytails.
“As everyone who works for me knows, I almost never let the girls wear ponytails on my shows,” Schneider said on his Danwarp blog. However, he made an exception on Victorious, for the episode “Stage Fighting”. As one scene in the episode involves Tori having to clean up a disgusting mess, Schneider decided binding up her hair in a ponytail made sense.
Grande doesn’t like ponytails either, but after leaving Sam & Cat, a ponytail became her visual trademark as a singer. She says that even though she hates the look, her hair had been worn out by all the years of dying it red as Cat. Wearing a ponytail extension seemed the best solution until her hair recovered enough she could let her natural curls fly.
6 A cut joke about French kissing
Kids' shows frequently slide jokes past the censors. Victorious is no exception. There are jokes about all kind of bodily functions intended for adults. Or at least lines that could be taken that way, but are vague enough you can’t be sure.
But there’s a limit to how far a kid’s show can flirt with crossing the line, and Schneider decided one line in “Stage Fighting” went too far. After one of Tori’s classmates asks why she’s learning the French horn, Tori’s original reply was that “I like French fries, French toast, French kissing.”
Schneider felt that was pushing things beyond what was acceptable, so he cut "French kissing." Tori’s good memories of that experience would remain a secret from viewers.
5 Schneider enjoyed writing bad dialogue
Some episodes of Victorious offer two shows in one. There’s the show set in Hollywood Arts, and then there’s whatever show the students might be performing. It’s how they justify the cast breaking into song every few episodes. Schneider says that works out great for him in episodes such as “Stage Fighting” where the dialog of the show-within-a-show is dreadful.
“It’s fun to intentionally write bad dialogue,” Schneider said on DanWarp. “It’s not so fun when you do it, but didn’t mean to.” The episode has characters Robbie and Trina trying out for a play, and reading some of the lines at audition. Schneider says he particularly enjoyed writing, “I am also a woman … who loves you.”
Schneider didn’t specify which unintentional bad dialogue he might have been thinking about when he made the blog post.
4 Four Emmy nominations
Victorious has been nominated for lots of awards. It’s even won a couple.
At the Emmy level, the big league for TV show awards, Victorious has been nominated four times. In 2012, the show was a tech nominee for both hairstyling and makeup (non-prosthetic makeup if you want to get technical). The show was twice a contender for bigger game: the Outstanding Children’s Programming Emmy. It lost at the 2011 Emmys to HBO’s A Child’s Garden of Poetry and in 2012 to Disney's Wizards of Waverly Place.
Victorious has been nominated for a number of other awards besides the Emmys, as has Justice herself. The big wins were the Kids Choice Awards, where Victorious was picked as favorite TV show in both 2012 and 2013.
3 Victoria Justice's long career
In the pilot episode, Tori has no interest in becoming a singer or an actor. It’s not until she gets up and sings the episode’s big number that she discovers performing for an audience is fun. Justice, however, had known that for years.
By the time Justice filmed the pilot episode, she was an experienced actor. Justice had started with a guest star role in Gilmore Girls in 2003, and gone on to other parts, including a supporting character in Schneider's Zoey 101. She’d also gotten to sing in various roles, such as the Nickelodeon TV movie Spectacular!
Justice told the New York Times that while she'd come to Los Angeles to become an actor, she also loved to sing and dance. Doing them all in Victorious was a deal Justice says she found irresistible.
2 Schneider leaving Nickelodeon has stirred up a wave of speculation
Nickelodeon has had so much faith in Schneider it once commissioned a Schneider series without knowing anything about it. That made it a shock when the network announced in March that he would no longer be producing shows for Nickelodeon.
What's the story? There are recurrent online rumors (but no accusers to date) that Schneider's abusive or predatory towards his cast, including Tweeting photos of the girls' feet. Other sources dismiss the faceless accusations as faceless accusations.
The break-up has also been blamed on Schneider's notorious temper. Or a dispute over the network cancelling his Game Shakers without an ending episode. Or a change in management at Nickelodeon. Or that the failure of Sam & Cat took the bloom off Schneider's rose. Until someone speaks for the record, it's all a guessing game.
1 Some critics think the show’s emphasis on fame and stardom is unhealthy
For some critics, the transition from Clarissa Explains It All (normal TV teen with TV teen problems) to stars and star wannabes such as Tori and Hannah Montana is a bad thing.
“On kid's cable in general, the children play characters who are famous, are seeking some level of fame, strive to be associated with famous people, or are dealing with the hassles of being famous,” writer Bryan Lufkin said in 2012. Shows still deal with teen problems such as dating, but also “chasing record deals and fielding autographs.” Justice, however, thinks Schneiders shows are still about "normal kids dealing with normal problems."
There's never a shortage of adults willing to criticize what kids are doing wrong, or watching wrong. Is this more of the same, or do they have a point?
Do you have any other secrets to share about Victorious? Leave them in the comments!