Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Reasons We Loved Nickelodeon: You Can't Do That On Television

Nickelodeon gave us alot to be thankful for in its first ten years. Classic shows like You Can't Do That On TelevisionDouble DarePinwheel, and Mr. Wizard's World provided great entertainment for children of the 80s. These ground-breaking shows paved the way for the cable network's national success throughout the 90s and up to the present day. Nick proved it didn't take big budget shows to entertain kids, just shows that challenged our minds and were the definition of fun...giving us many reasons why we loved Nickelodeon in the 80s!

In 1979, a start-up variety program featuring primarily kids began airing on CJOH-TV in Ottawa, Canada. The show was titled You Can't Do That On Television and consisted of sketch comedy, music videos and live phone-in contest for local viewers. The show was well received and a national televised program called Whatever Turns You On immediately copied its format. Ratings were poor nationally and the new show would be cancelled after its first season. YCDTOTV would begin its 2nd season a year later in early 1981, again with just a local broadcast. That same year, the American cable network Nickelodeon would show interest in YCDTOTV and air 30-minute edited versions of show as a test run. It quickly became a hit and by early 1982, the network began airing the full season of 60-minute episodes. Nickelodeon began partnering  with CJOH-TV on the production of the show as the series declined in Canada, but boomed in the US. Eventually, the show would go on to hold Nickelodeon's top spot in the ratings from 1984-86 and air daily on the network.



What made You Can't Do That On Television so popular? The show featured a great cast including young actors who would blossom into success stories. The slapstick comedy and sketches were great entertainment, but the real star of the show was  a substance simply known as green slime. It became the staple scene of every episode. During a conversation between two cast members, one would ask a question to another. The gag was to get the other cast member to say "I don't know" which was the triggering phrase for the slime to appear. Another dousing prank would be anytime someone would say "water" in which they would subsequently get soaked. The slime became so popular that Nickelodeon would copyright it and own the rights to "Nickelodeon slime." The secret recipe for the slime mixture would be sought after more than the 11 herbs and spices used in Colonel Sanders' fried chicken. (It has been rumored to be some concoction of green Jello powder, oatmeal and possibly baby shampoo.) The slime would splatter its way onto other Nickelodeon show's like Double Dare and is still a tradition during the finale of the Kids Choice Awards.

Duh-I heard that!
The cast primarily consisted of kids and teenagers, which totaled more than 40 actors during its original run through 1990. Most notably was a young Alanis Morrisette who appeared in 5 total episodes in 1986 and would go on to achieve worldwide success in the music industry during the 90s. Behind the scenes, writer Bill Prady would use the show to launch his writing career which has included The Jim Henson Hour, Dharma and Greg, Gilmore Girls, and more recently The Big Bang Theory. The primary adult actor on the show was Les Lyle who appeared throughout the show's history. His characters included the so-called producer of the show Ross Ewich, the father of the kids Senator Lance Prevert, the Captain of the firing squad, and the owner/head chef of a horrible restaurant named Barth. Another staple scene futuring many of the cast members was the locker scene. In Laugh-In or Hee Haw style, the performers would appear from inside a locker, call on another cast member to appear, and tell a joke.


You Can't Do That On Television would produce 144 total episodes from 1979-90. Nickelodeon would continue to air reruns on weekends through 1994. Cast members have reunited twice for reunions in 2002 and 2004 called SlimeCon, both of which where located at the original production studios in Ottawa. A special 25th anniversary episode called "Project 131" was even produced featuring reunited cast members and original footage. In 2012, a documentary film of the show's history called You Can't Do That On Film was released by Shout Factory. Episodes are still available on YouTube and online stores like iTunes and Amazon have also made several episodes available to purchase. 

You Can't Do That On Television was a staple among kids shows throughout the 80s and definitely one of the reasons we loved Nickelodeon.

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