Salute Your Shorts Live Blog: Zeke The Plumber – Open Air Toilets & Brain Plunging

In keeping with our Social Media Hashtag week, we’re celebrating #ThrowbackThursday and the 25th birthday of Salute Your Shorts by rewatching the favorite episode of my childhood, Zeke The Plumber (don’t worry, this isn’t one of our real theme weeks …. but the one we have on deck next week is gonna be non-stop, if you know what I mean, and I think you do). We only had five days during Big Orange Couch Week, and we focused on Are You Afraid Of The Dark, Clarissa Explains It All, The Secret World of Alex Mack, The Mystery Files of Shelby Woo, and All That. But if you were a 90s Kid (TM), you’ll also hold Camp Anawana in your hearts. And when you think about it, it makes you wanna fart. Which was a great joke when you were 6. 

You can watch the episode here! Or, preferably, somewhere legal instead. Ready? Go!

  • The episode opens with a child holding a 90s camcorder and narrating a walk through the woods for his parents. Remember camcorders? And how if you didn’t have a heavy, expensive piece of equipment and the ability to convert those little cassettes to videotape, your memories just had to live in your brain?
  • Sometimes, we look back on terrible haircuts of the past and think “well, it was fashionable then. Times change and someday we’ll all think we look dumb now, too.” This isn’t one of those times. I knew Budnick’s red mullet was bad when I was in kindergarten, and I know it now. Looking back, it actually might be the first time in my whole life I identified that somebody had bad hair.

    But also, this wasn’t totally out of left field in the early 90s – it’s not like he made up this weird hairdo. The 90s did.

  • It’s almost on the fence between ‘mullet’ and ‘too much of your hair is bangs.’ MAKE UP YOUR DAMN MIND BUDNICK.
  • I, um… I don’t remember if I noticed that Ug Lee’s name was “ugly” as a kid. I do remember assuming that he was Budnick’s dad or uncle, because wherever two or more redheads are gathered, I will assume that they’re related. (My childhood BFF and I were both tiny freckly gingers; we loved that people thought we were sisters.)

    No but. They do look alike, right???

     

  • Let’s talk about the theme song. First of all, why do people/Ug put zinc oxide just on their noses? I’ve never had a sunburn that encapsulated just my nose but surely there’s a reason. Also, this may be the genesis of me thinking it was super dorky that I had to wear sunscreen all the time. Anyway, all of the characters are set up in the opening credits. ZZ is a goody-goody who loves nature (she’s Dawn from the Baby-Sitters Club, mas o menos), Ug doesn’t know what’s going on around him, Donkey Lips is a Bobby Moynihan character, Budnick is a shit-stirrer with silly hair, Telly likes sports, Dina is the pretty popular girl, and Sponge is small. There’s a blonde boy I don’t remember well (Michael) who was just … regular … I think? Like if Salute Your Shorts were a movie, he would have been played by one of the Corys.

  • The kids are telling ghost stories and I have questions. Are they supervised? And where did they get all those candles? And matches? Does anyone else think this looks like a huge fire haz? I never went to camp; this all may be very normal.
  • The gist is: Zeke the Plumber was a camp plumber who had no nose. He hit a gas pipe, couldn’t smell the gas and lit a match (I HAVE MORE QUESTIONS, like why would he light a match in the first place, and why are there so many damn matches at this camp, and surely he knew he punctured a pipe, ok?). So Zeke dies and only his plunger was left behind, which I don’t think he needs in a hole with a match, but I’m not a plumber so what do I know.
  • Wow all of these kids are so young! I thought Dina and Z.Z. were so cool and sophisticated and they looked like literal babies:

  • Zeke the Plumber appears in the boys bunk, spending his afterlife plunging children’s toilets, which seems like an odd choice but you do you, Zeke. More specifically, he is plunging the OPEN AIR TOILET THAT JUST HANGS OUT IN THE BUNK ALL THE TIME. Was this there before? And is this camp or prison?!

  • On a related note, I have a weird ghost toilet in my basement and the floor drain near it started spewing water last week …. and all I could think was “in what universe would someone need a haunted toilet in their basement anyway?” I’ll tell you what: a universe in which you’re keeping someone in your basement. That’s all.
  • Nevermind. Zeke was a dream. He “found” Michael’s stuffed hippo in the toilet and plunges his brain.
  • How expensive do we think this camp is?
  • Now, via dream,  Zeke tells Telly he can turn her into a professional ball player, plunges her brain, and sends her to a ball instead. But all the kids dream Zeke the same so he’s obviously real, right?
  • Sponge has an enormous laptop, because this was still that era where being really into owning a computer meant you were a nerd on TV. For a moment I think he’s about to look up Zeke the Plumber, but then I remember that we were years away from it being normal to have internet access, and even more years away from wifi. Maybe that nerd-o was playing Oregon Trail or Carmen Sandiego.
  • Now Budnick is going to spend the night in the woods at the spot where Zeke died. Hold on, I have questions again. How do they know, and why was he digging a hole in the middle of the woods, and why is there a gas pipe in the middle of the woods?
  • The kids all set out to punk Budnick to get him back for scaring them with the Zeke the Plumber story.
  • The punkers become the punk-ees, as Budnick replaces himself with a dummy with a melon-head and sets off soda cans.
  • Ug impersonates Zeke and Budnick catches him in a rope trap, and I know I’m getting old because all of this seems like a lot of damn work just to prove a point.
  • Ug looks exactly like all the kids imagined Zeke The Plumber, which in my estimation means that he’s a real ghost after all.
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Nickelodeon’s Making You Feel Young/Old Again

There had been rumors that the head honchos over at Nickelodeon were conjuring something up – specifically aimed towards millennials – over this past month, and then last week, it was confirmed. Starting on October 5th, there would be a block of programming called The Splat from 10pm to 6am on Teen Nick. To kick it off, Kenan & Kel had a surprise reunion on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon by revisiting their iconic Good Burger sketch (despite the fact Kel said Kenan refused to ever be seen with him again?).

They couldn’t have had a better way to get people excited for The Splat, which will of course be showing reruns of Kenan & Kel and All That. Not to mention repeats of Are You Afraid of the Dark?, Salute Your Shorts, Rocko’s Modern Life, Legends of The Hidden Temple, and more. So for all your college kids who are already staying up late writing those papers, here’s another excuse to keep procrastinating in the early hours of the morning.

Of course, we’re excited for this new programming (we did have an entire week dedicate to SNICK already), but I’m particularly excited after finding out they’re also showing old promos and interstitials that originally ran in the 90s/early 00s. Have you guys ever gone back and watched commercials from back then? It’s amazing and a black hole that is very hard to come out of when you’re trying to go to sleep (but if you want to waste time, RetroJunk.com is where it’s at).

Before The Splat actually kicks off next week, here are a few choice promos from old school Nickelodeon that will make you simultaneously get nostalgic and make you feel real old at the same time. Just remember that 1995 was 20 years ago, NOT 10.

Until The Fat Lady Sings

I feel like this particular bumper was played a lot, and one of the more memorable scenarios from the 90s. Watching it now, I’m just thinking how that actress must have haaated her life with that enormous wig on her head for hours.

A Cautionary Fruit Tale

First of all, these fruits remind me of those erasers from the 90s that you think would smell like whatever fruit it’s shaped like, but instead just smelled like plastic. Second, kids love a good pun. I mean, I love a good pun, but “orange you glad” is a classic. Add on the fact they’re singing, and you’ve got a catchy tune. Just ignore the fact they fall to their deaths at the end.

Whatever Happened to Porkchop?

Speaking of catchy tunes, any 90s kid can hum you the theme song to Doug. Moreover, the opening credits were also unforgettable thanks to its simplistic nature. It was only natural for Nickelodeon animators to create a bumper in its style.

Get Those Harmonies

Do these barbershop singers look like they’re three heads on one body? Also, why are they singing at night? And why are the billboard workers putting the posters up at night too?

Here With My Friends

I just realized Nickelodeon got to a point where they were like, ‘Hey, ya know what really works for us in these bumpers? A trio of random people/animals/things that sing our theme song in beautiful harmonies.’ This also reminds me of that All My Friends Are Dead book. THAT’S THE HARSH REALITY, KIDS.

Made on Windows Movie Maker

This looks like a commercial for Mad Gabs.

Akin to The Little Mermaid

They stepped up their game and added a lead singing fish. They got a bigger budget.

The Prequel to Chicken Run

Guys, we hit the jackpot. A whole gospel choir full of singing chickens!!

 

Watch Your Back, Michigan J. Frog

Um, was Nickelodeon throwing lowkey shade at WB? Actually I don’t think WB existed yet, so probs not? Still. This also looks like the croc from the Crocodile Dentist game, which I had to Google as “Alligator Game” then “Crocodile teeth” then finally “Crocodile Dentist”.

Where Are Your Parents?

So you’re telling me this kid fell asleep in the living room while watching Nickelodeon, was dreaming about Nickelodeon when he started sleepwalking back to his bed, where he slumbered and continued to dream about Nickelodeon, but only in orange splat form? Ok, just wanted to be clear.

If You’re Thinking About My Baby

The kids’ version of Michael Jackson’s Black or White.

All That LiveBlog: ‘Naughty By Nature’ – And A Bag Of (Chocolate) Chips

It’s the final day of Big Orange Couch Week, and we’re ending it with a classic SNICK show, All That. The sketch comedy show became a staple for Nickelodeon, with a tenure spanning over 10 seasons and introducing some of the greatest young talent America has to offer, including Kenan Thompson, Nick Cannon, Amanda Bynes, Jamie Lynn Spears, among others.  All That sparked five spin-off shows, a feature film, and even a live tour, and was beloved by many generations. We may not have noticed it at the time, but All That was changing the way kids watched and consumed television, influenced the way we doled out our own comedy, and shaped millions of kids’ view on diversity, without even knowing it.

It’s impossible to discuss the impact of All That in its entirety, so we’ll just try with one episode.

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Episode Title: Naughty By Nature

Air Date: October 7, 1995

All That Audition footage: The cast takes a look at some All That audition footage. Good Burger Commercial: Ed (Kel) tries hard to read the cue cards right in order to do a commercial. Loud Librarian: Librarian (Lori Beth) doesn’t want any noise to happen in her libarary even though she is the one making all the major noise. Randy & Mandy: Apparently, all the chocolate comsumed by Randy (Kenan) gives him a bad toothache. Mandy (Angelique) tries what she can to make it better. Musical Guest: Naughty By Nature (Clap Yo Hands)

Hit Play!!!

Cold Open T: This episode is the season two premiere, and we’re starting off with a segment where we find out how the kids got their jobs on the show. Angelique wears a hat made out of bread that has the “casting directors” in stitches, but when the next girl goes up and stands there eating a sandwich, they are not amused. Choose your gluten jokes carefully, aspiring kid actors.

They’re also put through the ringer with some treadmill time, an obstacle course, eat 520 cocktail wieners, gymnastics, etc.

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“What’s the opposite of *beeeepp* Judge

“*Bloooooop*” Kenan Thompson, I AM LEGIT LOL-ING.

M: Just from this open alone, anybody could predict that Kenan would be the breakout comedy star of the group. And maybe Sandwich Girl. I thought it was funny.

2:23 T: They even tested our GUTS *Cross promotion, folks*

M: This reminds me that one of my “going off to college” dreams was arriving at the dorm to find that my roommate had a piece of the aggrocrag just chilling all casual under their lofted bunk.

3:04 “You viewers can rest easy knowing each of our cast members has unusually thick thigh muscles.” THIS SHOW IS SO FUNNY

3:14 T: Gosh, this theme song is still so iconic and timeless. Playing on repeat. #RIPLeftEye

M: I got excited as soon as I heard “Fresh out the box!” But I remember having a lot of trouble with some of the lyrics in the days before you could just Google them. “My posse and my crew” sounded like “my bossie and my prince.” And 8-year-old me was just like “okay, cool… weird, but cool.”

3:52 M: I totally wanted to be Alisa Reyes. Can you blame me? She was like the quintessential 90s teen girl.

T: Yeah she was definitely the “Kelly Kapowski” of the bunch, if you will.

4:25 T: Josh, whose last name is NOT Hartnett, kinda looks like a Hartnett. I am confuse.

T: The director for this Good Burger commercial is wearing a beret. All he needs is one of those cone speaker things to finish his 1940s look.

Also, Kel accidentally knocks over a giant burger… stand? and knocks out the actor/Josh, so the director’s all, ok kid who actually works here, you have to take his place. You adults know full damn well this would not happen IRL.

M: So many SAG cards were earned by freak on-set accidents like that.

M: Kel, re commercials: Have you ever seen the one with the bunny that keeps going.. and going, and going? And just when you think he’s gonna stop… he goooeeesss.

T: Never heard of it.

M: Was Goodburger Kel supposed to be a 90s stoner type, because that was very lost on me c. 1996.

T: I think, yes?? I never got that either, but I’m assuming we weren’t supposed to? I just thought he was a super California surfer dude type. It’s like when Pixar puts jokes in the movies for adults.

T: Guys, I’m legit laughing out loud at these jokes, IDK what’s happening to me.

M: Me too, it’s fine, we’re fine. All That shaped our generation’s comedic sensibilities and we don’t give it enough cred.

T: Kel’s name in this sketch is Ed??

7:25 T: Kel, not used to the cameras, BECAUSE HE IS NOT AN ACTOR, keeps messing up his lines, including his iconic, ‘Can I take your order?’. In one take he accidentally says, “Can I take your mother?” and holy crap I had to play it multiple times because I couldn’t stop laughing at his delivery.

7:53 M: “The bunny wouldn’t quit! The bunny would keep goin’ and goin’ and goin’!: See, this was good. In comparison, kid’s shows today are just really neon and shouty, but not exactly funny.

9:00 T: Fun fact: The guy who plays the boss in this sketch, and the resident adult in the show is named Dan Schneider, who is also the executive producer and writer for All That. Before the show, he was in a 1980s sitcom called Head of the Class that I remember watching in Nick at Nite reruns and being funny. Dan has continued his career with Nickelodeon since All That, creating such hits as The Amanda Show, What I Like About You, Drake & Josh, Zoey 101, iCarly Victorious, and Sam & Cat. He also wrote the screenplays for the Good Burger movie and Big Fat Liar. So, he’s pretty much a big deal.

9:25 T: Lori Beth Denberg in Vital Information is how she will always look in my memories.

M: During break time in third grade, my friends and I would always make up Vital Information segments. Cool kid for life, here.

T: This is why we’re friends.

10:10: T: I sometimes use, ‘QUIET, THIS IS A LIBRARY!’ as a recent and topical reference.

M: No, but doesn’t the silliness of some of these sketches remind you of early SNL or Lily Tomlin sketches? Like Land Sharks / Roseanne Rosanadanna / Ernestine-type stuff?

T: YES!!

T: I swear neither of us planned or expected to be singing the praises of All That for this whole post.

T: But here we are.

12:12 T: Was Katrina always wearing weird vests? Because that’s also how I remember her.

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M: She was, but in her defense weird vests were sort of a thing at the time. Especially among kid actors, for some reason. Just vests and floppy berets and speaking like you’re in the talk-singing segment of a Kidz Bop song.

13:48 T: Cooking with Randy and Mandy! I remember really liking this sketch. Maybe it was because of the chocolate.

M: It was my version of gross-out humor then. It was funny, but also TOO MUCH CHOCOLATE.

14:30 T: Why is the inside of that giant chocolate block white? And why did Kenan just use his Pierre Escargot laugh when he scarfed down chocolate syrup?

T: Man, All That was not only a precursor to Kenan being on Saturday Night Live, but I think it also instilled in me the love of sketch comedy at a young age. And to bring up #RepresentationIsImportant for the second time this week, I think it was also great that the cast was so diverse. I mean, even SNL in the past few years has been under fire for not employing people of color/minorities in general, so All That was really groundbreaking in that sense.

M: I could be very wrong, but it felt like kid’s tv in particular was more diverse in the 90s, and also that they just went with the kids who are best for the job — not like a lot of the Nickelodeon/ Disney stuff today where the kids can’t act but will age into a marketably attractive teen in a few years.

16:28 M: Kenan weeping over not being able to eat the chocolate is just ::cry-laughing emoji::

T: Ok, but, Kenan is such a star. You can tell that he outshines a lot of his cast members and was destined to be a comedian. Even in this chocolate jacuzzi with his sister (??)

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T: This is the first time (as an adult) that I’ve wanted to watch more All That.

M: I haven’t said this to anyone since the mid-90s, but do you want to come over to my house and watch All That? We could have a pizza party!

T: See ya there. Free Saturday?

The Secret World of Alex Mack LiveBlog: ‘Alex and Mom’ – Pools, Parties, and Pizzas

What did you watch if it was a Saturday night, and you were too old for Matilda (as if!) and it was too 1995 for Orphan Black – but you still wanted a healthy dose of telekinesis and corporate/scientific threats to bodily autonomy? And you also wanted to see a wardrobe made 70% of overalls? Ladies and gentlemen, Alex Mack.

The Secret World Of Alex Mack was a super high-concept show about a typical junior high girl (a pre-10 Things I Hate About You Larissa Oleynik) who is hit by a chemical plant truck and develops strange powers. She also wore a lot of overalls.

Episode Title: Alex and Mom

Air Date: January 7, 1995

Alex “disorganizes” her mom’s files after a huge fight, causing Barbara to nearly lose her job at the plant. A remorseful Alex tries to make amends when Barbara’s final chance at saving face seems doomed to disaster. Incidentally, this is the only episode of the series where Larisa Oleynik wears a Bathing Suit.

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Hit Play!!!

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M: Before we even get going, is “only episode where Larisa Oleynik wears a bathing suit” supposed to be a selling point, because I’m pretty sure she’s like 13. Grosssss. Plus is there a reason she’d be wearing bathing suits? It’s not like it was a beach show. Okay, let’s start now.

Opening Credits: T: I love when shows tell you the premise of the series in under 30 seconds or less. It’s one notch up from the ‘Previously on…’, and helpful for elders like me.

0:15 M: I am now realizing I have forgotten all of the characters except for Alex and her brainy sister, Annie. Also, Alex’s friend’s t-shirt with the earth-tone sun on it is the most 1995 thing ever.

M: I used to think Alex had the coolest tomboy outfits ever – growing up with two older brothers, I was outdoorsy – but her hat is just confusing me. There’s a strap in the front like it’s a backwards baseball cap, but then there’s no brim? WHAT IS THIS?
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:55 T: Alex attempts to ask cute boy Scott if he wants to go to a screening of a new movie with her, but she asks if he has “plans for science”. What does this mean? Does he have plans for science class? Or like plans for science in general, particularly radioactive sludge that makes tweens turn into puddles?

1:03 M: Alex’s Mom: Isn’t Scott too old for you? [A beat, seemingly forgetting about too-old guy entirely] I need you to go to the store!

Alex: I can’t, I’m going to the movies!

Ah, yes. 1995. When “free range parenting” was just… parenting.

2:20 T: Now, I didn’t grow up in a town where I could easily go to the grocery store by myself then bring home said groceries, so WTF why isn’t the mom or dad doing this instead of a child?

2:45 M: Alex’s mom, Barbara, works at the chemical plant – but you already knew that. I just feel like in real life, these plants aren’t all shiny and futuristic, like an evil corporate overlord’s secret lair. They probably just look like factories, no?

T: Agreed. This chemical plant looks like Nickelodeon had to stay on budget and double up on the use of the Space Cases set.

M: Ah, yes. Space Cases. Hated the dude with the curly mullet and the pig-pink child, loved the flat-top and the girl with gay pride hair.

3:27 M: Alex fantasizes that she binds her mother with rope so that she can hang out with Scott and levitate soda cans and change the tv channels with her mind. Well that got dark fast. I can’t remember if these daydream sequences were a regular thing. By the way, we had remote controls in 1995, so changing the tv channel by pointing her finger at the tv didn’t really save much time.

T: “Why are you always treating me like a little kid? Why can’t you ever let me do what I want to do?”, whines Alex. Apparently what she wants to do is tie her mother up in a hostage-type situation, eat pizza out of the box with Scott, and use your powers to change the channels on the TV without getting up.

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4:40 M: Alex and Barbara are having a weird argument about how Alex has to make dinner for Annie and her dad because Annie’s not home and Alex didn’t go to the store yesterday. This argument makes no sense, and sounds like two kids playing house and saying random things they think a mom would say.

4:55 M: Alex messes up her mom’s files via telekenisis, and once again, Alex’s powers aren’t allowing her to do anything that she couldn’t do as a regular human.

T: I mean, it’s a sick burn for someone who… hates unorganized accordion file folders…? 

T: Alex’s mom’s boss is creepily leading this important meeting, but doing so in a way that rivals Dr. Evil. Except she’s stroking a silver letter opener and he’s got a cat.

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6:45 M: Annie and dad have to go to the “Einstein Society.” Ughhh, that even sounds like an Asshole Club. Anyway, they won’t be staying for dinner so now Alex is cooking for no reason. I’m also sort of confused as to why they couldn’t just make their own dinner? This whole episode is like a bad childrens’ improv scene.

T: Yeah, why can’t the dad make dinner? If it’s some sort of sexist thing (which I hope it isn’t), then wouldn’t the oldest kid have to do it? Why is this 13 year old slaving away?

M: They NEVER EXPLAIN why Alex had to be the one to go shopping and make dinner. For some reason this is bothering me more than the chemical spill powers.

7:30 Barbara’s boss is being shot from a super weird angle. I’m assuming it’s to subconsciously show the viewer who is in charge, but I feel like it’s a very ’90s move to shoot from the bottom and angle it slightly so you feel like you could maybe be a lil’ inebriated.

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8:40 M: Alex is going to Scott’s pool party tomorrow! I’ve found that as an adult, the pool parties – and pizza parties for that matter – really slow down.

T: Unless you’re me and went to a “pool party” this past Saturday (does 6 people count as a party?) and have friends who like to cook and own a chef’s jacket specifically for pizza parties. This is more of a ‘me and my friends are nerds’ situation, more than anything. I’m livin’ the life, y’all.

M: I don’t know what the cutoff is, but I feel like 6 people is just swimming with friends? I always think of “pizza party” in the context of it being a prize for something. Like your homeroom raised the most money in Operation Rice Bowl.

9:26 T: Barbara tells her hubs that she was all thrown off at the meeting because her files were out of order, and he’s all, ‘But what about the Einstein meeting?’ and she clearly forgot because of her horrible day. ARE YOU GOING TO MAKE ALEX GO IN YOUR PLACE FOR THAT TOO??

M: I shall sit at home and rock/ rise to heed a neighbor’s knock/ Brew my tea and snip my thread / Bleach the linen for my bed —- either Dorothy Parker’s poem about Penelope from The Odyssey, or Alex Mack’s chore list.

10:40 T: I totally forgot the sister knows about Alex’s powers. Is that why she’s overly sarcastic all the time??

“How do I look?” Alex, recreating the Deal With It meme

“I’ll look for you in next season’s swimsuit issue” Annie, Alex’s sister, says creepily

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12:39 M: Barbara’s glasses are so Warby Parker.

13:40 T: What I can tell you is that our pool parties don’t consist of anyone playing water polo, like this nonsense. It’s mainly floating and eating/drinking by said pool.

M: I feel like all my childhood pool parties were mostly inventing weird pool relays, trying to get people to understand things you said underwater, and doing that thing where you pop up from the water with your hair flowing behind you like Ariel. Oh, and underwater handstands.

M: NOBODY in this whole pool sees Alex melt into a pile of mercury (or whatever it is)? Oh come on. Also wouldn’t she diffuse in liquid and scatter all around the pool?

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Alex pops back up across the pool to catch the volley ball, and once again could have achieved that as a normal person by just swimming underwater.

T: Also, why does Scott all of a sudden look like he’s 18 years old?? It’s the water polo.

M: He’s TOO OLD. Barbara said.

14:12 M: Most unrealistic thing thus far: Alex’s ginger friend tanning with one of those open metallic folder things. See? I don’t even know what it’s called! Because redheads can’t tan.

they’re called sun reflectors. i only know this after googling ‘metallic sun shield’. – T

15:27 M: Barbara’s caterers cancelled on a work event and Alex’s bitchy friends are harassing the guests. And, like, waiting on them I guess?

T: Ok, but how old are Alex and her friends supposed to be though? I would find it interesting to see high schoolers as waiters at a corporate event, but highly questionable of 13 year olds were serving canapes to chemical plant execs.

16:08 M: I forgot about this jaunty instrumental music that would play whenever Alex would get hardcore into using her powers.

18:59 M: Alex saved the day by getting the food ready and fixing a fountain. But she is also the one who ruined the day in the first place.

T: To reiterate, all this putting brie on plates and popping bottles are all things regular humans can do. And Alex isn’t even doing it at a fast pace, per se.

Also, Alex ‘fixed the fountain’ by becoming the water. This is the type of magical power shit I approve of. I may have totally seen it coming, but it’s better than putting shrimp cocktail on a plate without touching it.

M: I just feel like Alex’s set of powers is really poorly defined.

19:46 M: Let’s just see if we can mention overalls every day, shall we? Alex’s outfit reminds me of these black velour overalls I just HAD to have for a commercial audition in 6th grade. Why no, I did not book that job. Probs because I didn’t rock a bow tie like Alex.

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M: But, I mean, Scott WAS too old for her. That’s some Stacy and Luca shit right there.

T: Relatedly, I would be PISSED if I was one of those kids who got pulled away from a pool party to put on a bow tie and serve rich folk. Did they get paid. I call child labor.

The Mystery Files of Shelby Woo LiveBlog: ‘The Hot Dog Mystery’ – Sponsored By PETA

To me, SNICK had always been a hotbed of coolness, the block of programming that was a necessity for kids to watch in order to be considered at the very least normal with their peers, but also a place where ‘cool’ characters were always present. As a kid, I always looked up to the kids on Nickelodeon as either wanting to covet their lives or utterly fascinated by how their everyday lives seemed to be.

As a little Asian girl growing up in Western New York, this was particularly true of Shelby Woo. At the time, I don’t remember seeing anyone that looked remotely similar to me or had a similar background. Now, I didn’t live with my former Karate sansei innkeeper grandfather or was Chinese or even an amateur sleuth for that matter (as much as I tried, Ghostwriter didn’t write back), all I knew was that I could relate to someone on television that was also a descendant of an immigrant and – not white. #RepresentationIsImportant

Shelby Woo was a go-getter, someone who wasn’t afraid to find the truth about the cases police had trouble solving. She was smart and cunning, among many other things, but all these character traits were enviable by 12-year-old Traci. Shelby was a possibility – a possibility for a young girl to become a detective when she got older, because we still were asked, ‘What do you want to be when you grow up?’ without it being totally depressing. I didn’t grow up to be a detective or anything close to it, but Shelby Woo represented what could be. Even when she was figuring out less-than-enviable cases about stolen lunch meat from the cafeteria.

Episode Title: The Hot Dog Mystery

Air Date: Unaired

A sudden bout of food poisoning hits the cafeteria at Space Coast High, and Shelby searches her school for suspects. Could it be the work of a rival meat supplier? A nasty cafeteria employee? Or someone trying to send a message to the school administration? And if Shelby can’t find out how someone made the kids sick, is there a chance it could happen again?
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Hit Play!!

So apparently this episode never aired. Not sure whether it’s because the show was cancelled or Nick execs just didn’t think the quality of this particular episode was up to par, but it has had to resort to a life on YouTube, never seeing the light of cable day. I’d also like to note that I don’t think I’ve seen this show in like, 17 years, so I don’t really remember all the details of it. What I can tell you is that Shelby Woo was obviously a precursor to our beloved Veronica Mars. Like, eerily so.

0:31 Bless grandpa Pat Morita. Is he still alive?? And why does Shelby have a thicker accent than gramps? (PS: Pat Morita died in 2005. Oops. #RIPPatMorita)

1:10 I don’t remember Shelby breaking the fourth wall in this show??

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“See if you can pick the right suspect from the menu” – Shelby

As previously mentioned, a bunch of kids are sick, and Shelby’s managed to trace it back to the hot dogs served in the high school cafeteria. One dude ate 11. There was a wager going on. Kids are dumb.

3:25 Tim’s mom (also the school’s librarian) is a vegetarian and mad at her son for eating meat. She then sees another kid in the nurse’s office with a leather bookbag and scolds him, suggesting he use a macrame bag instead. A) She’s probs the head of PETA rn. B) I think Tim tainted the hot dogs.

Also Shelby’s friend Noah is wearing one of those shirts

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4:30 Shelby’s boss (?) at the police department was called in to solve this hot dog mystery. Why is an actual detective at some high school trying to find the culprit instead of figuring out a murder or something in the town?

6:00 The meat provider for the cafeteria is a Southern dude who works for Cummings Meat. He legitimately just used the phrase “Cummings weiners”

“These kids won’t trust hot dogs for a year” German lunchlady who has too much trust and belief in teens

By the by, Shelby is using her computer skills to solve the case, because apparently there’s a special program on her Apple computer that organizes all her case information.

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12:30 Now Shelby and her co-sleuths think the Cummings Meat guy could be the culprit and follow him at his morning delivery. They also look like they’re two years out of college and have nothing better to do than hang out at their old high school.

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“I had to rotate 40 pounds of meat” Cummings Meat Guy

“While we’re here let’s look around of clues.” Shelby

HELLO DID YOU NOT LISTEN TO WHAT WEINER GUY SAID? The perishables should be moved to the top not kept being pushed down. German lunch lady probs wasn’t paying attention to expiration dates and grabbed a pack of hot dogs she thought were fine and served them to the kids. Which would explain why none of the packages had been tampered with.

13:43 Shelbs and Co. are stuck in the freezer and it’s like I Love Lucy all over again. This is when cell phones come in handy.

“Oh man I hate exercise maybe we could… snuggle?” Noah is my favorite, despite his creepiness.

15:00 I feel like this episode is a giant PSA for PETA and anti-eating meat.

16:00 Okay now the nurse is starting to be sketchy. First Shelbs accidentally knocks over the nurse’s purse and crap falls out, including a big ass bottle of aspirin, latex gloves and a needle, despite the fact she said earlier she can’t use needles (as per the law?). She also initially said she was “glad” to see all the kids in her office in the beginning of the episode, so maybe she’s the one who did a switcheroo in the freezer to get more kids sick? Because she’s an insane masochist? Or she wants to prove she’s invaluable?

16:25 TIM THINKS HIS MOM POISONED THE HOT DOGS. There’s still like 10 minutes left, so it’s not her.

17:34 Gramps shows up to school because Shelbs forgot her lunch. And the “detective” hat he’s been trying to push on her since the beginning of the ep. Again, taking a page out of Full House’s book, are we?

18:00 Gramps reveals the PTA is considering slashing the budget – including cutting the school nurse.

21:00 Shelbs has a solid theory for the case and calls her Detective boss back in to do some questioning, but really, neither of them are legit. Shelbs fingers the nurse and says she used the needle to poison the hot dogs without opening the packaging, and she did it to prove she needed to keep her job. I was half right.

22:00 Tim feels bad about putting the blame on his mom, but ultimately realizes it’s fine because she’s just a super vegetarian who just wants to push her ideals on her son and his teenage friends.

They fired the nurse! I feel like IRL there would’ve been a lawsuit against her, but there’s only 22 minutes in Woo World.

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The executive story editor for this show is Suzanne Collins – and if that name rings a bell, it’s because she wrote The Hunger Games triology. She also wrote most of the novelizations for Shelby Woo, which explains why Katniss and Shelbs are basically the same. jk. ALSO, the director was Allison Liddi (-Brown), a person whose name I creepily recognized because she has directed eps of such shows as Parenthood, Scandal, Grey’s Anatomy, Private Practice AND The Secret World of Alex Mack, among others. Her resume reads as my life story.

Are You Afraid Of The Dark LiveBlog: ‘The Tale Of The Lonely Ghost’ – Neglected Child Haircuts

We’re on Day 2 of Big Orange Couch Week – live blogging shows from the classic SNICK lineup – and let’s hope that couch has a nite lite nearby because things are about to get spoooooky. Today I’m rewatching one of the best-loved episodes of Are You Afraid of The Dark, the one where we learn the important lesson that you should never befriend the quiet, neglected-looking girl next door because she’s probably a ghost. Submitted for the approval of Cookies + Sangria, I present…

Episode Title: The Tale Of The Lonely Ghost

Air Date: August 26, 1992

A girl who desperately wants to be friends with her snotty cousin and her group of friends agrees to spend the night in the haunted house next door to become part of the group.

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Hit play!

0:02 I remember getting so spooked out by the music and title sequence of this show as a kid- along with Unsolved Mysteries and The Twilight Zone – that I was terrified before the action even started.

And when I say “as a kid,” know that I am watching this episode on my lunch break at work so I don’t have to watch it alone in my 100-year-old house.

0:55 Have we ever established that Are You Afraid Of The Dark is set in Canada? Because the kids were always so CANADIAN. First of all, David says “sore-y.” And more Canadianly, he is apologizing because a girl bumped into him.

1:27 They made the kid with curly hair get a center-parted undercut hairdo, and he looks like a damn Newsie. But I just looked him up (Jacob Tierney) and if he looks like a Newsie these days, it’s one of those cute older Christian Bale-type ones where you’re, like, pretty sure he’s of age so it’s fine.Transformation Tuesday, y’all.

Then.

NOW.

1:38 Sorry Count: #2. Ugh, this part where they all talk in the beginning is still boring 23 years later. You’re the Midnight Society, not the Chit-Chat Club. And yes, “23 years later” will almost certainly be the scariest part of this live blog.

3:09 Like most Are You Afraid Of The Dark eps, this one begins with a girl arriving at a new town, this time because her parents are scientists who are “up north studying Inuit carvings.” This is more Canadian than Anne Of Green Gables host Hockey Night In Canada.

Amanda is an adorable young lady wearing a gigantic blousy shirt tucked into even bigger khakis with mid-butt-length hair. Yeah, put that in your tumblr and smoke it, “90s fashion bloggers.”AYAOTD Amanda

4:41 There’s an abandoned house next door that Amanda’s realtor aunt cannot sell, and you can tell that it’s haunted because the For Sale sign keeps falling over and it’s made of spooky natural wood.

5:11 Beth, Amanda’s cousin, looks like every bitchy teenage girl in the early 90s. The spikier the bangs, the bigger the attitude.AYAOTD Beth

6:17 Amanda has to prove she’s “not a zeeb” (was nerd, dork, or geek not on the Nickelodeon-approved vocab list?), but then one of Beth’s ground rules is that Amanda has to put Beth’s stuffed animal collection back every day. Were stuffed animals cool for teens in 1992? I almost think yes. Like, Troll Dolls and Pillow People were big.

7:43 A disheveled woman introduces herself to Amanda as Nanny. I smell a plot point coming! She’s not even particularly old, just hunchy with bad hair. Plus what teenager has a nanny? Beth agrees.

9:41 Nanny hears Beth and Beth’s Realtor Mom talking about her, and maybe this is the scariest part of the show. Anyone else out there just terrified of overhearing people talk about them?

10:31 Backstory: A little girl who couldn’t talk lived in the haunted natural-wood house. The girl was supposed to stay with her grandmother when her mom went away, but got locked into her bedroom by some mean kids and died there. I have questions. Beth says the girl’s mom was gone for two weeks because her husband was sick, and her grandmother didn’t know she was supposed to be coming. But even in the 1940s or whatever (Beth says “the war”), wouldn’t the mom have made a single call to make sure that the grandma would be home or that the kid got there safely? Especially since the child is speech or hearing impaired?

Anyway, Amanda has to go to the little girl’s death room so that she can be friends with Beth and Beth’s shitty friends. Which … why would she want to?

14:01 The words Help Me are scrawled backwards on the walls of the house. Hey Beth’s Realtor Mom, I, uh, think I know why the house isn’t selling.

14:36 A little girl wearing a white nightgown with a grown-out mullet bowlcut – the haircut of an unloved child – appears in the mirror and beckons to Amanda. So this is the dead girl, I assume, but why the nightgown? After she got locked in she was just like “ho, hum, better go change into these jammies to die in?”

AYAOTD hair

AYAOTD jammies

15:00 Amanda’s “Running Away From A Ghost” music is twinkly jazz piano.

15:55 Beth’s Realtor Mom makes the girls clean Help Me off the walls as a punishment after Amanda rats out her cousin. Amanda wears 2015-approved overalls. No… wait. It’s like an overall dress?

17:30 A mirage of the room filled with dolls and stuffed animals appears in the mirror, and instead of freaking out about the time and space-ness of it all, Beth just gawks at the “awesome collection.” I still don’t think the titles Head Bitch and Teenaged Doll Collector really go together.

17:55 Beth goes through the mirror and the Neglected Bowlcut Girl comes out. Win some/lose some, eh? All the kid wants to do is give Amanda a locket. Why would anyone give their child a locket? It only means they’re going to get orphaned or become a ghost. Never ends well. Anyway, Nanny’s picture is in the locket. SHOCKING.

19:22 They’re overall shorts. Shortalls.

So that’s one mystery solved, but we’re still not going to learn why the child can’t talk, are we?

20:17 Amanda gives Nanny the other half of the locket. What happens to missing or neglected children who DON’T have a half locket?

21:24 Nanny went through the mirror. Is she… dead now? Neglected Bowlcut Girl is now wearing day clothes and her hair is better.

22:17 Beth’s friends are all in the haunted house, which they refused to go in before, and are all casual about their bitchy friend being stuck in a mirror. But then Amanda opens the closet door and Beth falls out, and they’re all going to be friends all summer! Everything’s great for everyone! Except Neglected Bowlcut Girl who got bullied to death.AYAOTD RIP

23:31 David gives Kristin ( a pre- Clueless Rachel Blanchard) a locket for her birthday. Great, David. Now she’s going to get kidnapped or orphaned.

Clarissa Explains It All Live Blog: ‘Sick Days’ – The Girl Who Cried U-N-I-T-Y

Welcome to the first day of our Big Orange Couch Week, when we revisit five of our favorite shows that were among the classic SNICK Saturday night lineups from the 1990s, and liveblog them!

Today, we’re kicking it all off with Clarissa Explains It All and Sick Days, the season one finale. Of course, back then, finales for Nick shows didn’t end in some ‘Who Shot J.R.?’ cliffhanger (that reference was relevant, right?), so many of these eps were stand-alones, which made it perfect for syndication. That being said, Sick Days is classic Clarissa: tension between her and her parents, tension between her and her little turd brother, Ferguson, and possible sexual chemistry between her and her BFF Sam. Let’s go back in time and see what happens when Clarissa plays sick – only to backfire on her soon enough.

Episode Title: Sick Days

Air Date: June 1, 1991

Clarissa fakes sickness in trying to get out of her part in the school pageant. But, when the play turns out to be a success, Clarissa truly becomes ill.

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Hit Play!

T: I do not remember this episode, but judging by the description, it’s going to be a GREAT one.

M: I vaguely remember it, but 1991 Molly would be floored that she was watching it at age 28 via an app and an internet connection on her flatscreen. Or, she would be floored if she knew what any of those things meant.

0:15  T: Does Clarissa have a lisp?

0:45 T: Whoa Janet Darling’s outfit is very Mom Jeans-esque!

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T: My memories of Janet Darling – she is obsessed with healthy food. Like seaweed and sprouts and tofu.

M: Yes! And Marshall was an architect whose buildings were always like the architectural version of a Claudia Kishi outfit.

M: I feel like moms have stopped saying “pronto.”

T: I feel like everyone has stopped saying “pronto”.

1:04 Opening Credits T: I don’t remember quirky pajamas being part of Clarissa’s ‘thing’?

M: Were those pool ball pajamas? Do tweens play pool? I know there wasn’t an internet in 1991 but I still don’t remember recreating at pool halls.

This theme song sounds wrong. The NaNas are too fast and Clarissa isn’t wearing that weird aerobicise outfit.

2:44 M: Clarissa outfit #2: Black top with giant floral bell sleeves, denim cuffed jorts over polka dot bike shorts, teva(?) belt, pink chiffon hair scarf, daisy earrings, big freaking watch.

2:53 T: Sam asked Clarissa for help as he walked up the ladder and handed her an aquarium… did he climb up to the second story with this glass aquarium in his one hand?

M: Shhhh. My inner child can hear you.

T: Sam is like the Joey Potter to Clarissa’s Dawson. I’m sure this comparison hasn’t even been brought up before.

M: Between this, D.C., and Saved By The Bell, I was definitely lead to believe that in high school I’d have straight male friends crawling through my window all the time. Also that I’d have a straight male friend. NOT!

Remember “Not?” That was a thing people said a lot in 1991, it was like the “said nobody ever” unfunny punchline of the early ’90s.

T: Also did the all of this show’s budget just go toward’s Melissa Joan Hart’s wardrobe? Because the actor who played Sam looks like he straight up rolled out of bed and walked onto the set.

M: Sam Outfit #1: A giant blue Hanes t-shirt, rumpled plaid shorts from a man.

4:50 T: Sam – “I think this calls for the one sure-fire method of getting a sick day.” Clarissa: “What is it?” Sam – “Take it!” Sam’s comic timing is great. I’m not even being sarcastic.

T: As a kid I thought this show was ‘ahead of its time’, however now it just looks incredibly low-budget.

M: I think it actually looks ahead of its time compared to the Nick/Disney shows of today (I mean I love Girl Meets World, but otherwise). Instead of those slick production values, it looks more “indie” or “real.”

Wait, were those just words for cheap?

T: Yes.

6:16 T: Marshall – “You’ve had two children, you’re not the same woman you were when you were 18.” Besides the fact he’s being a tad misogynistic, it really doesn’t matter if she can fit in it or not because this dress still sucks and she shouldn’t be wearing it.
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M: Reunion themes like “wear what you wore in high school” are the reason we skipped our 10-year. Even though those boot-cuts and handkerchief hemlines are really calling my name.

6:50 M: Clarissa outfit #3: Giant robe, pajamas without billiards ephemera on them. Try harder, Darling.

7:10 T: MJH is doing her best coughing acting work and that is saying something.

8:37 M: Clarissa Outfit #4: I can’t see it behind the giant aquarium Sam carried one-handed up a two-story ladder.

9:50 T: Clarissa’s outfit is back in style and I think I hate it.
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M: Clarissa Outfit #5: A thing I think I saw a youth wear on the bus a few weeks ago

T: Soy muffin. Take a shot for Janet’s healthy weird snacks.

M: Janet’s 1991-weird food is stuff that’s all over Pinterest and instagram now. Oh, what 20 years will do.

11:30 T: Janet calls the family doctor, Dr. Festerspoon, to check on Clarissa. Did doctors still make house calls in ’91 or is this a result of low-budge and not being able to afford a medical office?? Also why would a sick doctor make a house call to a sick child???

M: And why is he from, like, the Progressive Era? Also of course Clariss has a rhinovirus, her room is a nest of dusty plants, hats, stuffed animals, and aquatic life. I feel germy just looking at it. Speaking of aquatic life: Clarissa Outfit #6: pajamas with a repeating trout motif.

12:30 T: Dr. Festerspoon suggests Clarissa’s common cold could escalate to “The Schezuan Flu” if she didn’t take care of herself… and then an Asian-sounding gong playing right after he said “The Schezuan Flu”…

T: What was the point of the guitar riff every time Sam came in?

M: Sexual tension music. But where “sex” is, like, exchanging slap bracelets and waving glowsticks in unison.

14:20 T: Clarissa – “I can’t miss Queen Latifah!” … because Queen Latifah is making a guest appearance at a small Ohio middle school for their Ancient Greece day, and it makes sense, obviously.

M: Wait, this is OHIO?

T: Per Wikipedia, it is!

15:25 M: Clarissa is trying to act like she feels better and she just put on the same outfit from earlier. I’m not counting it.

T: I just realized that both Marshall and Janet are home during the day? What are their jobs??

M: Architect and museum person. I, uh, watched a lot of Clarissa.

But seriously, this isn’t the mixed-up files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler. You go to museums in the DAYTIME, I’m sure of it.

T: Clarissa’s phone isn’t the same one I used to covet? Did she just upgrade her season 1 phone to a clear one in the later seasons?

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M: She absolutely did. My sister had the clear one – and her own phone line – and I thought it was the coolest thing in the universe. And I was right.

18:50 OMG CLARISSA’S U-N-I-T-Y OUTFIT

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M: Clarissa’s Outfit #6: A Cultural Appropriation Headband. Next week’s episode: Clarissa Explains White Privilege.

19:37 M: Clarissa and Sam try to sneak out, but are thwarted by Ferg-Wad dressed as a Greek Cloud. Sam is again wearing a giant crumpled top that belongs to a dad.

20:53 M: To get Clarissa to stay home and convalesce from Asian Disease, Marshall plies her with any video rental she wants. Sometimes I forget about life before Netflix, when a sick day meant watching Wheel of Fortune or soap operas unless your parent did you a solid and picked up Beetlejuice.

21:12 M: Clarissa’s Outfit # Whatever: A floral top, honestly pretty good bangs for 1991, and I can’t pay attention to the rest because I’m looking at her awesome watermelon drinking glasses.

22:00 M: Man, what I wouldn’t give to tour Nickelodeon Studios, Universal Studios, in Orlando Florida during its heyday. Heck, I’d settle for a t-shirt. That I’d wear with two pairs of layered shorts and an African headband in Clarissa’s honor.

T: Nickelodeon Studios, Universal Studios, in Orlando, Florida was the MECCA for our generation. RIP.

SLIMED: A ’90s Kids’ Choice Awards Retrospective

The Kids’ Choice Awards air this weekend, even though it is 2015. See, the Kids’ Choice Awards – a Nickelodeon awards show where B-list celebrities get doused with green slime – were such a ’90s staple that it’s hard to imagine them continuing after our childhoods ended. It’s like visiting your old elementary school and seeing children using your old classrooms as though they’re just theirs. But time marches on, and so does cable children’s programming – but this time, there’s no Rosie O’Donnell, Jim Carey, or LL Cool J (which, when I think about it… were we children, or a bunch of middle-aged women?) As far as I’m concerned, though, the 90s were the definitive decade of the Nickelodeon Kids’ Choice Awards.

1990

The ’90s didn’t know what they wanted to be yet, so they were still acting like the ’80s. If you’re inclined to think 1990 isn’t that long ago, think again: Back To The Future Part II won Favorite Movie Actor and Actress… yes, a movie set in the “future” that is 2015. Candace Cameron hosted. Joey Gladstone (Dave Coulier) got slimed, and so did Internet fav Wil Wheaton.

Also, New Kids On The Block were too busy and important to accept their award, but they appeared via satellite, and to kids in 1990, it felt like the future was now.

1991

These awards were hosted by Corin Nemec, a person I hadn’t heard of until right now because I was too young to watch Parker Lewis Can’t Lose. Winners included the Simpsons – which I remember being super “edgy” at the time, so my siblings and I were allowed to watch it, but not downstairs (in case someone respectable came over? not sure) – as well as Will Smith and Keshia Knight Pulliam. Maybe it’s just because 1991 is one of the first years I can really remember any pop culture stuff from, but the rest of the winners hold up surprisingly well over time: Home Alone, Kindergarten Cop, Michael Jordan, and Pretty Woman.

1992

90s kids, now’s when you should really start paying attention: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Robin Williams in Hook. Doug. Roseanne. Sonic the Hedgehog. In my neon-tinted memories, the 1992 Kids’ Choice Awards are how I remember the early ’90s. Elsewhere in the world the Gulf War was raging, grunge was in its meteoric rise into the mainstream, and the Clarence Thomas/Anita Hill saga cast a pall over the upcoming presidential election. But it was 1992, and all us kids wanted was to consume Cheeetos, Pop-Tarts and Ecto Cooler in our stirrup pants while shooting scrunchies at our siblings and watching people get slimed.

So it’s no surprise that when 1992 kids were asked to make a time capsule, it looked like this:

1993

Do you have any of those shows or movies that you remember, but nobody else really does? For me, one of those shows is Roundhouse, an ensemble sketch show that I was obsessed with. Well, the cast of Roundhouse performed at the ’93 Kids’ Choice Awards, so suck it, everyone! They really made it big! The awards were hosted by select cast members of 90210, remarkable because I didn’t know any kids in 1993 who were allowed to watch 90210.

If the 1993 Kids’ Choice Awards exemplify one thing, it’s the love affair mainstream America was having with hip hop and R&B. Fresh Prince was a TV show nominee, Ice Cube was a nominated actor, and Kris Kross won for favorite male group (other musical nominees: Boyz II Men, En Vogue, TLC and MC Hammer). We may be the first generation to grow up with computers, but we’re also the first generation to grow up with hip hop targeted specifically toward children.

The three little blonde boys from Home Improvement got slimed, including a pre-Tiger Beat JTT.

1994

Candace Cameron was BACK in 1994 – no holding Deej Tanner down! So was Joey Lawrence. 1994 was really the year that tiny North American children all turned into middle-aged women. Winners, nominees, and slime-ees included Home Improvement, Whitney Houston, Mrs. Doubtfire, Sister Act II, and Nancy Kerrigan. Michael Jordan won favorite male athlete for the millionth time, which makes me wonder if he was the only male athlete we had all heard of. I’m also pretty sure this was smack in the middle of that one time he “retired” for a minute and my brother melodramatically took down the framed Jordan poster from his wall, so it’s pretty amazing he was still a contender. I guess because he was pretending to be a baseball player at the time.

Anyway, in 1994 us kids were all what they called “normcore” in trend pieces written in mid-2014. Our favorite video game was Super Mario World and our favorite sports team was the Dallas Cowboys. We liked Tim Allen and Aerosmith. In that weird transitional era between the neon-tinged 80s-like early 90s, the grungy early-mid 90s, and the shiny Clueless phase, we were all the human version of plaid couches.

1995

Nobody believes me when I say this, but kids in the 90s were allowed to watch stuff that would never fly in 2015. I’m sure there are some permissive parents now, but even television specifically geared towards kids had nuclear spills (Alex Mack) and ghosts (Are You Afraid Of The Dark). Evidence of this: Kids’ Choice nominees in 1995 included Living Single, Roseanne, Speed, Forrest Gump, and Married…. With Children. And yet, the winner was still The Lion King, which is unsurprising to those of us who can remember the phenomenon.

This whole show is on Youtube, and if you either want to relive the mid-90s, or are a teen who was, at best, a baby at the time, you should watch it. With all respect to the 1992 Kids’ Choice time capsule, it is the ultimate 90s kids’ time capsule. Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen won as favorite movie actress, but it kind of doesn’t seem fair because the two of them only added up to one actress. Tia and Tamera won favorite TV actress, so just a reminder, we were all a bit obsessed with twins back then.

1997

Was everyone’s mom secretly voting on their behalf? SPIN CITY, guys. Spin City was nominated. So was One Fine Day and The Preacher’s Wife. Our favorite song was the Fugees’ cover of Killing Me Softly, so at least we got that right.

Also, check out beautiful, innocent baby Amanda Bynes in the video clip above.

1998

If 1994 – 1996 was the era of the moms, 1998 was when youth culture took back the early evening. Titanic was our favorite movie – was there even a question? – and I’m sure I called in from my family’s wall phone to vote for it. Jonathan Taylor Thomas won his rightful place as favorite TV actor, and our favorite musical group was Hanson. I’m sure they just barely edged out Spice Girls. As it should be, Salem from Sabrina The Teenage Witch was the top animal star. By 1998, you were probably watching with your baby barrettes holding back the bangs you were growing out to look more like Rose Dewitt Bukater Dawson and taking notes with your pen with a giant feather puff on top. If you were really, really lucky, maybe you’d see an article about the Kids’ Choice Awards on the AOL homepage the next time you visited your aunt who had the internet.

This happened, and it remains the most 1998 thing I’ve ever seen:

Also, this:

1999

By 1999, we had made our full journey through the 90s, from almost-80s to grunge to normcore to the teen pop takeover. The 1999 awards were all boy bands, Delia*s-inspired fashion, and earnest optimism. Our favorite book was Chicken Soup For The Soul, for goodness sakes. Our favorite actors were Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore, and all was right with the world. We couldn’t imagine a life beyond the 90s – no, literally, my memories begin around 1990, so anything else was unfathomable to me. But really, what more did we need?

(After) Life Lessons From ‘Are You Afraid Of The Dark?’

Like wielding a Nerf Super Soaker or running in Moon Shoes, Are You Afraid of the Dark? was an opportunity for 90s kids to show their mettle. Some of us, like me and my buddy Nikki, even used to watch it with the lights off. Without fail, one of my older brothers would ask what we were watching. “Are You Afraid Of The Dark?”, I’d answer. “I’m not, are YOU?,”” the brother would ask. I fell into that trap every time. Then things would get real Who’s On First-y, as tired a gag in 1992 as it was in 1952. The show would come on, and by the end of the half hour, we’d felt like we’d really survived something – and not just good-natured sibling ribbing.

But we weren’t just watching slightly-spooky SNICK fare, we were learning. Some books and movies teach you how to be alive (The Fault In Our Stars, anyone?), but Are You Afraid Of The Dark? taught us how to be, and be with, the undead.

If you’re ready for some ghostly fun, hyperlinks take you to the episodes in question – until they disappear! SPOOOOKY. (OK, actually I just think they’ll be pulled from YouTube at some point)

If A New Family Comes To Town, They Are Not Living People

New neighbors? Do not greet them warmly and make them feel welcome in your community. That’s the lesson I learned from this children’s show. If you have new neighbors, they are probably vampires. Mom has a new boyfriend? Best case scenario, some strange man is banging your mom now. Worst case scenario: watch out on the next full moon, because your new dad is a werewolf.

If You Are New To Town, Something Horrible Will Happen To You

Getting used to a new town, switching schools, making new friends – these are real concerns for kids who move. But in the 90s, Nickelodeon didn’t coddle kids by telling them that everything was going to be just fine and they’d feel at home in no time. That’s some Highlights For Children nonsense. No, Are You Afraid Of The Dark? confirmed every child’s fears about moving. Bad things will happen. It IS the end of the world. The house next door has the ghost of a deaf girl writing backwards on the walls. Your aunt’s jacket will turn you into a ghost. Aunt’s houses are the most haunted – there is probably also the ghost of a little boy who froze to death hanging around. Your new basement doesn’t just have weird slugs after rainstorms, it also harbors an evil creature that’s into music boxes. You may nearly burn down your new home in a fever-dream. And when you make friends with the neighborhood kids, they’ll lead you in a game of Hide And Seek where the only thing you find is an uneasy encounter with human mortality. Bet Highlights For Children didn’t teach you that one.

You SHOULD Be Worried About Starting High School. High Schools Are Full Of 1950s Ghosts

It can be scary going from being the big fish in Middle School to being the small fish being haunted by a larger ghost fish in high school. Finding a prom dress is nothing when you could easily end up finding a 1950s prom ghost instead. Or hey, maybe your school ghost is a far-out 1960s hippie who died in a chem lab explosion. Could your school ghost be a sea-beast who lives in the swimming pool? Or maybe, just maybe, the school ghost is YOU and you just don’t know you’re dead yet.

Sidenote: Our “high school ghost” was some turn-of-the-century biddy named Victoria who coincidentally only hung around the theater department — you know, the area with all the super-dramatic kids who love making up grandiose stories to impress each other? There were some spooky parts of the theater, but that’s not because of ghosts, it’s because the costume room was a long-abandoned priest’s apartment with a creepy free-standing abandoned sink still in there, up a rickety flight of stairs on stage left. I’m not saying Victoria wasn’t real, because saying ghosts aren’t real is what makes them haunt you super hard, I’m just saying that my sister was involved in theater, is eight years older than me, and never had heard of her. Also the ghost’s “backstory” was, I’m pretty sure, lifted verbatim from a Fear Street novel.

Children’s Toys Will Hurt You

So far we’ve covered how terrible things will happen to children who move, have people move near them (so basically, children who live in houses), and go to school. What’s a kid to do, sit idly and play with toys? NOPE. Only if you want to play with the supernatural as well.

Dollhouses are obviously haunted, everyone knows that, but in Are You Afraid Of The Dark? we learned that they can also imprison you in permanent doll form, like a Toddlers And Tiaras contestant without all the Mountain Dew. Pinball machines can come to life. If a toy company opens in your apartment building, the only thing they’re really selling there is doom and horror. You may as well just go to summer camp, right? Yeah, there are dead Edwardian children trapped in the woods. I’d say that kids should just read books instead, but I think we all know that books can come to life or trap you inside their very pages.

Bedraggled Children Are Creepy

It’s every kid for herself out there, so if you come across a homely, poor, or otherwise unfortunate child, IT’S A TRAP. Do NOT befriend them. I know your feelings will tell you otherwise, but feelings are just nature’s way of letting the weak get killed off by little girl ghosts. If the urchin next door has a shaggy, grown-out bowlcut, the haircut of an unloved child, obviously she was locked in a vacant house a half-century ago. The lonely kid with the bicycle is your childhood friend who you couldn’t save from drowning. And it goes for adults, too. The old lady who lives alone in a cottage isn’t a retiree whose kids live out of state, she’s a witch with a stash of shrunken monkey claws that she’s going to curse you with.

Sweet dreams, children. Everything you’ve been taught about school, friendship, and your community was a lie. Don’t let the bedbugs bite.

90s Nickelodeon Shows – And Today’s Adult Equivalents

Buzzfeed, Tumblr, and your Facebook friends won’t let you forget it, and neither will we: 90s kids are adults now, and we’re all still really, really passionate about the 90s. Can you blame us? The 90s were a great time for kids’ culture. With so many Baby Boomers having children from the late 70s to the mid-90s, there were a lot of us growing up then. The economy hadn’t tanked yet, and 911 was still just an emergency phone number. Nickelodeon was at the forefront of it all, promoting a “pro-kid” culture and presenting kids as cooler and smarter than adults. If people want to blame Millenials for forming a mass internet-culture that older folks can’t penetrate, it all started with Nickelodeon and its ‘us against them’ attitudes.

Today’s TV networks aren’t stupid. They know what Millenials want. That’s why, for every beloved Nickelodeon show from our youth, there is an adult equivalent on the air right now:

Are You Afraid Of The Dark = American Horror Story

Are You Afraid Of The Dark: From the second you heard those creaky swings and eerie theme music, you knew you were in for a scare. The midnight society gathered every week to tell stories and throw some sort of weird sand into a camp fire, and we were right there with them. I watched every week as a five-year-old, even turning off the lights for an extra scare. We liked this show because it didn’t underestimate kids. There were real ghosts, vampires, and murders in Are You Afraid of the Dark – it wasn’t that weak-sauce kid stuff where the creaking in the attic was just a leaky pipe, or the ‘ghost’ was just a beekeeper in a bonnet (I’m looking at you, The Adventures Of Mary Kate And Ashley). If you didn’t love the story one week, you’d just wait until the next Saturday when you’d get a whole new plotline to scare the pants off of you and make you ask your mom if she will let you sleep with the hall light on. That’s right – a children’s horror anthology series. Can you really blame us for missing the 90s?

American Horror Story: Like Are You Afraid Of The Dark, American Horror Story is a spooky anthology. However, to account for adult attention spans, each season tells a different story, instead of each episode. This show touches on all aspects of the horror film genre – psycho killers, ghosts, aliens, nuns, evil doctors, Anne Frank, witches, a pinhead, The Black Dahlia … it’s like a winning hand of Apples To Apples.

An aside: I just finished watching Season 2 of AHS. Somebody told me to start with that one because Coven isn’t on Netflix yet, and Season 1 would scare me more. Now that I’m done, I have to wonder – if Asylum was this freaky, what the hell could possibly happen in Murder House? Don’t worry, I’m starting it this week, because I’m an adult now and I’m in charge of my own hall light.

Clarissa Explains It All = Girls + The New Girl

Clarissa Explains It All:A young woman with ambitions of being a journalist lives in a cooler bedroom than you can imagine having. She is supported by her academic parents. She has constant fallings-out with her brother Ferguson, and the undying support of her buddy Sam. She dresses like a cool hobo. Lots of tights. Clarissa has a creative solution to every problem and gets into a lot of scrapes because she sort of doesn’t think everything through.

Girls: A young woman with ambitions of being a writer lives in a cooler apartment than you can imagine having. She is supported by her academic parents. She has constant fallings out with her friends, yet somehow retains their constant support. She dresses like a cool hobo.

The New Girl:  It’s almost like Jess Day and Hannah Horvath are two different versions of how Clarissa could have turned out. Jess and Clarissa have a lot in common. The first word you’d use to describe them is “quirky.” They have wacky clothes. They have a cool home. And – unlike Hannah Horvath – they both have fun, sunny attitudes toward life. So, if Clarissa went to college, became an el-ed major, and held onto her obsession with tights, you have Jess. If Clarissa decided to become a hipster in college, started writing for the school literary mag and reading a lot of McSweeney’s, and went to slightly seedier college parties, she graduated and became Hannah.

Salute Your Shorts = Community

Salute Your Shorts: A group of teens are thrown together for summer camp, and form all of the bonds and rivalries that you’d expect in that kind of close situation. They work both with and against the camp’s administration (counselor Ugg) and truly become a community of their own. There are even themed genre episodes – Zeke The Plumber, everyone? The characters are surprisingly well-developed for a kids’ show, with the jock, nerd, and popular girl presented as being complex people instead of just stereotypes.

Community: A group of adults are thrown together in community college, and through forming a study group, they become a… well, community of their own as well. Like in Salute Your Shorts, there is a love for Greendale Community College, but just like the kids at Camp Anawanna, they also have to work against it sometimes. I don’t think I even need to tell you about the genre episodes. Character development is a big deal on this show, too, and the former athlete and the brainy liberal arts girl aren’t just two-dimensional.

Hey Dude = Brooklyn Nine Nine

Hey Dude: Somehow, a bunch of teenagers are working at a Dude Ranch, because… why not, I suppose? It filled pretty much the exact same niche as Salute Your Shorts, except these kids had JOBS and RESPONSIBILITIES and HORSES. Never underestimate the pull of horses for tween girl viewers.

Brooklyn Nine Nine: This is one sitcom you should be watching if you aren’t already. Equal parts buddy cop (with multiple pairs of cop-buddies), workplace comedy, police procedural (er… kind of) – but with really clever writing an an awesome cast. Like Hey Dude, this is a funny ensemble show that actually shows people doing their jobs. Every kid who grew up watching Salute Your Shorts thinking “ugh, somebody get those irresponsible kids some stalls to muck or cows to lasso” should watch Brooklyn Nine Nine, a workplace show where people actually work.

The Adventures Of Pete And Pete =  Parks And Recreation

The Adventures Of Pete And Pete: This show is probably the reason our generation has been into quirky indie comedies since we were in high school. This small-town sitcom is a bit absurd, and centers around two brothers named – you guessed it – Pete and Pete. The show was so matter-of-fact about the weird goings-on of the town that the place became a character unto itself, and the audience accepted all of its weird quirks at face value.

Fun Fact: The Wellsville of Pete and Pete is apparently supposed to be Wellsville, NY. I live about 100 miles from there and have passed through on plenty of trips, and honestly, apart from an annual Balloon Rally it’s not that interesting.

Parks and Recreation: If you grew up loving slightly offbeat comedies about life in a more-than-slightly-offbeat town, you may as well watch Parks as an adult. It’s no secret that we’re big fans of this show around here, but we’ve never stopped to consider that our childhood watching Pete and Pete primed us for this small-town comedy about a group of unusual personalities. Like our favorite redheaded brothers, the folks in Pawnee face situations that are a touch more surreal than you’d see in real life, but the show somehow manages to be more true-to-life than a lot of more ‘realistic’ comedies.

The Secret World Of Alex Mack = Orphan Black

The Secret World Of Alex Mack:How good was this show? So good, right? Alex Mack was a junior high student who was hit with a truck from a chemical plant, and she developed special powers like being able into morph into a puddle of what looked like mercury, moving objects with her mind, and conducting some sort of electrical charge. Alex, with the (sometimes grudging) help of her brainy sister Annie, had to keep her powers on the down low so the folks at the chemical plant wouldn’t find out about her and … well, I’m not sure if we knew what they would do. Experiments, probably.

Orphan Black:  Here’s another show about a young ladies who are scientific freaks because of circumstances beyond their control (they’re clones). Once again, they have to escape the clutches of the sketchy Dyad Institute, and creepy Dr. Leekie, who are already collecting samples and monitoring the clones against their will. Like Alex Mack, Orphan Black deals with the ethics of scientific progress. No, really –  a major issue ahead is going to be the copyright of human DNA.

Space Cases = Battlestar Gallactica

Space Cases: It’s hard, guys. It’s hard walking around under the burden of being the only person alive who remembers the show Space Cases. It was a short-lived children’s sci-fi show set in space. I think this one is due for a re-watch, if only to revel in the low-budget 90s-ness of it all. Some of the props were evidently things like CDs glued together, and the game Lights Out pasted to the wall. See, things like this are why the Montreal TV industry – and children’s cable sci fi shows – never really took off.

Battlestar Gallactica – I’m positive that this is a sci-fi show with space ships, the future, and I’m pretty sure aliens. Okay, you caught me. I’ve never seen it. But there haven’t been too many outer space-based sci fi shows in recent years, and this is the closest one I could find in the near past. I suppose Stargate Atlantis is another option.

Noozles = Doctor Who

Noozles: According to Wikipedia, this show is 1000% more confusing and screwed-up than I remember it being. But basically, it’s like this: Noozles were adorable koala bears, but only certain people could know that they were actually aliens!

Doctor Who: Doctor Who is an adorable British man, but only certain people can know that he’s actually an alien!

The Mystery Files Of Shelby Woo = Scandal

The Mystery Files of Shelby Woo: Shelby Woo was a ridiculously talented teen who, with the help of a mid-90s PC and her crew of friends, solved mysteries and fought crime. As a mere teenager, Shelby wasn’t officially part of the police department, but we all know that Shelby Woo was the law.

Scandal: Children who grew up without questioning how it was possible to solve mysteries in a short span of time with the help of just an internet connection and a rag-tag crack team of experts – without wondering why the proper law enforcement didn’t just deal with crime itself instead of allowing a non-officer to take the reins — well, those children probably grew up to watch Scandal. Like Shelby Woo, Olivia Pope is able to fix anything – even stuff that technically, we’re pretty sure somebody else should be handling.

Nick News With Linda Ellerbee = 20/20

We love you, Linda. We don’t care what Dawson Leery says.

Nick News: This was a kids’ news magazine which tried to deliver the “who, what, where, when, why and how”  of the age to kids whose other main source of news was that Scholastic Weekly Reader that you’d get on Friday afternoons when your teacher had basically given up for the week. To be quite honest, Nick News did an admirable job of it, breaking down issues like presidential elections, the Gulf War, racism, and global warming down to a nine-year-old’s level without condescending. In fact, you can probably thank Nick News, in part, for the environmental “go green” push that’s sweeping the nation. Older adults were just getting into these issues after that Al Gore powerpoint, but us 90s kids grew up hearing about pollution and climate change from one Ms. Linda Ellerbee.

20/20: Well, this one also is able to break news and information down to a nine-year-old’s level. We may have mentioned this before, but both of us watched way more than a normal amount of 20/20 as kids. As a fourth-grader, I stayed up until 11 on Fridays because 20/20 was on at 10. At least these days, 20/20 is light on the news, heavy on the magazine, with a bunch of tiny segments simplifying stories as much as possible. Actually, maybe Nick News was better – at least they didn’t do monthly stories about “places you won’t believe our crew found a lot of germs!”

All That =  Saturday Night Live

Okay, this isn’t quite fair. All That was almost certainly intended to be a kids’ version of SNL, so there shouldn’t be any surprise here. But when you consider that today’s 20-somethings grew up watching Kenan Thompson on All That, it is sort of remarkable that we’re watching the same guy on the grown-up version of the show.

I may have been under-supervised as a kid, but I watched a lot of real SNL in the 90s (especially the older stuff), and was struck by how very not funny All That was in comparison. That Lori Beth Denberg sure could deliver the fake news, though.