Slimed! An Oral History of Nickelodeon’s Golden Age
If you have ever considered yourself to be a “90s kid,” or you have thought with any fond nostalgia about those Nicktoons you grew up with, or if you just had a crush on Marc Summers (no judgment), then I have most certainly found a bit of required reading for you. Slimed! An Oral History of Nickelodeon’s Golden Age by Mathew Klickstein covers that wonderful period from the late-80s to the mid-90s, documenting the people and shows that made the first network for kids a thing.
I picked this book up because the cover is slime green, and I genuinely didn’t know anything about the channel at all. Nickelodeon was just a fact of childhood existence, and I couldn’t imagine anything more going on behind Face or Tommy Pickles. They just were. But as it turns out, the story was pretty interesting. In a narrative put together from interviews with over 250 people sharing their experiences, personal anecdotes, and industry knowledge, the book covers topics from the development of the Nickelodeon style and sound, the creation of slime, and stories of growing up on a TV show, and the organization of the interviews read like a conversation being shared among friends in the room with you.
And a lot of it is funny and entertaining, as would be expected from a creative group of people making things up as they go along and generally enjoying their work. But they do touch on some of the drama that went on behind the scenes, such as the creator of Ren & Stimpy being kicked off his show, the issues of Klasky/Csupo/Rugrats and the different runs the show had on the network, and the period of time when major stars wouldn’t touch the Kid’s Choice Awards. They even delve a little into discussing the lack of diversity on the screen, although everyone maintains the primary goal was to just look different from the Britneys and Justins of Disney, and to have real kids who were a little weird and really gave the shows a distinct look.
And I admit, as I was born in the ‘90s, there are a few shows I’ve never seen because I just missed them, and a lot of shows actually got me in the rerun stage. But it doesn’t change the fact that I wanted to be a weird kid because of this damn channel. All my older cousins watched Nickelodeon, all the kids in my neighborhood watched it, and I desperately wanted to crawl through food based obstacle courses, climb the Aggro Crag, and put that fucking monkey together so I could face Olmec like a man (I had some intense goals for a 5-year-old girl).
Altogether, Slimed! was a fascinating read, and it included an incredible list of contributors. There were big names such as Kenan Thompson, Melissa Joan Hart, and Christine Taylor, all the major voice actors and show creators, and a ton of the kids I wanted to be as a child. They covered You Can’t Do That on Television, Salute Your Shorts, Are You Afraid of the Dark?, Pete & Pete, Clarissa Explains it All, Doug, and so many other shows that came from these people. They talked about creating theme songs, putting together wardrobes without any money, not allowing stage parents on set, and just generally creating a space for kids.
For any further interest, author Mathew Klickstein made an appearance on the November 26th episode of The Jeff Rubin Jeff Rubin Show, and he talked about what it was like putting an oral history together and what it took to cut it down to half the size in order to publish it. He also discusses a few things left out of the book, like the real business side of the story, where some of the kids are now, how the golden age really came to an end, and he gives some personal perspective about what drove him to this project. This book is a very focused bit of nostalgia, but well worth the read.