Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Seven Underrated Vintage Nick Shows

Most 80s babies know that back in the early 90s, Nick had some pretty sweet programming. It boggles my mind to realize that, once upon a time (1993, to be exact), you could sit down on a Saturday night, tune into SNICK, and see Clarissa Explains It All, The Adventures of Pete & Pete, The Ren & Stimpy Show, Are You Afraid of the Dark?, and Roundhouse all in one shot. It’s such a bounty of awesometude that it reminds me of the heady television days of fall of 2002.

Nick in the 90s yielded a fairly impressive bounty that is still remembered fondly by Gen-Yers. And rightly so. There was All That, a sketch comedy show that featured multiple non-white and plus-sized actors and actresses, a feat that current television can’t manage, apparently. There was Clarissa Explains It All, which gave us Melissa Joan Hart and a cat named Salem…no, my bad, an alligator named Elvis. And then The Adventures of Pete and Pete, which featured a catchy theme song (“Hey Sandy” by polaris, available on iTunes, FYI) that clocked in at almost a minute long. An entire minute, imagine that. What are we given now, on average, for TV credits – fifteen seconds? A quick flash of the logo and bland music? Followed by cast credits over the opening scene? (I’m looking at you, Pushing Daisies, Reaper, and Gossip Girl.) Lame.

But for every fondly remembered Nick show, there’s another that never makes “You know you were a child of the 80s if…” lists, never gets namechecked on Facebook, never gets the props it so richly deserved. And hey, I’m guilty, too. This whole post was prompted by a friend mentioning The Tomorrow People to me, causing a “Waaaait a minute, I remember that! Wow!” moment that I feel compelled to share. So here are seven shows you might have forgotten, even if you can still hum the Camp Anawanna song and do some of the Roundhouse dances.

1) Show: Hey Dude (1989-1991)
Overlooked In Favor Of: Salute Your Shorts
Why It Rocked: It feels like a precursor to the hilarious German dude ranch segments of Malcolm in the Middle. Hey Dude was every bit as funny as Salute Your Shorts…which is to say: in retrospect, not very, but when you’re nine, tremendously.

2) Show: Wild and Crazy Kids (1990-1992)
Overlooked In Favor Of: GUTS, Legends of the Hidden Temple, Double Dare
Why It Rocked: It didn’t have a pie coaster or the sturm und drang mythology of Legends of the Hidden Temple, but it did have the lesser Gooding brother as a host.

3) Show: Welcome Freshmen (1991-1993)
Overlooked In Favor Of: Roundhouse, All That
Why It Rocked: The sketches weren’t bad, and the kids were relatably gawky.

4) Show: The Tomorrow People (1992-1995)
Overlooked In Favor Of: The Secret World of Alex Mack, Animorphs
Why It Rocked: At the time, there wasn’t a whole lot of teen-aimed sci-fi/fantasy – this was in the dark days before Harry Potter and Twilight and Uglies et al – so having a sci-fi teen with an intriguing premise was pretty damned awesome.

5) Show: My Brother and Me (1994-1995)
Overlooked In Favor Of: Keenan and Kel
Why It Rocked: It was a funny yet down-to-earth sitcom that didn’t have any particularly goofy sitcom stock characters (stupid dad, screechy mom). It was just a normal family, but funny. Plus, it had a character named Goo.

6) Show: Aaahh!!! Real Monsters (1994-1997)
Overlooked In Favor Of: Ren and Stimpy
Why It Rocked: It wasn’t as oddball as Ren and Stimpy, but what could be, and what would want to be? It was still a fun, subversive ‘toon.

7) Show: The Mystery Files of Shelby Woo (1996-1999)
Overlooked In Favor Of: Clarissa Explains It All
Why It Rocked: Post-Nancy Drew, pre-Veronica Mars, this was a fun show about a smart, persistent girl that had its cute moments.

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