January 13, 2009
NC: Hello, I'm the Nostalgia Critic. I remember it so you don't have to. Well, seeing how it is still Nickelodeon Month...
(Part of the intro to "Nickelodeon Month" plays)
NC: Indeed. I think it's time that we look over another element to Nickelodeon's success, the sitcoms, or as I like to call 'em, the Nickcoms.
(Footage of some of the shows)
NC (voiceover): These are the live action comedies that try to deal with kids' problems the same way prime time comedies try to deal with adult problems.
NC: They were creative, entertaining, and fun... fun... Well, okay, maybe not exactly funny, but certainly inventive. You couldn't get these shows out of your head no matter how hard you tried. God knows we tried. So rather than mock these shows, let's take a look at how these shows helped put Nickelodeon on the map. Let's start with one of their very first Nickcoms, You Can't Do That on Television.
(Footage of the show)
NC (voiceover): Though technically not made by Nickelodeon Studios, You Can't Do That on Television played a big part in helping give Nickelodeon its identity. It was a sketch show like Saturday Night Live or SCTV that had reoccuring characters and USUALLY a theme that tied them together. For example, if the subject was romance, every joke in the show would have to be about romance.
NC: And if the joke was mediocre, underwhelming comedic writing, you'd pretty much have every episode ever written. (chuckles) Watch this if you don't believe me.
Mother: What is it? You look so happy.
Daughter: Mom, it was love at first sight.
Mother: I know exactly how you feel dear. It was love at first sight when I met your father.
(The father belches and scratches himself, then picks his nose as the daughter bangs her head on the door in embarrassment; the Wa-Wa Machine plays, followed by NC shrugging.)
NC (voiceover): The show aired on Nickelodeon, but got its start at America's humble neighbors to the north, Canada. Which means you always hear my favorite mispronunciation:
(Montage of the actors saying "aboot" instead of "about")
NC: IT'S ABOUT, YOU SOCIALLY POLITE FREAKS, IT'S "ABOUT"! (spelling flashes is red onscreen) A-B-O-U-T, NOT A-B-O-O-T! STOP SAYING "ABOOT"! (he picks up a boot and puts it on the table, then the word "About" pops up next to it) This is a boot, that is about. A boot, about. A boot, about. A boot, about. GET IT RIGHT! (red text flashes onscreen)
NC (voiceover): Every week they would perform in front of an entire audience of recorded laughter. And they would often have recurring characters and set-ups, like the firing squad, the dungeon, and the dysfunctional family.
NC: Just the upbeat, child-friendly scenarios that we're used to!
NC (voiceover): Something may have noticed is that all the adults are played by just two people, Christine McGlade* and Les Lyle, who did the majority of the roles, jumping from fat suit to fat suit. I have nothing against this guy, but... I don't know, tell me some of these jokes don't sound a little creepy nowadays. Like when he plays Blip, the arcade repairman.
(*NOTE: The actress is actually Abby Haygard; an acknowledgement of this mistake is made on the TGWTG.com video page for this review)
Girl: (reading a card) The ideal man for you is... BLIP?!
Man: (addressing a young boy dressed as Cupid) Get outta that costume!
Cook: (talking to a young patron) I am madly in love with you! (He grabs her and starts hugging her)
NC: Oh... GOD!
Cook: Would you please go out to dinner with me?
NC: (beat) It was a different time.
NC (voiceover): I don't think you have to worry much though. Most people like to know what gender you are before they start hitting on you. And these kids were often VERY hard to sort out one from the other.
NC: In fact I often like to play a game at home I like to call...
(He spreads him arms in front of him and smiles openly as "BOY or GIRL?" flashes onscreen)
Audience: "BOY or GIRL?"
NC: All right, let's take a look at our first subject.
(A picture of one of the male actors)
NC (voiceover): Hmm. Short hair suggests male, but fluffiness of it suggests female.
NC: Lack of makeup is more masculine, but, then again, those shorts leave VERY little to the imagination. I'm gonna say... boy. ("Yes.") I got it! All right, next one.
(Another male actor comes up)
NC (voiceover): Hmm. Long hair, covers the ears, but kind of a boyish shirt.
NC: I think ultimately I'm gonna go with... girl. ("No.") Darn it. All right, I'm gonna have to make it up in the final round. Next subject.
(A female actor come up, though she does look male)
NC: Oh, my God. I have no idea. The long hair of course is feminine, but the lack of any fashion sense is masculine, the earrings I guess are a little girlish, but everything else... I'm gonna have to use one of my lifelines. I'm going to call a friend. HEY, JOE, GET OVER HERE! Come on, come on, get over here.
(Joe (Rob Walker in a parka and hat, sans glasses) walks onscreen)
Joe: What, what?
NC: What the fuck is that?
Joe: I don't know.
NC: What, don't you have a clue?
Joe (voiceover): It could be a dude.
NC (voiceover): But look at the earrings!
Joe (voiceover): Yeah, but look at the glasses!
NC: All right, all right. I'm gonna say... boy. It has to be a boy.
NC: WHAT?! It's a girl?! Oh, bullshit! That's a boy!
Joe: No, I don't know what that is! WHAT IS THAT?!
(They talk over each other for a bit)
NC: It looks like a cross between Bill Gates and Velma from Scooby Doo! What a rip-off! What a rip-off!
(They both shout, speak over each other, and bang the table in anger)
NC (voiceover): Aside from finding gender loopholes, the show mostly told a lot of lame jokes that even most younger kids knew weren't exactly that funny.
Lisa: Hey, Vanessa!
Vanessa: Yeah, Lisa?
Lisa: What do you think about computer dating?
Vanessa: That would be pretty boring.
Lisa: Boring? Why?
Vanessa: Well, who wants to go out with a computer?
NC: You see, if they wanted to make it like a REAL locker room, they'd throw in some REAL high school problems. Like--
(Another locker room scene is shown)
NC: (as Alastair, one of the characters): Hey, Christine!
NC: (as Christine, anothe character): Yes, Alastair?
NC: (as Alastair): Did you hear that Vanessa got pregnant?
NC: (as Christine): Wow, I wonder if she's gonna keep it or abort it.
NC: (as Alastair): Is abortion even legal in Canada?
NC: (as Christine): I don't know. With our health care, anything is possible.
NC: (as Vanessa, another character): Hey, Doug!
NC: (as Doug, another character): Yes, Vanessa?
NC: (as Vanessa): Is this just a cheap rip-off of [Rowan & Martin's] Laugh-In?
NC: (as Doug): I'm just praying I have a career after this show.
NC: That would've been more realistic.
NC (voiceover): Actually, the ironic thing is, for a show called You Can't Do That on Television, it's pretty friggin' tame, especially considering most of the things here THEY ARE DOING ON TELEVISION!
NC: I mean, seriously, things that you can't do on television would look like this. (The screen goes black) You see? It's nothing, BECAUSE YOU CAN'T DO IT ON TELEVISION!
NC (voiceover): As much as I bad talk this show, it did start a lot of iconic ideas for Nick. Like the idea of having kids be the star of their own sketch show. The idea that a show with mostly dialogue won't bore kids to death. And of course, the always classic...
(A kid gets covered in gunge--or, as it's usually called, Nickelodeon slime)
NC (voiceover): Yep, that's right. This was the first show to introduce that frog diarrhea known as Nickelodeon slime, which dropped down on the kids every single time they said "I don't know."
NC: Well, that's kind of random. That's like saying everytime I say the word "elephant", the Burger King will appear.
(The Burger King appears over the shot to an angelic chorus. NOTE: This is the first appearance of that running gag.)
NC: (disturbed) God, he's creepy.
(Footage of Clarissa Explains It All)
NC (voiceover): Well, let's jump to the next show in our Nickcoms line-up, Clarissa Explains It All. This show actually wasn't that bad. It wasn't that funny, but it did have something kind of likeable about it. Now, granted, I didn't grow up as a girl... for long.
NC: I have a history.
NC (voiceover): But this show did pretty good at keeping both girls and boys interested in the program. What was it about? A teenage girl.
NC: And that's about it, pretty much a teenage girl.
("Adventure Ho" is played, with "ho" spelled as "hoe," indicating Clarissa)
NC: Hey, come on, that's not very nice.
NC (voiceover): Actually, its star, Melissa Joan Hart, was really what held this show together. It's a shame, 'cause she's always casted in a bunch of kid shit, but I really don't think she was that bad of an actress. But there were other characters on the show too. Most notably her kid brother Ferguson, who was determined to make her life a living hell. For the longest time, I thought he was just one of those ventriloquist dummies, but then I found out there was a real actor who played him.
(A picture of Alfred E. Newman, with a crude animation of Ferguson's face pops up with the text "Alfred E. Newman?")
NC (voiceover): Then there's her dopey best friend, Sam, who, for some reason, always enters and leaves through the window.
Dad: Why doesn't that kid ever use the door?
NC: That's a legitimate question! Why doesn't he ever use the door?!
NC (voiceover): Then there's her parents, who seem strangely comfortable with the fact their daughter is a weird psychological train wreck.
Dad: Come on, sport, it's... (He walks in on Clarissa wearing a straitjacket) It's time for dinner.
NC: (as Clarissa's dad) The sooner I give up on her the better.
NC (voiceover): She spends a lot of her time chatting it up with Sam, talking to the camera, and making video games, usually about indulging her fantasies.
NC: Like any of us have ever done that, made a video game indulging our fantasies. (chuckles, then stops) All right, mine is called Robo-Penis Muscle Ninja. I just play it in my spare time!
NC (voiceover): By looking at the fashions, you can tell that this was made around the time the '80s were trying to die and the '90s were trying to define themselves in that they have no original way of defining themselves. But, let's be honest; what we all remember about this show is the theme song. That goddamn theme song.
(The theme song plays)
NC: What is it with these '90s shows and having all the lyrics be nothing but "doos" "das" and "nas?" It's just like another show that... shall not be mentioned.
(The Doug theme song plays for a moment, but NC pulls out his gun threateningly)
NC (voiceover): Everytime I heard this song, I could never get it out of my head. Why couldn't they invent a show with an opening that was annoying, but not the least bit memorable? Like...
(Footage of Hey, Dude)
NC (voiceover): Hey, Dude. Ah, yes, the show that taught us that if you think your life at home was boring, at least you weren't working on an insufferable horse ranch. I mean, for a show having to do with looking after a ranch in Arizona with horses and everything, this was a REALLY boring show! I mean just listen to how cool the opening sounds.
Announcer: Better watch out for those men, jackrabbits, and that killer cacti!
NC: Man eating jackrabbits? Good fuck, this sounds cool! So tell me, what's our first adventure?
Buddy: I'm starting to turn into my father!
NC: (beat) WOW!
NC (voiceover): So the show takes place on the Bar None dude ranch, run by Rick Moranis' clone, Mr. Ernst.
(Mr. Ernst sits in a chair, which collapses)
NC: (as Mr. Slate from The Flintstones) FLINTSTONE!
NC (voiceover): The rest of the characters are teenagers who deal with real exciting adventures, like "Who drew this picture of me?" or "Are we allowed to ski on the dirt?" and "Who am I gonna leave in charge while I'm gone?"
Ernst: I'm gonna leave the keys here with somebody. Who's it gonna be?
Bradley: Mr. Ernst, if I may suggest, perhaps you should choose someone who has proven herself, or himself, to be responsible, good leadership skills, AND excellent knowledge of horses.
Ernst: I think you're both right. Danny!
Ted and Bradley: NO!
Danny and Ernst: No?
Bradley: I'm the riding instructor.
Ted: I'm senior staff.
Ernst: All right, fine, then. It'll be one of you two; you decide.
Danny and Melody: NO!
Danny: You have to decide, Mr. E.
Ernst: I'll flip a coin, hm? Heads, Ted is in charge. Tails, Bradley.
Bradley: I wanted heads!
Ernst: Bradley, please, let's just get this over with. Oh, hang on, it went underneath the jeep.
NC: JUST CHANGE THE FUCKING CHANNEL!
NC (voiceover): Seriously, it's like all they do is stand around while they look at OTHER people having fun. "Hey look, some guys on a boat, wouldn't it be nice if WE did something like that?" "Nah, that might be exciting."
Danny: Two of us should go gather up the horses while the other two fix up the gate.
Melody: Yeah, Danny and I will go fix the gate, while Ted, Brad, you go get the horses.
NC: All right, finally. Getting the horses, some riding, roping, all that good stuff--this oughta be fun, right?
Danny: Is that the last one?
Melody: Well, we got the gate all fixed.
Ted: Well, guys, Brad and I have been talking and... we feel like we kinda owe you an apology.
NC: Hey! HEEY! That was ONE horse, and we didn't even see you get it! Good God, you get more of the Wild West by listening to Slim Whitman, for crying out loud!
Bradley: I just can't imagine ever wanting to leave.
Danny: Me neither.
NC: Neither can I, especially when there's just SO much stuff to do!
NC (voiceover): I especially love it when they run the end credits and show stills from the episode we just watched, as if to say "Wow, what an adventure we had, huh?"
NC: "Hey, remember how we used to just stand around and talk about how we used to just stand around? You don't? Let me tell ya about it. We used to just stand around and TALK about how we used to just stand around and-- LOOK OUT, A HORSE! Oh, thank God, it's gone."
(Footage of Salute Your Shorts)
NC (voiceover): All right, Hey Dude was a bust, but one show I'm sure most of you remember was the short-lived sitcom Salute Your Shorts. Though not exactly hilarious, it was a huge step above some of the other live action shows Nick was doing at the time. It was about a camp who had a wild, restless set of misfits who all liked to get into trouble. Their counselor was a guy named Kevin Ug Lee. So you can guess what everyone called him.
NC: That's right! They called him stupid.
NC (voiceover): No, they called him Ugly of course, as he tries to keep this army of kids well under control. Unfortunately, he's about as effective as Ernest Goes to Camp in this place. There were a lot of kids on this show, but a select few stood out more than most. There was that mullet kid from Terminator 2 [Judgment Day] named Bobby [Danny Cooksey], who I guess was supposed to be the wise-ass of the group.
Bobby: I tell a ghost story and you buy it hook, line and stinker. (he waves his hand in front of his rear) I just cut one.
NC: (confused) Thanks for sharing.
NC (voiceover): Donkey Lips, who seemed to have a speech impediment of ALL the Looney Tunes.
Donkey Lips: (lisping) I got everything you asked for. Hey, what's the difference?
NC: (as Sylvester the Cat) Thuffering thuckatash!
NC (voiceover): And Telly, who seemed to push the limits of what it meant to be a tomboy.
Michael: The bet is, if you chicken out, you have to stand up in front of the whole camp and say what a wuss you are.
Bobby: And when I win?
Telly: I'll wear a dress for a day.
NC: (gasp) A girl wearing a dress? Of all the horrid imagery! (screams)
(Telly screams as well)
NC: Hey, look, kid, it could be worse. You could be like the hermaphrodite on You Can't Do That on Television, who somehow looks MORE masculine in feminine clothing. How is that even possible?
NC (voiceover): The episode that most kids remember is the Zeke the plumber episode, where a lot of the kids are convinced that there's a supernatural ghost named Zeke who's haunting their dreams.
NC: "Zeke" the plumber? That's not very scary. Now JOE the plumber, that's terrifying.
NC (voiceover): They all try to get back at Bobby for telling the story by scaring him in the middle of the night. Which apparently doesn't work. Until...
Bobby: There's nothing, in the world, that I'm afraid of! (He runs into a spider web) Except spiders! Somebody help me! HEEEELP! Please don't leave me out here!
Telly: Let's wait 'till he starts crying.
Z.Z.: Or at least until he gives away the portable TV.
NC: That's right, let him suffer. That's what Jesus would do.
NC (voiceover): Finally deciding to help him out, Bobby wonders why the other kids came to his rescue.
Dina: And even knowing what a jerk you are, we still came to the rescue.
Bobby: Why, because you're my friends?
Michael: Maybe it's because we wanted to hear you suffer.
NC: Ah, hate, vengeance, anger. Truly, Ug has taught these kids great moral values!
Bobby: I just cut one.
NC: We all have, kid. We all have.
NC (voiceover): Actually, Ug is sometimes more threatening than he is charming. I mean, look at how he reacts to this kid for digging a hole and hitting a water pipe in his baseball field.
Ug: There is a very deep hole in the middle of my infield. Eventually, this hole will fill up with water and the scum will float to the top! Then Bobby Butnik, you will be mine.
NC: (as Ug, emulating Jules Winnfield from Pulp Fiction) And you will know my name is the Lord when I lay my vengeance upon thee! (He shoots the camera, and the screen cuts to black)
NC (voiceover): You may also have noticed that Salute Your Shorts likes to show things three times for some reason. (Montage of exactly that)
NC: Bullshit, bullshit, bullshit!
NC (voiceover): While not exactly great, Salute Your Shorts did at least try to put some good jokes together tried to make us laugh. And on the whole, it wasn't that bad. It was entertaining enough, the characters were fun, and they actually took advantage of the location they had.
NC: But, seriously, isn't there a Nickcom out there that was both creative AND funny? Isn't there a show that had REALLY good writing, funny setups and interesting characters? Isn't there a...?
(A magazine cover with [The Adventures of] Pete & Pete on it comes up, and NC squees. Footage of the show plays.)
NC (voiceover): Now here's a show that kicked ass: The Adventures of Pete & Pete. This show was so strange, and yet so funny at the same time; making all the little things kids noticed seem like huge, groundbreaking adventures. It was kind of like Seinfeld for kids: taking small, unimportant circumstances and turning them into giant, hilarious events. But its brand of strange humor was all its own. The show started off as a series of shorts. And when I say "shorts", I mean "SHORT", like one to two minutes at the most. And since they're so short, I can go ahead and just you and episode to give you an idea of just how strange it was.
Big Pete: Somehow my brother Pete had gotten a job as a stockbroker, Ellen was teaching old people how to air swim, and me? I ended up cutting the longest, stupidest lawn in the world.
NC (voiceover): (during the previous lines) What? Huh? I guess that kinda makes sense, but...
Big Pete: I've been asking myself deep philosophical questions, like "Do dogs go to Dog Heaven when they die, or do they got to regular Heaven?" Then I'd try to blow up passing cars with psychic energy. It only worked once. Then the heat would get to me, and I'd start hallucinating about Ellen. But then there she was, with a popsicle, and her air swimming cap still on. I told her I still had six miles to go.
Ellen: I'll just walk with you a little ways then.
NC (voiceover): (during the talking again) Wha? How? Why? WHAT THE HELL WAS THAT?!
NC: It was like a drive-by of randomness, it just came and went. And it was so funny!
NC (voiceover): The show was pretty much a longer and more detailed version of the shorts. Which had every bit of that strange, suburban weirdness. The the fact that their mother had a metal plate in their head that picked up radio waves. Or the fact that for some reason Little Pete has a tattoo named Petunia on his arm. Or the fact that--I don't know--THEY'RE BOTH NAMED PETE! I mean, what the hell? What parent would be so cruel?
NC: It's like naming all the Baldwin brothers Alec. And God knows one Alec Baldwin is too many.
NC (voiceover): There's another character called Artie, the strongest man in the world.
Artie: I'm Artie! The strongest man... in the world.
NC (voiceover): And, maybe I'm missing something but... is Artie, um... special? I never really understood this character. He was kinda like Where's Waldo?'s mentally handicapped son. I never really saw the point to him. But then again, I guess the whole show is just about asking the question "What's the point?" To be honest, I always thought the show was kinda based on the daydreams that a lot of children have while sitting through school. Like I love the episode where Ellen asks the question "What's the point of algebraic word problems?" Every teacher who thinks it over can't give an answer, and ultimately goes crazy. Or how about the episode where the kids go in the pool during adult swim hours is literally an act of war? It's like when you reach that point of daydreaming about a real situation and then you suddenly say "No, that could never happen." That's where Pete & Pete rolls the credits. It pushed those strange, surreal dreams just far enough to a point where it's over the top; but not unrelatable or not fun to watch. I also like the fact that the age difference for them is pretty big, so you have the overblown issues of a teenager as well as the overblown issues of a little kid. So that really broadened the horizons a lot, as well as the audience. It was one of Nickelodeon's best, making the tiniest of problems seems like the most epic of battles. And we loved every minute of it.
NC: Nickcoms weren't always great, but they were certainly fun. And if they didn't keep trying to cross the line of reality and surreality, we never would've gotten shows as awesome as Pete & Pete. So, whether it's writing great material or a load of elephant shit-- (The Burger King shows up again) Don't look into his eyes. They'll haunt you.--Nickcoms will always be there to help us on the creative path. I'm the Nostalgia Critic. I remember it so you don't have to! (He gets up, but then sits back down) Elephant. (Cue the Burger King) Mua-ha-ha. Sleep well, suckers.
Bobby: I just cut one.