After countless Facebook groups and high demands from 20 year olds, Nickelodeon will start airing old favorite shows from the 1990s next week, Christina Warren from Mashable reports. Throughout the 90's, Nickelodeon was the place to be for kids from young to old. The channel featured both live-action shows and cartoons, labeled ‘Nicktoons’. Many of the shows were played throughout the day and included popular game shows, including GUTS, Legends of the Hidden Temple, and Double Dare. The showcase of top shows’ new episodes aired on Saturday nights in a block called SNICK. The shows were extremely popular and some of its stars, such as Kenan Thompson, Melissa Joan Hart, and Larissa Oleynik became famous outside of the Nickelodeon realm.
The Void of the 90's
These popular Nickelodeon shows came out at an odd time. Cable TV was in full force so there was lots of air time for original programming like what Nick offered. But DVDs weren’t around yet and VHS recording of TV shows was limited, so seeing these shows on TV was quite exciting. Finding a rerun of that episode of My Brother and Me where the boys have a prank war could be like digging for gold. Without Nickelodeon or the individual shows having websites, it was difficult to know when new episodes would premiere, especially given how erratically some shows were scheduled. It could be a very isolating experience to be a fan of Nickelodeon in the early 90's void. With no way to interact with other people about the episodes on the Internet, not knowing when new episodes would premiere (outside of tuning into SNICK and crossing fingers), and having no way to catch up on shows besides seeing them on Nick, it was tough. Remember when saying “I’ve seen every episode of this show!” meant something? When that was a legitimate accomplishment? Today, with DVRs, show websites, show DVDs, iTunes, Youtube, Hulu, Netflix, Megavideo and countless illegal streaming sites, a fan of a show can watch all of its episodes easily. In fact, I’d laugh at someone who claimed to be a big fan of a show and hadn’t seen every episode. But back in the 90's, it was almost impossible, especially for kids.
Social Media Explodes...but Just Too Late
By the time that Myspace, Facebook, and Twitter became the invasive forces in society that they still are today, the young kids and teenagers that were weaned on 90's Nickelodeon became college-aged and adults. With that, Nickelodeon’s programming had changed. Spongebob Squarepants became such a huge hit that its episodes were constantly rerun, and the majority of Nick’s efforts were put into cartoons. All of the older shows that people loved weren’t played at all anymore. While these cartoons did have some success, they didn’t have the diversity of the older shows that gave everyone a different favorite show. (Except for the Secret Files of Shelby Wu. Nobody liked that.) With an entire generation now older and on Facebook, people were discovering that their passion for Nickelodeon was shared by others. Different Facebook groups started popping up, and the love for all things Nick was clear. Finally, being able to express this love with their generation, millions of people joined these groups. In a New York Times article, Nickelodeon claimed that there were over 15 million members in ‘I love 90's Nickelodeon’ fan groups on Facebook. With passion building, it was time for Nick to take notice.
On Monday, TeenNick, a spinoff channel of Nick, will start showing blocks of 90's Nickelodeon shows, in a 4 hour nightly block called “The 90's were All That”. It will feature shows like GUTS, The Amanda Show, All That, Hey Arnold!, Salute Your Shorts, and Catdog (overrated). Kenan Thompson was a part of the advertising campaign and Nick execs are hopeful of a strong turnout in the ratings. The episodes will be shown from midnight until 4 am, so expectations are low in such a dead time of day. Nevertheless, the scheduling represents a response from the Nick to the demands of the 90's generation, whose collective voice has made itself clear.
The Nickelodeon Nostalgia?
The argument that the older Nickelodeon era was much better than the current one is invalid. Current shows like iCarly, Big Time Rush and Victorious match up well with some of the 90's shows, and the overall tone of Nick has in many ways reverted back to that era (a different column for another day). Saying that a difference in quality is the reason for the demand is false and so the preference of many for that earlier time is simply a nostalgic reaction. Nostalgia has usually been a term associated with an older generation. Older people may be nostalgic for the good ol’ days of Rock and Roll, before the darn kids ruined it. To be nostalgic was to be aging and longing for the way things were. It was certainly uncool. But when social media became popular, people looked for something to relate to others with. Users wanted to join groups that were popular and that would make them seem cool in the process. 90's Nickelodeon became an easy target since it was so beloved and the network had turned its back to it.The immediacy of social media and how things are shared makes me wonder if this 90's boom is the last time people will ever feel that same kind of nostalgia. Kids and teenagers today are able to express their feelings about what they’re watching right away to a huge virtual audience. With all of the ways to watch shows, most kids have seen every episode of their favorite shows multiple times.
Today, there are so many ways to embrace each show fully that one never has to miss an old show, because it will never really go away, even if it ends its run on TV. The 90's Nickelodeon shows were great in their own right, but they developed a cult following of 20 year olds, who feared the shows were gone forever and wanted them back. It was a collective experience. We all experienced a loss together, and in a way grieved about it as a community. The current shows are more accessible, but that has taken away the common experience of missing something that’s gone. People won’t be able to bond again over that loss as a group. That’s kind of a shame. It’s a piece of Vital Information For Your Everyday Life that the younger generation won’t ever have.