By Vijay Shah
One of the strongest memories I had in my later childhood and teenage years was spending time after school and on weekends watching the kids’ channel Nickelodeon with my siblings. We spend endless joyful hours laughing and commenting to each other about great programmes like CatDog, Hey Arthur, Doug, Kenan and Kel, Are You Afraid of The Dark? etc. ‘Nick’ as it was known for short, always had the very best in comedies, cartoons and wholesome children’s entertainment, all of which made for quality viewing and memorable childhoods. Who could forget how Spongebob Squarepants and Patrick Star annoyed the hell out of long-suffering neighbour Squidward Tentacles, or empathising with Doug as he tried to comprehend the complexities of being an elementary school kid, forever yearning after his friend Patty Mayonnaise…and who could forget Kel and his insatiable thirst for brightly coloured orange soda?.
Kenan would pull out a bottle of Chicago’s finest orangeade from the shelves of his employer’s nondescript corner store. Kel would spot that sweet orangey ambrosia and would look like all his Christmases had come at once, complete with goofy facial expression, and then that famous conversation would resound from our TV’s speakers…
KENAN: “Who loves orange soda?”
KEL: “Kel loves orange soda!“
KENAN: “Is it true?“
KEL: (After a lot of twitching and self-restraint)….”Mmmm-hmmm”…”I do, I do, I DOO-ooo!!!“
It was Nickelodeon’s great mix of programmes that made me and my siblings crave for more. It was just too addictive, keeping us in the living room for far longer than Mum would have liked. Even she got hooked. But unfortunately, as anyone who tells you about the ‘good old days’ will acknowledge, they just don’t make them like they should anymore. After I moved out for university, I had little time for television and my love affair with old Nick was soon on the wane. Many years later, I was visiting my mum’s house where I was presented with the chance to have a reunion with an old friend, this time with the help of a amply-sized widescreen telly. I could not begin to tell you how disappointed I was with the choice of shows and cartoons that Nickelodeon is now showing. The highlights of that total of 20 minutes or so reunion?. Some boring saccharine cartoon featuring a blue rabbit with an oversized head, and a comedy series called “Fred”. A programme whose main character is a man-child with an annoying squeaky voice. The sort of voice that makes you want to break a few laws were you to encounter said Fred in the flesh. I was shocked. Is this it?. Had Nick really let itself go? Had one of the best things to come out of America since the Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles really gone down the (cathode-ray) tubes?. With an air of exasperation, I turned to one of my brothers and asked “What the hell is this crap?“…”What happened to all the shows on here we used to watch?“
Apparently from what he told me, Nickelodeon has stopped putting those shows on airplay a while back, and this was the saddened state of affairs that now was once one of the world’s greatest children’s channels (along with Cartoon Network and its Boomerang sidekick). All of the memories of the channel with the orange splash were now just that, memories. Tis’ was a sad day.
Still reeling a little from the shock, I was at work, it was a slow day and I was batting emails back and forth with my colleague and ‘brother-from-another-mother’ Sunny. We were talking about how Nickelodeon had changed to the point of non-recognition. He pitched an idea towards me that would probably would have the Nick execs falling about their chairs with incredulity at not thinking about that gem of an idea beforehand.
The logo used by Nickelodeon when I was watching it (circa 1998-2003)
Sunny’s idea was simple but smart. As the current Nickelodeon has pulled down its target audience by a notch of five or so years and neglected the over-12’s, why not launch a new channel to accompany the current channel and the toddler-friendly Nick Jr.? Sunny suggested to me that it could be called Nickelodeon Classics or “Nick Classics” for short. A TV channel, available for free on Sky or whatever, just as the other Nick outlets are, but with this channel, we will be bringing back all of the old Nick favourites that I and him, and countless millions of other children and nostalgic adults grew up with. Instead of begging a box-set of Kenan and Kel off a mate, or watching poor-quality mobile videos of the episodes on YouTube, or bursting into tears of grief every time you see a recycled Spongebob meme circulating from five different fan pages on Facebook, you could see the actual programmes in their original glory on a niche channel dedicated especially to them.
Lots of other digital channels have their versions specifically devoted to classic television. The channel Dave received huge amounts of success and increased ratings when it aired the entire series of Red Dwarf last year. Challenge, which broadcasts on both paid satellite digital and Freeview/Freesat, has built a formidable reputation on showing re-runs of classic game shows such as Catchphrase and The Crystal Maze which had long disappeared from the airwaves of what was then terrestrial television pre-digital switchover.
It would make good economic sense too for Nick Inc., being as it is that money makes the world go round and gives a reason for television executives bother to turn up to the boardroom at all. All those older children and young adults who presumably left in droves after Nick changed its scheduling and exiled poor old Kel to a life sentence in the archive room, would return like prodigal sons and daughters. Nick would reach out to a wider demographic, and with an extra channel, they would have more advertising revenue enabling them to re-licence any classic programmes that had been sold off to other broadcasters in the Great Clearout of Decent Television. In turn they would retain bigger returns which can be incorporated into their budget for newer cartoons, comic series etc. That means the other parts of Nick International (and their audiences) can also reap the rewards.
Squidward Tentacles Esq. of Bikini Bottom – someone who’s not pleased with being relegated to televisual history.
Even now, the Nick channel today has some great programmes on show, iCarly being a slightly more intelligent example, but I can’t see how shutting off a large chunk of older viewers makes any sort of business sense. Maybe Nick has revenue problems, maybe they thought older kids had better things to do, like sexting each other or making Harlem Shake videos. But I have a dream. A dream that maybe one day I can sit down with my family or mates, turn on the TV and once again see Kel push Kenan’s dad to the brink of yet another heart attack, or sit wondering why on earth Spongebob’s snail Gary mews like a cat, or how his pineapple house still keeps its shape while enduring the square-trousered one’s nautical nonsense under the sea.
Many thanks to Sunny Atwal for suggesting today’s article.
KENAN & KEL OPENING CREDITS
BEST SPONGEBOB MOMENT COMPILATION
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