Left: Tommy Pickles, Poster Child for Nick's 20th Birthday.
From Nick.Com; ©1999 Viacom.
On April 1 1979, a cable system in Columbus, OH co-owned by Warner Communications (known now as Time Warner) and American Express ("Don't leave home without it") established a children's channel called "Pinwheel", which operated a few hours a day for Warner-Amex's cable subscribers in Columbus. In 1981, the channel was renamed "Nickelodeon", and expanded to the rest of America. It's most popular programs in 1981 were it's signature kids' program, Pinwheel, and an import from Canada, You Can't Do That On Television. The rest, they say, is history.
On June 26 & 27, 1999 (I know it's a couple of months late, but you do know Nickelodeon), Nick celebrated it's 20th anniversary with an all-day "Best of Nickelodeon" marathon on Saturday 6/26/99, followed by a 4-hour marathon on Sunday, 6/27/99.
This press release from Viacom explains Nick's plans for its birthday:
FROM GREEN SLIME TO PRIME TIME: NICKELODEON'S BIG BIRTHDAY BASH CELEBRATES 20 YEARS OF HIGHLIGHTS AND HISTORY
June birthday festivities culminate with two days of Nickelodeon's most memorable shows and a live on-air birthday party
Los Angeles, CA, June 8, 1999 - Nickelodeon, the number one network for kids, celebrates its 20th birthday in grand kid-style with a month-long celebration of favorite programs, retrospective promos and prize give-aways beginning Monday, June 7. The birthday festivities will culminate on Saturday, June 26 and Sunday, June 27 with two days of programs dedicated to many of the series, celebrities and specials that collectively define Nickelodeon's growth over the past two decades, and a live two-hour SNICK on June 26.
"All kids love a good birthday party and we are inviting them to join us in celebrating Nickelodeon's birthday," said Herb Scannell, President, Nickelodeon. "But at this party, the guests - our viewers - will take home the presents. Kids have made us their first choice in entertainment and we are going to thank them throughout the month, as well as bring back some of the shows that helped reshape the kids TV landscape."
Throughout the month of June, 20,000 games, toys and other prizes will be given away on Nickelodeon daily between 5:00-8:00 p.m. Kids will be given a special toll-free number on-air to call and win. During the live birthday party on June 26, one grand prize birthday present will be awarded to one lucky kid viewer who will be chosen as the new owner of the famous big orange SNICK couch--stuffed with $20,000 in cash! The grand prize will be personally delivered to the winner's home by a Nickelodeon celebrity.
On Saturday, June 26 and Sunday, June 27, kids of all ages can re-visit the Nickelodeon shows that have become favorites over the past twenty years. Following is a breakdown of the weekend on-air birthday party:
Saturday, June 26 (6 a.m.- 10 p.m. ET/PT)
* A five hour block of "Nicktoons Firsts" begins on Saturday at 8:00 a.m. and features the very first episodes of every original Nickelodeon animated production including the Rugrats episode that started it all, "Tommy's First Birthday," and "Gritty Kitty Litter," the Ren & Stimpy premiere that catapulted the infamous dog and cat duo into America's hearts and homes.
* Beginning at 1 p.m., the afternoon will highlight Nick's game shows, specials and live action series. Marc Summers returns to Nickelodeon's airwaves with Double Dare - the series that literally celebrated mess and took the clean out of good clean fun. Other games shows will include Figure it Out, Wild and Crazy Kids and GUTS.
* The Nick specials block airs at 2:30 p.m. and will include an episode of The Adventures of Pete and Pete, Sports Theater With Shaquille O'Neal, and the Rugrats "Vacation" special.
* Beginning at 5:00 p.m., Nick's live action series will include Roundhouse, Clarissa Explains It All, The Mystery Files of Shelby Woo, The Journey of Allen Strange and the first episode of The Secret World of Alex Mack, in which 12-year-old newcomer Larisa Oleynik made her television debut.
* Saturday's birthday celebration will culminate at 8:00 p.m. with a two hour live SNICK featuring a classic SNICK favorites line-up including: Rugrats, All That, Kenan & Kel and Cousin Skeeter. Broadcast from the Nicktoons Animation Studio in Burbank, CA, the live birthday bash will be hosted by Nickelodeon talent and alumni and will feature celebrity cameos, musical performances and outrageous birthday prize giveaways.
Sunday, June 27 (1-4 p.m. ET/PT)-- Nickelodeon opens its archives and finds many of today's hottest stars as they appeared on Nickelodeon-before they were celebrities, including:
* Dawson's Creek heart-throb James Van Der Beek co-starring alongside Nickelodeon alumnus Melissa Joan Hart (Sabrina the Teenage Witch) in an episode of Clarissa Explains it All in which Clarissa gets her first on-screen kiss (from Van Der Beek's character, Paulie).
* A classic episode of the early 80's series, You Can't Do That on Television, featuring series regular, a very young Alanis Morisette, getting slimed.
* A young Neve Campbell (Party of Five) featured in an episode of Are You Afraid of the Dark?
* Backstreet Boy A.J. McLean in a pilot episode of the Nick At Nite series Hi Honey I'm Home.
* An episode of Don't Just Sit There featuring Will Fredell (from Zoe, Duncan, Jack and Jane)
Please note that most of these shows were made well past the Golden Age of Nickelodeon (shows that were produced before Viacom's acquisition in 1986); much of the post-1985 shows are still fresh in the minds of today's kids.
Top: Nick Yesterday -- on left is the Pinwheel cast; on right is a victim after being slimed on You Can't Do That On Television.
(Both pictures from Nick.Com; Pinwheel © Viacom; You Can't Do That On Television © CTV, Inc..)
Right: Nick Today -- Tommy, Angelica and the rest of the Nick gang celebrate Nick's 20th birthday.
(From an ad in the 6/19/99 issue of TV Guide; ©1999 Viacom.)
For More Information:
Check your library or newsstand for the 6/15/99 issue of The Hollywood Reporter; that issue includes a special section on Nick's 20th birthday, and is complete with a descriptive history of the network, stories on selected aspects of Nick, an interview with Herb Scannell (Nick's president) and of course, plenty of ads congratulating Nick on their anniversary.
There are also a couple of websites dedicated to Nick's Golden Age:
Ancient Nick (mostly text, with an emphasis on animation)
Nick Nostalgia Site (the best one, with images and details from various programs)
Also, see the timeline for key dates in Nick's history.
(Left: Cover of the 6/15/99 issue of The Hollywood Reporter; cover is similar to the TV Guide ad above, but minus Eliza, Arnold, Stimpy & Skeeter. ©1999 Viacom. Hollywood Reporter logo ® & © HR Industries, Inc.)
(Right: Cover to a special magazine distributed only at a merchandising trade show in New York in 1999, which showcased Rugrats, Thornberrys, CatDog & Blue's Clues. From eBay; ©1999 Viacom.)
There are some people who asked what was on Nickelodeon in the earlier years. Here's some typical schedules from back issues of TV Guide:
Week of April 3, 1982
Week of April 9, 1983
Week of May 2, 1987
Week of May 29, 1999
Here's the schedule for their marathon. All times ET & PT. Shows in red are no longer seen regularly on Nick.
Unfortunately, for those wanting Pinwheel, Livewire, The Third Eye, Out Of Control or any other shows from the days of the pinball (or even from the early days of the orange & white era), forget it; Nick won't be showing these programs at all.
(Special thanks to Don Del Grande and his Hey Arnold site, for providing this information.)
6AM to 8AM: The Marathon Begins
6AM You Can't Do That on Television ("Rock Music")
6:30AM Double Dare
(Note: This is the only time that you can see Double Dare, as this will not be seen anytime from 1PM to 2:30PM, as originally announced in the press release.)
7AM Blue's Clues
7:30AM Gullah Gullah Island
8AM to 1PM: First Nicktoons
(Please note that most of these are the first TELEVISED episodes, and often not the pilots, which are usually only 6 to 11 minutes in length.)
8AM: Doug ("Doug Bags A Neematoad")
8:30AM Rugrats (Tommy's First Birthday)
9AM Ren & Stimpy (Featuring "Gritty Kitty Litter" and "The Muddy Mudskipper Show")
9:30AM Real Monsters ("Monsters Get Real" / "Snorched If You Do, Snorched If You Don't")
(This is not the first televised episode ("The Switching Hour" was), but the pilot was used in part of "Monsters Get Real" (note The Gromble's black shoes and Ickis' glasses).)
10AM The Wild Thornberrys ("Iron Curtain")
("Flood Warning" is the first televised episode; "Iron Curtain", even though it introduced the Thornberrys, was the ninth.)
10:30AM Hey Arnold ("Downtown as Fruits" / "Eugene's Bike")
11AM CatDog ("Dog Gone" / "All You Can't Eat")
11:30AM Angry Beavers ("Born To Be Beavers" / "Up All Night")
12 Noon Rocko's Modern Life ("Carnival Knowlege" / "Sand In Your Navel")
12:30PM Kablam! ("Your Real Best Friend", featuring: Sniz and Fondue: "A Toxic Tail"; Action League Now!: "Road To Ruin"; Life With Loopy: "HiFi Frankenstein" & Prometheus and Bob: "Art", "Bowling")
1PM to 2:30PM: Nick's Game Shows
(Please note that Double Dare will not be seen, except at 6:30AM.)
1PM Figure it Out
1:30PM Wild & Crazy Kids
2:30PM to 5PM: Nick Specials
2:30PM The First Ever Short Films By Short People Film Festival
3PM The Adventures of Pete & Pete ("What We Did On Our Summer Vacation")
3:30PM Sports Theater with Shaquille O'Neal ("4 Points")
4:30PM Rugrats (Vacation)
5PM to 8PM: Nick's Live Action Shows
"Allen Strange" & "Alex Mack" are part of Tune In To Kids & Family 3, a special week of family programming sponsored by the cable industry.
5PM Are You Afraid of the Dark? ("The Tale of the Frozen Ghost")
5:30PM Roundhouse ("New Kid in Town")
6PM Clarissa Explains It All ("Clarissa News Network")
6:30PM The Mystery Files of Shelby Woo ("Paul Revere Mystery")
7PM Allen Strange ("Arrival": first episode)
7:30PM Alex Mack ("The Accident": first episode)
8PM to 10PM: Snick's Live Birthday Party
This special is part of Tune In To Kids & Family 3, a special week of family programming sponsored by the cable industry.
In addition to the live festivities from the Nicktoon studios during the commercial breaks (featuring sub-par skits and no celebs, except for the current Nick stars), repeats of Snick's usual programs were seen:
8PM Rugrats (Chuckie's Duckling / A Dog's Life)
8:30PM All That
9PM Kenan & Kel ("Who Loves Orange Soda?")
9:30PM Cousin Skeeter ("Air Skeeter")
10PM to 12 Midnight:
10PM You Can't Do That on Television ("Enemies and Paranoia")
10:30PM Roundhouse ("War and Peace")
11PM The Adventures of Pete & Pete ("A Hard Day's Pete")
11:30PM Ren & Stimpy
1PM to 4PM: Before They Were Stars
1PM Clarissa Explains It All ("Alter Ego"; featuring James Van Der Beek as Paulie, who gives Clarissa her first kiss)
(Note: Actually, despite what the press release says, Paulie never kissed Clarissa on-screen, and she kissed Sam before, 9 episodes (app. 4 months) prior to this episode)
1:30PM The Adventures of Pete & Pete ("Crisis in the Love Zone")
2PM You Can't Do That on Television ("Parties"; with Alanis Morisette, about 10 years before she became a pop star)
2:30PM Hi Honey, I'm Home ("Meet The Nielsens"; pilot episode with A.J. McLean of Backstreet Boys. The pilot was never before seen on TV, up until this day.)
3PM Don't Just Sit There (with Will Fredell)
3:30PM Are You Afraid of the Dark? ("The Tale Of The Dangerous Soup"; with Neve Campbell)
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