The Rugrats Timeline -- Through 1989


Gabor Csupo was born in Budapest, Hungary.

April: DC Comics publishes the first issue of Sugar and Spike; created by Sheldon Meyer, the idea of talking babies on imaginary adventures predates Rugrats by 33 years. This 98-issue series was published until October 1971.

(Left: The logo for Sugar and Spike; © DC Comics, Inc and Warner Bros., Inc..)


July: In early July (week of 7/6/1970), CBS announced plans to spin off CBS Enterprises (domestic syndication) and Cable-Vue (cable systems) into a new, single company. A few weeks later (week of 7/27/1970), they came up with a name for the new company -- Viacom International. The Viacom name is short for "Video & Audio Communications".


Gabor Csupo begins work as animator at the Pannóniafilm animation studio in Hungary.

May: CBS Enterprises formally changes its name to Viacom Enterprises. Its first print ad in Broadcasting Magazine as Viacom was an ad pitching The Andy Griffith Show, Hogan's Heroes and Petticoat Junction to TV stations.

(Left: Screen grabs from Viacom's first closing logo, used from 1971 to 1976, featuring V-ia-com sliding into view to the tunes of pinball music. I assure you, the animation was much more fluid than the animated GIF presented here. Technically, Viacom actually had no logo of their own until the "V" came around 5 years later -- all trade ads mentioned the fact that the program being pitched came from Viacom, with no logo from the company. From The Multimedia World Studio Logo Gallery; ©1971 Viacom.)


Viacom officially became a separate company, due to an FCC law that forbids network ownership of domestic movie & TV production & distribution. That law has since been repealed. Since then, in 1997, CBS returned to syndication with its new Eyemark division. In 1999, CBS & Viacom were reunited in a merger (see 9/7/1999).


Gabor Csupo snuck out of Hungary, at the time under Communist rule. Shortly afterward, he got an animation job in Stockholm, Sweden, where he later met Arlene Klasky, an American who's a friend of Swedish animator / illustrator Kerstin Olsson-Grönvik. While there, they helped produce Sweden's first full-length animated feature.

After spending some time as designer of logos and record covers, then later as magazine and ad art director, California Institute of the Arts graduate Arlene Klasky joined Robert Abel & Associates, her first venture into the film business.

In Britain, Roger Price created and produced (possibly) his first children's program for British TV: You Must Be Joking. He later went on to produce  Pauline's Quirkes (1977) and You Can't Be Serious (1978), before moving to Canada to create and produce You Can't Do That On Television, based on these short-lived British TV series (see January 1979). While in Britain, he also produced the future Nick sci-fi classic, The Tomorrow People.


Fall: Viacom's infamous "Purple V Of Doom" was introduced at the tail end of most of the programs they distribute; many viewers gave it that nickname, as their purple-on-blue "V" logo zooms in slowly to jarring brass music. It made its first print appearance in their change-of address ad in the 12/20/1976 issue of Broadcasting Magazine (click here to see ad). In the 1980s, their end signature look and music was redone, and the "V" was given a silvery finish.

(Left: The infamous "Purple V Of Doom", used from 1976 to the mid-1980s. Right: The silvery version, used in the mid and late 1980s. Both from The Multimedia World Studio Logo Gallery; ©1976 & 1986 (ca) Viacom.)


December 1: The Warner-Amex cable system in Columbus, OH opened an innovative cable system called QUBE, which promoted more choices in viewing, along with interactivity and, of course, the world's first pay-per-view. In addition to the local channels, HBO, and a handful of satellite channels available at the time, QUBE offered the world's first specialty channels, each designed for a specific audience.

One of these was Pinwheel, which would later become Nickelodeon.  The 12/24/1977 issue of TV Guide called it "a sort of TV babysitter that boasts no commercials and no violence". It was seen on channel "C-3" -- each QUBE hookup included a set-top receiver with each button representing a particular channel. The channels were grouped in 3 tiers -- the usual local channels start with "T"; premium and pay-per-view start with "P"; and community-based channels, the tier that Pinwheel was on, began with "C". Pinwheel was on the air 12 hours a day, everyday, and included the channel's signature program, called, of course, Pinwheel (known by those who remembered it as Sesame Street on the cheap, it featured a human host, a small cast of puppets, and an assortment of animated shorts from Europe), along with Nick's Flicks, a weekly children's movie program.

One of the people who worked behind the scenes on the Pinwheel show was Jim Jinkins. Jinkins, who later created Doug, was an artist for Pinwheel, as well as done some of the voices on that show.

Starting in 1981 (at least), the Pinwheel show was seen for about 3 to 5 hours daily until around 1989.

Another QUBE channel was Sight On Sound, an interactive music service which would go national in 1981 as MTV. Both Nick and MTV outlasted QUBE, which was discontinued in 1985.

(Left: Jake (George James) and the puppets from Pinwheel. From Nick.Com; © Viacom.)


Klasky co-establishes California Film, which specialised in commercials, logos and station-IDs.

February 3: "The Children's Television Sausage Factory" opened for the first time when You Can't Do That On Television, produced by CTV affilate CJOH in Ottawa, ON, debuts Saturday mornings on CJOH. At the time, the show was live and had musical guests, videos, contests and phone-in quizzes (also see 1975).

In addition to its assortment of quick jokes (along the lines of Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In and Hee Haw), You Can't Do That On Television was famous for its Green Slime, which is dumped on anyone saying "I don't know", and, on a lesser part, its water jokes, where water is dumped on anyone saying "water".

(Left: A Green Slime scene from an episode of You Can't Do That On Television. From Nick.Com; © CTV, Inc.)

April 1: Pinwheel goes national for the first time, by expanding to another cable system in Buffalo, NY. While the channel itself was established 2 years earlier, Nickelodeon uses this date as their birthdate.

At the time it went national, Pinwheel's subscriber base was only about 600,000 subscribers.

September 25: Whatever Turns You On, You Can't's prime-time spinoff, debuts prime-time on the CTV network -- it lasted only one season. Unlike the Saturday morning counterpart, Turns You On was pre-recorded, and was straight comedy, similar to Laugh In (Ruth Buzzi, a Laugh-In regular, was also a regular in this series).


Geraldine Laybourne starts out at Pinwheel / Nickelodeon as program manager. At the time, the fledging kids channel was known by its employees as a "green vegetable network"; though its programming was worthwhile, kids like it just as much as they like spinach. Such viewership has shown on Nick's earliest Nielsen ratings, where only a couple of shows actually got numbers, while all other shows had viewerships that were too low to be counted.


Pinwheel was renamed Nickelodeon, and became available nationwide.Nickelodeon, then a joint venture of Warner Communications (known now as Time Warner) and American Express ("Don't leave home without it"), was seen with no commercials at first and featured mainly reruns of cartoons, children's shows, and special reports (some programming was made for Nick). Nick shared time with ARTS (the Alpha Repertory Television System, later the Arts and Entertainment Network, now A&E) until 1985.

(Left: The original "pinball" Nickelodeon logo, from an unknown site. Right: End of promo for Reggie Jackson's World Of Sports, one of Nick's early programs, at a time when there was only one feed of Nick; from the Nick Nostalgia Site. Both © Viacom.)

Nick picked up the US rights to You Can't Do That On Television; during the course of its 12-year run, it featured an ever-changing cast of kids. It also introduced "green slime", which remains on Nick long after You Can't... left the air in 1993. By the time the show came to Nick, it was now pre-recorded with no musical guests -- or audience (they used a laugh-track). By the way, CJOH owns You Can't..., and not Nick or YTV (which shown the program in Canada after that channel started up in 1988).


Nick wins its first Peabody Award.

Klasky-Csupo was established in a spare room of the couple's apartment in Los Angeles; for the next 5 years, its main expertise is producing commercials, opening credits for films and TV shows, and providing animation for music videos.


Klasky-Csupo moves to 729 Seward St., the site of a former animation studio owned by Bob Clampett, the creator of Tweety & Sylvester, and Beany & Cecil.

Geraldine Laybourne becomes president of Nick; her first project as president -- a program called Going Great, a weekly magazine program that featured kids doing extraordinary feats, such as a 13-year old who wrote a best seller, and a 10-year old who plays billiards on stilts. Going Great didn't go great, and was cancelled after 13 weeks on the air. Reason? The show depressed kids, and the kids wanted to see shows on what kids NORMALLY do, rather than see a junior version of That's Incredible! (which, by the way, was a popular ABC program on at the time).

Don Herbert returns with Nick's new science program for kids, Mr. Wizard's World, his first TV series since 1972. Mr. Wizard's World was in production for about only 3 years, but it's still seen on Nick as of 2000, making it Nick's longest-running program. Mr. Wizard has been entertaining generations of TV viewers since the Golden Age of Television (March 3, 1951, to be exact) with interesting scientific experiments, using materials that can be found around the house. He later supplemented these programs with a science program for teachers, Teacher To Teacher, also seen on Nick.

A group of recording producers in Toronto created a children's rock group, The Rugrats. They made 2 albums at A&M Records. This, obviously, has nothing to do with today's Rugrats, except for the fact that today's more-familiar Rugrats weren't the first "Rugrats"; however, there's a connection to both. For details, click here.

October: The producers of You Can't Do That On Television launched a similar program, Don't Look Now, an hour-long show which was televised live on Sundays on most PBS stations. This angered Nick, as the show was similar to You Can't, and it's producers were producing a show for the competition (though Nick bought the rights to You Can't, not the show itself). After its 6-week run, PBS chose not to renew the show, despite the fact that Don't Look Now was PBS's 2nd most popular children's show at the time.


Warner Communications purchases American Express' share of Warner-Amex; cable systems become Warner Cable (now Time Warner Cable or Time Warner Communications, depending on region), while Nick, MTV and the future VH1 become part of MTV Networks.

As part of Laybourne's transformation, the orange & white Nick logo was introduced. It takes on many forms, but the lettering and color remains constant. Also, the next-to-last place Nick starts showing commercials during its programs.


Nick catapults from next-to-last place to next-to-first place in ratings.

Canal J, a Francophone children's channel that would later rely on Nick for some of its shows, goes on the air in France.

ca.1985: Nickelodeon's first home video, The Pinwheel Songbook, was released by Warner Home Video; the video featured about an hour of the best musical moments from the Pinwheel series.

(Left: Box from The Pinwheel Songbook; from eBay; ©1985 Viacom.)

July 1: Nick and A&E become separate channels; Nick expands to 24 hours and uses the extra time for Nick-At-Nite, which presented reruns (such as Dennis The Menace, Donna Reed, Route 66 & My Three Sons) and original programming (like Turkey Television and National Geographic Explorer (which later moved to TBS, then CNBC)). By the early 1990's original series were dropped and Nick-At-Nite became strictly a "Classic TV" network. Then it became a "TV Hits" network when it started carrying more current TV reruns from the 1980s & 1990s.

About 10 years before she became a rock-and-roll sensation, Alanis Morrissette appeared nationwide as a regular on a few episodes of You Can't Do That On Television.


Viacom purchases Nick and MTV Nets from Warner.

ca.1986: E.G. Daily records her first album for A&M Records, Wild Child.

October 6: Double Dare, Nick's game show where the sky's the limit on Green Slime, premieres; hosted by Marc Summers, with John Harvey (known simply as "Harvey") as announcer. By the way, Double Dare's theme music was composed by Edd Kalehoff, the same man responsible for the music and theme used on The Price Is Right.


You Can't Do That On Television ceases production after a short 5-episode season. Included in this brief run was the infamous "Adoption" episode, which was withdrawn from syndicationafter one telecast on Nick.

(Banner © 2000 Twentieth Century - Fox Film Corporation.)

April: The Fox network begins its prime-time programming on Saturdays & Sundays. Sunday night featured The Tracey Ullman Show, which featured Matt Groening's The Simpsons, brought to the screens by Klasky-Csupo and Paul Germain (at the time, Germain was working for James L. Brooks as assistant producer of Tracey Ullman).

Nick Jr., programming for pre-schoolers, begins, featuring original and purchased programming, including is first original made-for-Nick Jr. program, Eureeka's Castle.

(Left: One of many Nick Jr. logos, from the Nick Jr. UK site; ©1999 Viacom.)

Herb Scannell, currently president of Nick, joins the network as Director of Programming. Previously, he was an executive at The Movie Channel.

Klasky-Csupo moves from their 729 Seward St. address to 1258 N. Highland (at Fountain) in Hollywood.

 Nick inaugurates the Kids' Choice Awards. The debut awards ceremony was co-hosted by Debbie Gibson, Brian Robbins and Dan Schneider, with Marc Summers appearing between presentations to preside over Double Dare's physical challenges, which were done with selected members of the studio audience. I don't know who the winners were, but the very first "Favorite TV Actress" was Alyssa Milano from Who's the Boss?.

(Left: The first Kids' Choice Awards logo. From Everything Nick; ©1988 Viacom.)

February 22: A night-time syndicated version of Double Dare hits local stations, and is seen until September 1989; co-syndicated by Viacom & Fox, it features the elements and people as the Nickelodeon version.

April 3: Family Double Dare, where the whole family is involved in this mess, debuts on Fox; it lasted until 7/23/1988. In August 1990, it moved to Nick, where new shows and repeats are televised. By March 1991, it became the only Double Dare on Nick, after the original, kids-only version was cancelled.

September 1: YTV (English) & Canal Famille (French) go on the air in Canada.

Canal Famille replaced a previous kids' channel, TVJQ, which went on the air in the early-1980s.

Canal Famille

September 12: The first episode of Looney Tunes on Nickelodeon aired. That series featured all Warner Bros. Looney Tunes shorts that weren't picked up by ABC, syndication or, later, Cartoon Network or The WB. The selection included shorts that had experienced little airplay until now, such as old black-and-white shorts from the 1930s (featuring "Buddy" and "Bosko"), as well as Looney Tunes from the late-1960s (when Warners briefly resumed work on theatrical shorts). The series left the air on 9/11/1999, almost 11 years to the day of its premiere -- it was the longest-running non-Nicktoon animated series on Nick.

(Left: The first logo for Looney Tunes on Nickelodeon. From Kevin McCorry's website; ©1988 Warner Bros. and Viacom.)


ca. 1989: After about 10 years on Nick, Pinwheel was cancelled.

Ten years after going national, Nickelodeon's subscriber base grew to 44 million, an increase of about 7333% during a ten-year period.

You Can't Do That On Television resumes production.

Double Dare receives the first CableACE award presented to a game show.

Germain quits Gracie Films (Brooks' production company) and joins Klasky-Csupo.

Rugrats was first created; production started on the untelevised pilot, Tommy Pickles and the Great White Thing.

December 17: The Simpsons got their own prime-time series on Fox, beginning with The Simpsons Roasting On An Open Fire (a.k.a The Simpsons Christmas Special).

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