“The Big Orange Couch Is In Place, So Hop On!” (#108)

The Midnight Society must be a lot more approving than I am.

Clarissa, you have some explaining to do…

Revisiting stuff from our childhoods on the podcast is usually fun — if it wasn’t, I don’t think we’d still be doing this podcast five years later — but on rare occasions, it’s embarrassing to the point of being painful. That was my experience returning to Nickelodeon’s live action SNICK lineup, which aired on Saturday nights beginning in 1992, geared toward kids who were too old to go to bed by 8 o’clock, but too young to be out on the town wreaking teen havoc.

I’m not sure I ever actually watched SNICK proper, since I’d definitely never seen nor even heard of Roundhouse, and I avoided the thrills and chills of Are You Afraid Of The Dark? at all costs. Most, if not all, of these shows also aired at other time throughout the week. I’m pretty sure I caught Clarissa Explains It All and The Secret World Of Alex Mack after school during the afternoon — but then again, who knows? I barely remember anything about these series. I had a little crush on Larisa Oleynik, and I think I appreciated Clarissa for its sassy (okay, bratty) attitude at the time. What 9-year-old oldest child doesn’t want an entire television series devoted to how annoying it is to have a younger sibling? A lot of the All That sketches came flooding back to me upon rewatching them. But on the whole, the SNICK lineup hasn’t been taking up valuable real estate in my head. I didn’t go into this episode with any particular preconceptions about these shows, but it quickly became clear that I would have one of two reactions to them — either I was going to cringe, or I was going to cringe a lot.

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I sort of admire the geeky gameness of the casts of Roundhouse and All That, the live comedy shows. They’re really going for broke. Every episode feels like an audition for a high school production of Rent. The Secret World Of Alex Mack has a Buffy Jr. vibe that tapped into my love for series about teens harboring magical secrets. I don’t have anything particularly kind to say about Are You Afraid Of The Dark?, which is so goofy and timid that it makes Goosebumps feel like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. (Despite the title, the show actually seems like it’s terrified of actually scaring kids.) The Adventures Of Pete & Pete always creeped me out as a kid and still does, but it has its offbeat charms (and sharper writing than the rest of the lineup).

Clarissa Explains It All was the roughest rewatch, in which the repeated use of the moniker “Ferg-face” passes for hilarity. I’m not sure any other sitcom on a legitimate cable network has been so cheap the cast never even leaves the house. (I knew it was hopeless when Clarissa’s dad returned home with “Chinese food,” then proceeded to serve his family only a small amount of white rice, which they all picked at with chopsticks they clearly did not know how to use and thus could never take a bite.) As a kid, I don’t think I consciously noticed any of this. As an adult, it was all too obvious.The SNICK lineup is a perfectly adequate, mostly inoffensive roster of entertainment for 90s children, but it isn’t particularly worthy of any of any residual nostalgia you’ve been holding onto. The animated Nicktoons Doug and Rugrats were reasonably amusing to look back on in limited quantities (back in Episode 64), and it goes without saying that SNICK doesn’t hold a candle to Nick at Nite’s programming of older sitcom classics. (No, not even Welcome Back, Kotter.)

Thirty years later, old school Nickelodeon mostly comes across as desperate and awkward — and I guess that’s fine, because in 1992, I was probably desperate and awkward too. It is imprinted in the memories of 90s kids and 90s kids only — it has no larger cultural footprint. In that way, it may be the most disposable of any piece of pop culture we’ve reexamined on the podcast.


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