Sunday, June 28, 2020


So-eh, I know much of the narrative during this pandemic for people has been a lot of talk about what everybody's streaming, and I supposed I should also be talking about that.... The thing is, I'm not actually watching a lot right now, at least on traditional TV. Oddly, I tend to find myself less interested in new media then ever; I'm trying but I even tweeted a joke about being sick of new shows and asking people to recommend TV shows that I've watched many times before.


I'm actually watching a lot of Youtube lately, again, a lot of it's reruns for me, but-eh there is one show that I've really been binge-watching lately that I'm only catching now, and it's this series called "Nick Knacks".

It's on the Youtube channel "poparena". The link is below:

I don't know too much about him to be honest; he does a little bit of everything. He originally apparently was known for a retrospective he did on the book series, "Animorphs", which...- (Shrugs) I'll be honest, I remember when that was the big young adult lit series, and I just never understood the appeal of it. That and one or two other things scattered here and there. Doing a deep dive into his channel, he has some interesting reviews, but it was a few weeks ago when I really started paying attention to this series he's doing on the history of Nickelodeon.

I forget exactly how I came across it; I think I was looking for episodes of "Welcome, Freshman" for that "Saved By the Bell" piece I wrote a few weeks back.

(I've either confused you all with that reference, or I've just made you go, "OMG, I forgot that show existed!" depending on your age.) I kinda just drifted in and out of this "Nick Knacks" series, until I fully realized exactly what he was doing, and it's something that's really interesting. He's in the middle of a really ambitious project where he's doing a complete network history of the Nickelodeon, and he's doing it by going show-by-show through everything that the channel has ever scheduled to air.

For one thing, kudos, 'cause Jesus Christ, that is a hugely ambitious project, so, above anything else, good luck. And he's been successful with it; he's nowhere near-, like he's not even into the 1990s yet; here, he finally got around to "Double Dare"'s episode a few weeks ago.

"Double Dare" is arguably the most important show in the network's history ao, it's obviously one of the longest episodes at over an hour and a half, although personally I found much more affection for his recent episode on "The Shari Show", especially since there's distressingly little on Shari Lewis anymore. (Shame, btw. People should her as much as any other kids TV entertainer.) I highly recommend the series entirely for several reasons, obviously if you have any interest in Nickelodeon and it's history, it's obviously a great source of material. And I especially found it interesting, 'cause unlike ESPN and especially MTV, a lot of the earliest days of Nickelodeon in particular, are kinda forgotten. By the time, I recognize the channel, it was well-established in it's prime "Orange Splat" brand,- like, I remember when the original Nicktoons debuted; like I remember that very distinctly, but there's a lot of television before then that they aired that's kinda fascinating, when apparently Nickelodeon was a "PBS-you-pay-for channel", which-, honestly I'm not even sure I understand that; I already get PBS for free, why would I pay for it?, but it's still really enlightening to document these earliest days of not only the channel but of what we would now consider modern cable television, and Nickelodeon was around then, but their earliest years are just not mythologized within the company's  brand as other cable networks of the time are.

So, learning about that, learning about the decisions and programs and how they were chosen or developed; how Nick at Nite came about-, personally this is stuff that fascinates me in general, and yeah, Nickelodeon's place in pop culture as a whole, really can use a complete show-by-show dissection like this, to see how it grew, changed, evolved, etc. etc. A lot of this is clearly gravy for me, and especially the idea of, analyzing television, through the prism of the network they're on.

This is something, that's fascinated me for awhile. I've written several pieces over the years that basically are pieces that are very brief and simplified, analyses of the recent history of certain networks, mostly the major networks, NBC, CBS, ABC, and I think I did a FOX one at some point. This is something that, I think is kinda lost these days, but especially before streaming and Youtube, the distinction between networks was a really crucial aspects of television. Not only brand identity, but like, the kind of shows that networks aired mattered and were distinctive. Like, you can pick three random sitcoms from before I was born, and just by the look of the show, I knew about 90% of the time, without looking it up what channel they aired on; it was that distinctive.

There's still some of that around obviously, but especially with so many more channels available now, it's something that's diminished, at least for the basic networks, it's much more homogenized, but I would argue that cable, with most of the networks roots arrived originally from being specialty channels that aired particular specific kinds of programming, like for instance a kids-based channel, and there's some interesting things to look at and analyze here.

And clearly, I'm not alone here, 'cause neither is poparena, and "Nick Knicks". He's not the only doing stuff like this. Quinton Reviews, another Youtuber who does a few different things, usually I pay more attention to his Jim Davis retrospective material, 'cause I'm also a huge Garfield fan, but recently he's been doing pieces on the history of, well, the History Channel, or HISTORY, as it's called now. That's a much younger network then some of the other big ones, but yeah, in it's short time, it's gone from to everybody in my generation colloquially calling it "The Hitler Channel" to now calling it "The Pawn Stars Channel" that sometimes airs stupid documentaries about aliens. And he really does dissect into all the levels of stupid that network's gone through over the years, and I hope he continues to do more; I don't expect him to sort through all the garbage, 'cause, it's The History Channel, not Nickelodeon, I wouldn't wish anybody on that kind of torture, but that's a channel that's been a cesspoll bullshit for years. (Seriously, "Pawn Stars" is probably the best thing about the channel; the conpsiracy documentary stuff is far more horrorific and problematic.)

Also there's a weird channel called "Defunctland", that's kind of a strange channel as well, that tends to have a scattered focus in general, but I guess mostly talks about stuff that's, well, defunct, or just doesn't exist anymore, I guess? Kinda-, they're really erratic in whatever they talk about, a lot of it's like, old abandoned historically significant or noteworthy buildings or locations, but they also stuff on old, television shows. They do a lot on the history of The Muppets, for instance, and in turn, they've also recently been doing a lot on old Disney Channel series, and not the ones that everybody nowadays think about when you hear "Disney Channel" and series, together. I'm talking stuff like this:

I've mentioned "Adventures in Wonderland"  before a few times; I'm genuinely shocked it's not more well-remembered. Yeah, find this show on Disney+ if you can, or wherever it is; there's a good chunk of episodes on Youtube if you're interested. This is what I'm talking about, especially lately, there's been a lot more evolution and change in many of cable's more traditional channels, and some of it is so stunningly different from one eras to another that, perhaps this is the way we really should be looking at television networks more closely.

I've usually been a proponent to look at television through a classic, historical vibe. My basis on this is that, even long before streaming television, at least in most of my life, modern day television is constantly competing with television's past. Why am I going to watch this new thing that may or may not be good, when I can switch to a rerun on another channel, usually Nick at Nite when I had cable (Which, btw, did you know was technically a separate network from Nickelodeon, I didn't until I watched "Nick Knacks"), that I'll probably like, or at least see something that has historical value/importance within the medium, since it's apparently still around long after it's gone, and that's even moreso now in my mind with not only streaming television, but also several other channels that show nothing but reruns, and I still think that's a more relevant position of analysis then most others, including analyzing television network-by-network..., but it hasn't always been that way. Reruns are an invention of television itself, so at one time they didn't exists; those were it's very earliest days granted, but even still, cable itself is a fairly new phenomenon, and modern cable especially is new, and didn't really have much of a cultural relevance until the last 30 or 40 years or so. Once upon a time, cable was just that one channel that the guy down the block paid for for movies and boxing matches. Hell, I'd argue that before cable, yes, analyzing television by networks was probably the best approach. I mean, look at how often CBS's Rural Purge from in the early '70s is still talked abou and argued and discussed as one of the gamechanging moments in television history, and all that essentially was, was just a network rebranding.

Of course their were four channels back then, and that's counting PBS, still, there's so much of the modern cable history that's getting forgotten, especially their earliest days. And also, there's so many more channels now, that most of them aren't gonna survive. For many of them, good riddance, they shouldn't have been channels anyway admittedly, but about once every couple weeks, I go through my Roku and reorganize my channels, add new ones, and mostly, delete the old and dead channels, and there's never a shortage of them. I'm usually able to find a good handful; I swear, sometimes I pick up the channel and then, they're dead within weeks, truly new channels too.

Streaming has become so widespread and television, for their credit, came prepared to embrace this new form of media so early on, that seemingly everything and everyone can have a channel now, and what airs on se channels is much more limited to, "Whatever they want" or "whatever they can afford" more then ever, especially on the lower end. There's good and bad to that, but what I think about is that, we're constantly evolving into having a lot of lost/unseen media in the future. Lost, unseen, and will have no impact today, tomorrow, or matter in the future. Nobody gonna go and look up these defunct half-ass attempts at streaming television years from now, and do a "Nick Knacks" style series and more often then not, they'd be right not to. They're certainly not gonna get the treatment that say, the DuMont Network still gets these days. and that's been defunct for five decades and most of it's media is long lost, never to be seen again.

You might be thinking, perhaps I should do something like this then, and document the history of some other network or channel? I thought about it, but I don't know what channel I'd d-.

(Headslap, sigh, wipes slime off forehead)

Okay, that's one on me. I should've remembered that when you mention Nickelodeon, you then follow their rules, and you gotta remember what words not to say, and I forgot not to say, those three words....

This so ruins my hair; dang it.

Anyway, where was I? Ah, one of the few drawbacks of not being a fan of anything this specific in particular is that, all my interests are too diverse to generally stick to one particular thing for too long; that's one of the reasons I even got into film, so that something new can and will always come along and refresh my interests in the medium. (Which is why it drives me up a fucking wall that almost everything that everybody fucking talks about is superheroes!!!!1 GRRRR!!!! Film and TV is so much more-!!!!!!)

(Deep sigh).

I guess, I could do Bravo's history, since that one's on my mind a lot, but mostly not for good reasons, and I genuinely can't sit through their "Real Housewives" crap for more then a couple minutes, without wishing that James Lipton was still alive to class this shit up. (Fuck Andy Cohen btw.) I mean, it's not too unusual to hear how everybody resents the modern reality-based cable TV landscape; I mean, it's hard to find any "Arts" or "Entertainment" on A&E anymore, but then again I do like "Storage Wars" it's fascinating. I like some of their other shows too; Leah Remini's series was particularly influential, groundbreaking and dare-I-say, one of the more important documentary series in recent years, so it's not the genre just polluting everything; there's other factors. That's worth exploring I guess, but, nah, I'm not sure forcing way through every episode of "Intervention" is gonna be worth that endeavor, not for me anyway, although I guess I wouldn't mind finding some old "100 Centre St."'s or "Breakfast with the Arts".


Maybe if something intrigues me in the future enough.... Still, this is why it so impresses me with poparena is doing; even though it's Nickelodeon, it requires a rigorous determination and focus, and that's before you get into all the research, it's almost a zen-like tunnel-visioned strident journey to push oneself through this project. That's determination; I've done research and writing projects before, but this is beyond anything I've ever tried to do; I can't even get around to updating the graphics and rebranding of this blog that I've been planning for like five years now. (I really gotta get on that again....)

I'm happy others are doing it though, and that people like poparena and Quinton Reviews and others are dissection cable networks that have had far more impact on the greater television landscape then people realize. This is an interesting and compelling way to study and document the history of television, and I think a very good way to do so for cable specifcally, and I'm definitely impressed at how in-depth and obscure poparena in particular is going. You don't normally see that; you just don't see too many detailed deep dives out there like this too often, both analyzing the good and the bad of a network's every minute broadcsting decision of what exactly they've put on the air. Even as much as I admire the Must See TV era of NBC, if would be nice to know what the hell they were thinking when greenlight "Inside Schwartz" or "The Mike O'Malley Show" or "Cursed", or some of their other forgotten albeit, notable failures; I mean I already know the histories of "Friends" and "Cheers" and "Seinfeld", so..-  but if this is a minor trend to inspire some others, I'm definitely on board. The more we know about the history of our media, especially television, the more we can appreciate our present media landscape as far as I'm concerned. (Or legitimately bash it  'cause we know what the hell came beforehand, whichever's more relevent.)

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