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Soak Up the ’90s Nickelodeon Nostalgia With The Orange Years Trailer

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If you grew up in the ’90s, chances are you spent way too much of your childhood glued to the TV watching Nickelodeon. The network made a name for itself with off-kilter animated series like Ren & Stimpy and Rugrats, while creating a world of content for kids that included classic shows like Clarissa Explains It All, Salute Your Shorts, and You Can’t Do That on Television.

Now, you can relive all that ’90s Nick nostalgia in a new documentary called The Orange Years, which follows Nickelodeon’s humble origins as Qube in Columbus, Ohio, before it became the kids’ programming juggernaut it is today. The film features interviews with former executives, creators, and stars, including Melissa Joan Hart (Clarissa Explains It All), Kenan Thompson (Kenan and Kel), Larisa Oleynik (The Secret World of Alex Mack), and Danny Cooksey (Salute Your Shorts).

The film, directed by Scott Barber and Adam Sweeney, delves into what made ’90s Nick such a phenomenon, which many people attributed to the visionary president Geraldine Laybourne, who also went on to create the successful rerun block Nick at Nite and the Oxygen Channel. Laybourne championed offbeat shows like You Can’t Do That on Television, which she called in an interview with The Archive of American Television, “the most important, psychologically important show we ever did … unlike the stars of kid’s TV today, we wanted the stars to be as regular kids as possible, not these aspirational Hollywood kids, we wanted them to be everyday kids …”

That handmade, off-the-wall quality endeared the world of Nickelodeon to its audiences, who were looking for something less sanitized or polished than what the Disney Channel was offering. Nickelodeon was not afraid to get gross, whether through dumping green slime on its actors or hosting game shows where kids had to fish around inside a giant snot-filled nose for clues—ah, Double Dare, the American Ninja Warrior of our youth.

As one of the Nick creators says in the trailer, “We were the anti-Disney, the anti-Saturday morning, we wanted less acting and we wanted more normal kids …” The slapdash authenticity that came across in Nick’s programming was also echoed behind the scenes. Tom Kenny (Spongebob Squarepants) described working for Nick like so: “The inmates were very much running the asylum back then. It was way easier to slip stuff in.”

The documentary will also look at the inclusivity (in race, gender, body type) of shows like the sketch comedy series All That. Kel Mitchell (Kenan and Kel) says in the trailer, “To have that diversity in the show gave a lot of hope to a lot of kids coming from different walks of life saying, ‘Well, I can do this too.'”

What do you think of The Orange Years trailer, and what was your favorite ’90s Nick show?

(via Collider, image: screengrab)

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Chelsea Steiner
Chelsea was born and raised in New Orleans, which explains her affinity for cheesy grits and Britney Spears. An pop culture journalist since 2012, her work has appeared on Autostraddle, AfterEllen, and more. Her beats include queer popular culture, film, television, republican clownery, and the unwavering belief that 'The Long Kiss Goodnight' is the greatest movie ever made. She currently resides in sunny Los Angeles, with her husband, 2 sons, and one poorly behaved rescue dog. She is a former roller derby girl and a black belt in Judo, so she is not to be trifled with. She loves the word “Jewess” and wishes more people used it to describe her.