Why I Won’t Be Watching the Zoey 101 Reboot – And You Shouldn’t Either
Whether we like it or not, reboots of old properties continue to be gold mines for Hollywood and the television industry. While much of the revivals and retellings that have come out in the last decade or so have been based on content from the 1980s and 90s, that well is running dry, so it’s time for the 2000s to make a comeback. The latest example is Zoey 102, a straight-to-streaming movie for Paramount Plus that will serve as a sequel to the Nickelodeon series Zoey 101, a show that has been a controversial point of discussion in recent years.
Not-So Picture Perfect
The series was a dramedy aimed at tweens, set in a gorgeous California boarding school allowing female students to sttend for the first time. Zoey 101 served as a vehicle for Jamie Lynn Spears, younger sister of pop star Britney Spears. It ran for four seasons and was a big success for Nickelodeon, serving as a stepping stone to bigger things for some of its stars, such as Victorious‘ Victoria Justice and Elvis‘ Austin Butler.
Unfortunately, it was one of the many Nickelodeon productions with showrunner Dan Schneider at the helm, a since-dismissed producer who has been accused of everything from abuse of his young stars to sexual misconduct on set. This was discussed in last year’s bestselling book I’m Glad My Mom Died, written by another Nickelodeon actor of the 2000s, Jennette McCurdy of iCarly and Sam & Cat.
Alexa Nikolas, who was on Zoey 101’s first two seasons, has also come forward with disturbing stories of Schneider and others who worked on the show. Rumors swirled for years that she left after the second season because of tension between her and Spears, but what she has come out and said over the past couple of years is way more intense than I think anyone who was a fan of the show imagined. She has taken to her Instagram account as well as several podcasts saying she was bullied on set by the entire cast—led by Spears—which she says culminated in an incident on her last day of shooting the second season that involved a production assistant taking her to Spears’s trailer to be yelled at by her older sister (yes, Britney Spears herself) while the younger Spears hid in the back.
Nikolas says that whenever she would report this to the producers, Schneider and the others would say things like “it’s not Nicole 101” and that they all viewed her as the problem on set, not Spears. She claims that after the aforementioned incident, she was called into Nickelodeon’s offices for a meeting with Schneider and the others which she believed would lead to a satisfactory resolution, but was again told she was the problem and ended up leaving the show because she couldn’t take it anymore.
While Nikolas has confirmed that the elder Spears sister has reached out to her to apologize for the trauma she caused her nearly two decades ago, most of the other parties involved haven’t done the same. In fact, Nikolas wasn’t invited to a semi-recent reunion of the cast, and seemingly wasn’t approached to appear in Zoey 102, either.
While it seems unlikely she would have declined an offer to be part of the revival, the icing out of Nikolas is quite clear. Jamie Lynn Spears did invite her to be involved in a couple of projects and it appeared the two had buried the hatchet for a while, but soured again upon Nikolas’s disappointment in Spears for allegedly “lying up a storm” in her book Things I Should Have Said and for her role in her older sister’s infamous conservatorship fiasco.
A slap in the face
Even though Dan Schneider doesn’t appear to be involved with the movie (though his name will have to be attached to it since he’s credited as creator of the original series) Spears will be reprising her role as Zoey Brooks, and the fact that so many of the other cast members—including Sean Flynn (Chase Matthews), Matthew Underwood (Logan), Christopher Massey (Michael), Erin Sanders (Quinn Pensky), Jack Salvadore Jr. (Mark Del Figgalo), and Abby Wilde (Stacey Dillsen)—are agreeing to work with her after everything that’s come to light is disheartening. While they did allegedly participate in the bullying themselves, it’s sad that seemingly none of them have recognized the impact their actions had on Nikolas, or that their return to the franchise is inherently supporting abuse and those who enabled it.
As someone who was bullied by basically everyone at my school as a child, I took solace in Zoey 101 and other tween shows. There was always a happy—if slightly dysfunctional—group of friends who were able to overcome anyone who treated them badly (though now that I think about it, they themselves tended to treat characters like the aforementioned Quinn and Stacey in a way that wasn’t the best). How I wished to be able to go to a boarding school as cool as Pacific Coast Academy to get away from the relentless mistreatment and find friends as fun as the kids on Zoey 101. I even lined up for hours at the mall on multiple occasions to see cast members from the show, including Jamie Lyn Spears herself.
If I’d known the truth about what was really happening on set—that the same thing I was experiencing was being done to one of the cast members—my heart would have been broken, and I’d never be able to watch the show the same way again, if at all. However, I wish I did know, because now I’m stuck with these tainted memories of the show, and the knowledge that I was inadvertently supporting the same kind of behavior I was suffering the effects of.
I can’t change all of that now, of course. But I can decide to do things differently in the future with the knowledge I’ve since obtained. So I will not be watching Zoey 102, and I highly encourage former fans to listen to what Alexa Nikolas has to say (as well as other former child stars who suffered at the hands of abusive producers) and not watch the movie, either. This isn’t like the iCarly revival, with Jennette McCurdy sitting out of it but still having a good relationship with her castmates and seemingly harboring no resentment towards them for doing it (plus the fact that she didn’t share her story until after it had already started). Even then, it’s kind of iffy.
This is a slap in the face to a woman who bravely shared her childhood trauma with the world only for it to, apparently, not matter to people.
Yes, the cast were all minors when they bullied Alexa, and were under the control of someone who has allegedly done many sick, twisted things. But now they’re all adults, and it’s on them to take ownership of their past and acknowledge their wrongdoings. Participating in this revival without even acknowledging Nikolas’ claims truly says it all.
As for Nikolas, she’s been fighting back against what she and others went through as the founder of the “Eat Predators” movement, which has organized protests at Nickelodeon and other studios in the name of protecting children and youth from the same fate. She’s already said she plans to do the same at Paramount Plus in light of the Zoey 102 news. We can support her mission by sharing the stories of her and many other survivors and not watching content that enables the wretched behavior and practices they’re pushing back against.
(featured image: Nickelodeon)
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