Sunday, October 4, 2015

State of Nickelodeon Address

It's MikeTheTVBlogger again. I'm posting in orange for the sake of this post and some other ones down the line. I see it as symbolic for my rant/commentary/analysis, whatever you want to refer to it as. My primary color is still green, but for a couple Nickelodeon-related posts, I might turn to orange. So be on the lookout for that.



With that being said, I wanted to talk about Nickelodeon this morning. Last night, I had just come back from watching a new episode of 100 Things to Do Before High School and started writing this up. I'll sum it up like this: It's the kind of show that could use a lot more promotion and love from the network. I don't see it as something that will save Nickelodeon or make the channel look better but from what I have seen, I can't hate it. The vibe I get from 100 Things is like Ned's Declassified mixed with Unfabulous, and that feeling comes from the fact that Scott Fellows is the creator of this show. Isabela Moner comes off as likable from the very beginning. There is just something really charming and cute about the girl from the way she says her lines to her role as the narrator. She's almost like a reincarnation of Clarissa Darling, but only time will tell. I really enjoy Fenwick. I need to see more episodes, but at this moment, he is my favorite character. Of course, he reminds me of Cookie from Ned's Declassified, but......the trap you fall into, right? Crispo is a stupid character, but he doesn't annoy me yet. I mean, he most likely has other things going on besides being stupid, right?

I really hope Scott Fellows doesn't end up with Dan Schneider Syndrome. He makes a couple shows and exposes his flaws as a writer and creator because he is unable to create new, interesting characters without using his previous shows as a crutch. And they all end up as annoying, bland, uninteresting archetypes of the same characters we've seen before. I mean, in the one episode I just saw, there were sound effects all over the place. It felt like an episode of Big Time Rush. And I hate being reminded of the fact that season five of BTR will never be a reality. It was a great run though. At least the kids constantly having something new to do every week will keep the show fresh. But yeah, I love Isabela Moner. Nickelodeon better keep her around. And hopefully, Fellows can make something out of 100 Things and not become diagnosed with DSS.

Speaking of Dan Schneider, I honestly think he has nothing more to say. About anything. I give him all the respect in the world. His unique style of humor is very hard to replicate for most other writers without coming off as extremely awkward and he has been a huge creative force in kids television for several years. Drake & Josh is as beloved as any 90s Nickelodeon show. That speaks volumes as to how the quality of the show remains to this day. Zoey 101 was underrated in its own right, and while iCarly and Victorious both wet the bed at some point, they were very enjoyable and gave you something to look forward to every episode. Now the stuff Schneider makes is lame kiddie stuff with no value. Sam & Cat was a cheap cash grab that was never built to last. Henry Danger is inoffensive and stale, but nothing to make you tune in every week. Game Shakers is just garbage. If there's one thing that bothers me time and time again, it's when writers fail to do a stupid character correctly. The reason why they fail is because most of them have only one trait: They're stupid. Everything they do or say revolves around this trait. It's extremely lazy and for a veteran writer with multiple hit shows under your belt, you should know better. Nobody likes stupid people in reality. Those kinds of people get ignored or made fun of, or they end up in the race for the Republican nomination. What makes these writers think that we want to root for these people on TV? Even the new Alvin and the Chipmunks cartoon puts Game Shakers to shame.

I'm serious about that. Alvin and the Chipmunks is a genuinely enjoyable show. The animation choice makes it look like it was meant for little kids, which is weird. I mean, if you want to make jokes about free marketing and the energy crisis, at least do 2D computer animation. Besides that, nothing else is really a problem. The characters are all written well, the jokes are actually funny, and I feel like I spent my time watching something with substance once it ends. Season two better be in production as I write this, because between this and Harvey Beaks, Nickelodeon should count their blessings and praise somebody. At least these shows give the animation department a leg to stand on. The sad part is that in 1995, a good or great Nicktoon was to be expected. Now shows like that have become the exception, not the expectation. We're pleasantly surprised to see a good animated series on Nickelodeon in 2015. That's grim to think about.

Which brings me to my next topic: The Splat. On Monday at 10pm on TeenNick, the 90s Are All That gets rebooted into 90s Are All That 2.0. It will run longer and start airing more shows in regular rotation. I have a crazy idea. Why not just take all of the 90s Nick shows and give them their own 24-hour channel? Did the Nick execs really think about that? Because this is still the 90s Are All That. The only difference is you're extending the timeframe and not airing Hey Arnold/Rugrats/CatDog/Rocket Power 900 times a week.


 Look, I get it. You want to keep the 90s Are All That, but you know you have to expand your programming or else you're not living up to expectations. And more shows means more of an opportunity to see The Secret World of Alex Mack. Larisa Oleynik was gorgeous back then and she still is to this day, so don't move in on my lady. But no matter what you do, there will always be those people who don't have anything good to say. What if their favorite show doesn't get airtime? What if you end up focusing on the same four shows every night? What if you don't really embrace the whole 90s nostalgia thing and just air the episodes with no fanfare except for that rare occasion?

A year or two from now, The Splat will most likely become as stagnant as the 90s Are All That has become. Creating a new network dedicated solely to these shows ensures that each program will get played at least once a day. Although, now that Degrassi has migrated to Netflix for good, TeenNick really has nothing else to draw fans in. People nostalgic for the 1990s brings in a mammoth audience. So it's kinda like, "I scratch your back, and no one has to tune in for those Nick Cannon shows anymore." I just hope The Splat succeeds. The 90s Are All That was a brilliant idea, but it got very lazy and stagnant. Hopefully, The Splat gives those new viewers the same feeling I was given four years ago when the 90s Are All That burst onto the scene. It was like entering a different world. A cool world that people older than you tell you that you had to have lived in to fully appreciate. 

I bet The Adventures of Pete & Pete will never see the light of day. That's really sad because I hear that it was one of Nickelodeon's best shows in the 1990s and really showed you what it was like to be a kid. You know what the creators of that show are doing now? Working on Sanjay & Craig. Geez, what a step down.

Let's take it back to Nickelodeon for a moment. This is what I like to call the "rant" portion of this address. Their scheduling practices are atrocious. Think about this for a minute. The Thundermans started airing in 2013. At this moment, it is currently in its third season. Since then, it has been on Saturday night, moved to every weekday, then back to Saturdays, and now Wednesdays. WHAT KIND OF BACKWARDS THINKING IS THIS?! You know what the sad part is? The Thundermans could easily be a hit show if Nickelodeon invested more time in promoting it. Kids will watch the show if you promote it enough. Why do you think Teen Titans Go is Cartoon Network's cash cow, or at least one of them? Why do you think shows like SpongeBob and The Simpsons and Family Guy and South Park have maintained longevity? Because of how the shows are promoted, fans flocked to them and stayed there because of the quality. People will do the same for The Thundermans. Instead of promoting Henry Danger and Game Shakers 900 times a week because Dan Schneider's handprints are on them, talk about The Thundermans. Get fans excited to see the show, market it as the best thing on Saturdays, whatever. But this constant schedule shuffling is doing nothing for anybody. I wouldn't be surprised if Thundermans ratings are going down because of this. Bella and the Bulldogs apparently just premiered the opener of their second season on Wednesday. I don't recall seeing any promotion for that. Two shows on your network that are actually not that bad and have potential to be big hits and you treat them like this? How is anybody supposed to get behind your products without any promotion? I'm still in high school, but I understand that this is a very basic thing to do when it comes to advertising. Give people a reason to care about your content.

7:30 PM - 100 Things to Do Before High School/Nicky, Ricky, Dicky, & Dawn
8:00 PM - The Thundermans
8:30 PM - Bella and the Bulldogs
9:00 PM - Henry Danger
9:30 PM - Game Shakers

This right here is a potential Saturday night lineup that Nickelodeon could use. You have a warm-up show at 7:30, a new episode of a show that could use more attention. At 8:00 and 8:30, you have your heavy hitters. These are the shows you use to let people know what your flagship programs are. Plus, they are the two best shows you have. 9:00 and 9:30 have shows that really aren't that interesting, but they're from Schneider's Bakery so you might have a built-in audience. They have an animation block on Fridays that makes sense, why is it so hard for Nick to put faith in their live-action block? They used to thrive at this, it's called SNICK. Do the executives remember the existence of SNICK? You know, back when they had live-action shows AND cartoons that were both really good? Seems like a parallel universe, almost.

Then we have the imports like House of Anubis and such. Look, I get why Nickelodeon has these types of shows. They're extremely cheap and easy to make, but a lot of them suck. Like, really bad. House of Anubis was actually pretty entertaining as I recall and had effort put into it. But Every Witch Way? I want to throw up. Talia in the Kitchen? Who cares? Talia herself is pretty cute though. A freaking Every Witch Way spin-off? Are you insane? That's like having a spinoff of Breadwinners or something. That damn cartoon is still on, eh? Let's pray. The fact is, these imported shows do nothing for anybody. They get very little positive attention. They're in the background and collect dust. These kinds of shows can be hacked up and remade multiple times, but that doesn't mean they're any good. You're going for quantity, not quality. What a waste of time. Of course, I could say that for the entire network at this point.

I've grown up with Nickelodeon. It provided an outlet for all these great live-action and animated shows. Even today, we see people get excited over watching shows that have been off the air for years. That's a testament to what this network did for children back in the day. It spoke to them like their best friends and understood them. Now it doesn't choose to understand kids. It already thinks it understands kids when it has been out of touch for a very long time. Disney Channel isn't much better either, but at least with them, they have less to work on in order to regain their success. Nickelodeon has problems all across the board. Could you imagine this scheduling buffoonery on DC? People will go crazy over that. One thing I know for sure is that Nickelodeon has been extremely stagnant for a while now. The hostile takeover needs to happen soon because at this point, the network is looking more and more like something you just have kids watch to get them to shut up. 

The Unknown, you want to creep to the mic like a phantom? 

Sure! I've been a little distracted by doing the Disney Channel reviews and some real life things. 

Really, you've pretty much covered what needs to be said. I'll vehemently disagree about Every Witch Way and W.I.T.S. Academy as I'm actually a huge fan and looking forward majorly to W.I.T.S. Academy tomorrow. I'm also a big fan of Talia in the Kitchen and I especially like Valarie, the redhead, because as I said in the other thing she looks like the second coming of Jessie Prescott and I have it real bad for redheads. But I also know that those type of halfassed-hybrid kidcom/telenovella setups aren't for everyone and there's a lot to look past, and not everyone can look past the crap. 

I'll also tell you what else really impresses me on Nickelodeon right now - Pig Goat Banana Crickett. Yes, the ratings for that show are in the toilet too but it's exactly the type of thing I think Nick needs more of. Or, judging by the ratings, maybe not. But meh, whatever, I really like it. It's the type of laugh out load raw comedy that's increasingly becoming a throwback. In an ideal world, the thing that makes it a throwback is an increased sophistication towards good and even deep plots, but sadly it seems to be more moving towards the wayside in favor of shipping and what aging middle-aged comedy writers perceive as being the things little kids find funny (Austin & Ally and anything touched by Schneider are huge offenders of both). At least we have Gravity Falls on Disney XD which actually achieves that deeper plot structure I was talking about.

Also, as I didn't have Nickelodeon back in the 90s I had to Google Larisa Oleymk and holy crap you are not kidding. Also Drake & Josh is Godly. To this day it's one of the best sitcoms I've ever seen in my whole damn life. It's one of the very few kiddie sitcoms from either Nick or Disney that I think actually has a strong shot on a network primetime slot. If you completely ignore the fact that Drake and Josh are teens it's pretty much a network primetime sitcom already, as it is. And I think, especially looking back now, the show has as much or more to owe to Drake Bell and Josh Peck's talent as it does to Dan Schneider's. Also, don't forget The Last Airbender and even Korra. Korra Season 3 is one of the best, finest seasons of television I've ever seen in my life. I rank it up there with the same year's Fargo and True Detective with absolute sincerity. Season 4...not so much.

I have no idea what's going on with Nick's scheduling either. It's like they want to kill of a show, and it doesn't make sense, if you hate the show that much, why did you order it in the first place? If it's because you're running out of primo slots and you're just shoving the poorer-performers into throwaway slots, again, why did you order so many in the first place? Either Thundermans or Bella can easily slot into the loose half-hour they have hanging off of 100 Things, that slot is currently used for a rerun of the Wednesday Thundermans premiere anyway. It might seem like a moot point and a nitpick but advertisers care most about the premiere timeslot - rerun slots just aren't as sexy even if they nab better ratings. It's the premiere slot performance that grabs the Deadline and Variety headlines. 100 Things is spread out that they can pull a Disney Channel and alternate it with Nicky, Ricky Dicky and Dawn and just need an extra half-hour to put in the final show to make the night complete - something that they've done in the past, I should mention.

But going back to the larger issue, I think Nick's still trying to find a decent response and is still reeling from a larger issue I've been meaning to write about anyway, something I call the Kidocalypse. I'll reserve the finer points for later, but long story short for whatever reason the ratings dipped for Disney Channel and completely cratered for Nickelodeon in late 2012 when iCarly made its exit. Victorious hemorrhaged ratings, and Nick had cancellation after cancellation after cancellation of shows that would often just run for a dozen episodes or less throughout the entirety of 2013. As much as 2013 was perhaps the height of post-Hannah Montana or at least post-Wizards of Waverly Place Disney Channel, it was the utter pits for Nickelodeon. Wendell and Vinnie and Marvin Marvin were watching what was happening over at Disney Channel, looking on as Austin and Ally and Teddy were rockin' it up in Jessie's penthouse where it feels like a party ev-er-y daaay! and wishing they could have a piece of that action while they were being swept out of Nickelodeon studios and fighting over who'd get top bunk in that refrigerator box they found lying on the street.

What really sucked was the total bomb of Sam & Cat, which was a critical linchpin in Nick's programming and when it was knocked out it created a little bit of a panic. Nobody beyond those parties directly involved will ever know what happened, barring say Ariana Grande writing a tell-all book which granted given the way things are going might actually happen. If you look at the raw ratings it wasn't the stellar performer people strangely remember it now - it posted Disney Channel-like ratings often but many times it dipped into A.N.T. Farm territory (trust me that's low). Whatever, it's long gone, dead and buried and with it the legacy of teen comedies that goes back all the way to All That. 

But it wasn't just the utter collapse of Sam & Cat that put the network in a bind. Unlike say a failed Apple or Lexus product launch a TV show is almost effortless to replace and refill; there's almost literally dozens of scriptwriters and veteran producers banging on your door with ready-to-film scripts. There's no shortage of talent, no months or years-long development lead and lag-times like that associated with consumer electronics or cars. You just scan what's available, pick a script, and start shooting. It might take a couple of months to actually finish the post-prod but so what, especially with Nick's non-regular premiere sched you can push things back and use reruns to create a seamless transition. Most networks actually keep shows already produced and ready to go waiting in the wings exactly in case this sort of thing happens (and then premiere them mid-season if their time doesn't come prior). Look at how quickly Henry Danger premiered after Sam & Cat's demise, for example.

So no, it's not just Sam & Cat, I think Nickelodeon looked at what was happening across the board and concluded that the tween-teen demo was pretty much dead. Hence their move to aim younger with stuff like Henry Danger, Nicky, Ricky, Dicky and Dawn, 100 Things to do Before High School (it tells you right in the title) and now with Game Shakers. Thundermans really is a holdover from the 2012-13 era before they thought the tween-teen demo was no longer viable. Even Bella and the Bulldogs is firmly in middle-school territory. Their animated shows - Harvey Beaks, Sanjay & Craig, Breadwinners, Alvin!!! And the Chipmunks - are dead square at the pre-tween/tween demo. The days of Nick catering to an all-age demo with adult appeal are done, dead, gone.

It's a strategy that might have mixed results, but it's a strategy. That and going cheap, cheap, cheap with Every Witch Way and the other Caterina Ledobear shows. So cheap that they can post profits no matter how bad the ratings are, and it's just dumb luck (and in my opinion a testament to Ledobear's talent) that they happen to be pulling in almost the same ratings on daily throwaway slots as the prime Saturday premieres. It's the same thing with Max & Shred and Make It Pop! - import shows from Canada where someone else already sunk the costs in for you, or even pitch in a little bit but it's still less than making a show entirely yourself, even if it's a single-cam with a major song number in every episode like Make It Pop!

So like it or not this is the near-future of Nickelodeon as they're more or less in survival mode. They need survival programming. Every Witch Way and its ilk along with the imports  provide raw bulk ratings at bargain prices. The younger demo shows like Nicky Ricky Dicky and Dawn and the new Schneider shows attempt to draw in a completely new, fresh demo and hopefully grow brand loyalty into them; likewise the animated cartoons which will probably be more successful attempts. Whether or not this will work remains to be seen, but it's a better strategy than Disney Channel which is more or less to stay the course and pretend or hope the ratings blips aren't permanent (though maybe Disney Channel is starting to pick up the same strategy too if Stuck in the Middle is any indication). 

So yeah, I get what you're saying, but it might be a consequence of the ratings reality that's beyond our control. Though it doesn't give an excuse for the new Schneider's Bakery output to be so awful - unless we're just that out of touch with the humor of a pre-middle schooler (or perhaps the other way around). Nor does it give an excuse for Bella's awful scheduling. But, eh, whatcha gonna do.

7 comments:

  1. If THe Splat became a network, it would just turn out like Boomerang.

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    Replies
    1. Yeah, but the thing is that these Nickelodeon shows are arguably more popular and more appreciated by the older generation than those shows on Boomerang. Those 90s shows have a built-in audience every time. Plus, you know Nickelodeon will stop at nothing to promote it.

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    2. Networks that cater entirely to reruns/classic shows tend to be vulnerable to Network Decay, especially if they're owned by a major cable network. Hell, The Splat itself is an example of Network Decay in action. So we'll see.

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    3. I realize that we might have a problem on our hands: Nickelodeon is probably just desperate. I should never rule that out.

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  2. I'm look forward to seeing your reviews on 100 Things - if you choose to review it, that is. I actually like it and think it's a really decent show. I also agree that Nick needs to promote it more.

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    Replies
    1. Thanks for the positive feedback! After Saturday, I'm definitely interested in doing a review on 100 Things. Hopefully, it ends up being an enjoyable show to watch.

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    2. Likewise, thanks. I'm also looking forward to Mike's 100 Things review (I'm just as happy adding on as starting)

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