It’s surprising that a book about the Golden Age of Nickelodeon is not only so formal, but completely by the numbers. It feels like “Slimed!” began life as an in depth interview about the network and then eventually turned in to a book. Matthew Klickstein can never really decide what kind of book he wants to give his readers, all he seems to know is that he loves Nickelodeon from the period of the mid-eighties to mid-nineties, and nothing else matters. Hell, the writers and executives that worked at Nickelodeon recall the introduction of “All That!” as an omen of change for the network for the worse, and how no game show could ever capture the fun of “You Can’t Do That on Television.” While I’ll admit the show is fantastic, I laugh at the inclusion of “Legends of the Hidden Temple” as a show that was never as good as the aforementioned series. That show was excellent.
But again, author Klickstein has nothing but love for mid-eighties to mid-nineties Nickelodeon, and only focuses on a short range of television shows from the network. So if you want to learn about “Ren and Stimpy” yet again, and are interested in anecdotes about filming “Salute your Shorts” then this book might just be for you. If you want to learn about “Hey Arnold!,” “Rugrats,” “Guts,” or “The Secret World of Alex Mack,” you’re plum out of luck. We’re only given brief explorations in to “All That!” and “Hey Arnold,” while author Klickstein basically composes a three hundred page compilation of interviews and only interviews. And most of it is seen through rose colored glasses, focusing on the more minute aspects of Nickelodeon. They never discuss the failures of the network and the less critically acclaimed series like “Roundhouse,” either. Also, it’s very interesting to hear about how Nickelodeon basically was created from “You Can’t Do That on Television,” but did we really need an entire chapter about what Nick Slime is made out of?
It’s always a nice little tidbit to hear about the slime, but I really didn’t need to read twenty pages of recipes. Beyond that most of the chapters are scattered and tough to read through, as most of the interview subjects weigh in on literally everything they can involving the network while every chapter begins on a broad question like “How Has Nickelodeon Changed Over The Years?” Surely, I agree that Nickelodeon’s heyday has come and gone, and I definitely do mourn the nineties Nickelodeon that chose to feature average children in shows about average families, but I was never sure what Klickstein and co. were trying to convey to the reader. They agree that in order for Nickelodeon to survive it had to grow and change, but they’re almost often angry and regretful that the network did change. Their criticism of the new slime is a side note that made it feel petty.
The writers and employees from the past do make some valid points about today’s youth oriented culture though. There is nothing but big business aimed at young kids, and we’ve stopped featuring kids being kids and now only feature entertainment about kids that want to be big stars. There’s also an interesting examination of how Disney eventually toppled Nickelodeon by imitating their model. Which meant buying “Doug” from Nickelodeon and courting its creator, while also recruiting Nickelodeon star Melissa Joan Hart for “Sabrina The Teenage Witch.” But while it is true that Nickelodeon “Doug” episodes were infinitely better than the Disney age, I can’t help by sympathize with the series creator who explains that Nickelodeon had nothing to offer him and his creation, while Disney offered up sixty five new episodes, a movie deal, and merchandising.
Hell, what creator would turn that down? Also, Melissa Joan Hart explains how anxious she was to transform “Clarissa Explains it All” in to a full fledged sitcom with an older Clarissa, but Nickelodeon and parent company CBS just wouldn’t budge. What becomes plain as day is that Nickelodeon eventually died and became irrelevant because they just couldn’t figure out a way to change with the times, nor did they want to. And author Klickstein allows the interview subjects to imply those themes, but never outright states that Nickelodeon was hoisted by its own pitard. Meanwhile, Disney is making big money off of doing what Nickelodeon should have been doing since the beginning of the twenty first century. “Slimed!” definitely has a lot of unique and interesting tidbits about production and network history (“Snow Day” was initially pitched as a “Pete and Pete” movie), but in the end it’s a one sided affair very much in love with the network and its legacy as the number one kids network.
Just don’t expect any honesty or objectivity to the history chronicled here.