Long before The Cartoon Network and the Disney Channel became renowned for showcasing children's television shows, Nickelodeon was the go-to cable channel for young kids wanting their television fix. Launched on December 1, 1977, Nickelodeon laid the groundwork for children's television programming of the modern era with a mixture of animated and live-action series. While the likes of SpongeBob SquarePants, School Of Rock, and ALVINNN!!! And The Chipmunks became popular shows for the network, it was the live-action game shows where Nickelodeon excelled above all other children's television.
Throughout the 80s and 90s Nickelodeon produced some of the greatest and most entertaining kids game shows ever seen on the idiot box. From the physically demanding Nickelodeon GUTS to the video game trivia of Nick Arcade through to the Indian Jones-influenced Legends Of The Hidden Temple, there was a game show for everyone. While all the shows on the channel were good wholesome fun for kids to enjoy, many of them held some dastardly and adult only behind the scenes secrets. For instance, did you know Moira "Mo" Quirk was once stalked by a young contestant or that Nickelodeon was sued for a stunt involving a pie to the face? We've dug into the history of the network to bring you 25 disturbing facts you didn't know about Nickelodeon's game shows.
25 Host Mick O'Malley Almost Given The Boot
When it comes to the most recognizable Nickelodeon game show hosts it's hard to go past the energetic Mick O'Malley. Getting his start on the trivia show Get The Picture, O'Malley came into his own as the host of the wildly successful Nickelodeon GUTS, but it could have all turned out very differently.
During the first season of the hidden-picture based Get The Picture, O'Malley was a rather sedated host who kept everything on an even keel. The producers weren't happy with his less than enthusiastic approach and told him to lift his game for the second season or he was done. Watching the following season it's easy to see O'Malley took the advice on board as he's like a man possessed, yelling, screaming, and turning the bonus game catchphrase "Power Surge" into a rallying cry that got the kids out their seats and on their feet.
24 Watch Out For The Spew!
Many of the game shows on Nickelodeon involved quite a bit of physical activity, none more so than the classic Legends Of The Hidden Temple. Kids were tasked with overcoming physical challenges and answering questions relating to history, mythology, and geography, to uncover the hidden treasure.
During one such show, things became a little too much for one young female contestant who blew chunks in the aptly named Pit of Despair. It's not known if she was ill but the strenuous activity, stress of answering questions under pressure, and the unenviable task of trying to put the silver monkey together would be enough to make anyone feel queasy. The show was halted so the girl could be cleaned up and the pit given a quick once over before shooting continued, with other contestants having to maneuver through the now sickly smelling pit.
23 Who's Watching Moira?
Nickelodeon GUTS was a stand out of the channel's game shows thanks in part to enthusiastic host Mick O'Malley and gorgeous official Moira "Mo" Quirk. The British actress was a referee during four seasons of the show and became the crush of many young teens. Unfortunately, one contestant took their fascination with her a little too far. Mo revealed one contestant became infatuated with her and began sending her love letters. He began turning up at a number of tapings and followed her around like a lovesick puppy. Mo said it started to become a problem and she had to sort it out. We imagine she talked with the young fan and his parents and everything was water under the bridge but I like to imagine Moira made him climb Aggro Crag over and over until he vowed to stay away.
22 OCD And Slime Don't Mix
One of the most enjoyable things about Nickelodeon game shows was the amount of slime and other yucky substances both the contestants and hosts had to deal with. Double Dare was one particular show whereby contestants took part in challenges that often involved them getting covered in all sorts of substances including water, uncooked rice, green slime, whipped cream, and milk. This is certainly not the kind of show someone with obsessive-compulsive disorder would want to appear on, or at least you'd think that. It turns out Double Dare host Marc Summers suffers from a severe case of OCD but somehow managed to keep it together on the show. Summers even got slimed a number of times but kept his cool in front of the kids and audience, demonstrating a level of professionalism not often seen by game hosts.
21 Only The Strong Survive
Many of the game shows on the Nickelodeon channel involve physical challenges, with Double Dare the hardest of them all. Not only were contestants covered in slime and other foreign liquids during the show but the obstacle course was often extremely difficult to maneuver. Kids were always falling over and getting knocked about so it's no wonder children with outstanding medical conditions were banned from competing. Any kids with serious health concerns or previous injuries could not compete as producers were well aware of the risk this would put them at. The producers even made the contestant's parents sign medical waivers stating their kids were injury free. Although two contestants did get seriously injured during the shows run, Double Dare was covered thanks to the waivers.
20 More Than Just Good Friends
One of the reasons for the success of Nickelodeon GUTS was the chemistry between host Mick O'Malley and official Moira Quirk. While the two lit up the screen with back and forth banter, many believed things between the pair got hot steamy when the cameras turned off. Rumours have persisted for years that O'Malley and Quirk were having a secret affair during the shows run. While both have praised each other in interviews they deny any form of dalliance, but that's what you'd say if you didn't want people to get suspicious, right? Whatever the two got up too behind the scenes it helped make the show a Nickelodeon fan favorite. Maybe one of them will tell us about any potential romance in a future memoir or something!
19 Not Quite As Live As You Think
Figure It Out was another great Nickelodeon show featuring kids with special or unique skills. A panel of four celebrity judges had to guess the skill of the children by asking questions to reveal their skill on the game board known as "It." Celebrities were also slimed if they performed a Secret Slime Action, such as touching a clue or looking to left. The original series was hosted by Summer Sanders and ran for four seasons between 1997 - 1999. The show was said to have been filmed at Nickelodeon Studios at Universal Studios in Orlando, Florida, in front of a live audience. This turned out to be a white lie as Sanders told MTV she was actually in New York City filming NBA TV's Inside Stuff when Figure It out was screening. Sanders was often approached by kids on the street in New York and forced to tell them she had a fast plane capable of flying her to Orlando in time to film Figure It Out.
18 Host Summer Sanders Get Punched!
You'd think hosting a kids television show would be pretty breezy but it turns out the children don't always play by the rules. As the host of Figure It Out, Summer Sanders had to deal with all manner of difficult and moody children but never expected to get punched in the face. Talking with MTV, Sanders explained one contestant got a little too excited when he won a prize on the show. Attempting to fist pump the air in celebration his fist connected with Sander's nose. While she didn't need medical treatment, Sanders said it really hurt, describing it as "that eyes-wouldn't-stop-watering" type of "really stingy" pain. Recovering quickly like the true star she is, Sanders powered on and finished the show without further incident.
17 The Pie's The Limit
What Would You Do? was another wacky Nickelodeon game show involving people pulled from the audience and performing weird stunts and skits on camera. During a country-music-themed episode, host Marc Summers chose a mother and son from the audience to go backstage and write a country song with some musicians to be performed at the end of the show. When the time came the two reappeared and sung a song about creampies. It sounds innocent enough but the song had quite a few lines that could be interpreted in a much more adult way. "I'll supply the crust, and you supply the fillin'." "I need your love, I need your pie." Even Summers' couldn't contain himself, getting the mum to repeat the last line of the song and even singing along. I'd hate to be this young lad when he turned 21 as there is no doubt this moment in his life would be talked about during the speeches.
16 Gak's Secret Meaning
Gak was the name given to a number of products that contained the famous slime contestants and hosts were doused with on many of the popular Nickelodeon game shows. The rubbery slime was known for being able to make fart noises, one of its key selling points. What the higher-ups didn't know was Gak was also a street term for a certain illegal substance. So while kids understood what they were getting was slime, clued in adults were shocked Nickelodeon had named their latest toy after an illicit narcotic. Marc Summers revealed the cast and crew knew about the double meaning of Gak and had a good laugh about kids getting their rocks off playing with Gak. Thankfully the association between the narcotic and playful slime doesn't exist these days, so kids can ask for some Gak without their parents fearing the worst.
15 Temple Race Near Impossible To Finish?
Of all the game shows on Nickelodeon, Legends Of The Hidden Temple would have to be my favorite. The show featured tough stunts, the scary temple guards, Olmec's massive talking head, and the dastardly shrine of the silver monkey. If contestants managed to get through all that they would enter the temple itself where they had three minutes to find the prized artifact and return to the start. Not many of the kids who entered the temple ever completed it successfully, with host Kirk Fogg admitting the final temple challenge was almost impossible. Fogg has said in interviews even he, a fully grown man, struggled to complete the course in three minutes, so there wasn't much chance of a kid making it to the end either.
14 Everybody Loves The Gak
I've already pointed out how Gak was both the name of the slime sold by Nickelodeon and a term used for illicit substances but did you also know many of the cast and crew used the term to conceal their love of narcotics? Host Marc Summers confirmed the name was used by the cast and crew as a code word for illegal narcotics during shooting. It seems substances were a big part of the shows during Nickelodeon's heyday in the 90s and almost everyone involved dabbled at in some stage during their career. The higher ups had no idea Gak was a street term for a certain narcotic so it caused quite a few laughs and enabled the cast and crew to talk about their "use" without getting caught.
13 Pie To The Face Goes Horribly Wrong
Double Dare often saw contestants put through the ringer as they took on the challenging obstacle course and found themselves hit in the face by pies from host Marc Summers. While all part of the show, one woman didn't see the funny side of receiving a pie to the face and tried to sue Nickelodeon. She claimed the incident left her void of confidence and men no longer found her attractive. Summers said she was paid $25,000 in hush money to keep quiet and drop the lawsuit, which she promptly did. This tactic from Nickelodeon obviously worked but makes you wonder how many other contestants have been paid off for similar types of incidents?
12 Geraldine B. Laybourne Was Poached
Her name might not be overly familiar but Geraldine B. Laybourne is responsible for the success of Nickelodeon. Laybourne was hired by Nickelodeon in 1980 when the company was on the downturn after a shaky few years in existence. Over the course of the next 15 years, Laybourne turned the struggling children's television network into one of the biggest and most successful brands, netting over $380 million profit in her final year in charge. Responislbe for introducing the famous green slime, Laybourne left the network in December of 1995. While Nickelodeon made it sound like Laybourne left because she was after a change, the real reason she departed the network was because ABC knew her contract was up and made her an offer she couldn't refuse. At that time ABC was preparing to merge with Disney and beloved Laybourne was the perfect person to oversee the deal, nabbing the sought after executive right under the nose of Nickelodeon.
11 Moira Quirk Had No Clue
Everybody who watched Nickelodeon GUTS remembers umpire Moira "Mo" Quirk. Decked out in her black and white striped referees tee and encouraging players with her charismatic English accent, girls wanted to be her and boys wanted to be with her. Even I admit to having a crush on the cheerful brunette. Amazingly, when Mo auditioned for the role on GUTS, she had no idea what the show was about or what her role involved. Combine this with her lack of sports knowledge and she should have had no chance, but it turns out the producers liked what they saw and hired her. Not only was she charming but a rumor persists of all the women who tried out for the role, Mo was the only one with an accent who wasn't blonde, helping her nab the role.
10 No Shortage Of Food
Three decades on since it first aired, Double Dare remains one of Nickelodeon's most beloved shows but it also came with its fair share of problems. One of the biggest concerns the producers and crew regularly discussed was the amount of food being wasted by the show. Massive quantities of food were used to create the obstacles and those involved soon realised how much of this was going to waste, especially considering there are so many people starving in the world. After people continually harassed Nickelodeon about the food wastage Marc Summers let slip co-creator Mike Klinghoffer came up with the idea to tell people all the food used was out of date stock supermarkets and restaurants couldn't use. Although untrue, this seemed to pacify fans and Double Dare continued to cover its sets in whipped cream, pudding, chocolate syrup and other wild foods.
9 Kids Intentionally Stressed By The Network
During it's early years, Nickelodeon struggled for viewers and the executives realised they needed to come up with something to get the kids involved. One clever or possibly sadistic member of the company decided to use the colours orange and green to attract viewers. The logo was re-done as the famous orange splat logo and green slime introduced into the shows. This might not seem like much of a game changer but orange and green are the international colours of distress. Kids seeing these colours would be instantly drawn to them and find it hard to look away, helping build Nickelodeon's fan base from an early age. Psychologically tricking kids into watching the channel might not seem very responsible but it sure worked for Nickelodeon.
8 No Parents Allowed
Nearly all of the game shows presented by Nickelodeon involved children taking part in quizzes and obstacles courses in front of a studio audience but You Can't Do That On Television was a little different. Created by Roger Price the show comprised of mainly sketch comedy skits along with a few other random elements. While the cast was primarily made up of young children, the only adults allowed on set were those who were part of the crew. Parents were banned from the set, with kids not even allowed to take scripts home for their olds to read through. While this might have been fine in the 80s, there is no way parents would leave their kids unsupervised on a set in the current climate, particularly considering some of the episodes of You Can't Do That On Television were quite dark.
7 Scared Kids Part Of The Fun
If navigating the challenges in the final temple during Legends Of The Hidden Temple wasn't hard enough for the kids participating, the addition of scary looking temple guards made it bloody near impossible. The temple guards would jump out and surprise kids, hindering their mission as they tried to retrieve the artefact and make it out in one piece. Most of the the time the backstage crew took on the role of the guards but sometimes the writers would get involved too. Apparently they enjoyed putting on the feather laden masks and got their kicks scaring kids during the show. Obviously this was a way for the writers to let off some steam but I'm pretty sure it wouldn't go down to well in todays era of television.
6 Not All Prizes Were For Keeps
Kids are taught that everyone is a winner these days and that was true for Nickelodeon GUTS. Everyone who participated got a medal but it was the one contestant who was able to scale Aggro Crag and achieve the highest score who was celebrated as the victor. The winning child was also gifted a large piece of the Aggro Crag mountain they had scaled, receiving the cheers from fellow contestants and host Mike O'Malley. But once the cameras stopped rolling and the show was off air, the winning child had to have back the Aggro Crag they were awarded. Apparently, Aggro Crag is more expensive than you'd imagine, but Nickelodeon did mail out small, cheap, replica pieces to winning contestants so they still had something to show for winning the show.
5 Moira's Nickname Didn't Catch On
Although Mike O'Malley was the star of Nickelodeon GUTS (aside from the Aggro Crag), everyone remembers the spunky referee Moira Quirk. The loveable English lass was a fan favorite and the perfect foil for O'Malley's hyperactive showmanship. During the show, O'Malley began to call Moira, Mo, and even coined the catch phrase, "Let's go to Mo - Mo!" While O'Malley did his best to help Mo take off as a nickname it turns out nobody else on the show called her that. In an interview with the Miami New Times, the reporter's first question is asking Quirk if it's ok to call her Mo, with the voice-over actress saying, "You...may. It was just [GUTS host] Mike O' Malley ... and my grandfather. No one else has really [called me that] before or since." So despite O'Malley's attempts at getting Mo out there, it seems nobody else took it on board, with Quirk happy to go by her given name.
4 The Ultimate Prize Not Always The Most Valuable
As is the case with any game show, the reason people are playing is to win prizes. Nickelodeon offered some great prizes across its game shows, particularly when it came to large sums of money, but the network had their own agenda when it came to persuading kids what prizes to take. In a round table interview with the A.V. Club members of the production crew for Double Dare. they discussed how they tested kids and found out they didn't have a perceived value of money. To them it's all the same, but if it's a choice between a new bike or a trip over cash, they would also choose the object. In this way Nickelodeon could save money on cheaper physical prizes knowing kids would pass on large sums of money. Although slightly cheeky it makes perfect sense and the kids never seemed to mind as long as they won something.
3 Don't Eat The Slime
One of the hallmarks of Nickelodeon over the years has been the sliming of contestants and hosts. Slime first made its appearance on You Can't Do That On Television. The original batch of slime got its colour from latex paint and consistency from a host of unknown products. It smelled so bad it was thrown away and a new bucket of slime made mainly of green Jelly-O used as a replacement. After various attempts at working slime the producers finally settled on a slime consisting of Quaker Oats Crème of Wheat mixed with green food colouring and a smidge of shampoo to keep it runny.
Since then, the slime has gone through numerous changes, with some of the ingredients used including cottage cheese and vegetable oil. Double Dare host Marc Summers explained earlier this year the slime used on his shows consisted of “vanilla pudding, applesauce, oatmeal, green food coloring, and by the third day, anything else that was on the obstacle course.”
2 The Producers Controlled Who Won
Earlier in this list I discussed how the final temple run in Legends Of The Hidden Temple was nearly impossible to finish. Well, there was a good reason for this. The show didn't have a massive budget so they could only afford to let so many teams win each season. Over the course of 120 episodes only 30-odd teams wound up winning, meaning the producers never went over the allocated eight prizes a season they were allowed. While this wasn't good news for contestants it's good business from Nickelodeon and helped the show's fan base grow as people continued to tune in to see if anyone could make it through the temple. So while not many contestants won the trips on offer they at least received a pair of sneakers for participating as well as being able to brag to their friends about being on television.
1 Fake Names
The kids on Nickelodeon GUTS were chosen for their athletic abilities as the show involved some intense stunts the teenagers had to conquer. As well as progressing through the challenges, producers wanted to give each contestant some personality, so they were given nicknames such as Brian "The Basher," John "Jackhammer," and Dana "The Dynamo." But not all the kids had their own nicknames so the producers would make them up.
A contestant on the show, Anna Mercedes Morris, was interviewed by the A.V. Club about her experience and revealed she was given a fake nickname. When asked if she had one, Morris was shy and said no, so the producers asked her if it was ok to call her Anna “The Roadrunner” Morris? Morris agreed and went on to win the show, possibly thanks to her new cool nickname that surprisingly didn't stick once the show was aired.