Nickelodeon left quite the impression on many children growing up, particularly during the golden era of the 90's and early 2000s. There was simply nothing like sitting down to a Saturday evening block of SNICK with a bowl of popcorn, or rushing to the TV set to catch the latest adventure of Aang in Avatar: The Last Airbender. In the days before mobile phones and mainstream internet, when kids were too young to drive, Nickelodeon was their entertainment.
Though, as time went on, and other avenues of entertainment came to the forefront, Nick seemed to endure a sort of fall from grace, not just in ratings but in overall quality. Networks like the Disney Channel, Cartoon Network, and Comedy Central rose to prominence with interesting content of their own. Kids that grew up on Nicktoons, SNICK, and Double Dare, moved on to the likes of Adult Swim, South Park, and Saturday Night Live.
These days, Nickelodeon has been attempting to co-opt YouTube shorts by broadcasting some of their shows on their network, like Breadwinners and Fred: The Show. They've also tried to recapture an older crowd that grew up on the channel decades ago through nostalgia, replaying 90's programming in an attempt to rise to their former glory. What we're left with is a channel that seems to be mostly regarded for shows at least 10-15 years old, while much of the more modern content has proven forgettable.
This isn't to say there still isn't some quality programming in recent history. Yet now, with the revolving door of programs coming and going throughout the lengthy timeline of Nick, it's difficult to separate the gems from the duds. We will do exactly that in this piece; we'll take a trip down memory lane and reexamine some of the hits of both the recent and distant past. We'll also analyze some of the stinkers that we'd rather forget - not just from the modern era, but even past shows that might not have been as great as we remember in hindsight.
30 Lame: Rabbids Invasion
It's a head-scratcher why somebody thought it would be a good idea to pluck these annoying and pointless video game characters and turn them into annoying and pointless cartoon characters. Perhaps these loud and zany Rabbids, whose origins can traced back to Ubisoft's Rayman, fit into the immature nature of Nick's brand of kid shows.
This Rabbid invasion should have been confined to the video game world...
The plot basically hinges on simplistic, juvenile shenanigans such as wielding chicken butts as egg-shooting weapons and running around trying to catch a fly. This is a classic case of all style and no substance.
29 Great: GUTS
Think Gladiators or Olympics for children, and you've got GUTS; a sort of extreme sports spectacle that ran during much of the 90's, and had kids everywhere wanting to win that sleek neon green trophy at the end.
Do you have it? GUTS!
The show consisted of an array of competitive events that ranged basketball and soccer to boating and swimming. This would all be leading up to a treacherous scramble to the peak of the show's star attraction, the Aggro Crag. This intimidating structure was a multicolored, artificially crafted "mountain" wrought with obstacles and steam. Quite extreme indeed!
28 Lame: Mr. Meaty
One has to ask when looking at this odd band of Muppets gone wrong, what exactly is the target audience? This animated puppet show, Mr. Meaty, features mostly immature humor that tries to ride the line between tame, kid-friendly jokes, along with some off-color and gross-out themes. Throughout the show, two fast-food employees spend most of their time engaging in pointless banter while getting into various monkeyshines at the restaurant. While the visual style is somewhat unique for Nick, the puppets come across as cheap and, frankly, a bit creepy.
27 Great: Are You Afraid Of The Dark?
You might describe this deliciously cheesy kids horror show as a toned-down Tales From the Crypt with some Goosebumps themes, and a tinge of Twilight Zone surrealism. It featured an entirely new and independent story each episode. You never knew what was coming when joining our fireside crew dubbed the "Midnight Society", who kick off their chilling tales by tossing some dust onto a campfire.
I ain't afraid of no dark!
Stories range from a dress possessed by a ghostly Aunt, to a cursed camera, to a creepy looking human manifestation of a computer virus that terrorizes our protagonist. While it's a bit silly looking back, this show truly unnerved many of us as kids and invoked the imagination.
26 Lame: Fan Boy And Chum Chum
Back in 2007, the network heads at Nickelodeon apparently had a choice to secure the rights to either Adventure Time, or... Fan Boy And Chum Chum. The Nick executives decided to opt for this CG dud, and Cartoon Network scooped up Adventure Time, which turned out to be a major hit, and a charmingly creative animated show.
Can't win em all, right?
This show banks on the idea that louder, crazier, and more obnoxious somehow makes for more enduring television. Now, hit shows can contain these qualities - just look at Ren & Stimpy. But that show also had substance, likable characters, and some clever humor, none of which are featured in this show starring these two annoying googly-eyed "heroes."
25 Great: Kablam!
This show often gets lost in the shuffle amongst a lineup of solid Nicktoons of the mid to late 90's, but looking back, Kablam! really was entertaining, and perhaps a bit ahead of its time. It contains hints of the bite-sized, obscure programming you might find on adult swim, but with humor that's a bit "safer".
The varying styles of animation, from hand-drawn, to stop-motion and claymation, was impressive.
The neat thing about the show is that it was really a block of several colorful and distinct animated shorts crammed into a half hour block. These included the Robot Chicken-esque Action League Now, which was significant enough to branch off into its own series, and the goofy Prometheus And Bob, starring an alien and a silent, incompetent caveman.
24 Lame: Breadwinners
Dancing behinds are funny, right? This is what the creators of the insane cartoon known as Breadwinners would have you believe anyway.
Apparently, even the creator, who began this series on Youtube, thought he was being punked when the network offered him a deal on this cartoon.
The show stars two ambiguous looking "ducks," SwaySway and Buhdeuce, who, as you might have guessed, spend a good chunk of time getting down. The show seems to desperately seek the attention of high-energy kids, running with the idea that more over-the-top animation equals funny. Spongebob this is not.
23 Great: Rocko's Modern Life
When people think crude and cleverly zany Nick animation of the 90's, they usually settle on the breakout hit Ren and Stimpy, but people often forget about this wacky cartoon, Rocko's Modern Life. This situational comedy demonstrated that any day could be a dangerous one...
Rocko's Modern Life is sort of Ren & Stimpy lite in terms of its themes and graphic nature.
To give an example of how crazy this animation was - in a good way - one episode contains a plot involving Rocko's timid friend Filburt dressing up as the Tooth Fairy and extracting one of the Aussie wallaby's teeth, which comes to life, grows to gigantic proportions, and terrorizes an onlooking stadium.
22 Lame: Nick Studio 10
There's a reason this programming block of sketch "comedy" only lasted 4 months on the air; it was juvenile, pointless, and just plain unfunny. In a haphazard attempt to revive Nick's live programming, a group of teens were featured at a poorly thrown-together studio set and hosted programs like SpongeBob.
The most memorable aspect of this show is that it simply hosted others more funny and endearing than its own material. Its skits included the cast drinking randomly thrown together smoothie ingredients and a music video in which they sang about flatulence in a jar.
21 Great: Nick Arcade
Thankfully, the awesomeness of this retro classic can still be seen on NickSplat's streaming channel, but back in the early 90s, we had to get up in the wee hours of the morning to watch this retro game-based gameshow.
It was one of the few things worth getting up early for, besides perhaps McDonald's breakfast.
Nick Arcade featured contestants competing head to head in old arcade games from the NES and Genesis era, along with answering video game trivia. The best of the best, however, was at the end, where the winner advanced to the "Video Zone". The contestant would be displayed on a sort of virtual reality version of a game, dodge obstacles, and earn points.
20 Lame: Yo Gabba Gabba
I know this show was supposed to be for younger kids, but still - the sheer degree of how cheesy, colorful, and over-the-top everything is in Yo Gabba Gabba, it's just cringe-worthy.
The show is meant to be educational, often teaching kids basic facts, social skills, or just having them let loose through annoying jingles. These can be obvious pieces of info that parents should probably just teach their own kids, like "Brush Your Teeth," or pointless bits like "Get The Sillies Out." It just seems to be desperate for attention with its crazy aesthetic and endless, tiresome dances.
19 Great: Legends Of The Hidden Temple
Man, was this show awesome. Part game show and part extreme sports challenges, Legends of the Hidden Temple featured the epic themes of ancient Aztec and Mayan, while the subject matter of the trivia covered a number of topics related to mostly ancient history. In it, 6 animal-themed teams of 2 competed to make it to the temple run.
Be honest, you wanted to be a member of the Silver Snakes.
The whole show was just a blast to watch, from the intense sports competitions, to the creatively designed temple runs which the episodes built up to, and even the ominous animatronic Olmec head and his entertaining banter.
18 Lame: Roundhouse
Going way back in Nick history with this one, Roundhouse is an overtly cheesy and poorly acted sketch comedy show that began as part of the original SNICK lineup, airing in 1992 and ended just 4 years later. Think All That with sappy song and dance numbers, and episodes that revolved around rather simple morals like "family is a good thing."
To its credit, the dancing from the cast is quite impressive - it's too bad the acting or jokes are not.
You either have to be a major fan of dancing or be deeply steeped in nostalgia to still be into this one.
17 Great: Adventures Of Pete And Pete
There aren't many shows for kids as simultaneously clever and bonkers as this comedy show. It tends to fall under the radar for anyone not well-versed in early 90's culture, as it didn't have a particularly long run, but this might be one of Nickelodeon's most underrated live-action shows ever.
It began from bite-sized clips that ran during commercial breaks, but was fleshed out into half-hour blocks of odd, random comedy and surrealism. There's even a tinge of philosophy, as one episode revolves around a cast member questioning the validity of her teachers' lectures with a simple "why?", causing them to go mad with perplexity.
16 Lame: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
This may be a controversial pick, as this CG rendition of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles actually isn't terrible - it has some fun action, as well as charming, character-driven moments. Though when compared to the original, and even the action-oriented 2003 rendition, this one doesn't quite hold up.
The turtles act like over-the-top caricatures of themselves, particularly when it comes to Michelangelo, who's about as stereotypically "surfer dude" as you can get. The rubbery CG come off as childish, and some of the episode plots are absurd. This includes a run-in with "Napolean Bonafrog," voiced by Napoleon Dynamite actor Jon Heder, which had my eyes rolling back in my head.
15 Great: Kenan And Kel
When thinking of great sitcoms on Nick, people tend to point to All That, which was sort of Nick's kid-friendly version of SNL. But many often seem to neglect this charming and surprisingly funny Nick-com, starring 2 of All That's cast members, Kenan And Kel.
And how many sitcoms have featured a plot involving an entire trial revolving around Kel dropping a screw into a can of tuna?
The two's characteristics are very different in nature but equally amusing. Oh, there's also an ongoing joke of Kel's obsession with orange soda, which, despite being a pretty lame, pointless gag, just works with how hilariously random and weird it is.
14 Lame: Fred The Show
What is it with Nickelodeon green-lighting obscure, mindless Youtube shorts? This live-action show, which I suppose could be loosely coined a "sketch comedy series", lasted a whopping 1 season and 24 episodes.
The show stars Fred Figglehorn, who's main quirk is that he's an overly-animated, obnoxiously loud teenager who gets into usually insignificant shenanigans around the house. This includes screeching like a maniac and tossing giant bags of popcorn around his living room. This shtick may work in bite-sized YouTube skits, but as a half hour block? It's just cringe-worthy and boring.
13 Great: Aaahh!!! Real Monsters
Before Monsters Inc. took all the glory, there was Aahh!!! Real Monsters, a quirky cartoon featuring the uniquely designed Ickis, Krumm, and Oblina. The premise revolves around a monster school underneath a city dump, which teaches its students to scare humans on the surface. This premise alone opens the door to a whole world of potential creative and entertaining plotlines, and the show delivers. One of the first Nicktoons to come from the network still holds up today as one of the most creative, and despite its gritty, dark palette, one of the most colorful.
12 Lame: All Grown Up!
The original Rugrats wasn't exactly a hilarious comedy or a masterful work of animation, but it had a sort of adorable charm to it, thanks to its memorable cast of characters. Despite seemingly dull surroundings, seeing through the lens of these naive toddlers allowed us, the viewer, to see things through a more epic and fun perspective, like they do.
With this sequel series, All Grown Up, the older versions of these characters just seem more toned down and typical, and no longer carry this sense of wondrous imagination. This makes for a show that lacks that certain hook, as it essentially becomes just another show about kids, their dull personal relationships, and mundane day to day events.
11 Great: Danny Phantom
Something about the combination of a superhero and ghost story is just infinitely cool to me. Danny Phantom follows a teenage boy whose run-in with a portal between the human and spirit worlds has turned him into a hybrid human and ghost. With his powers, it's on him to save the world from ghost attacks.
It's a bummer this only ran for a few years, as its rich premise held great potential.
The show manages to take two typically cliche premises and melds them into an exciting and captivating action-comedy, with some crisp animation, and some imaginative world-building. This is one of the few Nick cartoons that was able to span a wide age demographic, along with Ren & Stimpy and Avatar.
10 Lame: Planet Sheen
The breakout hit Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius played off of our natural wonder of space and aliens, making for a charming and entertaining animated short turned CG film in 2001. Though Jimmy's annoying, rambling friend, Sheen, showed that this imaginative theme doesn't necessarily stand on its own, especially if our main protagonist is so unlikable.
Unlike Jimmy Neutron, Sheen is no genius...
The CG animation here is pretty crude, Sheen's voice is obnoxious, the plots are nonsensical, and the gags pretty much boil down to the character doing dumb things. If you fancy sci-fi themes, just stick to Jimmy Neutron.
9 Great: The Legend Of Korra
Most people remember Avatar: The Last Airbender as one of Nick's most epic and gorgeous cartoons in the last couple of decades. Though many seem to gloss right over this underrated sequel, The Legend of Korra.
Korra is the reincarnation of Aang, who, having already mastered 3 of the 4 elements, embarks on various adventures to help bring stability and peace to a world locked in strife. This increased focus on social and political issues adds a new dimension to the world building.
8 Lame: Figure It Out
Nick had no shortage of solid game shows in the 90's, but Figure It Out was a rare dud among them. While it's not quite on the level of some of the modern programming when it comes to cringe-worthy shows, compared to the likes of classics like Double Dare, Nick Arcade, and GUTS, it falls flat.
The sliming of the usually annoying contestants when a certain word was uttered was about the most amusing aspect of this one.
You had a panel of 4 Nick "celebrities" guessing a talent of a random kid with a usually underwhelming ability or accomplishment. Contestants were only permitted to ask yes or no questions throughout - how exciting. The answers were typically reached easily anyway, as obvious hints were given throughout.
7 Great: Fairly OddParents
It's odd that this show doesn't get more hype, considering it managed to be one of Nick's most successful programs of all time, running for 16 years - second only to SpongeBob SquarePants. The series originated from Nick's compilation show, Oh Yeah! Cartoons.
The show doesn't try to reinvent the wheel visually, but it works - containing a colorfully cartoony style that resembles Hanna Barbera animation.
Fairly Odd Parents follows a boy named Timmy Turner, who is given two fairy godparents, Cosmo and Wanda. This zany duo has the power to grant Timmy wishes (in accordance with "Da Rules") and naturally, many hi-jinks ensue. The cartoon contains just the right amount of wackiness and clever humor while containing some good morals throughout.
6 Lame: Doug
Diehard fans of the early Nicktoons might cry foul, but in hindsight, Doug was a pretty uninteresting cartoon. Featuring a cast that covered a rainbow of colors, the show is essentially a kid-friendly Simpsons, without most of the wit, humor, or charm.
The show features Doug Funnie, a naive and dull protagonist who's most remarkable adventures consist of trying to win the heart of his crush, Patty Mayonnaise and occasionally trying to bag a mythical Neematoad. The most exciting portions are essentially just daydreams of Doug saving the world as the ridiculous "Qauilman."
5 Great: Clarissa Explains It All
There's a good reason the show's star, Mellisa Jone Heart went on to be a major actress following this show; she provides a unique charm with her witty, sarcastic humor and likable personality. The insights and zingers through her narration are a unique element that kept the plot focused and kept you engaged.
The characters are humorous and colorful without being too annoying. From Clarissa's friend Sam, who oddly sees it appropriate to enter through her bedroom window using a ladder, to her goofy father - both of whom we have the joy of watching perform an MC Hammer Dance, blue parachute pants and all.
4 Lame: Talia In The Kitchen
I'm not sure who thought the idea of a bunch of overly-cheery kids and teens hanging out in the kitchen, engaging in boring banter, and cooking random items would make for compelling TV.
You could tell this one is uninteresting from the title alone...
It's like if you tried to mesh a bland, family-friendly teen sitcom with a cooking show, though without any of the humor, or real cooking instructions for that matter. Though, credit where credit is due - at least this show doesn't succumb to the repetitive, annoying, and overdone canned laugh-track.
3 Great: Angry Beavers
If this show came out in the modern era, it would probably be more well renowned. Though the fact that it debuted on the scene when the likes of Rugrats and Ren and Stimpy were going strong, and followed up by Spongebob only a couple years later, it gets lost in the shuffle.
You've got Daggett, the antagonistic and high-strung beaver, and Norbert, the laid back and grounded one. The cartoon gives off a happy-go-lucky sense of fun with its wacky plots that range from beach vacations to a rise to disco stardom.
2 Lame: Dora The Explorer
Dora The Explorer revolves around a girl who embarks on adventures with her monkey friend Boots, who is clearly sporting an ongoing bad hair day. The show, to its credit, attempts something a bit different utilizing sort of pseudo-interactive bits with the viewer, calling upon them to solve puzzles and answer riddles.
This is a cartoon that is best left unexplored.
The problem is that, as the show is reminiscent of the most basic, crudely animated point and click computer game, it can be quite boring as a result. Many of these "puzzles" are comically simplistic, even to a very young demographic, often resorting to merely asking the viewer to point something out on screen.
1 Great: Ren & Stimpy
Sadly, this classic seems to get lost in the shuffle and relegated to the pages of history these days. Ren & Stimpy, from Animator John Kricfalusi, perfectly implements that wacky, bouncy Canadian style of animation that both kids and adults can appreciate.
A true classic, and one that left quite the impression on us back in the day.
The polar opposite characteristics of Ren; the irritable and short-fused Chihuahua, and Stimpy; the happy-go-lucky goofy cat, play perfectly off each other. Their shenanigans are so off-the-wall you can't help but laugh, and the gross-out humor coupled with its realistic animation is a spectacle you can't look away from.