25 Things You Didn't Know About Nickelodeon

Whether you preferred the drama of Hey Dude, the postmodern sensibility of Clarissa Explains It All, or the gross-out humor of Ren & Stimpy, if you were a kid in the '90s, there's a good chance your favorite TV channel was Nickelodeon. Here's what went on behind the scenes, as uncovered by Matthew Klickstein in Slimed! An Oral History of Nickelodeon's Golden Age.

1. Designer Tom Corey chose orange and lime green for Nickelodeon's logo because they're international distress colors.

2. There were many different recipes for the famous green slime that originated on You Can't Do That on Television. A few key ingredients: Cream of Wheat, green food coloring, Johnson's baby shampoo, vegetable oil, and occasionally cottage cheese.

3. Roger Price, creator of You Can't Do That on Television, slimed kids for saying, "I don't know," because he found it annoying. And dumping water for saying "water"? That was just funny. After the cast started complaining about how much slime and water were dumped on them, they received bonus payments—$25 to $50 extra—for getting soaked.

4. The creators of Ghostbusters, released in 1984, tried to sue Price for stealing the idea of green slime. They dropped the lawsuit when he pointed out that he'd been sliming kids since 1979, so Ghostbusters must have stolen the idea from him.

5. The child actors on the early shows didn't end up rich. Early Nickelodeon was low-budget and non-union, so they never got residuals.

6. You Can't Do That on Television didn't allow parents on the set. The kids weren't allowed to take scripts home, either.

7. Nickelodeon Studios originally printed the blimp logo on its toilet paper. But visitors kept stealing it, so they switched to plain.

8. The Double Dare set was designed to look like a bathroom.

Courtesy of Facebook.com/DoubleDare

9. Double Dare didn't allow contestants who'd had a number of previous injuries.

10. Because the hot lights on-set would bake Cream of Wheat, Double Dare made its slime with applesauce. The rowdy crew, known for recreational drug use off-set, called the slime GAK after the street name for heroin.

11. Double Dare host Marc Summers has OCD and sometimes struggled with all the slime and mess on the job.

12. Casio offered Nickelodeon $1 million to put its logo on the Double Dare clock. The network declined.

13. Nickelodeon recorded a number of doo-wop bumpers, those short clips played between a show and a commercial, because research shows that kids respond well to doo-wop music.

14. On Pete & Pete, Little Pete's signature red hunting cap was an homage to The Catcher in the Rye's Holden Caulfield.

15. Only Mark Mulcahy, who wrote and sang the Pete & Pete theme song, knows what it's really about—or can easily decipher all the words.

16. There was almost a Clarissa Explains It All album. The group name: Clarissa and the Straitjackets. The first single: "This Is What Na-Na Means."

17. The Midnight Society kids on Are You Afraid of the Dark? weren't allowed to be shown lighting the campfire.

18. Alex Mack of The Secret World of Alex Mack was first written as a male character.

19. The polling for the Kids' Choice Awards was originally done at amusement parks or McDonald's.

20. Geraldine Laybourne ran Nickelodeon from 1980 to 1996, turning the lowest-rated cable network into #1. She left for a job at ... Disney.

21. The warped mind behind The Ren & Stimpy Show, John Kricfalusi, was fired during the second season due to "creative differences" and ongoing work disputes. Nickelodeon Games Animation produced the last three seasons without him.

22. Laybourne later said Ren & Stimpy should've been a show on Nickelodeon's struggling sister channel, MTV.

23. E.G. Daily, the voice of Tommy Pickles on Rugrats, played Dottie in Pee-wee's Big Adventure.

24. Rugrats cut down on appearances by Boris and Minka, Didi Pickles' immigrant parents, when the Anti-Defamation League complained that they were offensive Jewish caricatures.

25. Co-creators Gábor Csupó and Arlene Klasky divorced while working together on Rugrats. They're still business partners.

See Also: Every Item Inside the Time Capsule Nickelodeon Buried in 1992

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Shout! Factory
10 Surprising Facts About Mr. Mom
Shout! Factory
Shout! Factory

John Hughes penned the script for 1983's Mr. Mom, a comedy about a family man named Jack Butler (Micheal Keaton) who loses his job. To ensure their three kids are taken care of, his wife, Caroline (Teri Garr), goes back to work—leaving Jack to fight off a vacuum cleaner and learn why it's never a good idea to feed chili to a baby.

In 1982, Keaton turned in a star-making role in Ron Howard’s Night Shift, but Mr. Mom marked the first time he headlined a movie, and it launched his career. Hughes had written National Lampoon's Vacation, which—oddly enough—was released in theaters the weekend after Mr. Mom. But Hughes himself was still a relative unknown, as it would be another year before he entered the teen flick phase of his career, which would make him iconic.

In the meantime, Mr. Mom hit home for a lot of viewers, as the economy was on the downturn and more and more women were entering (or reentering) the workforce. But some people think that the movie's ending—which sees the couple revert to traditional gender roles—sidelined the movie's message. Still, on the 35th anniversary of its release, Mr. Mom remains an ahead-of-its-time comedy classic.

1. IT'S BASED ON A TRUE STORY.

Mr. Mom producer Lauren Shuler Donner came across a funny article John Hughes had written for National Lampoon. Based on that, she contacted him and the two became friends. “One day, he was telling me that his wife had gone down to Arizona and he was in charge of the two boys and he didn’t know what he was doing,” Donner told IGN. “It was hilarious! I was on the floor laughing. He said, ‘Do you think this would make a good movie?’ And I said, ‘Yeah, this is really funny.’ So he said, ‘Well, I have about 80 pages in a drawer. Would you look at it?’ So I looked at it and I said, ‘This is great! Let’s do it!’ We kind of developed it ourselves.” In the book Movie Moguls Speak, Donner mentioned how Hughes “had never been to a grocery store, he had never operated a vacuum cleaner. John was so ignorant, that in his ignorance, he was hilarious.”

The players involved with the movie told Donner and Hughes they thought it should be a TV movie. Hughes had a TV deal with Aaron Spelling, who came aboard to executive produce. “Then the players involved were upset because John was writing out of Chicago instead of L.A.,” Donner said in Movie Moguls Speak. “They fired John and brought in a group of TV writers. In the end, John and I were muscled out. It was a good movie, but if you ever read John’s original script for Mr. Mom, it’s far better.”

2. JOHN HUGHES REJECTED THE IDEA OF DIRECTING MR. MOM.

Stan Dragoti ended up directing the film, but only after Hughes turned it down, because he preferred to make his movies in Chicago, not Hollywood. “I don’t like being around the people in the movie business,” Hughes told Roger Ebert. “In Hollywood, you spend all of your time having lunch and making deals. Everybody is trying to shoot you down. I like to get my actors out here where we can make our movies in privacy.” Hughes remained in Chicago and filmed his directorial debut, Sixteen Candles, there.

3. MICHAEL KEATON GOT THE ROLE BECAUSE OF NIGHT SHIFT.

In 1982’s Night Shift, Keaton’s character works at a morgue and starts a prostitution ring with co-worker Henry Winkler. Donner had an agent friend, Laurie Perlman, who represented the not-yet-famous actor. She contacted Donner and pitched Keaton to her. “’Look, I represent this guy who is really funny. Would you meet with him?’" Donner recalled of the conversation. "So I met with him. Usually I don’t like to do this unless we’re casting, but I met with him because she was my friend. And then she said, ‘You have to see this movie Night Shift that he’s in.’ So I went to see Night Shift, and midway through I couldn’t wait to get out of that theater to give Mr. Mom to Michael Keaton. Fortunately, he liked it."

Keaton told Grantland that he turned down one of the main roles in Splash to play Jack Butler. “I just remember at the time thinking I wanted to get away from what I’d just done on Night Shift,” he said. “I thought if I do it again, I might get myself stuck. So then Mr. Mom came along. So I said no [to Splash] so I could set up this framework right away where I could do different things.”

4. THE FILM BROKE NEW GROUND.

Teri Garr, Michael Keaton, Taliesin Jaffe, Frederick Koehler, and Martin Mull in Mr. Mom (1983)
Shout! Factory

In 1983, more women stayed at home than worked, so it was a novelty for a man to be a stay-at-home dad. Today, an estimated 1.4 million men are stay-at-home dads, and 7 million men are their children's primary caregiver. “Mr. Mom became part of the vernacular,” Donner told Newsweek. “Mr. Mom represented a segment of men who were at home dealing with the kids who, up until then, really hadn’t been heard from. That’s what really told me about the power of film, because it spoke for a lot of men. It also helped women, because I think that women sometimes, if you’re a housewife, you’re not really appreciated for what you do. This sort of made women feel better about what they did because they knew that men were understanding it.”

5. TODAY, “MR. MOM” IS CONSIDERED A PEJORATIVE TERM.

More than 30 years after the film’s release, stay-at-home dads feel the term “Mr. Mom” should die. The National At-Home Dad Network launched a campaign to terminate the phrase and instead have people refer to men as “Dad.” In 2014 Lake Superior State University voted to banish “Mr. Mom” from the lexicon.

“At least, the pop-culture image of the inept dad who wouldn’t know a diaper genie from a garbage disposal has begun to fade,” wrote The Wall Street Journal, after declaring “Mr. Mom is dead.”

6. TERI GARR DIDN’T KNOW IT WAS A MESSAGE MOVIE.

The movie redefined gender roles, but when the producers pitched the premise to Garr, they hid the plot reversal. “They just told me it was about a guy who does the work that a woman does, because it’s so easy,” she told The A.V. Club. “And I went, ‘Oh, yeah. Ha ha.’ It’s so easy. All the women I know who stay home and take care of their kids, they go, ‘Oh yeah, this is easy.’ Hmm.”

7. MARTIN MULL IMPROVISED THE “220, 221” LINE.

The quote everyone remembers from the movie comes from Jack, holding a chainsaw, standing next to Ron Richardson (Martin Mull) and discussing what kind of wiring Jack will use in renovating the house: “220, 221, whatever it takes,” Jack says.

“We’re doing the scene and it was okay,” Keaton told Esquire. “And I remember saying to the prop guy, ‘Go find me a chainsaw.’ When he comes back with it, he says, ‘You wanna wear these?’ And he holds up some goggles. I go, ‘Yeah.’ You know, they make me look crazy. And when Martin shows up, I know I should look under control, I’m not sweating it. I’m a dude. So we’re standing there, Martin pulls me aside and says, ‘You know what you ought to say? When I ask about the wiring, you oughta just deadpan: ‘220, 221.’ I died. It was perfect. I may have added ‘whatever it takes.’ But it was his.”

“That was a little ad-lib that we just threw in, but every carpenter or construction person I’ve ever worked with, they’re always quoting that line from Mr. Mom,” Mull told The A.V. Club.

8. MR. MOM OUTGROSSED HUGHES’S OTHER 1983 SUMMER MOVIE—VACATION.

Mr. Mom only opened on 126 screens on July 22, 1983, but managed to gross $947,197 during its opening weekend. Once the film went wide a month later to 1235 screens, it hit number one at the box office and spent five weeks at the top. By the end of its run, the film had grossed just shy of $65 million, making it the ninth highest-grossing film of 1983 (just between Staying Alive and Risky Business). National Lampoon’s Vacation, Hughes’s other film that summer, came out July 29 and ended its theatrical run with $61,399,552 (at its height, it showed on 1248 screens). Vacation finished the year in 11th place.

9. THE MOVIE LED TO HUGHES BEING CALLED “A PURVEYOR OF HORNY SEX COMEDIES.”

During a 1986 interview with Seventeen magazine, Molly Ringwald asked the writer-director why he never showed teen sex in Sixteen Candles or The Breakfast Club. “In Sixteen Candles, I figured it would only be gratuitous to show Samantha and Jake in anything more than a kiss,” he said. “The kiss is the most beautiful moment. I was really amused when someone once called me a ‘purveyor of horny sex comedies.’ He listed The Breakfast Club and Mr. Mom in parentheses. I thought, ‘What kind of sex?’ Yes, in Mr. Mom there’s a baby in a bathtub and you see its bare butt.”

10. MR. MOM WAS MADE INTO A TV MOVIE AFTER ALL.

In the beginning, producers wanted Mr. Mom to be a TV movie, not a feature film. But a year after the film came out in theaters, ABC produced a TV movie called Mr. Mom, with the same characters and premise. Barry Van Dyke played Jack and Rebecca York played Caroline. A People magazine review of the movie stated: “They and their three kids are immediately likable … But it goes downhill from there as the script lobotomizes all its characters. Here’s a textbook case in how TV takes a cute idea—and a script that does have some good lines—and leeches the wit out of it.”

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