11 Nickelodeon Shows From the '80s
Plenty of former Nickelodeon viewers think of the network as the home of Clarissa Explains It All, Rugrats, You Can't Do That on Television, and SpongeBob SquarePants. Here are 11 shows from the '80s that may not be remembered quite as fondly, but are still worth another look.
1. Out of Control
The network’s first original live-action series has another big distinction to its name—it was the first home of Dave Coulier’s “Cut...it...out!” catchphrase. A sketch comedy show that skewed a bit older, Out of Control came complete with recurring characters, wacky skits, and bits like “Let’s Eat,” a segment that saw Coulier hitting various restaurants that claimed to have “the world’s best” of a certain item. The show ran for only one season, from October 1984 to May 1985.
2. Eureeka’s Castle
Co-created and written by popular Goosebumps author R.L. Stine, Eurkeea’s Castle was a charming, family-friendly outing that relied on puppets and wizardry to present some pretty clever characters and situations. Set in a wind-up castle that doubles as a music box (that's also owned by a lovable giant), Eureeka’s Castle focused on wizard-in-training Eureeka and her pack of wacky friends, most notably the tail-challenged dragon Magellan. The show first debuted in 1989 and ultimately carried on for six full seasons.
3. Adventures of the Little Koala
If there’s one big takeaway from the cartoon series The Adventures of the Little Koala, it’s that the sleepy marsupials go nutty for eucalyptus leaves. But the Japanese production was all about multiculturalism—both in execution and release—as it followed the eponymous little koala, Roo-bear, and his many animal and human friends. It was translated and dubbed into other languages, including Greek, Italian, and French. The English-language version first aired on Nick in October of 1984, running 52 episodes until March of the next year.
4. Count Duckula
This British show focused on, you guessed it, an animated duck version of Count Dracula. Originally spun-off from the Nick series Danger Mouse, the dastardly duck-centric cartoon debuted on the network in September 1988, eventually running on the channel for just one season (though 65 episodes were made). The series was set in Transylvania and primarily used bird versions of classic characters—Doctor Von Goosewing filled in for Dr. Abraham Van Helsing, for example—to tell kid-friendly versions of frightful tales.
5. Don’t Just Sit There
The early years of original Nick programming were punctuated with kid adaptions of adult formats, like the talk show Don’t Just Sit There, which was a mix of chat and comedy. The show was hosted by various kids and teens over its three-season run, most notably Will Friedle, who went on to star in the classic series Boy Meets World. The show boasted plenty of cool guests—from William Shatner to New Kids on the Block—along with its own late night TV-style house band, Out of Order.
6. Standby: Lights, Camera, Action!
Nick has long tried to make educational fare fun and relevant, and there’s no greater example of that than Standby: Lights, Camera, Action!, a series that went behind the scenes to show its younger viewers what it takes to make a movie. It’s a cool idea on its own, but you know what made it even better? It was hosted by Leonard Nimoy. Spock himself took kids behind the camera for films like Return of the Jedi, The Dark Crystal, Octopussy, and yes, even Star Trek III: The Search for Spock.
7. Kids' Court
A frightening idea to parents during any era, Kids' Court sought to settle the grievances of viewers by way of mailed-in issues, on-camera child representation, and a scream-o-meter to determine winners. Very true to real-life court! The audience got to choose sentences to mete out to the bad guys, all but guaranteeing a wild and raucous time for everyone. While its grasp on the legal system was loose, the show tried to inject some education during commercial breaks, when it would present quiz questions about the actual legal way to do things. The show aired briefly from 1988 to 1989.
How progressive is Nickelodeon? PopClips is generally viewed as the direct predecessor of a little something called MTV. Created by former Monkee Mike Nesmith, the '80s-era program was the first music video-centric show, featuring clips from bands like The Pretenders, Huey Lewis and the News, The Police, and The Rolling Stones. The show even had VeeJays. PopClips only aired for a bit—from late 1980 to early 1981—but its influence is felt even now.
9. Think Fast!
Nick has long loved game shows (perhaps even more than talk shows), and the energetic Think Fast! was one of their first. Airing between 1989 and 1991, the show combined some classic tropes—two teams of two, buzzing in, playing for money—with some interesting new twists, including an event that echoed the repetition of the classic Simon toy, a misdirection game that involved a random clown, and the ever-weird “Leaning Tower of Stuff” (that’s the one where you need to craft a leaning tower of, uh, stuff).
10. Turkey Television
This Canadian sketch comedy show was centered around an animated turkey named Thurman T. Turkey, who specialized in repackaging TV shows from around the world. For example, it featured a Dr. Joyce Brothers parody. Weird Al Yankovic showed most of his videos on the series. Like the show's “Hams Across America” sketch, it was all very strange and very funny. Sadly, it lasted just one season (from 1985 to 1986).
11. Hey, Dude
Sure, this may be a bit of cheat—who can forget Hey, Dude?—but you might not realize the show actually started in the '80s, not in the heady days of the '90s. The dude ranch-set teen sitcom made its debut on the network on July 14, 1989, and continued on for five seasons. The series followed the hijinks of the Bar None Dude Ranch's charming teen staff. Fans will be happy to know that Hey, Dude still pops up on TeenNick from time to time.