Nick vs. Disney: TV of the 2000’s

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image: sitepoint.com

My TV consumption between the years of 2003 to 2011 was very high and consisted of two channels: Nickelodeon and Disney Channel. When I was a kid, I would flip back and forth between the two during commercial breaks to see if I could catch what show was playing on the other channel. A lot of videos and articles have come out recently remembering the two networks and the shows they showed to kids at the time. There were so many that I remember watching every episode of and playing all the free online flash games corresponding to that property. The 2000s gave us fascinating programs that I absolutely adored growing up, and now it’s time to see if they were any good.

First and foremost, I must explain that I was a Nickelodeon kid. I watched several episodes of every program broadcasted in the 2000s and religiously watched every years edition of the Kid’s Choice Award and voting online. My friends and I would discuss winners on the playground and talk about how we wanted to get slimed one day. There was one show that I have fond memories and was my favorite show growing up, and that was Drake and Josh. The show had a very simple set up that was easy to relate to and had many redeeming qualities about it. Two teenage step-brothers now live together when Drake’s mom marries Josh’s dad. Zany antics ensue. This show was genius in that it did not require any background knowledge about character backstory, since most of it was easy to understand regardless what episode it was. The two leads have great chemistry and have great banter between each other, and the comedy made for children can still make me chuckle here and there.

The “follow-up” to the show was far zanier and much more successful, embracing the internet culture that was on the rise at the time: iCarly. This show starred an actor who had a lesser role on Drake and Josh, where it blew up and became one of Nick’s most successful shows of all time. This premise is a teenage girl and her friend create a web series that becomes wildly popular around the world. The things that happen in this series can really be classified under the “random = comedy” era of entertainment, as this show throws a lot of bonkers ideas and phrases at the wall and sees what sticks. Once again, the three main leads have really good chemistry and adult characters are incredibly goofy, but retain their likability. iCarly had some very adult moments that they were trying to teach children, but still kept their attention with crazy visuals and a hyper-edited feel. This show had pretty major guest stars appear like One Direction, the Plain White T’s and even First Lady Michelle Obama. For many kids, this show was the ultimate way to grow up, and though it wasn’t “my show”, it still was really good.

The tentpole of Nickelodeon is Spongebob Squarepants. This show debuted in 1999 and is still running new episodes today containing all the characters children have come to know and love for two decades. The first few seasons I can still recite from memory and there is a special place in my heart for the Battle For Bikini Bottom video game. Everything that Spongebob did for kids has retained its legacy all these years later with a Spongebob appearance at the latest Super Bowl halftime show. Memes based on the show have an entire subreddit with over 2 million followers, and Spongebob quotes are traded among people who grew up with it. Needless to say, Spongebob was a huge part of growing up for me.

There were a lot of others that I will briefly go over. I watched these shows as well, but they weren’t a staple of my childhood as much as the other shows. Avatar: The Last Airbender is arguably the best animated show to come out of America, and that’s for good reason. The show have fascinating, dynamic characters, a fleshed out world, and a chronological order that had not been seen in children’s shows prior to that. Ned’s Declassified School Survival Guide was a cute way to look at how children’s shows depicted life beyond their elementary years, but looking back on it, the show is very hard to get through as an adult. Zoey 101 was a fun show that took on sexism and presented new themes to a younger audience. There are still big fans of the show but it was unfortunate to see it have its air time cut short due to Jaime Lynn Spears’s unexpected pregnancy. There are a ton if animated shows that came and went like El Tigre, Back at the Barnyard, and the beguiled Fanboy and ChumChum.

Disney had far less of an impressive resume on shows from the 2000’s, but one that I like to bring up as possibly better than some higher quality Nick shows is the Suite Life of Zach and Cody. The premise of this show is that a divorced mom and her twin sons live in a chain hotel in Boston as the mom works nights by singing. The premise definitely lends itself to be a hard-hitting drama, but it was a comedy show that ran on Disney Channel. This one I like to point out to people as a breath of fresh air compared to other shows running at the time. The main characters were not crazy pop stars like Hannah Montana, they weren’t at a Malibu boarding school like Zoey 101, these were kids who were well below the poverty line, and they still have a lot of fun doing what they do. The character of London Tipton is a great foil to Zach and Cody as she is air-headed and uber rich, something that most people below the poverty line would loathe and despise. Instead, the characters are friends and really like each other. This show pushed boundaries of many kids TV program cliches at the time and I really like that. This was all thrown away when the Suite Life on Deck premiered and showed that being poor and living in a hotel can get you the opportunity to travel around the world on a cruise for free.

No, I really don’t like the Suite Life on Deck at all. The cruise setting did not fit the characters at all, and some of the best characters from the original show had been replaced by one-note, forgettable characters that no one remember. Everyone remembers Esteban Julio Ricardo Montoya de la Rosa Ramirez, but I would be shocked to see anyone who’s favorite character is Bailey. The old characters do have their own “return” episode, although watching them on this show makes me want to watch the original show instead. This show was very bland and really formulaic when it comes to the situations that happen in the series, and the world-wide settings that the show revolves around look like a community theater set. This show really does not do a lot that makes me want to come back and re-watch it.

Miley Cyrus has been a polarizing figure over the years, and many people blame her troubles on Hannah Montana. A dual-life pop star is the basic premise of the show, and there are many reasons to avoid it. The writing is bad, the acting is bad, the songs are bad, the singing is bad. There’s hardly a redeeming quality from this show save for the introduction of the charming Jason Earles, who would go onto another Disney show after this one ended. After this show ended, there were a lot of bad things that happened to the stars. Mitchell Musso was fired from Disney after a DUI in 2001, Miley had posted sexually exploitative images, and the show as a whole was criticized for being a bad influence to it’s target audience, namely young girls. Miley has stated since that the show was a bad experience for her and her family. Hannah Montana should not be supported in any more capacity.

These shows from these two networks eventually all lives out their runs and met the fate of being relegated to DVD’s and streaming services. An underdog network did rise up from the ashes of the 2000’s and started putting out quality shows when the new decade arose. Cartoon Network made a revival of sorts when Adventure Time aired. Millions of people watched the show and really enjoyed it, which led to other oddball shows to premier on the channel like The Amazing World of Gumball, Regular Show and Steven Universe. This isn’t to say that the 2000’s was a bad decade for the network, as they had shows like Codename: Kids Next Door and Courage the Cowardly Dog. It’s just the success that Disney Channel and Nickelodeon had in the 2000’s is now with Cartoon Network in the 2010’s. This is especially impressive considering traditional TV has almost completely made its way to streaming services.

The 2000’s were a decade where children’s shows really thrived. There were a lot of real world issues that were addressed within these programs, but they still managed to entertain children the way kids shows do. Maybe I will go more in depth into these shows individually, but I felt that a lot of these shows needed to be recognized for the mediums that they were.

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