As a (sort of) adult, I have to wonder what on earth our parents were thinking as they watched our inexplicable outpouring of glee and good cheer at the sight of one of our contemporaries being doused in a sticky green semi-viscous compound on national television. To us, it made perfect sense. Speak out of turn? Get slimed! Perform poorly on a game show challenge? Get slimed! Fail to Figure it Out? Get slimed! Happen to be standing outside Nickelodeon Studios in Orlando, Florida during the filming of a filler intermission commercial segment?
You get the idea.
As children, we had no questions about the nature, existence, or purpose of slime. The act of sliming was, plain and simple, probably the image we were most frequently exposed to from ages 5-12, and we saw nothing wrong with that. We consumed Nickelodeon like water--only we preferred it greener and oozier. Slime was a fact of our reality and was to be taken at absolute face value as a legitimate icon of our favorite (though at the time, only) children's television network.
The notion of slime originated with the late 80s children's sketch comedy classic, You Can't Do That on Television! Every time an actor on the show uttered the otherwise inocuous phrase, "I don't know," suddenly and unaccountably a significant amount of sticky green goo would rain down from the heavens onto the unsuspecting victim. YCDToT cast members lovingly recalled that the original formulation of slime was deemed highly toxic and that it may have been a poor idea to risk lives for the sake of children's sketch comedy, even if it did star a young Alanis Morisette.
The proposal of the mysterious green glop was apparently so well-received by show producers and executives that it was soon redeveloped to be at best minimally non-lethal. Concocted from an original secret formula of flour and lime-green Jello, slime burst onto the scene, nontoxic and slimy as initially envisioned. God forbid the slime hypothesizer compromise his holy green vision. It should also be noted that it is a well-known fact that everyone thinks green Jello is disgusting, so the blame for its continued and persistent existence on grocery store shelves can be laid squarely on the shoulders of the slime theorists.
As we can deduce from the following clip that we can only assume to be completely serious, it seems that at the time of its inception in the mid-80s slime was highly controversial topic amongst children. As you watch the following Nick Special Report, please take notice that the proportion of feathered hair to head is inversely related to one's support for slime action.
What started as a one-shot gag soon spread (as slimes tend to do) to an ongoing element of the show. After the show's cancellation, Nickelodeon was determined not to let this otherwise non-sequitor lame-excuse-for-a-lack-of-punchline die out quietly. Plus, they had already bought all of that lime Jello. Thankfully they had the foresight to add both oatmeal and shampoo to the slime, apparently adhering to the 1990s Sassy magazine school of food-as-hair-product recipes in their quest to make the slime more wash-outable. The ominpresence of slime tied in nicely to the inherent messiness of pretty much every game show Nick churned out in the mid-90s. Shows like Double Dare, What Would You Do?, and Super Sloppy Double Dare capitalized on the audience's existing emotional ties with slime to capture their hearts and soil their smocks. Did I say yet that the aforementioned mess-based game shows were hosted by a germ-phobic obsessive compulsive? Obviously the slime people weren't the only ones at Nickelodeon with a sadistic sense of humor.
At some point, the demand for slime grew so high that Nick Studios actually erected a green-spewing slime geyser outside their Orlando-based studios. While of course we can only imagine that as a non-naturally occurring substance this geyser was simply for show, what it stood for made up for its lack of purpose.
Imagine for a moment that there were indeed dozens of people employed by the slime industry in the mid-90s; there were scientists and formula-testers, the guys that hung the roof buckets, engineers to build the pouring mechanisms, someone to flip the slime-dumping switch. This had obviously gotten out of hand. Instead of reigning it in, however, Nickelodeon just kept on milking it. Slime was featured heavily in the late-90s Nickelodeon game show Figure It Out, was used liberally and continuously at the Kid's Choice Awards, and squelched into the 2000s with a commercial break feature aptly titled "Slime Time Live." Yes, slime was here to stay, and there was nothing we could have or would possible have wanted to do about it.
See, we all embraced slime (well, as much as is physically executable with a mucilaginous goo) as emblematic of all that we knew and loved of our magical Nickelodeon network. It was idiosyncratic and spoke to us in a way that separated us from our parents; we understood it, they did not. For a magical moment in time, slime represented us, our collective childhood tied together by the universal experience of growing up watching the realization of this running green gag. To our parents it was simply a mess to clean up, but we knew it was our mess and hence deemed it worthy. Nickelodeon slime, if nothing else, stood for a turning point in children's entertainment when kids were (in our eyes) in control to run wild in their self-created world and revel in its distinct non-adultness. Kids had formed a secret club, and the repeated viewing Nickelodeon slimings made you a card-carrying member. Nickelodeon created a world where it was both fun and safe to be a kid, and we welcomed that wholeheartedly. It was the most kid-friendly neon-hued sludge we had ever seen, and we adored it. Well, that is until Gak flatulated onto the scene.
But that, my friends, is a story for another time.
*thanks to Aly S for the topic idea
Check it out:
Nick's Slime Across America