In honor of tonight’s very exciting TeenNick premiere of “The 90s Are All That” programming block, a fellow blogger and I thought it would be fun to combine forces to reminisce about some of the shows that will be rebroadcast after years in the Nickelodeon vault. For those of you who are unaware of the impending television greatness in our midst, behold, the glory of The 90s Are All that promo:
You should probably set your Tivo or DVR immediately so you can enjoy this amazing 90s Nick lineup at your leisure. Go ahead, we’ll wait. Done? Okay, great.
For readers who have not yet met the hilarious Andy, here’s your formal introduction:
Andy Shaw, known on Twitter as @WildARSChase, now runs andyshawcomedy.com, where he's combined forces Captain Planet-style to show his improv and stand up performances as well as his WildARSChase blog. He also wonders why Tori was ever on Saved By the Bell.
Now that we all know each other, I think we’re ready to begin. We could go on and on about our memories and the collective greatness of these shows, so we just picked a few of our favorites to start with. Be sure to stop back by Andy’s blog later this week for the next installment!
Legends of the Hidden Temple:
Children of the 90s take: Looking back, Legends of the Hidden Temple is a gold mine of highly transferable life lessons. For one, always wear a helmet and a mouthguard for all activities. I don’t care if you’re walking your dog or baking up a hearty batch of oatmeal cookies: you never know what kind of dangerous obstacles you could encounter that could potential damage your cranium or cause you to unsuspectingly swallow a molar. That’s just basic safety.
I also learned never to count my pendants before I’ve exited the temple gates. In life, it seems just when you think you’re about to run out of the temple scott free with the Walking Stick of Harriet Tubman, a terrifying and vaguely Mayan temple guard pops up and you’re back at square one. A figurative temple guard, of course. I think I’ve let this life lesson metaphor get away from me, but hopefully you’re still along for the ride. Bonus points if you’re wearing your helmet and mouthguard.
Legends of the Hidden Temple is also a classic example of how loosely we defined shows as “educational” in the 90s. By defining the stories as “legends,” the level of research integrity required by LotHT producers dropped significantly. I’m also a tad suspicious that Olmec was just a primer to prep us for subsequent years of gleaning our news from talking heads on TV. To be fair, though, many of those cable news pundits come off more stone-faced than Olmec.
WildARSChase take: Children, it all comes down to which team were you rooting for? A Silver Snake? A Blue Barracuda? Or were you cheering for a super slutty Red Jaguar?*
* Based on vague memories. Not scientific.
And might I add, Olmec was a douche. He was completely full of himself and very judgmental. I am quite sure host Kirk Fogg wanted to punch Olmec in his fat face.
Let me get to my biggest gripe, though: Why couldn’t those stupid kids assemble the Shrine of the Silver Monkey faster? My God, it was three pieces! And then they would waste so much time giving the temple guards the pendants. Drove me crazy. Kirk Fogg would scream at them. I’d scream at them. It was rough.
Children of the 90s: I was a Blue Barracuda girl all the way. I never quite understood how they came up with the color/creature combos for team names. Orange Iguanas? Red Jaguars? It just doesn’t add up.
I’m with you about Olmec. Can you imagine Kirk and Olmec’s off-screen relationship? I feel like there was some serious tension there when the cameras were off.
Speaking of the temple guards, it kind of makes me wonder who exactly was showing up for work everyday to dress up in the full Mayan garb. Were these guys Nickelodeon interns? Or real actors? I’m trying to picture some poor aspiring actor padding out his resume with “Temple Guard #3,” or if he was feeling especially creative, maybe he even gave it an authentic Mayan name like “Ixchel.”
WildARSChase: My guess is Olmec used to date Kirk’s girlfriend and was still calling her because he felt lonely stuck on the side of a temple. And Kirk couldn’t handle it and would sometimes rub it in Olmec’s face how hot his girlfriend is. I imagine the girl was Lori Loughlin from “Full House.”
The Mayan thing cracks me up because I’m sure it was so completely historically inaccurate (as you astutely point out, it was “legends.”) I am sure there’s an IMDB page out there with Temple Guard #3 out there. And I’m also quite sure Keanu Reeves would be the one to do it.
Children of the 90s: So I actually went to look that up on IMDB, to no avail. Too bad. I did find out the host Kirk Fogg had a bit part as a district attorney in the Veronica Mars pilot, though.
Children of the 90s take: All That understood the difference between adult comedy and children’s comedy. How do I know? Because at the time, I thought each sketch was more brilliant than the last, but as an adult I question my very sanity for laughing out loud at some of this stuff. “He’s Earboy! Earboy! His Ears are really big!” Really? That’s your tagline? At least no one could argue it would go over kids’ heads.
I was also a big fan of the Goodburger fast food sketches, foreign exchange student Ishboo, crazy write-in advice dispenser Dear Ashley, and of course Vital Information for your Everyday Life. I credit Vital Information with teaching me the value of non-sequitor humor and building me a strong base of sarcasm. I never could nail a deadpan delivery quite like Lori Beth Denberg, though. Not every line was a winner, but the concept was pretty clever for a kid’s show.
Best of all, If I didn’t think something was funny, it was also incredibly brief-there was usually a ten minute wait at most to enjoy Coolio or Boyz II Men or whichever other top-billed musical artist the show managed to pull for a performance.
WildARSChase take: I can still remember that theme song. Did you know TLC performed it? RIP, Lisa Left Eye Lopez.
That show created a ton of spinoffs: Kenan & Kel (everytime I see SNL and see Kenan Thompson, I think of the “Goodburger” movie), The Amanda Show and more. Amanda Bynes was clearly gunning to be the star of All That. I never liked her as much.
I also forgot that Nick Cannon was on that show, preparing for a life ahead with Mariah Carey.
The best thing about All That may have been the music guests. I loved how culturally diverse it was - I am sure it is one reason I’m into R&B and hip hop today. Aaliyah, Erykah Badu, Da Brat, Busta Rhymes … and they weren’t singing kid-friendly songs, either. Actually, I can’t believe half of them were on a kids’ show.
Children of the 90s: ARS, you’re bringing back way too many memories here, I’d completely forgotten about Nick Cannon being on All That. Remember the spinoff Nick Cannon show? Now I just think of him as the well-dressed hipster host of America’s Got Talent who’s whipped enough by Mariah Carey to allow his children to have names like Moroccan and Monroe.
Looking at that list of musical guests, it’s definitely a far cry from the Disney-ified music in kids’ entertainment today. I actually went to see Busta Rhymes a few weeks ago and I can vouch that it is definitely not kid-friendly. Maybe the show’s content advisers just assumed he rapped so fast parents wouldn’t catch all the drug references.
And of course, I loved the TLC theme song. CrazySexyCool was one of the first CDs I owned. I’m pretty sure I spent a whole year deeming things I liked not just as cool, but as crazysexycool.
WildARSChase: You went to see Busta Rhymes? You just got bonus points in my book. That’s gangsta. Aaliyah sang “One In a Million” on All That, a song clearly about sex. By the way, how come I keep referring to dead 90s singers?
I had CrazySexyCool on cassette. I remember listening to “Red Light Special” and knowing it was dirty but not quite sure why.
I wonder if a show like “All That” would make it today. Since I’m not a kid anymore, I’m not sure what all is out there, but I’d be worried that someone like Miley Cyrus would be on a new “All That.” And that would be a tragedy.
Children of the 90s: You just reminded me I should go listen to Red Light Special so I can figure out what the heck I was misunderstanding as a child. Be back soon.
Children of the 90s take: As a child, I was certain the the culmination of life success was determined by one’s ability to navigate the treacherous terrain of a color-coded craggy mountain plagued by frequent glitter storms. For many years, my life’s major ambition was to someday own a piece of the famed aggro-crag. I certainly wasn’t athletic enough to ever make it as a contestant in the Extreme Arena, but that hasn’t stopped me from searching periodically for souvenir aggro crag trophies on eBay.
One of the best parts of the show was the little “Spill Your Guts” human interest segment. I spent hours brainstorming what my GUTS nickname might be. Did I exhibit the shiftiness and stealth of “The Jackal” or did I boast more of the grace and quick-footedness of “The Jaguar”? Plus, these kids knew how to celebrate their athletic achievements: I still think the best way to celebrate a milestone is to drape yourself proudly in your country’s flag and take a victory lap.
WildARSChase take: Mike O’Malley was introduced to me through GUTS, a show so awesome it demands a caps lock. DEMANDS IT. Who’s Mike O’Malley, you say? I’m guessing you don’t know him through his seminal work on “Yes, Dear,” which lives on in TBS infamy. I bet you know him as Kurt’s dad on “Glee.” Yep, that guy.
He was the host, always pushing kids to the limit and keeping sexual tension with Mo Quirk, the (female) referee. Mo went on to do great things, such as “My Life As a Teenage Robot” and an “additional voice” credit on Microsoft Flight Simulator X.
GUTS was all about the Agrocrag, wasn’t it? The Agrocrag makes Mount Doom in “Lord of the Rings” look like a sandcastle. It separated the men from the boys, the women from the girls and the destined to be a pro athlete from the destined to be an accountant.
Looking back, that show was great because it promoted physical activity and being adventurous. It’s the exact opposite of another old Nick show that evidently won’t be re-broadcast, Nick Arcade … clearly, that show doesn’t stand the test of time because the graphics would look horrendous.
Children of the 90s: I’ll admit I actually had a huge crush on Mike O’Malley in his GUTS days. What can I say, I like a guy in a hockey jersey. I was definitely not a Yes, Dear fan, but I do like him on Glee when I remember to watch it. I suppose if he has to be getting old and bald, at least he can be accepting of his gay son.
That kind of makes me sad about Mo, because I always admired her intensity and how serious she took this announcer gig that must have been, at best, her third choice show biz job. My fiance and I actually went one year for Halloween as Mo and a Guts Contestant...I’d highly recommend it if you’re ever in a market for a 90s costume idea.
I’m also all for the physical activity aspect, but I actually loved Nick Arcade. Didn’t you think it seemed cool at the time? Obviously the technology seems pretty crappy now, but back then I was amazed those kids were in the video games. All hail bluescreen technology.
WildARSChase: Mo and a GUTS contestant? You’re racking up bonus points left and right. I think you also were Mike O’Malley’s only groupie, so that’s minus points.
GUTS really did have an international flair. I almost had forgotten how they flew the country flag. Of course, then you also found yourself rooting for America, which seems a bit xenophobic in hindsight. Screw you, other countries! This here is America, and our kids are the best!
Nick Arcade did seem awesome at the time. I couldn’t believe how it was done. Actually, if they did a new version of that it would be amazing, wouldn’t it?
Children of the 90s: I’m not ashamed, I was totally a Mike O’Malley groupie. Try watching the video above and telling me he didn’t used to be pretty good-looking in his relative youth.
I would totally go for a new Nick Arcade. Are you out there, Nickelodeon executives? I’d watch that. Whip that up, please, with some new technology. And maybe they can make into Global Nick Arcade, just so I can continue to feel good about rooting for my American compatriots.
WildARSChase: Come over to AndyShawComedy.com on Friday for the next installment of our recap of Nickelodeon shows of yesteryear. What shows will we do next? You'll have to visit to find out! Follow us on Twitter to find out when our series is updated! @wildarschase and @childrenof90s
Children of the 90s: (Insert additional self-promotion links here)