Comparing US Cities To 90s Nickelodeon TV Shows

Nov. 7, 2012
Nathan Savin Scott is a writer based in Washington, DC. He enjoys writing about music, sports, and was briefly a High ...

NYC – All That!

Diverse cast. Variety show format means that you get tons of different looks every week. I’d write more, but New York City gets talked about enough on this site. HA!

Austin – The Adventures of Pete and Pete

Probably the weirdest show on 90s Nickelodeon, though I will say it holds up surprisingly well. (I recently purchased Seasons 1 and 2 on DVD. Best $19.99 I’ve spent in a minute.) Not to mention this show had one of the top 5 theme songs of all time.

Anyway, the show was weird. Brothers who have the same name… the younger one had a full arm tattoo of a mermaid. And out of all the cities I know, Austin is the most committed to keeping itself weird. They put it on stickers and stuff. Also, last time I was in Austin I’m pretty sure I saw Artie the Strongest Man in the World getting a beer at Barbarella.

DC – Clarissa Explains it All

Clarissa Explains it All had three central characters: a confident, mature girl (Clarissa) who acts years older than her age, and is mature enough with boys that she can have guys climbing up to her room constantly via ladder. Then there’s Sam Anders, the chill, non-threatening platonic male friend who likes surfing and is the main ladder-climber in Clarissa’s life. And of course you have Ferguson, the obnoxious right-wing little brother who torments Clarissa constantly.

Let’s just put it this way: watching a mature-beyond-her-years girl balance the advances of a platonic male friend who clearly wants more and the badgering of a right-wing twerp who thinks he can get under her skin by teasing her…well, that sounds like every Thursday night out I’ve had at a bar in DC.

Denver – Salute Your Shorts

Salute Your Shorts was the classic Nick show that took place at a summer camp, and had one of my all-time favorite characters in Donkey Lips, which if that isn’t the name of an indie band yet then it God well should be. Not to mention a pantheon character in Kevin “Ug” Lee, the camp counselor that got ZERO respect. (I also discovered the cast had the actress Venus DeMilo Thomas, whose Wikipedia page tells me that she is an American actress “best known for her work as a part of Nickelodeon’s Salute Your Shorts. Later in her career, she guest starred as Laura’s friend K.C. on Family Matters. She also played Rashelle on Sister Sister.” Which brings up the obvious point: when your three biggest appearances are on Salute Your Shorts, Family Matters, and Sister Sister, why even bother continue acting?)

In any event, hanging in Denver reminds me a little of being away at summer camp. The people I know who live there DO have jobs, work hard, etc. But they also love ACTIVITIES there, you know? My weekend schedule here in DC consists of “1. Sleep 2. Coffee 3. Read 4. Sleep 5. Football (maybe?)” Every person I met who lives in Denver has a weekend schedule that has more activities on it than I will partake in over the course of a year. Hiking. Skiing. Backpacking. (Which is somehow different than hiking?) Biking. Skiing some more. Fording oxen over a river. Hiking again. People there DO things, you know?

Los Angeles – The Secret World of Alex Mack

The Secret World of Alex Mack was the high-budget addition to SNICK that blew a lot of kids our age’s minds because it had “special effects.” And when I say “special effects” I mean they did the thing from Capri Sun commercials where the character turns into a puddle. This was a HUGE deal in 1994.

In any event, the show had a beautiful, glossy exterior. The production value was high (I think they shot Salute Your Shorts on VHS, to give you an idea of the NICK standard.) But the show was also pretty empty. I honestly remember no other characters outside of Alex Mack, and nothing about the plot other than the vague sense that she was being chased a lot.

Likewise, whenever I visit Los Angeles, I am amazed at how beautiful everything is, how pretty all the people are, how nice the quality of life is, etc. Then the minute I leave I just have the vague sense that I wouldn’t want to live there, and am in no rush to return back.

St. Paul – Doug

Aside from two great supporting characters in Skeeter and Patty Mayonnaise, the show Doug was hindered by the fact that, outside of his Captain Underpants alter-ego, Doug was one of the most forgettable and vanilla leading men in the history of cartoons. Yes. I said it. I’m sorry. All in all, the show was a pretty standard show about kids who were obsessed with an indie band called The Beets.

St. Paul, Minnesota is a pretty standard town, where kids get really excited about whatever local indie band is coming up there. That’s all I got.

Cleveland – Rugrats

Fantastic show about a couple of scrappy kids trying to make it in a big world. AKA a show about babies hanging out in a backyard. A couple things: one, I truly believe Chuckie did more to advance the social standing of ginger kids than just about anyone else in the last 25 years, up to and including David Caruso. Two, “Angelica Pickles” should totally be the name of an indie band if it isn’t already.

As for why Rugrats is like Cleveland… I know like six people from Cleveland, and five of them are married, and four of them have kids. I wish I could say more thought went into this connection, but it just wouldn’t be true. I mentally connect Cleveland with babies. And poor sports teams. Sorry, Cleveland. (Thanks for the whole election thing though!)

New Orleans – Double Dare

Double Dare, hosted by the immortal Marc Summers, was a trivia show that played off the familiar “Dare” and “Double dare” playground interaction. It also had physical challenges. Gack and slime were involved, if I remember correctly, as punishment for wrong answers. Or just when Marc Summers was feeling a little precocious.

I lived in New Orleans for six years, and most of my days were spent writing, studying and working, not to mention witnessing one of the greatest economic and infrastructural recoveries in our country’s history. That’s how I spent my days. My nights, however, were basically a six-year-long game of Double Dare. There were physical challenges. Liquids were often poured on my head. Dares were not to be messed with. (One of my best friends in the city confided in me that his personal motto was, “Hold my beer one second. I’ma try somethin’.”) Yes. That is where I became a man.

Atlanta – Wild and Crazy Kids

Wild and Crazy Kids was a game show, of sorts, where like 4,500 kids in different color t-shirts all competed in crazy physical challenges. It was hosted by a guy named Omar, and I just looked on Wikipedia and discovered that Omar is Omar Gooding, who is CUBA GOODING, JR.’S BROTHER. Hold on. I need to go take somewhere between 45 minutes and two weeks to process that information.

OK. Wait. Ten more minutes.

OK I’m back. Anyway, yes the show was hosted by Omar Gooding, and featured five hajillion kids competing in big games of red light green light and like, tug of war. I don’t know if anyone ever “won” that show. The teams were truly huge. It was basically massive bouts of chaos for an hour at a time, and then the show just sort of ended.

And yes, every night I’ve spent out in Atlanta features massive amounts of young people, many in matching jerseys for whatever Georgia team is playing that night, engaging is chaos for hours at a time until the night just sort of ends.

Portland, Oregon – Legends of the Hidden Temple

Legends of the Hidden Temple was GUTS’ hip sister show. Hosted by Kirk Fogg, the show pitted teams against each other in an archaeologically themed competition. Team names were the Red Jaguars, the Blue Barracudas, the Green Monkeys, the Orange Iguanas, the Purple Parrots and the Silver Snakes. (When NICK started showing re-runs of this show on Nick GAS, my friends and I would watch and put money on these competitions. I’m not kidding.)

Why is this like Portland? Well, aside from the fact that I’m pretty sure every single of the team names is also the name of a noise-punk band from Portland, Legends is similar to Portland in that it takes the typical city model and adds some bizarre twist that makes it unique. A simple game show? Nah. We need it to be ARCHAEOLOGICALLY THEMED. A standard Northwestern city? Nah. We need everyone to COMPOST.

Boston – GUTS

GUTS was an incredible game show, loosely based off American Gladiators, where competitors went at it in a series of physical challenges, climaxing with a race up the Aggro Crag (later called the MegaCrag, and then the Super Aggro Crag, for you purists out there), a huge plastic and foam mountain that yielded big points if you got up there first. The show was hosted by Mike O’Malley and co-hosted by referee Moira Quirk, who O’Malley always insisted on calling “Mo!” I like to imagine Moira Quirk really fucking hated that he always called her Mo.

I grew up outside Boston, and can safely say this is a good comparison. Why? Well, aside from the fact that Mike O’Malley was born in Boston and raised in Nashua, the show works because people in Boston are some of the most competitive people on the face of the earth. And watching twenty dudes running down Comm Ave. chasing the lone cab after the bars close on a winter night is the closest thing I’ve ever seen to a real-life re-creation of the assault on the Aggro Crag.

Anchorage – Are You Afraid of the Dark?

I never watched that show because I was too afraid. Yes. That is true.

I’ve never been to Anchorage, but I understand that in the winter it gets dark there early.

…Listen, I’m not Nate Silver over here. This isn’t science.

San Francisco – Nick Arcade

Nick Arcade was a game show where contestants competed in high tech-inspired trivia, including a final challenge where the contestants entered a virtual reality space and ran and jumped their way through a crudely rendered maze. Watching the show now is a delightful blast of 90s nostalgia, back when computers were new and exotic and the idea of a crudely rendered virtual maze had my jaw on the floor.

As for San Francisco… the American city where 90s nostalgia and high tech mingle in a delightful, hilly paradise… the comparison seems pretty easy.

Phoenix – Hey Dude!

I don’t remember too much about Hey Dude! except that it took place on a dude ranch and starred Christine Taylor, who married Ben Stiller, and who (on that show) might have been the first girl I was ever consciously attracted to.

I don’t know anything about Phoenix, but it seems like they have the Dude Ranch-y thing sort of going on. Plus I’ve heard the girls are pretty there. Not Early 90s Christine Taylor pretty. But who is, you know?

Chicago – The Ren and Stimpy Show

Ren and Stimpy was a groundbreaking animated show that was Nickelodeon’s answer to the Beavis and Butthead being watched by our older siblings. The two characters were gross, animalistic weirdos who played practical jokes on each other. There were a lot of booger gags, too.

Chicago, while not having all the booger jokes, is pretty spot on otherwise. It’s a lot of people who are not at all pretentious. There isn’t too huge a club scene. It’s a bunch of people who don’t take themselves too seriously, love sports, drink beer, and don’t mind a fart joke or two.

Knoxville – Kenan and Kel

My Google search for “What city in the USA consumes the most amount of orange soda?” yielded bupkis, but after doing some more research, I discovered that northeastern Tennessee had some of the highest rate of soft drink consumption in the USA. By using the transitive property AND the Pythagorean Theorem, then, I can deduce that they must also consume the most amount of orange soda. And since Kel loved orange soda just about as much as anything, and Knoxville is the largest city in eastern Tennessee, it’s simple math to match the two. Simple. Math. TC mark

Nathan Savin Scott

Nathan Savin Scott

Nathan Savin Scott is a writer based in Washington, DC. He enjoys writing about music, sports, and was briefly a High …

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