The notion of children being raised by the television is one often brought up with a tone of disdain. But speaking personally, I still cherish the many childhood hours I spent bathed in the cathode glow of TV. I understand now how an overabundance of anything can and most often is a bad thing. But children’s programming always made me feel good, made me feel like I belonged, and helped to develop in me a sense of humor and appreciation for art.
The basic cable channel Nickelodeon had a very big hand in all that, as I’m certain it did for many American kids raised in the 1980s and ’90s. And now that we’re all well-adjusted adults, Mathew Klickstein’s new book, Slimed!: An Oral History of Nickelodeon’s Golden Age, gives us a much deeper insight into the network that became such an important part of so many young lives or, at the very least, provided us with tons of original entertainment on a scale not yet seen in our culture.
The oral history format has become a big favorite of mine in non-fiction, largely due to the works of Legs McNeil. This literary “talking heads” slant on any subject allows the writer to become all but invisible, and does away with the tricky notion of author bias, or at least disguises it thoroughly. Slimed! utilizes this format well, maintaining a casual conversational tone, which given its subject is extremely apt. After all, one of the reasons Nickelodeon was such a success was that it spoke to its audience as intelligent people, not just a buncha kids, and so now the creators and the people behind the network and its programs speak to its now grown-up audience directly as peers.
What’s more is that Slimed! is not merely a nostagic walk down memory lane (though it certainly achieves that as well). We are treated to much of the behind-the-scenes of all your favorite shows, from You Can’t Do That on Television to Roundhouse, and everything in between. However, in keeping with the conversational tone of the book, we are never bogged down with a lot of technical jargon or other super-specific industry talk. Klickstein also takes great care to address such important factors as production and design, something few of us probably considered all that important as children. He also dedicates an entire chapter to the diversity, or lack thereof, on the young channel, another topic probably lost on many of us back then, which makes addressing it now all the more important.
If it seems like one may not enjoy this book much without having grown up on Nickelodeon, the blame for that lies on my shoulders. But honestly, I find it all but impossible to separate myself from my subject here. I do feel that, even if you did not spend an overwhelming chunk of your childhood glued to the boob-tube, Slimed! will still make for fascinating reading, given that it so effectively captures the history and the attitude of what was perhaps a minor yet exceedingly important cultural revolution. And what would I say if you read the book and still disagree with me?
I don’t know.
SO Note: Purchase Slimed! Here now!