I was not aware that this book even existed until several weeks ago. There was a giveaway on Goodreads, and just seeing the cover sent me right back to my childhood. To my extreme disappointment, I did not win a copy. I knew I needed this book in my life, so I contacted the publisher explaining that I worked in a library, had a blog, was an active Goodreads user, and would love an opportunity to read and review an advanced copy of this book. I went to work a few Fridays ago to find that I had received Slimed! An Oral History of Nickelodeon’s Golden Age. Words cannot describe how excited I was! I managed to not start reading it while I was on the clock (though it was a struggle).
To begin, I should say that I believe I am the target audience for this book. My review could probably be considered biased because my positive reaction to the book has to do with the pure nostalgia factor along with enjoying the actual content.
The book has seven sections. Each section begins with a general theme and question (for example, the first section is called The Tween and poses the question, “What was it like to grow up on Nickelodeon?”). Instead of a normal narrative, this part of the book is derived entirely from interviews with Nickelodeon people. It was a set-up that initially took a bit of getting used to, but once I realized that I would be getting the whole story from Nickelodeon people with no input from the author I began to enjoy reading the words of the people who knew it best.
There are a lot of people involved in this book. Many names I recognized immediately, but many I did not. There is a helpful “Cast of Characters” in the book, but it is near the very end. In my copy, it begins on page 263. You can figure out who they are with context clues, but I suggest reading up on the cast of characters if you want to know who is who before beginning.
I loved all of the little details that this book provided. It was interesting to see who was well-loved and who was considered a diva. The author often artfully arranged the interview clips so one actress was swearing up and down that she was not a bitch, only to have the two or three interview snippets after hers talk about how difficult she was.
There were all sorts of fun anecdotes in this book. Stories about adventurous car rides, disasters on set, sneaking things into the cartoons that were originally shot down for being too adult, and more. There was also a section dealing with challenges on the sets, including the firing of Ren and Stimpy creator John Kricfalusi. It was fascinating to see all of the points of view regarding that particular issue. I went in to that chapter with certain opinions about the whole debacle and left it with a new perspective. Behind the scenes drama is always interesting to me, and this was no different. I also loved hearing about the fashion, music, and sets. Every time they mentioned a theme song, I went off to YouTube to listen to it even though most of them I still know by heart.
The one section that left me with mixed feelings was the one on diversity. It posed the question, “Why were so many of the people on Nickelodeon white?” That is a fair enough question, and it is important to have a discussion about it. I am glad that they acknowledged that early Nickelodeon was very white, but I felt like some of the people interviewed spent a bit too much time justifying it. Clarissa Explains it All was set in the Midwest so of course it was white, we were marketing our shows towards the people with cable who were usually white, we thought we were being diverse, et cetera. Also, while I feel it is crucial to have these conversations so that maybe in the future it won’t even be a problem, I think it was almost a bit dismissive to not recognize the shows that were better about the diversity issue (All That and Kenan and Kel weren’t mentioned in the section, for example). I am glad that this section was included in the book, though. Like I said, it is important now to look back and concede that the network was too white and hopefully continue to work and change that.
Overall? This book was a great experience for me. Everything about it, from the interesting facts and stories to the tiny bits of slime going down the side of the right pages of the book, was brilliant. It brought back some really fun memories of my childhood and the decade-plus I spent watching Nickelodeon. As I was reading, I was reliving the dog days of summer spent at the local rec center watching Nick in the Afternoon with Stick Stickly (alright, nostalgic Nick fans, sing along with me! “Write to me/Stick Stickly/PO Box 963/New York City/New York State/10108!”). This book isn’t for everyone; I believe you will not find much of interest unless you are a fan of behind the scenes information and Nickelodeon’s “Golden Age.”
To end, I am going to post my very favorite Hey Arnold! episode. It was interesting enough as a pre-teen, but it is really striking and poignant watching it again as an adult. Hooray for nostalgia!