|Still going strong today, cable TV mainstay Nickelodeon raised the bar for children’s programming and introduced an entire generation to the comedic implications of a well-timed bucket of slime. Among the network's earliest offerings was the irreverent, skit-based comedy series You Can’t Do That On Television.
Originally developed in 1979 by Roger Price for CJOH Television in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, the show began as a low-budget, pre-adolescent Saturday Night Live complete with studio audience and musical guests. The successful first season featured a cast of unknown child actors-more than a hundred of whom would come and go after the show was picked up by Nickelodeon in 1981. Upon reaching American households, the live format, studio audience, and musical guests were long gone. Much to the delight of its newfound fans, the show was then 100% comedy and a bona fide hit for the network.
By 1984, You Can't Do That On Television was airing five times a week and was Nickelodeon’s highest rated show. Network execs immediately identified a gold mine and an inevitable marketing boom soon followed. There were green slime bath products and toys, a short lived comic strip (You Can't Do That In Comics) and even a nationwide “Slime In” sweepstakes (you, too, can be flown to the studio and splattered with chunky green oatmeal!).
With their musical Canadian lilts, the actors were both mysteriously foreign and endearingly familiar. Among the most popular were wily yet cherubic Alasdair Gillis, well-meaning simpleton Kevin Kubushekie, and long-time host Christine “Moose” McGlade, whose self esteem surely didn’t fare well beneath the weight of that unfortunate nickname. Also included in the 1986 cast was soon-to-be-superstar Alanis Morrisette, who had yet to choke on any jagged little pills.
Popular segments revolved around typical preteen experiences (arguing with parents, sitting in detention, playing at the arcade, etc.) grotesquely magnified to reflect a twisted comic sensibility. Each show was composed of a series of skits that revolved around a central theme (music, business, technology…) and featured numerous familiar sequences and gags. Among these were locker jokes (kids leaning out of school lockers to tell bad jokes), Barth's diner ("DuuuuuhIIII heard that!"), a Latin American firing squad, and, of course, repeated drenchings in water and green slime.
Despite ending the show's run in 1990, Nickelodeon continues to use green slime as one of its trademarks, and one accidental “I don’t know” still gets on-air personalities doused with goopy green slop. As You Can't Do That On Television takes its place among the most creative and well-written of 1980’s kids' TV, true fans know that it wasn’t just slime they were dumping on audiences, but a witty, satirical look at the awkwardness of adolescence.