The oldest continuously published high school newspaper in America

The Willistonian, Est. 1881

The oldest continuously published high school newspaper in America

The Willistonian, Est. 1881

The oldest continuously published high school newspaper in America

The Willistonian, Est. 1881

“Quiet On Set” Reveals the Dark Side of Shows We Grew Up Watching

Credit: Max

A new docuseries is telling the troublesome story of young stars who gave up their childhoods so you could have yours.

Quiet On Set: The Dark Side of Kids TV, a four-part docuseries, premiered on March 17, 2024, on Max (previously known as HBO Max). The docuseries goes into depth on the life on the set of 2000s Nickelodeon TV Shows created in junction with Dan Schneider and unveils the true horror that ensued for these child actors and actresses. In the documentary, many stars break their silence to share the emotional, physical, and even sexual abuse they faced.

Since its inception in 1979, Nickelodeon has been the mecca of fun, silly, wild television. The docuseries picks up in the year 1995 when preteens were beginning to lean away from the traditional cartoon. There was a new niche on the market for the channel Nickelodeon: teen sitcoms. Preteens were trading Bugs Bunny and SpongeBob for programs like The Amanda Show and All That. A whole new generation of teen actors and actresses were the face of Nickelodeon’s new business endeavor for better, or as the docuseries reveals, the worse.

In episode one, entitled Rising Stars, Rising Questions we learn that producer Dan Schneider joined the network in 1994 and spearheaded many successful children’s shows during his time there. Scaachi Koul, a culture writer, describes Schneider as Nickelodeon’s “golden boy.” He began as a writer and producer for All That (1994) and Keenan and Kel (1996) before meeting a young Amanda Bynes and creating his first solo project: The Amanda Show (1999) in which she was set to star. As the show garnered success, The Amanda Show became a hub for many child actors to get their start.

According to The New York Times, the show’s official website, drew 150,000 hits and received 16,000 e-mail messages” — the cyber-age equivalent of an avalanche of fan mail.” The Amanda Show was also where regulars Drake Bell and Josh Peck caught Schneider’s eye; they were eventually given their spin-off TV show Drake and Josh (2004-2007). He then went on to create Zoey 101, iCarly, and Victorious, all of which were a part of the golden age of Nickelodeon.

The combination of money and power caused the environment of Schneider’s Nickelodeon sets to be extremely dangerous for anyone who wasn’t a white, middle-aged male. In episode one Christy Stratton, one of two women who wrote for The Amanda Show, clearly states that “working for Dan was like being in an abusive relationship.” Writers and stars were overworked, constantly on drugs or intoxicated, and forced to do scenes with sexual innuendos (to name only a fraction of the struggles).

Moreover, Schneider employed many questionable workers. In episode four Drake Bell reveals that Brian Peck, a dialogue coach on The Amanda Show, sexually abused him many times during his time on the network.

Looking back in episodes of shows like iCarly, there were recurring bits that clearly don’t belong on kid’s television. Storylines and jokes were constantly centered around the cast’s feet and Nickelodeon even had an online sweepstakes in which fans of the show iCarly had to send in pictures of their feet as a prerequisite to enter. Other disturbing bits in Schneider’s shows had to do with aligning certain shots with shots that one may see in pornography. He would make these scenes slightly different as to appear as harmless humor to kids, but upon reevaluation, are repulsive.

To spare the graphic details, Schneider essentially exploited these actors and actresses in the name of comedy or silliness. The young stars were made to fear Schneider. Fear made it easier for him to coerce and manipulate so many of his victims. Schneider has denied this and said the jokes are “written for a kid audience because kids thought they were funny,” though many aren’t fooled.

A large part of why this docuseries has made waves is because those who are watching Quiet on Set now were unaware as children. They were getting home after school, tuning into these children’s sitcoms, and having no idea what was going on behind the scenes—how could they? Quiet on Set has pulled the carpet out from under Millennials and Gen Zers everywhere who are now forced to reassess the content they consumed as children.

Nick Sobon, a senior “Arianator,” adored Victorious as a kid.

“I was a big Victorious and iCarly kid,” he said. “I absolutely loved the music. One of my favorite pop stars, Ariana Grande, came from the show.”

Ariana Grande, who we now know as an international popstar, got her start on Schneider’s Victorious. She played Cat Valentine, a bubbly, child-like, aspiring singer attending Hollywood Arts—a fictional, prestigious performing arts school. In episode four of Quiet on Set, one of Cat’s scenes is analyzed and can be seen as “pushing the boundaries of sexualizing young girls.”

Tamara Richardson, a mother of two, didn’t think these shows were ever beneficial for child viewers.

“I definitely wasn’t aware of the sexual, innuendos that appear in some episodes, but I never liked how infantilized some characters were like Ariana Grande in Victorious,” she said. “I thought that was very harmful for young audiences. These shows always appeared as solely for entertainment, whereas when I was young, shows seemed more educational.”

[Tamara is the author’s mother.]

Ronan McGurn, a senior and aspiring filmmaker who was “practically raised by Nickelodeon,” has only recently learned of the inappropriate nature of many of the episodes.

“I learned a lot more about it as I grew older,” he said. “There were always jokes online of Dan Schneider being a creep and that coupled with Jeannette McCurdy’s book ‘I’m Glad My Mom Died’ really revealed how awful these kids had it.”

Jeanette McCurdy began working with Dan Schneider at age 13; she was a supporting actress in iCarly (2007) and later starred in the spin-off Sam and Cat (2013). McCurdy made headlines in 2022 when she published her memoir “I’m Glad My Mom Died” detailing the abuse she faced from her mother and an unnamed producer who many assume is Dan Schneider.

Ronan believes that there needs to be a serious change in the industry he plans to work in one day.

“The fact that people like that were even allowed to work there let alone with kids is frankly disgusting,” he said. “Nickelodeon along with other producers of children’s media need to work on making safer environments on set and behind the scenes.”

With three new episodes of Quiet on Set set to release in the coming months, the docuseries has made waves through social media with many remarking that rewatching their old childhood shows makes them sick to their stomachs. The series has prompted protests, led by Alexa Nikolas of Zoey 101, outside of the Nickelodeon headquarters.

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