How Nickelodeon’s nostalgia-baiting Splat gave me an early-life crisis

Nickelodeon's 'Splat' sounded so good on paper. So why did it make me feel terrible?

 

Joey Keeton

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Published Oct 6, 2015   Updated May 27, 2021, 8:43 pm CDT

The golden oldies of Nickelodeon’s ’90s programming have been erratically syndicated since the end of that wonderful decade—perhaps the best America ever knew—came to an end. However, in 2015, the suits at Viacom have put their heads together to make something truly special happen: They’ve created a block of programming that includes all our favorite shows (from back when kids’ shows were actually good).

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It’s a dream come true, really: Salute Your Shorts, Doug, Ren & Stimpy, Hey Dude, Kenan & Kel, and 15 other shows from the almighty ’90s. The programming block will air every single day—from 10pm to 6am—on the Teen Nick network. But while watching its premiere last night, I found myself contemplating mortality, not celebrating nostalgia: “I will die someday. My God… I could have cancer right now.”

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 I suddenly felt paranoid and confused and, frankly, extremely stoned.

The moment came at some outrageous hour, when my girlfriend pointed out to me that Kenan & Kel and All That were completely different shows. I couldn’t believe that I’d gone at least 23 years without realizing this. I suddenly felt paranoid and confused and, frankly, extremely stoned, even though I wasn’t. The feeling made me realize that watching something like Splat would greatly benefit from some good weed.

And that’s when it dawned on me: I’d watched and loved these shows as a 6- to 12-year-old. Now, I was watching them in the middle of the night and thinking about how great they’d go with weed. It felt as if I’d soiled something (and maybe that “something” was my life’s current state or childlike innocence as I know it).

For my entire adult life, I’ve had nothing to say about each new kids’ show, other than “This is just weird and stupid. They just make crazy crap for kids these days.” Now, I was realizing just how incredibly weird my favorite shows were. 

The first episode of Ren & Stimpy sees them beaten by a giant pigeon, caught by animal control, and adopted only after Stimpy coughs a hairball onto Ren and makes a girl think he’s a poodle. Kenan & Kel’s first episode? A guy gives them keys to a car, which immediately results in cops wiring them up, so they can use the under-16 year old kids as bait to catch the car thief who’d handed them the keys. They also open 700 boxes of cereal.

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The second episode: They try to sue a tuna company for a screw found in a tuna can, but Kel admits that he put the screw there while on the stand in the courtroom.

Maybe we shouldn’t look back.

And Doug… If you’re ever feeling uncomfortable on LSD, put Doug on. Everything about Doug will make you feel that your brain is functioning on a completely sober level.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m happy as hell about Splat. If I’m up late at night (and I often am), it’s great to finally have an alternative to Adult Swim, which has become nine hours of Seth MacFarlane shows. It’s just that there’s something so sobering about things that I vaguely recall as being perfect from my childhood now having an official website that looks like this:

So many of us in our mid-20s and mid-30s have long wanted these shows back on TV. But if you’re watching them at 5 in the morning, stoned, and knowing that you’re once again not going to look for a job tomorrow… maybe we don’t need Salute Your Shorts back on the air, after all. What if we realize that those perfect programs of our youths really were just shows?

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Maybe we shouldn’t look back. Or, at the very least, not too often. Things always look so much nicer under a glowing sheen of 20 years’ worth of fond memories.

Illustration by J. Longo

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*First Published: Oct 6, 2015, 2:27 pm CDT