If, like me, you spent much of your childhood consciously avoiding uttering the phrase "I don't know," or boasting to your friends that you could most definitely climb up an oil-slicked slide in less than five seconds, our next Nostalgia Week book is just for you.
SLIMED! An Oral History of Nickelodeon's Golden Age is the wondrous result of author Mathew Klickstein's hundreds of interviews with the folks—both behind the scenes and on camera—who brought us such beloved TV show gems as "Double Dare," Clarissa Explains It All," "The Ren & Stimpy Show" and, of course, "You Can't Do That on Television."
In this guest post, Klickstein shares what it was like writing the book, as well as some fascinating tidbits he discovered along the way:
When I first signed with a major publisher to write the Nickelodeon oral history, I was uncontrollably besotted by champagne-colored visions of estranged friends and long-lost girls from my past contacting me out of the blue: “Matt! I saw your book in the store!”
It’s only now, after publication and while navigating the circuitous machinery of the publicity foofaraw, that I’ve come to understand who the audience for SLIMED! An Oral History of Nickelodeon’s Golden Age really is.
It’s not only us. It’s also them—the people this book is about. In truth, I’ve realized only recently that the main reason I wrote a book on this most grand era is this: In revealing to all of us the more than 250 Nick VIPs who contributed to SLIMED!, I’ve also revealed us to them.
The book’s reception has reinforced the fact that, yes, even as (slightly more) sane and (slightly less) loudly sentient adults, we do still care as much as we did back when these people were wildly running around onscreen as our heroes during their formative years. We’re here, we’re not going away and neither will Nick’s Golden Age.
Along the craggy path to figuring all of this out, I picked up four breadcrumbs that definitely surprised me about Nick’s foundational years that may surprise you too:
Green slime was at one point dangerous. Aside from the truly disgusting and likely toxic provenance of green slime that you’ll have to read about in SLIMED! to believe, it’s worth noting that a “sliming” was initially categorized as having the same television “violence rating” as a decapitation, according to a report by media specialist George Gerbner. Additionally, green slime’s “secret ingredients” in the early years included baby shampoo in order to help facilitate the cleaning-from-the-hair process. Even though it was baby shampoo, it could still burn one’s eyes, especially if one were to take his/her sliming incorrectly. And, yes, there was a Right Way and a Wrong Way to be slimed.
Yes, Christine Taylor (“Melody”) and David Lascher (“Ted”) from "Hey Dude" did date during part of the series’ production. "Hey Dude" director Fred Keller explains in SLIMED! that for two adolescents, Christine and David handled the typical vicissitudes of young love very well. Immediately after that quote in the book, however, Christine avers that it’s actually surprising how poorly they dealt with it. And therein lies the whimsical contradictions of an oral history.
Marc Summers is not a total douchebag. In fact, just the opposite is true. One would assume a wildly famous game show host would be the kind of Bad and the Beautiful jerk-off. But with Marc, that perennial smile is not an act. He really does love what he does, and he really does love his fans. There was not one person I spoke to in this book who didn’t bring up Marc as a friend, a collaborator, a mentor or a partner in crime.
Joey Ramone was almost on an episode of "The Adventures of Pete & Pete." In the episode, Little Pete decides to start up a band of his own after hearing the first and only song he’s ever actually liked. Singer-songwriter Syd Straw (who played numbers-obsessed math teacher Ms. Fingerwood) was actually a staple of the ’80s music/punk/art scene of ’80s New York City. When she was asked by producers to help fill in the band, she immediately called up her good buddy Joey Ramone. Joey had never seen the show before, but Syd made the premise of being on this hip and wacky kids’ show sound so appealing to the punk progenitor, that he nearly agreed . . . until he remembered he was leaving for a full European tour the next day with his “bruddahs.”
Calling all Debbie Macomber fans. Did you know that there's a new TV series called "Debbie Macomber's Cedar Cove" airing on Hallmark Channel? Based on Macomber's best-selling Cedar Cove series of books—including 50 Harbor Street, 44 Cranberry Point and Rose Harbor in Bloom, which comes out on August 13—the show stars Andie MacDowell as Olivia Lockhart, a well-respected judge in the small coastal town of Cedar Cove.
Judge Lockhart is considering leaving her hometown in order to take a dream-job position as a federal judge. But what about her budding romance with the mysterious, new-to-town newspaper reporter Jack Griffith (played by Dylan Neal)? And her daughter, just coming off of a broken engagement? And the townspeople, who look to her for guidance? Will she really leave? Guess we'll have to tune in to find out! Will you be watching?
"Debbie Macomber's Cedar Cove" airs on Hallmark Channel on Saturdays at 8 p.m. (EDT)/7 p.m. (CDT). Read more about the show and watch full episodes here.
Despite having a channel name that must be abhorrent to readers everywhere, the Syfy network has scooped up the rights to a few lesser-known titles from best-selling authors Stephen King and Charlaine Harris.
Harris' Harper Connelly series, featuring a tough female protagonist, has been optioned for a paranormal drama series called "Grave Sight." After being struck by lightning, Harper can "hear" the final thoughts of dead people, which lead her to their bones. A writer from "Law & Order: SVU" has been drafted to write the pilot. No fairies or vamps here; other than Harper's psychic talents, this four-book series is grounded in gritty realism. Harper and her stepbrother/business partner, Tolliver, both had drug-addict parents, and Harper lives in hope (and fear) of learning something about the fate of her older sister Cameron, who went missing years earlier.
Meanwhile, the channel has also optioned Stephen King's The Eyes of the Dragon for a "movie or miniseries," according to EW. This is one of the few King books that could be parent-approved—King began it as a bedtime story for his daughter Naomi and named one of the main characters after her. (Think a step up from the Narnia series, with a dash of The Princess Bride.) As EW notes, the "Game of Thrones" era is the perfect time to bring a story set in a fairy-tale kingdom, featuring an evil magician who threatens a weak king and his two very different sons, to the small screen.
Series 2 of the popular TV drama "Downton Abbey" has just two more weeks to go on PBS. What's a fan to do when the upstairs/downstairs intrigue ends (other than wait for the Christmas special, of course)?
Books hold the answer. As I've said before, World War I has been a hot topic in publishing lately, and the runaway ratings for "Downton" have made it an even hotter commodity. The following books should help tide fans over until the premiere of Series 3 (filming now, with Shirley MacLaine added to the cast).
If you enjoy . . .
the exploration of the effects of WWI on society
then you should read . . .
The Maisie Dobbs series by Jacqueline Winspear (Harper). Winspear's series is set in the 1920s and '30s, but its heroine—once a maid in a great house, now a private investigator—personifies the changing times, and takes on cases that are rooted in the damage done by the war.
The Return of Captain John Emmett by Elizabeth Speller (HMH). This sensitive debut novel tells the story of a young WWI veteran investigating the apparent suicide of one of his fellow soldiers. Look for a sequel this summer.
Life Class by Pat Barker (Doubleday). No one has explored the legacy of World War I quite like Barker. Though her Regeneration trilogy (beginning with 1991's Regeneration) is perhaps better known, Life Class details the pioneering days of plastic surgery, first developed to help disfigured veterans.
Rose: My Life in Service to Lady Astor by Rosina Harrison (Penguin). This spirited account of one young Yorkshire woman's 35 years as a maid to the infamous Lady Nancy Astor was first published in 1975 and has been reprinted to capitalize on the "Downton" craze.
The House at Tyneford by Natasha Solomons (Penguin). Though set just before and during World War II, this novel puts an interesting twist on the upstairs/downstairs dilemma when a young, upper-class Jewish woman escapes Austria to work as a maid in an English manor house.
Rilla of Ingleside by L.M. Montgomery. One of the few novels about World War I to be written almost while it was happening—the book was published in 1921—Montgomery's final installment of the Anne of Green Gables series follows Anne's youngest, Rilla, who must grow up, and fall in love, in the shadow of the war.
Losing Julia by Jonathan Hull (Delacorte). This 2000 debut tells the story of a World War I soldier who comes to know his friend Daniel's fiancée through her letters to him. When they meet 10 years after the war (and Daniel's death), there's a connection between Patrick and Julia that can't be denied.
An Evening of Long Goodbyes by Paul Murray (Random House). This Wodehousian novel, which follows shiftless Bertie, a member of the Irish aristocracy in its waning days, is full of hilarity and heart—just like everyone's favorite Countess.
The Beauty and the Sorrow by Peter Englund (Knopf), which will take you right into the trenches with letters and diaries from 20 soldiers who fought at the front.
To End All Wars by Adam Hochschild (HMH), which gives an in-depth look at the political mood in Britain as the war broke out—particularly the pacifist movement. Portraits of aristocrats at war should also appeal to the "Downton" devotée.
The Titled Americans by Elizabeth Kehoe (Atlantic Monthly). This nonfiction account of the lives of the three Jerome sisters—rich Americans who married British aristos, and one of whom became the mother of Winston Churchill—is a "beguiling chronicle" of the Edwardian era, replete with descriptions of homes, dresses and extramarital affairs with royals.
The Luxe by Anna Godberson (Harper). OK, it's a YA novel, and it's set in 1890s New York City, but it's a "Downton" companion in spirit! Just consider it the background story on Lady Cora Grantham.
After reading Dave Eggers' Vanity Fair portrait on Maurice Sendak ("My work is not great, but it’s respectable.") and listening/crying through Terry Gross' interview of Sendak on "Fresh Air" ("I cry a lot because I miss people. They die and I can't stop them."), I thought I had gained a new appreciation for the grizzled author of Where the Wild Things Are and Bumble-Ardy.
And then Stephen Colbert sat down with him for one of my favorite author interviews -- ever. In Part 1, Sendak gives Colbert permission to write Where the Wild Things Are 2:
In Part 2, Sendak helps Colbert become a celebrity children's book author:
Do you have a favorite author interview?
Calling all Jonathan Safran Foer fans! Did you love the adaptation of Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close? Yes? Then you can take comfort in the fact that the movie got a Best Picture nomination this morning (puzzling many) and a Best Actor In a Supporting Role nod for Max von Sydow. Hated it? Well . . . you're not alone; the film has a 48% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. However, you'll be able to see Foer's words come to life on the screen once more in a new comedy pilot from HBO.
The show is called All Talk and will star Ben Stiller—who will also direct and executive produce. Here's more from The Hollywood Reporter:
The project, which is being billed as “politically, religiously, culturally, intellectually and sexually irreverent,” revolves around the daily and life-altering dramas of a Jewish family in Washington, DC.
All Talk will start shooting in Fall 2012. Are you looking forward to this Stiller-Foer collaboration?
Like Eliza a few weeks ago, I've spent the last few days at home fighting the flu. I've definitely done some reading--Meg Wolitzer's The Wife; a reread of Shriver's So Much for That for our upcoming podcast. But ever since I could laugh without coughing I've also been watching some sketch comedy.
Though the literary world is not represented in the genre as much as it could be, there've been a few jabs taken at it in the shows I've seen this week.
"Kids in the Hall" are up first: this wacky take on the editorial process made me smile.
This one reminded me of the (superior) Monty Python "Novel Writing" sketch.
"Little Britain" spoof of Barbara Cartland, aka "Dame Sally Markham"
And then there's the latest of the recurring feminist bookshop sketch in "Portlandia," which is my favorite in the bunch. ("What's wrong with your hand?")
Seen any good literary humor lately?
I haven't watched an entire episode of "Saturday Night Live" in a while, but occasionally they really get it right. Check out this take on the bestseller phenomenon, featuring Robert DeNiro. The fake book titles alone make it worth watching. Favorite line: "A lot of good words in this one."
Charlaine Harris (and "True Blood") fans rejoice! The author's Harper Connelly books are being adapted into a series for CBS called "Grave Sight." Here's more from Variety:
"Grave Sight"—titled after Harris' first Harper Connelly book—will come from Ridley Scott and Tony Scott, as well as Naren Shankar ("CSI"), David Zucker and scribe Kam Miller ("Law and Order: SVU"), all of whom will exec produce.
The Harper Connelly mysteries center on a woman who's struck by lightning—and suddenly able to see the last moments of the dead.
Jennifer Weiner announced on Friday (via her Twitter) that she is going to Hollywood. Here's more from Deadline.com, which summarized the four shows which received "official pilot orders" by ABC Family:
“The Great State of Georgia” is an ABC Studios’ half-hour, multi-cam comedy series about an exuberant plus-sized performer from the south and her science geek best friend who try to make headway in New York City. Pilot writers are Jennifer Weiner (author of the best-selling novels Good in Bed, and In Her Shoes and Jeff Greenstein (“Desperate Housewives”)
As we all know, there aren't a whole lot of plus-sized heroines in prime time—especially since ABC just canceled the TV show "Huge," based on the novel by Sasha Paley. But Weiner can write plus-sized character better than anyone (i.e. their only concerns aren't losing weight), so I have high hopes for "The Great State of Georgia," not least of all because Jeff Greenstein is involved. (His credits include "Friends" and "Will & Grace".)
Do any of you watch TV as much as you read? Will you keep your fingers crossed that ABC Family orders a full season of episodes?
Related Content: Read reviews of Weiner's books on our website.