Top 10: Nick Shows for Netflix by Jerry Whitworth
With the debut of Disney+ and the coming of AT&T’s HBO Max, Viacom’s Nickelodeon and Netflix have formalized their working arrangement into a multi-year alliance. Formerly, Nickelodeon offered a streaming channel for its content on AT&T’s service VRV called NickSplat where for $5.99 a month, you could stream shows like All That, Angry Beavers, Are You Afraid of the Dark?, CatDog, Doug, Kenan & Kel, and Rocket Power. Also, Amazon Prime has been home to shows like SpongeBob SquarePants, Dora the Explorer, Blue’s Clues, Backyardigans, Victorious, Bubble Guppies, Fairly OddParents, and iCarly since 2013 and Philo has been host to Nickelodeon’s content for some years. The while, Netflix has offered virtually every season of Power Rangers (which Nickelodeon has the broadcast rights for in the United States) and Nickelodeon films Rocko’s Modern Life: Static Cling (2019) and Invader Zim: Enter the Florpus (2019). Further, a live action series based on Avatar: The Last Airbender and animated films based on Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and The Loud House are in development at the service. But as part of this extended partnership, more new content based on Nickelodeon’s catalog of intellectual property is being made for Netflix including a spin-off based on SpongeBob SquarePants‘ Squidward. It’s unknown what effect the likely merger of Viacom and CBS (with its CBS All Access service) in the future will inevitably have in this deal, but for now, lets examine what could be some of the content coming to Netflix.
In the vein of Nancy Drew, Shelby Woo (Irene Ng) was a teenage sleuth solving crimes with the help of her friends (including Adam Busch of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Men at Work fame) often times in and around her retired detective grandfather Mike’s (Pat Morita) hotel. Airing for 41 episodes across four seasons from 1996 to 1998, Shelby Woo is prime for a reboot at a time where female and POC protagonists have grown significantly in popularity following the success of works like The Hunger Games book and film series, 2018’s Crazy Rich Asians, and Marvel films such as Black Panther (2018) and Captain Marvel (2019). Just looking at the CW which prominently features female sleuths in Riverdale and Nancy Drew (which at this time are on Netflix but could soon move to HBO Max) as well as how much of a game changer China has been of late for Western media and a series like a rebooted Shelby Woo could be huge at the streaming service.
With an infectious theme song making you chant ‘He’s gonna catch em all ’cause he’s Danny Phantom’ repeatedly, Danny Phantom followed the adventures of young Danny Fenton (voiced by David Kaufman) when an explosion in his ghost hunting parents’ laboratory turned him into a half-ghost superhero combating all means of paranormal peril. Airing for three seasons with 53 episodes from 2004 to 2007, repeated efforts to resurrect the show have been made including a pitch by series creator Butch Hartman in 2016 with “Danny Phantom: The College Years” and development of a live action film since 2018. Hartman has since gone on to create a forthcoming spiritual successor for YouTube in “ImagiNathan.” With Disney+ and HBO Max building a virtual monopoly on superheroes, Danny Phantom is a proven commodity that can be mined as either an animated or live action project.
Surreal, weird, unique, and bizarre are a few words to describe the Adventures of Pete & Pete. Beginning its life as vignette bumpers between TV shows, Pete & Pete proved popular enough to become specials before being upgraded to season order. Set in the mysterious town of Wellsville and featuring brothers Big Pete (Michael Maronna) and Little Pete Wrigley (Danny Tamberelli), Pete & Pete is almost indescribable in its way to merge the mundane and absurd with an infectious charm. Spread out across 16 shorts, five specials, and 34 episodes in three seasons, Pete & Pete ran from 1991 to 1996. It’s likely a number of sitcoms to come after the Nickelodeon show drew inspiration from it so it would make sense to either produce a sequel (film, special, or series) or reboot. Today, the actors who portrayed the Wrigley brothers produce a podcast called The Adventures of Danny and Mike.
In the mid-1980s, it looked like video games were going to be the future of children’s entertainment and by the next decade, Nintendo, Sega, and Sony were the leaders of the industry. Nickelodeon wanted to capitalize on this phenomenon and so was born Nick Arcade in 1992. Combining video game trivia and gameplay and ending with a bluescreen obstacle course, Arcade was a gameshow for children which proved to be a popular format for Nickelodeon (as other entries in this list will illustrate). Hosted by Phil Moore, Arcade ran for one year with two seasons of a total of 84 episodes. In many ways, the show was ahead of its time, trying to work within a world where the technology they aimed for wasn’t created yet for a form of entertainment that had not yet reached maximum saturation. Of course, these conditions are ideal for today: virtual reality gameplay is advancing by leaps and bounds by the month and largely gone is the stigma of video games being only for certain people. People regardless of age, gender, fandom, or any other number of subcultures play video games. In fact, eSports today are gaining a following to garner the attention of more traditional sports broadcasters. With this in mind, a reboot of Arcade makes all the sense in the world.
A sports competition series featuring extreme versions of popular athletic games, Guts ran for four seasons with 160 episodes (including the Global Guts season) and a special All-Stars episode from 1992 to 1995. The series was also resurrected in 2008 for two seasons with 22 episodes in My Family’s Got Guts. During its heyday, Nickelodeon was known for its unique cartoons, dramatic live action series, and competition shows of which Guts was one of the latter’s biggest hits. For Netflix, while the service offers distribution of pre-existing competition shows, in recent years its been dipping its toe further into producing its own original content in this arena. Guts would be a huge get in this manner as it could garner interest from older nostalgic viewers as well as bolster its young viewers content with some variety.
Second of the trinity of Nickelodeon’s most popular competitive shows, Legends of the Hidden Temple elbows slightly ahead of Guts because its intellectual property was more recently revived by the multimedia brand. Airing from 1993 to 1995 for 120 episodes across three seasons, Hidden Temple was another popular competitive athletic series for Nickelodeon with a Mayan theme and allusions to the Indiana Jones franchise. Based around a legend-of-the-day and a temple obstacle course, the series was often overshadowed by similar series in Guts and Double Dare. In an interesting twist, a film for television based on the show emerged in 2016. A recent development however may endanger the possibility of a new Hidden Temple coming to Netflix in that upcoming streaming service Quibi has acquired the rights to produce a reboot of the series aimed toward adults.
Another recently resurrected brand of Nickelodeon’s rich past, Are You Afraid of the Dark? was a dramatic horror/thriller anthology series that has lived through three versions. Originally airing in 1990, Dark ran for five seasons each with thirteen episodes at a time when the book series Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark continued to garner popularity with children and arguably helped set the stage for another book series in Goosebumps to become a cultural phenomenon. Coming to an end in 1996, Dark was revived with a sequel series only three years later which sadly only lasted two seasons that continued the thirteen episode a season tradition. With the aforementioned Scary Stories and Goosebumps getting film adaptations in recent years, Dark was slated to make the jump to the big screen that unfortunately didn’t pan out. Instead, Nickelodeon produced a three-episode mini-series a few months ago that abandoned the anthology format to tell a more straight forward tale of horror (which maybe a nod to “The Tale of the Silver Sight,” a three episode arc of the 2000 season that saw the show’s Midnight Society combat an actual malevolent entity). Now, Netflix already distributes a similar series in Creeped Out from CBBC Productions and DHX Media but producing its own version of Dark would give it something it wouldn’t need to license that is also an already established brand.
The premier game/competition series of Nickelodeon during its greatest heights, Double Dare just ended its second revival as well as its most recent live tour. Beginning in 1986, Double Dare ran for a staggering 482 episodes over seven years and was revived twice, first in 2000 for 67 episodes and again last year for 61 episodes before being canceled recently. Also, live tours traveling across the United States have gone on off-and-on for the last 33 years with live shows at the Nickelodeon Suites Resort and Nickelodeon Universe in Mall of America continuing since 2012 and 2016, respectively. Double Dare is virtually synonymous with Nickelodeon, its trademark green slime becoming a staple for the network. In some fashion or another, the brand will live on and Netflix is in the perfect position to take advantage of it.
As mentioned, an animated film based on Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is already on the way to Netflix prior to the most recent agreement between the streaming service and Nickelodeon. But as noted with Danny Phantom, as Disney+ is producing live action Star Wars and Marvel shows for its service and HBO Max will be getting a live action Green Lantern Corps series (while scooping up the DC Universe shows), Netflix‘s production of a live action Avatar: The Last Airbender is likely one of its first salvos to remain relevant in the face of this competition. Arguably, one of the biggest strikes it could make however would be to make a live action Ninja Turtles series. Simply put, where Marvel and DC are undoubtedly the kings in comics, Ninja Turtles is the biggest success story of that industry that has avoided getting acquired by either company. Further, the Ninja Turtles brand which has only flourished since its inception in 1984 could be fertile for more intellectual property. Meaning, if a Ninja Turtles series does well, it could set the stage for spin-offs like the Mighty Mutanimals, Fugitoid, Punk Frogs, Neutrinos, and Miyamoto Usagi (though, while associated closely with Ninja Turtles, Usagi Yojimbo is its own entity which would require separate licensing). With growing interest in strong female protagonists, an entirely new brand built around Ninja Turtles characters such as Karai, Jennika, Alopex, and Mona Lisa, could even come about. The sky’s the limit with nearly four decades of content to pull from and create new stories.
What could be a real game changer for Netflix that likely isn’t talked enough about is Power Rangers. While Nickelodeon doesn’t own the brand (it was recently acquired by toy company Hasbro), the company has exclusive distribution rights for its television release in the United States. What this could mean would be the stage set for a lucrative arrangement to make Power Rangers fans very happy and Netflix with a potentially monumental acquisition. Simply put, Nickelodeon airs seasons of Power Rangers produced by Hasbro using Toei’s super sentai footage while Hasbro is trying to make Power Rangers a box office juggernaut (which, based on all accounts, is a strategy built around nostalgia for the original Mighty Morphin series). This then means Netflix could have an opportunity to work somewhere in the middle: an original series based in the television series’ lore.
With 1999’s Power Rangers Lost Galaxy, Power Rangers became more like its super sentai counterpart where each season was largely its own entity. However, subsequent specials such as “Forever Red,” “Once a Ranger,” “Legendary Battle,” and “Dimensions in Danger” (likely inspired by the popular comic book storyline “Shattered Grid”) has maintained a cohesiveness in its universe that fans have a deep hunger toward. In fact, so well received was “Forever Red,” there was serious consideration of a series diving deep into the brand’s lore in ‘Hexagon’ that would’ve adapted Ninpuu Sentai Hurricaneger but cast past characters from the brand in several roles. However, considering the cost (and transition to Disney from Saban), the idea was abandoned and Power Rangers Ninja Storm was produced instead. In recent years, though, original content based in the brand’s lore has been made exclusively online in a live action trailer for the “Shattered Grid” comic book arc and a short film promoting the video game Power Rangers: Legacy Wars called “Street Fighter Showdown” (featuring Capcom’s popular Street Fighter characters crossing over with the franchise).
A Power Rangers series independent of the super sentai adaptations and movie theater productions has a great deal of room to tell stories. In fact, the brand is overrun with unanswered questions in its lore. If Aquitar has its own rangers, do other worlds also have their own teams? What is the identity of the Phantom Ranger? How did Rita Repulsa and Lord Zedd’s son Thrax avoid Zordon’s wave? When and how did Rita become Mystic Mother? Why did Officer Tate have the Time Force red morpher 75 years before it was created? What’s the story behind the legacy rangers representing Dairanger, Flashman, Maskman, Changeman, and Fiveman in Super Megaforce? How did Wesley Collins, Koda, and Gemma come to represent their separate dimensions? What’s the story behind Tommy Oliver’s Master Morpher and are there others? It’s also fairly commonplace in the season finales for various Power Rangers shows the team’s lose their powers but have time and again emerged later with their powers intact without explanation (which was a major plot point for the proposed Hexagon series).
A number of actors who played rangers went on to larger roles in their careers so a big budget Power Rangers series could also attract a number of these stars to return. Some notable examples include Johnny Yong Bosch (Adam Park), Rose McIver (Summer Landsdown), Eka Darville (Scott Truman), Brandon Jay McLaren (Jack Landors), Daniel Southworth (Eric Myers), Patricia Ja Lee (Cassie Chan), Amy Jo Johnson (Kimberly Ann Hart), and Karan Ashley (Aisha Campbell). If the series really wants to deep dive, it could incorporate Bio-Man and bring in Mark Dacascos (Victor Lee). As with Ninja Turtles, the success of a Power Rangers series could set the stage for spin-offs of VR Troopers, Masked Rider, and the Beetleborgs.
Honorable mentions: You Can’t Do That on Television, Rugrats, Ren & Stimpy, Hey Arnold!, Wild Thornberrys, Clarissa Explains It All, Aaahh!!! Real Monsters, Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius, Secret World of Alex Mack, Salute Your Shorts, and Hey Dude.