Monday, June 17, 2019

With 'All That' and 'Are You Afraid of The Dark,' Nickelodeon Bets Its Future on Its ’90s-Era Past

With ‘All That’ and ‘Are You Afraid of The Dark,’ Nickelodeon Bets Its Future on Its ’90s-Era Past

Brian Robbins reveals how these reboots will help the network’s co-viewing strategy: “Have a parent introduce a show that they used to watch”


Nickelodeon is hoping viewers are still longing for 1990s nostalgia.

On Saturday, Nickelodeon will bring back All That, its popular sketch comedy from the mid-1990s that launched the careers of Kenan Thompson, Amanda Bynes and Nick Cannon, among others. Thompson is executive producing the new version alongside fellow original cast member Kel Mitchell.

Nickelodeon president Brian Robbins said the decision to bring back All That was done in part to reinvigorate the talent pipeline that he argues had dried up. “We needed to develop more talent, live-action talent,” Robbins told TheWrap. “The well was dry. All That had always been this amazing pipeline of talent for Nickelodeon, not only in front of the camera but behind the camera.”

Robbins, who was named Nickelodeon president in October, would know. He co-created the original All That, which ran from 1994 to 2000 (it was retooled in 2002 and ran for another three seasons). And much like NBC’s venerable sketch comedy series Saturday Night Live — which original All That cast member Kenan Thompson has been on for a record-breaking 16 seasons — All That spawned a slew of series including Kenan & Kel, The Amanda Show, Drake & Josh, iCarly, and, of course, the Good Burger film.

Also Read: 'All That': Meet the 7 Teen Castmembers for Nickelodeon's Sketch Comedy Revival

“When we first created the show, that was the idea: To have this great lab,” Robbins continued. “You couldn’t have the lab without the good show. I’m not discounting that, but I kinda felt like if we could recapture the magic comedically and the zeitgeist of All That, and find great kids again, then it would be a win-win for the network.”

But recapturing what was in the zeitgeist from the mid-1990s is a far cry from 2019.

“There was no cell phones, there was no social media,” Robbins said. “Today, younger kids are so much more pop culture savvy because of the internet and social media that I was just amazed at how skilled these kids are… We have a kid that does Trump. He’s 13 years old.” But Mitchell points out that there are still universal themes that no matter the time period, kids can all agree on. “Kids still laugh at the same stuff,” he said, “There’s still puberty, there’s still things that kids go through as a teen.”

Robbins is hoping for more win-wins from the Nickelodeon’s vault. All That isn’t the only series that the network is bringing back from the 1990s.

The game show Double Dare returned last summer, and reboots of Rugrats, Blues Clues, Are You Afraid of the Dark?, Invader ZIM and Rocko's Modern Life are all on the horizon. Though Robbins describes these as “just a tiny bit of development,” he admits that “in the world that we live in, pre-awareness is really important.”

Under Robbins, Nickelodeon has made co-viewing — parents and their kids watching the same shows together — a major part of its strategy.

“What better way to get co-viewing than have a parent introduce a show that they used to watch,” Robbins said. “In the case of Blues Clues as a parent who probably has young children today, who was around when the show first launched, that’s probably going to have a nice nostalgia play, you’re going to probably want to introduce that to your kid.”

He added that Are You Afraid of the Dark? — which will come back with a three-episode run this fall with a brand-new Midnight Society — had a strong enough brand enough to warrant a revival: “[It] has such a loyal fanbase and it’s beloved and it’s also a great format. It just felt like a no-brainer to bring it back.”

Also Read: Nickelodeon Sets Cast for 'Are You Afraid of the Dark?' Revival - Meet the New Midnight Society

As for any further reboots, perhaps a new Doug or Hey Arnold!, Robbins says never say never. “I think you’ll see some of that, and I think you’ll see a lot of new stuff. Hopefully, it’s the right mix.”

Mitchell, who is an executive producer with Thompson on the new All That, was uniquely qualified to serve as a mentor to the new cast — after all, he was once in their shoes, having been on the show for first five seasons. He’s thrilled to be helping usher in the new generation.

“It’s cool that we get to give advice because we lived it,” he told TheWrap. “I wanted them to understand that this is a job and there’s going to be other great opportunities that are going to come up. Enjoy the moment now.”

Server, Denberg, Mitchell will all appear on Saturday’s premiere, reviving some of their classic characters like Mitchell’s Ed the Good Burger Guy and Denberg’s Loud Librarian (though Mitchell says “she changed her hair a little bit”). “You’ll see a lot of the characters that you love in the ’90s coming back,” Mitchell promises. “The sets look the same, so it’s very surreal walking on the set.”

The iconic All That theme song performed by TLC is also returning for the revival!

The new All That premieres Saturday, June 15 at 8:30 p.m. ET on Nickelodeon USA!

From Seeking Alpha:

Why Nickelodeon's Nostalgia Play Should Win Back Audiences

Summary

- Nickelodeon has always been one of the top names associated with kids entertainment, but it has lost a step since its '90s heyday.

- The network pulled the focus from kids and teens to just kids, and while it had a lot of success, it was nowhere near the level it had been in.

- New Viacom head Bob Bakish and new Nickelodeon head Brian Robbins are looking to restore the network its former glory by playing off reboots and the nostalgia effect.

- Nickelodeon has a long history of iconic shows that cross over to older audiences, and by embracing those past elements, it’ll be able to expand its viewership - to parents.

- Network executives have realized that by utilizing the rich IP of the network as the centerpiece of a new co-viewing initiative, they can then get viewers hooked on new shows.

In the 1990s, Nickelodeon (NYSE:VIA) had its finger on the pulse of kids culture.

Remember Doug, Rugrats and Ren & Stimpy? How about All That, Are You Afraid of the Dark and Clarissa Explains it All? Each was successful on its own, but combined, put Nickelodeon on top as the king of kids programming.

With only Disney (DIS) as a real rival, Nick counter-programmed and built an empire that made its parent company Viacom very happy. Now, after some bumpy years, the network is looking to reclaim its glory, and shareholders may be about to see a similar rise in results.

First, as always, some background.

While all of those shows I named above were massive hits, the list of shows that weren’t is just as long. Nickelodeon has never been afraid to take risks - and it should be applauded for that - but of course, not everything is meant for a kids network.

Then again, the fact that something like Ren & Stimpy thrived alongside something like Doug still boggles my mind, but it did. For those who may not remember, Doug was a wholesome animated cartoon about a young boy, his dog and his friends navigating growing up, while Ren & Stimpy was the polar opposite and involved a cartoon dog and cat getting into insane adventures that had to have made parents cringe.

Seriously, if you’ve never watched it, Google it - words can’t describe what these two got into every episode.

Not only was the tone and style different of the shows, but so was the animation. Doug was very simple, while Ren & Stimpy at times boarded on seizure-inducing. The point though is that both worked - and they complemented each other surprisingly well. Same for Rugrats, which spawned two feature-length movies. Chances are if you've watched one, you've watched all three - because after all, they aired back-to-back.

That was the heyday of Nickelodeon, but after a while,, the focus changed to Nick Jr.-branded hits like Dora The Explorer and Go, Diego, Go. Now, that didn’t mean the emphasis was off of older kids, as SpoungeBob SquarePants came to prominence here, but our little yellow friend was about it.

The network went from multiple iconic cross-generational properties to really one - and investors noticed. Yes, Viacom had “the” big name in kids TV entertainment on its roster, but a lot of the prestige was still just in name only.

The thing with Nickelodeon was that even though it was a kids network, teens were still watching. Rugrats got so popular that it eventually even made its way onto Nick at Nite for a short time. Yet, Rugrats and Dora are two entirely different properties, and that disconnect began to grow.

Younger kids and teens would both watch Nick’s version of Saturday Night Live, called All That, but teens had no interest in the more kiddie programs. While Blue’s Clues was a big deal, shifting the entire focus onto those type of shows put Nick at a big disadvantage, as Disney was continuing to target both demos.

That brings us to today, as there’s been a change in leadership recently, and new CEO Brian Robbins is about to execute on his co-viewing strategy. What Robbins has picked up on (and really has done a smart job implementing so far) is that those same kids that grew up watching something like Double Dare are now parents themselves, and now they’ll want to watch those same shows with their kids.

Pure and simple, it’s the nostalgia effect in play. The difference is, now Nickelodeon is leaning into it versus away from it.

As Robbins told Variety:

“The good news is we live in a world where brands still matter, and Nick is absolutely a giant brand that still matters.”

Brands are also something Robbins knows well. In fact, eagle-eyed viewers who watched every Nick show from start to finish may remember that name from the various end credits. Robbins, along with his partner Mike Tollin, were behind a number of top Nickelodeon shows, including All That.

The series launched the careers of young comedians like Kenan Thompson - who, of course, went on to star in SNL, where he has done nothing but thrive. He, along with his former scene partner Kel Mitchell, are also a part of this “new Nick” reboot. The pair are reuniting to help re-launch All That this weekend, where they will work with new cast members to re-capture that same appeal.

And it’s not just All That. Nickelodeon recently re-launched Double Dare, and is currently re-launching Are You Smarter Than A 5th Grader and Are You Afraid of the Dark - among other new projects. The difference here though, is that the new team at the network picked up on something a lot of people in their position have failed to grasp - the reason why these shows are successful the second time around is because they embraced the past instead of glossing over it.

Double Dare wasn’t Double Dare without Marc Summers, and while he’s not hosting the new version, the show built out a new role just for him to stay involved. Kids turned adults remember him and liked him, and are watching because of him. It’s all part of Robbins’ co-viewing platform, where he wants to encourage parents to watch TV with their kids and take an interest in their tastes in viewing.

It’s not a new concept by any stretch of imagination, but it’s one that works only when the people in charge understand the core tenets of the idea. Robbins seems to be among those, as while he’s not putting all his chips on reboots, he understands that you can use those to create new programming.

Again, as he told Variety:

“We live in a world where awareness and IP matters. There’s just so much content it’s harder and harder to cut through. It’s nice to start with a piece of IP people know and we’re fortunate at Nick over our 40-year history to have created some of the most iconic shows in kids’ lives and it makes sense to bring some of those shows back.”

Nick’s road back to the top is considerably more complicated in this streaming-first environment, but Robbins’ presence is a good start. Investors also need to take note that Robbins joining was a direct result of new Viacom head Bob Bakish, who is taking this same type of new-look approach with all of his properties.

Bakish is seeing what works and what doesn’t, and taking appropriate steps to balance everything. Shareholders needed a stabilizing force like him to step up and distract from the Shari Redstone/Les Moonves feud that sucked up all the oxygen in the room pre-Moonves’ exit. For the moment, this is being done through solidifying the company’s portfolio.

While the pros and cons of a merger with CBS Corp. (CBS) are tales for another article, one universal truth remains - if you are going to think about joining or acquiring another company, make sure your house is in order first.

What’s going on at Nickelodeon is a good start.

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From 11Alive (click link for video):

'All That’ & Grown Up: Kel Michell 2.0

There's even a Good Burger pop-up coming your way!

ATLANTA — The hit 90s sketch comedy variety show,” All That”, is back by popular demand with Kel Mitchell and Thompson wearing two hats, serving as actors and the executive directors for the show.

During an interview with The A-Scene, Kel Mitchell said that the fans really wanted the show back, and so did the show’s original creator and now President of the Nickelodeon, Brian Robbins.

This show returning is bringing back real ‘90s vibes to television. Michell said that fans went crazy when they found out about the return of “All That.

“90s fans and new generation so now the entire family is going to be in front of the television not different rooms watching different stuff,” Michell told The A-Scene.

The show casted seven new kids. Mitchell said it is awesome to work with everyone and giving the kids great advice because he experienced what they are doing now. He said he is there for them as mentors to help them through the process.

The A-Scene’s, Ryan Dennis, asked if Good Burger, a franchise segment on the show that became a global success at the box office, would come back in the revamp.

Michell said Good Burger is returning and the Jonas Brothers will be on the first episode.

The “Kenan and Kel” star even revealed the Jonas Brothers negotiated to be musical guests on the show only if they did a Good Burger sketch.

All three, sing “I’m a Dude” song together and do an awesome job.

Michell said it has been a blessing people are still referencing lines from movies he did years ago.

“You never know how things are going to turn out, so it is very cool that this is crossing generations,” Mitchell said.

During Michell’s interview with The A-Scene, Mitchell also revealed that “Good Burger” is coming to life with a pop-up restaurant starting in Los Angeles on July 10.

Mitchell said he hopes the fan destination would come add Atlanta to the list of tour stops.

Nickelodeon isn’t the only screen Mitchell will appear on, the star is taking over Saturdays with his CBS show, “Tails of Valor”.

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Did you hear? Nickelodeon and the duo behind viral pop-up phenomenon Saved by the Max are teaming up to open a Good Burger pop-up restaurant!: http://nickalive.blogspot.com/2019/06/nickelodeon-orders-up-all-that-inspired.html

More Nick: Jonas Brothers Find Their New Sound at Good Burger! ft. Kel Mitchell | All That | Nickelodeon!

Originally published: Friday, June 14, 2019.
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