SIDEBAR... my wishlist on audio is absolutely ridiculous. You'd think I'd have a major wishlist on Amazon or something, movie fan that I am, but no, not a single thing on Amazon. On Audible I currently have 27 titles that I'd like to one day read... biographies on Jim Henson, and Anthony Rapp (from Rent and Adventures in Babysitting)... one of my favorite sports nonfiction books, "Rammer Jammer Yellow Hammer" by Warren St. John... Bob Goff's "Love Does"... "Double Down", the sequel to 2008's brilliant, election centered "GameChange" (which is also on my list to reread)... I need like, 30 credits right now.
...anyway, that all is to say that, when I saw a book entitled "Slimed", I thought, "Hmm, that sounds like an interesting title." Then, when I clicked on it, my interest turned to sheer joy when I saw the full, official title: "SLIMED: An Oral History of Nickelodeon's Golden Age"
|Matthew Klickstein, shame on you for taking such an awesome idea and|
making it so poorly executed.
WHAT THE WHAT???!!!!
Immediately, I ordered it, and a few days later, it was released and I got it and jumped in immediately. This was going to be awesome... I mean, I grew up in Nickelodeon's "Golden Age"... when shows like "You Can't Do That On Television" were all the rage--Mom didn't really like me watching it, my friends moms didn't like them watching it, so naturally, it was all we talked about at Ridgetop Elementary School. It had adults smoking! SMOKING! On a kids show! A sketch show, YCDTOT was from Canada, and featured many of the same characters from episode to episode, and when anyone uttered the phrase "I don't know", they got slimed--green slime dropped from the ceiling and poured all over the actor. When they said "Water", it was then h2o that doused them.
And I loved it. Other shows like "Hey Dude!" featuring a teenage, and so gorgeous to my 12 year old eyes, Christine Taylor... and "What Would You Do?" and kids game shows and dramas and a block of shows on Saturday night called "SNICK", featuring "Who's Afraid of the Dark", a horror anthology--for KIDS... and "Double Dare", hello! every kid's dream to run that obsticle course and get slimy by looking for a flag in a giant nose... and of course, "Ren & Stimpy", a show that my 15 year old silly self found so funny that I would cry sometimes from laughing so hard.
I was alone in my room, unpopular, not invited out, watching SNICK and then later listening to Open House Party with John Garabedian.
This was going to be fabulous... not only the history of Nick, but tales from behind the scenes, perhaps the fights, the Nick-sized scandals, how certain shows made it, how certain shows failed, and, of course, the infamous tale of how the creator of "Ren & Stimpy", far and away the most popular show in Nick's history at that time, was fired from his own show.
This was going to be a walk down my childhood, into adolescence. And it was going to be wonderful, right?
The other part about this book that excited me were the words "oral history", as in, "oral narrative". I first experienced this type of story telling when I read the excellent "Those Guys Have All the Fun: Inside the World of ESPN", the story of ESPN. The authors didn't just tell the stories, they let those who were there tell the story... anecdotes from the likes of Chris Berman, Rich Eisen, Robin Roberts, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, and so on and so on, all compiled together to make the narrative, telling the story of ESPN's beginnings, its history, its early years into its modern day.
Last year, I read "I Want My MTV", another oral narrative, with everyone from MTV VJ Alan Hunter to Jon Bon Jovi to Simon Le Bon from Duran Duran giving their take on MTV's history (more about this in my next post, my Top Ten faves of the year)
So, naturally, to not only hear Nickelodeon's story, if not complete, then at least its "golden age", from its beginning to maybe the mid-90s, told from the people there--Christine Taylor from "Hey Dude!" and maybe that kid from "Don't Just Sit There" and Marc Summers (who did the forward of the book, another selling point) and Alasdair and Lisa and Christine from "You Can't Do That On Television"--was going to be awesome.
So I dove in.
And it sucked.
I mean, just completely sucked.
It breaks my heart to tell you this, but its a terrible book. I mean, atrocious... it would be one thing if the book had Fabio on the cover, you would know going in that this likely would be, well, not good. But this? This entire idea, this entire concept was genius... there were millions of people like me who grew up on Nickelodeon, who would be excited to read the stories of their favorite childhood network... but no. No no no.
1) WHO ARE THESE PEOPLE??
When reading books like "Those Guys Have All the Fun", you see a constant pattern... before you read the anecdote, it will tell you not only who they are, but WHO they are. "Chris Berman, Anchor". "Kenny Mayne, Anchor". "Bill Simmons, writer, Grantland.com". You get the idea. In "I Want My MTV", there were things like "Joe Elliot, Def Lepperd" and "Downtown Julie Brown, MTV VJ" and so on... again, you get the idea.
Imagine my surprise when the first chapter, "The Tween: What It was Like Growing Up Nick" had the first name of "Christine Taylor". No "Hey Dude", no "Actress", not even a "Ben Stiller's Wife" or "The Hot Chick in Dodgeball"... just her name. Well, that's okay, I knew who she is. But then? "Danny Tamberelli". Then "Elizabeth Hess". Followed by "Judy Grafe". Who? Who? And Who?
No identifications. No names. No sources. "Heidi Lucas" and then "Justin Cammy" and then "Trevor Eyster"... who are these people? Not even a comment on what role they play--no "actor" or "producer" or "writer" or "best boy" or "gaffer" or "caterer to Harvey on Double Dare".
Immediately, I was lost. There is a huge reference in the back, with a few hundred names listed, who they were and where they are now... but to keep going back to it four times just to read a page is so tiring.
2) ITS ALL OVER THE PLACE
That Tween chapter I mentioned, the first one? Not only do you not know who these people are, you don't even know who the 'tweens were. Some were people who played adults on the shows, others were the kids, but you had no idea what their frame of reference was when they spoke.
Secondly, it goes everywhere, from some drug use to filming to lines to school to crushes, then veers off in a completely different direction, before coming back again. Other chapters are just like this... the one I was looking forward to, the split between Nick and the creator of "Ren & Stimpy" spent half the chapter on this, then part of the chapter somewhere else, not coming to any satisfying conclusion.
Halfway through it, I was beginning to question whether I should even stick it out... I did, begrudgingly. And I'll never do it again.
The idea itself was brilliant. The concept was exciting and fun, and stuck into that nostalgia that people like me have for the days when you came home from school and watched programs as they came on, because otherwise you'd miss them--no DVR or TiVo or at my house, no VCR to record it... you watched it then, because you couldn't watch it online or get the season from NetFlix or Best Buy... not in 1983.
The disappointment. The potential, and the huge letdown from the very beginning. This is why "Slimed: An Oral History of Nickelodeon's Golden Age" was the worst book I read in 2013. Matthew Klickstein--do another version, update it, and I guarantee I'll buy it again.
(5484 words written for #15KWordsinFeb, 9516 words to go)