20- Doug (1991-1994 (original Nickelodeon run))
Of the original 3 Nicktoons, each of which got to hold a unique distinction as being the network's most popular for a while, Doug caught on second, after Ren & Stimpy's decline but before Rugrats' massive rise. Between the insanity of R&S and the crazy adventures the babies got in, Doug was a much more down-to-earth show, relying more on school day traditions and silly daydreaming to get its entertainment across.
The show is very easy to get the gist of. Fifth grader Doug Funnie is the new kid in town, but quickly fits into the town of Bluffington. He has a blue best friend, named Mosquito Valentine, a tanish crush with the alias of Patti Mayonnaise, and a big-nosed green bully who goes by Roger Klotz. Doug and his quasi-anthropomorphic pet pooch Porkchop go through every day life together, along with the help of Doug's imaginary idols like Quailman and Smash Adams. Okay, maybe it's not too easy, but if you've ever seen the show, you know exactly what I'm talking about.
I'll admit that Doug is a little dry for older audiences when watching it now- if you're older than Doug, you won't find much to relate to him with, the little quirks that make the show memorable get stale fast, and honestly, pre-adolescent kid shows have been outclassed since its release. But Doug was one of the first series to take place in school with school children on Nick, and a lot of shows since have taken its template. Even then, while it may be too safe and non-assuming for older viewers, I believe that kids need safe and non-assuming to filter in between harsher realities, and Doug does a good job of filling that quota.
The show was so popular that after Nickelodeon ended its run, Disney bought both the show and the studio behind it, Jumbo, outright and made new episodes with Doug and the gang in middle school. It ran for 65 episodes, 13 more than the original run, and a movie, as it lasted into the start of the aughts. But believe me when I say that the original is where it's at.
"Doug's Doodle"- Worth watching if only to see Doug try and fail -miserably- to flirt with Mrs. Wingo.
"Doug Battles the Rulemeister"- One of the more memorable, and certainly among the most silly, Quailman adventures. Mr. Bone's Don Knotts callbacks are at their most charming here, and you get some fun site gags. Although I do wish Funday did exist.
"Doug's Sister Act"- Did you know that there's a bomb in the lasagna? Well, you do now. Besides this memorable scene, this is a fun take on the standard "date meets their embarrassing family for the first time" storyline, and gives the Funnie patriarchs some more stuff to do than usual.
19- Kenan & Kel (1996-2000)
The comic stylings and chemistry of Kenan Thompson and Kel Mitchell from All That caught on so well, that Dan Schneider and Nickelodeon decided to buy a sitcom starring the two of them. Miraculously, not only did the show catch on, as did the All That spin-off movie starring the two of them, Good Burger, but they stayed on both shows at once for a respectable period of time.
For good cause, Kenan & Kel is one of the most well-remembered of the 90's shows, but it isn't that high for one big reason, and that would be Kel. Mitchell was a fine child actor, but Kel Kimble is one of the most psychologically damaging moron characters written for television in a long time. Nearly every incident that happens between the two buddies is his fault, as it goes beyond the point of comedic sabotage and occasionally borders into terrifying and even sadistic stupidity.
It also doesn't help that you can guess the plot and outcome of an episode before even turning it on- Kenan has a not-so-hot idea, usually a get rich quick scheme or a prank, as he forces Kel along with him to join. Eventually, Kel's complete lack of common sense will cause the two's fool-proof plans to go haywire, and you see them try to resolve their dilemmas before the curtain call.
But that, at the same time is where Kenan & Kel's appeal comes from. It's set in the vain of classic sitcoms that used to air on TV Land, as well as the buddy comedy shorts and films of Abbott & Costello and Laurel & Hardy. For the odd times that Kel's bumbling seems unfunny, there's a stronger amount of times where there's some great slapstick laughs to be had, no matter how old you are, and the dialogue contains some solid stuff. The supporting actors are all individually good, even if there is room for more (where are Kel's parents, for one?). It's just a funny show that at the end of the day is too hard to crack on.
"The Tainting of the Screw"- If you don't know why this episode is a classic, you owe it to yourself to watch it. Now. I won't even reference the beloved climax in hopes that I don't have to.
"Pair-Rental Guidance"- A preposterous idea- Kenan hiring two random actors to impersonate his parents to meet with his principal- elevated to comedic heights by a "dad" that tries to give Sydney Poitier a run for his money and a "mom" that nearly makes Kel look like a genius at times. Mighty funny stuff.
"Freezer Burned"- This is around the time that Kel's stupidity was starting to take a serious turn to the unbearable, but this is still a good one. Classic sitcom stuff, and it's funny to see Chris all by himself.
18- Invader Zim (2001-2002)
I'm sure you're all familiar with Zim at this point. The little alien invasion cartoon made by indie comic legend Jhonen Vasquez which died an early death due to numerous, unofficially confirmed reasons, but has lived an incredible afterlife thanks to a strong cult following outside of the demographic and a never-ending presence in Hot Topic.
It's funny, sure, but it isn't any higher for the simple reason that it's easy to see why the show didn't catch on with kids during its original run. Although I myself was in the minority of children who enjoyed the show while it was on, the comedy is ultimately far too black and depressive for kids to really get. Gir works as a divisor between the bleaker humor for kids, but you still have a woman having a heart attack due to shear happiness set as a joke in the Christmas episode.
But hey, Invader Zim is a mighty funny show regardless, I say this as the 10-year-old that was in love with it before discovering the internet and Hot Topic, and the 20-year-old who still pops in his DVDs. Although I'd be a little hesitant to show my kids the show while still in single digits, I think they'd get a knack out of its care-free attitude and discontempt for everything in general.
"The Wettening"- Zim vs. Dib in a water balloon fight. The catch? Zim is allergic to water, but he's not afraid to retaliate. There we go.
"Game Slave 2"- Maybe it's just me, a huge Gaz fan, but I find this one to be a nice change of pace and a blast. The final scenes get downright spooky, using only tension instead of the show's typical lust for macabre.
"Mysterious Mysteries"- Great lines and classic scenes from beginning to end. This is always the episode I show to Zim newbies, and it always leaves them wanting more. It also contains Gir's finest moment, with him and his friend, the squirrel.
17- Victorious (2010-present)
In terms of commercial success, Dan Schneider was 7 for 7 when he created his latest hit, a teenage comedy starring art school students in LA. Schneider had interest in giving Victoria Justice her own show while discovering how versatile she was during her run in his previous hit Zoey 101, and found the right formula to not only utilize her talents, but those of 6 other teens her age.
For all the problems you can fault with the show, like its disregard towards humanity, obvious music selling promotion, and bits of needless running jokes, the show does a lot right. Combining child actors from stage and screen, most of which have also been studying singing and dancing for most of their lives, Schneider has created a truly ensemble show with a talented cast that promotes creativity and achieving your dreams more successfully than just about everything else the competition has been throwing at us over the years, including the massively successful High School Musical franchise.
Plus, it's just plain funny. There's a surprising amount of jokes that the show gets away with that others in the demographic wouldn't dream of, including Schneider's own work, and the main seven characters at this point each have well-defined personalities that have honed over the years. I think the show deserves a little more credit than it gets.
"Survival of the Hottest"- This is the one that got me to believe that there's potential in the show. Trapping six of the seven main characters in a hot RV for an episode, we get to see shades of the characters that we haven't before and proof that their actors have the chops to pull them off. Meanwhile, Cat... dances around getting hosed by water guns in a bra. Yeah...
"Sleepover at Sikowitz's"- Another ensemble piece, this has the six young students trying their hand at method acting, each one playing a totally different character in a challenge. The final line is totally forced, but it gives the kids even more of a chance to shine.
"The Breakfast Bunch"- A surprisingly effective tribute of the John Hughes classic, this replaces some of the edgier references with odder alternatives ("admit it... you're a vegan") but doesn't really lose an edge here at all. It also confirms why I love the character of Jade West so much, as she nails Emilio Estevez's character.
16- Are You Afraid of the Dark? (1992-2000)
You know, we haven't had a good horror/thriller/suspense/sci-fi anthology series in a while. The last one that comes to mind was Masters of Horror. I do miss series like that, the original Twilight Zone, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, The Outer Limits, Tales From the Crypt...
And this. I'm pretty sure that if you had Nick in the 90's, even if you didn't like this show, you had a favorite episode from it. Me, personally, I like "The Tale of the Crimson Clown", if only for my love of comic books.
The show was originally going to be a little higher, but I knocked it down a little since at the end of the day, it isn't that scary or well-acted, despite some notable guest actors, like Melissa Joan Hart, Will Friedle, Danny Cooksey, and a young Neve Campbell. AYAOTD gets a lot of credit, however, for effort and creativity. Making an anthology series for kids was a very original idea back in the day, and the setting was perfect- a bunch of kids sitting around a camp fire, telling ghost stories. Or aliens. Or demons. Or whatever came to mind that week. And like all other good anthology shows, every tale came with a good moral you can take with you on life, this time set around the teenage and younger crowd.
The show was a combined effort of YTV and Nickelodeon. A pilot aired on YTV around Halloween 1990, then the following year on Nick, and a full season followed suit in 1992 as a part of the original Snick lineup. Even though the show originally only lasted 5 seasons, 2 more followed suit around the end of the decade with a new cast to share stories, even including a made-for-TV movie featuring members of the original Midnight Society. Nick's sister channels occasionally still pull it out around Halloween every year, since it's the perfect compliment for the season.
Eh, I still want to hear some favorites from you guys. It can't be too hard to think of one, is it?