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Quiet on Set: The Fall of Nickelodeon

Millennials memories of the once beloved network, Nickelodeon, has become bitter sweet

Shutterstock/Monticello

A new Max docuseries has dropped on the platform that has every kid who grew up watching Nickelodeon in shock. Quiet on Set: The Dark Side of Kids TV explores the behind the scenes toxicity of Nickelodeon shows that aired in the 90s and 2000s as well as examines the behaviors of those working behind-the-scenes especially the network’s most successful show creator, Dan Schneider. And it turns out the green slime wasn’t the only grotesque part about the network.

The docuseries interviews writers, actors and other creatives who worked on the sets of hit shows like All That and The Amanda Show. The four episodes, soon to be five, allow a voice for those who worked on these shows. Each person interviewed has their own story to tell, but unfortunately, their experiences were not all too pleasant.

Sexism in the Writers’ Room

Credit: YouTube/Scandy

After the success of Schneider’s first show, All That, he created The Amanda Show. This starred Amanda Bynes who Schneider took a liking to after appearing in All That. On The Amanda Show, there were only two female writers, Christy Stratton and Jenny Kilgen, who shared their experience in the docuseries. The first red flag was that the two women were splitting a salary whereas the male writers did not. Stratton and Kilgen both recall sexist remarks and aggressive behaviors from Schneider. He had told them that women weren’t funny. Kilgen recalls him asking her and Stratton to “name a funny female writer.” This is laughable considering Schneider’s humor consisted of asking Stratton to act like she was being sodomized while telling a story about high school in front of everyone in the writers’ room. Yes! Humiliating one of your writers is so funny, Dan!

After season one of The Amanda Show, Stratton was fired, leaving Kilgen to be the last and only woman standing. However, she did not last very long. In the docuseries, she recalls the last encounter with Schneider before she quit. In front of himself and the other male writers, he repeatedly asked Kilgen if she ever used to do phone sex. She kept saying she had not, but he kept asking since this was clearly funny to him. For Stratton and Kilgen, they had to tolerate Schneider and his sick humor. Not only were they afraid of losing their jobs, but they also feared Schneider.

Pedophilia

Credit: YouTube/Law&Crime

The docuseries touches upon a man named Jason Handy. He was a production assistant on All That and The Amanda Show. To everyone around him, he was charming and kind. The casts of these shows adored him. However, there was something more sinister going on behind the scenes.

One of the interview subjects in the series is MJ. She is the mother to a former child actor on The Amanda Show named Brandi who does not appear in this series. MJ recalls her general impression of Handy, stating, “You thought, ‘Oh, I could be friends with this person.” Since she thought well of Handy, she allowed Brandi to exchange back-and-forth conversations with him through email. Things were fine until she recalls Brandi abruptly shutting off her computer one day. According to MJ, Handy had sent Brandi a photo of himself masturbating to let her know that “he was thinking of her.” After this, Brandi did not return to acting.

In 2003, Handy was arrested for a “Lewd Act with a Child under 14.”In the docuseries, MJ reveals that investigators searching Handy’s home find plastic bags with the names of different girls. Each bag holds different items that Handy saved. In Brandi’s bag, he had kept their letters between each other. In Handy’s diary, he had acknowledged what he was, writing, “I am a pedophile, full blown.” Unfortunately, Brandi was not the only child he harmed, she was one of the victims whose story helped lock him away. However, Handy was not the only pedophile lurking behind the scenes.

Drake Bell Comes Forward

Credit: Shutterstock/Tinseltown/Drake Bell

By far, the most shocking moment of the docuseries was when Drake Bell appeared onscreen. He revealed himself as the anonymous minor who had been sexually assaulted by Brian Peck, a dialogue coach as well as the second pedophile who worked on All That and The Amanda Show. When Bell first met the dialogue coach, he had taken a liking to him because of their similar interests in old Hollywood. Like Handy, ex-cast members said that there was nothing to not like about Peck. He was charming and funny. So, it’s easy to see why Bell didn’t see the red flags.

Over time, they had become very close. Bell recalls moments when Peck would go the extra mile to see him perform with his band. While Bell did not see this as an issue at the time, his father and manager, Joe Bell, had an off feeling about Peck. In the docuseries, Bell’s father is interviewed and he describes an unease regarding how close Peck had gotten with his son. He recalls Peck being around him too much as well as casually touching him often. Joe Bell’s suspicion of Peck created a wedge between him and his son. Peck knew this so he manipulates Bell into firing his father. Things only get worse from here.

The Arrest

Credit: Brian Peck/Max/Quiet on Set: The Dark Side of Kids TV

Once Bell and his dad’s relationship turns sour, Peck’s abuse begins. Over and over again, Peck sexually assaults Bell. The child star dealt with the trauma and pain alone. The only person he tells about this is a therapist set up by his girlfriend’s mom. She intervenes when Peck calls Bell repeatedly to hang out while at her home. The investigation on Peck does not begin until one day when Bell randomly explodes and reveals everything that is happening to him in a phone call to his mother.

Law enforcement becomes involved. They conduct a phone call recording between Peck and Bell where Peck admits violating the teen. So, Peck faces charges for “Lewd Acts with a Child.” In the docuseries, Bell details his experience in the courtroom. His side consisted of his family whereas Peck had a bunch of supporters. He recalls his heartbreaking, chilling closing statement, “I looked at all of them and I just said, ‘How dare you?’ I said, ‘You will forever have the memory of sitting in this courtroom and defending this person. And I will forever have the memory of the person you’re defending violating me and doing unspeakable acts and crimes and that’s what I will remember.”

So, What’s the Outcome?

Credit: YouTube/E News

After the docuseries aired, Nickelodeon and Dan Schneider have responded. The network has released the typical, PR-curated response to Entertainment Weekly that does no justice for anybody, stating, “Though we cannot corroborate or negate allegations of behaviors from productions decades ago, Nickelodeon as a matter of policy investigates all formal complaints as part of our commitment to fostering a safe and professional workplace environment free of harassment or other kinds of inappropriate conduct. Our highest priorities are the well-being and best interests not just of our employees, casts and crew, but of all children, and we have adopted numerous safeguards over the years to help ensure we are living up to our own high standards and the expectations of our audience.”

As for Schneider, he took to his YouTube page to address past behaviors. While being interviewed by BooG!e, a.k.a T-Bo from iCarly, Schneider expresses embarrassment and apologizes to anybody he has hurt, offended or made uncomfortable. In response to Stratton and Kilgen’s claims, he states that he was not responsible for “paying writers or determining their salaries, but also noted it was “common practice” for first-time writers to split salaries.”

There is so much more to say about this difficult topic and more is coming to light every day. The docuseries has inspired past Nickelodeon actors to speak up about their experiences. As an audience, we thank everyone who has spoken up for sharing their stories. All of you are very brave. Thank you for making our childhoods special.

Another episode of Quiet on Set: The Dark Side of Kids TV is set to air April 7th, 2024 on Max.

Written By

I am a New Jersey native going to school in Boston. I am majoring in English with a Public and Professional Writing concentration. I have recently joined Trill Mag as an intern for their Entertainment team.

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