Friday, August 31, 2012

Old School Lane's Nickelodeon Tribute: U to U/Nick in the Afternoon

To conclude the year 1994, Nickelodeon debuted a new TV series that had fan interaction, fan art, fan animation, and fan mail. That show was called U to U.

The show was hosted by Ali Rivera and Setrone Starks. It consisted of them reading and displaying fan mail, videos, and animation from Nickelodeon fans from all over the world. This was the first show on Nickelodeon that showed off a brand new technology when it came to reading fan mail. It was called the Internet. U to U had a official bulletin board in the Prodigy Internet where kids who had access it would send them an email consisting of stories or letters. In today's standards, it's pretty common for every TV show or movie to have an official website. But back then, it was a rarity. The show also consisted of asking questions to celebrities, songs that would be made into music videos, comic strips that would be made into animated shorts, and playing 3D video games.

They would interact with Nickelodeon fans via video or phone about their loves and interests in art, movies, music, or video games. One person in particular was a kid named Paul Hubans who dreamed of being a cartoonist. Today he's an artist and indie video game designer who has worked on games such as World of Goo, MADHOUSE, and Dark Void Zero.

The show lasted for only 20 episodes ending its run in 1996. Overall, it was the first show on Nickelodeon that focused on the fans and their love for art, video, animation, and such. It was a neat idea that would continue on in other segments throughout the years. Speaking of which, one year later at June 1995, a programming block debuted around the afternoons and pretty much overshadowed U to U. It is still remembered to this day among 90's Nickelodeon fans as something that they would see while watching their favorite shows. That block was called Nick in the Afternoon starring Stick Stickly.


The show consisted of a Popsicle stick named Stick Stickly who would read fan mail, interview kids and celebrities, and have skits before every Nick show.  He would sing the address to send him fan mail and the website when the Internet grew in popularity.

There was also a segment called "U Pick" in which fans would be giving two shows to choose from and the most votes would be the one that they would air. There was even a storyline in which Stick had to find his long lost brother in New York City.

The person who controlled Stick Stickly was a puppeteer named Rick Lyon. He has worked on other shows for puppeteering such as Sesame Street, Bear in the Big Blue House, Crank Yankers, and Avenue Q. The voice of the character was Paul Christie, who today is the voice of the Nick Jr. mascot Moose A. Moose. Many people who grew up in 90's Nickelodeon loved Stick Stickly and had always looked forward to Nick in the Afternoon to see what kind of trouble he would get himself into.

The show lasted for 3 years ending its run on December 1998. It was far superior that U to U was. It had more fan interaction, more celebrities, more skits, and a memorable character. At the time, Stick Stickly was the official mascot of Nickelodeon. People who saw Nick in the Afternoon would grab Popsicle sticks and make their own Stick Sticklys. I sure did when I was 10. 

Around October 7, 2011, Stick Stickly made a comeback and returned on TV for the 90's Are All That segments. It was so nice seeing him hosting, answering fan mail, and doing funny skits again. It was updated to the 21st century with him now having a Twitter and Facebook account. While he hasn't changed a bit, he has a more of an adult humor referencing things like flat screen TVs and Jersey Shore for the late night viewers and for the people who grew up with him. Welcome back, old friend.

That's all for now. Tune in next time as we go into the year 1996 and review the sci-fi series Space Cases.


Hope to see you around Old School Lane soon. Thanks for reading.


Thursday, August 30, 2012

Old School Lane's Nickelodeon Tribute: Aaahh!!! Real Monsters

Nickelodeon was the best kids' network in the 90's. They were known for their top quality cartoons that many others at the time tried to copy off of. The one cartoon that many cartoons tried to copy was Ren and Stimpy. Back in the 90's, cartoons that featured gross humor, fart jokes, and weird animation was the shit and Ren and Stimpy perfected on it. While in Nickelodeon, I did mention that many people referred to Rocko's Modern Life as a Ren and Stimpy clone, another show from Nickelodeon came out in October 1994 that was reviewed the same way. However, I believe that it holds up differently on its own. That show is Aaahh!!! Real Monsters.

The show was about monsters living in the sewers in their own underground world living their purpose of scaring humans. The main focus is about three monsters named Ickis, Krumm, and Oblina going to a monster school taught by a headmaster simply known as The Gromble. Ickis, Krumm, and Oblina go through their struggles to try to be the top monsters in the school while getting themselves in crazy situations in the human and monster world.

Each of the main three characters were different in their own way. Ickis looks like a rabbit and is portrayed as a timid, yet cocky monster trying to step out of his father's shadow and make his own name of being a scary monster. He can turn his eyes red and increase his size up to 8 feet.

Krumm is a strange looking blob-like monster with hair all over him, having to hold his eyes with his hands, and is known for having a terrible stench. It combines the smell of sweat, garbage, rotten eggs, and smelly feet and increased by 200%.

Oblina is the smartest one of the bunch. She's shaped like an upside down candy cane and has the ability to pull her guts from her mouth, shape shift her body into different forms, and stick her finger in a human's ear to induce nightmares. She has a European accent since she's a transfer student who comes from a wealthy family.

Their headmaster The Gromble cares for his students to do well scaring humans, although he insults them and yells at them. He has an assistant named Zimbo who looks like a bee who loves to induce punishment on the students if they behave badly.

In each episode, it focused on Ickis, Krumm, and Oblina interacting with their monster friends, doing homework assignments that mostly focused on scaring humans, getting themselves into trouble or getting out of trouble, and getting into crazy situations to keep the monster world and themselves a secret. While most people throughout the show didn't know of the monster's existence, only two people knew that monsters were real. One was a little boy that dressed up as a rabbit in the Halloween episode. He was accidentally confused as Ickis and was taking to the monster world alongside Krumm and Oblina. He would appear in another episode alongside a recurring character who believed that monsters were real, Simon the Monster Hunter. He appeared as a crazy man with wild ideas, but he always insisted that he was going to catch a monster to prove that he wasn't crazy. He would be a precursor character to other Nickelodeon characters like Mr. Crocker from The Fairly Odd Parents and Dib from Invader Zim who are perceived as crazy, although they were right about the existence of these supernatural and intergalactic creatures.

There were many toys and dolls of the Aaahh! Real Monsters characters that were released at toy stores and at Universal Studios. I never got the chance to get them and trying to buy them on eBay are next to impossible since they're really rare and expensive, especially the plush dolls of Ickis, Krumm, and Oblina.

The show was produced by Klasky Csupo, the same animation company who created Rugrats and Duckman. Gabor Csupo created this show alongside Rugrats storyboard writer Peter Gaffney. Just like Rugrats, the animation was unique and different than any other show at the time. Thanks to his European background and huge influence on The Beatles Yellow Submarine animated movie, Aaahh!!! Real Monsters was a strange looking show that emphasized on odd looking monsters and gross scenery.

As a kid, I even played the Aaahh!!! Real Monsters video game on the Sega Genesis. I remembered hating it because the controls were awful and I was confused on where to go, what to do, and how to play it. It's been years since I played it, but I remembered not having fun with it.

This show is still awesome to this very day. It's scary, gross, and funny. If you haven't seen it before or in a while, go buy the DVDs or see it on Netflix and check it out.

That's all for now. Hope to see you around Old School Lane soon.


Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Old School Lane's Nickelodeon Tribute: Allegra's Window

As Nick Jr. was slowly gaining in popularity as the block to feature educational programs for preschoolers and kids 2-6, they needed a new mascot. Around 1994, Face came into the network promoting the programs they were going to air.

Face would range in different colors and he would act silly ranging in different voices and counting objects or playing games with the kids. He would always be interacting with the audience even though he was put there only for promotional purposes. Face was voiced by Chris Phillips, who would later on voice Roger Klotz in Brand Spanking New Doug after Jim Jinkens moved the show from Nickelodeon to Disney.

Hey, speaking of Jim Jinkens, around October 24, 1994, he created a kid's show for preschoolers featuring people and puppets. That show was called Allegra's Window.

The show is about a 3-year-old girl named Allegra who loves to learn new things everyday. She goes through her everyday trials and routines of being a kid alongside her parents, her older brother Rondo, her best friend Lindi, Rondo's best friend Riff, and her neighborhood friends. She goes to pre-school where a nice teacer named Miss Melody teaches them about good manners, she sees her friend Mr. Cook and learns about different foods, and she loves to sing and dance.

You might think that it's a little odd that Jim Jinkens would be creating a show for pre-schoolers since he's the guy who created Doug. But as you've been following from the beginning of the Nickelodeon tribute, Jim Jinkens started off in kid's shows for Nickelodeon such as Pinwheel and Hocus Focus back in the late 70's and early 80's. So something like Allegra's Window was going back to his roots on where he first started in his career.  As you can tell with the style, looks, and personalities of the puppets, it's Jinkens' style written all over it. Allegra is an average 3-year-old toddler with an active imagination and has a love of music and learning new things. She's sort of like Doug. Rondo looks sort of like Doug with similar features in his face, but acts sort of like Judy being the older sibling. Riff is kind of like Roger with his tough, yet cool attitude. Mr. Cook looks similar to Al and Moo's dad and Pogo reminds me of Skeeter's brother Dale, both in personality, age, and appearance.

The main theme of the show was music. There were music and dance numbers throughout each episode connecting to the lesson that they were teaching. However there were no 3 minute dancing sequences like Today's Special or anything like that. Even the characters were named after a type of musical instrument or dance.

It continued on in Nick Jr. until May 1, 1998. The show continued on in reruns until 2000. There's really not much to say about this show. It's a really basic kids' show that teaches lessons, has music numbers, and nice characters similar to Sesame Street. Not a bad show, but quite basic. If you want to check it out sometime, you can. It's harmless enough.

That's all for now. Tune in next time as Kevin reviews another Klasky Csupo classic (say that 5 times fast), Aaahh! Real Monsters and I review the 1994 TV series U to U.

Hope to see your around Old School Lane soon.


Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Old School Lane's Nickelodeon Tribute: My Brother and Me

As we've reviewed each teen sitcom show from Nickelodeon in the 90's, we've seen a pattern when it comes to the casting. There's almost no diversity in the characters. All the characters from Hey Dude were White with the exception of Danny, who was a Native American. All the main characters in Welcome Freshmen were White with the exception of Kevin. The Adventures of Pete and Pete: a mostly White cast. Clarissa Explains it All: a mostly White cast. The Secret World of Alex Mack: a mostly White cast. The executives knew they needed to add a little bit more diversity in their lineup. On October 15, 1994, My Brother and Me debuted.

The show was about the Parker family living their everyday lives in Charlotte, North Carolina. The family consists of the following:

Roger Parker (played by Jim R. Coleman) is the father. He's a sports reporter.

Jennifer Parker (played by Karen Fraction) is the mother.

Alfred "Alfie" Parker (played by Arthur Reggie III) is the first son. He's portrayed as the cool, hip guy who loves basketball, hanging out with his best friend, and teasing his brother.

Derek "Dee Dee" Parker (played by Ralph Woolfolk IV) is the second son. He's portrayed as the young, naive kid who looks up to his brother and hanging out with his best friends.

Melanie Parker (played by Aisling Sistrunk) is their only daughter. She's portrayed as the sassy, smart teenager of the family who loves to hang out with her best friend.

Their best friends consist of the following:

Milton "Goo" Berry (played by Jimmy Lee Newman, Jr.) is Alfie's best friend. He's portrayed as the tough guy who likes to pick on Dee Dee and his friends for their size.

Donnell Wilbur (played by Stefan Warnli) is Dee Dee's best friend. He's a smart, witty kid who's catchphrase was "Don't hold your breath."

Deonne Wilbur (played by Amanda Seales) is Donnell's older sister and Melanie's best friend. Deonne has a bit of sass just like Donnell, but is a bit more pessimistic.

Harry White (played by Keith Naylor) is Dee Dee's best friend. He's the only White person in the entire show. He's a bit slow and dumb, but he always very loyal to Dee Dee and Donnell.

Throughout the show, they live their everyday lives and deal with everyday situations from playing practical jokes on each other to  dealing with bullies to trying to sell candy to buy expensive jackets. One of the most iconic things about the show was the recurring catchphrases and inner monologues that the characters would think to themselves. The one scene from the show that everyone remembers when watching the show was the episode in which Alfie and Goo are imagining on how to make more money for the jackets. They think that they could make their own products and commercialize it. Goo thinks of releasing his own fruit punch and calling it "Goo Punch".

The show was cancelled on February 2, 1995, four months after it debuted. It wasn't because it wasn't popular, it was. In 1996 and 1997, the show was nominated for the NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Youth or Children's Series/Special. It was because there was major disagreements between the producers and the creators of the show. The 2nd season was planned and the episodes were already written, but they didn't agree with one another to keep the show afloat due to their different points of view. Unlike Rugrats in which they were able to hire new writers after Paul Germain and the majority of the old writers left after their disagreements, My Brother and Me no longer aired at Nickelodeon ever since its cancellation. It has not aired again since then.

Some of the actors did other projects after My Brother and Me while most of them faded into obscurity.

Arthur Reggie III had appeared in a few TV shows after he quit acting and became a rap singer. He raps under the name Show Bizness.

Amanda Seales had quit acting after My Brother and Me and became a musician known as Amanda Diva.

Ralph Woolfolk IV had studied English at Morehouse College in Atlanta, GA and went to Harvard University to study law.

Jim Coleman has appeared in other TV shows and movies such as seaQuest DSV, Saved by the Light, Zeus and Roxanne, Olive Juice, Sheena, American Gangster, Strokes, and Prime of Your Life.

Karen Fraction has appeared in other TV shows and movies such as Our Son, The Matchmaker, seaQuest 2032, Palmetto, Walker, Texas Ranger, Taina, and Sheena. She passed away on October 30, 2007 after a 5 year battle with breast cancer. She's survived by her two children and her husband Lawrence Hamilton.

Overall, looking back at this show, it was a really great attempt to bring some variety to bring some diversity in Nickelodeon. It was the first show to include an all black cast and would inspire many other shows to bring more diversity in the show such as The Brothers Garcia and Taina. At the time shows that already included an all black cast such as Family Matters, The Cosby Show, A Different World, and Martin were being viewed by many people. So a show like My Brother and Me was a nice addition to the Nickelodeon teen sitcom series. But looking back at the show, it's beyond corny and cheesy! While the inner monologues and recurring catchphrases keep the show consistent, it's just emphasizes the cheesiness more. Also, I have an issue with some of the names of the characters. I mean Alfie, Dee Dee, and Goo sound really ridiculous. It sounds like a five year old named them. Also, I have an issue with Harry being a dumb White character. But then again, at the time, most White people who were in shows with a Black cast were portrayed as dumb. It just dates the show even more. But I found it to be a bit charming. They were trying very hard to portray as a good show for kids with a diverse cast and good humor and it shows.

If you're a fan of cheesy, corny shows, check it out sometime. If it doesn't sound like your thing, then skip it. But at least appreciate that My Brother and Me broke the mold among the casting of different diversities for a Nickelodeon teen sitcom.

That's all for now. Hope to see you around Old School Lane soon. Thanks for reading.


Monday, August 27, 2012

Happy 60th Birthday Paul Reubens

For all the Florida residents out there like myself, it may not be a perfect day for celebration and rejoice. It's a time of preparing and keeping your home safe from Hurricane Isaac. But I would like to give some time to wish a very special happy birthday to a former Florida resident. A man whom I have mentioned many times in the blog as someone who has influenced not only Kevin and myself, but millions of others, with his movies, stage shows, and TV show Pee-wee's Playhouse. That man is none other than Paul Reubens a.k.a. Pee-wee Herman.

Over the years, he has done many great things to shape up his career to be the iconic phenomenon he is today. Performing his stage show in 1981 called The Pee-wee Herman Show was a huge cult hit among audiences. Taking a page from former kid's shows from the 50's such as Howdy Doody and Captain Kangaroo, he spoofs it and pays homage to it in a way that it's presented in a hilarious, campy, avant-garde, fresh, and awesome way. It's great not only for kids, but for adults as well with many subtle adult jokes that kids wouldn't understand until they get older.

This awesome show that took Paul Reubens' career as Pee-wee Herman by storm almost wouldn't have happened if he would have been accepted in Saturday Night Live. He was one of the last people called to audition for Saturday Night Live, but had lost it to Gilbert Gottfried. Angry and upset that he didn't get the part, he flew home back to L.A., called his parents to lend him money, and with the help of many people, got the stage show into fruition.

If only Reubens would have known earlier on that this rejection of not being in Saturday Night Live was actually a blessing in disguise. The season that he would have been in was referred to as "the worst season ever". Lorne Michaels temporarily left the show, the skits were not as funny as the previous skits, and the overall season was a complete disaster that almost got SNL cancelled. Thank God that Reubens didn't get in the show.

Things would have turned out so different if he would have gotten in. There would have been no stage show and possibly no Pee-wee's Big Adventure, Big Top Pee-wee, or Pee-wee's Playhouse. I can't imagine a world like that.

If you recall in my review of Pee-wee's Big Adventure with Les from Manic Expression, it's truly one of my favorite movies that Tim Burton has ever been involved in. Easily one of my top 5 favorites. Everything about this movie still works today and I'm so surprised that a movie that was filmed in 6 weeks with a small budget could do so well. Truly the minds of Reubens, Burton, Phil Hartman, Michael Varhol, and all the other actors and crew members really crafted this movie into one amazing experience that you will not soon forget. So many memorable moments, quotes, and scenes still reside on my head to this very day. Especially the biker bar scene where he dances to "Tequila" by The Champs. You can't help but crack a smile when you see him dance.

But what really resides in my heart is the show Pee-wee's Playhouse. Truly, one of the greatest, most creative, groundbreaking kid's shows I've ever seen and I am beyond grateful that I was able to see it on Saturday mornings when I was 3 or 4. Taking the 1981 stage show and introducing new characters and making it more for children was something that many people didn't suspect when first seeing it. But guess what? It worked! Also, the things they got away with is so jarringly hilarious that it just can't be beat. From the 2 1/2 minute intro to Pee-wee riding his scooter at the end is nothing more than just wild, campy, colorful, creative, and amazingly good fun!

When watching the show as a kid, I felt a connection with Pee-wee that I never felt with any other person. Growing up with Asperger's Syndrome, I was ignored and hated by everyone and was teased constantly just because I was different from them. I hated the fact that I was different and didn't know why (I didn't find out about my condition until I was 15). I wanted to change myself many times to be just like everyone else, but for some reason or another, I didn't. When the show reaired again on Fox Family in 1998 and at Adult Swim in 2006, I fell in love with the character and the show all over again. It helped me in a time in which I had extremely low self-esteem and lacking confidence to approach people and talking to them. I learned from watching Pee-wee's Playhouse again that it was okay to be who you are. The whole world was filled with people who want to be like everyone else and the most coolest person in the world is a person who's not afraid to be themselves. It took me a long time to learn that lesson and I'm glad I did and it's partly thanks to Pee-wee.

Around the 90's after Reubens had his "misfortunes", many people still stood by his side and defended him. While Reubens was still around on and off, Pee-wee wasn't. It was during a period in which it was an empty void for many people who grew up with him. Although it would take Reubens a while to find out, we still loved him and supported him 100%. We still do! That love and support still hasn't left us. It felt like our best friend had moved away unexpectedly and we didn't get a proper goodbye. While many of us grew up and moved on with our lives, we never lost our inner child that Pee-wee demonstrated every week. We never lost our creativity, our crazy antics, and our inner child. That's why many people today who love Pee-wee and the movies and shows are actors, screenwriters, comedians, musicians, artists, writers, parents who are introducing their children to Pee-wee, and many more. While the press and the pretenders had and (unfortunately) still bring up the incidents, the people who truly matter remember the positives that he had brought to this world as a comedian, a movie star, a TV star, and a kid's host and celebrate them. That outweighs the negatives by a long shot!

When Reubens came back as Pee-wee at the Spike TV Guy's Choice Awards in 2007, my college friends and I were beyond shocked and amazed! Here we thought that we would never see Pee-wee again and there he was on TV giving the Funniest MF Award to Will Ferrell. There was cheering, screaming, and awe when we saw our childhood hero walk on stage, getting a standing ovation, people chanting his name, and making the audience laugh. He still hadn't lost his touch. Some of the lines we were saying were:

"Oh my God, it's Pee-wee. It's really him! He's back!"

"Oh, that Pee-wee. He's still got it!"

"He was the highlight of the whole show."

"It's so satisfying to see him again being so loved by people!"

But then one jerk comes in, looks at the TV, and said "Oh my God, is that Pee-wee Herman? It's sad to see him in a state like this. He's gotten so old and fat".

We stared him down and he shut his mouth during the duration of that time. No one was going to mess up that night, not even a jerky college kid. As we saw him leave the stage and being confronted with many people, I thought to myself, "It's about time! Sure it took a while, but I'm glad you're back! Don't leave us again."

Actor Paul Reubens as 'Pee-Wee Herman' presents the 'Funniest M.F.' award onstage during Spike TV's First Annual 'Guys Choice' taped at Radford Studios on June 9, 2007 in Studio City, California.  Spike TV's 'Guys Choice' premieres June 13, 2007 at 10:00pm ET/PT.

Over the years, we did not see him again. That is until the 2010 stage shows in L.A. and New York. I didn't get the chance to see him live, but it was so satisfying to see him perform in front of thousands of people who had truly loved him and grew up with him. When he would talk to the audience in the L.A. shows and go outside to greet the audience in the Broadway shows, everyone cheered and said that they had loved him and supported him all the way.

It was so great to have him finally get all the affection from the people who truly stood by his side when he went through his struggles. The media who had bashed him now praised him. The kids who grew up with him were now adults who have kids who are growing up with him now by showing them the DVDs. Reubens couldn't believe that after all this time, people had loved him. He was so touched by it that it was reported that he would even get emotional to the point of crying with joy. Well, Paul, we're crying too with joy! We couldn't be more proud of you! You truly deserve whatever praise you get!

After that, the comeback wagon was chugging along! He was everywhere again! In talk shows, in guest appearances on TV shows such as SNL and Top Chef: Texas, and being praised for his innovative and creative work on the 2011 Spike TV Scream Awards and the 2012 TV Land Awards. As you know, I wrote an article of my favorite Pee-wee Herman moments of 2011 back in New Year's Eve. It was the biggest thrill in my life to have Paul Reubens himself love it so much that he shared it among his fans on Twitter and Facebook. I will never forget that, Paul. I'm still proud of that article to this very day and I can't wait to write a new one for this New Year's Eve! But what's next for Paul Reubens and Pee-wee Herman? Well, we know that he's doing Tron: Uprising as the evil second-in-commmand Pavel and he's working on getting a new movie done with Judd Apatow. But who knows what's next. One of the best things about his upcoming projects is that we don't know about them, but when we do, it's always a fun surprise!

As I close this birthday message, I have to say just one final thought. Paul, I see you as the white lotus: a flower that mostly grows in Southeast Asia. It's a delicate flower that grows in a wet, damp, dark, and muddy swamp. But when spring comes along and the sun comes out, it shines and blooms like no other. It's the most beautiful flower in the world! When you went through your setbacks, you crawled back into a dark place thinking that you were no longer accepted. But when you came out, you shined and blossomed like no other. You made people smile and happy in a period in which times have gotten tough with the economy, the war, and unemployment. You made people forget for one moment of their problems and brought them back into a world in which they didn't have to grow up. A simpler time in which they could laugh, play, and smile with their friends. Thank you for shining into our lives like the lotus flower: a flower that symbolizes beauty, determination, rebirth into a new life, and eternal youth.

While it's true that Pee-wee taught us to be ourselves, to be creative, to use our imagination, and that it was okay to be different, Paul had taught us an even more important lesson. He taught us to never give up when things were down. Did he give up when he didn't get into SNL? No! Did he give up when Pee-wee's Big Adventure and Pee-wee's Playhouse was almost not made? No. Did he give up when people were making fun of him and bashing him for his indiscretions? Absolutely not! He persisted and gotten up from his feet to move on and continue doing what he was good at: making people laugh. May you never give up that fighting spirit, Paul. May you continue to follow your dreams and goals even when things look hard and impossible. May you never lose that childish persona that we have come to know and love. May you never again forget that there are many, many people out there who still love you and respect you in every way!

Happy birthday Paul! May it be a special one and may you have many, many more.

Your friend and longtime fan,


Saturday, August 25, 2012

Old School Lane's Nickelodeon Tribute: The Secret World of Alex Mack

As we've been reviewing each of the live action teen shows that Nickelodeon released in the 90's, none of them has had a consistent flowing story line. With the exception of the character personalities (or lack there of, as we've been discussing about in the majority of the shows), you could watch any episode of any of these shows and not worry about missing any key plot points. Seriously? Watch any episode of Hey Dude, Welcome Freshmen, Salute Your Shorts, Are You Afraid of the Dark?, and The Adventures of Pete and Pete and you will not miss a thing. Clarissa Explains it All is sort of like the exception because as the seasons progress, we actually see her grow up from an 8th grader to a high school senior, so it's has a bit of a coming of age thing going on. As for Fifteen, it is true that we do see the main characters go through their struggles and confrontations throughout the series, but most of the supporting characters had been switched around so many times that it doesn't keep things consistent enough.

On October 8, 1994, a new teen drama series did just that. Or at least an attempt at it. The show was called The Secret World of Alex Mack. 

The story is about an average teenage girl named Alex Mack (played by Larisa Oleynik) who lives in a small town in California called Paradise Valley. She didn't have a good first day of junior high school due to being teased by the most popular girl in school and not getting a chance to talk to a good looking teen. While walking home, a large truck drives out of control where Alex happened to have been and crashed into the side of the road. It hit a fire hydrant and accidentally dropped a barrel filled with an experimental chemical known as GC-161 and it sprays all over Alex.

When coming home, she tells her sister Anne, (played by Meredith Bishop) a scientific genius about the accident. While discussing the problem, Anne tells Alex that she's glowing orange and that something wasn't right. Alex finds out that she had developed superpowers due to the chemicals. The powers consisted of three abilities:

Telekinesis: an ability to make objects float in mid air and controlling where you want them to appear.


Having the ability to shoot bolts of electricity through her fingers.

But the one she uses the most is morph into liquid form and sneak around places without being noticed. She can even have do this to more than just herself. If another person were to hold her hand, then they both can turn into liquid form. Anne wishes to experiment on Alex to develop her powers so that one day they can go to the factory responsible for the chemicals. Alex decides that it's for the best that she keeps her secret from everyone around her, including her parents.

Meanwhile at the Paradise Valley Chemical Plant, the factory responsible for the experimental chemical GC-161, the CEO Danielle Atron (played by Louan Gideon) hears about the accident from the truck driver who caused it. She wishes to use GC-161 as a weight-loss drug, despite not caring about the side affects it would cause the consumers of the product. She tells the security guard of the Plant named Vince Carter (played by John Marzilli) to find the child who was hit with the GC-161 chemical to experiement on her as well as eliminating the chance of her telling anyone about the chemical's effects.


The truck driver Dave Watt (played by John Nielsen) partners up with Vince since he's the only one who knows Alex's identity. However, Dave wishes to keep her safe since he knows that Alex would go through some awful experiments after overhearing Danielle's conversations. George Mack (played by Michael Blakely) happens to work under Danielle and keeps hearing about the accident, but doesn't realize that the girl they're looking for is his own daughter Alex. The only other person that Alex told about her powers to is her next door neighbor Ray Alverado (played by Darris Love). He's Alex's best friend, sticking her side similar to Sam from Clarissa Explains it All. There's really not much to his character than that.

Throughout the story, Alex has to keep her powers secret from the Plant while Danielle is sending out Dave and Vince to find her. There are other characters in the show that interacted with Alex.

Scott Greene (played by Jason Strickland) is the crush that Alex develops throughout the show. He's constantly going out with other girls and having on and off relationships with them.

Jessica (played by Jessica Alba) is Scott's first girlfriend and Alex's rival.

Kelly Phillips (played by Hillary Salvatore) is Scott's second girlfriend and Alex's second rival.

Robyn Russo (played by Natanya Ross) is one of Alex's best friends and has a bit of a cynical sense of humor.

Nicole Wilson (played by Alexis Fields) is one of Alex's best friends and is an optimistic and strong willed person.

The show was created by Thomas W. Lynch and Ken Lipman. Lynch had created other hit TV shows such as Night Tracks and Kids Incorporated. With those shows, he helped started the careers of many celebrities and singers such as Jennifer Love Hewitt and Stacy Ferguson a.k.a. Fergie from The Black Eyed Peas.

The show was filmed in both Valencia, California and the Santa Clarita Valley. The junior high school scenes were shot at Thomas Helmers and James Foster Elementary Schools while the high school scenes were shot at Castiac Middle School. The Mack home and the Plant were filmed in a converted warehouse used as a soundstage while the exterior home was shot at a suburbian neighborhood at Santa Clarita.

Throughout the first two seasons, Alex goes through her normal teenage routines such as school, family problems, homework, earning money through odd jobs, and getting her driver's license while keeping her secret from her parents and her friends while the Plant is trying to find Alex's location. Seasons 3 and 4 is where the show starts getting interesting. A new boy named Hunter Reeves (played by Will Estes) moves into Paradise Valley to find out more information about the disappearance of his father. He eventually finds out that the Plant and the GC-161 have to do with the disappearance. Alex finds out about Hunter's problems and helps him along the way. They eventually start going out.

George is beginning to learn more about the GC-161 effects, Alex accidentally triggered an evil doppelganger after being in contact with the new GC-161 compound, Danielle hires an even more dangerous chief subordinate named Lars Frederickson  after firing Vince for not capturing Alex, and the Plant is one step closer into releasing the GC-161 diet pills to the public.

But the final two-part episode "Paradise Lost" and "Paradise Regained" are the best episodes of the entire series. It's gripping, suspenseful, and ends in a ambiguous ending for Alex that made me happy to see it end in a good note. It was the most satisfying ending in any 90's Nickelodeon teen series I've ever seen.

There was even a book series of The Secret World of Alex Mack that was released from 1995 to 1998. With the exception of the first and last book, the other books contained original stories not found in any episode of the shows. The books are no longer in print, but you can still find them in Amazon or eBay for around $3.00 to $6.00 if interested. 

The show lasted for 4 seasons ending its run on January 15, 1998. Some of the actors and creators went on to other projects after The Secret World of Alex Mack while others faded into obscurity. 

Larisa Oleynik went on to do other movies and TV shows like Boy Meets World, 3rd Rock from the Sun, 10 Things I Hate About You, Bringing Rain, Pope Dreams, Psych, Mad Men, Hawaii Five-O, and Pretty Little Liars. 

Darris Love has appeared in other movies and TV shows such as Angel, ER, CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, Sucker Free City, Gang Tapes, and Janky Promoters. 

Meredith Bishop has appeared in other TV shows such as Mad About You, Sliders, Nikki, Felicity, Klepto, and Scrubs. She's currently doing theater work doing plays such as Atonement, Breaking and Entering, and Aftermath.

Jessica Alba has appeared in other movies and TV shows such as Camp Nowhere, Never Been Kissed, Chicago Hope, Dark Angel, Entourage, Trippin', The Office, Sin City, Fantastic Four, Little Fockers, and Machete. She's currently married to Cash Warren, son of actor Michael Warren, and has two daughters.


Hilary Salvatore has appeared in other TV shows and movies such as The West Wing, Without a Trace, American Pie, Bring it On, Promised Land, Dharma and Greg, NCIS, Cold Case, Local Boys, and Frenemies. She's married to director and screenwriter John Angelo.

Hilary Salvatore Actress Hilary Salvatore arrives at the 'Swarovski Runway Rocks' catwalk jewelry show held at ACE Gallery on February 20, 2007 in Beverly Hills, California. During Oscar week, a 'World of Swarovski' exhibit, featuring Daniel Swarovski accessories, will be open to celebrities and stylists.

Nantanya Ross has been in other movies and TV shows such as The Babysitter's Club, Boy Meets World, ER, Baywatch, Bellyfruit, and Boston Public. She hasn't been in any other TV shows or movies since 2000.

Louan Gideon has appeared in other movie and TV shows such as Jailbreakers, L.A. Firefighters, Diagnosis: Murder, Dark Skies, Seinfeld, P.U.N.K.S., Treehouse Hostage, 3rd Rock From The Sun, Sabrina the Teenage Witch, Six Feet Under, and Malcolm in the Middle. She quit acting in 2004 and is currently a real estate agent in Asheville, North Carolina.

Will Estes has appeared in other TV shows and movies such as 7th Heaven, The Fugitive, U-571, New Port South, Law and Order: SVU, Eleventh Hour, Blue Bloods, Shadow of Fear, and The Dark Knight Rises.

File:Will Estes 2011 Shankbone.JPG

When the show first came out, it was very popular and Larisa Oleynik became the new "it" girl replacing Melissa Joan Hart as the main female protagonist of Nick shows. However, looking back at this show, the show is a bit underwhelming and outdated. While not as outdated as Clarissa Explains it All when it comes to the fashion, but its storytelling. Yes, I did say that out of all the Nickelodeon teen shows in the 90's, this is the only one that has a cohesive plot, but it's wasn't executed the way it should have been. First of all, the secret. Why did Anne insist on testing Alex to gain control of her powers just to simply confront the Plant? Why not just call the police and report on the Plant of spilling the chemicals on Alex and not taking any responsibility of their actions? They could have sued the Plant, shown the judge and jury the powers she gained from it, and had Dave as a witness. The Plant would have been shut down and no one would have been in danger of the goal of releasing the GC-161 to the public. Easy, right?

If they weren't going to confess to the police, that's fine. But here comes the second thing that they should have executed better: more development on Danielle, Vince, Dave, Lars, and the Plant. The show mostly focuses on Alex's regular life of school, dealing with bullies, hanging out with her friends, getting a job, developing control of her powers, and not being discovered by any spies working on the Plant. Take those last two focuses away and you have a formula for pretty much every other teen sitcom show they were showing at the time. Clarissa Explains it All already gave us an insight of what a typical teenage girl goes through. Why have another one? Also, it would be nice if we could have gotten some back story about the Plant's origins, who created the GC-161, what made Danielle become a cold, heartless person, what Dave is going through psycologically after spilling the GC-161 on Alex. I mean, the Plant pretty much controls the entire town. It would have been nice if it would have shown a little bit of a controlled totarillian environment similar to Animal Farm or V For Vendetta and Alex was the rebellious hero who doesn't follow their ways, but we didn't get that.

But the biggest complaint that I have to give is this: Alex has these cool powers given to her, but she really doesn't do much with it. Especially anything productive. While she does help people with her powers from time to time, she mostly uses it to either do simple tasks or she doesn't use them at all. Why? You could have done so much to highlight the story, Thomas W. Lynch and Ken Lippman. You had a really awesome idea going. I'm going to tell you two stories that had a concept similar to Alex Mack, but was executed way better.

First is Daredevil. Matt Murdoch is a lawyer who lives in a section of New York called Hells Kitchen. He's was blind as a child and was accidently struck with radioactive waste that increased his senses beyond the capacity of a normal human being. He uses his powers for good at night as the Daredevil.

The second is the 1995 Sega Genesis cult classic The Ooze. In this game, a scientist named Dr. David Caine finds out that his CEO of the power plant he works in is going to release chemical waste into the drinking supply of the city and get everyone sick. Only he has the cure and will only give it away if they pay him millions of dollars for it. When he's caught by the CEO, they inject him with the chemical ooze and flush him down the toilet, leaving him for dead. When David wakes up, he has now turned into The Ooze. He has two goals: prevent the CEO from completing his evil plan and getting revenge on the CEO for turning him into The Ooze.

It's actually a really awesome game that you should check out sometime if you have the chance.

The story should have had Alex use her powers either for good or for revenge. Better yet, why not both? It would have put some more intensity and suspense in one of the coolest concepts for a teen sitcom show ever. It only started to get really good around the 3rd and 4th Season, which, unfortunately, was a bit too late. More and more better teen sitcom shows starring female protagontists were starting to gain popularity among viewers. Before the 3rd Season started, Sabrina, the Teenage Witch debuted. During the show's 4th Season, Buffy the Vampire Slayer debuted. A few months after the show ended, Felicity debuted. All three left a benchmark in TV history as some of the best shows of its time that still hold up well today.

Sabrina the Teenage WitchBuffy the Vampire Slayer PosterFelicitylogo.jpg

This show had the potential to not only be one of the best Nickelodeon shows, but probably one of the best shows of all time. While back in 1994, it was, but it has not held up well at all for today's teenage audience. Even the BBFC claims this while the first season was released on DVD on April 2, 2012 while giving a claimer to the viewing audience about a particular scene in one of the episodes.

"One episode in this TV series contains a scene in which a child character hides inside a tumble drier. The presentation of this behaviour is comic and no negative consequences are shown which would warn young viewers of the potential dangers of hiding in such appliances. While fatal incidents of children trapped in washing machines or fridges are rare, there remains sufficient cause for serious concern. The distributor indicated that they would be happy to accept a higher certificate rather than cutting the episode. The TV series is rather dated and would not have much appeal to a young audience when compared to current children's TV programs. In addition, as the work was being targeted at an adult 'nostalgia' market, children would not be the 'natural' audience. The BBFC decided - given the work's history, the company's willingness to accept a higher certificate and that the work was not being aimed at children - to pass it '15' without cuts."

Overall, it's sort of hard to recommend The Secret World of Alex Mack. If you want to check the show out, see only Seasons 3 and 4. If this doesn't sound like something that would interest you, then it really deserves a pass. It's a really cool concept and plot that wasn't flesh out to its full potential.

That's all for now. Hope to see you around Old School Lane soon. Thanks for reading.