Ah, Nickelodeon. The channel that brought you shows like Danny Phantom and Avatar: The Last Airbender. Nickelodeon seemed to thrive on making shows that were different and against the norm. This was definitely true in the 90s, where the channel was experimenting with all different kinds of shows. This company was likely a big part of our childhoods.
I personally really liked their iteration of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. They did a great job with paying homage to previous shows, but also making it their own. It was fun, it was unique, and it was full of emotion and laughs. And that’s often how Nickelodeon does it. They prove that a show can be both heart-wrenching and funny. They can be crazy and quirky, but still have a lot of heart.
But it’s not all sunny in Nickelodeon. In fact, a lot of Nickelodeon shows tend to have a much darker element than you’d normally see in a kids’ TV show. There were shows that did bring up pretty heavy and difficult topics, treating their audiences seriously.
And there were shows where things got really weird and really dark. I’m talking seriously creepy material that had no business being in a kids’ show. I have to wonder what the censors were doing when some of these shows aired. Were they sleeping on the job, or did they want to see how much these shows could get away with too? For most people, Nickelodeon was the source of many nightmare-inducing imagery and seriously inappropriate jokes.
So here are 20 dark facts about Nickelodeon shows that make you really wonder about the channel. Think we missed some? Make sure to comment below!
20 Stu’s Not As Happy As You Think
To be honest, there’s a lot of weird and potentially dark things about Rugrats. (A lot of people are just weirded out by the talking babies.) But there’s one element that’s a bit dark, at least for kids, and that’s the subject of Tommy’s father, Stu.
This pretty happy guy could be potentially struggling with severe depression.
Normally, this guy is pretty happy and energetic. But there are moments in the show where you see him show some blatant signs of depression. (The making chocolate pudding at 4 am because he “lost control of his life?”) The idea that this pretty happy guy could be potentially struggling with severe depression is pretty sobering. But it’s also one that’s not unrealistic. While it is written off a bit as a joke (at least to the younger viewers) there’s definitely a darker element there. Hang in there, Stu!
19 Rocko’s Second Job Was Pretty Strange
In the case of Rocko’s Modern World, Rocko is a pretty normal guy who’s just trying to make it through life. The show itself is a little depressing if you look at how Rocko goes about his dreary job. But he did have another job that would probably go over your head as a kid. Though if you’re watching it as a grown-up, you’d probably be pretty shocked that this was in a kids’ show.
Rocko had another job as a phone operator, but a rather special kind of operator. Yeah, you know what I mean. Rocko was basically getting paid to say sweet nothings over the phone to customers. Again, I’m so surprised this managed to get past the censors. I feel like, at this point, the show was trying to see how far they could go. And they definitely got pretty far.
18 That Is One Crazy Grandma
During the show Hey Arnold!, Arnold was living with his grandparents. And while they are very sweet and loving to Arnold, they’re definitely a little. . . off. Besides the fact that Arnold’s grandfather made a few substance references in the show, his grandmother was a bit crazy.
Arnold’s grandma actually had some form of schizophrenia.
No seriously, there’s a good chance that Arnold’s grandma had this. She was always going off and having crazy adventures. But those adventures may have actually been figments of her imagination. It would explain a few things, like how everyone is pretty nonchalant about her antics. Maybe they know she’s crazy, but they humor her. This is a theory, but it’s a pretty sound one, and it would make the show a bit dark. Here we’ve got the main character whose current parental figures are pretty much insane.
17 Didi Pickles Is Stranger Than You Think
When your job is stressful, you have to find ways to blow off some steam; otherwise, you’ll probably go insane. Some people meditate, others go to the gym, and some have their favorite comfort foods. Well, the animators for Rugrats found a different way to release stress.
Apparently, the animators would draw Didi Pickles (Tommy’s mother) as a grown-up entertainment enthusiast. Yep, she was decked out in leather and everything. We’ve got confirmation of this from her voice actor who saw the pictures. While I’m not one to judge someone for their hobbies (you do you, Didi), it’s pretty crazy a parent of one of the main characters is supposedly into something so... intense. Not to mention that the animators liked drawing Didi like this. I dunno, I feel that says a lot of things about you as a person, and none of it’s good.
16 Pretty Sure That’s A Bit Wrong
Considering Rugrats was one of the few cartoons to actually show a Jewish family practicing Jewish customs, you’d think people would see it as a friendly TV show. Unfortunately, that was not the case. In fact, Rugrats was once accused of being otherwise.
Rugrats was once accused of being against a group of people.
Well, more specifically, the comic Rugrats had in the newspaper was the one being accused. Apparently, Tommy’s grandfather was the source of all the controversy. He was portrayed to look a bit more stereotypical, which many people found offensive. While the comic itself didn’t portray Judaism in a bad light, the fact that one of the characters looked a lot like the caricatures common in propaganda was enough to make people angry. Rugrats never used that character again in the comic and they reduced his screen time in the show.
15 Give Me Your Heart (And Everything Else)
Invader Zim is known for its dark humor. (I mean, in the first episode, Zim gets his eyes burned out by the sun because he refused to stop looking at it.) The show is definitely known for its twisted style and humor, but that’s what made it pretty entertaining.
Zim goes about stealing his classmates’ organs.
But even in the second episode, things got dark really fast. In the episode “Dark Harvest,” Zim goes about stealing his classmates’ organs. That’s right, their organs. He even incorporates them into his own body in order to make himself seem more human. The creepiest part is that he totally gets away with this too. Dib, the boy who’s suspicious of him, tries to tell the others what’s going on, but no one believes him, leaving him to watch in horror as Zim continues his harvest. It’s pretty disturbing.
14 Getting The People In Trouble
To be honest, pretty much everything about The Ren and Stimpy Show is disturbing, and I’m still surprised this show got past the censors and was aired as a kids’ show. There was so much imagery and content that kids really shouldn’t be seeing. In fact, the whole show feels much more like a grown-up cartoon, but it was still marketed to kids for some reason. But did you know that at least of a couple of the episodes got banned?
The episode “Man’s Best Friend” was banned, and its animation team was fired because it was so violent. Apparently, even shows like The Ren and Stimpy Show had their limits and these episodes definitely went past them.
13 Love Me Some Radiation
At first glance, the world of SpongeBob Squarepants seems fairly innocent. It’s a group of sea-dwelling creatures living in a city called Bikini Bottom. And for the most part, everything seems pretty peaceful and simple. But there’s actually something far more sinister going on, and it’s about the origins of this place.
Bikini Bottom is actually a nuclear fallout site.
Granted, this is more of a theory than a fact, but it’s pretty solid. Bikini Bottom is actually a nuclear fallout site. This does explain the fact that things like sponges, starfish, and crabs are taking on human characteristics. They’ve mutated from the radiation. I wonder if these residents know about it, or if they’re just oblivious to the fact that they’re the results of nuclear radiation. In this case, ignorance may be the better option.
12 It's About To Get Really Awkward
Rocko’s Modern Life is another cartoon that really shouldn’t have been marketed to kids. There were so many innuendos in this series, it’s kind of ridiculous. And most of them weren’t even that subtle. But one that is pretty blatant is the episode where Rocko’s neighbor gets a little too interested in him.
Yep, this neighbor tries to seduce our main character through various methods, such as racy videos, inviting him over, and even a full-on dance scene that’s just all kinds of awkward. Pretty much everything about this episode is so uncomfortable and it’s kind of scary how they let this air. Seriously, kids are watching this, and you’ve got a frog lady trying to seduce her neighbor because her marriage is unhappy. Yeesh, that’s a bit much.
11 Apparently, You Can Go Far
I’ve mentioned before that Rocko’s Modern Life liked to test the limits of what was allowed on a kids’ show. They managed to sneak a lot of inappropriate jokes into this series, and it seems like they were just trying to see how far they could go.
The jokes in here are not subtle at all.
Well, in one episode, they went a little too far, so much that a specific scene was banned from airing. This one involved a certain hotel that was in business for some rather specific activities. Yeah, the jokes in here are not subtle at all, they even make a joke that rooms are only used for 20 minutes and then one room has a “premature departure.” Yeah, they went there. Apparently, the scene was also banned since the depiction of the hotel clerk was extremely racist, but yeah. That happened.
10 Not The Inspiration You’d Hope For
Now, we know that Invader Zim is a pretty dark show with a rather twisted sense of humor. And people had a variety of reactions to it, from disgust to hysterical laughter. But it may have inspired a bit more than laughs. In fact, this show supposedly inspired a criminal.
Convicted criminal Scott Dyelski referenced Invader Zim during his trial for eliminating his neighbor. He states that his fascination with body parts came from him watching the episode “Dark Harvest.” Now, the defense said that he made those comments as a joke, so whether or not Invader Zim inspired the crime is still up for debate. But that’s pretty scary that a show could inspire someone to actually commit a crime. Remember kids, don’t try this at home!
9 Doug Probably Isn’t Okay
Doug is a pretty likable character in this popular series. He’s kind, he’s imaginative, and he’s always looking out for others. But there’s something a little darker at play, and it’s the good possibility that Doug has a few mental illnesses.
He could be somewhere between a maladaptive daydreamer and a schizophrenic.
It’s true that Doug has a rather vivid imagination, but he does take it too far pretty often, to the point where he’s probably not certain what’s real and what’s in his head, just like we are. He could be somewhere between a maladaptive daydreamer and a schizophrenic. Now, the show wasn’t afraid to talk about serious issues. So, the idea that the main character could have some mental issues wouldn’t be that crazy.
8 What Happened To Her?
What made Rugrats so entertaining was that the grown-ups were all pretty interesting and quirky in their own ways. You learn a lot about the kids just by seeing how their parents interact with others too. But there’s one parent we don’t get to see much of, and that’s Chuckie’s mom.
In fact, we don’t know that much about Chuckie’s mother at all. We don’t even know if she’s passed, or if she’s just not around anymore. All we know is that she’s... gone. And that’s what’s kind of dark about this element of Rugrats. There’s even an episode where Chuckie wonders about his mom, and we see a very touching moment when he finds some of his mother’s things. Chuckie’s dad’s reaction is incredibly heart-wrenching. But it shows the love he has for his son, so no matter what happened to his mom, Chuckie is loved.
7 What A Bad Way To Go
Angry Beavers was another interesting show. I mean how many shows can you watch about two bachelor beaver brothers? In general, the show, while pretty strange and often surreal, was mostly harmless. The darker part of this series happened at the end.
The last moments of the episode had them realizing that they would perish.
The series lasted only four seasons and was eventually canceled. And the creators decided to go a little more existential than you’d think in the end. They actually wrote the final episode to have the two beavers become self-aware. They were aware that they were in a TV show and the last moments of the episode had them realizing that they would perish and they were facing their own mortality. It’s a pretty dark concept, especially for a kids’ show. While this episode never actually came about, it would’ve been an intriguing and rather disturbing way to end the series.
6 He’s Missing A Part Of Himself
Oh, Squidward. It’s surprising how many fans love this rather depressing character. You’d think that considering his name and the fact that he only has six limbs, Squidward is, well, a squid. It seems pretty straightforward. But that is actually not the case, and the truth is kind of crazy.
It’s been confirmed that Squidward is actually an octopus who lost two of his limbs. The animators said they took off the limbs because they looked strange. So Squidward is actually an octopus that only has six limbs. What’s creepy is that we don’t know how he lost the limbs. Was it a birth defect? Did he have some horrific accident? Was it an illness? And how does Squidward cope with this? Maybe that’s why he’s grumpy all the time.
5 These Two Are So Bad For Each Other
Let’s be honest, there’s a lot about CatDog that doesn’t make sense. (Seriously, how do these two go to the bathroom? How do their bodies work?) But even if you suspend disbelief in the craziness of premise of this show, there’s still a darker element to it. Mostly that this show is pretty mean.
The relationship between Cat and Dog is really toxic.
They’re constantly making fun of each other, they laugh at each other’s misfortunes, and they never really show to really care about each other. There’s just this constant antagonism between the two. Yeah, it’s done for comedic effect (Ha ha, putting a cat and a dog, mortal enemies, literally together is funny!), but it really just highlights how bad these two really are for each other.
4 These Parents Weren’t As Good As You Remember
At first glance, the Thornberrys seem like a pretty cool family. The parents have a TV show where they go out into the wild and study animals. So their kids basically go on safaris pretty much every day. That would definitely be the life.
But if you look a bit more closely, you could see that the Thornberry parents are a little neglectful of their kids. I don’t think they mean to be; they just tend to get a bit wrapped up in their work. But their kids are always going off and putting themselves in danger, and the parents usually are none the wiser. They probably do have a lot of faith in their kids, and I’m sure they’re aware their kids can take care of themselves. But I have to admit, the parents’ nonchalance can be a bit concerning sometimes.
3 They’re Absolutely Bad Parents
It’s no secret that Timmy’s parents from Fairly Odd Parents aren’t winning awards for parenting anytime soon. They’re pretty unconcerned with Timmy’s life, and are pretty neglectful. (Not to mention that they always hire Vicky to babysit, who’s a borderline psychopath.) You could chalk it up to their complete obliviousness, but there’s a darker element to it.
Timmy’s father sees Timmy as either a mistake or something that he grew to regret.
In one episode, Mr. Turner laments how his life was ruined years ago. Timmy asks him how long ago that was, and his dad responds, asking, “How old are you?” This implies that Timmy’s father sees Timmy as either a mistake or something that he grew to regret. Ouch. To have your own parent see you as the reason their life is ruined is pretty harsh. I’m surprised Timmy isn’t more messed up than he is.
2 Reports Were Greatly Exaggerated
Remember Blue’s Clues? And Steve? Honestly, who could forget Steve? His awkward charm is really what made the show, and many of us remember his cute interactions with the world of Blue’s Clues. It was definitely a show for younger kids, but he really did make the show pretty enjoyable. But there was a crazy rumor surrounding the actor.
Many people thought Steve Burns had perished from having too much fun. And it was a pretty widely believed rumor. But it turns out that’s all false. Steve is very much alive, and he’s pursuing other interests at the moment. But that must have been really weird for him. Imagine that most of the world thinks you’re gone. I wonder how that rumor got started in the first place? And what made a large number of people believe it?
1 She’s Got Some Issues
We know that Helga Pataki’s home life is less than stellar. Her parents seem to favor her older sister, who is more successful than she is. Her parents are often fighting, and Helga never seems to get along with anyone in her family. It’s true that Helga does have some anger issues, but they probably do stem from her home life.
Helga’s mother relies on things to get her through the day.
One thing you may not have picked up on was that Helga’s mother is a drinker. She’s often seen making smoothies, which is what she calls her drinks, and she's usually just lounging around the house and sleeping. This little fact is actually super sad because it shows that Helga’s issues often come from a different source and she’s just trying to cope with parents that aren’t very good parents. They do care about her, but they’re just super dysfunctional.
If Arcane sparked your interest in League of Legends, there are better ways to experience Runeterra than playing the game.