‘Quiet on Set’ alleges a ‘dark underbelly’ at Nickelodeon


Proceed With Caution: This post contains topics of child abuse, power imbalance, bullying, sexual misconduct and more. 

Quiet on Set: The Dark Side of Kids TV,” a documentary on allegedlytoxic working conditions for child actors at Nickelodeon during its golden age, has brought criticism of the kids TV powerhouse back to the forefront.

The four-part docuseries, which premiered Sunday on Investigation Discovery and is streaming on Max, interviews former writers, crew members and child actors who describe a volatile, dysfunctional and sometimes sexualized environment at some of Nickelodeon’s most successful TV shows in the mid-1990s and early aughts.

“Quiet on Set” zooms in on former producer Dan Schneider, the creative force behind hit shows including “iCarly,” “The Amanda Show” and “All That.” Schneider was instrumental in launching the careers of teen stars such as Amanda Bynes, Ariana Grande and Drake Bell, who revealed in the documentary he was the unnamed victim in a child sexual abuse trial that sent a former Nickelodeon dialogue coach to prison in the mid-2000s.

Some cast, crew and parents said they were afraid to push back because of the influence the child-star kingmaker wielded in the industry. Schneider doesn’t appear in the docuseries and didn’t respond to questions from The Washington Post. But he apologized in a 20-minute video with BooG!e, who played T-Bo in “iCarly.”

Quiet on Set: The Dark Side of Kids TV review – how on earth was this stuff ever broadcast? | Television | The Guardian

“Watching over the past two nights was very difficult — me facing my past behaviors, some of which are embarrassing and that I regret — and I definitely owe some people a pretty strong apology,” Schneider said in the video, which was published on his YouTube channel Tuesday.

Meanwhile, the documentary has brought a wave of scrutiny to Nickelodeon, which has arguably declined in cultural influence but continues to air new episodes of popular shows such as “SpongeBob SquarePants.” On social media, many say they feel disgusted looking back at scenes and footage from their childhood shows.

“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,” Nickelodeon said in a statement. “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.”

Here are some of the most disturbing allegations in the documentary.

Dan Schneider is accused of mistreating women and children

Why 'Quiet on Set' Recirculated Exploitative Scenes of Kid Actors

Schneider often scared and humiliated his crew members and young casts, former workers recalled in the documentary. In the making of shows such as “iCarly” and “Victorious,” Schneider filmed behind-the-scenes videos in which he invades actors’ personal space and makes them uncomfortable, the documentary claims. Schneider also made female crew members give him massages at least every week, some workers said to the filmmakers.

Schneider said he was “embarrassed” about the massages in his YouTube video addressing the documentary.

“It was wrong,” he said. “I apologize to anybody that I ever put in that situation, and even additionally, I apologize to the people who were walking around video village or wherever they happened because there were lots of people there who witnessed it who also may have felt uncomfortable.”

Many of the stars, generally between 8 and 15 years old, were new to the TV acting industry and didn’t want to jeopardize their big break by getting defensive, said Leon Frierson, who was on “All That.”

“There’s a dark underbelly to child stardom,” said Bryan Hearne, an “All That” alum, in the documentary. “Children are just a dollar sign when they show up on set. Nobody’s taking anyone’s mental health serious, and that’s completely unfortunate.”

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