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Nickelodeon sits atop the basic cable heap

(Posted December 23, 2005 by Leah Yoakum)

LOS ANGELES - Wouldn’t you know it? The television network that brought the world burping contests and buckets of green slime was born on the date known as All Fool’s Day.

It was just a block of syndicated shows that debuted on the Qube Network that day in 1979, but brighter days definitely lay ahead, as Nickelodeon would be basic cable’s top-rated network by the mid-1990s, in total viewers as well as kids and so-called tweens. Its shows attract audiences in the millions throughout the day and into the early evening hours.

The first show he sold the network was “The Secret World of Alex Mack” in 1994, a basic sci-fi adventure-comedy in which a mishap at a top-secret plant results in 13-year-old Alex being doused with a chemical that allows him to morph into a liquid puddle and move objects telekinetically.

Alex was a boy until Nickelodeon executives suggested girls might like to identify with such an action hero. So, Alex then morphed into 13-year-old tomboy Alexandra Mack, played by Larisa Oleynik.

“That was a radical notion at that time because no network would put a female in a children’s show into a lead role,” Lynch recalled.

Since then the network has gone on to produce numerous shows for girl stars including “The Amanda Show” with Amanda Bynes, “Clarissa Explains it All” with Melissa Joan Hart and the current “Zoey 101” with Jamie Lynn Spears.

There were other innovations as well. “Blues Clues,” which has been a mainstay of the network’s preschool programming block for 10 years, encourages children to talk back to the television host and join him in unraveling mysteries created by his dog Blue.

The more recent “Dora the Explorer,” which debuted in 1999, is similar in approach but features a bilingual animated girl adventurer who moves effortlessly from Spanish to English.

Nickelodeon recently broadcast its first Chinese version of the “Kids Choice Awards,” and Zarghami noted that slime proved to be just as popular with Asian children as their American counterparts.

Source: MSNBC

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