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‘Rugrats’ Revival? Nickelodeon Mulls Return of Classic Shows

Before SpongeBob SquarePants, before Dora the Explorer, before “iCarly,” there was still Nickelodeon.

The Viacom-owned kiddie outlet rose to notice on the backs of programs like “The Adventures of Pete & Pete,” “Double Dare” and “Hey Dude!” And now, its top programming executive suggested, the network is considering ways to bring a small handful of its oldest programs back to its schedule.

“We are looking at our library to bring back ideas, shows that were loved, in a fresh new way,” Russell Hicks, president of content and development at Nickelodeon, told Variety.

Under the plan, the network might seek to experiment with retooled versions of classics that could include “Rugrats,” “Hey Arnold!” “You Can’t Do That on Television” or “Victorious.” The shows might not come back as series, but could appear in other formats, like a movie or special. And they likely would not constitute the bulk of the network’s development efforts.

Hicks declined to talk about specific programs under consideration, but noted the generation that watched Nickelodeon in its earliest days — it was formed out of an entity known as Pinwheel backed by a predecessor of Time Warner Cable — now has children of its own. “We are getting ready to bring back some of the ones they’ve told us multiple times they want to have brought back,” said Hicks.

Some might say the effort has quietly begun. Kel Mitchell, co-star of the popular Nickelodeon series “Kenan & Kel,” will have an ancillary role in “Game Shakers,” a new series set to debut Sept. 12.

Below, a look at some Nick hits of yore, and some thoughts on how they might be made relevant to today’s viewers:

“Doug”

Years on Nick: 1991 to 1994

Premise: Hero Doug Funnie must navigate around nemesis Roger Klotz while wooing the girl of his dreams, the fabulous Patti Mayonnaise.

Modern twist?: The advent of social networks and mobile devices could deepen storylines around one of this program’s central themes: how to deal with bullies.

“You Can’t Do that On Television”

Years On Nick: 1979 to 1990

Premise: A sort of “Saturday Night Live” for kids, “You Can’t Do That….” featured a series of comedic sketches built around a relevant theme, and also helped introduce the world to host Christine “Moose” McGlade, singer Alanis Morissette (who appeared as an actor in five episodes) and Nickelodeon’s iconic green slime.

Modern twist?: Borrow more from “SNL,” with a cast of “Not Ready for Play Time Players” who generate reaction and gossip on social media.

“Clarissa Explains It All”

Years On Nick: 1991 to 1994

Premise: Melissa Joan Hart played protagonist Clarissa Darling, who had to contend with the usual array of pre-teen angst and rivalry with younger brother Ferguson while commenting on the action directly to the viewers of the show.

Modern twist?:  Should best friend and boy next door Sam still be allowed to climb directly into Clarissa’s room with the help of a nearby ladder? Rivalry between Ferguson and Clarissa is toned down as pre-teen relationships with families are depicted in most media as improving.

“Hey Arnold!”

Years on Nick: 1996 to 2004

Premise: Animated Arnold and street-smart pal Jerald help kids in the town of Hillwood while grappling with Helga, a passive-aggressive romantic foil.

Modern twist?: More emphasis on Arnold’s hardscrabble roots — he lives in a boarding house owned by his grandparents — to play upon the themes of economic divide and wealth gap that trouble the nation so much today.

“Mr. Wizard’s World”

Years on Nick: 1983 to 1990

Premise: The famous Don Herbert used this venue to continue his decades of on-air science experiments with a kiddie assistant.

Modern twist?: Hire Neil deGrasse Tyson to lift young minds with talk of gravity, the cosmos and physics.

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