Ren & Stimpy, Tommy Pickles and Clarissa Darling are returning to the air, and it will seem as if they haven’t aged a single day.
Nickelodeon has confirmed its intention to launch “The Splat!,” a block of programming and other content related to its 1990s heyday, when the Viacom-owned kids’ outlet produced memorable stuff ranging from “Hey Arnold!” to “Hey Dude.” The programming will appear starting October 5th during late-nights and overnights – 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. – on the company’s Teen Nick cable outlet, making it a rival, perhaps, to Time Warner’s Adult Swim network for the eyeballs of young adult and millennial viewers.
“Splat” will feature episodes from the aforementioned programs along with others such as “All That,” “Are You Afraid of the Dark,” “Kenan & Kel,” “Rocko’s Modern Life,” “Rugrats,” “Salute Your Shorts” and “The Wild Thornberrys.” But there’s more, including old programming stunts like “Super Toy Run,” a sweepstakes held periodically by Nickelodeon and Toys R Us during the decade. The block will also include a look at old promotions and interstitials and the characters who inhabited them, like “Doo-Wop Dinosaurs” and “Opera Lady.”
To be sure, it’s not as if these series have been locked away in some repository for old Nickelodeon properties. Teen Nick has in fact since 2011 run older programs including “iCarly,” “Rugrats” and “Victorious” in a 1990s-themed block.
The new content gambit launches as Nickelodeon, like many other media outlets geared toward kids, seeks new ways to keep viewer attention. TV tykes are devoting more of their time to video alternatives like subscription video on demand outlets (some of which also serve up Nickelodeon programming) and streaming video sent across mobile tablets. The company’s top programming executive, Russell Hicks, recently told Variety that Nickelodeon was working on creating original programming featuring characters from the 1990s, as well. The maneuvers would lure older viewers to Nickelodeon’s airwaves, and, presumably, prompt those adults to promote the shows to their children.
Many of the Nickelodeon favorites were watched primarily on TV, but “The Splat,” a name that suggests the green slime that was part of the network’s promotional efforts as well as its series “You Can’t Do That On Television,” will ooze in other media venues as well. Nickelodeon will also launch “TheSplat.com,” a web site that will host social-media conversations about the programming; an emoji keyboard with emoticons, stickers and GIFs; and a bevy of roosts in social-media venues like Facebook and Instagram.
“We have been listening closely to our first generation of Nick kids that are craving the great characters and shows they grew up with watching Nickelodeon in the ‘90s,” said Cyma Zarghami, president of Viacom Kids and Family Group, in a prepared statement. “We designed ‘The Splat’ with fans and their requests in mind, which means we’re bringing together these beloved series and a high level of digital engagement to give fans a retro media experience they can’t get anywhere else.”
The popularity of the older programs is noticeable. On Wednesday’s “Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon,” for example, Kel Mitchell and Kenan Thompson, stars of “Kenan & Kel” and other past Nickelodeon fare, reunited in a sketch based on “Good Burger,” the fictional restaurant that was the setting for some of the duo’s best known antics from Nick yore. The sketch has generated more than 426,000 views on the program’s YouTube channel.