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New Documentary Reignites Controversial Debate Surrounding Former Children’s Television Producer Dan Schneider. 

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If you were a child growing up in the two thousand with cable, then it is all but certain that Nickelodeon was a mainstay in your house. The first channel that was exclusively producing and airing children’s content twenty-four seven.  The logo itself is instantly recognizable by all of a certain age and unquestionably tied to memories of coming home from school and turning to the channel to watch the latest offerings. Whether your show of choice was something like The Amanda Show, Drake & Josh, or iCarly, chances are it was thanks to the vision of one man. If you were watching the network from 1994 to 2018 it was likely to watch the shows of Dan Schneider. For nearly twenty-five years one man nearly singlehandedly had a monopoly on children’s entertainment. What he did with that power, however, is the reason that he has been brought back into the news this week.

For months The Discovery Channel had been promoting their newest documentary called Quiet On Set: The Dark Side Of Kids TV. The film was supposed to be about the trauma faced by former child actors as a result of their time working at Nickelodeon. One of the most interesting choices of the documentary, though, was their choice to advertise largely through TikTok. This decision makes a lot of sense when you consider that Dan Schneider has always been a controversial topic on the internet. For years people have been speculating about the director’s treatment of his staff and the child stars he worked with, across YouTube, X (formerly Twitter), and TikTok itself. Sentiments like these go as far back as 2012, with the first instance being on a chat room called The L Chat.

Speculations on misconduct only continued to grow stronger when in 2018, Schneider and Nickelodeon parted ways after an internal investigation was conducted finding that he had been “verbally abusive to employees.” Things only got worse in 2022 when former iCarly star Jennette McCurdy released her first memoir entitled “I’m Glad My Mom Died.” While Dan is never named explicitly within the book, McCurdy makes several references to “The Creator” who many believe is Schneider. In her detailing, she alleges several instances of “The Creators” misconduct. Such as how he would entice the young stars into drinking alcohol; yell at them over small mistakes, and request massages from members of the production staff. Most alarmingly of all, however, is the allegation that “The Creator” would pit the actors of iCarly against the actors of Victorious (both Schneider productions) to control their actions. This in large part helped to cultivate an environment on set in which cast members were actively afraid to speak up and speak out.

On March 17th Quiet On Set: The Dark Side of Kids TV finally premiered on Max and Discovery+ to raving reviews for its shocking, never-before-seen content. The excitement surrounding the series also allowed it to quickly be pushed to the number one most-streamed documentary in the United States over the past few days. Of the four episodes in the series, two deal with the power abuse of Dan Schneider, and two deal with a much larger story going on at Nickelodeon during this time. For this reason, I think it is important that we analyze the series in two parts, with the first being Dan’s story, and the other being the story of Drake Bell, whom we will get to later.

Dan’s story consists of the episodes titled “Rising Stars, Rising Questions” and “Hidden in Plain Sight.” Since the story is being told chronologically, it starts back at Schneider’s time on All That, designed to be a sketch comedy show for children ages eight and up. Quiet On Set, however, proved to views that while the content series may have been for kids, its set was a toxic environment for the adolescents and professional crew alike. At this point according to former cast member Leon Frierson, who was on seasons four through six of the show, he felt unaccepted on set in large part due to the color of his skin. This would be the first and only accusation of racism against the show, though. Things only got worse as the producer wrapped one show for a new one starring the thirteen-year-old Amanda Bynes. Accounts from that series suggest that Dan’s behavior on set to his staff was sexual claiming that he was constantly getting massages on set from his employees, always female, and often ones who had other work to be getting done.

The most alarming piece of news to come out of Dan’s story, though, is his alleged treatment of two female writers on The Amanda Show named Christy Stratton and Jenny Kilgen. When questioned about their experience on set the two cast members said that they were forced to split their paycheck even though both had experience in writing before. While according to Schneider this is common practice in the industry, I couldn’t find any information to back this claim up. It also did not help that when The Amanda Show was renewed for a second season, Nickelodeon hired more writers male writers, while the only two female writers on the show were still splitting a paycheck. If this is where the story ended it would be one thing, a despicable thing yes, but an acceptable thing. Of course, if you’ve made it this far you understand that our story doesn’t end here. Both writers recounted in their interviews that in addition to working for half as much money as their colleagues, they were also forced to listen to the inappropriate jokes and harassment constantly being lobbed in the writer’s room. Kilgen specifically recalled that once she was pitching a joke to Dan, and he responded “That was funny, but I think it would be funnier if you told the joke like you were being sodomized.” She recollects that the writers’ room exploded with laughter, and because she was afraid of losing her job, she had to do what he said.

Nobody should ever have to go through anything like that, especially from someone in a position of power like that. It is clear that while Dan Schneider might not be guilty of all the crimes the internet was accusing him of, he is by no means innocent. He cultivated an environment of sexually harassing his workers, bullying those who disagreed with him, and sexualizing minors through the jokes that he was writing. Actors knew this, executives knew this, Nickelodeon knew this, and they refused to do anything about it because his shows were being watched by millions of people every year.

Like I said earlier, though, Quiet on Set was not just about Dan, but actually spends its second two episodes, “The Darkest Secret” and “Too Close to the Sun” telling the even darker story of former Nickelodeon acting coach and monster Brian Peck. Now even before the documentary had come out, there was information on the internet about the sentencing of Brian Peck in August of 2003 for eleven charges of child sexual abuse, that was all no secret. What was being kept under wrap though was just who the victim of this horrendous crime was, and they had chosen to remain anonymous until now. This is because on March 18th our John Doe was revealed to be Drake Bell, star of the immensely popular Drake and Josh show. During his interview, the star recalled that early on Peck would use all of his tricks to isolate him from his father, who was his talent agent at the time. Eventually, this culminated in the acting coach convincing Drake’s mom to sign over the rising stars’ managerial rights to him, as opposed to his father

This is only where the horror began though. Bell recounted that things started sweet and innocent, with Brian simply taking him to theme parks, and showing up and the artist’s concerts. Once he became the child’s manager, however, the two began spending more and more time together, with Drake often being forced to stay the night at Peck’s house due to it being closer to the auditions he would take the child to. These late nights would go on to become a nightmare for the young actor when he soon began to realize that the, at the time forty-two-year-old man was sexually assaulting him in his sleep. This sort of behavior would go on for years until eventually in 2003 when he was finally convicted for his horrible crimes including, the Lewd act upon a child; attempted sodomy of a person under 16; sexual penetration by a foreign object; and using a minor for sex acts. According to recent reports, Peck had a history of this kind of behavior even before his time at Nickelodeon, inappropriately affiliating with the stars of Boy Meets World (an ABC production) during his time on the show from 1997 to 1998.

In the aftermath of the documentary several of the stars have come out to release statements regarding their portrayal in the show, most importantly Dan Schneider. He took to his YouTube page (@Danwrap) to have a former employee of his interview him. Bobby Bowman, better known as T-Bo on iCarly sat down with the former king of children’s television to clear the air on the accusations. The strange thing about this, though, is that Bobby is not a professional journalist, and has no training in the world of interviews. This fact shines through during the apology, with most of the questions simply feeling like PR softballs with very obvious and apparent answers. Dan also uses this time to shift blame for his actions onto the network, saying that everything he did with the network had been “carefully monitored” and that if people were uncomfortable with the content he produced, he had no problem cutting it. When asked why he would cut it, though, he said that he doesn’t want to make viewers want to turn off the TV, which demonstrates a clear profit incentive on his part.

All in all, if the media attention surrounding him continues the way it has been, there is no world in which Dan Schneider will ever work in children’s television ever again. The way that he used his power to harass, abuse, and exploit his staff is unacceptable. It has no place in the television industry anymore. Children on set deserve to be protected, not sexualized, and afraid of their bosses. We have plenty of laws surrounding treatment in the workplace these days, but the film industry seems to be one of the only remnants left of an old world. Together we can call for the ethical treatment of all actors, and ensure that stories like these are left behind in the past of a forgotten Hollywood. It all starts by telling stories like these and allowing victims to scream their experiences from the rooftop if they choose. Silence is out of fashion; now it’s time to share.

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About the Contributor
Deacon Lipsmeyer, Staff Reporter
Deacon is currently a senior at School of the Osage High School. Even though this is his first semester with the journalism team, Deacon has always been in love with writing. He remembers as a child that he used to design and write stories for comic books that he created. For the longest time, Deacon felt he wanted to be a journalist, and "after a few years of soul searching, [he] realized the dream was still alive and well" and joined the journalism team as a staff reporter and editor. Deacon has been accepted into the journalism program at the University of Missouri-Columbia and cannot wait to continue delivering the best quality journalism as he develops his skills.
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