New Documentary Uncovers Child Abuse At Nickelodeon

INGLEWOOD, CA - MARCH 28: A blimp floats over the stage during Nickelodeon's 28th Annual Kids' Choice Awards held at The Forum on March 28, 2015 in Inglewood, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)
Kevin Winter/Getty Images

You can tell someone has real power when they do something that’s obviously wrong, maybe even illegal, for a very long time — and yet they make no effort to hide it whatsoever. In the entertainment industry, Harvey Weinstein is of course one of the most prominent examples. His behavior was an open secret in Hollywood for three decades, to the point they were making jokes about it during the Oscars. But nothing was done about it until just a few years ago.

Unfortunately, the process of taking down Harvey Weinstein involved a much larger, extraordinarily destructive movement called “Me Too,” which did far more harm than good. I won’t recount all of the problems of that particular movement; I’ve discussed all of that before.

But one major issue with “Me Too” is coming to light very plainly now, which is that the movement conspicuously left pedophiles pretty much unscathed. And you know that because, to this day, you still aren’t allowed to talk about the pedophilia that’s rampant in elite circles. You can complain about so-called “toxic masculinity” and misogyny all you want. But if you bring up the topic of pedophilia, the Left treats you as a “Q-Anon” conspiracy theorist. Using words like “groomer” is prohibited on many social media platforms. How dare you suggest that pedophiles have infested Hollywood, the education system, and the media? You must be crazy. That’s hate speech.

They’ll make that claim despite the fact that the sexualization and mistreatment of children has been on display, for decades, in mainstream children’s entertainment. And now it’s getting a lot of new exposure.

The first episodes of a new documentary series exposing the inner workings of Nickelodeon — the children’s network that most people my age grew up watching in the 90s and early 2000s — called “Quiet on Set: The Dark Side of Kids TV,” just premiered. It’s worth watching because it’s one of the few well-researched, effectively produced looks into how the entertainment industry abuses children. 

But the incredible thing is that Nickelodeon wasn’t really hiding what they were doing. Some of the most perverse parts of this documentary are scenes that Nickelodeon aired publicly, or uploaded to the internet, many years ago. For example, take a look at these sequences from a show called “Victorious,” featuring a young Ariana Grande. It’s a teen sitcom created by former Nickelodeon bigwig Dan Schneider that premiered more than a decade ago on Nickelodeon.

The videos received a lot of attention when they resurfaced in 2019, but it’s important to see them again to understand the new accusations against Schneider — who also created many other hit shows like “iCarly.” Watch:

To be clear, these videos were posted online by Nickelodeon, which has a core audience of young children. They created this content to promote their show on the internet. And these videos are unambiguously, deliberately intended to be as suggestive as possible. They’re well past any pretense of plausible deniability. That’s how brazen this operation was.

But even after the uproar a few years ago, there still wasn’t a whole lot of in-depth reporting about what exactly Dan Schneider was doing at Nickelodeon. One of Grande’s co-stars, Jennette McCurdy, wrote a memoir titled “I’m Glad My Mom Died,” describing her abuse at Nickelodeon, but generally speaking, Schneider himself escaped in-depth scrutiny.

That was a big oversight because anyone who’s willing to produce this kind of content for young children is obviously someone who needs to be investigated very thoroughly. Firing him should not have been the end of it. But for a while, it was. Now, though, we have a better idea of what was going on. 

One of the sequences that “Quiet on Set” has highlighted is this behind-the-scenes footage from 2002, in which Schneider sits in a jacuzzi with Amanda Bynes, who was 16-years-old at the time. In the footage, Schneider is fully clothed, while Bynes is in a bathing suit. Watch:

As they talk about in the documentary at some length, this is a very twisted kind of power play. There’s no legitimate reason for the executive producer of this show to be in a jacuzzi with an underage actress, having her explain to the camera that he controls everything she says. There’s certainly no reason for him to eat spaghetti with her, even if he does happen to be obese. 

But as you watch the documentary, it becomes clear that this kind of behavior was open and notorious on Nickelodeon’s sets. There are extensive interviews with cast members and staff of shows like “All That” and “The Amanda Show,” which go into extensive detail about how pervasive this problem was. At one point in the film, former Nickelodeon employees describe how Schneider thought it would be funny to have a young actress use the name “Taynt” on-air. Watch:

This is Schneider’s M.O. If you watch just the first episode of this documentary series, that will become very clear. For example, employees also discuss how he instructed his subordinates to describe themselves in demeaning terms — including as “sluts” — for his personal amusement. Watch:

As that segment goes on, the employees claim that Schneider would often offer money to induce his subordinates to do degrading tasks — like gorging themselves on gallons of ice cream — only to refuse payment when they tried to collect.

For his part, not surprisingly, Schneider denies all of these accusations. He hasn’t been charged or convicted of any crime. But even so, there is clear evidence that serious child abuse did occur at the company. And the documentary covers that abuse, too. 

For example, in later episodes of the documentary, former Nickelodeon star Drake Bell comes forward on-camera to say that he was sexually assaulted when he was 15-years-old by Brian Peck, a.k.a. “Pickle Boy,” who worked on the “Amanda Show” (the same show as the jacuzzi scene). Peck was arrested back in 2003 on 11 charges relating to this abuse, including sodomy and committing a lewd act upon a child aged 14 or 15 by a person 10 years older. There was also a charge for “oral copulation by anesthesia or controlled substance.” Peck pleaded no contest to the charges and was sentenced to only 16 months in prison at the time. I’ll say that again. He spent less than two years in prison. Bell’s name was concealed during the trial, but now, many years later, he’s come forward to identify himself.

In the second episode of the documentary, Brian Peck is described as doing something similar to what Schneider did — trying to get profane jokes on-air, at the expense of children:

The final episodes of the documentary aren’t available yet, so we don’t have the full details of what Peck did. We don’t have the interview with his alleged victim yet. But it is suggested in that episode that, after Peck was arrested, Nickelodeon higher-ups (not including Schneider apparently) called a meeting with the child actors. They didn’t let their parents participate. They got the children alone, and told them that Peck wasn’t going to be around anymore. They asked if anyone had anything to say — almost as if they wanted to get the jump on any misconduct allegations.

There was reason for those executives to be worried, because Peck wasn’t the wasn’t the only sexual abuser at Nickelodeon during this period.

The documentary also goes into some detail about the disturbing case of Jason Handy, who worked as a production assistant on both “The Amanda Show” and “All That.” Handy allegedly sent a picture of himself masturbating to an 11-year-old girl he was working with, who was working on “The Amanda Show” at the time. Handy, like Peck, was arrested in 2003. Watch:

These are accusations that are far more serious than what Dan Schneider is accused of. But they’re part of the same general pattern of behavior that involves demeaning and sexualizing children. This is what was going on internally at the most popular children’s channel on the planet.

It’s still an extremely popular network, of course. And that leaves reasonable people to wonder whether sexual perverts are still trying to pollute the minds of children. Previously, I’ve covered Nickelodeon’s “Paw Patrol” spin-off, which recently hired a radical leftist writer who likes to teach children about abortions, among other things. Maybe in 20 years, we’ll learn the inside story as to why exactly that woman was hired.

But really, we don’t need to wait that long. Simply put, there’s no way a man like Dan Schneider could operate so openly, for so long, if he wasn’t part of a much larger systemic problem. This is a problem that can’t be solved by arresting a couple of production assistants and firing Dan Schneider, although that’s a good place to start. The only way to solve it is to do what the parents of these child actors should have done a long time ago, which is to keep your children as far away from corporate children’s programming as possible.

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