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Nickelodeon helped define ’90s TV shows

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The evolution of the Nickelodeon logo, from 1979 to the present day.

This blog entry was originally posted April 24, 2012, on the Independent Florida Alligator website.

If there was one channel that could sum up my childhood, it was Nickelodeon.

Whenever I think of its crazy orange logo, I am brought back to my grandma’s spare bedroom, where I would watch Nickelodeon almost the entire day. It took much coaxing from her to get me off the couch.

Although we remember it mostly for its ’90s programs, Nickelodeon first went on the air in 1977 as Pinwheel (the name change occurred in 1979). However, the channel didn’t reach major success until the early 90s, with the creation of “Doug,” “Rugrats” and “The Ren & Stimpy Show.”

1992 brought the introduction of SNICK, a Saturday-night programming block with favorites such as “Clarissa Explains It All,” “Are You Afraid of the Dark?” and “The Adventures of Pete & Pete.” Over the next several years, the block evolved to include “All That,” “KaBlam!” and “Kenan & Kel,” along with other live-action shows like “The Journey of Allen Strange” and “Animorphs.”

In the late 90s, cartoons like “Hey Arnold!” “SpongeBob SquarePants” and “Rocket Power” brought in a new slew of young viewers. It almost seemed like Nickelodeon was in sync with our generation, creating shows appropriate for our age as years went by.

Even Nick Jr. had awesome shows. Although I was a little too old for a few of these, I still enjoyed the catchy theme songs and lessons they provided. Jumping up and down on the bed to shows like “Allegra’s Window” and “Gullah Gullah Island” became a normal ritual for me. In addition, Face, like Stick Stickly, made waiting in between shows exciting.

Nick wasn’t just a channel; it was a media empire. Nickelodeon Studios in Orlando, created in 1990 and shut down in 2005, became home to a wide world of fun, game shows and, of course, slime. Nickelodeon Magazine had mad libs, crazy recipes and comic strips. Nickelodeon even had its own alarm clock.

In 2011, Nick answered our desire for childhood cartoons by introducing “The ’90s Are All That,” a nightly block of ’90s Nick programs on the TeenNick channel. Viewer response has been positive, and I hope more of our favorite shows will be added over time.

No matter how many dramas or sitcoms we watch today, we will always remember Uncle Tito’s philosophical sayings, Chuckie Finster’s nervous ticks and Roger Klotz’s constant bullying. Although Nick has a new generation of viewers now, as long as people keep posting YouTube videos, pictures on Tumblr and blog entries, ’90s Nick shows will never truly go away.

To this day, I still dream of getting slimed.


The greatest ’90s animated movies: Disney not included

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The fairy world of “FernGully,” released in 1992, captured the hearts and imaginations of many children.

This blog entry was originally posted April 17, 2012, on the Independent Florida Alligator website.

Sure, Disney movies were all the rage when we were kids. But what about those other animated films we loved to death? Yes, I’m talking to you, “The Brave Little Toaster.”

Here is yet another list. This time, I’m ranking my five favorite, non-Disney-animated features.

  1. The Swan Princess“: The most realistic fairy-tale movie these eyes have ever seen. Princess Odette falls in love with Prince Derek, but there’s a tiny problem: Thanks to the evil Rothbart, she is a swan by day and human by night. Odette earned role-model status when she refused Derek’s first proposal: He only wanted her for her looks. You tell ‘em, sista.
  2. Anastasia“: Fox Animation Studios brought the legend of Tsar Nicholas II’s youngest daughter to life in 1997. Meg Ryan voiced the precocious princess, who is determined to reclaim her identity. Even though this movie may not have been completely accurate, hearing John Cusack voice cute con artist Dimitri made me wish that guy was real.
  3. Balto“: Who doesn’t love huskies? In 1995, Balto saved the children of Nome, Alaska, and raced into our hearts, while teaching us that being different can be pretty cool. The voice talents of Kevin Bacon and Phil Collins didn’t hurt the film’s success, either. And a goose with a Russian accent? C’mon. Awesome.
  4. FernGully: The Last Rainforest“: The perfect fantasy toon. For the longest time, I thought FernGully was the name of the big bat — oops, I mean Batty Koda. In order to save the rainforest, fairies team up to defeat the evil smoke, Hexxus, giving this flick an underlying message about the environment. Take that, pollution!
  5. The Land Before Time” series: How many zany adventures could these mini dinos could get into? Apparently, a lot. The original film had not one sequel, but 12. 12. I can’t just pick one of these movies as my favorite because we’ve probably seen all of them. Not only did these give us lovable characters to remember, they also educated kids about the Jurassic and Cretaceous periods.

Animated films became a ’90s staple, whether Disney was involved or not. These all had important messages we would take with us for the rest of our lives.

So go on. Gather some friends, have some beers and pop a few of these into the DVD player (or the good ol’ VCR, if you’re feeling really nostalgic). Tears may be shed.

Tamagotchis, Nano Pets taught ’90s kids responsibility

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A Nano Puppy from around 1997. Adorable yet fake.

This blog entry was originally posted April 10, 2012, on the Independent Florida Alligator website.

If you’re truly a ’90s kid, your first pet probably wasn’t real.

Virtual pets, more popularly known as “gigapets,” came in many colors and styles, but they had one common purpose: to give children the “virtual” experience of owning a pet.

I never understood why these didn’t stay around for longer than they did. Virtual pets were a pretty cool concept. In addition, taking care of these pets did give children a sense of responsibility, even if they were constantly sneaking a peek at their little eggs during school hours.

Tamagotchis provided owners with a simple “animal” to take care of, while Nano Pets and Giga Pets had specific ones (puppy, kitty, baby). Each one had about three buttons, which is surprisingly small for so many functions: Owners could feed, play games with and clean up after their pets. Over time they would grow into full-blown animals.

If your pet died, which happened pretty often, you could always hit the teeny reset button with your pencil (although many kids didn’t realize this).

In addition to a Tamagotchi and a Nano Kitty, I also had a Dinkie Dino(known by its Japanese name “RakuRaku Dinokun”), a less popular version of gigapet that was still so damn cute.

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I tended to wear these around my neck, like they were pieces of jewelry or something. I had a lot to learn.

Also, I’m pretty certain all of my pets died before they reached adulthood. What can I say? My second-grade schoolwork clearly needed more attention.

I’m not sure where mine are now. Knowing me, I probably lost them. Maybe I sold them, and somewhere, some kid is still using it — 14 years later.

All Furbys had a dark side

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This is how Furbys were intended to be: fun-loving, playful creatures.

This blog entry was originally posted April 3, 2012, on the Independent Florida Alligator website.

“Me love you.” Every Furby owner remembers this phrase and probably looks back on it with dread.

I wish I could say I owned this fascinating, eerie toy, but my mom didn’t buy me one because of the horrendously high price it was going for. From what my friends told me, however, I didn’t miss out on much.

Furbys debuted in the late 90s as the new intelligent toy: a quirky, owl/hamster-looking animal that speaks its own language and has social interaction capabilities. What consumers ended up getting was frustration, really creepy noises in the middle of the night and plenty of wasted money.

During Christmas 1998, Furbys flew off the sales racks, even though some were priced at over $100. Tiger Electronics released the toy hoping it would start a revolution of “gigapets.”

For its time, the Furby had some cool functions: It could talk, sneeze, eat, even sing and dance.They came in a variety of colors to match the owner’s personality. At first, Furbys would start out only talking in “Furbish,” their native language, but would eventually learn more English phrases as time went on. Each Furby also had an infrared port between its eyes, which was supposed to help it communicate with fellow Furbys.

I remember feeding one once. I pressed my finger on its tongue and it hummed, “Yuuuuuummmmmmm.” I cringed.


However, the Furby excitement was short-lived. I think it ended when kids started realizing that the Furbys’ big, omniscient eyes weren’t so cute anymore. Instead of only interacting when you pet it or something, it would randomly speak, usually when you slept. It didn’t help that they looked oddly like Gremlins, either. One of my friends threw hers against the wall after endlessly cursing it and hearing it mumble in Furbish for too long.

If there is anyone out there who actually still wants an old Furby, you can try to adopt one, although there are currently none up for adoption. Maybe one will be available in another five years.

Sometimes, in the middle of the night, you can still hear a Furby hum, “Doo-do-doo-doo-doo. Hee hee hee!” Hopefully you have a baseball bat under your pillow to protect yourself.

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However, most people remember them like this.

‘Mighty Morphin Power Rangers’ was the best version of the show

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The original “MMPR” logo from 1993 to 1995.

This blog entry was originally posted March 27, 2012, on the Independent Florida Alligator website.

I guess it was sort of weird for me at 5 years old to have a black Power Rangers backpack — it was probably better suited for a boy. That was just it, though: I didn’t just like the Pink Ranger like the rest of the girls in my class. I loved each one equally.

Although there are numerous series featuring these masked heroes, the one that stands out most in my mind is “Mighty Morphin Power Rangers” — the original, of course, which first aired in 1993.

This show started out with the five original rangers: Jason (red), Billy (blue), Kimberly (pink), Trini (yellow) and Zack (black). Later in the first season, Tommy Oliver, who has appeared in five “Power Rangers” incarnations, shows up and becomes the Green Ranger (later white). Although the first three seasons went through some lineup changes, none of the other series in the franchise have even come close to “MMPR.”

“MMPR” was actually based off a long-running Japanese TV series, “Super Sentai.”

For you kids who don’t remember the show’s premise, Rita Repulsa is an evil sorceress released from a space capsule after 10,000 years, and she and her fellow space aliens are bent on conquering Earth. As a result, robot Alpha 5 seeks to find “teenagers with “attitude” who can fight Rita. The Rangers were then given their powers by the sage Zordon. They have access to these powers via their Power Morphers, which at the beginning of the series let them transform into different “Dinozords.” These would combine and form a “Megazord,” which could battle many supersized monsters.

Over time, the Rangers would also end up becoming Thunderzords, Ninjazords and Shogunzords.

In other words, “MMPR” kicked major alien ass.

This was only one of two series in the “Power Rangers” franchise to spawn an original movie (featuring the gregariously evil Ivan Ooze), even though it received mixed reviews from critics. Who cared? I know my 5-year-old eyes saw only awesome.

McDonald’s even included “MMPR” toys in their Happy Meals, and we can’t forget the pogs they had as well.

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The Ninjazord Power Coins from Season 3 of “MMPR.” I had all of these. Which ones did you have?

After two years of airing on Fox Kids, “MMPR” unfortunately ended in 1995, and “Power Rangers Zeo” succeeded it in 1996. There have been over 15 different series since, including “Dino Thunder” (huh?) and “Mystic Force” (whatever). Naturally, I never watched the show again.

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The new logo released in 2010, when ABC Family rebroadcast the show with extra special effects. We all know what the better logo is.

Although “MMPR” may have had more violence than most kids’ shows did, it also showed how teamwork could help save the world. Not too shabby, eh?

Finally, I must ask you all: Who was your favorite ranger?

’90s one-hit wonders: a playlist

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Lou Bega topped the charts in 1999 with his hit single "Mambo No. 5 (A Little Bit Of ... )."

This blog entry was originally posted on March 20, 2012, on the Independent Florida Alligator website.

We all remember the ’90s for its unforgettable pop music. However, what stands out even more is the amount of one-hit wonders that spewed from recording studios during this time.

We love to hate many of these songs, but I’ll admit some were actually integral parts of my childhood. They’re the kind of songs that send a happy tingle through your body, and you can bet they’ll help you relive countless memories.

For your convenience, I have made a YouTube playlist where you can listen to and watch the music videos for these songs in all their (cheesy) glory.

“She’s So High” by Tal Bachman: Radio stations blared this alt-pop tune in late 1999. Bachman, whose father played in classic rock bands The Guess Who and Bachman-Turner Overdrive, had little success after this hit. He has one other album, titled “Staring Down the Sun,” which came out in 2004.

“Tubthumping” by Chumbawamba: What the hell did this song title have to do with the lyrics? Regardless, its timeless chorus (“I get knocked down, but I get up again”) still rings in our ears after it topped the Billboard charts in 1998. Formed in 1982, Chumbawamba still performs today.

“Closing Time” by Semisonic: This gem is by far one of my favorite ’90s jams. Released in 1998, it compares moving forward in life to a bar closing up at night. After “Closing Time” reached major success, Semisonic released one more album before going on hiatus in 2006.

“Bitter Sweet Symphony” by The Verve: I first heard this song on a Nike commercial, which apparently used the single without the band’s permission. This was for sure one of the best songs of 1998 (and BBC Radio 1 listeners agree with me). The English band performed on and off before officially splitting in 2009.

“What’s Up?” by 4 Non Blondes: Featuring music producer Linda Perry, 4 Non Blondes broke up in 1996, but this classic anthem brought them some short-lived success. It later became part of a viral video featuring He-Man, which is actually pretty hilarious.

“Mambo No. 5 (A Little Bit Of … )” by Lou Bega: We all sang along to this swing-revival tune, which hit No. 1 in over 15 countries (but not the U.S.). Born David Lubega, this singer has released three albums since his 1999 hit.

“Jump Around” by House of Pain: L.A.-based hip-hop group House of Pain had some success after this party single was released in 1992, but they broke up in 1996 when lead rapper Everlast left to pursue a solo career (DJ Lethal ended up joining Limp Bizkit). The group reunited in 2010.

“Bitch” by Meredith Brooks: One of the angsty female pop-rockers of the decade, Meredith Brooks came out with her only Billboard Hot 100 single in 1997. This song was also known by its censored title, “Nothing In Between.”

“I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)” by The Proclaimers: Although originally released in 1988, this song appeared on the soundtrack to the 1993 movie “Benny & Joon” starring Johnny Depp. As a result, the song became a hit again. These Scottish brothers are still together, and their album “Like Comedy” is due to be released in May.

“I’m Too Sexy” by Right Said Fred: Twin brothers Richard and Fred Fairbrass were too sexy for … well, pretty much everything. This corny yet catchy tune reached No. 1 on the Billboard charts in 1992, and the group still performs today, in “Milan, New York and Japan.”

“Baby Got Back” by Sir Mix-A-Lot: The definitive 90s party song that celebrated the beauty of big booties. Sir Mix-A-Lot (real name Anthony Ray) is atill actively involved in music and can be seen commentating on many VH1 miniseries.

“Macarena” by Los Del Rio: You didn’t think I could make a one-hit wonder list and not include this classic, did you? The original rumba-style song  came out in 1993, but when the Bayside Boys remixed it in 1995, its dance craze spread all over the country. Los Del Rio, which is actually made up of two old guys, broke up in 2007.

These one-time hits won’t be going away anytime soon. Whenever you need to reminisce, they’ll always be on your shiny CDs, ready to be played.

Spice Girls, *NSYNC and Backstreet Boys were great role models

This blog entry was originally posted on March 13, 2012, on the Independent Florida Alligator website.

Photo courtesy of fanpop.comBefore the days of Lil Wayne and Justin Bieber, there was a group of singers      that made music impossible not to sing along to — back when MTV and VH1 actually played music videos 24/7 …

Bubblegum pop. And to be fair to all, I am including boy and girl bands in this entry.

Back when Justin Timberlake had an afro, music sounded different. These teen musical groups made videos that had choreography we could actually follow, and their words were simple and fun.

Boy bands came in all sorts of shapes and sizes. Of course, you had your big names, such as *NSYNC and BSB. Then you had your one-hit-wonder boys, aka Youngstown, O-Town and LMNT. (So many acronyms. Oy. How did we keep track of them all?) It was the same with the honeys, too. Remember when S Club 7 had their own TV show? That was just a weird career move.

Here are my top 5 favorite boy band/girl group songs: (In no particular order. I mean, they’re all amazing.)

Spice Up Your Life” by Spice Girls: It would be an understatement to say I loved the Spice Girls. I worshipped them. I knew every Spice’s likes, dislikes and not-so-secret crushes, and my second-grade notebook was covered in Spice Girl lollipop stickers. It was really hard to choose my favorite song by them, but I think this definitely reflects the attitude of the ‘90s.

Bye Bye Bye” by *NSYNC: From my favorite *NSYNC album, “No Strings Attached.” Who didn’t try to copy these boys’ killer dance moves (yes, I saw a few of you boys trying to)? Unfortunately, the fab five stopped recording in 2

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Boy bands and girl groups alike gave great messages to kids about love, friendship and respect.

002. I still wish Lance had gone into space.

I Want It That Way” by Backstreet Boys: Thirteen years later, men and women alike still belt out the lyrics to this ballad when it comes on the radio from time to time. BSB still performs today, but sadly without Kevin Richardson (which still elicits grumbles from me).

Say My Name” by Destiny’s Child: Who could forget that beginning soulful verse? This group launched Beyonce’s stardom, and many fans first heard her glorious voice when this hit came out in 2000.

No Scrubs” by TLC: This hit taught young ladies to not date guys who were broke, lazy bums. “’Cause I’m lookin’ like class and he’s lookin’ like trash.” Self-explanatory.

Pop music today seems so … over-sexed. Not that sex is bad thing, but things like love, trust and confidence are important as well.Boy bands helped me see what real gentlemen could be like, and girl groups taught me how to stay strong and be myself no matter what other people thought. I’m pretty sure pop stars in the ’90s didn’t serve jail time, either.

I’m sure we didn’t take this music seriously when we were kids, but today these songs seem like works of art.

Finally, to the boys: If you ever find yourself mumbling the words to a Britney Spears song, it’s okay.