One of the first big hits to emerge on the up-and-coming Nickelodeon cable channel, You Can’t Do That On Television (YCDTOTV) quickly endeared itself to young viewers with its bathroom-humor-laced sketch comedy performed by kids. But the show will always be best remembered for introducing the young populace to green slime, a substance that is now a trademark for the Nickelodeon brand, thanks to this long-running series that was required daily viewing for many an 80s kid.
The show’s humble beginnings can be traced to a local TV station in Ottawa, Ontario. In 1979, the variety show aired a hodge podge of comedy skits performed by unknown child actors, music videos, music performances and interviews, mostly broadcast live. It quickly found an enthusiastic audience of youngsters who connected with its lowbrow humor.
In 1981, YCDTOTV was picked up by Nickelodeon and the newly-formed cable network did away with the musical guests and live performances, focusing solely on the comedy that made it popular in the first place. Each episode was full of sketches and jokes–the cheesier and cornier, the better. Every now and again, various cast member would be drenched with water or, more memorably, with thick green slime. Water would pour from above when a kid said the words “water” or “wet.” And if one was unlucky enough to utter the phrase “I don’t know,” it was green slime time.
The substance became so popular with viewers that Nickelodeon has been using it as its mascot ever since. YCDTOTV was the network’s highest rated series by 1984 and Nickelodeon quickly launched a merchandising blitz aimed at American teens. That campaign included the Slime-In, a sweepstakes contest that would fly the winner to the set of YCDTOTV to be slimed. Talk about an unforgettable honor.
The comedy skits on each episode had a single unifying theme, usually a topic relevant to teenage life like malls or marketing or divorce. Some episodes were more controversial than others, like “Adoption,” which was banned from broadcast after airing once. It turned out that making fun of adoptive families was something you really couldn’t do on TV.
There were numerous running gags throughout the 10 seasons that You Can’t Do That On Television aired, from firing squads and fast food joints to a locker room sequence reminiscent of Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In, where the kids would alternately pop their heads out and spout one-liners.
Cast members came and went over the years but there were definite favorites, like Christine McGlade (nicknamed Moose, the poor girl), Adam Reid (who grew up to be a writer on the show) and Lisa Ruddy (Christine’s sidekick, nicknamed Motormouth). Future indie songstress Alanis Morisette appeared in a few episodes as well. Les Lye and Abby Hagyard performed most of the adult roles on YCDTOTV.
New episodes of YCDTOTV aired for ten seasons before the show called it quits in 1990. Reruns would continue to air for another four years, and the show made a brief comeback in 2004, although some of its humor was a bit too topical to survive a 10-year hiatus. Today, it is fondly remembered by an entire generation of kids, many of whom still wonder what it would be like to be doused with a bucked of green slime.
If you have fond memories of watching You Can’t Do That On Television back in the 80s, we hope you’ll share your memories of this beloved kid’s show with all of us in our comments section.