‘Quiet on Set’ spotlights off-camera abuse at Nickelodeon studios

For so many people, Nickelodeon brings back nostalgic memories from childhood and happy reminders of the shows we loved so much and laughed along to. “Drake and Josh,” “The Amanda Show,” “All That” and so many others are shows that define the 90s and early 2000s within children’s television. 

Unfortunately, for many of the actors we loved to watch on those shows, Nickelodeon represents pain and darkness at the hands of producers and crew members on set. The recently released bone-chilling documentary “Quiet on Set: The Dark Side of Kids TV” documented the abuse that occurred on the sets of the most beloved Nickelodeon shows but, for the most part, has been brushed under the rug since then. 

Learning more about the web of abuse from “Quiet on Set” was genuinely devastating to watch. The series focuses mainly on executive producer Dan Schneider and dialogue coach Brian Peck, among others, and the stories of cast and crew members who suffered at their hands. 

Schneider is responsible for nearly all of the household-name Nickelodeon shows. Played off as a “weird sense of humor,” he was known to be power-hungry and exploitative. As a writer, he forced young actors to perform overtly sexually charged skits and jokes and humiliated them in the process. As a producer, he left fellow writers and production members feeling dehumanized and unsafe.

“I did not feel safe around Dan Schneider while I was working at Nickelodeon,” Alexa Nikolas, an actress from “Zoey 101” said in the series. Jennette McCurdy of “iCarly” also spoke of Schneider’s emotional abuse in her recent memoir, “I’m Glad My Mom Died.” Numerous women who worked on sets with Schneider have also come forward in recent years, recounting the gender-based discrimination and sexual harassment they faced while working under him. Because of the sheer amount of his unchecked power, many of the women and children who experienced his abuse were too afraid to say anything about it for fear of losing their jobs. 

One of the more shocking revelations in the show was Peck’s severe sexual abuse of actor Drake Bell. Hearing Bell’s testimonies about Peck’s abuse made me sick to my stomach.

Actions have been taken against both Peck and Schneider because their abuses, but their punishments were practically nonexistent. Peck was sentenced to 16 months in prison on several charges of child sex abuse from Bell’s testimonies, and Schneider faced several internal investigations from Nickelodeon into his discriminatory and abusive behavior. He was ultimately released from Nickelodeon. 

Still, though, both of these men were able to continue to work on sets well after their abuse was revealed. As emphasized by every former child star and their parents who appeared in the series, children were not protected. “There is a dark underbelly to child stardom. Children are just a dollar sign when they show up on set,” Bryan Hearne of “All That” said.

“I definitely owe some people a pretty strong apology,” Schneider said in a statement. No apology from Schneider can give those actors their childhoods back, however. Nothing can alleviate the emotional damage done by the people that these actors were told they could trust. It’s no secret that child stars don’t often lead the glamorous life of fame presented to the public, but the severity of the abuse at the hands of people like Schneider and Peck revealed a sinister side of Nickelodeon. 

The trauma faced by Bell, actress Amanda Bynes — whose story I believe was not given the full attention it deserves — and many other child stars was perpetuated by those in power to keep up appearances. The whole world owes them all an apology, but most especially Nickelodeon executives and the individuals who took advantage of them for personal gain. 




Featured photo courtesy of MaxineProductions/SonyPicturesTelevisions/BusinessInsider, Wikipedia