Unpopular Opinions: 2000s Nickelodeon Shows

Nickelodeon cartoons marked our ’90s and early aughts childhoods, but not every show was a hit.


(Illustration by Rachel Buigas-Lopez)

By Arts Desk

This week, we’re getting nostalgic and turning back the clock to simpler times of our youth. As eight-year-olds, waking up to watch cartoons at 7:00 a.m. was the best part of every morning. Whether it was “SpongeBob SquarePants” or “Rugrats,” the most beloved shows came from Nickelodeon and have stuck with us well into adulthood. But even as elementary school kids, our powers of discernment were growing. We’d spend recesses arguing over which popular shows were overhyped and which shows deserved more attention. This is Unpopular Opinions: 2000s Nickelodeon Shows edition.  

“The Wild Thornberrys”
Daniella Nichinson, Arts Editor

What could be better than a show about an English documentary filmmaker whose vocabulary consists almost entirely of the word “smashing,” a girl who can talk to animals and a chimpanzee named Darwin? “The Wild Thornberrys” brought me immense joy growing up, but it was overshadowed by more popular shows on Nickelodeon. It sparked my interest in wildlife and travelling, depicting exotic safaris and an array of species, all while still managing to make me laugh. The show is also a manifestation of my ever-burning desire to acquire the ability to communicate with animals. Now that I’m older, my appreciation for “The Wild Thornberrys” has only grrown, especially for the father character, Nigel. Imagine a slightly daft, more clueless Steve Irwin and you get Nigel Thornberry. He’s also English and voiced by Tim Curry, which is basically a win-win for all of us. He has that dry humor that gets funnier with age, so I’m still just as entertained with “The Wild Thornberrys” as a 20-year-old as I was as an eight-year-old. It’s a relic of the Nickelodeon we all loved and a cartoon that will stand the test of time.

“Ned’s Declassified School Survival Guide”
Nicole Rosenthal, Music Editor

I understand that there are plenty of other 2000s Nickelodeon shows that are easier to recall, reminisce and quote than “Ned’s Declassified School Survival Guide.” “SpongeBob” can be quoted ad nauseum, “Drake & Josh” is still comedy gold and we still don’t exactly know what “The Wild Thornberrys” was trying to accomplish. However, “Ned’s Declassified School Survival Guide” was the 2000s Nickelodeon comedy we didn’t ask for but needed.

To make it plain and simple, “Ned’s Declassified” was relatable to its target audience. It wasn’t a Disney Channel show attempting to show how a hip high-school student that’s also an international rockstar. None of the characters were secret spies or had magic powers. Without over-the-top teen drama, the show dished out the trials and tribulations of adolescence through an easily accessible comedic medium.

While I can’t remember many of the gimmicks or slapstick recurrences on “Ned’s Declassified,” I do remember the moments that most stood out to me. Take the character Moze’s storyline: as a taller-than-average girl in middle school, she expressed to her coach her concerns about being different than others. As a 5’5 pre-teen, I could definitely relate. In a world as rough-and-tough as middle school, where sticking to the status quo is the gold standard, it was important having someone on-screen to relate to — and I don’t think any Nickelodeon TV show is as relatable as “Ned’s Declassified.”

“The Penguins of Madagascar”
Guru Ramanathan, Film & TV Editor

Here’s an idea for a TV show: an animated “Mission: Impossible” for children, but make the main characters penguins and set it in a zoo. Genius, I tell you. Spawned from the popular “Madagascar” film franchise, “The Penguins of Madagascar” TV series was one of my personal highlights of the late 2000s and early 2010s. The show followed our favorite animal spies, Skipper, Kowalski, Private and Rico, going on missions in New York City while also taking time to help out other animals in the zoo, and constantly needing to hide their espionage exploits from humans. The “Madagascar” franchise has always been enjoyable and self-aware, and the series does a great job of staying in line with that vibe while also diving deeper into the banter between all of the characters. Each penguin is given more time to shine and the interpersonal relationships are so definitely defined, especially between Skipper and Private who enjoy a mentor-rookie relationship. While the films are more popular, “Penguins of Madagascar” remains a consistently entertaining series with every episode because, frankly, it focused on the most interesting characters within the “Madagascar” universe.

“My Life as a Teenage Robot”
Guru Ramanathan, Film & TV Editor

While the extremely popular “Danny Phantom” and “Avatar: The Last Airbender” are often mentioned in Nickelodeon’s canon, I am genuinely surprised nobody ever talks about “My Life as a Teenage Robot.” The short-lived show followed female robot XJ-9, or Jenny, as she liked to be called, as she navigated a difficult high school experience and having to save the world. Jenny was an incredible female protagonist and the show beautifully delved into themes of family and being an outcast while also poking fun at teen drama conventions, and on top of that delivering rich sci-fi action. Constantly stuck between two worlds as a human and a superhero robot, Jenny was always a fun protagonist to explore in each episode and in hindsight was a huge breath of fresh air for much of TV’s male-dominated space. The show was able to do everything “Danny Phantom” did, but never became as popular. Though perhaps lacking in as rich a mythology as “Danny Phantom,” I would contend “My Life as a Teenage Robot” was never given the chance to fully develop its universe to its full potential and certainly deserves more love.

“The Adventure of Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius”
Ali Zimmerman, Deputy Arts Editor

Though “SpongeBob SquarePants” and “The Fairly Oddparents” are often recalled as the best shows to come out of Nickelodeon, one show about a certain cone-haired kid and his robot dog is often forgotten. When I was a kid, I wanted to be a scientist (a lot has changed), so “Jimmy Neutron” was the perfect show to feed my thirst for sci-fi. With impressive 3D animation for its time, the show follows the adventures of a young inventor with a healthy dose of on-brand Nickelodeon oddball humor. Jimmy’s friends and often sidekicks Carl and Sheen help build a perfect team of misfit kids to accompany Jimmy’s experiments and screw-ups. Though Sheen’s later spin-off show “Planet Sheen” left much to be desired, he’s hubristic, goofy and the perfect amount of clueless, making him one of my favorite Nickelodeon characters of all time. And on top of that, the theme song is killer; I think it was stuck in my head for four years straight during childhood. And now that I’m writing this it’s stuck in my head again. Great.

Alex Cullina, Books & Theater Editor

To be completely honest, I don’t have a super clear memory of this show’s finer plot points. A quick Google search tells me that it follows the misadventures of three anthropomorphic cats who inherit a mansion from their recently-deceased owner. What I do remember is a strange, wacky — even more so than your typical 2000s kids cartoon, which is saying something — larger-than-life characters and a ridiculously catchy theme song. But surprisingly to me, considering how much I remember enjoying “Catscratch” as a kid, it was a flash in the pan for Nickelodeon, running for only one season of 20 episodes.

Email the Arts desk at [email protected]