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Parents' Guide to

The Orange Years: The Nickelodeon Story

By Tara McNamara, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 10+

Millennial-targeted docu is sweet but lacks punch.

Movie NR 2020 102 minutes
The Orange Years: The Nickelodeon Story Poster Image

A Lot or a Little?

What you will—and won't—find in this movie.

Community Reviews

age 9+

Based on 1 parent review

age 9+

For millennials and beyond

The brief and seemingly bitter review of this documentary is incredibly dismissive. I'm older than the millennial generation and therefore I probably remember even more of the programs they showed than someone younger would. Yes, this documentary is a love letter. Why is that a bad thing? Personally, I didn't tune in to see some negative criticism of the channel. Nostalgia absolutely drives the documentary. Again, not clear why that's a problem. Kids who didn't experience the heyday of Nick may not connect with the documentary, but those curious or who enjoy the shows today may still find it interesting. It's also a great example of a woman with a vision and a genuine respect for children building something with them in mind. I think younger kids would be bored or tune out, but it's not geared at them. Older kids with a curiosity for things like television history and production, animation, or acting may be just as engaged as someone who grew up with Nick.

Is It Any Good?

Our review:
Parents say: (1 ):
Kids say: Not yet rated

Nostalgic Millennials who love anything that sparks warm childhood memories will enjoy this love letter to the first kids' network, which offers tasty recollections without any sour grapes. It's meant to be an "I Remember That!" heart flutter with a side of "Wow, They Really Loved Us" attitude. Honestly, it's so flattering that you can imagine it being required viewing for new hires at Nickelodeon. While some of the information in The Orange Years might be helpful in understanding how to connect with young viewers, overall it's light on insights and heavy on behind-the-scenes tidbits. But unlike entertainment retrospectives that rack up views on YouTube, this one includes almost no inclusion of internal struggles, drama, or conflict. There's no recognition of how Nickelodeon countered the competition (*ahem* Cartoon Network and Disney Channel). Nor is there substantive self-reflection about some of Nickelodeon's flops or mistakes. The network's first two decades are examined through the glow of an orange lens, rather than from a journalistic point of view.

That might be enough for the Millennial demographic that this Indiegogo-funded doc was made for. But at the same time, those who lived through the era know that the movie's hearts-and-daisies perspective isn't entirely accurate. For instance, the development executive who greenlit Ren & Stimpy talks about her creation as a huge success and suggests that she didn't realize that its content was rude, violent, or offensive ("animators are very sneaky people"). And there's zero mention of the abusive and predatory behavior of that series' creator, John Kricfalusi. The execs also speak about Laybourne abstaining from merchandising for a long time, but once the network turned the corner (and, boy, did it do a 180), the move to tie-ins galore is framed as somehow being revolutionarily beneficial to their very young audience instead of profiteering. The movie's self-congratulatory tone overshadows its few acknowledgements of missteps. For today's kids, there's just not enough here to keep most of them engaged. Where it is relevant to them -- and their parents -- is that Nick is now rifling through its catalog and bringing back many of its '90s staples, including Blue's Clues, All That, Are You Afraid of the Dark?, and Double Dare. But as The Orange Years devolves into a timeline of Nickelodeon's greatest hits, it becomes the network's greatest nightmare: boring.

Movie Details

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