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‘Quiet on Set: The Dark Side of Kids TV’: A Culture of Complicity in Childhood Television

This four-part docuseries follows the alleged and proven abuse of children and employees behind the scenes of Nickelodeon television shows from the ‘90s to the mid-2010s.
Sam Garcia
(Design by Sam Garcia | The Daily Utah Chronicle)


Amid the #MeToo Movement, larger scrutiny was placed on bad actors behind the camera, finally holding them accountable for alleged abuses towards cast and crew. It saw the takedown of media moguls like longtime Nickelodeon executive Dan Schneider.

Quiet On Set: The Dark Side of Kids TV” is a four-part docuseries following alleged and proven abuse of children and employees behind the scenes of Nickelodeon television shows in the ‘90s to mid-2010s. The docuseries aired on the ID Channel and streamed on Max.

Dan Schneider’s Domain

The documentary highlights prolific producer Schneider’s underdog persona in his early career to the culture of power and humiliation he cultivated as he rose through the ranks at Nickelodeon while producing hits like “Sam & Cat” and “The Amanda Show.” The shows Schneider produced dominated the childhood zeitgeist of many who have since grown up and now look back questioningly on social media like YouTube, TikTok and X (formerly known as Twitter).

This humiliation was mainly directed at female crew members whom Schneider would either play pranks on (wherein he asked them to say or act out lewd material) or demand massages from.

Set videos shown throughout the docuseries recorded by Schneider himself show how uncomfortable the child actors were around him. One video shows him screaming at an unsuspecting Miranda Cosgrove and her awkwardly trying to brush him off with a nervous smile.

He often wrote adult jokes and visual innuendos that were for the most part acted out by minors, such as Ariana Grande on “Victorious” suggestively squeezing a potato for “water” or Cosgrove on “iCarly” drinking a water stream in a suggestive manner. These are two of many examples the docuseries brings up.

“We’re adults so we know what’s going on, but this is a show for kids. So who is sexual innuendo for on a kid’s show?” said Scaachi Koul, Culture Writer at Buzzfeed News and docuseries member, regarding the adult jokes.

“When I watched the show, I could see the hurt in some people’s eyes, and it made me feel awful and regretful and sorry. I wish I could go back, especially to those earlier years of my career, and bring the growth and the experience that I have now and just do a better job and never, ever feel like it was OK to be an asshole to anyone, ever,” said Schneider when he was interviewed on March 19 by BooG!E, who played T-Bo on “iCarly.” The stilted, incredibly scripted interview only contained softball questions with hardly any pushback on Schneider’s answers.

Former “Zoey 101” co-star, Alexa Nikolas, recalled a scene she filmed in an episode titled “Backpack” where her character splashes Jamie Lynn Spears character in the face with a sticky substance that she remembers the crew laughing at behind the scenes, comparing the camera shot to one from pornographic material. Nikolas has been vocal about the alleged abuses on set and the failure of Nickelodeon to protect their performers and has since blasted Schneider’s non-apology.

This is all without even mentioning the supposed foot fetish Schneider allegedly has where he often wrote scenes for child performers to act out that were primarily centered around gross-out humor concerning their feet. It’s not surprising that the Nickelodeon logo, as well as the pool outside the building, were shaped like feet.

If Schneider did create such a toxic environment, and as the docuseries highlights it was well-known within the industry, why did nothing happen? The answer, the docuseries suggests, is that the shows Schneider produced were just too profitable for the executives at Nickelodeon to let him go. Again, it was not until the #MeToo movement that any accountability was taken — but it should not have taken that long.

Predators On Set

Schneider is not the only figure the docuseries sets its sights on. It also highlights now-convicted pedophiles like writer Jason Michael Handy, animator Ezell Channel and dialogue coach Brian Peck, who were working at Nickelodeon at this same time, which only serves to highlight the unsafe environment the child performers were in.

Peck, who the docuseries reveals was penpals with convicted serial killer John Wayne Gacy, was able to worm his way through the system until he was finally arrested on Aug. 19, 2003, when an unnamed child actor accused Peck of molestation over a six-month period.

Former “Drake and Josh” star Drake Bell appeared in episode three, “The Darkest Secret,” to reveal that he was the minor who made the accusation and tell his story about how Peck groomed and later assaulted him when he was a child working on “All That.” Peck was arrested only a few weeks before filming for “Drake and Josh” began. Peck pleaded no contest to the 11 charges he was accused of served a 16-month sentence and registered as a sex offender.

“You will forever have the memory of sitting in this courtroom and defending this person, and I will forever have the memory of the person you’re defending, violating me,” said Bell as he recalled what he said to those on Peck’s side during the sentencing. 

The docuseries team petitioned the court and uncovered letters of support in favor of Peck from celebrities like James Marsden, Will Friedle, Rider Strong and Taran Killam. Some letters relied on victim blaming, insinuating that the minor had been the one to push Peck to molest them, or emphasized Peck’s kindness on set. 

“We wanted to understand who in Hollywood was defending Brian [Peck] in this,” said Kate Taylor, journalist and member of the docuseries team. Taylor clarified that it was unknown whether the supporters knew the extent of Peck’s actions or if they were in the courtroom, only that they were embedded in the industry at all levels.

As for material consequences, Peck was hired by Disney to work on “The Suite Life of Zack & Cody” shortly after being released from prison.

No Longer Voiceless

Other Nickelodeon stars shown in the docuseries, such as Jeanette McCurdy, Cosgrove, Lynn-Spears, Grande, Avan Jogia, Victoria Justice and Amanda Bynes declined to be a part of the documentary or make comments at the time of writing — and they shouldn’t be expected to, either.

McCurdy published her controversially titled memoir “I’m Glad My Mom Died” in 2022 where she spoke about her overbearing mother pushing her to stardom and an abusive unnamed producer, whom some have speculated is Schneider.

“I’m so glad it’s connected with so many people,” said McCurdy while promoting her memoir at the University of Utah at the A. Ray Olpin Student Union Ballroom on Apr. 11, 2023. “The fact that I’ve been able to connect one-on-one with so many people who seem to be on their own paths of healing and parsing through their childhoods is so encouraging.”

Child stars like Britney Spears, Lindsay Lohan, Bynes and Aaron Carter find themselves facing a downward spiral as they grow into adulthood because they had no support to begin with and the media still ate it up.

Bell reflected on his own downward spiral and the lewd interactions he had with a minor for which he pleaded guilty to a felony misdemeanor charge in 2017. This isn’t to absolve Bell of his actions, only to point out the cycle of abuse that occurs from childhood to adulthood.

The saddest insight is that this docuseries could continue and cover further bad actors behind the scenes in the entertainment industry such as Bryan Singer and Harvey Weinstein.

The story does not stop there either as a special bonus fifth episode titled “Breaking The Silence” will air on April 7 featuring new interviews from Bell, returning docuseries cast members from “All ThatGiovonnie Samuels and Bryan Hearne, Hearne’s mother, Tracey Brown, and newcomer “All That” cast member, Shane Lyons for a conversation moderated by Soledad O’Brien to discuss the entertainment industry’s past and future.


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About the Contributors
Andre Montoya
Andre Montoya, Arts Writer
Andre Montoya is a senior at the University of Utah double majoring in English and communications with an emphasis in journalism. He began writing for the Arts Desk at the Daily Utah Chronicle in Fall 2022. Previously, he has written for the West View Media and Voices of Utah, formerly run by now retired U professor Dr. Kim Mangun. He can often be found around campus glued to his laptop working on assignments or at the Student Life Center exercising. In his free time, he enjoys reading novels, photography, binge-watching shows and movies, or spending time with friends.
Sam Garcia
Sam Garcia, Designer
(she/her) Sam Garcia is a junior studying Graphic Design and minoring in Computer Science. She has a bubbly and energetic personality. Loves drawing, painting, taking care of her plants, and getting shredded at the gym.

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