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The ‘Quiet on Set’ Docuseries: Kids TV Is for Everyone Except Child Actors

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This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Pace chapter.

CONTENT WARNING: This article contains mentions of sexual assault and spoilers for the documentary series ‘Quiet on Set: The Dark Side of Kids TV .’

Like most children born in the 2000s, I grew up watching Nickelodeon. In fact, one of my favorite memories to tell about my childhood is when I had to write about my role model for an assignment in elementary school, and I chose Sam Puckett from iCarly. I still love popular Nickelodeon shows like Drake & Josh and Victorious. With that being said, Quiet on Set: The Dark Side of Kids TV was devastating to watch for me. Released on March 17, 2024, Quiet on Set: The Dark Side of Kids TV is a docuseries exploring the work environment of Nickelodeon children’s shows, specifically those created by Dan Schneider. Many cast members from popular shows that Schneider created such as All That and Zoey 101 appeared in the episodes to share their stories, proving that kids TV is for everyone except child actors.

A main topic of conversation in the docuseries was Dan Schneider, the producer of many popular Nickelodeon television shows in the late ‘90s and early 2000s. The show went into detail about some of the obscene jokes and heavy incorporation of feet that he included in his children shows. As I mentioned earlier, I grew up watching Nickelodeon but my parents had rather me watch Disney Channel or PBS Kids, and I never understood why. I thought that scenes like Zoey getting a “Goo Pop” in her face on Zoey 101 were funny, but now that I’m 20 and not eight, I understand why my parents were a little uneasy about these shows. It’s not unheard of to incorporate adult jokes into children’s shows— take a look at Spongebob Squarepants or Looney Tunes. However, these are cartoons and these characters are usually voiced by other adults. Schneider, on the other hand, was infamous for incorporating lewd jokes into his shows which were being acted out by children. 

Another major topic that was discussed in the docuseries in relation to this were the Victorious videos starring Ariana Grande. These videos did not air on Nickelodeon, but on TheSlap.com. The videos included Grande’s character on Victorious, Cat, talking about her random thoughts which included asking the camera if they think that she could get “juice” out of a potato or if a teenage girl could drink water upside down. Again, as a child watching these jokes, they completely went over my head. After seeing them again in the docuseries, I realized how inappropriate these jokes were in general, let alone for a children’s television show. 

The docuseries also went on to talk about Schneider’s treatment of women behind the scenes. For instance, he would often ask female staff members to give him massages, and he forced the only female writers on The Amanda Show, Christy Stratton and Jenny Ligen, to split a salary (which is against union rules). Katrina Johnson, a cast member on All That, spoke out and shared that when she was going through puberty, she was edged out and slowly started getting less and less screen time. She shared that her family had received a phone call from the All That production team saying, “Katrina’s getting too fat. We already have a fat one. She can’t be the fat one.”  

Not only was it mentioned that Schneider treated his female staff members terribly, he also was known for overtly sexualizing the young girls that acted on his shows. Alexa Nikolas was only 12-years-old when she played Nicole Bristow on Zoey 101. If you watched Zoey 101, you probably remember that Nicole’s character was your typical “boy-crazy” teenager. However, Nikolas was given lines like, “It makes me look chesty,” in regards to a shirt. Why does a teenager (played by a 12-year-old) need to be fixated on a shirt and how it makes her chest look? To top it off, years before Zoey 101 even aired, there’s a scene on The Amanda Show where a young Amanda Bynes is in a swimsuit, in a hot tub, with a fully-clothed Dan Schneider. The list just goes on and on about all the weird and terrible ways that Schneider would treat his actors and staff members, yet this wasn’t even the worst thing that the docuseries was going to cover. 

The docuseries exposed three child predators that worked at Nickelodeon: Jason Handy, Ezell Channel, and Brian Peck. Peck was arrested for 11 counts against a child actor in 2003. Peck’s victim came out and shared his story for the first time, and I was in disbelief to find out that it was Drake Bell. Bell met Peck during the second season of The Amanda Show.Joe Bell, who also spoke on the docuseries, was immediately wary about how much time Peck would spend with his son. Joe Bell tried to protect his son, which resulted in Peck rallying against him and manipulating Bell into telling his dad that he didn’t want him to be his manager anymore. At the time, Bell’s parents were divorced, so his mom became his manager. Joe Bell also mentioned in the docuseries that he told Drake’s Mom, “You never, ever, leave Drake alone with Brian Peck and you never leave [Peck] unsupervised with Drake.”  However, Drake’s mom did the exact opposite and would allow Peck to drive Bell to auditions, and let her son stay over at Peck’s house. Bell was sexually assaulted by Peck at just 15 years old. 

Bell stated in the docuseries that it wasn’t a one time thing. It went on until one night that he was at his girlfriends’ house, and Peck kept calling Bell’s cell phone. When he wouldn’t answer his cell phone, Peck proceeded to call the house phone of Bell’s girlfriend’s house. The girlfriend’s mom could sense immediately that something wasn’t right and said to Bell, “a 40-something-year-old man does not call my daughter’s boyfriend like that.” Shortly after this, Drake told his mom everything and Peck was arrested. This resulted in what I think was one of the saddest scenes in the docuseries. Bell called his dad after to tell him the news about the arrest to which his dad responded, “I am so glad that he was not able to get his hands on you.” Bell did not have the heart to tell his father that he was the victim of the man that his dad tried so hard to protect his son from. This exchange absolutely broke me. 

The last thing that Bell covered in regards to his assault was the trial. Bell recalled Peck’s side of the courtroom being full of people in support of him while Bell, the victim’s, side only consisted of him, his mother, and his brother. The docuseries also mentioned the letters of support that were written to the judge for Peck. Some of the people they mentioned that wrote letters are some notable names in Hollywood: James Marsden, Taran Killam, Alan Thicke, Thomas Desanto, Ron Melendez, Rider Strong, Will Friedle, and Kimmy Robertson. After the trial, Peck was sentenced to 16 months in jail and registered as a sex offender.

There was so much more that I learned in the docuseries that makes me think about how these actors’ had their childhood taken away from them in order to make my childhood happen. It makes me sick to my stomach that child predators like Jason Handy, Ezell Channel, and Brian Peck were allowed to work so closely with children and the children had little to no protection from these monsters. It makes me sick to my stomach that after multiple investigations against him, Nickelodeon didn’t drop Dan Schneider until 2018. It makes me sick to my stomach that the parents of some of these children only cared about their child’s career and not the abuse they were enduring because of it. I can only hope that this docuseries changes the environment of children’s television shows and makes it what it should be, a safe place for the child actors.

There will be an additional episode of ‘Quiet on Set: The Dark Side of Kids TV’ released on April 7, 2024. You can stream the other four episodes on MAX, Discovery Plus, and Amazon Prime Video.

Kelly Danko is the Vice President of Her Campus at Pace. She has been a member of Her Campus at Pace since her freshman year and contributes by writing articles for her Her Campus chapter. Beyond Her Campus, Kelly works as a Team Leader for Jumpstart, a program that’s mission is to prepare preschool children for Kindergarten. With Jumpstart, Kelly manages a team of other Corps Members and gets them prepared for their weekly sessions in the preschool. She is currently a rising senior at Pace University's New York City campus, majoring in Early Childhood and Childhood Education with a concentration in English. She strives to teach in the early childhood grades when she graduates and hopes to pursue her master’s degree in Special Education. In her free time, Kelly enjoys listening to music, reading, and going to concerts. She has attended 49 concerts throughout her life and 20 of those concerts were Harry Styles concerts! She also loves Taylor Swift, the two of them being her favorite artists. When school is not in session, you can find her at her second home: her grandparent’s summer place down at the Jersey Shore where she likes to hang out with friends and go to the beach.