Screenshot: Nick Knacks (YouTube)

Most people’s relationship with Nickelodeon is a little different than other cable channels. You watch an insane amount of it during a few years of your life, you become intimately familiar with the programming during that time, and then, one day, you leave it all behind. This can lead to feelings of intense nostalgia—a sense that things were better when you were a kid—and also the conviction that whatever Nickelodeon was doing then was somehow the best they ever did it. Of course, there’s a chance those feelings are totally valid, but the only way to be sure is to get way into the history of the network. And hoo boy, this YouTube channel is doing that in a big way.

Inspired by the idea that each generation has a sense of loyalty to the shows they grew up watching, YouTuber poparena decided to go all the way back to the beginning and assess the quality of everything Nickelodeon ever put on air, from reruns of 1950s serials to Double Dare to Fairly OddParents and beyond. Starting with the network’s premiere seasons in the late-’70s, the episodes go chronologically and range from ten to thirty minutes, depending on how impactful the show was or how much surviving footage there is. Occasionally, he’ll sneak in a “Nick Knacks Special” that throws the chronological convention out the window and takes a deep dive into one of the network’s many holiday programs, like “Marc Summers’ Mystery Magical Special” or “The Weinerville Hanukkah Special.”

Due to his thoroughness, poparena is still quite a ways off from covering any shows that “only ‘90s kids will remember.” The most recent episode covers Matt And Jenny, a live action show from the early-’80s that follows the adventures of kids in the wilds of Canada. But, even if you have no recollection of these shows, it’s still fascinating to see how the burgeoning cable network tried and tried again to find its footing. From puppet shows to video comics to music video shows hosted by Mike Nesmith, Nickelodeon tried everything once, and some kids out there somewhere loved it all.

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