Nickelodeon's dark side exposed: Drake Bell, Ariana Grande's unsettling traumas scar childhood laughs - Hindustan Times

Nickelodeon's dark side exposed: Drake Bell, Ariana Grande's unsettling traumas scar childhood laughs

Mar 20, 2024 03:56 AM IST

Disgraced TV producer Dan Schneider's empire delivered some of the most iconic Nickelodeon hits. Quiet on Set doc outs his exploitation of young actors on set.

Undying nostalgia fever has many millennials and zillennials alike desperately hanging on to the frolicking memories of their childhood past. Most of these wistful mental souvenirs are anchored in TV-watching experiences of a plethora of sitcoms that consumed most of our early days with playback laughter tracks that we, too, chuckled along to. However, the new tell-all docuseries Quiet on Set: The Dark Side of Kids TV, which has been years in the making, negatively circles around some of the biggest Nickelodeon hits, including The Amanda Show, iCarly, Victorious, Sam & Cat, Ned's Declassified School Survival Guide and Drake & Josh.

For the first time, Drake Bell openly talks about being repeatedly sexually assaulted during his young Nickelodeon days. Quiet on Set docuseries has also released an unnerving video of a young Ariana Grande being sexualised in a perverted video allegedly inspired by pornography set-ups.
For the first time, Drake Bell openly talks about being repeatedly sexually assaulted during his young Nickelodeon days. Quiet on Set docuseries has also released an unnerving video of a young Ariana Grande being sexualised in a perverted video allegedly inspired by pornography set-ups.

The painstakingly created mini-series jarringly shatters all sweet memories associated with these shows. Mary Robertson and Emma Schwartz's Investigation Discovery series drops the curtain on the toxic culture that was breeding behind the scenes, with TV producer Dan Schneider helming the reins of numerous TV kids' lives.

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All four episodes of the series are now streaming on Max. The quartet batch dives into a slew of disturbing recollections from the old cast and crew members of Nickelodeon shows. Drake Bell is one of the most prominent names to come forward and break the blissful bubble of fantasy, outing what many young actors endured back in the day.

Unnerving Quiet on Set revelations that were hard to digest

Drake Bell repeatedly molested by dialogue coach Brian Peck

The Drake & Josh star spoke publicly for the first time about the traumatic experience that he endured under the supervision of dialogue coach Brian Peck at the age of 15. He landed his The Amanda Show acting gig in ‘99. Eventually, he met the dialogue coach when the second season’s filming began the consequent year. Peck befriended the young star and invited him to his house for acting lessons.

Bell opened up about being sexually assaulted by Peck while he “was sleeping on the couch.” He iterated that the incident happened on multiple occasions, but he endured everything because he dreaded speaking up about it. He even explained how things eventually took a turn for the worse: “The abuse was extensive and it got pretty brutal.”

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In the early 2000s, Brian was arrested in relation to allegations of having sexually abused a child. Drake's name remained anonymous at the time, while Brian was sentenced to 16 months in prison and indicted as a sex offender. As for Schneider's involvement in this issue – Bell recalled that the producer was unaware until he finally confided in him. Though not directly linked here, he allegedly committed his own share of wrongdoings that created an unwelcoming environment for the cast and crews across multiple projects.

The sinister exposé on Peck didn't end there. He supposedly also possessed a signed self-portrait of serial killer John Wayne Gacy, infamously known as the Killer Clown in the '70s for raping and killing more than 30 young boys. Brian had apparently developed a pen pal relationship with Gacy, former All That actor Kyle Sullivan explained.

Reclaiming all that Drake Bell felt like he had to soldier on through in the early days, he released his I Kind Of Relate music video on March 18. He recreated the old Drake & Josh set in his video, and all visuals therein allude to his past journey. Bell decided to finally release it in time for the Quiet on Set premiere since his story as a survivor of sexual abuse is now out in the world.

All That actors Bryan Hearne on his racially stereotyped role

Ex-All That actor Bryan Hearne also cringed at his memories of playing racially stereotyped roles. Hearne told People that he was referred to as “piece of charcoal" by an adult back then. He was also made to be a part of degrading antic where dogs licked off peanut butter smeared on him. This happened on Nickelodeon's On-Air Dare when he was 13 years old. On All That, he was pigeonholed to play a rapper named ‘Lil Fetus,’ who sold cookies, indirectly hinting at a drug dealing reference.

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Ariana Grande sexualised at a young age

The pop icon may be known for her several chart-topping hits, but the Y2K kids gang knew her as Cat Valentine from Victorious and Sam & Cat. The Quiet on Set series premiere unearthed a disturbing clip of Grande being sexualised at a young age. 

She's pictured “milking” a potato. The Rising Stars, Rising Questions episode presents a montage of similar unnerving clips and visuals, wherein Ariana's video was also spotted. Before the videos start playing, an interview subject decoded: “There are all of these set-ups that reference porn." Read more here

A similar video from the montage featured Britney Spears' sister Jamie Lynn Spears in a lewdly portrayed Zoey 101 scene.

Dan Schneider wrote himself into “very uncomfortable” 'Amanda's Jacuzzi' sketch with an underage Amanda Bynes

Although Amanda Bynes doesn't herself rise up against Schneider in the new series, a certain leaked “uncomfortable” hot tub scene has gone viral online. One of the episodes sheds light on how Schneider capitalised off her by introducing her to the show All That, eventually fleshing out The Amanda Show with her at the focus. The dishonoured producer was accused of “edging out” others and playing the favourite card with her. However, their close-knit dynamic was equally problematic.

Even though she was relatively older than some other younger actors on set, there was a 20-year gap between her and Schneider. The recently leaked video surfaced around the same time as the docuseries' premiere. It shows Schneider sitting inches away from a 16-year-old Amanda wearing a bikini in a hot tub. The video is pulled out of a frequently televised sketch ‘Amanda’s Jacuzzi,' wherein Bynes interviewed surprise guests in the hot tub. The former Nickelodeon PD allegedly wrote himself into the skit. Read more here.

Dan Schneider allegedly also assigned debatable and incongruous tasks to female writers on The Amanda Show. Jenny Kilgen was one such official who was hired in 1999. In the interview segments of the Quiet on Set, she blew the lid off his insensitive actions on set – showing pornography and pushing people into uncomfortable undertakings, including allegedly pressuring Christy Stratton to tell a story as if she was being “sodomised.” Instead of leading a professional dynamic with the crew, Stratton claimed “working for Dan was like being in an abusive relationship.” The series also suggests that he repeatedly tasked female writers to massage him in front of other crew members.

Kilgen also revealed that he purposely picked ‘Penelope Taynt’ as Bynes' character's name in The Amanda Show – a slangy nod to the word “taint," a euphemistic reference to the perineum. The Amanda Show writer asserted that he had shared the perverted detail in the writers room, urging them to keep it a secret.

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