Nickelodeon masters nostalgia, and Millennials

The A/V Club just posted a good interview with Chris Viscardi, Nickelodeon’s senior vice president of content development for franchise properties. Also the co-creator of early 1990s cult classic TV show “The Adventures of Pete & Pete,” Viscardi will be digging into the Nickelodeon vault in an attempt at bringing back some classic shows that are now 20-25 years old.

Viscardi talks specifically about the 25-year anniversary of Nicktoons, the beloved group of cartoon programming made specifically for the Millennial generation. One of those Nicktoons is “Hey Arnold!,” which Viscardi is bringing back with a movie.

A video of classic Nickelodeon promos is embedded in the article. I specifically remember these promos from the late 1980s and early 1990s. And I had forgotten something about these promos that’s so glaringly obvious today: they’re all sung in doo-wop. Every one of them, doo-wop.

Nickelodeon leaned hard on doo-wop back in those nascent days. Why? Maybe because doo-wop was a popular form of entertainment, oh, 20-25 years before these promos.

And 20-25 years before those promos was when the parents of the kids watching Nickelodeon were kids themselves.  Nick was informing parents that their programming was safe for kids to watch. How couldn’t it be safe? It used doo-wop!

See how that works? It’s the power of nostalgia in full display. Here’s a quote from Viscardi about Nickelodeon’s line of thinking:

Well, the things that we know kids love now are the same things that we loved back in the day. They love great stories, they love comedy, they love humanity, and they love that Nickelodeon personality and point of view that we uniquely have on stuff, so that’s going to be there, and ultimately that’s going to be the biggest draw to it. When we talk about re-imagining these things for a new generation, to us that really only means if there any design things here or there—ideally probably just small things that the creator may want to do just to update the look and feel a little bit—it’s been, for some of these series, quite a long time—that’s really all the re-imagining that will be done.

Nickelodeon understands the cycle. Millennials are now parents to kids who will be experiencing “Hey Arnold!” and other old Nicktoons for the first time. So they’re tweaking those properties to mesh with the new generation. Just as Nick tweaked doo-wop to fit the Millennials back in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

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