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The revelations and fallout from the 'Quiet On Set' doc


"Quiet On The Set: The Dark Side Of Kids TV" (ph) is a four-episode docuseries on Max that came out last Sunday, and since then, it has gotten a lot of buzz, especially from the modern-day adults who grew up watching Nickelodeon. The series details allegations of abuse and toxic behavior behind the scenes on some of those hit Nickelodeon shows, which were run by a man named Dan Schneider. One of the more newsworthy revelations deals with "Drake & Josh" co-star Drake Bell experiencing abuse from a voice coach named Brian Peck. NPR TV critic Eric Deggans reviewed the docuseries and is following the story, and he joins us now. Eric, welcome to the show.


DETROW: So Nickelodeon is, of course, a children's network that - it creates shows aimed at children audiences but also stars children and teens. And the allegations of abuse of young performers in this docuseries are pretty disturbing. What are your takeaways from this?

DEGGANS: Well, I guess the first thing that people should understand is that the period of time that's being talked about is when Nickelodeon was at its height.


DEGGANS: There's so many options for young people now between YouTube and social media and video games and all sorts of things. Back then, you know, Nickelodeon and maybe Disney Channel were really important stops for people. And they watched these shows very closely, and they didn't have many other things to get into. So we're talking about shows that were speaking to a large audience of young people.

And, you know, the docuseries alleges that Dan Schneider, who was something of a mogul in this space - he was showrunner for several popular shows; Nickelodeon kind of viewed him as a hit-maker - that he was sticking sexually suggestive jokes inside of scripts, having young performers, you know, doing things that were kind of suggestive - jokes that they knew were suggestive, but they thought they were kind of getting them past the censors or whatever - and then also behind the scenes, these allegations that he was angry and disruptive, that he asked staffers to give him back rubs, that he marginalized the only two women who wrote on one of the shows and treated them differently because of their gender, you know, all these allegations of a toxic workplace.

And then on top of that, you had a star in Drake Bell coming forward and saying that he was abused by a dialogue coach who worked on one of those shows for a significant period of time, and then this person was convicted of this and served time. But when he was convicted, the identity of his - of the child who was supposedly abusing was not made public. Drake Bell came forward in this docuseries to admit that he was that child. So there's a lot to unpack there.

DETROW: Dan Schneider is the show executive at the center of a lot of things in this docuseries. What has he said since it's come out?

DEGGANS: Well, he released a video where he was being interviewed by someone who used to be a cast member on "iCarly," one of the shows that he show ran. And in it, he delivered an apology for some things, but most notably, he did resist and sort of push back on some allegations, particularly that he marginalized women because of their gender, things that, frankly, he might be sued over. And, you know, the whole situation was a very sort of friendly situation. The guy who was interviewing him made it plain that he was sort of on Dan Schneider's side. So it wasn't exactly an insight. He wasn't, like, going on "60 Minutes." I think if Dan Schneider wants to rescue his reputation, he's really going to have to submit to an interview with somebody who will ask him tougher questions and really get at the heart of what might have been going on back then.

DETROW: Again, we're talking about stuff that's about two decades old here. There's no central behemoth like Nickelodeon at this point, but there's certainly all sorts of creative products that have kid actors. What do you think the modern entertainment industry can learn from this?

DEGGANS: What the industry can learn is what it should already have learned from the #MeToo movement. As you said, you know, Nickelodeon and the Disney Channel may not be the powerhouses in kids' entertainment that they were 20 years ago, but Disney+ still does a lot of shows that speak to children. Apple TV+ has original series that speak to children. Netflix has original series that speak to children. All of these platforms employ a lot of young actors, and the concern is making sure that they are in healthy workplaces. And if they're in situations where things happen that make them uncomfortable or that they feel aren't fair, they should have the agency to be able to speak up without worrying about losing their job or ending their career, the same way adults need that space.

DETROW: That's NPR TV critic Eric Deggans. Eric, thank you so much.

DEGGANS: Thank you for having me.

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