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The Great Takedown of Nickelodeon’s Dan Schneider - How Even Small Voices Have the Power for Impact
Dan Schneider

The Great Takedown of Nickelodeon’s Dan Schneider - How Even Small Voices Have the Power for Impact

Known for creating some of the most watched Gen Z childhood classics, the Nickelodeon producer left amidst a barrage of serious accusations.

What do Amanda Bynes, Ariana Grande, Jaime Lynn Spears, Victoria Justice, and Miranda Cosgrove all have in common? They were all young girls hand-picked by Dan Schneider to become the face of his TV creations.

Now, over 30 years later, a series of chilling truths have come to light with HBO MAX's new hit documentary, Quiet on Set: The Dark Side of Kids TV.

The 2024 four-part documentary television series details the toxic behind-the-scenes world of children’s television from the late 1990s to the early 2010s. Most of which was during Dan Schneider's tenure as a producer on Nickelodeon.

In his heart-wrenching interview, Drake Bell drops a bombshell. The former Nickelodeon child star bravely disclosed the horrific sexual abuse he faced as a young boy during his time on Drake and Josh.

His confession is on the heels of fellow Nickelodeon child star Jeanette McCurdy's takedown of the toxic on-set culture she faced as a child star. McCurdy was the first of Schneider's "projects" to speak out about the abuse she faced at Schneider's hands.

They Offered McCurdy $300,000 To Stay Quiet—Why She Chose To Speak Up Instead

In her tell-all New York Times Bestseller I'm Glad My Mom Died, Nickelodeon child star, Jeanette McCurdy writes about the executive who would massage her at work, photograph her in bikinis, and pressure her to drink while underage. She refers only to the looming presence as "The Creator."

McCurdy never mentions Schneider by name but she doesn't have to.

Over two decades at Nickelodeon producing hit teen tv shows from Drake and Josh (2004-2007) to iCarly (2007-2012), Schneider was dropped in 2018 when allegations of inappropriate behavior (uncomfortably close to sexual misconduct) were made by female Nickelodeon writers, namely Jenny Kilgen.

In the same breath they offered $300,000.00 to Jeanette McCurdy to keep quiet about her experience growing up under Schenider's thumb.

"What the f--k? Nickelodeon is offering me three hundred thousand dollars in hush money to not talk publicly about my experience on the show?" she wrote in her memoir. "My personal experience of 'The Creator's' abuse?' This is a network with shows made for children. Shouldn't they have some sort of moral compass? Shouldn't they at least try to report to some sort of ethical standard?"
- Jeanette McCurdy,"I'm Glad My Mom Died"

The 180 made some wonder, just how blind the children's TV network really was to the inappropriate behavior of their top producer.

Nickelodeon kept quiet after McCurdy's I'm Glad My Mom Died hit the shelves. It seems they were waiting for the backlash to die down—then HBO Max dropped their investigative documentary March, 2024.

The latest crime to whip a media storm after the release of Quiet on Set: The Dark Side of Kids TV, concerns Drake and Josh star Drake Bell.

Drake and Josh Star, Drake Bell Claims Sexual Abuse

Drake Bell was one of the few male child actors Schneider took a shine to—and nearly 20 years later, it's been revealed the 35-year-old Bell is far from the lucky child star he appeared to be.

"The abuse was extensive and it got pretty brutal"
Drake Bell, Quiet on Set

In a heart-wrenching interview, Bell opens up for the first time ever at the alleged sexual abuse he faced as a young boy at the hands of dialogue coach Brien Peck (no relation to his co-star Josh Peck). Bell claims Peck began grooming him at around 15 years old.

Peck's gradual integration into Bell's life caused a rift between the young actor and his father, despite earlier concerns raised by Bell's father about Peck. Eventually, Bell cut ties with his father as his manager.

In 2001, when Bell was 15, he allegedly woke up to find Peck abusing him. Despite promises from Peck that it wouldn't happen again, the abuse worsened over time. Fearful of speaking out due to Peck's influential connections in the industry, Bell remained silent until 2003, when he confided in his mother after outside observation of his distress. This led to an investigation during which Bell recorded Peck's confession to the abuse.

Following a call to the police, an investigation commenced during which Bell disclosed he had recorded Peck's confession on tape. Nonetheless, Bell was surprised to find Peck's side "entire side of the courtroom was full" of supporters when he was sentenced in 2004 for lewd acts with a minor stemming from Bell's accusations.

Kate Taylor is the investigative journalist who called for the court to unseal the letters of support Peck received. Shockingly Peck's powerful industry connections had earned him over 40 letters—many of which included "victim blaming"—written by beloved celebrities like James Marsden and Alan Thicke.

All of these horrors occurred under the watchful eye of Dan Schneider—who was famous for knowing every single thing that moved on set—down to the very last detail.

So, Who Is Dan Schneider Really?

Jennette McCurdy on set of iCarly produced by Dan Schneider.

Well, it depends who you ask. If you ask Nickelodeon, he was their Michael Jordan.

Their top creative executive who amassed his $40 Million fortune creating hit TV show after hit TV show. From Zoey 101 to iCarly, Dan Schneider could not miss. In fact he is the recipient of their inaugural Lifetime Achievement Award. But if you asked former Zoey 101 child star, Alexa Nikolas, he was the creepy adult man who sat outside her change room during her costume fittings, when she was 12 years old.

“Whenever I had wardrobe fittings, [Schneider] always had to be in them. Thank God there was a curtain, but he was literally [sitting] on [a] chair right outside of the curtain. [It was] to the point where he would sit in the chair, and I would come out and do a little spin. [He] would look at the wardrobe artist and say, ‘Can I have the Polaroids?'”
- Alexa Nikolas, Real Pod

Before Nickelodeon He Suspiciously Dropped Out of Harvard To Repair Computers

It's been repeatedly reported the Dan Schneider, 58 exhibited an unhealthy obsession with the entertainment industry from an early age.

Even though Schneider was accepted to the prestigious Harvard University, he dropped out after just one semester to repair computers back in Memphis. The Drake and Josh creator has never elaborated on the reasoning behind this rather bizarre career choice.

Shortly after dropping out, Schneider (who acted in high school plays) became interested in acting after seeing an advertisement for on set extra work. After landing his first role in a movie, he moved to Los Angeles. He went on to appear in a variety of television shows and films throughout the 1980s and 1990s.

But Schneider's significant transition from actor to "creator" began when he joined Nickelodeon as a staff writer. He quickly rose in the ranks and became one of Nickelodeon's television producer's in the late 1990s, after meeting then-Nickelodeon President, Albie Hecht at The Kids Choice Awards (1988).

His First Hit Show, "All That"

Schneider's first success came with his kid's sketch comedy All That (1999). Schneider wrote the pilot in the style of popular adult sketch comedy Saturday Night Live, but with a kid-friendly twist—–sort of.

Over the 10 seasons, the All That casts included Keenan Thompson, Kel Mitchell, Gabriel Iglesias, Mariah Carey's Ex-Husband Nick Cannon, Jamie Lynn Spears, and most famously, Schenider's first muse—Amanda Bynes.

In 1999 Dan Schneider had displayed a fascination with Amanda Bynes. He was so blown away but her natural talent he created Bynes her very own show, aptly titled The Amanda Show.

Bynes was just 13.

He Was Proud To "Discover" Amanda Bynes

The first of its kind for kids, The Amanda Show was set up as a show-within-a-show.

At the beginning of each episode Bynes would enter onto a set reminiscent of an old talk show. She would address a studio audience before the episode would launch into a series of independent sketches that included stars like Drake Bell and Josh Peck.

Dan Schneider on "The Amanda Show"

Schneider's "world building" would become his signature, and spin-offs would become his main vehicle. Schneider's very own NCU (Nickelodeon Cinematic Universe) could not be stopped.

His collaboration with the network resulted in a string of remarkable successes, including the iconic shows including: Drake & Josh (2005), Zoey 101 (2006), iCarly (2007), Victorious (2010), Sam & Cat (2013).

Under his production company, Schneider's Bakery (named after his grandfather's shop), Schneider solidified his spot as not only Nickelodeon's top executive, but a powerhouse in children's programming.

If only it was a simple as that.

Controversies Around Dan Schneider's Best Known Series

Dan schneider and Jamie Lynn Spears
Dan Schneider and Jamie Lynn Spears

However, as Schneider's prominence grew, so did the controversies surrounding his behaviour on set and the treatment of his young actors.

Reports of an unhealthy work environment, allegations of verbal abuse, and questionable interactions with underage cast members raised significant concerns.

He Told This "Zoey 101" To Change In Front Of Him

Zoey 101 is a popular teen sitcom that aired on Nickelodeon from 2005 to 2008. The show follows the life of Zoey Brooks (Jamie Lynn Spears), a teenage girl who enrolls in the previously all-boys Pacific Coast Academy and navigates the challenges of school, friendships, budding romances, and how to give a men's urinal a makeover.

Finding out PCA was not a real school, and was actually just a compilation of exterior shots of Pepperdine University, was a character building moment in every 90s childhood.

But it turns out, PCA tween dream was not all it was cracked up to be.

Following the release of Jeanette McCurdy's memoir, actress Alexa Nikolas who played Nicole on the first two seasons of Zoey 101 has spoken out about her uncomfortable experiences with Schneider.

Dan schneider zoey101
"I did not feel safe around Dan Schneider while working at Nickelodeon. Every time he came on set my body got extremely tense."
- Alexa Nikolas

Nikolas joined the cast at only 12 years old. Schneider's boundary-busting behaviour (like sitting-in on Nikolas' wardrobe fittings) was instead spun as Schneider protecting his creative choice a-la "high standards."

For Nikolas those high standards were "traumatizing". In an interview with Insider, Nikolas recounts the hyper-sexualized energy on the children's television show.

*trigger warning*

Nikolas recalls a scene that made her deeply uncomfortable at 13-years old. In an unnamed episode, Jamie Lynn Spears had a syringe of goo squirted onto her face, that ends up drips down her in a suggestive way. According to Nikolas, Schneider found this shot amusing. The pornographic nature of this shot was apparent enough, that a male teenage cast mate was able to make the link, saying out loud "it's like a c*m shot."*

Schneider defended himself by saying the substance was green, similar to Nickelodeon's well-known slime, and stated that the episode aired without any concerns raised by viewers.

Nikolas was later written off the show for her behind-the-scenes feuding with Spears. She recalls Schneider pulling her into a meeting with other executives and yelling at her until she ran out and cried. Alexa Nikolas claims she felt bullied by Spears. The power imbalance was stark. Not only was Spears in a more senior position on the show (being the title character and having starred on The Amanda Show prior) but she is also pop-icon Britney Spears' younger sister.

In an interview, Nikolas recalls that at 12 years old, she did not see these power imbalances as she does now. When she brought, what she perceived to be her unfair treatment, to the attention of Schneider and Nickelodeon higher ups, she was reminded "this is not Nicole 101."

In 2022, Nikolas founded her initiative Eat The Predators, an activism group for minors in the entertainment industry.

As a result, Nikolas was not invited to join the cast of the movie reboot: Zoey 102, streaming July 27th, 2023 on Paramount +.

Nikolas was was released from her contract going into Season 3, and her character was replaced with Victoria Justice, who would, in true Schneider fashion, go on to have her own show (a version of a spin-off) Victorious.

Encouraging Teen Drinking On "Victorious" Was Just The Tip of The Iceberg

In 2010, Nickelodeon levelled up with its more mature show Victorious.

Victorious is perhaps most notable for giving two-time Grammy winner Ariana Grande her breakout role as Cat Valentine.

And while the Thank U, Next singer has stayed silent about her relationship with Schneider, Nickelodeon has come under fire for "sexualizing" and "infantalizing" young Grande in a compilation of resurfaced clips that speak for themselves.

Clips include Grande pouring water on herself upside down, putting her foot in her mouth, and sticking her fingers down her throat.

But Grande wasn't the only young actress they targeted in scripted scenes with pornographic undertones.

Daniella Monet, who played Victoria's older sister Trina, recalled a time when she expressed concern to the network about a particular Victorious scene–in which she ate a pickle while applying lip gloss.

Monet shared with executives that it felt too sexualized to air, but Nickelodeon dismissed her concerns and aired the episode anyway.

While most of the Victorious cast has remained tight-lipped over the allegations of misconduct, some chose to speak out. Jennette McCurdy, who played Sam Puckett on iCarly, did not–despite being offered $300,000 to stay silent.

"iCarly" Is His Most Successful Show To Date—The Dark Reality of His Pride and Joy

Jennette McCurdy with hand on face looking distraught.

Everything we know about Schnedier's sinster behavior on the set of iCarly we initially know from Jeanette McCurdy 2022 memoir.

I'm Glad My Mom Died is a moving account of McCurdy's experience growing up in a series of extremely controlling environments: being passed from her co-dependent mother to an even-more controlling Schneider.

In her memoir, McCurdy's recounts the textbook pattern of abuse and gaslighting she faced at the hands of Schneider.

As is the harrowing experience of most child actors, at 14, McCurdy was her family's breadwinner and exploited on either side of her paycheck.

In her memoir, McCurdy looks back at the spectrum of Schneider's behaviour. She recounts moments when Schneider would massage her at work, photograph her in a bikini, and pressure her to drink alcohol when she was underage. At the same time, Schneider was hanging the prospect of McCurdy's very own spin-off show over her head.

“The Creator is doing the thing that I’ve heard from my co-stars he does with every new star of a show that he’s making—he takes you under his wing. You’re his favorite...”
- Jennette McCurdy, I'm Glad My Mom Died

McCurdy also claimed, in the vein of clinically diagnosed narcissists everywhere, Schneider would often pit the stars of his two hit shows (iCarly and Victorious) against each other, in order to get them to do what he wanted them to do.

"The Victorious kids get drunk together all the time. The iCarly kids are so wholesome. We need to give you guys a little edge."
- Dan Schneider to Jennette McCurdy, "I'm Glad My Mom Died"

While none of McCurdy's co-stars have confirmed (or denied) her claims, they may not be at liberty to. Similar to Disney–Nickelodeon is known for making their young, naive talent sign binding NDAs.

However, McCurdy's been indirectly supported by a number of Nickelodeon executives and female writers who have spoken up on Schneider's overt sexism and all around creepy behaviour.

Dan Schneider Loves Feet—But Hates Women (Writers)

Schneider's outright distaste for female writers is well known in the industry.

Kayla Alpert a female writer on All That, relayed that on her first day, Schneider told her that women were not funny and dared her to name a single funny woman.

Schneider's reps have since spoken out to say Schneider, "really likes Tina Fey."

An unnamed Nickelodeon staff writer backed Alpert's claim stating Schneider once "openly stated he didn't like having female writers in the writer's room."

In fact, deep diving into The Schneider's Bakery archives we see after The Amanda Show, Schneider rarely hired female writers at all.

In fact his show Drake and Josh, and Zoey 101 credit a remarkable *zero* female writers. While the more progressive iCarly, Victorious, and Sam & Cat do not credit more than two women in the writers' room in the entirety of their runs.

In a harrowing chain of events, writer Jenny Kilgen disclosed Schneider would force her to massage his shoulders and preform embarrassing tasks for money.

Schneider allegedly pressured the writer into simulating "being sodomized" while she was telling a story about high school–because. When these claims resurfaced Nickelodeon decided it was probably time to cut the chord.

Where is Dan Schneider Today?

In an exclusive interview with and paraphrased by theNew York Times, "[Schneider] declined to comment on the investigation. But he defended his leadership style, denied he left on bad terms, and described his departure as a natural confluence of events after an 'exhausting' period in which he delivered as many as 50 episodes of shows each year.

While the jury's out on whether or not anyone's buying this, and whether or not Schneider (who's been virtually silent since the allegations dropped) will ever work again–the overall consensus is: wherever Dan Schneider is now, is a place I don't want to be.

Update: Since the release of "Quiet on Set: The Dark Side of Kids TV" Dan Schneider Has Broken His Silence

In an online statement, the former Nickelodeon producer acknowledged numerous reports of inappropriate behavior shared by actors and others featured in the recent docuseries, Quiet on Set.

In his video apology, Schneider urges Nickelodeon to remove questionable content from previous shows.

The Lesson Learned

While it's easy to dismiss Schneider's influence because of his show's young target audience, in stark reality, Schneider was the head of a children's network that had a net worth of over $20 billion dollars. That's a lot of power.

Under his jurisdiction, Nickelodeon became the most valuable children's cable TV network in the world. Schneider managed to make his way from actor to writer to producer to show runner over the years with little to stand in his way, and all with that big, Harvard, brain of his.

It took brave and confident women, actors and writers alike, who refused to take part in his games, refused to sit quietly when they knew something was wrong, and to speak out against the man who held their pay checks in his hand.

It takes strength and bravado to take on an industry Goliath. Through the strength of these women, one was taken down. Even small voices have the power to make a large impact.

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