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Branding Nick at Nite
April 15, 2014 11:45 AM   Subscribe

"Knowing we are watching something that doesn't fit in today's world and being completely self-conscious about our enjoyment of it is the essence of Nick-At-Nites's appeal." Fascinating memo from 1987 about Nick at Nite's brand and positioning.

Exhibits:
Animated Nick at Nite promos (previously)
My Three Sons singalong
Donna Reedaholism
An interview with the back of Patty Duke's head
Or you can just jump into the motherload - a half-hour collection of Nickelodeon, Nick Jr. and Nick at Nite promos
posted by roll truck roll (51 comments total) 25 users marked this as a favorite

 
I love that the memo is from 1987, considering that's about the same time I, a six year old, was falling in love with classic TV via Nick At Nite.
posted by Sara C. at 12:06 PM on April 15 [8 favorites]


Is this the place to mention that my household has recently become hooked on Me-TV?
posted by General Tonic at 12:13 PM on April 15 [5 favorites]


I was a little bit older, but yeah, watching Nick at Nite at the time period has always given me a cachet with the generation that's about two generations removed from me. It might also be why I got such a kick out of Pleasantville.
posted by Atreides at 12:13 PM on April 15 [3 favorites]


Ah, nick at nite. Thank you for all the memories. I think I will always have the Patty Duke Show song in my head.
posted by Our Ship Of The Imagination! at 12:15 PM on April 15


Sara C: I have a feeling we would have been fast friends if we were around each other at that time. I was the same age and me and this other kid would talk about Nick At Nite at recess until the other kids made fun of us and we stopped and gave in and went to play kick ball like "normal" kids, I guess.
posted by Our Ship Of The Imagination! at 12:16 PM on April 15 [2 favorites]


Yesssss we could dress up as Cousinnnnnnssssss, Identical Cousinnnnnssssssss for Halloween.
posted by Sara C. at 12:24 PM on April 15 [2 favorites]


I lived on the west coast of Australia growing up. For me this meant having pay TV being 2-3 hours behind the east coast feed. And the TV provider was too cheap to provide a tape delayed feed for the seven or so of us who actually had pay TV (via MDS (!)) on the west coast growing up.

This meant that when Nick switched over to Nick-at-Nite at 9pm or whenever it was it was still prime time on our coast. So I had the boyhood crush on Mary Tyler Moore, Marlo Thomas, Elizabeth Montgomery like the boys a generation removed from me.
posted by Talez at 12:28 PM on April 15 [3 favorites]


Nick At Nite came on during prime time here in the states, too. That was its purpose -- the Nickelodeon children's programming was mostly focused on daytime and after-school/before-the-news timeslots. Nickelodeon needed something the whole family could watch, to run at times that adults are more likely to be controlling the remote. Old reruns of prime-time programming were the solution.

The first Nickelodeon programming to edge into prime time was probably Snick, on Saturday nights in the early 90s. Not sure what they're doing these days, now that TV Land is its own thing, and everyone is catering to the tween market who stay up later.
posted by Sara C. at 12:35 PM on April 15 [2 favorites]


Later in the 1990s (possibly early 2000s) Nick at Nite had a brilliant jingle about Burt Mustin that they would air every so often. Sadly, it does not seem to be floating around online but while looking for it I found this other song about Burt Mustin, so I call that a win.
posted by usonian at 12:36 PM on April 15 [1 favorite]


Fred Seibert's blog is amazing. As someone raised on the Viacom family of channels in the '80s, I find myself going back to it for a nostalgia kick more often than almost any other blog. I was obsessed with HA! the TV Comedy Network, and he's put up a goldmine of promotional materials and ephemera related to that short-lived station.
posted by mykescipark at 12:38 PM on April 15 [4 favorites]


I made this post because I'd been getting more and more obsessed with Nick at Nite. My brother sent me a link to the Patty Duke interview and it brought a bunch of memories rushing back. Watching these promos, I realized that a big chunk of my sense of humor can be traced directly back to those Nick at Nite promos. The way that they invite the audience to laugh at itself, to play the character of the "audience" for the shows being advertised. Reading the branding document made me realize what a calculated strategy it was.
posted by roll truck roll at 12:42 PM on April 15 [1 favorite]


You might note that it’s also the first linking of Nick-at-Nite with TV Land (”Hello out there from TV Land!” a variation of the 1950s original “Hello out there in TV Land!”)

This is placeholder for me to remember, if I ever learn as much about media studies as I should, to write a paper about how the term "TV Land" went from referencing the viewers to what was being viewed. Because that's just fascinating.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 12:43 PM on April 15 [14 favorites]


I'm old enough that the original Nick at Night shows weren't a novelty, but at the time I remember being very happy to find something familiar to keep on in the background once in a while because there may have been 200 channels but there was little to fill them all.

Is this the place to mention that my household has recently become hooked on Me-TV?

I remember when channels like this used to show things like Father Knows Best. Then they moved on to Dragnet, and later Hogan's Hero's. Once they started showing Good Times and The Partridge Famiy I realized that Classic Syndicated TV had caught up with me and the writing was on the wall: Soon PBS will have music concerts I can relate to and I will officially be old by TV standards.
posted by Room 641-A at 12:50 PM on April 15 [5 favorites]


Sara C.: I love that the memo is from 1987, considering that's about the same time I, a six year old, was falling in love with classic TV via Nick At Nite.

Interesting. My family adopted my little sister when she was six. My parents adopted her from Russia, and she knew no English, and she is a decade younger than me, and only a bit closer in age to my younger brother. Long story short, she was partially raised by TV. Her shows of choice were Three's Company and The Cosby Show. She was quite happy to watch marathons of either show late into the night.
posted by filthy light thief at 12:56 PM on April 15


I watched a lot of different shows on Nick at Night back in the day, but I mostly remember it introducing me to Laugh In and SNL, for which I am eternally grateful.
posted by AlonzoMosleyFBI at 1:15 PM on April 15 [1 favorite]


I also have vague memories of there sometimes being SCTV, but I might be thinking of some other classic TV heavy cable channel like TBS or something.
posted by Sara C. at 1:16 PM on April 15 [1 favorite]


I watched Nick at Nite tons as a teenager with insomnia, after I inherited a TV no one else wanted. I spent so many nights (countless) falling asleep to Patty Duke ("But they're cousins! Identical cousins all the way...") or Dick Van Dyke and waking up to the annoyingly loud cartoony stuff in the mornings. I miss it sometimes, when I'm tired of thinking and I just want something simple to watch.
posted by routergirl at 1:34 PM on April 15 [1 favorite]


I'm so thankful for Nick at Nite. That network allowed my grandmother and me to bond over our shared love of Get Smart.
posted by infinitewindow at 1:43 PM on April 15 [5 favorites]


Some more Nick At Nite promo stuff, since they did a lot of cool and whimsical things with thoe spots back in the day: Guy Series.
(I thought George Carlin showed up in one of these, but reviewing it I don't see him. Hmm.)
posted by JHarris at 2:01 PM on April 15


Is this the place to mention that my household has recently become hooked on Me-TV?

SVENGOOLIE LIVES!!
posted by JHarris at 2:02 PM on April 15 [4 favorites]


(Seriously, he had a heart attack last year but he's doing MUCH BETTER NOW!)
posted by JHarris at 2:03 PM on April 15


I was in college when Nick At Nite was starting, and I remember that I loved these promos, but couldn't stand the actual shows -- they were all too "un-self-conscious"! It wasn't until Mystery Science Theater 3000 came along that I found a TV show which approached campy, shitty old media in the funny-cynical way I was comfortable with.
posted by Harvey Kilobit at 2:04 PM on April 15 [2 favorites]


I was obsessed with HA! the TV Comedy Network, and he's put up a goldmine of promotional materials and ephemera related to that short-lived station.

Ah!! I too have been obsessed with that, but have had little to feed that obsession. Thanks for the pointer!
posted by JHarris at 2:05 PM on April 15 [1 favorite]


The main things that really separated me from my fellow students as a kid in elementary school were cable television and divorced parents. We had broadcast tv, and my parents somehow begrudgingly stayed together (and still are).

It was just my perspective, but looking back, there's some irony to the fact that other kids were watching these 60s and 70s-era images of "perfect" families and slapstick workplaces at home with their single parents and I was at home watching Night Court.
posted by mikeh at 2:33 PM on April 15 [4 favorites]


We got cable when I was ten, a bright light in a year that included a cancer diagnosis and my sister leaving home for college. Because of the wonky hours of the sick kid, I would watch Nick at Nite when the rest of my friends were going to bed.

I had a favorite show, of course: The Monkees. Oh my word, I loved the Monkees. I went to the local TSS (thank you late 80s Long Island) and bought a cassette of a live show and used my octave and a half Casio keyboard to pretend I played the keyboards on "Last Train to Clarksville." I was a dedicated fan.

So, combine my youthful devotion to Mike Nesmith...er the Monkees with a clear misunderstanding of what Nick at Nite was and you might understand my absolute SHOCK at seeing Davy Jones on the cover of some teen mag at 7-11, suddenly in his mid 40s. I had no idea that a show that was in color could be twenty years old.

It was a tough lesson in growing up.
posted by ovenmitt at 3:03 PM on April 15 [8 favorites]


STRENGTHEN OUR KNEES
posted by infinitewindow at 3:26 PM on April 15 [4 favorites]


My first Nick at Nite experience was pretty surreal; like mikeh I grew up without cable, but in 1990 my family moved out of the sticks to a real live town with traffic lights, grocery stores, and cable! We spent our first night in our new town in a hotel room. There was a Ramada nearby, but my dad had reserved a room at this place based on the recommendation of my grandmother. (We found out after the fact that this recommendation was not made from any personal knowledge, but because she had driven by it a couple of times and noticed it.)

So, we check in and it's the apotheosis of seedy, outdated, run-down motels. Even the air seems dingy. The decor hasn't been updated since the 1970s. Somebody turns on the ancient Zenith television and the cable box is already on Nick at Nite. The program? Fernwood 2 Night. So there we sit in that weird mid-move limbo, watching a dated 1970's TV show on a dated 1970's television set in a dated 1970s hotel room. Looking back now, the 13 years between 1977 and 1990 doesn't seem like much, but at the time it was like time travel.
posted by usonian at 3:30 PM on April 15 [4 favorites]


Oh man I like deeply, deeply did not understand Fernwood 2 Night, through the lens of Nick At Nite, as a child.

Even now, I'm dimly aware that it was a jokey comedy thing, but I'm still vaguely confused about the whole thing.
posted by Sara C. at 3:33 PM on April 15 [5 favorites]


Yeah, I could tell that Fernwood 2 Night was supposed to be funny, but I think the humor and satire were pretty topical and specific to 1977, when it ran for 3 months. I didn't get any of the jokes and it was pretty much alienating. (3 months?! I feel like Nick at Nite ran multiple-hour blocks of that show every night for years!)
posted by usonian at 3:44 PM on April 15 [1 favorite]


Reading the Wikipedia Article, it occurs to me that it was like the 1977 version of Comedy Bang! Bang! Which I'm sure will be equally incomprehensible in 20 years.
posted by Sara C. at 3:48 PM on April 15


Oh how I loved Nick and Nite.
My earliest desires to disobey my parents were to try and stay up late enough to watch the Monkees and Laugh In.
posted by flaterik at 4:58 PM on April 15


I liked Nick At Nite, but being able to see Fernwood 2 Night for the first time since Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman was on the air made my life.

And yes, it's comedy tended to be specific to its era, but some bits are just timeless. Like when Tom Waits wound up on the show. Or Fannie Flagg as Sylvia Miller talking about her UFO abduction. Or Happy Kyne and the Mirthmakers getting down with their bad selves. Or any episode featuring the late, great Kenneth Mars (featured previously).

I reckon I'm an oddball because I like a lot of old, dated comedy, and Fernwood 2 Night was certainly dated when I got to enjoy the re-runs on Nick At Nite. But so much of that humor needed no context, because some things about human nature just don't change.
posted by magstheaxe at 6:26 PM on April 15 [4 favorites]


Soon PBS will have music concerts I can relate to and I will officially be old by TV standards.

Too late. Nine Inch Nails just did Austin City Limits.
posted by hippybear at 6:31 PM on April 15 [7 favorites]


(3 months?! I feel like Nick at Nite ran multiple-hour blocks of that show every night for years!)

Well, Nick At Nite also ran America 2Night, which was a sort of sequel or continuation of the show. And I think both shows were on 4 or 5 nights a week, like they were actual late night talk shows, not parodies of late night talk shows. If memory serves, NAN actually only ran two of them a night, as they were fond of doing 1-hour blocks of their shows.
posted by hippybear at 6:35 PM on April 15


I just looked at the Nick at Nite schedule. It has Friends on it. I remember F Troop (I can probably still sing the song for it) and Dragnet. Shows that were 30-40 years old. Friends ended just 10 years ago. It's hard to feel campy about something that is not that old.

(On the other hand, I fell down a wiki hole about the Smothers Brothers due to this and ended up watching a documentary on them, so thanks!)
posted by Hactar at 7:25 PM on April 15 [2 favorites]


It cuts through the clutter of 36 network choices...

Ah, such simpler times.

And what's with all the whitespace in this paper? Is this a typical way the ad men present things in a dramatic fashion?
posted by JoeZydeco at 7:28 PM on April 15


Tangentially related: I remain upset that the only place I have ever been able to see The Many Loves Of Dobie Gillis is in the vague memories of watching it on mid-80's Nick At Nite.

Maynard G. Krebs > Gilligan

Wait a minute.. does that G stand for Gilligan?

*mind explodes out the back of my skull*
posted by mediocre at 7:30 PM on April 15 [1 favorite]


I remain upset that the only place I have ever been able to see The Many Loves Of Dobie Gillis is in the vague memories of watching it on mid-80's Nick At Nite.

Maynard G. Krebs > Gilligan


You should find a copy of Gilligan's Wake, which is one of the most entertaining, Nick At Nite-related bits of modern literature I've ever found. The framing device for each of the related but not-related stories is a man in an insane asylum who believes himself to be Maynard G Krebs but who is being treated like he is another person entirely, who may or may not have spent time shipwrecked on an island close to Hawaii.

Although the novel is compared to Joyce and Pynchon, if you have any familiarity with 20th Century history post-WWII and pop culture (particularly television), the book isn't really that much work.

WORK! *cringe*
posted by hippybear at 7:36 PM on April 15 [2 favorites]


Friends ended just 10 years ago. It's hard to feel campy about something that is not that old

The funny thing about Friends on Nickelodeon is that, like Seinfeld on TBS, they've actually rescanned the shows from the original film and are showing them in Hi-Def. The shows look new.
posted by JoeZydeco at 7:43 PM on April 15


The very concept of a work of literature that draws comparisons to Joyce and Pynchon in its sheer density about a guy who thinks himself as Maynard and slash or Gilligan gives me so much joy and hope for the world. I will immediately seek this overlooked gem of a novel.
posted by mediocre at 7:43 PM on April 15 [2 favorites]


"Your boss is a butthead.

The Sun is a dying star.

You suck at bridge.

Nick At Nite can help!"
posted by hippybear at 8:38 PM on April 15 [1 favorite]


Saw some of those promos a while back, and it really made me miss the calming voice of the main voiceover guy.

I distinctly remember first getting cable at maybe 6 yrs old, and my dad showing me Mr Ed, which ended up being one of my favorites. The Monkees was another one, and Car 54, which at one point signaled bedtime when the end credits were over.

And I nth being confused by Fernwood, and other "grown up" comedies like Laugh In and even SNL. But I watched anyway because what else was on? I recently watched the 2/3rds of the one "Turkey TV" episode in YouTube. Not quite what I remember.

Anyway, Nick at Nite was another reason it was great to be a kid in the 80s, and probably a parent for that matter. And I kinda wonder if the 80s is actually more jarring for kids now than the 50s/60s were for 80s kids.
posted by TheSecretDecoderRing at 8:39 PM on April 15 [2 favorites]


And I kinda wonder if the 80s is actually more jarring for kids now than the 50s/60s were for 80s kids.

My involvement with furry has me in contact with a lot of 20-somethings who are obsessed with the 80s. I don't know if it's more jarring, but they are totally obsessed, in ways which I find disconcerting.

It's like, it wasn't that awesome when I lived through it (although I have some nostalgia and sentimentality for it now, especially for the music which was decidedly awesome compared to today)... But wow, these young adults into the 80s, they want EVERYTHING about the 80s. (Except perhaps the politics, because that sucked, as everyone knows. Even them.)
posted by hippybear at 8:44 PM on April 15 [2 favorites]


Gilligan's Wake is available on Kindle. I was expecting a longish wait for a used book vendor to ship the hardback, but I can start it tonight. Thanks for mentioning it. Never heard of it and it sounds amazing.

Nick at Nite was definitely part of my teens. I remember annoying my friends on the long and pointless Friday night cruises by singing the Mr. Ed and Patty Duke theme songs over and over again. So much of my television in those days was stuff made before I was born. Not just the Nick at Nite lineup but also the Jack Benny Show on WGN, Monkees on MTV, Monty Python on PBS, and whoever was playing Green Acres.

Out of all of them, Green Acres was my favorite. Surreal, completely absurd, the story of a man in a universe where he's the last sane and logical one. Even his wife goes native and joins the incomprehensible rituals of the locals, leaving him completely isolated and in a place where science and his rationalism offers no explanation and no comfort. For whatever reason, hick humor+dada was the perfect mix when I was 16.
posted by honestcoyote at 12:44 AM on April 16 [1 favorite]


I never liked watching The Monkees as a kid, but I will always remember knowing it was time for my dad to get home from work when I heard the theme song.
posted by youngergirl44 at 8:00 AM on April 16


Another childhood confusion -- The Monkees.

Totally thought they were a real band until at least high school.

For some reason I didn't have the same confusion about The Partridge Family, though, which is interesting.

Maybe because The Monkees seemed like such a clear parallel to the Beatles and other British Invasion 60s pop? And it's not like any of those bands were less manufactured or derivative.
posted by Sara C. at 9:46 AM on April 16 [2 favorites]


(Note, by "those bands" I mean all the slick bubblegum Beatles knockoffs, not The Beatles. Obviously.)
posted by Sara C. at 9:46 AM on April 16


Well, for the most part they didn't play their instruments or write the songs, but they were more or less real.

They had one episode where it was documentary footage of a concert, and the guys weren't in character. Exciting and dramatic stuff. I think I was kinda confused by that one and realized, oh, they are real.
posted by TheSecretDecoderRing at 10:39 AM on April 16


Totally thought they were a real band until at least high school.

They were real enough that Jimi Hendrix opened for them on tour.
posted by Room 641-A at 1:16 PM on April 16 [2 favorites]


Another childhood confusion -- The Monkees.

Ugh. I was big into watching the Monkees. I had a cassette tape of their biggest hits and listened to it all the time. Then they came to Roanoke on a reunion tour, where my grandparents lived and my family happened to be visiting. For a reason that I have yet to uncover, my parents took my older sister and went, leaving me behind; dejected, betrayed and confused. It's a betrayal indelibly seared into my childhood memories. I even remember asking how it started, "....well they started playing their instruments..and then revealed they were just pantomiming to a record player, which they then destroyed and started playing their instruments for real...."


Blargh.
posted by Atreides at 1:59 PM on April 16 [2 favorites]


I loved Nick At Nite as a child. My dad even ordered me a Shoephone during a Get Smart gimmick. It was a big deal, because we had never ordered anything off of the tv before.

It was awesome to be able to bond with my parents, who were quite a bit removed from me in age, and the shows on Nick At Nite were the shows my parents watched when their family/family members eventually acquired television sets.

I remember my folks explaining to me how culturally Important television was in the '60s and '70s; how people would find out about what was going on during the war and Washington and how people would stay home on such-and-such night because X Show was on.

I have an antenna now, and I watch MeTV everyday from 4-6 because Dragnet, Adam-12, and the best, Emergency! People know not to call during my tv block; I'm like my mom back when her stories were still on the air.
posted by sara is disenchanted at 8:51 PM on April 16 [2 favorites]


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