OPINION: ‘Quiet on Set’ a triggering look at kids television

“Quiet on Set” is a new docuseries on HBO Max that uncovers a toxic culture behind the camera of 90s and early 2000s children’s television. The life of child actors, stardom and the studio’s clandestine practices are this series’ central themes. The first episode was released on March 17 and its fifth and final bonus episode was released on April 7. 

Many of the viewers who grew up watching Nickelodeon during the era discussed in the series are now college students and young adults in the world. This series has not only grabbed the attention of viewers but also former cast members and anyone else related to the productions.  

“Quiet on Set” exposes multiple perpetrators who were involved with productions behind the scenes. Most notably, Dan Schneider was a producer at Nickelodeon between 1994 and 2019 and is credited for creating many television shows that readers may be familiar with, such as “iCarly,” “Drake and Josh,” “Zoey 101,” and “Victorious.” 

We hear directly from cast and crew members from Nickelodeon television shows over the decades and what experiences they had to share. Many interviewed starred on one of Nickelodeon’s longest-running shows, “All That.” We also hear from the only two female writers to work on “All That” and the degrading misogynist work environment that they had to endure.  

Amanda Bynes’ name is brought up constantly. Bynes starred in both “All That” and the later spin-off series “The Amanda Show,” where she was the titular character. Bynes was an actor on Nickelodeon from around 1996 to 2002. Her career would then fall apart when she experienced substance abuse and mental health struggles, eventually leading her to be placed under conservatorship. This fate is similar to that of other child stars like Lindsay Lohan and Britney Spears.  

Actor Drake Bell shares personal accounts of abuse he suffered while working on set for “Drake and Josh.” Bell shared his personal experience of sexual abuse by Brian Peck. Peck was sentenced to 16 months of incarceration for multiple accounts of child sexual abuse. Bell had not shared any of this information publicly until the airing of this docuseries.   

In 2022, former Nickelodeon actor Jeanette McCurdy published a book titled “I’m Glad My Mom Died.” This memoir delves into McCurdy’s life as a child actor and the role her mother played in encouraging a certain lifestyle and behaviors. There is brief mention of strange misconduct happening on set during some of her filming. In hindsight, this book may have been the beginning of exposing the dark realities of Nickelodeon and the life of child actors.  

The series has taken storm on TikTok over the past few weeks with discussion and speculation, many of these uploads coming from former fans of Nickelodeon’s hit shows. From reactions of shock, disgust and rage, many have begun to discuss their own theories on the life of child actors. 

Many who watch this series and also grew up watching Nickelodeon may look at some of their favorite childhood shows differently. Based on the content of the series viewers should be aware of potential triggering themes being discussed.