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Review: Quiet on Set: The Dark Side of Kids TV

The late 90s to early 2010s was the Roman Empire of children’s television with classics such as Zoe 101, iCarly, Victorious, Drake and Josh, and many others that shaped the childhoods of today’s generation of teenagers and young adults. It was Nickelodeon, a television powerhouse often in competition with Disney Channel, who created most of those iconic, and now nostalgic, shows. However, my, and many others’, feelings have changed since watching the new docu-series, Quiet on Set: The Dark Side of Kids TV, which explores what was happening on the Nickelodeon sets of some of the most popular children’s television shows.

HBO Max

Quiet on Set: The Dark Side of Kids TV is a documentary built off journalist Kate Taylor’s 2022 article where she criticized the practices of Nickelodeon’s Dan Schneider, and even the network itself. But this series also comes from years of speculation and controversy surrounding Dan Schneider and Nickelodeon. In that article, Taylor references Jennette McCurdy’s (iCarly and Sam and Cat–both produced and created by Dan Schneider) memoir, I’m Glad My Mom Died. In it, she reveals the mistreatment she faced from an unnamed “creator” of iCarly, often presumed to be Dan Schnieder.

At the same time, Netflix began streaming Nickelodeon classics such as iCarly and Victorious. The then-child-now-young adult audience began to notice things that were once seen as “funny” or even “normal,” are actually strange and inappropriate for a children’s show. This newfound discomfort only grew, especially with the addition of discussions about the shows on social media. Then enter Quiet on Set, a formal dive into the swirling speculation.  

Quiet on Set has four episodes out, with a fifth episode just released. Using interviews with adults and the then-child actors who worked on Dan Schneider’s sets and clips from the shows themselves, Quiet on Set connects the dots to give viewers a concise and riveting story.

I binge-watched all four episodes in one night, completely captivated, and equally disturbed, while watching the harsh realities unfold before me. While the first and last episodes effectively bookend the series, the middle two episodes were by far the most horrific and have stuck with me the longest after watching. The episodes, titled “Hidden in Plain Sight” and “The Darkest Secret,” dove into two different child predators who worked directly with children on the set of Dan Schneider’s The Amanda Show. Both men were seen as friendly, safe, and trusted adults by cast members, and both men abused their positions to exploit children. Watching people recount their experiences drove home the overarching theme of child safety, or in this case, a lack thereof. Two different predators, with different victims, both jumped at the same opportunity to use their positions to abuse children. These two episodes discussed the heaviest topics and were, in my opinion, the most disturbing. But they were also the most eye-opening and have continued to stick with me weeks after watching. 

I would recommend this doc to anyone interested in True Crime documentaries or anyone who has gone down the Dan Schneider conspiracy rabbit hole on social media, especially since this doc condenses and contextualizes most of the material circling social media.  For people who grew up in the 90s to 2000s watching these television shows, watching this documentary is particularly important. Young, impressionable viewers were exposed to inappropriate behavior in these shows. As they grow up, those viewers need to recognize the issues with the media they were being fed as children. It also opens a conversation for what is appropriate for children and how we protect children from inappropriate behavior as we, as a society, move forward. However, before sitting down to watch Quiet on Set, please be warned that extremely sensitive subjects such as sexual assault, pedophilia, the sexualization of children, abuse of power, sexual harassment, etc. are mentioned.  

Quiet on Set: The Dark Side of Kids TV was the most gut-wrenching documentary I have seen in a while. It captures the dangers children face in the entertainment industry as well as the long-lasting effects of that exposure. Quiet on Set was a simply heartbreaking yet enthralling documentary.

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