Children's cable was once dominated by stories about everyday kids. Now it's saturated with shows about wannabe celebrities.
Clarissa Darling—in a scrunchied ponytail, dangling daisy earrings, and rolled-up, floral-print trousers—slinks through the bushes and across her front porch. She's ducking in front of the windows. She can't risk being seen. Her mother's inside, revving up a family meeting. Safely making it to the stoop, Clarissa plops down, looks at the camera, and addresses the audience: "Mom has declared no TV," she bristles. "For a week!" She vents to viewers, comparing the guilty pleasures of TV and potato chips, when her little brother, in a turtleneck, sticks his head out the door and spits, "If I've got to sit in there, so do you." "Don't worry pimple head," she snarls back. "I'll be there in a minute!" It's the cold open to a 1991 episode of Nickelodeon's live-action comedy Clarissa Explains It All, which featured a likable young teen sneaking out to Pearl Jam concerts, playing computer games, and wearing lots of Keith Haring T-shirts.
Tori Vega—wearing makeup and skinny jeans and carrying an oversized leather purse—strides to the lunch table to meet her friends. They're all students at Hollywood Arts High, a school for fledgling performers. Today, Tori and friends are discussing an ice cream sweepstakes that nabs one lucky winner a private concert with pop superstar Ke$ha. "So far this week, I've eaten 11 pints of ice cream," says one young man. He wants to collect all the letters in Ke$ha's name from different pint containers so he can be crowned the winner. Airing 20 years after Clarissa, this is the opening scene in a 2011 episode of Victorious, a live-action comedy currently airing on Nick. In this episode, the gang eventually wrangles all of the letters (they find the "$" last) and wins the contest. Mocktails in hand, the kids are seen club-dancing as Ke$ha sings, "This place about to blow," and shoots glitter bazookas in Tori's living room. The episode ends with Ke$ha asking Tori, "Are your cheekbones real?"