In a report for the New York Times in 2007, writer Jonathan Dee marveled at an unusual situation: Nickelodeon had ordered 13 episodes of a show without knowing the title, cast or even seeing a script for a pilot.
“At first I thought I must have heard this wrong. Thirteen episodes of a concept?” Dee wrote. “… How was it possible that a network … could have already scheduled a season’s worth of a show that no one there seemed to know the first thing about?”
A Nickelodeon executive, Dee wrote, simply shrugged and said, ”It’s Dan.”
That anecdote demonstrates the supreme level of confidence — and reliance — that Nickelodeon had in Dan Schneider, the prolific showrunner, producer and writer who was a powerful force at the channel for 24 years. Then, this week, Nickelodeon announced that Schneider would part ways with the network.
“Following many conversations together about next directions and future opportunities, Nickelodeon and our long-time creative partner Dan Schneider/Schneider’s Bakery have agreed to not extend the current deal,” Nickelodeon and Schneider said in a joint statement. “Since several Schneider’s Bakery projects are wrapping up, both sides agreed that this is a natural time for Nickelodeon and Schneider’s Bakery to pursue other opportunities and projects.” The network thanked Schneider’s team for its “immeasurable contributions to Nickelodeon.”
Schneider’s departure might come as a surprise, as he still has three shows on the channel: “Henry Danger”; its animated spinoff, “The Adventures of Kid Danger”; and “Game Shakers.” Deadline Hollywood, which first broke the story, reported that there had been complaints about Schneider’s alleged behavior, including his “well-documented temper issues for years”; and how he has come under fire online for tweeting pictures of his young female stars’ feet.
Nickelodeon did not respond to questions about Deadline’s report; Schneider’s representative declined to comment. On Tuesday, Page Six quoted someone who said “Schneider had been the victim of false online smears, and that his exit comes amid a change of management at the network, a disagreement over the ending for ‘Game Shakers’ and a fight over studio space.”
It’s hard to overlook how important Schneider, 52, was to Nickelodeon — writers have described him as “the Norman Lear of kids television”; “the Aaron Sorkin of tween sitcoms”; and “teen TV’s reigning champ, who can’t seem to touch an idea without turning it into an unwieldy pile of cash for Nick.”
Schneider, whom the network gave its first Lifetime Achievement Award in 2014, had 10 hit shows and counting on Nickelodeon, starting with the sketch-comedy “All That,” commonly known as “Saturday Night Live” for children. Back in 1988, Schneider (a star of ABC sitcom “Head of the Class”) was first recruited by Nickelodeon to host the second annual Kids’ Choice Awards. In 1994, his former “Head of the Class” co-star, Brian Robbins, co-created “All That” and hired Schneider as an executive producer and head writer. The show ran for 10 seasons.
Many stories written about Schneider over the years mention his uncanny ability to know what children will find funny, and his eye for spotting talent. “All That” featured Kenan Thompson (now on the actual “Saturday Night Live”) and Kel Mitchell, who starred in a Robbins-Schneider spin-off “Kenan & Kel” in 1996. But Dee’s New York Times story reported the “turning point” in Schneider’s relationship with Nickelodeon occurred when he added 9-year-old Amanda Bynes to the cast of “All That” after seeing her at a talent showcase with Robbins.
Nickelodeon executives tried to create a star vehicle for Bynes, but their attempts flopped, Dee reported — that is, until Schneider took the reins. He created “The Amanda Show” in 1999, another sketch comedy series where Bynes, a talented impersonator, could let loose. It was a massive success, and Schneider was suddenly seen as the kingmaker in the competitive world of children’s TV programming.
“There’s an element of magic to it; and so when you find a grown-up like Schneider with the requisite mojo, you pretty much let him do whatever he wants,” Dee wrote. He added that Schneider didn’t mind admitting he required “total creative control” on his shows, and quoted Schneider as saying ”Delegating is something that I don’t do as much of as people wish I would.”
This didn’t seem to matter — afterward, he seemed to have the keys to the Nickelodeon kingdom, always looking for the star of his next show among the supporting cast of his current hits.
Drake Bell and Josh Peck were on “The Amanda Show,” which led to “Drake & Josh” (2004). Jamie Lynn Spears starred on “All That,” which led to “Zoey 101” (2005). Miranda Cosgrove was the little sister on “Drake & Josh,” which led to “iCarly” (2007). Victoria Justice was on “Zoey 101,” which led to “Victorious” (2010). Jennette McCurdy and Ariana Grande were the second leads on “iCarly” and “Victorious,” which led to co-starring vehicle “Sam & Cat” (2013).
The Schneider empire showed public signs of fraying with “Sam & Cat” in mid-2014. Nickelodeon, thrilled with the initial ratings, ordered a 40-episode first season — a “daunting” number, as Schneider put it. This ramped up the pressure on everyone, including McCurdy and Grande, who were both in their early 20s and had eyes on singing careers. Rumors flew of a feud between the stars, and though they denied it, the show was canceled after 35 episodes.
While that was a rare miss for Schneider, he didn’t slow down, creating “Henry Danger,” which Deadline said will be renewed for a fifth season. (“Game Shakers” will end after its current third season, Nickelodeon confirmed; and the fate of the “Henry Danger” spinoff is unknown.)
The New York Times wrote that Schneider’s exit is “notable” as the channel tries to combat falling ratings, citing research firm MoffettNathanson, which reported the channel is down 22 percent among its 2- to 11-year-old core audience.
Now the network is without its most influential producer, and there’s no word on where Schneider is headed next. As Variety noted in a 2013 report about Schneider renewing his contract with Nickelodeon, “he has the kind of control over his shows that he knows would be hard to command anywhere else.”
“There are very few people in the entertainment business who have the level of creative control that I do,” Schneider told Variety. “Nickelodeon has always been generous in giving me a lot of latitude.”