90s, Blog, League, TV — August 15, 2014 10:00 am

Compare and Contrast: YTV vs. Nickelodeon

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This week’s assignment for the League asks us to “Compare and Contrast”. We can do this with a ton of things—for those that don’t know, Linz is Canadian while Lee is American. During our visits to each others’ countries, we inevitably notice many differences—Reese’s Cups are Reese Cups in Canada. Our Corn Pops are markedly dissimilar. And most important of all: one of us had YTV while the other grew up on Nickelodeon instead.


Growing up, YTV was a big part of my daily television routine. Their slogan was “Keep It Weird”, which perfectly described my personality (yeah, I was one of those kids). The station launched in September 1988, just in time to expose me to You Can’t Do That on Television as I headed off to first grade.


YTV is closely related to Nickelodeon, however. YTV was treated like Nickelodeon Canada (up until 1999 when Nickelodeon Canada finally became a thing). YTV aired Doug, Rugrats, Rocko’s Modern Life, The Secret Life of Alex Mack, and lots more. But it was the PJs, YTV’s wacky original programming, and their love of Sailor Moon that set them apart from Nickelodeon.

YTV broke their programming up into blocks, the most memorable one for me being “The Zone” (previously “The Afterschool Zone”). Their early morning block was called “The Treehouse”, which later became its own channel.

In Canada, all media outlets have to answer to a higher power—the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC). The CRTC has restrictions on advertising in children’s programming, so with fewer ads running during the shows, YTV was left with a bunch of airtime to fill between shows. This is where the Program Jockeys (or PJs) came in.

The best PJ? By far that would be PJ Phil (Phil Guerrero) and his back-and-forth banter with the weird purple monitor with teeth (also known as Snit).

Because the PJs were off the clock before prime time, YTV aired these great little computer animated shorts between shows later at night. Short Circutz clips were 30 to 90 seconds long and sampled from different collections (The Mind’s Eye, Beyond the Mind’s Eye, and Imaginaria), again in cooperation with CRTC guidelines.

YTV’s original programming spanned from animation to live-action to hosted shows. A couple memorable series included Breaker High (basically, Ryan Gosling attends Boat High School) and Maniac Mansion (this also aired on The Family Channel in the U.S. and was loosely based on the Maniac Mansion video game, because why not). My favorites of course were the hosted shows. Namely: Hit List and Video & Arcade Top 10.

Hit List ran from 1991 until 2005, with Tarzan Dan hosting the first six seasons. Tarzan Dan played music videos across all genres and always had some sort of awesome interview with people like “Weird Al” Yankovic, NKOTB’s Joey McIntyre, *NSYNC, 5ive, The Smashing Pumpkins, No Doubt, Hanson, and so many more.

Video & Arcade Top 10 was a competitive video game show (like Nick Arcade) where gamers competed against each other for prizes. The show ran from 1991-2006 and was hosted by Nicholas Schimmelpenninck (who thank goodness goes by Nicholas Picholas, because really). Besides the video game competition aspect, Nicholas gave viewers the low-down on current music and movies.

My favorite segment on the show was “Turbo Tips” where Nicholas gave out tips and tricks for the game players were playing on that day’s show. “V&A Top 3” was also useful as one of the co-hosts would announce the top three best-selling video games at the time. A contest segment aired directly after where home viewers could win a prize by being the first to write in with the solution to a code or hint. Oh, the things we’d do before the Internet.

By the way, did Video & Arcade Top 10’s theme sound familiar? Then you’ve probably played Mega Man 2. It’s Crash Man’s theme. The CRTC seemingly had no qualms about copyright infringement.

Back in 1995, YTV was the first channel in North America to air Sailor Moon. Since I was a YTV junkie already, I was quick to jump on that bandwagon as well. YTV pushed Sailor Moon so hard that the final 17 episodes of Sailor Moon R (the second “season” of the anime—originally only the first season and a chunk of the second were aired) were dubbed for the Canadian market. In fact, YTV liked them so much that one of their PJs (Stephanie [Sugar] Lyn Beard) even voiced Rini. Another one of YTV’s big shows was ReBoot, and like with Sailor Moon, they were the first station to broadcast that show as well.

In addition to introducing me to Japanese animation, YTV also turned me on to the comedic stylings of Rik Mayall. Late at night, YTV aired various British shows, the stand-outs for me being Bottom and Young Ones.

Apparently I can talk for days about how much I love YTV. Other shows that were a big part of my childhood also included: Take Part, Camp Cariboo, Edison Twins, Puttnam’s Prairie Emporium, Samurai Pizza Cats, and Dog House. I think Dog House and YTV’s Dark Night are going to be posts all on their own one day.


Growing up in the States, I was only vaguely aware of YTV.  The logo was occasionally stamped at the end of some Nickelodeon shows and that’s about as much as I ever knew.  In fact, it wasn’t until around 1997 that I caught my first glimpse of YTV via a Weird Al clip on the YTV Achievement Awards with Tarzan Dan.

It was a real culture shock to watch this as an American teenager.  It’s still pretty overwhelming as an adult, actually.

If you were an early watcher of Nickelodeon, you know that slime was synonymous with the channel. All that started with a show known as You Can’t Do That on Television. That show was on so much in the 1980s, that I grew up referring to the show itself as Nickelodeon. What I didn’t realize at that young age is that You Can’t Do That on Television was actually imported content from Canada.

While there were familiar faces that became associated with the channels via cross-show appearances, Nickelodeon didn’t really have hosts like the YTV Program Jockeys. You know what we had instead? A Popsicle stick.

I’ve never forgotten Stick Stickly’s address, so the jingle worked.

The Nickelodeon counterpart to Video & Arcade Top 10 was Nick Arcade, a game show that took contestants inside of an actual video game… or, at least, a blue screen that could be made to look like a video game to viewers at home.

The Salute Your Shorts cast made an appearance on Nick Arcade. See what I mean about cross-show appearances?

Starting in 1992, Nickelodeon ran their best programming during a Saturday night block known as SNICK, the line-up included Are You Afraid of the Dark?, one of the most classic shows on the network. This series was the reason viewers kept returning each week and seems so closely intertwined with the big orange couch branding. You may be surprised to know it actually started out as a YTV show two years before it found an American audience.

See that giant YTV logo at the end? The end credits music was usually scarier than the show itself.

If you think all of this is confusing, there’s also a separate TV Land and TV Land Canada. Instead of Get Smart and The Addams Family, the counterpart channel plays Great White North programming such as Check It Out and The Beachcombers.

Elsewhere in the League…

Culturally Significant a few pop culture icons.

How about you? Did you grow up on YTV or Nickelodeon?

1 Comment

  • Okay, I never heard of YTV (being an ignorant American) but I’m all the better now for knowing it existed.

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