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Documentary Exposed Nickelodeon's Culture of Alleged Abuse on Dan Schneider Shows

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Content warning: This story discusses child sexual abuse and sexual harassment, among other potentially disturbing topics.

At the same time as the #MeToo movement rocked the entertainment industry, Dan Schneider — the mastermind behind massively popular Nickelodeon shows, beginning with All That and The Amanda Show, eventually leading to spin-offs (and spin-offs of spin-offs) Drake & Josh , Zoey 101, and iCarly among many more — started facing public scrutiny.

Still, as the tween cinematic universe expanded, the mind behind these shows was reportedly at the center of one of the biggest “open secrets” in the industry, according to a new series, including allegations that the showrunner fostered an abusive environment on his sets. Quiet on Set: The Dark Side of Kids TV, a four-part docuseries from Investigation Discovery, brought those allegations to light. Here’s just some of the instances the documentary revealed:

Dan Schneider’s behavior on set was described by workers on set as “volatile” and “disturbing”

Interviewees described an extreme workplace, filled with long hours for child actors and adult staff alike. Multiple people in the docuseries also alleged inappropriate behavior that often crossed the line into sexual harassment and exclusion, in which they say Schneider seemingly held the threat of retaliation above workers’ heads. Those who worked closely with Schneider also described his apparently mercurial moods, which they say could flip instantly.

​​“Dan could be volatile and could turn any moment,” writer Christy Stratton says in a sit down interview in the documentary. “I was scared.” She adds, “Working for Dan was like being in an abusive relationship.” At one point, an editor working for Schneider, Karyn Finely Thompson, described an incident in which she fell over from the stress of work and long hours and was rushed to the hospital. Instead of inquiring about her health, she said: “I could hear someone say, ‘How is the show going to get finished?’”

In a statement to Teen Vogue, a representative for Schneider said, “Dan is apologizing for his behavior…. He crossed the line in the writer’s room with the jokes that he told and the pranks that he pulled. They were inappropriate and never should have happened. Some of the On Air Dare sketches went too far. Dan wishes they hadn’t done those and he’s truly sorry to the young actors who weren’t comfortable. And all around he is sorry for how he treated people. He was a jerk at times and if he could do it again he would have been a better boss and a better person.”

Schneider also addressed the docuseries in a new video.

Three Nickelodeon employees were convicted for child sexual abuse in the early 2000s

Drake Bell opened up for the first time publicly about the sexual abuse he endured as a child from Nickelodeon acting coach Brian Peck. Peck was described as a regular presence on Schneider’s Nickelodeon sets, as well as in the social life of the child actor. “Any time I needed to work on dialogue or anything, I somehow ended up back at Brian’s house, and it just got worse and worse and worse and worse. I was just trapped. I had no way out,” Bell said. “The abuse was extensive, and it got pretty brutal.”

Peck would go on to plead no contest to two charges of sexual abuse and was sentenced to 16 months in prison and ordered to register as a sex offender.

There was another instance in which a Nickelodeon employee was convicted of child sexual abuse. The mother of an Amanda Show guest star only named as Brandi in the series described meeting a production assistant on the show, Jason Handy, who she says befriended her daughter. Eventually, she says she found he had emailed explicit images of himself to her, leading to police involvement. In 2003, police discovered more child pornographic material at Handy's house, along with Ziploc bags of items belonging to children and a journal, in which he described himself as a “pedophile, full-blown,” according to the show. He pleaded no contest to two felony charges and was ordered to register as a sex offender and sentenced to six years in prison.

In a separate instance, a third Nickelodeon employee was convicted of abusing an underage boy.

Former staff allege Schneider behaved inappropriately with staff

Several of Schneider’s former staff and cast members say Schneider had favorites among the child actors and wielded threats of making or breaking their careers in order to influence his staff. All That actor Katrina Johnson said Schneider had a “very close” relationship with Amanda Bynes specifically.

iCarly actor Jeannette McCurdy described inappropriate behavior from a showrunner at Nickelodeon she refers to in her memoir I’m Glad My Mom Died as “The Creator.” McCurdy also alleges that she turned down a $300,000 offer from Nickelodeon to remain silent about her experiences with the network “specifically related to ‘The Creator.” Though he is not explicitly named in the memoir, Quiet on Set talking heads draw conclusions that “The Creator” in question is likely Schneider.

“While Dan didn’t have the best relationship with every young actor and some did not have a good experience on his shows, it is not accurate or even ok in any way to imply that his relationship with any of the actors was in any way inappropriate, that’s just not true,” a representative for Schneider told Teen Vogue in an emailed statement.

In a statement provided to E! News from Schneider's team, Russell Hicks, former President of Content Development and Production at Nickelodeon, said, “Every single thing that Dan ever did on any of his shows was carefully scrutinized and approved by executives at Nickelodeon." In a statement from Hicks, he said, "I think Jeanette's book is really a beautiful tribute to getting the help she needed to get through the trauma she experienced with balancing her family and high pressured work life. Hopefully it'll help others get the help that they need."

Footage of Jaime Lynn Spears, Ariana Grande and Victoria Justice that actually made it to air and in clips online from their respective Schneider-run Nickelodeon shows include instances where actresses were featured in what many have now viewed as sexually suggestive scenes. These resurfaced scenes included footage of Grande putting her hand down her throat and sucking her toes, pouring water over her chest and head from above while laying across a bed, and "milking" a potato while grunting for the camera.

Schneider denies claims that he sexualized children on his shows. “Everything that happened on the shows Dan ran was carefully scrutinized by dozens of involved adults, and approved by the network. If there was an actual problem with the scenes that some people, now years later, are ‘sexualizing,’ they would be taken down, but they are not, they are aired constantly all over the world today still, enjoyed by both kids and parents,” a representative for Schneider told Variety in part.

In a statement sent to Teen Vogue, a spokesperson for Schneider says Schneider is now calling for the scenes in question to be removed from the shows. “If some of those jokes are now not seen the same way anymore then they absolutely should be cut and [Schneider] fully supports that,” the statement reads.

Quiet On Set featured a statement from Nickelodeon in title cards throughout the documentary’s episodes, reading: “Nickelodeon as a matter of policy investigates all formal complaints as part of our commitment to fostering a safe and professional workplace environment free of harassment or other kinds of inappropriate conduct. Our highest priorities are the well-being and best interests not just of our employees, casts and crew, but of all children, and we have adopted numerous safeguards over the years to help ensure we are living up to our own high standards and the expectations of our audience.”

If you or someone you know has been sexually assaulted, you can seek help by calling the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 800-656-HOPE (4673). For more resources on sexual assault, visit SafeBae, RAINN, End Rape on Campus, Know Your IX, and the National Sexual Violence Resource Center.


Originally Appeared on Teen Vogue