The truth behind children’s television

Written by: Taylor Duff | Staff Writer

Content warning: this article discusses sexual assault, child abuse, racism and toxic workplace environments.   

Quiet on Set: The Dark Side of Kids TV” is a new 5-episode docuseries released to the streaming service Max, that discusses the trauma and horrors inflicted behind the scenes of some of the most beloved 90s and early 2000s Nickelodeon shows. These shows include  “All That,” “The Amanda Show,” “Zoey 101,” “Drake and Josh” and “iCarly.” 

What all of these familiar titles have in common is the showrunner, Dan Schneider. Schneider is responsible for making many children laugh, but also for causing trauma to multiple young cast members. The series talks about Schneider’s verbal abuse on the sets of his shows and his use of many inappropriate euphemisms during production. In “Quiet on Set,” many child actors recount their trauma and abuse while working for Schneider and Nickelodeon. 

Leon Frierson, a cast member of “All That,” talks about his trauma of portraying a character named Nose Boy who had a skin-tight costume with suggestive male body parts as design. Frierson remarks about his treatment being one of the few African Americans on the set as well as Bryan Christopher Hearne who played various characters during his time on “All That”. Hearne had a similar experience and was mocked for his skin color and appearance while doing costume designs and makeup. 

Schneider ignored labor laws and urged the child actors to work rigorous hours. Those who have worked alongside Schneider have expressed how harsh and demanding he was — especially from the women he hired. Two female writers, Christy Stratton and Jenny Kilgen, recount Schneider illegally making the women split a salary, as well as pressuring the women into performing acts including screaming profanities, giving Schneider massages and performing sexual reenactments in front of him and others.       

Most shocking within the docuseries were the three different child predators hired by Schneider and Nickelodeon. These men were hired to help coach or even mentor the children on set. Most notable is the case of actor, producer and dialogue coach Brian Peck during his time working on “All That.” Peck was charged with many accounts of sexual abuse towards Drake Bell, a child actor who was well known for his starring role in “Drake and Josh,” but also made appearances on “All That” and “The Amanda Show.” Bell was 15 when these events occurred, and in August 2003, Peck was arrested. Peck was charged with 11 counts of lewd acts towards a minor. Peck served just 16 months in prison and was ordered to register as a sex offender. This is the first time Bell has spoken about his abuse and trauma — as a result of Peck’s identity and charges were made public. A new episode of “Quiet on Set” was released on April 7, 2024, and continues to unveil the story behind the scenes of Nickelodeon and Schneider.   

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