More: iCarly, Nickelodeon, and the genius behind it all…

How was it possible that a network that has led its particular niche of the entertainment industry for the last 12 years — the highest-rated network on cable TV, period — could have already scheduled a season’s worth of a show that no one there seemed to know the first thing about?

When I put the question to Cohn, she turned to look at an associate, and together they shrugged, unperturbed. Then she looked back at me and said simply, “It’s Dan.”

“Dan” is Dan Schneider, creator of three of Nick’s most successful series, “Drake & Josh,” “Zoey 101” and “The Amanda Show.” He has kick-started the careers of adolescent stars like Amanda Bynes, Kenan Thompson, Drake Bell and now Miranda Cosgrove, known to legions of preteens for her roles in “Drake & Josh” and the movie “School of Rock” and positioned to make her debut next fall as the star of Schneider’s new show. His career as a kind of Aaron Sorkin of tween sitcoms is lent a certain psychological piquancy by the fact that he was once a famous teen actor himself; at 41, he is still recognizable to TV viewers of a certain age as Dennis Blunden, the wisecracking brainiac from the ’80s sitcom “Head of the Class.”

The autonomy Schneider enjoys says a lot about TV for tweens, an economically fertile territory that manages for the most part to operate under the cultural radar. All kinds of science and pseudoscience attach themselves to discussions of TV shows for very young children — its deleterious effects on the toddler brain and whatnot — but by the time those kids reach 7 or 8, educators, TV programmers and to some extent parents themselves have stopped paying much attention to that stuff. Children go from being a kind of cultural protectorate to the Junior Auxiliary of the tube-watching nation at large, and programs are designed for them on the same principle as they’re designed for grown-ups: as a way to sell eyeballs to advertisers. Nickelodeon made $800 million on that sale last year, and that doesn’t even include the various merchandising streams — the DVDs, the magazines, the toys, the theme hotel, etc.

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.

By mid-January, with the pilot scheduled to be taped in two weeks, Schneider’s new show was starting to seem a little more real: it had acquired about three-quarters of a cast and a title — “iCarly,” as in “iPod” or “I, Claudius.” He had yet to write a script for this half-hour of television, but it apparently marked me as a layman to be surprised by this. “The dialogue is pretty easy for me,” he said. “Everybody knows what the show is. We just don’t know the exact words that are going to be spoken by the actors.”

But the turning point in his relationship with the network came after Schneider added to the evolving cast of “All That” a girl named Amanda Bynes. Everyone recognized her as a nascent star, and so the network
set about creating a show just for her — without consulting Schneider. The pilot that was shot for this new Bynes vehicle, though, was so poor that the network shelved it and scrapped plans for the series entirely
— at which point Schneider felt he had to speak up. “I went to the Nickelodeon executives, and I said: ‘Look, you can’t blame Amanda for that; it was just the wrong project for her. Amanda is such a rangy little actress — she’s like a little Dana Carvey or a little Carol Burnett. What I would have done, if you had come to me, is I would have created a show where she could have played a lot of different characters. More of a sketch-type show.’ So I talked to them for a while and they said O.K., go ahead; and I created ‘The Amanda Show,’ which is one of the
most successful shows Nickelodeon has ever had.”

…his need to make the kids feel like stars is a key to not only how he runs his shows, but also to what those shows are about. It can be summed up in the simple mandate Nick executives gave him when he first
started writing for them: “Kids win.”

“It made a lot of sense to me,” he said, “because when you’re a kid, most of the time you’re
being told to shut up by adults. In school: be quiet. Your dad’s watching a show: be quiet. Even the kids who seem to have a lot of freedom, their lives are pretty controlled. So what I try to do on my shows is to have kids come out on top. They’re the smartest ones in the
room. They’re the ones in charge.

Nickelodeon – Dan Schneider – Tween on the Screen – Jonathan Dee – New York Times

Woo hoo! As I’ve mentioned before– Dan Schneider is amazing. Top 5 of the coolest people alive. Seriously. Kids win?! BRILLIANT. Giving tweens an opportunity to feel important, empowered– in charge!

Naturally it’s not the way things are– or should be… but it’s a great way to remind tweens that they’re important too. In their OWN way. For more info on a tween-god with the touch of television-gold… make sure you read all of that article (and I thank Anastasia at ypulse.com for always having the greatest links).

For those iCarly future-fans:

But “iCarly” is a particularly refined example: 13-year-old Carly Shay’s father is in the military overseas, and her mother is . . . well, Schneider hadn’t figured that out yet, but for now it was enough that the mother is out of the picture. Which leaves Carly in the care of her 26-year-old brother, Spencer, a struggling artist whose life
skills are considerably less evolved than his baby sister’s; as she=would say to him in their very first scene together in the pilot, “I can’t believe you’re in charge of me.” Carly is living out two adolescent fantasies at once: she gets to elude her caregiver’s restrictions and do whatever she wants, and she also gets to be the caregiver, for Spencer is an adult in dire need of looking after.

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  1. September 9, 2007 at 3:43 am

    icarly is the best show and the funniest show on planet earth.

    love,
    cheyenne
    m.

  2. September 10, 2007 at 2:26 pm

    That’s awesome, Cheyenne! Hopefully it will do uber well and be on for ages.

  3. Rachael
    October 8, 2007 at 10:48 pm

    hi i Carly I Love Your Showe My
    Name is Rachael But My Friends
    Call Me Rach I Can Do Flips
    I Wish You Were My Sisdre Carly
    I Love You i Carly

  4. Danielle
    January 6, 2008 at 10:51 pm

    Hey Carly,Sam,and Freddy. I love your show to death! I’m your number 1 fan. I have a band called teh 25 Skull Street and we where wondering if we can play it on your show!Thanks so much!
    Love ya guys!

    ~DANIELLE~

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