If you were a kid at any time during the 80s and 90s and had cable television, chances are that you're pretty familiar with Clarissa Darling and the Bar None Dude Ranch. Although a shocking (…or not) number of these child actors seemed to call it quits on their television careers not long after their stint on Nickelodeon, some of them went on to bigger and better things. Like what? You know you're dying to know.
Salute Your Shorts
photo from sydlexia.com
Salute Your Shorts was about kids at a summer camp called Camp Anawanna. It's relatively obscure, considering it only aired two seasons. But some surprising talent participated in those two seasons, including Blake Sennett (then going by Blake Soper) who is now better known for being the lead guitarist in Rilo Kiley (and possibly dating Winona Ryder). Coincidentally (or not) the Rilo Kiley's lead singer is Jenny Lewis, who was also a former child star. There's a hidden song on the Rilo Kiley album "Take Offs and Landings" called "Salute My Shorts" in reference to Blake's brief stint as Ronnie Pinsky. Also notable is Christine Cavanaugh (Mona the Mail Lady), who later became the voice of Chuckie Finster on Rugrats, Babe the pig and Dexter of Dexter's Laboratory. This is pretty much the only fan page I could find for Salute Your Shorts and I'm proud to say it's from Iowa State University. Maybe we're the only weirdos who liked this show.
Are You Afraid of the Dark
photo from fewl.net
This was the era of R.L. Stine and Christopher Pike, so I was of course a huge fan of Are You Afraid of the Dark. It was the highlight of my SNICK (Saturday Night Nickelodeon, of course) lineup. I was particularly haunted by the clown doll in the opening credits. Anyway, Dark was about a group of kids (The Midnight Society) who (presumably) snuck out of their houses late at night to meet around a campfire and tell spooky stories. The episode always began with the storyteller saying, "Submitted for the approval of the Midnight Society, I call this story –", followed by the title of the story and a dramatic flourish of powder which caused the fire to flare up. I'm sad to report that most of the 15 kids involved in the show over its seven-year run don't seem to be doing much now, with a few exceptions:
Clarissa Explains It All
photo from www.thur.de
Before Melissa Joan Hart was Sabrina Spellman, she was Clarissa Darling. She battled horrors like her brother Ferguson (Ferg-wad), zits and surviving before getting her driver's license. It was an interesting show because it broke the barrier between viewer and character by having Clarissa address the viewer Ferris Bueller-style. I have to admit I was mildly in love with Clarissa's best friend Sam, but unfortunately it doesn't look like he's done much acting since. It might surprise you to know that Elizabeth Hess, who played Clarissa's mom, is now teaching acting at NYU's Tisch School of the Arts. At least, I was surprised. Irritating genius Ferg-wad ended up going to Notre Dame in real life.
photo from Amazon.com
As far as I can tell, Hey Dude was Christine Taylor's big start. It was the story of a city slicker, who, sick of stressful life in New York, bought a dude ranch in Arizona. He wasn't quite as talented at running a ranch as crunching numbers, though, so we are constantly entertained by his bumbling ways and how his teenage staff is constantly coming to his rescue. The series was filmed on location at Tanque Verde Guest Ranch near Tucson and apparently some of it is still standing (although in bad shape). We all know Christine Taylor was Marcia, Marcia, Marcia, and married Ben Stiller, but what about the rest of them? Well, Jonathan Galkin, who played Mr. Ernst's nephew, Jake, is the co-founder of DFA Records. DFA has produced and remixed artists such as Nine Inch Nails, Gorillaz, The Chemical Brothers and Le Tigre. Who know cousin Jake would turn out to be so cool??
So, tell me – am I the only one who watched these shows? Did I miss one of your favorites? Do tell.