Haunting documentary reveals the dark side of kids TV (2024)

An upcomingdocumentary is set to expose the hidden underbelly of children's TV as former cast and crew make shocking claims about the 'toxic environment' atNickelodeon - including accusations of child abuse and 'pedophiles on set.'

Quiet On Set: The Dark Side Of Kids TV promises to 'pull back the curtain on an empire, built by creator Dan Schneider, that had an undeniable grip on popular culture' in the 1990s and early 2000s.

Schneider, who was described as'Nickelodeon's golden boy,' is said to have 'launched the careers of child actors who became major stars' including Miranda Cosgrove,Jamie Lynn Spearsand Ariana Grande.

But there was a much more chilling tale behind the scenes.

Here, FEMAIL digs deeper into the claims as Investigation Discovery gets set to launch its four-part docuseries.

Quiet On Set: The Dark Side Of Kids TV promises to 'pull back the curtain on an empire, built by creator Dan Schneider' (pictured with Ariana Grande)

Schneider, who was described as 'Nickelodeon's golden boy,' is said to have 'launched the careers of child actors who became major stars'including Miranda Cosgrove (right in iCarly)

Dan Schneider was accused of 'degrading' staff before being sued over accusations ofgender discrimination, hostile work environment and harassment

Schneider, originally from Memphis,Tennessee,began working at Nickelodeon in 1993 as an executive producer when the channel was 'pushing the boundaries of kids entertainment.'

'It wasn't there to educate you. We were there to have fun, to get slimed, to be entertained,' host of Double Dare Marc Summers said of the network.

Schneider, who had started out in the industry in front of the camera, became involved with creating and producing some of Nickelodeon's biggest shows including Zoey 101, iCarly, Victorious, Drake & Josh, Sam & Cat and The Amanda Show.

But the reality of the studio was a far cry from the carefree happeningsthat were mesmerizing kids onscreen.

Quiet On Set alleges an 'insidious environment rife with allegations of abuse, sexism, racism and inappropriate dynamics with its underage stars and crew.'

It wastes little time in dishing that the period of the 1990s and 2000s 'marked one of the darkest chapters,'writer Scaachi Koul said.

Christy Stratton and Jenny Kilgen were hired as co-writers for The Amanda Show and split a single salary - as the network got 'two writers for the price of one.'

'It was early on when we first started that Dan said he didn't think women were funny,' Christy said.

Schneider was involved with creating and producing some of the channel's biggest shows including Zoey 101 (pictured)

Schneider, who began working at Nickelodeon in 1993 as an executive producer, was engulfed in allegations of verbal abuse

'He had fostered this very casual, fun atmosphere but I felt that Dan could be very volatile and could turn any moment. I was scared.'

She said that staff were left feeling 'paranoid and uncomfortable,' concluding: 'Working for Dan was like being in an abusive relationship.'

Jenny also dished on having a similar experience, sharing that he 'didn't really value women in the writers' room.'

But that was not all because, dishing on the depths of the inappropriate behavior at the channel, she claimed:'Dan was showing p*rnography on his computer screen. He asked me several time to massage him in the writers' room and in the studio...

'You always felt like disagreeing with Dan or standing up for yourself could result in getting fired.

'One of the worst, we were in the writers' room and Christy was talking about high school which is relevant because we are writing for a young girl.

'And Dan just said: "You know what would be funny? If you leaned over the table and acted like you were being sodomized and told that story about high school."'

Christy Stratton, who was hired as a co-writer for The Amanda Show, said:'Working for Dan was like being in an abusive relationship'

Jenny said that Christy had initially said no but Dan kept insisting and 'she couldn't get out of it.'

'So she just leaned over the table and did what he asked her to do. It was upsetting to watch because I knew Christy at this point and I didn't feel at all comfortable complaining to him.'

She concluded: 'It was probably the wrongest thing I have ever seen happen to a woman in a professional environment ever.'

Christy herself declined to talk about the incident but remarked that she felt sorry for her former self as she was just a young woman at the time.

Ultimately, after quitting her role at the network, Jenny decided to sue Dan because she 'didn't want it to happen to other women in the future.'

'I hired a lawyer and started blowing whistles. My lawyer filed complaints against the production company for gender discrimination, hostile work environment, harassment - and in response they did an internal investigation and they settled.

'But it had a lasting impact on my career...To learn that it didn't stop and that it was all for nothing.'

Scaachi concluded: 'How safe can any kids be in that environment if that's how the adult women are being treated behind the scenes?'

The program stated that Dan issued a statementclaiming he 'never once considered gender while hiring.'

A spokesperson for Nickelodeon told DailyMail.com of the alleged behaviors on past production sets: 'Though we cannot corroborate or negate allegations of behaviors from productions decades ago, 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.'

Nickelodeon production assistant Jason Handy harbored an 'enormous trove of child p*rnography' that included more than 10,000 images of children

The documentary also delves into the real-life 'predators' who worked at Nickelodeon within a short period of one another -including Jason Handy and Brian Peck.

Handy, who worked as production assistant, had a personable veneer but there was a much more sinister truth lurking beneath.

He was a regular presence behind the scenes and often exchanged 'innocent' emails with some of the child stars about projects he had been working on before his real motivations came to light.

One concerned mom, referred to only as MJ, told the documentary that she had helped daughter Brandi break into the industry.

The young girl was among those that Handy exchanged messages with but MJ said: 'I didn't see any harm in it.

'A couple of months later, she was sitting at the computer and all of a sudden I noticed she had suddenly shut down the computer completely, got up and ran into her bedroom and slammed the bedroom door shut...

The documentary also delves into the real-life 'predators' who worked at Nickelodeon within a short period of one another - including Jason Handy (left) and Brian Peck (right)

'She started to cry and said, "I got an email from Jason, it was a picture of him naked masturbating." And he said he had sent it to her because he wanted her to see that he was thinking of her.'

MJ vowed to keep her daughter away from the predator and was eventually contacted by the police who had been 'tipped off' about Handy's 'inappropriate behavior towards children.'

His home was searched in 2003 where authorities found an 'enormous trove of child p*rnography' including more than 10,000 images of children.

Among them were 1,768 images of young girls in erotic poses, 238 images of young girls in sexually explicit poses and two images of girls engaged in 'bondage activity,' according to official documents.

There were also video files of minors involved engaged in sexually explicit conduct and Handy had kept ziplocked bags - each with a different girl's name on it - that 'contained some kind of token.'

Handywas sentenced to six years on two felony counts and one misdemeanor

Brandi's bag contained letters she had sent to the predator but others, including from girls as young as seven, held pairs of girls' underwear.

Sickeningly, Handy also kept journals in which he wrote: 'I am a pedophile, full blown. I really have been giving in to my desire for little girls these past few weeks.

'I even struggle on a day-to-day basis of how I can find a victim to rape if I have to.'

Handy had met a nine-year-old girl who had been a guest star on Nickelodeon's show Cousin Skeeter. He became friendly with her and eventually maneuvered himself into her family's trust.

His dairy recalled how in 2000 he and the young girl had been alone in her bedroom playing video games before he kissed her - attempting to force his tongue in her mouth.

'I could tell I made her uncomfortable and I apologized. She seemed fine, but a little less lovey dovey,' Handy, who told the girl not to tell her mom, stated.

He was sentenced to six years on two felony counts and one misdemeanor involving two girls - one of whom was Brandi.

'I no longer trusted anyone with children in this industry. I felt abandoned. There was never any apology to Brandi herself for what happened. Everything got swept under the rug,' MJ concluded.

But Handy, who was apprehended in April 2003, was not the only predator as just four months later fellow crew member Brian Peck was arrested.

Brian Peck, who worked as a dialogue coach, was sentenced to prison after committing sex acts with a male minor - since revealed to be Drake Bell

Brian Peck, who was described in the new documentary as 'very much one of the cogs in the Dan Schneider machine,' had worked as a dialogue coach at Nickelodeon and assumed minor roles on screen.

But it seems there were red flags there from the start.

Peck had reportedly been a pen pal of serial killer John Wayne Gacy who was behind bars for murdering 33 young men and boys between 1972 and 1978 at his ranch house in the outskirts of Chicago.

In August of 2003, Peck was arrested and charged with nearly a dozen counts related allegations that he had sexually abused a then-unnamed minor.

Peck subsequently pleaded no contest to performing a lewd act with a 14- or 15-year-old and to oral copulation with a minor under 16.

Former Nickelodeon actor Drake Bellhas since revealed that he was the anonymous victim in that case andappeared in the documentary to shed further light on the abuse.

In August of 2003, Peck, who worked as a dialogue coach, was arrested and charged with nearly a dozen counts related allegations that he had sexually abused a then-unnamed minor

The former child actor, now 37, was a popular star on the kid-themed network in the late 1990s and early 2000s, during which he co-led the series Drake & Josh.

'I came here today to tell my story. I have never told my story publicly,' he shared with the documentary makers.

'Brian and I became really close because we had a lot of the same interests, which looking back I think was probably a little calculated.'

Drake's father Joe said that he had hired Peck, who had worked with Leonardo DiCaprio, to coach his young son but insisted: 'I was always within eye distance of them... I was very attentive.

'Unfortunately, I started seeing Brian start to just hang around Drake too much and it didn't sit well with me.'

Joe said that Peck would walk into Drake's dressing room and be tactile with the young star, 'put his arm around his waist, put his hand up on his shoulder or kind of run it down his arm. This would happen routinely.'

The fearful father raised his concerns but his thoughts were dismissed and he was ultimately ostracized.

Drake admitted: 'Brian was still my friend. Everything was fine. I didn't think anything of anything that was happening. In hindsight, I should have been able to see but as a kid you have no clue. But my dad saw it a mile away.'

The child star said Peck had started integrating himself into his life beyond the set - attending the aspiring singer's concert and hosting his birthday parties.

He drove a wedge between Drake and his father before making his move.

'Everything changed with Brian one morning. I knew that my life was going to be absolutely completely different form that point on,' the actor said.

Drake & Josh was also added to the schedule at this time - but the reality of the studio was a far cry from the carefree happenings that were mesmerizing kids onscreen

Drake brushed the 'unspeakable acts' under the carpet but eventually 'exploded' and told his mom everything

Following one of their casting trips, Drake, who was 15 at the time, said he was sleeping on the couch as normal.

'I opened my eyes, I woke up and he was sexually assaulting me. I froze and was in complete shock and had no idea what to do or how to react.

'I had no idea how to get out of this situation. What am I going to do - call my mom and be like, "Hey, this just happened can you come pick me up? I'll just sit here and wait..."It just became this secret that I had held onto.'

He said that Peck was overly apologetic but the abuse did not stop. Instead, Drake said it 'just got worse, and worse, and worse, and worse. I was just trapped and I had no way out.'

'The abuse was extensive and it got pretty brutal. I really don't know how to elaborate about that on camera,' Drake explained.

'Why don't you do this? Think of the worst stuff that someone can do to somebody as a sexual assault and that will answer your question. I don't know how else to put it.'

'I often look back at that time and wonder how in the world I survived.'

Drake brushed the 'unspeakable acts' under the carpet but eventually 'exploded' and told his mom everything.

'I have no idea what provoked it. I have no idea what happened but I just screamed into the phone everything that had been happening to me,' he said.

Peck received a 16-month prison sentence after his conviction, and in October 2004 he was ordered to register as a sex offender

Peck received a 16-month prison sentence after his conviction, and in October 2004 he was ordered to register as a sex offender.

In 2015, DailyMail.com revealed that Peck was still working on Disney show and a high school–set horror film despite his conviction.

He was only prohibited from direct contact with children, which allowed him to still be hired in other capacities, even on projects significantly featuring children and teens.

Peck eventually pleaded no contest to two counts of the original 11 charges after the other charges were dropped.

He has continued to have minor acting credits and worked as a dialogue coach throughout the 2000s and 2010s. His last credited acting appearance was in 2018, according to IMDb.

It's unclear if the people hiring Peck knew that he was a convicted sex offender, though his IMDb page lists his criminal conviction.

A spokesperson for Nickelodeon told DailyMail.com: 'Now that Drake Bell has disclosed his identity as the plaintiff in the 2004 case, we are dismayed and saddened to learn of the trauma he has endured, and we commend and support the strength required to come forward.'

Nickelodeon's predator problem ran even deeper - having hired a registered sex offender

In 2005, there was another case involving Ezel Channel whoworked as a Nickelodeon Studios animator in Burbank.

Ezel Channelwas already a registered sex offender but Nickelodeon 'did not catch it'

Channel was alreadya registered sex offender but Nickelodeon 'did not catch it.'

Hebrought a male child to the studio lot and was convicted of abusing him at the facility.

He was was found guilty by a jury in 2009 of misdemeanor battery and a felony count of attempting to show p*rnographic material to a 14-year-old boy, Page Six reported.

Channel was jailed for six months in Los Angeles County jail - as well as sentenced to serve 16 months in state prison over the p*rnography count - but the conviction was later thrown out on appeal.

It was decided that there was not enough evidence to prove the video he was showing the minor was of p*rnographic nature.

When you look at having multiple child predators working at Nickelodeon, it raises some confusing questions about who to hold accountable,'Kate Taylor, from Business Insider, told the documentary.

When you look at having multiple child predators working at Nickelodeon, it raises some confusing questions about who to hold accountable,' Kate Taylor, from Business Insider, told the documentary

Nickelodeon's hit shows were marred with allegations of 'sexualizing' child stars in 'uncomfortable sketches'

Beyond the lawsuits, Nickelodeon raised eyebrows with some of its shows that were'full of uncomfortable sketches.'

Among them were 'disturbing' scenes that 'sexualized' child stars- including Ariana Grande who featured in scenes sticking her hand down her throat, putting her toes in her mouth, and talking about being 'soaking wet' at the age of 16.

Other parts also showed Ariana trying to get juice from a potato - which involved her squeezing it as hard as possible and letting out loud moaning noises - and attempting to drink water upside down in a provocative position - which resulted in it spilling all over her head and chest.

Among them were 'disturbing' scenes that 'sexualized' child stars - including Ariana Grande who featured in scenes sticking her hand down her throat and putting her toes in her mouth

Other parts also showed Ariana trying to get juice from a potato - which involved her squeezing it as hard as possible and letting out loud moaning noises - and attempting to drink water upside down in a provocative position

'It was clear that there was a permissibility around these sexualized jokes with children,' commentators in the documentaryshared.

But 'some of the child actors felt like they could not push back.'

Jennette McCurdy, who found fame on iCarly, detailed her traumatic childhood in her best-selling memoir I'm Glad My Mom Died which was released in August 2022.

She also spoke in detail about her time on Nickelodeon, and alleged that she was subjected to inappropriate behavior from an unnamed staffer.

'I feel like The Creator has two distinct sides. One is generous and over-the-top complimentary... The other side is mean-spirited, controlling and terrifying,' Jenette wrote.

Jennette claimed she was required to her pose in swimsuits and offered alcohol from someone she referred to as 'The Creator' during her time on iCarly, which first aired when she was 15 - in September 2007 - and concluded when she was age 20 - in November 2012.

Jennette McCurdy (pictured in 2013), who found fame on iCarly, detailed her traumatic childhood in her best-selling memoir I'm Glad My Mom Died which was released in August 2022

'My whole childhood and adolescence were very exploited,' she told the New York Times, while discussing the book. 'It still gives my nervous system a reaction to say it.

'There were cases where people had the best intentions and maybe didn’t know what they were doing. And also cases where they did - they knew exactly what they were doing.'

She also claimed that she was 'terrified of being looked at as a sexual being' and that 'The Creator' once gave her a shoulder massage against her wishes.

Many people have since speculated that she was referring to Schneider who left Nickelodeon in 2018.

Nickelodeon ultimately cut ties with Schneider in March 2018

At the time, he said he was parting ways to pursue 'other opportunities and projects,' however, the New York Times reported in 2021 that the network cut ties from him due to evidence of 'verbal abuse' towards colleagues.

A statement from Dan Schneider issued to the documentary stated: 'Everything that happened on the shows I ran was carefulyl scrutinized by dozens of involved adults.

'All stories, dialogue, costumes and makeup were fully approved by network executives on two coasts.

'A standard and practices group read and ultaiemyl approaved every script, and programming executives reviewed and approved all episodes.

'In addition, every day on every set, therewere always parents and caregivers and their friends watching us rehearse and film.'

In light of the ID docuseries, aspokesperson for Schneider also told Entertainment Weekly: 'Dan cared about the kids on his shows even when sometimes their own families unfortunately did not. He understood what they were going through and he was their biggest champion.

'The fact is many of the kids on these shows are put in the untenable position of becoming the breadwinner for their family and the pressure that comes along with that.'

The statement continued: 'Add on top of that the difficulties of growing up and having to do so under the spotlight while working a demanding job, all as a child.

'That is why there are many levels of standards, executives, lawyers, teachers and parents everywhere, all the time, on every set, every day. However, it is still a hard place to be a kid and nobody knew that better than Dan.'

Nickelodeon said it 'investigates all formal complaints as part of our commitment to fostering a safe and professional workplace... We have adopted numerous safeguards over the years to help ensure we are living up to our own high standard and the expectations of our audience.'

Quiet On Set: The Dark Side Of Kids TV will premiere across two nights on ID from March 17

Haunting documentary reveals the dark side of kids TV (2024)
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