All TV shows tend to follow a successful formula for creating plots and storylines. By slightly altering different aspects of this formula, channels like Nickelodeon have been able to recycle old plots and themes into new shows creating the illusion of "fresh" material. After decades of sitcoms, one can hardly say that there is anything new on television; in fact, even episodes of the technology centered Nickelodeon program iCarly, recycle plot lines despite its unique emphasis on technology, a feature that sets it apart from other programs. However, despite the technology driven plots of iCarly, the problems and themes of the show still mirror old plot lines. Elements of past Nickelodeon show themes ‘pioneered’ in shows like Doug, Rugrats, and Hey Dude are still present in current Nickelodeon programming like iCarly. Even Dan Schneider’s previously run, currently off-air programming displays recycled ideas we see in episodes of iCarly. Still, iCarly is a show of the 21st century and naturally had to be modified to appeal to an increasingly tech savvy youth audience. By analyzing the content of past Nickelodeon programming I want to discover how technology’s emphasis in iCarly transforms the recycled messages Nickelodeon incorporated in past programming.

History repeats itself again and again…
Hey_Dude.jpgFor the most part, Nickelodeon’s template for a successful sitcom has not changed in over 20 years. The first situational comedy broadcast on the Nickelodeon network was Hey Dude in 1989, and, like iCarly, featured very few adult role model s in what Sarah Banet-Weiser would call a ‘kid-centered’ environment. Only two adults were routinely featured in Hey Dude: Ben Earnest the owner of the Bar None Dude Ranch (the setting of the show) and Lucy a ranch hand. Ben, although good natured, is a dimwitted ‘yuppie’ from New York City who bought the dude ranch during a mid-life crisis; his appearance is “nerdy”, he wears glasses and has a receding hairline. Lucy, on the other hand is tough and more masculine than Ben, she is the “mother figure” on the show who, despite her rough authoritarian demeanor, occasionally gives the kids on the show advice when they ask for it. The cast of Hey Dude originally consisted of 5 main characters, the summertime employees of the dude ranch, only one of which whose parents are ever seen, but all with strikingly similar qualities to the cast of iCarly.

-Buddy is the main character and is related to an adult in the show-------- Carly
-Ben Ernest is a dimwitted adult character---------Spencer
-Ted is an enterprising trouble maker----------------Sam
-Melody is a girl-next-door character-------------Freddie
-Brad is a girl who displays femininity while still retaining a quality of independence----Carly
-Danny is an easy going and laid back character---------a quality present in most of iCarly’s cast

And again…
Since the late 80’s, child audience’s tastes have changed so Nickelodeon programming had to change with them…sort of. To determine how iCarly’s emphasis on technology changed Nickelodeon’s recycled show themes I first compiled a variety of Nickelodeon programming that use similar plots to relay the same message. For instance, the shows Hey Arnold, The Kenan and Kel Show, and Rocket Power (to name a few) all have episodes where the main characters decide to skip going to school to have a day of fun. Unfortunately for them, instead of enjoying their time away from school they end up having a miserable time and discover later that they would have had more fun attending the classes they skipped that day.

In reviewing the episode synopses from a wide range of programs, one Nickelodeon show in particular shared a surprising number of qualities with iCarly

Nickelodeon’s Rocket Power
Rocket Power originally ran from August 16th 1999 to August 2nd 2004, ending three years before iCarly first aired. This animated ‘Nicktoon’ centered on the daily lives of four very physically active friends exceptionally talented in ‘extreme’ sports, like surfing, skateboarding, rollerblading, snowboarding, and BMX biking. Rocket Power’s cast of characters display incredibly similar qualities to the crew of iCarly

The show centers on the activities of the Rocket family, which consists of two children, Otto and Reggie, and their widowed father Ray Rocket, or “Raymundo”. The children’s best friends, Twister and Sam, whose parents are rarely seen, are regular fixtures at the Rocket household. Ray Rocket doesn’t always take on the role of the adult; his children spend most days engaging in dangerous activities without adult supervision and are rarely seen in school. In fact, it isn’t until the 15th episode of the series that we ever see the children in school. Ray is essentially a big kid and rarely acts as a disciplinary figure to his kids. The adult as a ‘big kid’ role, the “parentless” friends, along with the absence of a mother figure on the show are all features similar to iCarly. Spencer, Carly’s older brother and legal guardian, is a big kid who only occasionally intervenes in Carly and her friends’ unsupervised activities to offer any sort of adult perspective or advice and we rarely see Freddie or Sam’s parents on the show.

Oswald “Otto” Rocket is hard-headed and arrogant; these two qualities typically lead to the central conflict of each episode. Otto can be mean and often picks on his friends without considering their feelings but despite this unchecked aggressiveness his loyalty to his friends remains paramount. Otto is like Sam’s character in iCarly

Regina “Reggie” Rocket is mature beyond her years, an exceptionally talented athlete, and the matriarch of her immediate family. Reggie is considerate and, unlike her brother, has ambitions and goals outside the world of extreme sports. Reggie aspires to become a publisher and even began writing, printing and distributing her own magazine called “The Zine”. Regina displays a very similar character as Carly, who like Regina, pursues an interest in media entrepreneurship.

Reggie and Otto’s best friends are Maurice “Twister” Rodriquez and Sam Dullard. Twister is an aspiring videographer who always has his video camera handy to catch his friends’ activities on tape while Sam is the most intelligent and tech savvy member of the group. Sam’s mother is over protective occasionally will interrupt activities with his friends. If you combined Twister and Sam you would have Freddie’s character from iCarly.
Essentially Rocket Power follows the same show template as iCarly differing only in the niche feature Nickelodeon emphasized to set it apart. Rocket Power came out in the late 90s at a time when “extreme sports” were becoming popular in the mainstream because of influences like Tony Hawk and the X games. iCarly came out in 2007, the first children’s show of the digital age catering to our information society.

iCarly minus Technology= Rocket Power minus Extreme Sports

In watching and reviewing episodes of Rocket Power and iCarly I came across a number of episodes that incorporate recycled plot element; however, iCarly’s emphasis of technology altered the message originally conveyed through the progression of the plot. Two elements addressed in both shows were “selling out” and exposing a liar

“Selling Out”
In Rocket Power the message of the episode “Otto 3000” is that “Selling Out” is a bad thing because it presents a moral dilemma, as seen in the following clip…
Otto 3000 Clip

While in iCarly the message of the episode “iPromote Techfoots” is that selling out is not a bad thing. Carly, Sam, and Freddie enjoy spending all the money they receive for signing with a corporate sponsor, the show doesn’t present any moral conflict, the only conflict comes from the quality of the product they are promoting. Once they realize they are indorsing a faulty product they don’t fight against the sponsor to compensate those who purchased the product, they fight to keep the money by exploiting a loophole in their endorsement contract…
iPromote Techfoots Clip
The moral quandary present in Rocket Power is absent from iCarly.

Exposing a Fraud
In an episode of Rocket Power entitled “The Wrath of Don” Otto, Reggie, Sam, and Twister meet a popular child actor, in the area shooting his next film, all his films make Don appear to be a professional extreme sports junkie, and so naturally attention typically centered on Otto’s skill as an athlete is eclipsed upon Don’s arrival. Otto, upset at the prospect of being second best, tries to see if Don is as talented a skater as he appears and consistently tries and fails to skate with him. As it turns out, even though Don tries his best to avoid demonstrating his ability Otto eventually discovers that he is merely an actor, not the skateboarding expert of his films and has the opportunity to expose Don as a fraud. After much consideration, Otto decides not to reveal Don’s inability to the public simply to restore his own public fanfare and remembers that once Don finishes shooting his film that things will return to normal, so there is no need to ruin Don’s career.

In the episode of iCarly entitled “iRocked the Vote” Carly and Sam have a similar opportunity to expose singer Wade Collins as a fraud as an act of revenge against him. During the episode the audience gets a clear sense that Wade Collins is an arrogant jerk in real life while maintaining a humble and kind persona in front of an audience. Feeling tricked and used by Wade, Carly decides to expose him for a fraud during a live broadcast of iCarly. She even goes as far as to publically invade his privacy by revealing his hotel and room number to her fans in hopes that there are some sort of physical repercussions for Wade’s deceptive ways. Essentially Carly uses her platform of iCarly to seek revenge and hurt Wade Collin’s and his singing career. Everyone Wade personally interacts with during the show gets a sense of the ‘real’ Wade Collins, although Carly was tricked into helping Wade’s image her response to his trickery will have cause him physical pain and affect his future career. The punishment does not fit the crime; a children’s icon such as Carly should take the moral high ground.
iRocked the Vote Clip
Go to the 9 minute mark.
Once again the moral quandary and lesson this recycled plot used to teach is absent in the technology emphasized iCarly.

In these two instances it appears iCarly’s emphasis on technology change the message of the recycled show themes for the worse; however, until a more in depth study of the episodes is conducted one cannot say that this is the case for every episode of iCarly. Children's over exposure to technology is rumored to have a number of negative effects on kid, I feel it would be worthwhile to see if iCarly, a show that promotes the use of technology displays the "negative effects" of technology may have on children.