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Monday, December 03, 2012

Past Is Future On Disney Channel and Nickelodeon

[Via forbes.com...]

Teen sitcom stars Jennette McCurdy and Ariana Grande weren’t even born yet when Nickelodeon was launched in 1979.

Their long-running series, iCarly and Victorious, are getting a combined spin-off show, called Sam and Cat. Nickelodeon announced the pilot order in August, and has ordered 20 episodes. Production begins in January 2012, in Los Angeles.

Similarly, Disney was two years away from purchasing ABC when Boy Meets World became a Friday night hit in 1993. Disney Channel acquired Boy Meets World in 2000, and introduced characters Cory Matthews and Topanga Lawrence to a new generation of teens and preteens.

Now, Disney Channel is developing a pilot for Boy spinoff. Ben Savage and Danielle Fishel will reprise their characters in Girl Meets World, which will follow the trials and tribulations of their 13-year-old TV daughter, Riley.

The original creators, veteran producers Dan Schneider and Michael Jacobs, lead the charge for Sam and Girl respectively.

McCurdy and the star of iCarly, Miranda Cosgrove, were frequently nominated for prestigious billings for kid programs, such as the Teen Choice Awards, Kids’ Choice Awards, and Primetime Emmys. Both Grande, 19, and McCurdy are talented vocalists.

McCurdy, 21,  will continue her role as Sam Puckett. She and Grande’s character will become unlikely room mates who start a babysitting business together.

Girl Meets World is still early in development, but Savage will play a history teacher, like his Boy Meets World mentor, ‘Mr. Feeny.’ A nationwide search is on for daughter Riley Matthews, and her edgy best friend Maya. Boy and its actors were nominated for dozens of Kids’ Choice and Young Artist awards; Savage and Fishel won some, along with several co-stars.

The maturation of the kids in these programs reflects the maturation of Disney Channel and Nickelodeon. While ‘mature’ might sound like the kiss of death for a youth-oriented business, it’s not the case here. Though both channels started in the 70s, they reinvented themselves approximately 20 years later, with drastic focus change. Disney Channel switched from pay to basic cable, and began replacing its old, recycled acquired programming (think Walt Disney Presents) with original movies and star-making episodic series (think Lizzie McGuire).

Nickelodeon was ahead of the curve in animation, with Ren & Stimpy and Rugrats, but its late-tween, early teen programming was getting long in the tooth (think reruns of Clarissa Explains It All and Are You Afraid Of The Dark?). By 1996, Nick began launching series featuring talent that appeared in Schneider’s All That,  such as Kenan & Kel, The Amanda Show, and later Drake & Josh and Zoey 101, starring Jamie Lynn Spears.

In other words, these channels laid a solid foundation of original, character-driven programming, which can now spawn second and third generation hits. While Boy Meets World was not developed at Disney Channel but rather, Buena Vista Television, its saturation and promotion on the channel assured that Disney could mine the intellectual property decades later.