You Can't Do That on Television
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|You Can't Do That on Television|
|Created by||Roger Price|
|Directed by||Geoffrey Darby |
|Starring||Les Lye and Cast|
|Country of origin||Canada|
|No. of seasons||10|
|No. of episodes||144 (plus 2 compilations) (list of episodes)|
|Executive producer(s)||Geoffrey Darby |
Jeffrey C. Weber
|Production location(s)||CJOH-TV Studios|
|Running time||60 minutes (1979–80)|
30 minutes (1981–90)
|Original network||CTV (1979–90)|
|Original release||February 3, 1979 –|
May 25, 1990
You Can't Do That on Television is a Canadian television program that first aired locally in 1979 before airing internationally in 1981. It featured pre-teen and teenaged actors in a sketch comedy format similar to that of the United States Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In and Saturday Night Live. Each episode had a specific theme normally relating to pop culture of the time. The show was notable for launching the careers of many performers, including alternative rock singer-songwriter Alanis Morissette, and screenwriter Bill Prady.
The show was produced by and aired on Ottawa's CTV station CJOH-TV, and was marketed specifically for an American audience. After production ended in 1990, the show continued in reruns on the Nickelodeon cable network in the United States through 1994, when it was replaced with the similar themed sketch-comedy variety program All That. During its original run, the show was seen as one and the same with Nickelodeon, achieved high ratings and is well known for introducing the network's iconic slime (usually green).
- 1 History
- 2 Trademarks
- 3 Water, slime and pies
- 4 Cast
- 5 References
- 6 Further reading
- 7 External links
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You Can't Do That on Television debuted on 3 February 1979 on CJOH-TV in Ottawa as a one-hour, low-budget variety program with some segments performed live. The show consisted of comedy skits, music videos (usually three per episode) and live phone-in contests in which the viewer could win a variety of prizes (transistor radios, record albums, model kits, etc.). The format also included performances by local disco dancers and special guests such as British Ottawa-based cartoonist Jim Unger. Every week the show took its "Roving Camera" to hangouts around town, recording kids' jokes or complaints about life, which would be played on the following week's broadcast. The show also made several tie-ins with Ottawa radio station CFGO, then a popular Top 40 music outlet (now a sports-talk station), including having one of the station's personalities, Jim Johnson, emcee the disco dance segments and share tidbits about the artists featured in the music videos played on the show, yet the show never really took off.
Veteran comedy actor Les Lye played numerous recurring characters and was initially the only adult to perform in the show's sketches; he was also the only actor to appear for the entire length of the series run. Actress Abby Hagyard, who played "Mom" opposite Lye's role as "Dad", would not join the cast until 1982. Occasionally, the older children in the cast (such as Christine McGlade, Sarah West or Cyndi Kennedy) played adult characters.
The show was meant to offer a program for children on Saturday mornings that made no attempt to be an educational program. The idea was successful, as (according to one episode) the show scored a 32 share of the ratings for CJOH in its 10:30 a.m. Saturday time slot. The studio masters for the first-season episodes no longer exist, and thus all but three of the episodes from this season were believed lost forever until early 2013, when copies of the missing episodes from that season were contributed by Roger Price and posted on YouTube.
National television in Canada
After a successful first season, a national network version of the program entitled Whatever Turns You On was produced for CTV and debuted in September 1979 (having already aired an hour-long pilot episode in May). The format was shortened to a half-hour, removed local content, added a laugh track and replaced music videos with live performances from popular Canadian artists at the time, including Trooper, Max Webster, Ian Thomas, Ottawa's own Cooper Brothers (once of whose members, Dick Cooper, would later become a writer for YCDTOTV), and disco singer Alma Faye Brooks. Ruth Buzzi joined the cast playing many of the adult female characters, mostly notably a strict schoolteacher named Miss Fitt, and the studio secretary Miss Take. In addition, twenty-two children from the first season were whittled down to seven: Christine "Moose" McGlade, Lisa Ruddy, Jonothan Gebert, Kevin Somers, Kevin Schenk, Rodney Helal, and Marc Baillon (another first-season cast member, Elizabeth Mitchell, only appeared in the pilot episode). The show was placed in the 7:00 pm time slot on Tuesday nights. It had poor ratings as a result; in addition, some CTV affiliates opted not to carry the show, possibly due to content. As a result, CTV cancelled the show in December 1979 after only 13 episodes.
In January 1981, production on YCDTOTV resumed, and a new batch of episodes aired locally on CJOH through May of that year. The format of the 1981 episodes as aired on CJOH was similar to that of the inaugural 1979 season, with the differences being that each show featured skits revolving around a certain topic (something that carried over from Whatever Turns You On) and that the disco dancers were replaced by video game competitions.
In the meantime, Price and Darby decided to try to syndicate the show, and edited down each 1981 episode down from an hour to a half-hour format similar to Whatever Turns You On. This required some scenes to be re-shot to filter out any Ottawa- or Canada-centric content, and the half-hour syndicated edits would be 100 per cent sketch comedy. The 1981 season would be rerun on CJOH in early 1982 in the half-hour syndicated format; to make up for the lack of local content, Price and Darby made a new local show for CJOH titled Something Else, which featured many of the YCDTOTV cast in a game show/variety format similar to The Price Is Right. The YCDTOTV team also made a pilot film for Disney in 1981 titled Bear Rapids, which was never picked up.
Four of the hour-long CJOH episodes from the 1981 season ("Strike Now", "Sexual Equality", "Crime and Vandalism", and "Peer Pressure") are available for public viewing on YouTube. The rest are only currently available in the half-hour edits.
In 1981, the new American youth-oriented cable network, Nickelodeon, took an interest in YCDTOTV. Nickelodeon originally aired a handful of episodes in the edited half-hour syndicated format as a test run. Response was positive, and in January 1982, Nickelodeon began airing the entire edited season and YCDTOTV would become their highest rated show by 1983.
Production on new episodes of YCDTOTV resumed full-time in 1982, with all episodes from that point onward made in the half-hour all-comedy format. Beginning with the 1982 season, Nickelodeon and CJOH became production partners on YCDTOTV. Over the next few years, the series was seen only sporadically in Canada (CTV would give the show a second shot on Saturday mornings in 1982, but it didn't last), but YCDTOTV continued to go strong in the U.S. on Nickelodeon, where it aired first five times a week and, eventually, every day. It was not until 1989 that the series finally gained similar exposure in Canada, when it was added by the nascent YTV network.
Viewers in the U.S. were given the opportunity to enter the Slime-In, a contest hosted by Nickelodeon that flew the winner to the set of You Can't Do That on Television to be slimed (which was later replicated by Canada's YTV, with their version being called the Slime Light Sweepstakes).
In 1983, Roger Price created a clone of YCDTOTV for the U.S. PBS public television network, titled Don't Look Now (originally to be titled Don't Tell Your Mother!), which was made at WGBH-TV in Boston, Massachusetts. The show was similar in format to the 1979 season of YCDTOTV, including the showing of music videos and the recycling of several early YCDTOTV skits and motifs (including a variation on the show's trademark green slime gag called "Yellow Yuck"). Despite high ratings, the series never continued past its initial five-episode trial run in October 1983, possibly due to complaints from parents for its content, and by Nickelodeon for concerns the YCDTOTV would continue and that the success of Don't Look Now, and if had it not been cancelled may have spelled the end of YCDTOTV. The series was believed lost forever until all five episodes surfaced in early 2013, and have been posted on YouTube as well, but with the music videos edited out for copyright reasons.
Roger Price created another show for Nickelodeon, the less successful Turkey Television, in 1985, which used several key cast members of YCDTOTV, including Les Lye, Christine McGlade, Kevin Kubusheskie and Adam Reid. By this time, Christine, now well into her twenties and keen to move on with her life, had moved to Toronto and was flying back to Ottawa for YCDTOTV taping sessions. Turkey Television also marked Christine's debut as a producer, a career with which she would continue after leaving YCDTOTV in 1986. Another Price production using YCDTOTV cast members, UFO Kidnapped, had been made in 1983. Although the pilot aired on Nickelodeon, the series was not picked up.
Changing of the guard and controversies
By 1987, many of the "veteran" cast members such as Matt Godfrey, Doug Ptolemy, Vanessa Lindores, and Adam Reid had grown too old for the show. Longtime hostess Christine McGlade ("Moose") had departed the previous year, as had Alasdair Gillis (who had been promoted to co-host with McGlade in 1985 before leaving towards the end of the 1986 season); Lisa Ruddy ("Motormouth"), McGlade's longtime sidekick on the show, was also gone, having left at the end of the 1985 season. Only five episodes were filmed in this season, the shortest season of You Can't Do That on Television's 15-year span on the air (tied with 1990, which also lasted only five episodes), and one of the episodes (Adoption) proved so controversial that it was banned after being shown twice (a "DO NOT AIR" sticker was reportedly placed on the master tape at CJOH). (Adoption) is the only episode that was banned in the U.S. In Canada, the "Divorce" episode was banned, but the "Adoption" episode was shown with one part cut: in the sketch where Senator Prevert calls the adoption agency to send his son Adam back after using him to do chores all day, the part where Senator Prevert calls the adoption agency officer a "damn bureaucrat" after learning that "Adoption is forever" was bleeped out.
In addition, Nickelodeon had removed the half-hour edits of the 1981 episodes of You Can't Do That on Television from its daily time slot rotation, along with the 1982 "Cosmetics" episode. The 1981 episodes were supposed to air for the last time ever during a week-long promotion in 1985 called "Oldies But Moldies", which featured contests where Nickelodeon viewers could win prizes like "tasty, fresh chocolate syrup". However, the episodes continued to air until the end of 1987 but were not played very often. Reportedly, this was because Nickelodeon's six-year contract to air the 1981 season expired in 1987, and since Nickelodeon was beginning to aim for a younger demographic and many of the 1981 episodes dealt with topics more relevant to adolescents (such as smoking, drugs, sexual equality, and peer pressure); the network opted not to renew the contract. Allegedly, Nickelodeon removed the "Cosmetics" episode from rotation for the latter reason as well (although the "Addictions" episode from that same season was not dropped). By contrast, when Canada's YTV began airing the series in 1989, they continued airing the 1981 season as part of the package, as well as Whatever Turns You On, which was never shown in the United States at all.
Roger Price moved to France following production of the 1987 season, after being informed that Nickelodeon was not planning to order more episodes, and production was suspended for 1988. When Price eventually returned to Canada, he wanted to resume production of You Can't Do That on Television from the city of Toronto, but was convinced by the cast and crew to return to Ottawa and CJOH. Nickelodeon ordered more YCDTOTV episodes for the 1989 season, and auditions were held at CJOH in the spring of 1988 with taping beginning that fall. The only child cast members to make the transition from 1987 to 1989 were Amyas Godfrey and Andrea Byrne, although a few minor cast members seen in 1986, including Rekha Shah and James Tung, returned for an episode or two.
Opinions on the 1989 and 1990 episodes of YCDTOTV are mixed among longtime fans of the show, particularly regarding the new episodes' increasing reliance on bathroom humour to attract a younger audience than the show had targeted in years past, as well as a reliance on more slime and water gags (which was supposedly at the request of Nickelodeon executives). In any case, the show did not completely sever ties to its past, as many former cast members reappeared during the 1989 season in cameo roles, most notably in the "Age" episode, which was hosted by Vanessa Lindores (who was slimed twice during it) and also featured cameos by Doug Ptolemy, Alasdair Gillis, Christine McGlade, and Kevin Kubusheskie (who by that time had become a stage producer on the show). Gillis also appeared briefly in the "locker jokes" segment during the "Fantasies" episode, and Adam Reid, who by this time had become an official writer for YCDTOTV, also appeared (and was slimed) at the very end of the episode "Punishment".
The show's ratings declined throughout 1989 and 1990. The network's desire to produce more of its own shows at its new studios at Universal Studios in Orlando, Florida, coupled with the poor ratings, caused production of You Can't Do That on Television to officially end in 1990 after only five episodes were made (tying 1990 with 1987 as the shortest season of the series). Though ratings declined, Nickelodeon continued to air reruns until January 1994, at which point it was only being aired on weekends.
On October 5, 2015, Nickelodeon sister network TeenNick brought the show back in reruns as the first program on The Splat, its expanded retro block. The airings began with the first two 1981 episodes, "Work" and "Transportation," marking the first time those episodes had aired on U.S. television in thirty years. However, only two additional episodes ("Christmas" and "Holidays" from the 1984 season) have been aired on the block since.
YCDTOTV was aired in Australia on ABC Television in the mid-1980s, beginning with 1981's "Work, Work, Work," it aired at 5:30 pm weekdays until August 1987 when the initial run ended, after its first two runs it was moved to a 7am weekday morning timeslot in 1989. It continued to run on and off on ABC Television for the next few years, mainly as a filler during the school holiday breaks until the rights expired in the early 1990s. It was very successful in Australia. The show was aired in its entirety, including the final seasons of 1989–90. As in the U.S., the series was rerun into the early 1990s.
The series was also seen in some European countries and reportedly in the Middle East as well (dubbed into the vernacular language), although no French-dubbed version for distribution in France or Francophone Canada is known to exist, nor were any local adaptations based on the YCDTOTV format known to have been made.
YCDTOTV was also broadcast in several other countries such as the United Kingdom (on the former satellite and cable television for children The Children's Channel), New Zealand (on TV3), Germany (on Armed Forces Network with the original English audio) and the Philippines (on RPN-9).
In July 2004, on what was the program's 25th anniversary, a reunion special called Project 131 which was named Changes and was produced at CJOH-TV starring five members of the original cast. These included Brodie Osome, Marjorie Silcoff, and Vanessa Lindores (visibly pregnant at the time), Justin Cammy and Alasdair Gillis. It was directed by David Dillehunt.
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Episodes of YCDTOTV included recurring gimmicks and gags. The following is a partial list.
At the beginning of each show aired after the 1981 season, a title card would appear featuring a parody title of a TV show, with a silly (often macabre) picture and the announcer (Les Lye) making the following announcement: "(Phony TV show) will not be seen today/at this time in order for us to bring you (insert witty remark here)." The pre-empted shows were parodies of current TV shows (e.g. The A-Team Makes One Cup of Coffee Last Five Hours, "Hanging Out" or "Malls", 1984), movies (e.g. Top Gun Gets Put on Latrine-Cleaning Duty, "Discipline", 1986), or other pop culture icons (e.g. Boy George Without Make-up, "Halloween", 1984), and were often relevant to the theme of the current episode (e.g. the pre-empted show for "Safety" (1981) was Hit and Run on Sesame Street). The pre-empted show announcement concept was borrowed from Saturday Night Live, which introduced their shows with similar announcements in the late 1970s. YCDTOTV had also preempted itself on three occasions (Television, Media, and Priorities). Additionally, "The Generation Gap" episode did not begin with a preempted episode; instead, a disclaimer read "The following program contains certain scenes which may not be suitable for mature audiences. Juvenile discretion is advised". There was no pre-emption for the "Success and Failure" episode (1989) because the producers failed to come up with a gag show to pre-empt.
Opening animation: The Children's Television Sausage Factory
Originally created by Rand MacIvor (under Art Director John C. Galt), who was inspired by Terry Gilliam's "gilliamations", the opening animation sequence was a sequence of surreal images set to Rossini's "William Tell Overture", performed in a Dixieland jazz arrangement by The National Press Club and Allied Workers Jazz Band. Though the arrangement of the theme music stayed the same throughout the entire series run (although there are subtle differences between the themes in various seasons – especially the closing themes – and Whatever Turns You On used a completely different theme song), the opening animation itself changed in different ways.
- The Centre Block of the Canadian Parliament complex was used in the first season and in the original hour-long versions of the 1981 season episodes. In this animation sequence, a person pulls the roof off one side of the building, releasing three balloons bearing the likenesses of the three party leaders at the time: Pierre Trudeau (Liberal), Joe Clark (Progressive Conservative), and Ed Broadbent (NDP). Then, a hand from off-screen ignites the bottom of the Peace Tower with a match and it takes off like a rocket. The start of the animation features a likeness of 1979 cast member David Halpin.
- There are two versions of the "Children's Television Sausage Factory" animation. In this sequence, children are "processed" in the "sausage factory" and deposited onto a school bus at the bottom of the factory that transports them to the TV studio (a likeness of the CJOH studios on Merivale Road in Nepean, Ontario). The first version was created for the half-hour, internationally syndicated versions of the 1981 episodes. The second version, which featured larger images and cleaner (albeit less fluid) scene animation than the first version, was introduced in the beginning 1982 season and used for both the U.S. and Canadian broadcasts of You Can't Do That on Television until the end of the show in 1990.
- Both versions of the "Children's Television Sausage Factory" animation feature likenesses of Jonothan Gebert, Kevin Somers, Marc Baillon and Christine McGlade exiting the school bus, as well as a likeness of Les Lye as the security guard at the door of the TV studio. This footage was re-used from the opening sequence of 1979's short-lived Whatever Turns You On.
- The ending of the introduction saw Lye's face in a sketch with his mouth opening up, leading to a stamp put on his face reading You Can't Do That on Television, followed by the screen cracking and finally splitting in 2 pieces which the cast are seen and the show begins. (Lye's facial expression is somewhat different between the pre-1982 and the after-1982 openings in that the former his mouth stays open while the latter his mouth is closed. Also in the pre-1982 opening, the cut to the show starting is a more television-ish cut.)
Each episode had an "opposites" segment, introduced by a visual effect of the screen flipping upside down, shifting left to fade to the next sketch, and then righting itself. Right before this happened, one of the cast would generally be giving a monologue (or several would be having a group conversation) that was interrupted by another cast member with something that would (generally) be opposite what the monologue (or dialogue) was about, all present cast would say, "It must be the introduction to the opposites", and then the inversion fade would happen; several sketches would follow that were a tongue-in-cheek reversal of the show's subject of the day, and also in which the normal principles of daily life were reversed, often with children having authority over adults or with adults encouraging children to behave badly (for example, eating sweets instead of vegetables, or wasting money on something frivolous rather than putting the money in the bank). A show on marketing, for instance, would also have a sketch or four of how not to market something.
Sometimes opposite sketches involved cast members not being hit with slime or water after saying the "trigger phrase" (see below section), as in City Life (1987) or Excess (1989). The slime or water would not fall until after the opposites were over, or sometimes not fall at all. Also, an opposite sketch in Heroes (1982) had Lisa Ruddy slimed for saying "I know," rather than "I don't know" (while other cast members said "I don't know" in that same sketch without anything happening to them).
A return to the show's daily subject was hallmarked by another of these inversion fades, and usually accompanied by one of the cast members saying, "Back to reality." These would sometimes occur in the middle of a sketch, resulting in the characters inverting whatever they were doing just prior to the conclusion of the sketch.
Opposite sketches were used in the inaugural season of the show on CJOH in 1979 (the first one, used in Episode Two, was submitted by a viewer), but it was not until Whatever Turns You On that they became an integral part of the show.
Parodies of television commercials were part of the series as early as the first season and were the subject of one full episode in 1986, but the 1982 episodes contained commercial parodies which aired in between the commercial bumpers, where real commercials would ordinarily fit. The products featured ranged from parodies of actual products (i.e. the Lotachi Lugman, a parody of the Sony Walkman) to completely fictional products (such as a fragrance called "Creme de peanut", advertised by Abby Hagyard in a blonde wig and slinky black dress). These fake commercials were cut from the shows once Nickelodeon became advertiser-supported in 1983, although the "Creme de peanut" and "Hero Cereal" spots were preserved for later Worst of YCDTOTV compilations.
Most episodes starting in 1981 included one or more firing squad sketches, where Les Lye would play the part of a Latin American military officer with a sword in hand preparing to order a firing squad (whom he addressed as 'amigos') to execute one of the children actors, who were standing in front of a post. The kids would usually find a way to trick the Executioner into walking in front of the post and saying the word "fire", thus getting shot by the firing squad himself, which was a trademark, and happened almost every time.
Every scene had the same basic format.
Captain: "Ready, aim..."
Cast Member: "Wait a minute, stop the execution!"
Captain: "What is it this time?"
The cast member would then make some attempt to stall or stop the execution. Most of the time, the cast member would be successful; however, occasionally, Lye's character would "successfully" complete the scene. On these occasions, the scene would end with "Ready, Aimm..." and the cast member flinching, which is when the squad would fire, but it was not shown. The only cast members who were actually shown being shot were Kevin Sommers, Lisa Ruddy and Alisdaire Gillis. There is also one episode in which the cast member cries out to the commander: "Hurry up, hurry up, start the execution!" This, of course, draws the executioner's attention, and they commence fire.
Starting with the 1981 season, most episodes featured sketches with the kids eating at Barth's Burgery, a fast-food burger restaurant run by Barth (played by Les Lye), a chain-smoking, unpleasant, disgusting cook who used unsanitary and questionable methods of creating burgers. Most of the sketches would begin with Barth giving the kids their orders, the kids hesitant on eating their food, Barth telling them what he used as burger meat (most of the time he would say unpleasant things like rodents, poison, various animals not fit for human consumption, used kitty litter, human body parts, etc.) and the kids growing queasy and eventually throwing up.
Most of the sketches featured the following dialogue somewhere in the scene:
Cast Member: "Who/What do you think is in the burgers?"
Barth: "Duh IIIIIIII heard that!"
Some sketches featured Barth worried about the health inspector shutting down his restaurant and telling the kids how he was going to solve the problem. On rare occasions, the kids would actually enjoy their meal and be satisfied, only to find out Barth mistakenly gave them the wrong order. Barth would demand the kids to give back their food. ("I would never give my customers real meat!").
In the 1981 and 1982 seasons, Barth had a worker, Zilch (played by Darryll Lucas), whom he frequently insulted and abused, often by hitting him with a pan and knocking him out cold. In the 1982 "Bullies" episode, a young Alasdair Gillis tried to show Zilch how to defend himself by clobbering him over the head with the pan, resulting in Alasdair and Barth taking turns assaulting Zilch until Zilch fell to the floor unconscious.
During the "locker jokes" segment of each episodes, cast members, standing inside school lockers with the words "You Can't Do That on Television" painted on them, would tell jokes to each other. The person telling the joke would open their locker, sticking their head out to call another cast member to tell the joke to. For the duration of the joke, those cast members would be the only ones seen with open lockers. When the punchline was delivered, there would be a laugh track and the actors would close their lockers, allowing the process to start again with different people and a different joke. This was almost certainly an homage to the well-known "joke wall" segment on Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In. This feature of the show was also introduced during its first season in 1979 and continued until the end of the series in 1990, with the lockers themselves undergoing a few minor physical makeovers during the show's early years.
Used in a few episodes in the first two seasons and almost every episode in later seasons, the closing credits of You Can't Do That on Television are followed by an announcement of the "company" that produced the program, with the name generally tying in with the episode's main subject. These announcements are given in the form of "'You Can't Do That on Television' is a ______ production." For example, the 1982 "Bullying" episode was a "Black Eye" Production; the 1984 "Marketing" show was a "Can't Give It Away" Production; the "Divorce" episode was a "Split Down The Middle" Production;"Project 131" was a "Changing Day" Production; The "Malls" episode was a "Hang Out to Dry" production. The announcement of the production company was generally followed by one final sketch, also borrowing a concept from Laugh-In, in which the jokes continued for a time after the credits finished rolling.
YCDTOTV has been occasionally referenced on Robot Chicken, including some of the show's trademark gags, such as locker jokes, Barth's Burgery, and green slime.
In the Family Guy episode "Fast Times at Buddy Cianci Jr. High", Peter Griffin is slimed after saying "I don't know," followed immediately by a still shot that is a direct reference to YCDTOTV's opening sequence, with the words "You Can't Do That on Television" written in red over a man's face. A later episode of the series was titled "You Can't Do That on Television, Peter", but contained no overt references to YCDTOTV.
Water, slime and pies
Certain key words would result in cast members having substances poured onto them from off-camera.
When someone said the word "water", "wash" or "wet", a large amount of water would mysteriously cascade onto them from above. In the early years of the show, cast members (especially Christine) were frequently nailed with pails of water physically thrown on them, but starting in 1981, this began to change to the much more mysterious motif of water falling down on the victim from above. By the 1984 season, only the word "water" led to a dousing or "watering"; the word "wet" no longer did so. This was also an homage to Laugh-In, which featured their similar "Sock It To Me" sketches. On occasion, cast members would try to "dodge" getting hit with water by saying "agua" (Spanish) or "eau" (French) instead, only to still be soaked anyways. (The latter was Christine actually saying "Oh, no you don't." but "oh" sounded too much like "eau".) One episode also had Christine McGlade and Kevin Kubusheskie drenched for saying "What're," the reason being that it sounded somewhat similar to "Water."
A couple of times, a circumstance will come where one person says "water", but another person on the screen will get hit with the water. Both times, it was Christine McGlade who took the water when the other person said it, and then took it again when she protested that she wasn't the one who said it the first time (but said it that time). The first time was with Kevin Kubusheskie when he was wearing a suit of armor, and Ross explained if he got hit, the suit would rust and since the studio had rented it, they would be liable for it, which they could not afford. The other time was when one kid cast member was being protected from both water and slime by Ross out of fear the kid's mother would kill him. (While the water was diverted, he was slimed for saying "I don't know" at the end of the show, much to Ross's horror.)
Likewise, when someone said "I don't know", green slime, a gooey substance, would pour on them from above. This prank was known as being "slimed." As with waterings, the sliming gag was used in almost every episode, especially from 1982 onward (a number of 1979 and 1981 episodes featured no slime at all, and slime is known to have been used on only one episode of Whatever Turns You On).
Green slime was a fixture of the series from the very beginning. In a Detention/Dungeon scene in the show's first episode, Tim Douglas is told NOT to pull on his chains by the principal. After he leaves, Tim does just that. A "toilet flushing" sound is heard, and the first YCDTOTV sliming occurs.
According to Geoffrey Darby in the book Slimed! An Oral History of Nickelodeon's Golden Age, the original slime developed "by accident": Darby had originally planned for a bucket of food leftovers from the CJOH cafeteria, with water added, to be dumped on Tim, but the production of that first episode was delayed by a week, and when the time came to shoot the scene, the contents of the bucket had turned green with mold. Due to time constraints, Darby authorized the noxious, moldy mixture to be dumped on Tim anyway. Roger Price was furious when he found out, but the response from the viewing audience was positive, and so Darby and Price decided to write an entire show around the slime, the result of which was "The Green Slime Show" of March 17, 1979 (fittingly, St. Patrick' Day), in which Lisa Ruddy was the victim of six slimings (a YCDTOTV record). By this time, the slime had changed to a much more innocuous mixture of green gelatin dessert powder, flour, and water, and with that episode, the use of "I don't know" as the slime's trigger phrase was introduced. In fact, one episode saw two kids (including Alasdair Gillis) getting slimed together, after one of them said "We don't know". On occasion, a cast member would try to circumvent the dreaded three words, like in the "Computers" episode, when Christine McGlade said "Insufficient Data" instead of "I don't know" and got hit anyway. After she screamed "I don't know" up at the ceiling and nothing happened, Lisa Ruddy then told her the slime was computer controlled.
Although the slime was usually green, other colors, such as red, blue, yellow, and even black and white, were occasionally used. 1981's "Safety First" episode, which featured white slime as part of a recurring joke in about "wearing white at night," was the first episode known to have used a slime color other than green. The most dramatic example of this was in the 1982 episode "Television," in which Christine is slimed in green, red, blue, yellow and "stripes" (green, red, blue, and yellow at once), while trying to explain about green slime to then-newcomer Vanessa Lindores. This sketch was later seen in the opening to the hit 1987 film Fatal Attraction. In another memorable moment, the 1986 "Enemies and Paranoia" episode used the word "Free" as a trigger phrase for red slime after the studio was taken over by Russian Communists.
On the show, the recipe for the green slime was treated as a closely guarded secret, with attempts by the kids to find out the true recipe all being unsuccessful. In one episode, Ross (Les Lye) even went so far as to decoy the kids with a fake recipe), although some episodes posited revolting theories as to what the slime was really made of – one 1989 episode which dealt with smoking, for example, theorized that slime was mucus from smokers' lungs. In reality, however, the slime recipe used through most of the show's run consisted of a mixture of lime green gelatin powder, water and flour; eventually, oatmeal was added to the recipe, as was baby shampoo so that it would wash out of the actors' hair more easily. In the aforementioned 1982 episode "Television," however, Christine revealed the ingredients to the green slime, confirming all of the previously stated ingredients. In later years, the recipe consisted of simply adding green dye to a bucket of cottage cheese, which had the side effect of spoiling if left too long under hot studio lights (Vanessa complained of its smell almost making her sick after her sliming in the 1987 'Worst Of You Can't Do That On Television').
Especially in the later years of the show, cast members who were slimed frequently looked upward into the slime as it was falling so that it covered their faces (the same was also true of the waterings). To avoid damage to the set from water or slime, a clear tarpaulin was placed over the main portion of the set for scenes in which an actor was to be hit with either. The tarpaulin can occasionally be seen and/or heard underneath the actors in these scenes, and in fact the loud splatter sound usually heard during a watering or sliming is due to this tarpaulin. Actors who were scripted to be slimed or have water doused on them would usually appear barefoot in the scene. Kids who were slimed were reportedly paid extra. Scenes involving slimings were the final ones taped during a recording, allowing the actors to immediately rinse off after the scene was over.
Green Slime grew to become a trademark image for Nickelodeon, which began demanding more slimings on the show as the years went on, resulting in episodes such as 1985's "Movies," in which the entire cast (save for Abby Hagyard) is slimed. They later introduced Green Slime Shampoo (marketed with the slogan "Gets you clean, won't turn you green!"), which was a frequent parting gift for contestants on Nick's popular game show Double Dare, where slime was heavily used along with several variations such as 'gak' or 'gooze', and Mattel even sold Nickelodeon slime and gak in the 1990s. Nickelodeon's former studios in Orlando had a green slime geyser and green slime is still dumped on the host of the annual Kids Choice Awards at the end of the ceremony, and on at least one celebrity during the ceremony. It is also still used in ads showing the network's current stars getting slimed from all sides in slow motion, and is used to slime the winner at the end of the Nick game show BrainSurge, which debuted in 2009 (slime, as well as pies, was also used as a prize, rather than a penalty, in Nickelodeon's live daily game show Slime Time Live in the early 2000s). Saying "I don't know" to get slimed was later used on Nickelodeon's show Fanboy & Chum Chum as the main plot of the episode "Slime Day."
The classic slapstick pie-in-the-face gag was also frequently used on YCDTOTV, although pie scenes were most common during the early years of the show. One whole episode, 1981's Drugs, was constructed completely around the pie-in-the-face gag: to avoid the wrath of the censors, the episode showed the cast getting "high" by pieing themselves continuously over and over, comparing the stupidity of hitting oneself with a pie to the stupidity of taking drugs. Unlike the slime and water, pies were not triggered by any certain word or phrase.
Apart from the central cast as Les Lye and Abby Hagyard who played the adult character roles, over 100 pre-teen and teenaged actors appeared on YCDTOTV between 1979 and 1990. Some of the most notable cast members included:
|Name||Year(s)||First Appearance||Last Appearance||Notes|
|Stephanie Bauder||1989–90||Episode 114: Choices||Episode 142: Privileges|
|Nick Belcourt||1989||Episode 114: Choices||Episode 134: Effort||Known for a recurring gag of being unable to remember whether his name was Nick or Ted, stemming from a real-life incident during a read-through in which he read Ted Wilson's lines by mistake.|
|Chris Bickford||1989–90||Episode 114: Choices||Episode 143: Inventions||Fourth and final host.|
|Jennifer Brackenbury||1989–90||Episode 114: Choices||Episode 143: Inventions||Referred to by some fans as "The New Vanessa." Jen co-hosted the Worst of YCDTOTV videocassette along with Chris Bickford and Christian Tessier.|
|Carlos Braithwaite||1989–90||Episode 114: Choices||Episode 141: Learning|
|Andrea Byrne||1987–89||Episode 111: Adoption||Episode 122: Pollution||Famous for her "Little Orphan Andrea" persona in the Adoption episode.|
|Justin Cammy||1983–86||Episode 049: Classical Music||Episode 084: Revenge||Did not appear in any 1986 episodes although he is in the official cast photo. Appeared in his first episode clad in a diaper playing a sitar, as Roger Price's revenge for having to deal with Justin's difficult mother.|
|Stephanie Chow||1984–87||Episode 074: Families||Episode 112: Anniversaries||Offered the chance to return for the 1989 season, but declined.|
|Angie Coddett||1981–84||Episode 017: Dating||Episode 060: Foreign Countries||Known for her character "Angie the Talking Doll" during the 1981 season. She appeared in only one episode each in 1982 and '84.|
|Eugene Contreras||1982–85||Episode 029: Popularity||Episode 088: Movies||He and his brother Roddy were chosen after Roger Price, who had been looking for Hispanic kids for the show, overheard them speaking Spanish, although they had arrived at the studio too late to audition.|
|Roddy Contreras||1982||Episode 035: Television||Episode 035: Television||Roddy's appearances in his only episode were edited out of the Nickelodeon airings of the show post-1983, once the network became advertiser-supported.|
|Tim Douglas||1979||Episode 001||Episode 010||Tim was the first cast member to be slimed, and one of only two cast members to have "real" green slime dumped on him made from moldy food leftovers.|
|Ian Fingler||1979||Episode 004||Episode 013|
|Jonothan Gebert||1979–81||Episode 001||Episode 023: Crime and Vandalism||Jono was also a cast member on Whatever Turns You On and Something Else. By the 1981 season he was too tall to appear on the link set and was seen mainly in execution and dungeon skits.|
|Alasdair Gillis||1982–86||Episode 031: Vacations||Episode 108: Mysteries and Crimes||Second official host. Cameo in 1989's Fantasies and Age episodes.|
|Michael Hora||1983–84||Episode 044: Future World||Episode 051: Fame||Never Slimed.|
|Amyas Godfrey||1986–89||Episode 089: Fairy Tales, Myths, & Legends||Episode 139: Embarrassment||Along with Andrea Byrne, Rekha Shah and James Tung, Amyas was one of only three kid cast members to transition from 1986–87 to 1989, and the only one to appear regularly in '89.|
|Matthew Godfrey||1986–87||Episode 091: Know-It-Alls||Episode 112: Anniversaries||Older brother of Amyas Godfrey. He and his brother had just moved back to Ottawa after four years living in Dallas when they were cast; their time in Texas was occasionally used as an in-joke on the show.|
|Abby Hagyard||1982–90||Episode 027: Cosmetics||Episode 143: Inventions||Adult cast member. Her most frequent roles were Mom (Valerie Prevert) and the British-accented Librarian, but she played most adult female roles during her time on the show. She was not slimed until the 1989 season.|
|Adam Kalbfleisch||1984–86||Episode 062: Moving||Episode 095: Country||Watered twice during his run on the show, but never slimed.|
|Martin Kerr||1981–83||Episode 025: Nutrition||Episode 040: Pets||Kerr joined the cast after Roger Price saw him in one of the local "Roving Camera" segments when the show aired on CJOH and decided he liked him. He also participated in Something Else.|
|Pauline Kerr||1984||Episode 060: Foreign Countries||Episode 078: Wealth||Martin Kerr's younger sister.|
|Kevin Kubusheskie||1981–84||Episode 016: Strike Now||Episode 068: Halloween||Kubusheskie became a writer and producer on the series during the 1989 and 1990 seasons.|
|Vanessa Lindores||1982–87||Episode 035: Television||Episode 112: Anniversaries||Lindores was the show's third host, and returned to host 1989's Age episode. She also appeared (then pregnant) in 2004's reunion "Project 131". The only other cast member to have "real" green slime dumped on her made from rotten food leftovers.|
|Les Lye||1979–90||Episode 001||Episode 143: Inventions||Adult cast member, and the only one to appear in the show from its very first to its very last episode. Also starred in Whatever Turns You On.|
|Mike Lyon||1981||Episode 018: Fitness||Episode 024: Drugs||Appeared in only two episodes.|
|Christine "Moose" McGlade||1979–86||Episode 001||Episode 093: Garbage||Christine "Moose" McGlade was the first official host. She featured also in many skits and also had a brief cameo in the "Age" episode in 1989. Her younger sister Lisa was used in some skits as an uncredited extra. She also appeared on Whatever Turns You On and Something Else, and would go on to develop the short-lived Turkey Television with Roger Price.|
|Patrick Mills||1989–90||Episode 121: Security||Episode 143: Privileges||Mills became a film director and screenwriter, post YCDTOTV.|
|Alanis Morissette||1986||Episode 090: Pop Music||Episode 100: Contests||Appeared in a total of five episodes. Was slimed three times, but only one of her slime scenes aired (Pop Music).|
|Brodie Osome||1981–83||Episode 015: Transportation||Episode 049: Classical Music||Osome appeared in Project 131 with Vanessa Lindores and Marjorie Silcoff.|
|Doug Ptolemy||1982–87||Episode 030: Fads and Fashion||Episode 112: Anniversaries||Ptolemy made a cameo appearance in the 1989 Age episode, after leaving and also had a battle with drug addiction after the show ended.|
|Adam Reid||1984–87||Episode 078: Wealth||Episode 112: Anniversaries||Reid made a cameo in the 1989 Punishment episode. He also co-wrote several episodes that season with Roger Price.|
|Lisa Ruddy||1979–85||Episode 001||Episode 088: Movies||Ruddy was a cast member on Whatever Turns You On as well. At the end of her tenure on the show, she, Christine McGlade and Les Lye were the only remaining original cast members. Ruddy was sometimes called "Motormouth" Lisa Ruddy, because of her tendency to talk a lot. Took the longest sliming of the show during the "Cooking" episode, having two extra large buckets dumped on her during the sliming at the dinner table.|
|Sidharth Sahay||1989||Episode 116: Communication||Episode 135: Sports||Brother of Vik Sahay.|
|Vik Sahay||1986–87||Episode 105: Sleep||Episode 112: Anniversaries||Canadian actor of Indian descent, whose brother Sidharth Sahay, also appeared on show.|
|Kevin Schenk||1979–81||Episode 008||Episode 026: Peer Pressure||Schenk was also a cast member on Whatever Turns You On.|
|Klea Scott||1982–84||Episode 031: Vacations||Episode 054: ESP – Magic Astrology||Scott was born in Panama|
|Rekah Shah||1986–89||Episode 094: Garbage||Episode 122: Pollution||Shah went on to star in another successful Nickelodeon show Fifteen. Was only slimed once because she hated it so much.|
|Sariya Sharp||1989–90||Episode 122: Fantasy||Episode 143: Inventions||Sariya's trademark became complaining about her "totally Neanderthal mother" who never let her have her ears pierced.|
|Marjorie Silcoff||1984–85||Episode 056: History||Episode 084: Revenge||Silcoff was watered in three episodes plus Project 131, but never slimed. She returned for Project 131 along with Vanessa Lindores and Brodie Osome.|
|Kevin Somers||1979–81||Episode 001||Episode 019: Safety First||Somers was also a cast member on Whatever Turns You On. Like Gebert, he appeared chiefly in execution and dungeon skits by 1981 due to his height and age, although he did also participate in Something Else.|
|Amy Stanley||1989–90||Episode 133: Celebrations||Episode 141: Learning||Amy, the younger sister of Jill Stanley, was the only cast member not yet born when the series premiered in February 1979.|
|Jill Stanley||1989–90||Episode 115: Chores||Episode 141: Learning||Jill had previously starred in the movie Tommy Tricker and the Stamp Traveller as "Nancy." She had a problem with remembering her lines, which became a running gag on YCDTOTV.|
|Christian Tessier||1989–90||Episode 116: Communication||Episode 143: Inventions||Tessier is an actor and singer, whose first appearance on television was this program.|
|Teddy Wilson||1989–90||Episode 114: Choices||Episode 143: Inventions||billed here as Ted Wilson, Wilson became a television host; Never Ever Do This At Home and Innerspace|
|Bradfield Wiltse||1979||Episode 005||Episode 007 : The famous green slime show (St. Patrick's Day)|
- You Can't Do That on Film at the Internet Movie Database
- "You Can't Do that On Television". members.shaw.ca. Retrieved 2016-04-20.
- "You Can't Do That on Television (Series) – TV Tropes". TV Tropes. Retrieved 2016-04-20.
- You Can't Do That on Television, 1979-02-03, retrieved 2016-02-29
- You Can't Do That on Television, 1979-02-03, retrieved 2016-02-29
- "OLD SCHOOL NICK". oldschoolnick.tumblr.com. Retrieved 2016-03-01.
- Klickstein, Mathew. Slimed! An Oral History of Nickelodeon's Golden Age. Plume, 2013, pp. 55–56.
- Klickstein, Mathew. Slimed! An Oral History of Nickelodeon's Golden Age. Plume, 2013, p. 53.
- "Roger Price Interview". Youtube. Geoffrey Darby.
- "Long Lost Pictures From YCDTOTV Vaults". Twitter. Roger Price.
- "Facebook Live Q & A". Facebook. Slime Studios.
- Conway, Kyle (Spring 2005). "Heading South to Make It Big: The American Success of Canada's You Can't Do That on Television". American Review of Canadian Studies. 35 (1): 45–65. doi:10.1080/02722010509481249. (subscription required)
- Hagyard, Abby (Winter 2016). "FAME: The Collectors' Edition". Features behind-the-scenes photos and interviews with the cast of "You Can't Do That on Television". ISBN 978-1541023345
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