|You Can't Do That on Television|
Scene from the third opening
|Also known as||YCDTOTV|
|Format||Live action, Variety, Sketch comedy|
|Created by||Roger Price|
|Country of origin||Canada|
|No. of seasons||10|
|No. of episodes||143 (List of episodes)|
|Location(s)||CJOH-TV studios, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada|
|Running time||30 min.|
|Original run||February 3, 1979 – May 25, 1990|
You Can't Do That on Television ( a.k.a. YCDTOTV) is a Canadian television program that first aired locally in 1979 before ultimately airing internationally in 1981. It primarily featured early-teenage actors in a sketch comedy format in which they acted out skits based on a theme for that episode.
After production ended in 1990, the show continued in reruns on Nickelodeon through 1994. YCDTOTV is also known for cast members who became future performers including pop recording artist Alanis Morissette and prime-time actress Klea Scott.
In 2002, and again in 2004, You Can't Do That on Television cast members reunited alongside longtime fans of the show at SlimeCon, a fan-produced convention in Ottawa. Project 131, the official reunion episode, premiered during the 2004 event.
You Can't Do That on Television debuted in 1979 on CJOH-TV in Ottawa as a 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, clothes, model kits, and the like). The format also included performances by local disco dancers and special guests such as 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's disco dance segments were emceed by Jim Johnson, a DJ on Ottawa's leading pop music radio station, CFGO (which at the time was co-owned with CJOH). Also, after a music video aired, Johnson would tell the viewers interesting facts about the artist featured in the video.
Veteran comedy actor Les Lye played many different characters and was the only adult cast member that first season, though occasionally the older children in the cast (such as Christine McGlade or Cyndi Kennedy) played adult characters.
The show's trademark green slime dousing prank was introduced in 1979, as was the practice of using the phrase "I don't know" as a trigger for that prank.
The show was meant to offer a fun program for children on Saturday mornings. It made no attempt to be an educational program. The idea was successful. Only three full episodes from the first season are known to exist; the studio masters no longer exist. However, the episodes can now be downloaded and viewed via several websites.
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 and disco singer Alma Faye Brooks. Ruth Buzzi joined the cast and the 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 pm timeslot on Tuesday nights, and had poor ratings as a result. The show was canceled after one season.
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. The season proper ended in May, but cast members were asked to come back in May and June 1981 to film some additional scenes for the syndicated version of the show (including re-writes or re-shoots of already-filmed sketches to filter out Ottawa-centric or Canada-centric content). At the time the season ended, it was uncertain whether the show would continue. In the meantime, some YCDTOTV cast members continued to hone their on-camera skills through appearances in Bear Rapids, a Price/Darby pilot film that was never picked up, and Something Else, a local game show on CJOH with a format somewhat similar to the live and local episodes of YCDTOTV.
Later in 1981, the new youth-oriented United States cable network, Nickelodeon, took an interest in YCDTOTV. Nickelodeon originally aired a handful of episodes in edited half-hour form during 1981 as a test run, since producer Roger Price and director Geoffrey Darby had edited the entire 1981 season of You Can't Do That on Television episodes into a half-hour format similar to Whatever Turns You On for national and international syndication. Toward the beginning of 1982, Nickelodeon began airing the entire edited season and YCDTOTV quickly became their highest rated show.
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. Also in 1982, Nickelodeon and CJOH had then became production partners on YCDTOTV. Over the next few years, the ratings gradually declined in Canada (by 1985, it was seen only once a week in a Saturday-morning time slot on CTV), but YCDTOTV continued to go strong in the U.S. on Nickelodeon, where it aired first five times a week and, eventually, every day.
In 1984, You Can't Do That on Television became Nickelodeon's highest-rated television program, lasting until mid-1986. Kids across America were making slime and water sounds with their mouths and sending in their own entries for the Slime-In, a contest hosted by Nickelodeon that flew a lucky kid 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).
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 Moose in 1985 before leaving at the end of the 1986 season); Lisa Ruddy ("Motormouth"), Moose'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, and one of the episodes (Adoption) proved so controversial that it was banned after being shown twice ( a "DO NOT AIR" sticker on the master tape at CJOH). (Adoption) is the only episode that was banned in the U.S, and the second one banned in Canada (Divorce) was the other one.
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 five-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).
Roger Price moved to France in 1988. CJOH decided not to make new episodes without him due to lack of ideas, and production was suspended. 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.
You Can't Do That on Television resumed production in 1989, but 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. According to YCDTOTV.com, 1984-87 cast member Stephanie Chow was given the option of returning for the 1989 season, but chose not to in order to focus on her piano playing. Thus, an almost entirely-new cast of children was assembled, including a new host Chris Bickford (whose trademark was the leather jacket he always wore), Christian Tessier, Ted Wilson, Jennifer Brackenbury, Carlos Braithwaite, Sariya Sharp, Stephanie Bauder, Patrick Mills, Kevin Ward, Chantal Tremblay, and sisters Jill and Amy Stanley.
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 humor and flatulence jokes to attract a younger audience than the show had targeted in years past. 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 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). Alasdair 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, ranking ranked fifth on Nickelodeon. Nickelodeon's desire to produce more of its own shows at its new studios at Universal Studios in Orlando, Florida, coupled with the poor rating, cause the production of You Can't Do That on Television to officially end in 1990 season. Though ratings declined, Nickelodeon continued to air reruns until January 1994, at which point it was only being aired on weekends.
In July 2004, a reunion special called Project 131 was produced at CJOH-TV starring five members of the original cast. These included Brodie Osome, Marjorie Silcoff, and Vanessa Lindores (pregnant at the time), with cameos by Justin Cammy and Alasdair Gillis (Also originally scheduled for the program were Christine McGlade, who had to back out due to a scheduling conflict, and Les Lye, who had to back out due to illness). Directed by David Dillehunt and produced by Josh Yawn, this was the final production ever made in Studio D, the same studio where the show had been produced fourteen years prior. The studio was sealed permanently for tax purposes following the 2004 convention. The front of the lockers and the bookshelves from the library were the only original sets still available at the time of this taping, necessitating that most of the show be shot in green screen.
As of 2005, CJOH had no plans to release re-runs of YCDTOTV nor are there any plans to produce new episodes. In 2006, rumours began floating that Nickelodeon would release DVDs of the series as part of its "Rewind" series of DVD releases of shows from its past. However, in early February 2006, [ycdtotv.com] reported that because of changes in the hierarchy of Viacom, there would be no DVD release in the immediate future. Although fans still hold out hope that the series will one day be released commercially, some web sites, including ycdtotv.com and barthsburgery.com, have made episodes of the series available in the interim, through either free downloads of episodes or sales of homemade DVD compilations.
During late 2005, a fan-made animated version called You Still Can't Do That On Television or simply You Still Can't (YSC) was produced. The show's theme song was an updated, dance-flavoured remix of the original YCDTOTV theme (itself a Dixieland jazz-style rendition of Rossini's William Tell Overture), composed by Josh Yawn. Voice artist Patte Rosebank (of "Mighty Machines") was the only Canadian contributor. Other cast members included Cristina Vee, Sean Farm, Jared Lee, Amber Aviles, Ken Dukes and Peter Miller.
The 1987 season included the episode "Adoption" that was banned after only one accidental airing on Nickelodeon. Among the content that led to the banning is a scene where Valerie (Abby Hagyard) and Lance (Les Lye) adopt Doug because it was cheaper than buying a dog. In another sketch, Lance adopts Adam Reid only to serve as a hired hand to do chores around the house. When Adam finishes the chores, Lance calls the adoption agency to send Adam back, and is furious when he is told that "adoption is for life." Although Adam and Vanessa Lindores gave a disclaimer in the episode's opening link explaining that the show was all in fun and not to be taken seriously, Nickelodeon was deluged with complaints from viewers who came from adopted families, and barred the episode from being rerun (even going as far as to slapping a "DO NOT AIR" sticker on the master tape). In contrast to Nickelodeon, the "Adoption" episode was shown on YTV, with one minor cut: after learning that adopted kids cannot be sent back to the agency, Lance Prevert grumbles, "Damn bureaucrat!" The "Damn" in "Damn bureaucrat!" is muted out.
Similarly, according to YCDTOTV.com, the "Divorce" episode from 1984 was reportedly banned by YTV in Canada when it began showing YCDTOTV in 1988 (see: http://www.ycdtotv.com/faq/index.html), although some YTV viewers recall the network showing this episode. The plot of the Divorce episode involved the producer of the show and his wife getting a divorce, and the producer's wife demanding half of everything in the studio - including wardrobe, scripts, the stage, food and drink, and green slime. When Christine mentions that the producer's wife took half of the water, she get sprayed with water. In the end, the producer and his wife didn't get divorced, but Ross explains that the wife gets the producers half too. "Divorce" was not banned in the United States.
When this episode (from the 1984 season) aired on Nickelodeon, two risque sketches were cut and replaced with less offensive sketches from dress rehearsal:
The replacement sketches for this episode were:
When the "Fears, Worries, and Anxieties" episode (from the 1985 season) aired on Nickelodeon, one sketch aired where a boy (played by Alasdair Gillis) is harassed by a bully named Killer Curtis. At the time Nickelodeon aired the episode, an actual murderer named Killer Curtis was in the news (CJOH and Nickelodeon had not been aware of this). The name "Killer Curtis" was then redubbed as "Crusher Willis."
The redubbing was very poorly done, especially given the fact that it was difficult to properly sync the "Crusher Willis" with the actors' lip movements. Furthermore, when the sketch was filmed, Alasdair still had a high-pitched voice. However, by the time the sketch had to be redubbed, his voice had deepened, causing the overdub to sound weird.
"Technology" (1984) was a unique "interactive" episode. As Christine McGlade explained during the show's introduction, this episode would provide an opportunity for the show to test some new technology that would allow viewers to influence the outcome of a scene. During the course of the show, whenever the characters disagreed on something, they would "let the viewers decide". Red and green squares would appear on the screen, and viewers would be asked to touch green for a "yes" vote, and red for a "no" vote. Afterwards, the "correct" action would be taken.
Some examples from this episode include whether or not to execute Luke McKeehan (yes), slime Vanessa Lindores in a dungeon scene (yes), and let Lisa Ruddy lose her voice and be unable to talk (yes). The viewers did "vote" to restore Lisa's voice, but only to introduce the opposite sketches, and the viewers "voted" for Lisa to lose her voice again once the opposites were over.
The next example involved going to a commercial. Lisa was to introduce the commercials, but could not because she was still unable to speak, and Lisa informed Christine (via writing notes, which was the only way she was able to communicate) that if there were no commercials, no one would get paid. This was all the prompting Christine needed to initiate the vote, but the vote failed to pass twice, thus forcing Christine to resort to a sort of bribery, including promising that Vanessa would get watered (of course, Christine got watered herself while explaining this) and Eugene Contreras would have "something really bad" happen to him if the vote went through. It worked: Vanessa was drenched, and the "really bad" thing turned out to be a pie in the face for Eugene. And of course, Lisa was able to talk again, and she chirped, "And now it's time for a commercial."
Another example allowed the viewers to "vote" on whether or not the locker jokes scene would go on. The viewers voted NOT to go through with them, which made Christine say, "Boy, the viewers of this show have a brain after all." Then she turned towards the camera and said, "Then again, if you really did have a brain, would you even be watching this show?"
One final vote at the end of the episode involved letting the viewers vote on whether the show would be allowed to end. Surprisingly, the viewers "voted" for the show not to end - which convinced Ross that the technological gizmo was broken. He and Christine were further convinced when they held another vote on whether to take Lisa's voice from her again, and vote came back in favor of Lisa keeping her voice.
During Nickelodeon's 20th Anniversary, CJOH-TV allowed the network to rerun three episodes of YCDTOTV. On June 26, 1999, the Music and Enemies and Paranoia episodes from 1986 aired, and on June 27, 1999, the Parties episode aired. Nickelodeon chose to feature only episodes that featured now-famous Alanis Morissette because of their "Nickelodeon Knew Them When" theme.
In 2004 for Nickelodeon's Old School Pick, the Enemies and Paranoia episode was picked; however, after the commercial break, Nickelodeon switched to an episode of The Fairly OddParents. The reason behind the sudden substitution was never given; however, the anniversary fell shortly after the death of former president Ronald Reagan, and the episode chosen featured some content that made light of President Reagan and his policies, for example, one episode shows a pre-teen taking masks off a wrestler's face with a made up Spock mask(the star trek character by Leonard Nemoy) leading to a confidential Ronald Reagan mask then taking it off to reveal it was his mom's face all along. Since then, YCDTOTV has yet to be seen again on Nickelodeon after that airing.
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 making the following announcement: "(TV show) will not be seen today in order for us to bring you this (adjective in character with the picture) production." The pre-empted shows were parodies of current TV shows (i.e. The A-Team Makes One Cup of Coffee Last Five Hours, "Hanging Out" or "Malls", 1984), movies (i.e. Top Gun Gets Put on Latrine-Cleaning Duty, "Discipline", 1986), or other pop culture icons (i.e. Boy George Without Make-up, "Halloween", 1984), and were often relevant to the theme of the current episode (i.e. 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. You Can't Do That On Television has preempted itself on three occasions (Television, Media, and Priorities). 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 preempted episode for the Success and Failure episode (1989) because the producers failed to come up with a preempt.
Created by 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 theme music stayed the same throughout the entire series run (1979-1990), the opening animation itself changed in different ways.
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, but it was not until Whatever Turns You On that they became an integral part of the show.
Most episodes included one or more firing squad sketches, where Les would play the part of a Latin American military officer with a sword in hand preparing to order a firing squad to execute one of the children actors, who were standing in front of a post. The kids would usually find a way to trick Les Lye 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 wasn't shown. 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.
During the famous "locker room" segment of You Can't Do That on Television, cast members, residing in gym lockers with 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 shows 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 generally followed by one final sketch, usually taking place on the link set.
Certain key words would have the major result in cast members having substances poured on them from off-camera. This skit came on throughout every episode (along with the Slime, too). When someone said "water" or "wet", a large amount of water would mysteriously cascade onto him 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, the word "wet" had then no longer triggered the water to spray down, thus leaving the job to just the word "water" itself. This, too, was an homage to Laugh-In. Often at times, cast members would try to "dodge" getting hit with water by saying it in Spanish or French, only to still get hit with water.
Likewise, when someone said "I don't know", green slime, a gooey substance, would pour on him from above. This prank was known as being "slimed." The first episode in which "I don't know" was used as a trigger phrase for the green slime was one of the local episodes seen only on CJOH, broadcast on March 17, 1979—fittingly, St. Patrick's Day. In some early episodes an actor might say "I don't know" as part of the scripted dialogue with no repercussion. In this episode, Lisa Ruddy was the victim of six slimings (a YCDTOTV record). This was a result of continually being asked "What is the largest lake in Canada?", which was the Great Bear Lake. She is then asked how many fish are in it, to which she says "I don't know."
Conversely, the first episode ever to use the slime gag was Episode 6, dated March 10, 1979. In the Detention/Dungeon scene, 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. On the link set in Episode 9 (the "Executive Washrooms" episode), Iain Fingler was slimed after saying "I don't know" after being asked how many goldfish the current Members of Parliament in Ottawa have. After he is slimed, Iain went so far as to say "Ouch!".
Nickelodeon quickly adopted "slime" as a feature in several shows it produced, and used it heavily in its marketing. Other colours of slime were occasionally used on the show, as in the following instances:
Several different recipes of slime were used during the series' decade-long run, some resulting in thin, watery slime and others in thick, chunky slime. In an interview with YCDTOTV.com, longtime YCDTOTV crew member Bill Buchanan explained the origin of the slime in 1979:
|“||"...one script called for this kinda disgusting slimy green stuff - but with no real indication of what it was going to be used for. ... The description was that it was just something green and slimy and disgusting ... Anyhow, [properties man Paul Copping] mixed up a whole green garbage can ... with slime. I know he'd colored it with green latex paint. God knows what else was in it, but it was disgusting. And it was parked inside the studio door, and everyone was kinda avoiding it because it was really foul looking. I mean, he had like sausages floating in it. ... Then, all of a sudden, we get to the point of the day where it turns out that it's going to be used. It turns out that it's going to get dumped on some kid! ... It was like, "Jeeze, this stuff is probably toxic! You can't dump that on somebody!" So I guess the whole green slime thing was deferred to such time when we had something that wouldn't kill somebody if it were to fall on them. That first stuff never got used. ... Then, I remember being kind of involved in the first attempt to make a green slimy material that would be actually ... not too offensive. When you dumped it on a person's head, you were liable to get it in their eyes, in their mouths and anywhere else. So we concocted some stuff made out of green Jell-o, or gelatin. We made it by the bucket. We bought hundreds of packages of lime Jell-o or gelatin over the years."||”|
—Bill Buchanan, 
For several years afterwards, the slime consisted of this mixture of lime green gelatin powder 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. 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.
Green Slime grew to become a trademark image for Nickelodeon. They later introduced Green Slime shampoo, 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'. 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.
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.
Les Lye's career as an actor and broadcaster on television and radio has spanned half a century. He served briefly in the armed forces before enrolling at the University of Toronto. Lye earned a Bachelor of Arts degree and went on to study at Lorne Greene's Academy of Radio Arts.
In 1948, Lye moved to Ottawa to join CFRA, a talk radio station founded by Frank Ryan. It was there that he became a popular radio announcer and emcee. After briefly returning to Toronto to work at radio station CKEY, Lye went back to CFRA with a new on-air personality he created named Abercrombie and became one of the station's most popular voices. In 1958, Lye decided to venture into television. His first job was co-hosting a talk show program called Contact.
In 1961, Lye began creating comic characters for Bill Luxton's TV morning show in Ottawa. The two later teamed up and created the hit TV show Uncle Willy and Floyd. The half-hour program featured slapstick humour, puppets and gags and was eventually syndicated across Canada. The show featured many guest stars, including Margaret Trudeau, Alanis Morissette and Rich Little. It ran for 22 years. In 2003, Lye and Luxton were honoured with a lifetime achievement award from the Alliance of Canadian Cinema for their work on Uncle Willy and Floyd.
Lye continued to work for several TV networks, including the CBC, CTV and Global until his passing in July 2009.
Lye was initially the only adult cast member on the show and he appeared on every episode of every season. His role was twofold. He played adult roles in skits. According to Christine McGlade: "Without Les Lye, there would be no You Can't Do That on Television". Lye played literally dozens of adult male (and some adult female) characters during the shows tenure, but among his most popular characters included:
Ross, Senator Prevert, Mr. Schidtler, the principal and the coach are Lye's only characters to appear in every season of You Can't Do That on Television. Barth debuted on Whatever Turns You On, the doctor, Nasti and El Capitano first appeared in 1981, Blip in 1983, and Snake Eyes in 1984. Some characters were dropped or changed over time; for example, Blip disappeared from the show after 1985 because of a decline in the popularity of video arcades due to the advent of home video game consoles. Two of Lye's early characters who frequently appeared on the show during the first two seasons, Mr. Nickelson Dime (president of CJOH-TV in the local episodes, and of T.H.E. Television Network in Whatever Turns You On) and Seth Pool (a well-meaning but dimwitted elderly janitor whose name was a play on the word cesspool), never appeared on the show again after 1981.
While most of Lye's characters were adult males, he sometimes also played adult female roles, such as Barth's Mother in the "Relatives" episode (1985) and the Blue Fairy in a Pinocchio sketch in the episode "Fairy Tales, Myths and Legends" (1986).
Laugh-In veteran Ruth Buzzi played the adult female roles on the short-lived 1979 YCDTOTV spinoff on CTV, Whatever Turns You On. Among Buzzi's many roles were Mrs. Prevert (Mom); the old lady in the movie theatre; Miss Fit, the strict schoolteacher; Miss Take (Mr. Nickelson Dime's secretary, who spoke with a Southern accent); Miss Time (Ross's assistant, the script girl); and Lois (chef at the studio canteen, a predecessor of Les Lye's Barth character).
After WTYO was canceled, there was no adult female actress on YCDTOTV until 1982 when Abby Hagyard joined the cast. Adult female roles during the 1981 season (such as the old lady at the theatre and Mr. Dime's secretary) were played by Christine McGlade.
Abby Hagyard joined the cast of You Can't Do That on Television beginning in the 1982 season, and from then until the end of the show 1990 Haygard played most of the show's adult female roles. Her two most common roles were as housewife and mother Valerie Prevert (wife of Senator Lance Prevert), and as the Librarian, a curmudgeonly old lady who spoke in a high-pitched British-type accent. Most of Abby's other characters were one-shot roles, such as Grandma (Senator Prevert's mother) in the "Relatives" episode (1985).
A common trait of many of Hagyard's characters was that they always wore gloves; Abby Hagyard related in her interview with YCDTOTV.com that Nickelodeon insisted she cover her hands with gloves when playing Mrs. Prevert because her hands were too "elegant" to belong to a housewife.
Over 100 child actors appeared on YCDTOTV between 1979 and 1990. Some of the most notable cast members included:
Alanis Morissette, a cast member in five episodes of the 1986 season of You Can't Do That on Television, later became a highly successful singer and songwriter. Klea Scott, a cast member from 1982 to 1984, later starred in the prime-time television dramas Brooklyn South, Millennium, and Intelligence.
Cast member Justin Cammy, now a professor at Smith College, described the show like this:
|“||You Can't Do That on Television was the first post-modern children's program of my generation. It subverted all recognizable forms and deconstructed the pre-teen's understanding of such important institutions as the family, the school and the video arcade. When the schoolteacher did not know any better than to call Milton's masterpiece "Pair of Dice Lost", the program functioned as an ideological clarion call to future college students like you who would go on to demand the displacement of an ossified Western canon with more relevant investigations of low culture.||”|
Between the 1981 and 1982 seasons of YCDTOTV, several of the show's cast members, including Christine McGlade, Lisa Ruddy, Jonothan Gebert, and Kevin Somers, served as hosts on a short-lived Saturday-morning live game show on CJOH titled Something Else. Something Else was developed and directed by the Price/Darby team, and Christine McGlade was credited as a producer. Like the early episodes of YCDTOTV, Something Else incorporated elements of musical variety, with a female DJ from radio station CHEZ-FM as a guest host and performances by local bands; the chief difference was that comedy sketches took a back seat to the games and competitions. According to Geoffrey Darby, the chief purpose of the show was to keep the hosts' acting skills in shape while he and Price got to work writing the 1982 season of YCDTOTV; thus, the series lasted only about ten episodes.
Some time later, after YCDTOTV had established itself on Nickelodeon, Price and Darby made a YCDTOTV-like series called Don't Look Now! for PBS in the U.S. in 1983. Don't Look Now!, made at WGBH-TV in Boston, featured a format very similar to the local 1979 and 1981 seasons of YCDTOTV, with taped comedy sketches interspersed with live call-in competitions (though, due to PBS regulations on prizing, the only prize that could be given away was a T-shirt with the show's logo on it) and music videos. The show also had its own version of YCDTOTV's green slime, called "Yellow Yuck," which was triggered by the phrase "Don't Blame Me!"
As Geoffrey Darby told YCDTOTV.com, Don't Look Now! was made after production on the 1982 season of YCDTOTV had wrapped up, when they were unsure whether Nickelodeon would renew the series for another season. Although the show was highly rated, it did not fit in with PBS' largely educational program roster and was condemned by parents and critics alike, thus leading to the cancellation of the show after only about ten episodes.
You Can't Do That on Television (1979–1990) was a sketch-comedy television program for pre-teens produced at CJOH-TV in Ottawa, and aired in the United States on Nickelodeon, in Canada on CTV and YTV, and in other countries around the world.
[In the kitchen, Mrs. Prevert is standing on a chair and screaming.]
[Ross wants the cast to wear sailor suits for the new clean image he wants the show to represent]
[Ross is washing Doug's mouth out with soap.]
[Doug is drenched]
[Alasdair and Doug are changing clothes in their bedroom.]
[Alasdair and Doug now have black squares over their groins]
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You Can't Do That on Television (YCDTOTV) is a Canadian children's television program. It was created by Roger Price and produced from 1979 until 1990. It mostly featured child actors in a sketch comedy format, acting out short scenes based on a theme that served as the topic for the episode. Connecting scenes based on the theme would often serve to create a story arc that lasted the length of the episode. Nickelodeon became known for its iconic green slime that was originally used in this show. The series is known also because future pop recording artist Alanis Morissette was in it as a cast member at some time.
In 2002, and again in 2004, YCDTOTV cast members reunited alongside fans of the show at SlimeCon, a fan-produced convention in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. YCDTOTV was a children's comedy show. Some people see it as a nostalgic cult classic. During the 2004 event, a Top Secret reunion special had its premiere.