At a BotCon some years back, I picked up a few carded Chinese-language G.I. Joe figures, which included a handful made exclusively for the region (Major Bludd mixed with General Flagg parts, a Flint made from Falcon and Dusty). Pictured are the Chinese cardbacks for Roadblock Barricade and Cobra Commander, because of the batch I own they’re my favorite characters. You can read more about these toys here.
Now, unless I’ve been misinformed, Chinese-language Transformers releases often gave the characters wonderfully grandiose names - Optimus Prime being “Pillar that Supports the Sky,” Megatron being “Extremely Prestigious”/”Heaven-shaking Might” - which leads me to wonder if something similar went on with the Joes and Cobras. Anybody got a working knowledge of Chinese and some free time?
The ’90s were golden years for Nickelodeon. The children’s cable television network was home to now cult-classic shows like Are You Afraid of the Dark? (1991-2000), Clarissa Explains It All (1991-’94), The Secret Life of Alex Mack (1994-’98), and Salute Your Shorts (1991-’92)—arguably heretofore unmatched in their clever, un-condescending approach to entertaining young people. Nick News with Linda Ellerbee launched in 1992, and remains to this day one of the only shows on-air devoted to frank, engaging discussions of teen issues and opinions.
But perhaps the program that best embodied the values of Nick in those years was All That, a sketch-comedy show that premiered 20 years ago today. Created by Brian Robbins and Mike Tollin, All That ran for an impressive 10 seasons before it was canceled in 2005. The prolific franchise spawned a number of spin-offs (Good Burger, Kenan & Kel, The Amanda Show) and launched the careers of several comedy mainstays: Kenan Thompson, Amanda Bynes, Nick Cannon, and Taran Killam.
Like Saturday Night Live (which would later hire Thompson and Killam), All That was a communal pop-cultural touchstone. The parents of ’90s kids had the Church Lady, “more cowbell,” and Roseanne Roseannadanna; the kids themselves, though, had Pierre Escargot, “Vital Information,” and Repairman Man Man Man, and we recited their catch-phrases to one another in the cafeteria and on the playground. Although All That was clearly designed as a SNL, Jr., of sorts, it wasn’t merely starter sketch comedy—it was an admittedly daring venture for a children’s network to embark on.
In its own right, All That was a weirdly subversive little show. It never explicitly crossed the line into “mature” territory, but it constantly flirted with the limits of FCC-approved family-friendliness. Take, for instance, the “Ask Ashley” sketch. A barely tween-aged Amanda Bynes (Seasons Three to Six), played an adorably wide-eyed video advice-columnist. Ashley (“That’s me!”) would read painfully dimwitted letters from fans with clearly solvable problems. (Example: “Dear Ashley, I live in a two-story house and my room is upstairs. Every morning, when it’s time to go to school, I jump out the window. So far I’ve broken my leg 17 times. Do you have any helpful suggestions for me?”) She would wait a beat, smile sweetly into the camera, then fly into a manic rage; emitting a stream of G-rated curses, always tantalizingly on the verge of spitting a true obscenity into the mix.
So I was telling some of my friends I work with about how when everyone else was being princesses and cheerleaders and the spice girls for halloween I had turned to my mother and said, "Mum. I want to be an Alien." So she made me this great Alien costume here, which looking back now is the funniest photo ever and I feel like this tells you a lot about me as a child and me now.