The Teen Nick programming block, “The ’90s Are All That”, runs from midnight to 2am, then repeats until 4am. For rare special events, particularly holidays, the block runs 4 hours of unrepeated content. Since many of the programs selected for the block don’t have enough episodes to air in consistent syndication, the block cycles through the most popular shows (airing All That and Kenan & Kel for a few months, then replacing them with Rugrats and Rocket Power, for example). The site Trendrr.tv “filters the social data inputs from Twitter, Facebook, GetGlue [what?], Miso [what??], and others by location, influence, sentiment and anticipation to output real-time insights” (trendrr.tv/solutions). This model is particularly useful for looking at “The ’90s Are All That” because the aforementioned social networking sites generated virtually all of the support for the return of ’90s Nickelodeon. The block also panders to the nostalgic with ’90s Nickelodeon network IDs, cameos of fictional programming “hosts” (like Face and Stick Stickley), and the ability to vote online for which shows will be the next part of the block (the first two aggressively establish a broadcast aesthetic, while the last undermines this work).
Using this block as a case study, but also referencing the network histories of Disney Channel, MTV, and Noggin/Nick Jr., as well as the general history of popular syndication runs, I will look at this new brand of media-exclusive (yet transmedia-enabled) nostalgia that the Millennial generation has revealed—if not engineered—with its incorporation of the Internet as a ubiquitous, everyday medium (rather than a workplace or mail tool) after being raised in a televisual world. The demand for syndication is unprecedented, and complicates the traditional diachronic pacing of nostalgia, a word whose etymology implicates a forgotten time, a time not experienced, or a time that never existed (Ignorance, Kundera). The frequency of cultural digestion, which the internet allows and accelerates, actually relocates nostalgia from a social experience to an individual one. Meme culture defines the psychology behind nostalgia—the yearning for a lack.
There are several economic questions as well. How important is the Internet in determining both volume and quality of viewership? Are Nielsen ratings more or less valuable for shows that are not only highly intertextual, but intertextual across different media? Is a broadcast aesthetic possible on the internet? To what extent does the success of “The ’90s Are All That” depend on this broadcast aesthetic, rather than the actual shows? And of course, do these (we) nostalgic Millennials watch and enjoy the reborn shows as much as we enjoy missing them?