Does the 'Quiet On Set' Documentary Vindicate the Dan Schneider Sleuths? | Features | LIVING LIFE FEARLESS

Does the ‘Quiet On Set’ Documentary Vindicate the Dan Schneider Sleuths? 

In 2018, Nickelodeon announced that it was getting out of business with Dan Schneider, who had created and ran a long list of popular kids TV shows over a significant period, including All That, Drake and Josh, iCarly, Victorious, and Sam & Cat. 

The announcement came at the height of the #MeToo era when many prominent Hollywood figures suffered long-awaited downfalls due to accusations of sexual misconduct. According to the Internet chatter of the era, there were many expectations that Dan Schneider’s name would soon be added to the list, joining Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey, Charlie Rose, and so many others. 

That’s because a large body of lore had emerged online over the previous couple of years in relation to Schneider and his behavior. The story went that Schneider inserted inappropriate sexual innuendo into his shows, that he seemed to delight in showing the feet of his underaged female stars, and that he had done other unspeakably creepy things. Beyond that, there were even worse accusations involving specific bad acts done to specific people, as well as the implication that Nickelodeon and its parent company (the various, shifting permutations of Paramount, Viacom and ViacomCBS) had covered it up.

That major mainstream media expose of Schneider never arrived, with some of the reporters who were investigating sexual abuse in Hollywood stating on the record that they had looked into the rumors and failed to come up with anything solid. Reporting over the years indicated that Schneider had been a nightmare boss and had treated employees (child and adult alike) poorly. Despite expressing interest in doing so, including in a 2021 New York Times profile, Schneider has not returned to children’s television.  

Jennette McCurdy

In 2022, Jennette McCurdy, who starred on Schneider’s shows iCarly and Sam & Cat, wrote a bestselling memoir called I’m Glad My Mom Died, which told the story of her hellish experience as a child performer. As you may have guessed from the title, the book’s main villain is McCurdy’s nightmarish late mother.

Still, she also referred in the book to an unnamed Nickelodeon higher-up as “The Creator,” whom she described as “mean-spirited, controlling and terrifying.” She even accused “The Creator” of trying to get her to drink while she was underage. “The Creator” was widely assumed to be Schneider, who created both of McCurdy’s shows. The book also alleges that McCurdy, despite financial precarity, turned down a payment of $300,000 in exchange for her silence about her experiences at Nickelodeon. 

Quiet On Set

Now, the spotlight is back on Dan Schneider, with the arrival of a four-part Discovery documentary called Quiet on Set: The Dark Side of Kids TV. The series examines Nickelodeon during the Schneider era and the terrible things that happened there. 

It’s a well-done documentary that breaks significant news and got some of the people involved to speak on the record, although certainly not all of them. McCurdy did not participate, nor did most of the more prominent names from the shows — Ariana Grande, perhaps unsurprisingly, is also not involved — but it tells the story well. A previous Discovery documentary about Glee failed to get most of the cast on board, while also sleazily connecting three different deaths that had nothing to do with each other; this one, however, actually has the goods.

As for whether the online sleuths were right about Dan Schneider, Quiet On Set offers a bit of a split verdict. 

The Proof

The documentary depicts Schneider as a terrible boss who terrorized employees and underpaid writers, forced various other employees to give him massages, and most likely sexually harassed multiple (adult) female staffers on his show. Furthermore, the show depicts an uncomfortable amount of sexual innuendo in Schneider’s kids’ shows, including a pickle being put through what looks like a glory hole, various close-ups of feet and other body parts, and one scene where it appears a then-teenaged Ariana Grande is fellating a potato. 

This is pretty terrible stuff, much of which was pointed out by people on Twitter and YouTube back in 2016 and 2017. It’s probably a good thing that Schneider no longer works in children’s TV and almost certainly never will again, and he was given way too much time as it was. 

On the other hand, Dan Schneider has to this day not been directly accused of any sexual assault or misconduct by any of the then-underage performers on his shows, nor has he been charged with any crimes. The specific, out-there allegations about Schneider doing things to actual people, whether it was that he was the father of a specific person’s child, and other things involving named people, have not been substantiated.

Those things are not alleged in the documentary, although the things that have been established are pretty terrible on their own. 

The big headline from the show is that at least three men who worked on Schneider’s shows have been convicted of sexual abuse or child pornography charges. In addition, Drake Bell, the costar of Drake and Josh, was himself sexually abused by Brian Peck, an acting coach and occasional on-camera performer on those shows. It was known that Peck was convicted 20 years ago, but Bell, underage at the time, had not previously gone public as the accuser. The documentary also shows that numerous prominent people, including James Marsden, Rider Strong and Joanna Kerns, had even written letters to the court pleading for leniency for Peck at sentencing.

Quiet On Set does take pains to note that Dan Schneider did not know or cover up the behavior of Peck or the other two offenders, and Bell says in his interview that Schneider was the only person who was supportive of him at the time.

So, the conclusions to be drawn are that Dan Schneider was horrible to his employees, used very inappropriate, sexualizing humor with minors, and certainly has no business working in children’s television ever again. However, based on what is known to date, he has been accused of sex crimes, and the worst things alleged about him in the online lore circa 2017 do not appear based on reality.

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