Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
You Can't Do That on Television
The programme debuted on February 3, 1979 on CJOH-TV (a CTV affiliate in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada). At the time it was a low-budget comedy show similar to Saturday Night Live, complete with a live studio audience and musical guests.
After the show's first successful season, a spin off was created called Whatever Turns You On (featuring Ruth Buzzi of Laugh-In), but this show had terrible ratings, and was canceled after one season. It did inspire the opposite skits that would later appear on YCDTOTV, and also led to it being taped, instead of being broadcast live.
By 1981, the musical guests and call-in segments were gone, and the show had become 100% comedy sketches. It was then that a fledgling children's network in the United States called Nickelodeon took an interest in YCDTOTV. In 1981, YCDTOTV debuted on Nick and quickly became their highest rated show. Over the next few years, the ratings gradually declined in Canada, but YCDTOTV continued to go strong on Nick, where it aired five times a week.
By 1987 however, YCDTOTV was going through some serious changes. The 1987 season consisted of only five episodes (and the Adoption episode was banned after only one day of airing after complaints from adoptees). In addition, many of the "veteran" cast members such as Matt Godfrey , Doug Ptolemy , Vanessa Lindores , and Adam Reid had now all grown too old for the show. Christine McGlade, who was probably the most well-known cast member in the show's history, had departed the previous year. There was to be no 1988 season, because creator Roger Price moved to France, and CJOH refused to make new episodes without him. The show resumed production in 1989, but the only kid cast member to make the transition from '87 to '89 that the long term older viewers could remember was Amyas Godfrey , and thus these people began to refer to the 1989 and 1990 season as "new episodes".
1990 was the final year of You Can't Do That on Television. It remained on the air on Nickelodeon in re-runs until 1993, when Nickelodeon dropped it for good under pressure from CJOH, who was finding the task of paying residuals to the over 200 castmembers and crew from the entire run too taxing to be kept up any further.
Alanis Morissette, a cast member, later became a highly successful musician.
The show included several unusual recurring gimmicks. Each episode had an "opposites" section, introduced by a visual effect of the screen rotating 360 degrees. When this happened, the cast would say, "It must be: the introduction to the opposites," and several sketches would follow in which the normal principles of daily life were reversed, often with children having authority over adults.
Another unusual feature of the show was that certain key words would result in cast members having substances poured on them from off-camera. When someone said "water", a large amount of water would mysteriously cascade onto them from off the top of the screen. Likewise, when someone said "I don't know", green slime would pour on them from above. This was known as being "slimed", and may have been responsible for the eventual adoption of slime as one of the emblems of Nickelodeon. Other substances and other colors of slime were occasionally poured in some episodes.
(1986 YCDTOTV cast: Bottom row: Stephanie Chow , Andrea Byrne . Middle row: Matt Godfrey , Doug Ptolemy , Amyas Godfrey , Vanessa Lindores , Alanis Morissette. Top row: Adam Reid, Les Lye , Alasdair Gillis )
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