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Review: The Worst of You Can't Do That On Television

Published in Entertainment Weekly
By: Valerie Monroe
February 16, 1990

A guy counting money sneers into the camera. "Suckers!" he says. "If you kids want to waste your good money on a dumb tape like this, you get what you deserve."

Is he kidding? Apparently not.

What follows is a collection of Laugh-In-style skits, some of which appeared on the Nickelodeon show You Can't Do That on Television. Most involve some form of slimy liquid being dumped on a child's head - all young kids I know find this hilarious. But many of the skits also contain a disturbing undercurrent of contempt.

An adult tells a boy, before throwing a bucket of water at him, "You really are a stupid kid, aren't you?" A teacher hits a kid so hard upside the head that he falls off his chair. A Dickensian-looking character, missing most of his teeth and wearing several days' stubble and a chef's hat, introduces himself as the Children's Cook. He's proud to have the job, he says, but he's never cooked any children before. Any volunteers? he asks his home video audience. My son raises his hand. By the end of the skit, the "chef" has pulled out a long, bloody kitchen knife and decided the best way to cook kids is to "whack 'em on the head and shove 'em in the meat grinder." In a culture where real brutality is often inflicted on children, this skit is tasteless.

The cast of kids plays a strong role in creating the skits, a Nickelodeon spokesman says. That explains a lot of its slapstick humor. But what to make of the video's disdain for the child? Wherever it comes from, best not to spread it around.

Grade: F