On February 3, 1979, CJOH-TV in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, aired the first episode of a low-budget children's television series called You Can't Do That On Television.
Created by Roger Price, with the help of Geoffrey Darby, the hour-long show was aired on Saturday mornings with live games & call-in segments and pre-recorded comedy skits and music videos as some of the features. It starred a cast of unknown child actors, including a very young Christine McGlade, the first host of the program. The show also starred Les Lye from Uncle Willy and Floyd fame.
After a successful first season, the show's creators produced a short-lived spin-off of this show called Whatever Turns You On, which was almost the same exact show as You Can't Do That On Television, only it was taped instead of broadcast live. It was shown during prime-time hours, and it featured Laugh-In veteran, Ruth Buzzi. The spin-off, unlike its sister show, had horrible ratings and was canned after one season, but thanks to Whatever Turns You On, the idea of having the show taped, having show topics was introduced.
In 1981, You Can't Do That On Television was still doing okay on CJOH, and an up-and-coming children's network in the United States called Nickelodeon took interest in the show and began airing the Canadian series once a week in a line up with a plethora of other Canadian and UK-based television programs. The Nickelodeon airings of You Can't Do That On Television were slightly different from the way it aired in Canada. The hour-long format was cut in half, axing the music videos, call-in segments, and contests. The show was less variety and 100 percent comedy. By 1982, CJOH-TV simply began producing half-hour episodes.
In 1984, while the show's ratings declined in Canada and was hardly watched, Nickelodeon aired the show five times a week, and it became the network's highest-rated television program. Kids across America were making slime and water sounds with their mouths and sending in their entries for the Slime-In, a contest hosted by Nickelodeon that flew a lucky kid to the set of You Can't Do That On Television to be slimed (which was replicated by Canada's YTV later with their version being called the Slime Light Sweepstakes).
Nickelodeon knew it had a hit on its hands and quickly began assimilating the show into everything the network did. Nick also had a line of products released based on You Can't Do That On Television, including green slime shampoo and soap, a green blob substance called Green Slime and also a short-lived comic strip featured in The Cable Guide appropriately titled, You Can't Do That In Comics. The green slime that made the show famous was used in logos, promos, commercials and even a geyser to make Nickelodeon famous worldwide. The substance is still a fixture of Nickelodeon today. In fact, while most of today's generation of Nickelodeon has never even seen You Can't Do That On Television, Nickelodeon used the words, "I don't know" to slime celebrities at the Kid's Choice Awards over a decade after the show was off the air.
You Can't Do That On Television continued as Nick's number one television show until Marc Summers began hosting another hit for Nick called Double Dare (which gave away Green Slime Shampoo and Soap as prizes) in 1986. This was the year that the show lost its hosts, Christine McGlade (1979-86) and Alasdair Gillis (1982-86), who were the most popular cast members. 1986 was also the year that YCDTOTV had added the future recording superstar Alanis Morissette, who was just as unknown as all the other cast members at that time.
While the show always had most of the cast from previous seasons return to do the next season, 1987 marked the end of an era for You Can't Do That On Television. The season only consisted of five episodes, with Adoption being banned after one day of airing, and the kid cast was only nine strong after having 22 children in 1986. Also, Doug Ptolemy (1982-87) and Vanessa Lindores (1982-87) had grown too old, along with Adam Reid (1984-87) and Matthew Godfrey (1986-87). The loss of those cast members would make the cast only five-strong for the 1988 season.
There ended up not being a 1988 season, due to the absence of creater and producer Roger Price. After Roger walked back to the show in 1989, Stephanie Chow (1984-1987) decided not to return so that she could focus on her studies. This left only four cast members from the previous season with Amyas Godfrey (1986-90) being the most used and memorable. Thus, a whole new cast was selected, creating what most fans refer to as the "new episodes."
The 1989 season spit out some very funny episodes, including a compilation video that Elektra video released called Nickelodeon Presents The Worst of You Can't Do That On Television. The episodes from this season were very well written and Roger Price has said that most of his favorites are from this era, but regardless to the quality of those episodes, the familiarity of the show's cast was gone, causing a lot of long-time viewers to quit watching, and the new generation of viewers just wasn't interested. However, a new Canadian children's network called YTV licensed the show in Canada.
Although YTV stuck to a Whatever Turns You On (1979) to You Can't Do That On Television (1981-90) rotation, Nickelodeon aired mostly 1989-90 shows during the week with older episodes being shown on the weekend, dropping the shows ratings even more.
The year 1990 marked the end of You Can't Do That On Television's production with only five episodes being produced.
After airing reruns for four years, the show was off the air for good in 1994, marking the end of one of the best kids' show ever made.