Part 8. The food problem; or, hundreds of pounds of rotting beans
Russo: A couple times people got serious because we were “wasting” “good food,” and all that stuff.
Klinghoffer: The food waste issue was an absolutely ridiculous non-issue. I can say it now. I’ve never heard anyone say, “Look at that movie Animal House! Look at how much food they wasted in that food fight! Oh my gosh! We should ban that movie!”
Harvey: We got the occasional complaint about wasting food which, y’know, was not an illegitimate grievance. It did look like we were just throwing lots of food around when people were unbelievably hungry in America, but we would try to use post-dated surplus stuff. If it’s past the date on the can, you can’t sell or distribute it, even if it’s not rotten.
Klinghoffer: The food was props. It wasn’t really food. Starving people aren’t going to want to eat a lot of whipped cream.
Harvey: You know that tank we filled with Styrofoam peanuts or balloons, or sometimes water in the obstacle course? It was pretty long -- 15 or 20ft -- and we’d fill it with various crap. One time we filled it, like, I dunno, a third of the way up with baked beans. When you empty that many baked beans into a tank, you want to get your money’s worth, so we shot a week’s worth of shows with the baked beans. At the end of the week, shooting day in, day out, under hot lights, it was pretty ripe.
Russo: To get rid of the baked beans at the end of the week, we called the guy with the honey wagon. So he parks out around 7th St in Philly where the WHYY studios were, and runs this big hose in, and sucks that tank dry. As he was finishing up he said, “You know what I do for a living, right?” And we said, “Yeah, you suck shit out of the ground.” And he said, “This is, by far, the most disgusting thing I’ve ever had to do.”
It was like, “Wow. We have achieved immortality. We grossed out the honey wagon man.”
Part 9. A legacy of benign disarray
Summers: In the cable world, if you do 100 episodes, they generally cancel you, because then they can rerun the hell out of them. We did 525 episodes, and after a while, how many more do you need to do?
Russo: Y’know, when the show got canceled, if I’m not mistaken, we were still doing the road show, so it wasn’t really canceled for us. But that show had another 10 years in it. To this day I’ve said they should recreate that show, and bring it back with Marc as the host.
Summers: It’s 30 years later, and we’re all still friends. The whole situation was sort of a magical right time, right place.
Klickstein: It set the tone for how all the other game shows would be established. There wouldn’t have been Nick Arcade without Double Dare. There wouldn’t have been Legends of the Hidden Temple without Double Dare. There wouldn’t have been What Would You Do? or Don’t Just Sit There. It set the tone not only for Nickelodeon game shows, but for kids’ game shows overall.
Summers: For whatever reason, Viacom won’t do it again. I get requests for it constantly. It was a major part of a lot of kids’ lives who are now in their 30s. But, y’know, my hands are tied. I don’t own the program. I own a percentage of it, but not enough to make a difference.
Laybourne: Nickelodeon has the problem all big businesses have, which is huge expectations of quarterly earnings, and right now there’s a very fluid marketplace where kids’ behavior is changing faster than they used to change channels. When I left Nickelodeon we had 56% of all kid TV viewing. That was the end of 1995. I have no idea what the percentage is now, but we had virtually no competition. Cartoon Network had just reared its head. Disney was airing Eisenhower documentaries and Dumbo in the same time slot on different days of the week. They were nowhere. So Nickelodeon created this category of kids’ cable that looked lucrative, and lots of people rushed in...
Summers: It put Nick on the map. Nick was a floundering network with some bad puppet shows on it. And then we came along.
Calderwood: Bob Mittenthal and I once talked to Spike, and said, “What do you think about doing an adult version of Double Dare?” We could do challenges that would be big -- Survivor-like. They thought about that. One time Marc went to Nickelodeon and said, “What about doing a live road show?” But they decided against it. There’re a couple of possible explanations. One is they’re protecting the brand. It was such a big success and such a cornerstone of Nickelodeon, what would they have to gain by redoing it?
Silberberg: This feeling that Double Dare gave me -- it wasn’t just confidence, but there was a camaraderie and sense that a job could be fun and rewarding and you can make great friends. It was my first real job in my mid-20s. Everything you hope jobs could be, I got right off the bat.
Calderwood: We would get contestants coming off set, and sometimes audience members, saying, “This is the best day of my life!” On the one hand that’s kind of sad, but they were only kids at the time. You tend to look down on kids' programming when you’re a young working professional and you want to hit heights, but you come to learn that there’s nothing cooler than doing something for kids.
Russo: I’ve shown my teenage kids Double Dare. My daughter thought it was really cool, but my son walked out of the room shaking his head, saying, “I don’t know what you were doing.” One time, I don’t think he realized he had put it on, but in eighth grade he wore a Double Dare T-shirt to school, and the teachers and some of the kids went nuts. He said, “Mom, I didn’t know they knew who you were. I didn’t realize how big that show was.”
Then I showed him another episode, and he said, “I still don’t know what the hell you were doing. Please don’t show my friends that.”
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Barry Thompson covers pop culture and music. His work has appeared in The Boston Phoenix, Esquire.com, Paste Magazine, and several other online and print publications. He lives under a bridge in Allston, MA, with a cat. Follow him: @barelytomson.