Old School 4 Life‘s Today’s Memory
The first episode of Rugrats
Originally shared by Old School 4 Life™
On this day:
At 11th August of 1991, the first episode of „Rugrats” aired on Nickelodeon.
Rugrats is an American animated television series created by Arlene Klasky, Gábor Csupó and Paul Germain for Nickelodeon. Nickelodeon was at its ultimate creative peak from the early to mid-90’s. Despite the slightly low-budget animation and sketchy production standards, the originality of the likes of Rugrats, Rocko’s Modern Life, Doug, Real Monsters and Ren and Stimpy were simply unparallelled. Rugrats was a giant among 90’s children’s television.
The versatile characters, the witty dialogues, the simple but compelling story lines and the subtle cultural references made for a remarkable show. The world viewed in the eyes of babies and toddlers was a fascinating insight into early childhood.
The characters are endless: Tommy, the fearless leader; Chuckie, the scaredy-cat; the always fighting twins, Phil and Lil; and Angelica, the older bully. Those are the most prominent characters, but there are other just as memorable characters that appear throughout the series such as: Susie, friend to the babies; Kimi, Chuckie’s step-sister; Dil, Tommy’s baby brother; Tommy’s parents and grandpa, Stu, Didi, and Lou; Phil and Lil’s Parents, Betty and Howard; Chuckie’s dad, Chaz; and of course the dog, Spike.
When the show premiered, in 1991, with „Tommy’s First Birthday”, nobody could’ve guess how far it would go. It had a simple premise: what life as a baby was like. The series was so great and groundbreaking because it was the first cartoon where we could actually see through the eyes of babies and their worldview of things.
However, the series was not originally popular when it debuted in 1991 and played second fiddle to Ren and Stimpy, which domainated in TV ratings at the time.
The series would run for three seasons and went on hiatus in 1994. Nick had decided they had enough episodes to show in reruns. The series then started running in reruns all today, and by 1995, the show had skyrocketed in TV ratings and became extremely popular! Nick then decided to air two new Rugrats specials in 1995 and 1996, called „A Rugrats Passover” and „A Rugrats Chanukah,” which were both classics.
Nick finally decided to make new episodes of Rugrats in 1997, but the same writing team that wrote the first three seasons would not return for the new episodes. Paul Germain was busy with Recess, which would eventually air on Disney’s On Saturday Morning Block on ABC. So they had to get a whole new writing team to write and animate the new episodes.
After the show came back in 1997, the show got popular and billions of merchandise was made. The show had made became the most popular cartoon series on TV and made Nickelodeon the #1 channel on television. It always seemed like a natural progression to produce a Rugrats ‘movie’. Such happened in late 1998. The results were stellar – an all star cast, top notch animation and a crazy, funny and emotional plot. Most notably was the introduction of Dil Pickles, Tommy’s new baby brother.
The following new episodes, however, proved much different. The episodes were visibly watered down, relying on gross out, toilet humour and contrived plots. Dil served as nothing but a device for viewer annoyance and disgust. Nonetheless, the stupidity was largely watchable, as it didn’t really require much thought.
A second movie was subsequently made, called „Rugrats In Paris”, in late-2000. Again, this was a triumph much like its predecessor. Tragically this next era marked the beginning of the end for the Rugrats. Yet more new faces were introduced: Kira and Kimi, step mother and step sister of Chuckie. While neither character was as horrible as Dil, they were about as interesting as cardboard cutouts, adding zero relevance to the show. What stuck out the most was the dramatic decline in the show’s quality.
Each episode became worse than the next, with one-dimensional and predictable plots and a drastic makeover of all major characters. They had been reduced to farcical caricatures of once vintage personalities. Basically, if you had seen one episode, you’d seen them all!!
Along with this sad train wreck came new voice overs for Grandpa and Chuckie, the contemptible babysitter character Taffy and a couple of horrendous spin offs. The latter mainly focused on the lifeless All Grown Up as well as the short-lived Pre-School Daze which is up there with some of Nickelodeon’s worst material.
Nonetheless, Rugrats gained over 20 awards during its 13-year run, including 4 Daytime Emmy Awards, 6 Kids’ Choice Awards, and its own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. The series garnered Nickelodeon high ratings and stayed as the network’s top rated show for five consecutive years. It was Nickelodeon’s longest-running Nicktoon until 2012, when SpongeBob SquarePants aired its 173rd episode.
It’s sort of hard to sum up Rugrats. Its legacy is one that was tarnished towards the end, but the sheer strength of its early days more than compensates for it shortcomings. The cartoon is easily up there with the greatest, because of that.