By Sabienna Bowman, Andrew Rabin, and Whitney McIntosh
Season 2, Episode 1: “Loose Lips”
Original airdate: October 13, 1989
Andrew R.: By watching so many Nickelodeon shows, we have seen a lot of child actors. 1990s, basic cable, child actors. So I really mean something when I say this: Joe Torres, who plays Danny Lightfoot on Hey Dude, is probably the worst professional actor I have ever seen. I would like to tell you he got better, growing into a strong character actor or something, but IMDB shows that nobody ever cared to find out.
And the shame of it is, Torres’ performance really ruined the whole episode for me. Even the charms of Christine Taylor are not enough to overcome Torres, and I am in no way immune to Christine Taylor’s charms. The plot is the kind of basic, sitcommy plot where you could see what was coming every step of the way, but could also see it being a plot on any Chuck Lorre sitcom this year. The show is not good, or ground breaking, or well acted, or original, but you can also see how it lay the groundwork for future Nickelodeon sitcoms.
Sabienna: Sadly, Hey Dude has not aged as well as I hoped it would. As Andrew pointed out, the plot was standard sitcom fare and was in fact used in The Big Bang Theory in the not so distant past. In retrospect it looks like a prototype for the Nickelodeon sitcoms to come. Since Hey Dude was only Nick’s second live-action series, its gooey nature can be forgiven. As the network moved further into the ’90s it began to develop that almost gleeful, perverse sense of humor that made parents hate for their kids to watch Ren & Stimpy and its ilk so much.
Standard sitcom plot aside, it wasn’t an entirely wasted viewing experience. I rediscovered my shipper goggles within the first minute of the episode. How is it possible not to want to see Melody and Ted hook up? I know the show went for the Brad/Ted angle, but the cute BFF-ness of Ted and Melody was far more charming. You know two people are meant for each other when they hear a disembodied voice and their first thought isn’t guy with a bullhorn, but rather it’s God checking in on them at the dude ranch. Also, notice they revealed their secrets to each other more often than they did to Brad and Danny. Definitely an opportunity missed there, Nick.
Other than that it was cheesy fun…but not up to the standards of the shows that would follow.
Whitney: I enjoyed Hey Dude, both for the chance to see certain actors way back when and the way the story was more grown up than some Nick shows but not so mature that it exited the target demo completely. Watching Christine Taylor in a “comedic” role before she was Mrs. Ben Stiller is interesting, mostly because apparently her ability to charm and illicit laughter from people was present from birth, and she’s only used the intervening years between then and now to hone these skills to perfection. Both herself and David Lascher (Ted) went on to have varyingly successful careers, he in Sabrina the Teenage Witch, her in movies that will run in perpetuity on TBS and Spike. But it was great to have a look at the skill that is so clearly present in both of these actors even with such limited opportunities to stretch their legs. Out of the four characters that this episode focused on I’m not at all surprised that Joe Torres and Kelly Brown were never credited in anything else.
As far as the actual plot of the episode, I agree with Andrew and Sabienna that it wasn’t the greatest but I think it’s admirable that the show tried to teach an ethics lesson while also entertaining the kids watching. I enjoyed Brad and Danny plotting a plan that actually works and Ted and Melody realizing they’d been played. The “lesson learned” pieces were shaky at best and boring at worst but I also don’t think a kids show from 20 years ago was aiming to make 21 year old me stop telling secrets, so I’ll give it a pass. The whole show does a solid job forming an interesting universe out of this secluded ranch, even if all of the acting within said universe could use some polishing.
Salute Your Shorts
Season 1, Episode 6: “Toilet Seat Basketball”
Original airdate: June 14, 1991
Andrew R.: And Salute Your Shorts is clearly one of those shows that benefited from Hey Dude coming before it. Both shows share a common setting, in a somewhat isolated location during summer, but Salute Your Shorts has better drawn characters and more interesting storylines. Here you can see several different perspectives of the same story. Notably, characters like ZZ and Donkeylips, who are not really the protagonists of this episode, still have clear points of view and motivations for their actions.
I do wonder if there are some racial problems by making Telly the character most interested in the basketball game. Without a thorough memory of every episode, was Telly being the only African American in the group a plot point at any time during the run?
Sabienna: I can’t remember if Telly’s ethnicity ever came into play, but I found the fact that the character most interested in sports was a girl refreshing. It was one of those small little plot points that could make a big impression on a tween. Telly wasn’t just passionate about sports, she was also portrayed as a strategic thinker and a better leader than the selfish Bobby. While the episode had a clear moral message it went down easier than Hey Dude‘s because Telly was awesome, the rest of the cast was equally fleshed out, and Danny got to play the Puck role that became so essential in future Nick ventures.
We’re still dealing with early Nick here, but the theme song alone illustrates that Salute Your Shorts is a more ambitious outing. Instead of relying on cutesy humor it features the devilish Bobby, who has to have been a forefather of Little Pete from Pete & Pete. He has an MTV, rebellious ’90s attitude and he essentially gets away with cheating. The kid doesn’t learn a proper lesson about not being a team player; instead, he tapes his extra candy to his body and manages to still come out on top. Yes, the coda suggests someone rats him out, but Bobby wasn’t destined to reform. Unlike the kids on Hey Dude, Bobby and his friends embraced the coming Nick era where shows were more interested in entertaining kids and reflecting their actual interactions than teaching them tidy moral lessons.
Whitney: Salute Your Shorts obviously aims at an entirely different age group, serving as a lesson in friendship and teamwork on a much younger level than Hey Dude did. There’s no flirting or backstabbing happening here, but there are enough little moments that make this show work better as a piece than our ranch-faring friends’ adventures. Salute Your Shorts definitely benefits from having most characters take a back seat to two or three main people that each episode focuses on, as it allows the audience the ability to push bad child-acting out of their attention. The actress that played Telly was lightyears better than the actor that played Bobby, but it was almost perfect that it worked out that way because the audience is supposed to be sympathetic and admiring towards Telly and the exact opposite towards Bobby.
I was also happy to see the way the show rounded out each character in only one episode worth of screen time. We got a diva, a nature lover, and a schemer, as well as hints towards other kids’ general attitudes. Not only did we get the chance to learn who each character was, but we also got great moments where these characterizations informed their attitudes towards the basketball game and which side they landed on in regards to the cheating occurring. It’s this piece of the show that I think gave it the strength it showed throughout its run and the popularity it had over the years. Even though it was a show made for kids, there was just as much of an expansion of this world of summer camp as many network shows have over their entire runs.