Mayim Bialik Says That Toxic TV Workplaces in the 1990s Weren’t Unique to Nickelodeon

Bialik spoke to fellow former child stars Jenna von Oÿ and Christy Carlson about how unfortunately unsurprised they were by ‘Quiet on Set’
Mayim Bialik Says That Toxic TV Workplaces in the 1990s Weren’t Unique to Nickelodeon

Some viewers of the discourse-starting docuseries Quiet on Set: The Dark Side of Kids TV might think that the conditions of the TV productions at Nickelodeon were unusually abusive for 1990s television. Blossom Russo needs you to know how upsettingly normal those sets really were.

By now, anyone who has any interest in the behind-the-scenes horror stories of seminal children’s entertainment understands how harrowing the experience of working under disgraced Nickelodeon don Dan Schneider was for both kids and adults. Beyond the sadly predictable revelation that many of the child actors who appeared on Schneider’s shows suffered horrific abuse, both at the hands of Schneider and, in more severe cases, other adults in the Nickelodeon empire, Quiet on Set demonstrated the sobering realities of what adult women experienced in the writers’ rooms on shows like All That. Two particularly brave writers, Christy Stratton and Jenny Kilgen, detailed the demeaning acts Schneider forced them to perform as well as his decision to illegally pay them each half a salary.

Despite rising to prominence as a teen actor around the time of Schneider’s reign, Mayim Bialik didn’t work on a Nickelodeon project as a child star, only arriving at the network for voice acting roles in her 20s. However, as the Blossom star explained during a recent episode of her podcast Mayim Bialik’s Breakdown, what she saw on Quiet on Set was disappointingly true to her lived experiences on other TV shows. Said Bialik of the documentary, “You’re watching what the entire culture was like. This is not what happened because ‘Nickelodeon this-that.’ Of course, it touched me personally. Of course it did.” 

In the episode, Bialik invited her Blossom co-star Jenna von Oÿ and Even Stevens and Kim Possible lead Christy Carlson to discuss their own experiences as young women working in TV in the 1990s. When von Oÿ mentioned that what she saw in Quiet on Set was frustratingly typical for the time period, Bialik expounded, “Women being berated in the writers’ room is something that was just like, I’m sorry,  it was considered in — I mean, I hate to say it, it’s considered par for the course.” 

Bialik did clarify of her von Oÿ’s time on Blossom, “I will say I do not believe that happened in our writers room. … And there were things that we all thought were okay to even joke about, which now we’d be mortified.”

Carlson, on the other hand, refuses to watch Quiet on Set for fear that the documentary would be “extremely triggering” for someone who lived through that harrowing period in similar situations to the subjects of the series. “I think we’re all kind of living with a little bit of survivor’s guilt,” Carlson said of all her fellow child stars from the 1990s. “That could have been any one of us, and we all kind of need to grieve together, I think at this point and sort of come together to try to figure out what now.”

However, Bialik believes that the other side of their shared experiences in the stressful world of a child star is that people such as her, Carlson and von Oÿ are now in a position to speak out for the well-being of children in entertainment. Said Bialik, “What it also reminded me of is how far we had to come to get to a place where people like Christy get to advocate and we know what she means when she says, the mental health of children on set matters and there are things that we can do to make sure that there are no exceptions. ‘You don’t get to push that child.’”


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