Let me just get the awkward part out of the way first: I am almost 19, soon to be a sophomore in college, and I still enjoy watching a handful of Disney Channel and Nickelodeon TV shows. Last summer, I ranked all of Dan Schneider’s TV shows in a 3000-plus word “love letter” style piece to the famed sitcom genius (it, like everything else from NSF 2.0, is no longer on the site, though I have a copy of that post saved offline). Schneider actually read the piece and enjoyed my rankings, though not even he could have predicted the fall of the show I ranted 4th on that list, Sam & Cat.
Sam & Cat has been canceled by Nickelodeon after just one season. The spin-off of both iCarly and Victorious was a ratings winner for Nickelodeon, with the network doubling the order of first season episodes from 20 to 40 after just one month on the air. The show never even made it to that 40, with its cancellation coming after just 36 episodes and a lengthy hiatus. Behind the scenes drama derailed a Nick sitcom that looked extremely hopeful early on.
When my rankings came out, I was way too optimistic about the show’s doubled order and ratings after just nine episodes. I understood that Nick wanted to expedite the show’s production as the stars got older, but no one could have predicted what would happen to the actresses portraying both Sam and Cat. Ariana Grande, soon after the show premiered, became a music superstar with her debut album Yours Truly releasing in August. Jennette McCurdy was dealing with drama of her own, from her bizarre relationship with Andre Drummond to their even weirder breakup to the leak of racy photos, along with reports of a pay dispute throughout. There were also reports of tardiness and infighting between the two stars as the exhausting first season dragged on. Moreover, both girls are now women, in their 20s and wanting to grow up from the G-rated bubble of Nickelodeon.
Sam & Cat was the last show of the “third generation” of Dan Schneider’s career. His first period was as an actor, most famously in the ABC sitcom Head of the Class. When he started taking positions behind the camera, Schneider moved into the second generation of his career, with famous shows such as Kenan & Kel and All That. When All That and Kenan & Kel both ended their original runs, Schneider moved on to The Amanda Show, a bridge between the second and third generations of his career. The Amanda Show starred eponymous Amanda Bynes, but also Drake Bell (who I interviewed earlier this year), Josh Peck, and Nancy Sullivan, 60 percent of the Parker-Nichols household on Drake & Josh. Drake & Josh, along with Zoey 101, created a domino effect of successful sitcoms and spin-offs that ended with Sam & Cat. The final episode of Sam & Cat airs this Thursday night preceding the Kids’ Choice Sports Awards (not making that up), while Schneider’s newest project, Henry Danger, premieres in under two weeks, on July 26th.
Henry Danger begins a new, fourth generation of Schneider comedies, with Schneider essentially starting from square one with this show. It is arguably Schneider’s first sitcom that doesn’t at least have some semblance of reality attached to it. In fact, the show has a superhero shtick to it, based on promos. Not a single member of the main cast has their own Wikipedia page, and the show’s page lists the protagonist as just 13 years old. That means Schneider is starting out with a whole new generation of tween actors. These youngsters will have 20 episodes to show what Henry Danger is worth, but with no big names attached to the show, the ratings could suffer compared to other Schneider sitcoms.
I believe Dan Schneider wants to leave behind his past and prove that he can create a great Nick sitcom without reusing a big name actor from a past show, something he hasn’t done since the failed Guys Like Us, a UPN sitcom that wasn’t aimed at tweens. When excluding Guys Like Us, Schneider has never had to create a sitcom that didn’t star at least one actor from a prior show of his. This is unfamiliar territory for Schneider, whose popularity will be tested in the ratings. He might have trouble attracting fans of his older shows because of the new actors and a premise that isn’t at least slightly realistic.
Henry Danger has big shoes to fill, but it does not need to be the ratings equivalent of Sam & Cat. Using lesser known actors will keep their salaries down, which contributes to a lower overhead. Furthermore, there will not be egos or personalities that make certain cast members feel too big for the network (not that I’m saying that’s the case with anyone in Sam & Cat). It also gives Dan Schneider the opportunity to create a completely new brand that will make up for his shortest running tween sitcom, if all goes right. If all goes wrong, Henry Danger would give Schneider two misses in a row, something that even someone of his stature might not be able to withstand.
I wish Dan Schneider all the best with Henry Danger, especially when considering how Sam & Cat ended. He has created a lot of fantastic tween sitcoms over the years, shows that kids reminisce about even years after they have grown up. Though Sam & Cat‘s 36 episode disappointment has ended, the allure and unknown of Henry Danger will hopefully lead to a strong fourth generation of popular comedies with a Dan Schneider influence.