Old School Lane’s Nickelodeon Tribute: Roundhouse
On August 15, 1992, Nickelodeon had created a time slot for teenagers to watch some of their favorite shows around Saturday night. During the day, the shows would be for the kids and at night, it would be for the adults who would watch Nick at Nite. That time slot would be known as SNICK.
From 8:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m., four shows would be showing during this time:Â Clarissa Explains it All, Are You Afraid of the Dark? The Ren and Stimpy Show,Â and a brand new sketch comedy show known asÂ Roundhouse.
The show was about teens to early adults who do improve in front of a live audience discussing about a theme similar toÂ You Can’t Do That on Television.Â The themes could be from how to act on your first date to how to prevent yourself from getting in trouble. Also in the mix was the house band that would perform music exclusively toÂ RoundhouseÂ so that the teens could do dance sequences. These dance sequences would be developed, rehearsed, and performed without any realÂ interruptions.
Some of the performers consisted of the following:
John Crane, who was the children’s father. He would tell the improved story that wasÂ occurringÂ while the teens were performing it. He was also the co-writer of the show. He would be inÂ RoundhouseÂ in betweenÂ Â performing at the Groundlings Theater.
Dominic Luciero was one of the lead improvisers in the show. He was only around for 1 season after he leftÂ Roundhouse.Â At the time, they didn’t realize until much later that Luciero was diagnosed with lymphoma. He would appear again for a few episodes during Season 3. One month after the Season 3 finale, he had passed away on July 1, 1994 at the age of 26. They didn’t mention it until the final episode of the show where they dedicated to his memory.
Jennifer Cihi was one of the young adults during Season 3 and sung the main theme song. You might know her for being the singing voice for Serena and Sailor Moon fromÂ Sailor MoonÂ and singing “Tatara’s Women Song” fromÂ Princess Mononoke.Â
Lisa Vale was one of the leading women performers during Season 2 and 3.
Crystal Lewis was one of the lead singers for many of the songs in Season 1.
The show was created by a married couple named Buddy Sheffield and Rita Sheffield. Buddy Sheffield was one of the writers forÂ In Living ColorÂ and had came up with the idea of doing a sketch comedy show for teens alongside his wife. This concept hasn’t been done since the other previous Nickelodeon sketch comedy showÂ You Can’t Do That on Television.Â Around 1992, sketch comedy shows likeÂ Saturday Night Live, In Living Color,Â andÂ New Kids in the HallÂ were all the rage. But having a sketch show consisting on teens and young adults doing improv and dancing sequences in front of a live audience was something that has never been done before…or since. According to an interview done by Mathew Klickstein at splitsider.com, Buddy and Rita Sheffield discussed about the process of getting a show like this done.
â€œAt first, I wasnâ€™t even sure it could be done. To create a half-hour show with music and dance and choreography and everything every week. But somehow we managed to do it. And it was fun, although it was challenging.â€They showed what you could do for kids. To see the kids laugh and get so into it. Some of these kids were out in these little remote, rural areas in Mississippi. They wereÂ starvedÂ for something creative and something fun. It turned their world around.Â It was so rewarding to work with kids because theyâ€™re so true to who they really are born to be. They havenâ€™t grown up yet and gotten cynical. They havenâ€™t yet learned the ways of the world and to think a certain way.Â You get their complete response that is so authentic and so real.â€
â€œWhen I first heard in 1985 that there was this little kids channel, I wanted to be on there,â€ said Rita Hester (formerly Sheffield). â€œThat was my goal, and so no matter how it ended up, I reached that. I considered it paradise to walk into our soundstage every week and going and doing my own kids show. No matter what happened, I thought it was glorious that they gave us that opportunity.â€
The show lasted for 4 seasons ending its run on January 27, 1996. Most of the cast members ofÂ RoundhouseÂ faded into obscurity and didn’t pursue in other acting or singing roles. As for some who did, here you go.
John Crane had acted in a few minor TV roles such asÂ Baywatch, The Next Wave, Murder Live!,Â andÂ Alien Avengers.Â He wrote a few episodes ofÂ Rocket Power, Johnny Bravo, CatDog,Â andÂ The Adventures ofÂ Jimmy Neutron.Â He became the head writer, the executive producer, and occasional performer in Fox’s Saturday night sketch comedy programÂ MADtv.
Crystal Lewis became a Christian singer. She would influence other singers like Jordin Sparks, Stacie Orrico, Hoku, Nikki Leonti, and Lincoln Brewster.
As for Buddy Sheffield, the co-creator ofÂ Roundhouse,Â he divorced Rita a few years later. In 2001, Sheffield gave a pitch to the Disney Channel about a teen show calledÂ Rock and Roland.Â The show was about a teenage boy who had a widowed parent and was a regular kid by day and a pop star by night. He had to constantly hide his alter pop star ego in front of his friends and his fans. Disney dismissed the idea. Years later, a show that had Sheffield’s concept was released and became a huge phenomenon. That show was calledÂ Hannah Montana.
In 2007, Sheffield sued Disney for stealing his idea and concept. Eventually in August 2008, the case was settled.
However, despiteÂ RoundhouseÂ lasting for 4 years, winning a few awards like the CableACE Award, the Young Artist Award, the Youth in Film Award, and the Ollie Award, almostÂ no oneÂ remembersÂ Roundhouse.Â Not back then or today. One of the main reasons why was because there was not a lot of advertising between the executives of Nickelodeon. They didn’t really care too much forÂ RoundhouseÂ either. At the time, more popular shows likeÂ Are You Afraid of the Dark? The Ren and Stimpy Show,Â andÂ Clarissa Explains it AllÂ were more discussed and viewed among audiences. Which brings me to my next reason why. The shitty time slot. It was sandwiched between the other more popular shows.Â RoundhouseÂ was aired afterÂ The Ren and Stimpy ShowÂ and beforeÂ Are You Afraid of the Dark?Â Kids were just slogging throughÂ RoundhouseÂ or skipping the show all together right before the other better shows came out. UnlikeÂ You Can’t Do That on Television, RoundhouseÂ was never given a chance to shine and form its own identity as a SNICK show and that’s kind of a shame.
I said “kind of” because looking back at this show 20 years later, I respect and admired whatÂ RoundhouseÂ was doing. As I said previously, it was something that has never been done before or since then, but the execution of it wasn’t good at all. Most of the jokes are not funny! Almost of all them fall completely flat and go away too quickly. It’s like saying, “Oh, if you didn’t like that joke, don’t worry. Just wait 10 more seconds for another attempt.” That’s what it felt like to me. Everything was just rushed and I didn’t get a chance to absorb the joke. At least the ones that were kind of funny. The dance sequences were okay too. I enjoyed them, but looking at it now, nobody dances that way anymore. It’s really dated by today’s standards.
When working on this tribute, I asked people this following question. “What was your favorite sketch comedy show at Nickelodeon?” Some of the older people saidÂ You Can’t Do That on Television.Â Some of the younger people saidÂ The Amanda Bynes Show.Â Most of the people saidÂ All ThatÂ (which we’ll discuss about next week). No one saidÂ Roundhouse.Â I can understand why. At least withÂ You Can’t Do That on Television,Â it had a lot of memorable skits and moments: Barth’s Burgery, the slime, the Locker Jokes. Sure in today’s standards, the jokes are extremely corny, but as I said in myÂ You Can’t Do That on TelevisionÂ review, they have an undeniable charm that can never be replicated in today’s time in which the main humor is edgy adult humor. WithÂ Roundhouse,Â I never really got anything out of it. I loved the concept, but not the execution of it. I really don’t recommend watchingÂ Roundhouse.
That’s all for now. Tune in next time as I ask you this: Do you have it?
Hope to see you around Old School Lane soon. Thanks for reading.