What Kids Want


When we make TV on Nickelodeon it’s strange because the whole network is based on guessing what kids want to see because the network is run by adults.   Sure, they do research.  They ask questions.  They comb various data sources.  There are some hard and fast rules about kids TV that I’ve had to learn.

Rule one: (the one you don’t ever forget) “Kids don’t want to see adults doing all that much.”   Of course this goes against what I was interested as a kid.  I loved adults doings stuff.  James Bond, Spiderman, The Three Stooges, Speed Racer, The Monkeys: These were all movies and TV shows I watched as a kid and even though they appealed to kids, I was watching “adults.”  (Sadly, when I grew up I discovered that adults don’t really live like James Bond or the Monkeys although I did once have a house contractor that actually seemed like one of the three stooges.)  The network will tell you, if you want to do a spy show, make the spy a kid.  Kids only want to see kids and they’ll turn off the TV if they see anyone over 5′ 2″.  I find it hard to believe but I do believe because they are the ones who pays for the shows.

Rule two: “Kids don’t like the underdog.”  They like whoever you tell them is popular.  If there’s a person on the show struggling to find him or herself, maybe even being bullied.  Instead of identifying with that person, because deep down we all feel a little like an outsider, our audience wants to join in the bullying.  They want to hate the person the popular kids hate.  This makes me really sad because it’s such a pack mentality but I guess it’s a biological imperative.  Evolution has bread us to make fun of others so we survive.  When we were a tribe scraping for food, it was better to stay with the pack then challenge it.

Rule three: Don’t mention Sex, God, or Politics.  This makes sense.  Stay away from things that will make parents have to answer questions they don’t want to answer.  And since most people can’t explain sex, God, or politics, it’s best to leave it alone.

Rule four: Don’t mention that gay people exist.  This is the same as rule three except that the network is very big on showing diversity.  They say that kids want to see people that look like them on TV and since we have a diverse audience we should have diverse people on camera and off.   This is a great policy but they stop short at sexual diversity on camera.  Behind the camera there’s a ton of gay people on the shows and at the network.  It’s gayer than Lady Gaga and Bette Midler singing a Judy Garland medley at a hairdresser convention on Mykonos during “everyone’s Gay week!”  Which is to say, there are a few gay guys working there.   Despite this, the network doesn’t want to offend anyone or give parents a reason to turn off the set so, no gays.  But I think a kid who’s gay feels alone enough as it is.  It sure would help to see someone on TV that was gay and doing okay.

Rule five:  “Keep the jokes physical.”  Witty banter is lost on today’s kids the theory goes and it makes sense.  They don’t know the phrases we are playing with when we make “witty banter.”  They also do not know witty banter.  So make someone fall or cover them with goo or let them fall into a giant vat of fudge.  If you can do all three at the same time, you’re a genius.   Make things explode and fall and fly everywhere and you’re the Spielberg of 2-12s.

WHAT DO YOU THINK OF THESE RULES?   Do you agree or disagree and why?

More rules of kids TV, next time on Vinnie’s Mantiques blog.

Cheers - Jay

For Kids or Not For Kids – That is the Question

When Nick first asked me to write a family show for Nick@Nite they said “please aim for adults, mainly women, 18-45. That’s our audience!”  So, since I’m a man, I figured I’d just write something that means something to me and hopefully the characters and emotion would attract the 18-45 ladies. I looked at the shows on Nick@Nite. Friends and George Lopez were huge with the audience of adults and kids. So for tone, that was my model. I basically took my life but I made everyone single to allow for romance which is something I heard women like. I also put a love interest next door figuring the “will they, won’t they” will be fun to write and watch. Plus, raising a genius orphan boy is irresistible. From James Bond to Oliver to Annie orphans tap into that part of us that’s afraid of being alone.  It always works for me.  I’ll cry at ‘or’ … you don’t even have to get to ‘phan’.  So I was set. I liked the world and the characters and hoped the audience would come.

My hope was that they’d rebrand NICK@NITE like they did TVLand. Make it shows for the whole family. Set it apart from the kids programs on “normal” Nickelodeon. But as we started making shows there was a shift. They started being more concerned with kids. But the Network has always been, first and foremost, a kid’s network. And they loved our show so much they decided it belonged on Saturday night, which is their big kid’s night. Now, I say Saturday knowing they show it all week long but our success is determined by the night we are new! Reruns don’t count. I’m not sure why.

We suddenly went from a family show like Friends to a kid’s show like Spongebob. While I love kids’ shows and would love to make one for NICK, Wendell & Vinnie was for adults. Our stories, our themes, our language, our casting was all designed to be for adults. But NICK can only really market the show to kids on commercials in-between their other shows.

So, for the whole time we’ve been airing, we’ve been trying to meet the expectations of adults while trying to make it a bit more friendly to kids. My question for you, the fans, is this: “How are we doing and what more can we do to make this show more friendly to families?

– Jay

Tweet me @WendellVinnie_ with your thoughts and remember to add #VinnieQuestions!

Welcome to Vinnie’s Mantiques

Welcome to Vinnie’s Mantiques, the official “unofficial” website for all things “Wendell & Vinnie!”

My name is Jay Kogen. I am a TV writer guy. I’ve written for a lot of shows: “The Simpsons,” “Frasier,” “Malcolm in the Middle,” but my favorite show I’ve ever worked on is “Wendell & Vinnie.” So my friends and I created this website with one purpose in mind: to get the word out about our show and get closer to the people who watch. I want to have a conversation with the fans about what they love and don’t love about the show. I want to know what you want to see. We’re trying to make great show here. It’s not easy to make a show that’s funny. It’s even harder to make a funny show that you kind of care about. And the hardest thing of all is to make a funny show with characters you care about that’s saying something true to our lives. But that is our goal with every episode.

I am proud to say the first season really hits the high mark a lot of the time. This coming from a lot of hard work from a whole crew of people. (If you check in here, you’ll get to meet them!) Most of the episodes are based on something very personal that has happened to me or my writers. And since they’re real we hope they ring true to you. At Vinnie’s Mantiques, we’ll talk about what’s worth showing and what isn’t. You’ll get a chance ask questions of the writers and the stars. And hopefully you’ll think of this show as your show.

Talk to you soon – Jay