Dan Schneider and Nickelodeon Scandals From 'Quiet on Set: The Dark Side of Kids TV'

Writer/producer Dan Schneider accepts the Lifetime Achievement Award onstage during Nickelodeon's 27th Annual Kids' Choice Awards held at USC Galen Center on March 29, 2014, in Los Angeles.

Quiet On Set: The Dark Side of Kids TV examined various scandals and abuses at the kids' channel Nickelodeon, especially at the hands of Dan Schneider, a prolific show creator for the network.

Schneider's alleged offenses ran the gamut from using minor actors in kids' shows in sexual innuendos and overworking his staff—but the abuses endured at Nickelodeon extended beyond Schneider. At least three individuals employed by Nickelodeon were convicted of sexually abusing children.

Below, find out the biggest bombshells from Quiet on the Set and about Dan Schneider, Nickelodeon and the impacts of abuse on the network's stars, including Drake Bell. Please note that the following contains information that is highly disturbing and may be triggering to survivors of sexual harassment, sexual assault and sexual abuse.

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Why was Dan Schneider removed from Nickelodeon?

There are a lot of reasons Schneider and Nickelodeon split. Some of them were blatant to adults watching the show, if not necessarily obvious to their target audience of kids.

There were a number of scenes in Schneider's shows, including Zoey 101, that had sexual innuendo being performed by minors, including squirting goo on girls' faces. Alexa Nikolas said she recalled filming a scene of Zoey 101 and hearing the men on set call it a "c—m shot."

"It's gross," Nikolas said in Quiet on Set. "It's appalling behavior on all of the adults' behalf that day."

Other questionable scenes included girls with phallic objects in their mouths, minor actors in sexually compromising positions and close-ups of girls' feet and tongues.

Separate online content featured Ariana Grande sucking her own toes, fondling a potato to "give up the juice," putting tomatoes into bra cups and pouring water on her neck and chest.

One All That sketch featured child actors guzzling coffee and sugar, the latter of which congealed into white goo.

Schneider was accused of running longer hours on All That than child labor laws permitted.

All That actor Bryan Hearne accused Schneider of favoring white actors, which his mother corroborated. This came through in some sketches, like one in which Hearne played a boy selling cookies as if they were drugs. Another sketch featured him playing the youngest rapper ever, Lil' Fetus, and said that someone on set said that his skintone-colored leotard should be "charcoal-colored."

Schneider also was alleged to have bullied Black actress Raquel Lee Bolleau, even getting angry when a birthday cake was given to her to share with the cast and crew. He fired her shortly after.

Schneider was accused of being mercurial, with mood swings that would intimidate not just the children, but also the parents and staff—especially the women—on the sets of his shows. Schneider would also often get women working in the wardrobe department to give him massages at work.

Karyn Finley Thompson worked with Schneider on three shows as an editor, often working from 8 a.m. to midnight. She said Schneider would often make degrading comments and would only speak to her through his assistant producer even though she was in the same room. She said that the pressure of the job led her to collapse at work one day, but she still didn't want to stop working—and that Schneider gave another job he'd promised her to a younger man with less experience than she had. Schneider told Quiet on Set that he never considered gender in hiring.

Virgil Fabian, a director on several Nickelodeon projects, said, "Dan would come down, yell and scream, and I'd have to go, 'OK, you're creating an atmosphere that's unhealthy.'" When Fabian left, All That actress Giovonnie Samuels said, the on-set treatment of the casts of Schneider's shows got even worse.

Related: Brooke Shields on Surviving Sexual Assault

After Fabian's exit, Hearne was fired, which he believed was in part due to his mother raising concerns about how the children on set were being treated. Hearne said he's still working out what he went through on Nickelodeon with a therapist today.

In 2014, Schneider won a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Nickelodeon Kids' Choice Awards, and was honored and flanked by a number of his stars. Jennette McCurdy, one of Nickelodeon's biggest stars at the time, didn't attend, and she later wrote about "The Creator"—widely believed to be Schneider—in her memoir I'm Glad My Mom Died.

She called "The Creator" "meanspirited, controlling and terrifying" and referred to him as "abusive" in interviews, without ever mentioning Schneider by name. When McCurdy's mother, Debra, died in 2013, McCurdy took less than a week off of work from Sam & Cat. An internal investigation was launched around that time, and Schneider wasn't allowed near the cast anymore. However, he was so successful for Nickelodeon that they didn't get rid of him entirely. Schneider said in a statement that he wasn't actually barred from working with actors, but instead opted to give notes from his office.

Three years later, in 2017, Schneider was back on set of Henry Danger and Game Shakers. In the light of the #MeToo movement, a costumer on several Nickelodeon shows spoke out about the hostile work environment that Schneider allegedly perpetuated, including his constant requests for massages.

Nickelodeon launched another internal investigation into Schneider's conduct, and in March 2018, it was reported that Schneider and Nickelodeon "parted ways." He reportedly got a parting gift of about $7 million. Though the investigation didn't find inappropriate relationships with children or sexual misconduct, it was found that he was an abusive employer.

After Quiet on the Set aired, Schneider's former assistant Amy Berg tweeted that the stress from working under the "psychological tormentor" actually caused her to have panic attacks and a heart arrhythmia.

Schneider released a video on his YouTube channel responding to the allegations levied against him in the documentary.

"Watching over the past two nights was very difficult—me facing my past behaviors, some of which are embarrassing and that I regret," he said. "I definitely owe some people a pretty strong apology."

In terms of the sexual jokes in his shows, Schneider said, "All those jokes … the show covered over the past two nights, every one of those jokes was written for a kid audience because kids thought they were funny and only funny. Now we have some adults looking back at them 20 years later through their lens and they're saying, 'That's inappropriate for a kids' show.'" He suggested cutting the jokes in question out of his shows, "just like [he] would have done 20 years ago or 25 years ago." He added, "I want my shows to be popular. I want everyone to like [the shows], the more people who liked the shows, the happier I am. So if there's anything that needs to be cut because it’s upsetting somebody, let’s cut it."

He also said that the shows were filmed in front of "dozens and dozens of adults" and caregivers and none of them ever spoke up, and noted that several executives on both coasts had to approve episodes and jokes before they ever went to air. He did not address the intimidation, fear or power differentials that his employees, child stars and their parents mentioned in Quiet on Set.

Related: 35 Gaslighting Phrases and How To Respond

What Nickelodeon shows did Dan Schneider do?

Schneider worked on several of Nickelodeon's biggest shows. His full roster includes:

  • The Adventures of Kid Danger

  • All That

  • The Amanda Show

  • Danger Force

  • Drake & Josh

  • Game Shakers

  • Henry Danger

  • iCarly

  • Kenan & Kel

  • Sam & Cat

  • Victorious

  • Zoey 101

What did Dan Schneider do to Amanda Bynes?

Castmates said that Schneider grew close to Amanda Bynes' parents when she was hired on All That and that the men crafted Bynes' career together.

Witnesses noticed that Schneider would be physical with Bynes often, and there's footage of a young Bynes in a swimsuit in a hot tub with a fully-clothed Schneider.

Schneider also created the character "Penelope Taynt," deliberately naming the Bynes character after a sexualized slang term for the perineum, but had the writers lie if and whenever anyone asked if that was the meaning behind the moniker.

He later co-created What I Like About You for the CW, which starred a then-16-year-old Bynes. Bynes was reportedly dating an older man while on the show at the objection of parents. Bynes allegedly turned to Schneider, who encouraged Bynes to be emancipated from her parents. The efforts failed in court.

Schneider's relationship with Bynes and her family was fraught after this point, as was his career in mainstream TV, forcing him to turn back to Nickelodeon and kids' programming.

Related: Amanda Bynes' Vulnerable Return to the Spotlight

What did Dan Schneider do on The Amanda Show?

Schneider earned his first creator credit with The Amanda Show, one of the first of its kind: A sketch show centered on a young girl being funny instead of hot. While that's a forward-thinking idea, especially for its time, behind the scenes, staffers on the show said it was actually a terrible workplace for women.

"Working for Dan was like being in an abusive relationship," writer Christy Stratton said. "At the time, there weren't a lot of positions for women in sketch comedy," she explained.

Stratton and fellow Amanda Show writer Jenny Kilgen were forced to split one salary between the two of them, but felt pressured to accept the deal to avoid rocking the boat and to keep their respective feet in the door in the industry. They later discovered that this broke the rules of the Writers Guild of America (WGA), and when the WGA required Schneider to pay Kilgen and Stratton each their own full salary, he threatened to make sure they never worked for Nickelodeon ever again.

Kilgen and Stratton said early days of the show were "great," but that Schneider quickly told the writers' room that he didn't think women were funny. Schneider referred to Kilgen and Stratton as "the girls" and often made dirty jokes in the workplace.

Stratton and Kilgen said that Schneider would often play pranks and jokes, including ordering "the girls" to scream out silly and often demeaning things and offering Stratton $200 to eat two pints of ice cream in 30 minutes. Stratton said Schneider never paid her for the prank, and when she jokingly brought up the money he owed her, berated her in a private meeting in his office, frightening her.

Kilgen recalled Schneider asking her for massages in exchange for putting her sketches on air and would often watch pornography in the office. She also accused Schneider of urging Stratton to tell a story about high school while pretending to be sodomized. Stratton declined to speak about the incident herself: "I'm not proud of that ... I just think of that poor girl and what she had to go through. I would not do that today, but I did it then." Neither she nor Kilgen wanted to complain about it at the time of the incident for fear of angering Schneider and losing their jobs.

"We were all feeling, near the end [of Season 1], paranoid, uncomfortable—it was just a bad vibe," Stratton said. "We all felt like the ax could drop at any moment."

Stratton got fired for having friends over one weekend and going to a concert on another weekend, which angered Schneider, who demanded all of their time.

For Season 2, he asked Kilgen to work 11 weeks for free. "I lasted four days in Season 2," she said, noting that he'd hired a white man to work for a full salary. He forced her to pitch her sketches in a room full of other men and asked her in front of them if she used to do phone sex. Kilgen was "devastated" and quit. (Schneider denied asking Kilgen to work for 11 free weeks.)

Kilgen sued Schneider for gender discrimination, hostile work environment and harassment. They settled out of court after an internal investigation, and Kilgen knew her TV writing career was probably over.

Related: Aly Raisman on Healing from Sexual Abuse

What is Brian Peck accused of?

Brian Peck (who is not related or to be confused with Drake & Josh star Josh Peck) played a recurring character named Pickle Boy in different seasons of All That, often feeding cast members pickles in weird contexts—including guest star Ray Romano through a hole in a bathroom wall.

"Everybody loved Brian. He was charming, he was clever and he was around all the time," Sullivan recalled. "It's also important to note all the parents loved him, too."

Peck often joked around on the set with cast members in physical ways, including having Samuels walk on his back.

In August 2003, several months after it was discovered that serial killer John Wayne Gacy was allegedly a pen pal and friend to Peck, the cast had a table read. Sullivan recalled Schneider asking the parents to leave the room so their "friends could talk to the kids." It was announced that Peck wouldn't "be around anymore." Schneider denied having a role in the announcement of Peck's departure and criminal charges.

Peck was arrested on charges of child sexual abuse of a child actor. The actor was Drake Bell.

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What happened to Drake Bell?

Bell starred in Drake & Josh beginning in 2004 after being a regular on The Amanda Show. Drake & Josh premiered after Peck was arrested for child sexual abuse. Bell's identity as a survivor of Peck's abuse was never revealed publicly before Quiet on Set.

Bell met Peck, then working as a dialogue coach, during The Amanda Show Season 2, and they bonded over their love of Hollywood history. Peck offered acting lessons from his home to Bell early on, and Bell's father, Joe, was always with him.

"I was very attentive," Joe said. "I eventually started to see Brian hang around Drake too much."

Joe recalled that Brian would pop into Bell's dressing room and touch him a lot, usually in front of people, often putting his arm around Bell's waist. "It would happen routinely and was just always uncomfortable," he said. Joe spoke to production about Peck's conduct and said he didn't "have a good feeling" about Peck lingering around Bell. He said that he was told Peck was gay, after which Joe says he was "ostracized" and "backed off" from interfering.

"As a kid, you have no clue," Bell said. "But my dad saw it from a mile away."

"He just seemed like any other nice co-worker at that point," Bell added. "Brian and I became really close because we had a lot of the same interests, which looking back, was probably a little calculated."

Peck continued getting closer to Bell, attending his concerts even if they were far away, and encouraged Bell to fire Joe as his manager. Peck also threw Bell a 15th birthday party with Peck's friends, who Joe said gave him sexually inappropriate birthday cards.

"The situation with Brian started ramping up, so my dad started trying to make it difficult for Brian to be around me," Bell said. Bell said that Peck began "driving a wedge" between Bell and Joe and that Peck alleged that Joe was disliked on set, stealing Bell's money and ruining Bell's career.

Related: SVU Cast Member Mariska Hargitay on Helping Rape Victims

"I think Drake was so distraught about everything that he started avoiding me, which was understandable," Joe said. Bell said that his mother and father had a "tumultuous relationship" and that he thinks Peck took advantage of that to pit his mom against his dad as well. Bell's mom eventually called Joe and fired him as Bell's manager. Bell remained estranged from his father for years, with Peck essentially taking over a paternal role in Bell's life, picking up Bell for auditions and insisting Bell stay at his home overnight afterward.

"He pretty much worked his way into every aspect of my life," Bell said. "Everything changed with Brian one morning—it just, everything ... I knew that my life was going to be absolutely, completely different from that point on."

Bell said he was sleeping on the couch in Peck's home when he woke up to find Peck sexually assaulting him.

"I froze and was in complete shock and had no idea what to do or how to react, and I had no idea how to get out of the situation," he said. "What do I do, call my mom and go, 'This just happened, can you come pick me up?' And just sit there and wait? I had no car, I couldn't drive. I was 15 at the time. And so it just became this secret that I held onto." Bell explained that he felt like he couldn't tell anyone about Peck molesting him because he was scared of losing his career.

Bell said that after the first incident, Peck was apologetic and promised it would never happen again, but that he always ended up at Peck's home whenever he had an audition—and that Peck's conduct continued.

"It just got worse and worse and worse, and I was just trapped," Bell said. "I had no way out. The abuse was extensive and it got pretty brutal ... Think of the worst stuff someone could do to somebody in a sexual assault. I don't know how else to put it. It was not a one-time thing, it was not an 'oops.'"

The abuse took a toll on Bell's mental health and hindered his ability to enjoy his success at all.

"I remember all the abusive events but everything outside of that is really blurry for me, which is a bummer, because I experienced a lot of great things in my life and my career during all this time," he said. "But it was so overshadowed and ruined by what I was dealing with on the inside that it made it really hard for me. I didn't feel like anyone knew anything. I was under the impression that this was just a big, giant secret. I just hoped and prayed that one day it would just stop."

Eventually, Bell got a girlfriend and began spending almost all of his time at her home with her family, where he felt safe. He said that her mother knew something was wrong when one day, Peck called Bell repeatedly after Bell blew off a planned trip to Disneyland with the predator.

Bell said Peck called his cell phone repeatedly, then called Bell's girlfriend's house over and over again as well. He said Peck was "really upset" when Bell finally answered and told him he wasn't going, and his girlfriend's mom asked him what was going on, explaining that she knew it wasn't normal for a "40-something-year-old man to call [her] daughter's boyfriend like that."

Bell said his girlfriend's mom told his mother that she'd take him to her family therapist to unpack what he was going through, but that he had a hard time talking to the therapist about his experiences, downplaying them at first—again, for fear of losing everything he'd spent his entire childhood building.

"The whole thing was mental manipulation," Bell said. "He was so integrated in all these different productions and knew all these producers, that if I were to say anything or do anything, that he had the ability to basically say, 'You're never going to work with this person or that person.'"

When re-shooting the Drake & Josh pilot, Bell says that Beck tried to convince Schneider to let him play the father on the series, which may have been what triggered him to finally tell his mother about the abuse he endured.

"One day I was just on the phone with my mom and I just exploded," he said. "I have no idea what provoked it, I have no idea what happened, but I just screamed into the phone everything that had been happening to me."

His mother immediately called the police, and detectives came to her home, where Bell told them what happened. Unfortunately, like many survivors of sexual assault and abuse, the criminal justice process was traumatizing for Bell.

"The investigation was pretty brutal. I had to be excruciatingly detailed about every single thing, time that it happened, with two absolute strangers," he said. "The worst part was I had to make a phone call to Brian to get him to admit what he'd done."

With officers equipped with tape recorders and headphones in the room, Bell said he told Peck, "'I'm really struggling with this stuff now, like I'm so torn up, I'm so broken, I'm so emotionally distressed right now. Why did this happen?'"

Bell said Peck "just started a full-on confession" and repeatedly asked if he was being recorded.

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Not long after, he said, "Peck got arrested for doing really, really horrendous things to me." "Really, really horrendous" was an understatement, as Peck was charged with 11 criminal counts, including four counts of oral copulation of a person under 16; oral copulation by anesthesia or controlled substance; performing a lewd act upon a child; sodomy and attempted of a person under 16; sexual penetration by a foreign object and using a minor for sex acts.

Bell said he experienced a combination of "relief and fear" after Peck's arrest—relief that the abuse was over, but fear of his identity getting out.

Drake & Josh began shooting weeks after Peck's arrest, which Bell said was therapeutic for him because he loved what he was doing. However, he needed more help than just getting back to work. He was losing his hair from the stress of the abuse and its aftermath and began to self-medicate to numb himself, all while struggling to be the role model that his employers expected him to be for children watching the show.

"I didn't know how to process it, and I think that led to a lot of self-destruction, and a lot of self-loathing, really," he said. "I would try and just escape with alcohol abuse, substance abuse—really, just anything to escape."

Bell said he wasn't certain how many people knew he was the survivor of Peck's abuse and that the only person he remembered being there for him from the network was Schneider.

In October 2004, Peck was sentenced to just 16 months in jail after pleading guilty to two counts: One of oral copulation with a minor under 16 and one of performing a lewd act with a 14 or 15-year-old. He was not prohibited from working with minors afterward.

Related: Sharon Stone Says It's Time to Speak Openly About Sexual Abuse

What celebrities support Brian Peck?

Numerous celebrities wrote letters in support of Peck at the time of Peck's trial for sexually abusing Bell. Some of these are particularly heartbreaking and alarming:

  • Growing Pains stars Alan Thicke and Joanna Kerns both separately wrote letters to the court to defend Peck. Kerns' letter essentially victim-blamed Bell for "temptation" but later apologized for and walked back her comments.

  • Actress Kimmy Robinson wrote that she "believed with all [her] heart" that Peck was "pressured" before he "caved in" to his urges.

  • Children's TV director Rich Correll and stage manager Beth Correll each wrote in their letters that they'd love to work with Peck again, which they did on The Suite Life of Zack and Cody on the Disney Channel. They said in a statement to Quiet on Set that they weren't involved in Peck's casting and didn't know the details of his offenses.

  • Saturday Night Live alum and Bell's Drake & Josh co-star Taran Killam wrote in part, "I've seen the effects this situation has had on Brian and I know for a fact that he regrets any mistakes made."

  • X-Men star James Marsden and X-Men producer Thom DeSanto, each of whom also worked with Bryan Singer, both wrote letters supporting Peck. Marsden's letter reportedly read in part, "I assure you, what Brian has been through in the last year is the suffering of a hundred men." Singer has since been accused of sexual assault, but vehemently denied the allegations through his attorney. He's since moved to Israel, and in 2023, Variety reported that Singer would self-fund and produce a film defending himself against accusations of impropriety and sexual misconduct.

  • Boy Meets World stars Will Friedle and Rider Strong each wrote letters in support of Peck. However, in February 2024, they both came forward on their podcast explaining that he groomed each of them as well, and that it wasn't until they became adults and processed what they went through that they knew how inappropriate his behavior with them was. After the documentary aired, Bell called them out for their support of Peck.

Related: Jessica Simpson Reveals Sexual Abuse and Addiction in Memoir

How is John Wayne Gacy connected to Nickelodeon?

Serial killer John Wayne Gacy was allegedly a pen pal and friend to Peck.

Former All That star Kyle Sullivan recalled in Quiet on the Set that when the cast visited Peck's home for a barbecue, he found a self-portrait Gacy painted in Beck's garage.

"He'd converted his garage into a Planet of the Apes shrine," Sullivan said. In the Planet of the Apes room was a painting of a clown with an inscription on the back from Gacy describing Peck as a "friend." Peck kept a pile of letters and photos from Gacy besides his bed, Sullivan alleged, from Peck's pen pal relationship with the notorious murderer and sexual abuser of at least 33 young boys and men.

Related: What to Know About Devil In Disguise: John Wayne Gacy

Who is Nose Boy on Nickelodeon?

"Nose Boy" was a character played by Leon Frierson on All That. In Quiet on Set, Frierson said he felt very exposed by having to wear leotards often on the show, but that the "Nose Boy" costume took it even further: He wore a prosthetic nose on his face and noses that resembled penises on his shoulders. In one shot of the sketch, his character sneezed, sending goo flying onto a woman across the room.

What were Nickelodeon "On-Air Dares?"

Hearne describes "On-Air Dares" as "the Fear Factor of Nickelodeon." The segments were allegedly designed to be traumatic, with Hearne appearing in one being submerged in peanut butter so dogs could lick it off of his body. "That sounds like some awkward fantasy from some sort of freaky dude," he said. "It was really uncomfortable. I didn't like that. I didn't need to have dogs lick the peanut butter off me."

Other "On-Air Dares" included child actors being submerged in a tubs of worms and dead fish and putting scorpions in their mouths.

"The most uncomfortable thing was having to watch your castmates be essentially tortured," Hearne said.

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What happened to Katrina Johnson on All That?

Katrina Johnson was one of the earliest stars cast on All That. In Quiet on Set, Johnson said that Schneider approached her about having her own show, The Katrina Johnson Show. Johnson later said that Schneider told her parents she was gaining too much weight and that she "can't be the fat one" because they already had a "fat one" on the show.

Johnson recalled that after she went through puberty, she was phased off the show entirely and replaced by what she called "a younger version of [herself]." That younger version was Bynes.

What did Jason Handy do to Brandi on The Amanda Show?

Brandi was a child actress who had a bit part in a "Judge Trudy" sketch in an episode of The Amanda Show. Her mother, MJ, said parents weren't allowed on the set, and that a production assistant, Jason Handy, greeted them. "He was very charismatic, very charming. When he wasn't on set with the kids, he'd come and talk to all the moms," MJ recalled.

Sullivan said that Handy was responsible for escorting the children around the set and that he was always around. Handy participated in a Bible study with Samuels and other kids on the set.

MJ said that Brandi exchanged numbers and email addresses with her and other children on the set and that she was initially happy about it. His emails began innocently enough, but over the course of several months, became dark.

"She was sitting at the computer, and all of a sudden, I noticed she had suddenly shut down the computer completely and got up and ran into her bedroom and slammed the bedroom door shut," MJ recalled. When MJ asked Brandi what was wrong, Brandi told her, "I got an email from Jason."

MJ said the email contained a photo of Jason naked and masturbating, letting her know that "he was thinking about her."

"I went back and forth with, 'Should I call the police?'" MJ said. "They're gonna think I'm a bad parent because I allowed her to talk to this person. I struggled with it."

Instead, Brandi left show business entirely.

In April 2003, Handy was arrested for possession of more than 10,000 sexually explicit photos of children, as well as Zip-Loc bags with "tokens" from young girls, including one with letters from Brandi and another with underwear belonging to a 7-year-old girl. Authorities also found journals in which Handy admitted to wanting to find young girls to rape. He also admitted to kissing a 9-year-old girl on the lips who he met on the set of Cousin Skeeter. MJ feared that if law enforcement spoke with Brandi that Brandi would be blamed for whatever happened to Handy, but that they obliged to bring him to justice. Handy was sentenced to six years in prison.

In October 2014, Handy was arrested again, this time for indecent liberties with a child and sex offender registry violations, according to The Los Angeles Times. He is currently in prison in Virginia with a tentative release date of 2038.

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