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At Nickelodeon, you can do that on TV

Published Oct. 9, 2005

Splat! Sweaty tourists of all ages stand near the "splat zone" and ogle over the gruesome sight of the bubbling green substance that spews out from the Green Slime Geyser.

A few feet away, others wait in line to take the tour of Nickelodeon Sound Stages 18 and 19, home of one of the most successful 24-hour kids network. Kids, mostly between the ages of 5 and 12, enthusiastically play the video games planted along the line.

At Nickelodeon, visitors can almost forget about the Orlando summer heat. Parents, fanning themselves with Universal Studios maps, hurry to get into the air conditioned building. This is the place where a kid can be a kid, and surprisingly, Mom, Dad and the older siblings can relish in the juvenile fun as well.

As a group of about 25 push through the doors, the tour guide leads them to a hallway through which they can peer through darkly tinted windows and catch a glimpse of the sets of the show Welcome Freshman. Regular viewers of Nickelodeon are already impressed enough to boast to their friends that they were within a few feet of the fictional set of Hawthorne High School. Next, visitors are bombarded with the bright colors and buzzing sounds as they are led through the gak kitchen, the costume department and the game lab.

In the gak kitchen, a tour guide unveils the secrets of gak and slime by presenting one audience member with a taste test. As the hesitant volunteer pressed her mouth down on a spoonful of green, chunky ooze, a smile of relief stretched across her face. "It tastes like applesauce," she said.

The fascination of green slime originated several years ago on the hit show, You Can't Do That on Television, which teenagers now may remember as the show they rushed home to watch after a hard day in the sixth grade. Since then, both slime and gak have become trademark symbols for Nickelodeon Studios as hundreds of kids voluntarily slip and slide through the goop on several different game shows. Up to 1,000 gallons of gak are used in one day's taping for Double Dare, which usually consists of three or four shows. The tour guide explains that gakcan be any texture or color. After all, on Double Dare, there is yellow earwax gak or blue toejam gak. All of these torture fluids are made out of dessert foods like dyed vanilla pudding mixed with dyed chunks of pineapple.

Once everyone has been led past the costume department and given the chance to look at the wardrobe from Clarissa Explains it All, the tourists are led to the game lab. This attraction is the test site for new cames for Nickelodeon game shows. SEGA also releases new video games exclusively to the Nickelodeon Studios for kids to play and test. They scream and wave their hands violently when the tour guides ask for two "expert video game players" to test an unreleased version of Jurassic Park, the video game. The two chosen to test it played for about 50 seconds, then exclaimed that the game was "cool!"

Early in the morning, tickets to be part of the studio audience of shows such as What Would You Do? are sold and gobbled up quickly. Kids come prepared to catch a glimpse of how their favorite Nickelodeon shows are put together, and, if they are lucky enough, kids and parents in the audience may get chosen to be contestants. This wacky game show involves contests that usually end up in some sort of pie throwing. Three to four shows a day are taped with host Marc Summers, who has also hosted Double Dare. He runs up and down the aisles and talks a mile a minute with childlike enthusiasm, keeping the taping session entertaining even for the parents.

"I'm an adult physically, but I love this because I am still like a kid inside," said Summers. Yet, doing four shows a day, he said, "can be mentally and physically exhausting."

Tim Gray visited the set of What Would You Do? from Jackson, Mich., with his 8-year-old sister and his parents for his 10th birthday. In the last segment of the game show, Tim's mother was chosen to taste a food while blindfolded. Tim got to spoon it to her. Since she guessed "beets" correctly, she received the pleasure of throwing a pie full of whipped cream in her son's face. He happily obliged to getting pied for his birthday.

"I like getting splattered by pies. It's fun," Tim exclaimed after getting cleaned up.

While Summers gets a kick out of watching the contestants get pied, he wonders why they volunteer so willingly.

"It's baffling to me why people want to do this stuff. But it's not just the kids _ the parents love it too," he said. "Maybe we're just living in such a stressed out world that the half and hour of the show is like a fun release for them."

-Alisa Blackwood is a senior at East Lake High in East Lake.