Exposed: Child sex abuse and toxic workplace environments behind popular Nickelodeon shows

Nickelodeon helped propel a number of child actors to fame, including Drake Bell (centre) and Ariana Grande (far right).

Nickelodeon helped propel a number of child actors to fame, including Drake Bell (centre) and Ariana Grande (far right). Photo: Getty

Nickelodeon is celebrating 45 years since its launch this week, but the legacy of the children’s TV network has forever been tarnished by recent revelations of sexual assault suffered by children under its watch.

A new docuseries, Quiet on Set: The Dark Side of Kids TV, has dived into the on-screen sexualisation of Nickelodeon stars, as well as serious assault and allegations of harassment that occurred behind the scenes.

Drake Bell, who starred in the hit show Drake & Josh as a teenager, made some of the most distressing revelations in the series.

Going public for the first time, Bell detailed the sexual abuse he suffered from Nickelodeon dialogue and acting coach Brian Peck while filming The Amanda Show, which originally aired from 1999 to 2002.

While Peck, then 43, was accused of molesting a minor and arrested in 2003, the minor had not been named until Bell came forward for Quiet on Set.

Since Quiet on Set began airing, many former Nickelodeon stars, including Josh Peck, Kenan Thompson and Melissa Joan-Hart, have come forward with messages of support for Bell and fellow victims.

Drake Bell opens up about sexual assault

Before Bell went to police, Peck was allegedly trusted to be close with the child actors under his charge.

Bell, then 15 years old, spent many nights at Peck’s home before “everything changed” one morning.

“I was sleeping on the couch where I would usually sleep. I woke up … and he was sexually assaulting me,” Bell recalled in Quiet on Set.

“He figured out how to convince my mom and everyone around to, any time I would have an audition or anytime I needed to work on dialogue or anything, I somehow ended up back at Brian’s house and it just got worse … I was just trapped.”

Bell described the abuse as “pretty brutal”, and said he’d feared for his career if he told anyone about it.

But when Peck tried to get himself cast as the father on Bell’s upcoming show Drake & Josh, Bell finally told his mother everything.

She called the police, and Bell had to undergo the process of telling strangers what had been done to him in ‘excruciating’ detail – and get Peck to confess during a phone call.

Bell on Quiet on Set: The Dark Side of Kids TVPhoto: Getty

When it came time for Peck’s sentencing hearing in 2004, a number of famous faces turned up to support Peck, and 41 people wrote character references, including actor James Marsden, who wrote: “I assure you what Brian has been through in the last year is the suffering of 100 men.”

After pleading no contest to two charges of child sexual abuse, Peck was sentenced to 16 months in prison and ordered to register as a sex offender – but still landed a job on Disney Channel’s hit children’s show The Suite Life of Zack & Cody.

Variety reports Peck was never on set during filming and did not have any interaction with cast or crew.

In the ensuing years, Bell struggled with addiction, was found driving under the influence multiple times, and went bankrupt.

In 2021, Bell pleaded guilty to charges of attempted child endangerment and disseminating matter harmful to juveniles, including some that were sexual in nature, although he denied he knew the victim’s age when he communicated with her on social media.

Additional sexual assaults

In addition to Peck’s crimes, Quiet on Set looked at the sexual abuse committed by Jason Handy, a production assistant on Nickelodeon shows, and Ezell Channel, a freelance animator hired by Nickelodeon.

Handy, who often escorted child actors around sets, pleaded “no contest” to lewd acts on a child and the distribution of sexually explicit material in 2004, with both charges related to assaults committed against girls on Nickelodeon shows.

Channel, already a registered sex offender when he started working with Nickelodeon, was convicted of lewd acts on a minor and of showing a minor pornography in 2009; as with Peck and Handy, Channel gained access to his victim through his work with Nickelodeon.

More allegations lobbied at Nickelodeon

Rumours of inappropriate workplace behaviour and environments on Nickelodeon sets have circulated for years before Quiet on Set, many connected to Dan Schneider, the producer whose shows helped launch the careers of stars such as Ariana Grande and Amanda Bynes.

Nickelodeon severed ties with Schneider in 2018.

Although no sexual assault allegations have been levied at Schneider, many of his shows, such as The Amanda Show, iCarly and Victorious, have been accused of featuring scenes which some viewers claim showed child actors taking part in thinly veiled sexual innuendos.

These included an adult Schneider joining a teenaged Bynes in a hot tub, and a young Grande putting her own toes in her mouth.


Bell said Schneider (right) called to offer him support after Peck’s 2003 arrest. Photo: Getty

In Quiet on Set, Schneider is also accused of creating a toxic environment for crew, including continuously asking them to massage him and telling a female writer to pitch her idea while pretending to be sodomised on the writers’ room table.

Schneider defended himself by emphasising everything that happened on screen was approved by network executives, and parents and caregivers were always on set.

In a statement to multiple outlets, Schneider’s representative said “adults project their adult minds onto kids’ shows, drawing false conclusions about them”.

But Schneider admitted he was “embarrassed” by his past behaviour after watching Quiet on Set, and his representative told The Hollywood Reporter the allegedly problematic scenes should be cut from reruns.

In a statement to USA Today, Nickelodeon said: “Though we cannot corroborate or negate allegations of behaviours from productions decades ago, Nickelodeon as a matter of policy investigates all formal complaints as part of our commitment to fostering a safe and professional workplace environment free of harassment or other kinds of inappropriate conduct.”

If you or someone you know needs help, please contact:

  • 1800 RESPECT: 1800 737 732
  • National Sexual Abuse and Redress Support Service: 1800 211 028
Stay informed, daily
A FREE subscription to The New Daily arrives every morning and evening.
The New Daily is a trusted source of national news and information and is provided free for all Australians. Read our editorial charter
Copyright © 2024 The New Daily.
All rights reserved.