Hi lovelies, it’s been a while, but welcome to another edition of Millennial Misremembers, the column where we dive deep into the annals of Gen Y nostalgia. The aim is to better help you win your next Zoom trivia night. This time, in honor of spooky season, I’ll be “remembering,” rewatching and recapping the pilot episode of Nickelodeon’s Aaahh!!! Real Monsters.
Produced by the prolific Klasky Csupo studios and directed by Jim Duffy, the pilot S01E01, “The Switching Hour,” aired on October 29, 1994.
What I (mis)remember
Like everything during this era of Nickelodeon, the animation on Aaahh!!! Real Monsters was gross. It also reminded me of A Nightmare Before Christmas.
Because I am a total stereotype, the life of a group of monsters who just wanted to be understood was highly engrossing. They’re monsters, but they’re not bad. You know?
Aaahh!!! Real Monsters was on heavy afternoon rotation in our household, but I haven’t watched it since then. (Have you realized yet that my brother and I were a little bit raised by television?)
Well, the Aaahh!!! Real Monsters theme song is a photosensitive epileptic’s nightmare. Excuse me while I go recover …
… And I’m back.
The episode proper starts out with some casual homophobia: Jake (Andrew Leeds) throws a garbage bag at his brother, Nicky (Steven Hartman), and tells him “not to forget his purse.”
Nicky sees Ickis (Charlie Adler) in the garbage can and at first, thinks he’s v adorable because he kinda resembles a bunny. Then, Nicky realizes the cute bunny is a monster. Aaahh!!
Back at the city dump, aka monster school, the monsters prepare for Halloween. Our three protagonists, Oblina (Christine Cavanaugh), Krumm (David Eccles) and Ickis, rush to class. Their monster classmates are great — all manner of fantastic and icky. For example, they pass notes by writing on their skin and ripping it off.
Enter their teacher, The Gromble (Gregg Berger). Visually and behaviorally, he’s equal parts queer-coded villain, awful Jewish stereotype, and Hollywood’s misunderstanding of mood swings. I mean, he eats his students. Just … sigh. So, The Gromble is disappointed in his students’ poor midterm results. They couldn’t even manage to scare the pants off an eight-year-old!
They don’t deserve to go out on Halloween, he says. If anyone’s caught sneaking out, they don’t even wanna know how much trouble they’ll be in.
Back with the humans, Jake grumbles that he has to take Nicky out to Trick-or-Treat. Nicky, btw, is wearing an Ickis costume.
Over at monster school, many of the students are planning their escape. Not Ickis, though. The pencils he ate for lunch are sitting in his stomach like lead (🥁). Finally, Krumm and Oblina convince him to follow them out into the human world.
The trio soon realizes kids don’t find them all that scary. Krumm may be stinky, but that’s not enough to scare off little kids. And Oblina just looks like a Transformer. Then there’s Ickis’s cute little bunny ears …
The kids give our trio some pennies they picked up at a nearby house. Now, the monsters-in-training want some more of those delicious copper snacks. But they can’t remember what they heard. Was it Pick-Your-Meat? Next, the monsters find themselves at a Halloween party. Unfortunately, the other kids in attendance are more into grapes-as-eyeballs than actual eyeballs.
Meanwhile, Nicky, Jake and Jake’s friends are on a mission to T.P. houses.
Finally, our two storylines collide. The trio of monsters can’t resist gathering the eggs our troublemakers throw at the neighborhood houses.
Of course, a little mix-up occurs because Nickey is dressed like Ickis (thus “The Switching Hour”). Somehow, their respective groups don’t notice anything amiss. The monsters take Nicky home, and Jake and co. take Ickis to another Halloween party.
The monsters eventually figure it out and make a plan to right the switch. They have no interest in hurting darling Nicky because, really, who knows where he’s been? Unfortunately, just as they’re about to make their escape, The Gromble finds them up and about after curfew.
So, Nicky is still with the monsters the next day in class. The mini-monsters have to present their assignments from the previous week. They do so by hooking up to a machine that projects the images in their brains onto a screen.
Of course, “Ickis” gets called. Luckily for Nicky, he and his cat recently terrified each other, which is good enough for The Gromble, who rewards him with a bug. Then, he tells his pupils he knows some of them sneaked out the night previous. And he’s in the mood for a monster snack when he finds out who.
Back at Nicky’s, Ickis doesn’t quite fit in now that Halloween is over. Still, he wears enough layers to convince the humans that he’s one of them. Somehow. Off to human school he goes …
So, Nicky is crushing monster school. He’s joined the monster choir by dragging his nails down a chalkboard. The Gromble is so impressed he sweeps Nicky up in a hug.
In human school, Ickis has to tell his classmates about his house. They crack up when he tells them he lives in a filthy garbage dump. His teacher is angry! And sends him to detention. ‘Cause, that’s how to handle that … Of course, Ickis becomes king of detention when he one-ups all of them by biting a desk in half.
Back at home, Jake finally realizes Ickis is not Nicky when Ickis gets mad enough to grow to the height of the ceiling. The monsters finally bring Nicky home at that exact moment and remind him to keep everything hush-hush.
Ickis is just about to flush himself down the toilet with Krumm and Oblina come to rescue him. Nicky enjoys teasing his brother, who is now cowering under the bed.
The Gromble has figured out our trio were the ones who went out on Halloween. At first, he praises them for acting like (Aaahh!!!) real monsters. But then, he punishes them for breaking the rules.
Does it live up to the nostalgia?
Yes, in the sense that I’ve come to realize nostalgia equals harmful stereotypes and reckoning with nastiness that completely went over my kid head. On a lighter note, Aaahh!!! Real Monsters’ young monster trio does represent a healthy, supportive friendship. And I’ll always be down for anything that lifts up misfits. I just wish we didn’t have to punch down to get there.
If you have a recommendation for me to misremember that won’t make me wanna pop my eyeballs out à la Krumm, I’m all ears. That said, I’m signing off for now. Till next time, folx!