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The Dan Schneider Controversy Explained

For years, prolific producer Dan Schneider occupied a prominent place in the world of children's television. Throughout the late '90s and '00s, Schneider and his Schneider's Bakery banner oversaw some of the best Nickelodeon shows of all time, such as "Victorious" and "iCarly." At the height of his fame, Schneider was likened to fellow TV titan Norman Lear by The New York Times — a comparison that indicates how respected he was at one point in time.

Then, in March 2018, Schneider's time at Nickelodeon suddenly ended amid allegations of verbal abuse and questionable treatment of the young stars who appeared on his shows. Investigations were reportedly conducted by ViacomCBS, and the two parties eventually parted ways. Nickelodeon and Schneider issued a joint statement to Deadline: "Following many conversations together about next directions and future opportunities, Nickelodeon and our long-time creative partner Dan Schneider/Schneider's Bakery have agreed to not extend the current deal. Since several Schneider's Bakery projects are wrapping up, both sides agreed that this is a natural time for Nickelodeon and Schneider's Bakery to pursue other opportunities and projects."

In the immediate wake of Schneider's exit, he remained out of the public eye and did not comment on the situation. In the roughly five years since then, however, a plethora of additional information has been made available. Several of Schneider's former co-workers and actors have come out with even stronger allegations against the "iCarly" producer, while the executive himself has publicly commented on the circumstances of his departure.

In 2018, allegations against Dan Schneider during his time at Nickelodeon were made public

At the time of Dan Schneider's exit from Nickelodeon, reports had been swirling of possible controversial behavior on set. The March 2018 Deadline report on the producer's split with the kid-friendly TV network included notes about allegations of Schneider's temper disrupting work, production delays, ballooning budgets, and "complaints of abusive behavior" against him filed by his staff. More concerning was a section of Deadline's report that contained the following: "For years, Schneider had been under a cloud of suspicion over the treatment of some younger stars of his shows. Among the things that have raised eyebrows are his tweeted photos of the toes of his young female stars." 

The ViacomCBS investigation found that Schneider was allegedly yelling and throwing tantrums, as well as sending angry emails and texts to child actors outside of working hours, according to a July 2021 Deadline report. He also allegedly asked for shoulder and neck massages. Addressing the accusations, the producer told The New York Times that he "never interacted with actors in any way, texting or otherwise, that should make anyone uncomfortable." He also called the controversy over the feet pics "ridiculous" and stated in the interview: "I couldn't, and I wouldn't have the long-term friendships and continued loyalty from so many reputable people if I'd mistreated my actors of any age, especially minors."

Schneider claimed that if anyone he worked with over the years saw him as "difficult," it was because of the "high standards" he held for his work. The longtime producer admitted, however, that he may have been a little harsh at times. "Over the years, I've grown and matured as a producer and leader," Schneider said. "I'm sure I'm better and more gentle at communicating today."

A former colleague claimed Dan Schneider was 'demanding' and 'vindictive'

The New York Times spoke to people from Dan Schneider's past in addition to the producer for the June 2021 interview. Arthur Gradstein, a writer and producer who worked with Schneider on four different shows, recalled the stresses of their partnership. Gradstein told the newspaper, "[Schneider] could be generous and validating, and it was exciting to be around his talent and passion for creating entertainment. But he was also unreasonably demanding, controlling, belittling, and vindictive with a willful disregard for boundaries or workplace appropriateness."

Gradstein is one of many people who have publicly engaged with Schneider and the allegations he faces. Several unnamed sources also spoke to the NYT and corroborated previous reports of Schneider's allegedly abusive ways. Previously, fans had noted questionable sequences on "iCarly," "Victorious," and other Schneider-produced shows where child actors' feet were routinely featured for bizarre, ostensibly nonsensical reasons.

While Schneider did not specifically mention the allegations in the NYT 2021 interview, he did note that his 2018 departure from Nickelodeon was due to things he had long ignored over the years. "I took a break to take care of a lot of stuff that I'd let go by the wayside for decades," he explained.

Dan Schneider has faced allegations of misconduct from female writers

In August 2022, a new report from Insider unearthed allegations of misconduct against Dan Schneider from female writers who worked with him going back decades.

The report found that a female writer named Jenny Kilgen, who worked on "The Amanda Show" with Schneider, accused the show's production company in 2000 of gender discrimination and hostile working conditions. In the complaint, Kilgen referenced that Schneider frequently requested massages from the show's female writers. Another female writer who worked on the show wrote a letter as part of the case, in which she alleged that Schneider pressured her into giving him massages, simulating sex acts, and so on. Other Nickelodeon staffers have corroborated much of the information, while an anonymous source close to Schneider said he "regrets ever asking anyone and agrees it was not appropriate, even though it only happened in public settings."

Additional allegations contained within the report paint a similar picture. Writers on Schneider's series further said that they were made uncomfortable by the showrunner's frequent sexualization of the child actors working on the show, such as pushing for them to wear revealing clothing and filming sequences that had sexual overtones. Other sources suggested that the executive verbally belittled women and disliked working with female writers, an accusation that the aforementioned source close to Schneider deemed "untrue."

As one anonymous writer summarized their sentiments, Schneider's Nickelodeon empire was a "maddening, disgusting, controlling little bubble."

Stars have spoken out about their time on Dan Schneider's shows

Recent years have seen several former child stars on Dan Schneider's Nickelodeon shows speak out against the executive and the network. In 2022, former "Zoey 101" star Alexa Nikolas alleged on an episode of Victoria Garrick's "Real Pod" podcast that Schneider mandated that he was present at every single one of her costume fittings for the show. Per her account, Schneider would sit on the other side of the curtain as she changed and he would request Polaroids of her in her outfits from the wardrobe artist. Nikolas was 12 years old at the time.

Nikolas also revealed that she left "Zoey 101" due to her interactions with Schneider. "I got abused by Dan Schneider in an exec room," the star said on an episode of the "Vulnerable" podcast. "I quit the show because of the Dan Schneider abuse." 16 years after her departure, Nikolas staged a protest outside of Nickelodeon's headquarters and formed a movement known as Eat Predators, which aims to assist survivors of child sexual abuse.

Another star who has ostensibly taken aim at Schneider in recent years is former "iCarly" cast member Jennette McCurdy. In 2022, the retired actress published her memoir "I'm Glad My Mom Died," in which she describes serious abuses that occurred on Nickelodeon sets. The book references McCurdy's experiences with a figure known only as The Creator, who is widely assumed to be Schneider. McCurdy alleges that the man pressured her into drinking while underage, took inappropriate photos of her, and so on. She also alleges that she once declined a $300,000 offer by the network to not speak out publicly about the abuse she faced.

Dan Schneider's career future is uncertain

Three years after his departure from Nickelodeon, Dan Schneider told The New York Times he was ready to return to work. He explained, "I don't want to be an old man someday and look it up and see some episode of one of the shows I did and go, 'Ugh,' and be disappointed in myself. Whatever I do next, I want it to outdo what I've done in the past."

While details are unclear, Schneider claimed to have a comeback pilot in the works at a network other than Nickelodeon, which he described to the NYT as "ambitious and very different." Per the executive's description, the show will be geared more towards an adult audience. However, nearly two years after Schneider's tease have since passed, and no further details on the project have coalesced.

Overall, Schneider reportedly holds no grudges against Nickelodeon over his exit from the network where he rose to fame. The show-maker said he ultimately wishes the channel "the best" on its future endeavors, including Miranda Cosgrove's "iCarly" reboot airing on Paramount+.