'Quiet On Set' Shows Kids in Hollywood Still Aren't Safe

Photo by Matt Sayles/Invision/AP, File

Last month I wrote about a Netflix series called "The Program" which was recommended by my daughter. The show explained how a few individuals made a fortune promising to straighten out troubled teens in special schools that were one part boarding school and one part cult.


Last week my daughter recommended another program thinking I might find it equally interesting. It's called "Quiet on Set: The Dark Side of Kids TV" and it focuses on Nickelodeon from the mid-90s until about a decade or so later. 

The program combines a lot of different information about what was going on at Nickelodeon, most of it bad. But the bad ranges from the troubling to the upsetting to the outright criminal. But let's just start with the criminal because that in itself is like a conservative's worst expectations of Hollywood come to life.

Through the course of the show, we learn there were three different pedophiles who were working on the kids shows at Nickelodeon. The first was a production assistant named Jason Handy. People who met him thought he was a really kind and gentle twenty-something who was friendly with kids and their parents. But it turned out he was a pedophile sending nudes to pre-teens and, according to his own diary, thinking about raping "little girls."

Perhaps the most disturbing section of this half of Quiet on Set discusses Jason Handy, a production assistant on All That and The Amanda Show in the early 2000s. Parents and kids alike thought Handy was a friendly, helpful presence on set, and didn’t think twice when he asked to exchange email addresses and phone numbers. “You thought, ‘Oh, I could be friends with this person,’” said MJ, the mother of former Amanda Show performer identified as Brandi.

MJ’s perspective changed when her 11-year-old daughter had a mortified reaction to an email from Handy. “It was a picture of him naked masturbating, and he said he had sent it to her because he wanted her to see that he was thinking of her,” MJ said. Brandi left the entertainment industry after the email, and was one of the few victims who cooperated with the eventual investigation.

Handy was arrested in April 2003 after law enforcement received a tip about him, and the docuseries said that when police investigated his home, they found over 10,000 images of children and over 1,700 images of young girls in erotic poses, as well as seven videos on CD files of children engaged in sexually explicit conduct. The doc also claimed that in Handy’s personal diary, he wrote sentences like “I am a pedophile, full blown,” “I really have been giving into my desire for little girls these past few weeks,” and “I even struggle on a day-to-day basis of how I can find a victim to rape if I have to.”


In 2004, Handy was sent to prison for six years. He was released in 2009 and moved to North Carolina. In 2014, he was arrested again and faced federal charges. He is now in a federal prison in Virginia. This is the guy that was in charge of walking kids around on the set.

Also on the set at the time was Brian Peck. Peck was a dialogue coach who worked directly with kids and also appeared on the show "All That" in the recurring role of pickle boy. I kid you not.

In addition to being pickle boy, Peck had a home full of Hollywood memorabilia. During a barbecue held at Peck's house, one of the child stars noticed a strange painting of a clown that seemed out of place. He asked Peck about it.

“Everyone went to Brian’s house for a barbecue, and his house was a little off,” Sullivan remembered. “He had a room that was just dedicated to vintage toys and comic books, and he’d converted his garage into like a Planet of the Apes shrine. 

“I noticed a painting in the room that stuck out to me because it had nothing to do with Planet of the Apes,” he continued. “It was of a birthday clown holding balloons. And Brian got very excited when I asked him about it, he flipped the thing around, and on the back it said, ‘To Brian, I hope you enjoy the painting. Best wishes, your friend John Wayne Gacy.’ It was a self-portrait of serial killer John Wayne Gacy.”

“At this point, I’m like 14, I didn’t know the details, but I knew, like, this guy’s [expletive] serial killer who killed a lot of young men and boys,” Sullivan said. “My instinct was like, ‘Everyone has to see this.’ And so all the parents and the kids come in the room, and then Brian presents the painting again. And Brian actually developed a pen pal relationship with John. He kept this pile of letters and photos from John Wayne Gacy in his nightstand next to his bed. And pulls them out, and starts showing them to me.”


Honestly, if you wrote that detail into a TV show, people would say it was far too absurd to be real. But it was real. The dialogue coach on a Nickelodeon kids show had a personal relationship with John Wayne Gacy, who killed at least 33 young men and teens, some of whom were the same age as the teens he was working with at Nickelodeon.

Most of the third episode of the show focuses on how Brian Peck used his position to get close to one of the up-and-coming stars, Drake Bell. Bell's father, who was his manager at the time, warned people at Nickelodeon that something seemed off about Bell. He was accused of being homophobic.

At first, Bell’s father was his manager and became uncomfortable about how much time Peck was spending time with his son, so much so that he went to production and told them. “I go, ‘I don’t see anything abnormal but it just doesn’t — I don’t have a good feeling,'” he said. At the time, Joe Bell claims production told him that Peck is gay and said, “Maybe you’re just homophobic and you just don’t understand that he’s a touchy-feely guy.”

He “backed off” after feeling “ostracized,” and eventually, was pushed out of his son’s life. Because Drake Bell and his mother lived in Orange County, it seemed easier to stay at Peck’s home in L.A. when he had an audition.

Peck eventually took advantage of Bell being at his home and one night sexually abused him. This pattern continued for six months with Bell ashamed to tell anyone his secret. But eventually everything came out when Bell was talking to his mother on the phone one day.


Soon after, he “exploded” on the phone with his mom, telling her everything. She immediately called the police and a “brutal” investigation began.

“I had to be excruciatingly detailed about every single thing, [every] time that it had happened, with two absolute strangers. The worst part was I had to make a phone call to Brian and get him to admit what he’d done,” Bell said before recalling that the setup “looked like a movie,” as the police listened in on the phone call. “I said, ‘I’m really struggling with this stuff now. I’m so torn up, I’m so broken, I’m so emotionally distressed right now. Why did this happen?’ He just started a full-on confession. He kept asking me over and over again, he was like, ‘Are we being recorded?'”

In August 2003, Peck was arrested and later convicted on just two counts. He was sentenced to 16 months in prison. But according to Drake Bell, the most shocking thing was the amount of support Peck had even after he'd been arrested.

The third pedophile working at Nickelodeon at this time was Ezel Channel.

Ezel Channel, a Nickelodeon employee who worked on the company’s Burbank lot, was convicted of bringing an underage boy to the lot and abusing him there. If that’s not disturbing enough, Channel had a prior conviction and was a registered sex offender but was still allowed to work at Nickelodeon.

Again, this is just the worst of the allegations about what was going on at Nickelodeon. There are also stories about how women were treated in the writers room and how the writers seemed to be slipping x-rated material into some of the jokes told for young teens (pickle boy being one example). 


On top of all of this, there are the usual sad but not surprising stories about kids who spun into trouble after their brush with stardom. Some fell apart because they were not as successful as they hoped at a young age, and others were very successful and didn't handle it well. Even apart from the horror stories, the show paints the picture of an industry that just isn't good for a lot of the kids who work in it.

The creator of many of the shows featured in "Quiet on Set" has since issued an interview/apology for his behavior. Dan Schneider has never been accused of anything inappropriate with kids. In fact, Drake Bell credits him as being one of the few adults who supported him rather than Brian Peck after the trial. But Schneider was by his own admission a pretty terrible boss, especially toward the women who worked for him. Nickelodeon cut ties with him in 2018 after two decades of hit shows. If nothing else, his habit of writing what seem like porn-related jokes into some of his teen shows really does seem pretty creepy. Here's his response to "Quiet on Set."

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