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Hulk Hogan and Nickelodeon's "Stories from Growing Up" in 1991

As a kid, I had a few "go-to" channels.  Of course, we only had maybe 25 channels back then, but I always hit my favorites first before cycling through them all.  I always had the channel numbers memorized, even after Cablevision changed them every year as they added more stations to the package.

You see, kids, this was before there was a channel guide or other on-screen option to see what a channel was playing.  You either had to flip through all of the stations or physically type in the channel number.  For you really young kids, think of a television channel as an individual streaming service.

Of course, as a young kid, Nickelodeon was among the channels I always made sure to visit.  

I loved Nickelodeon.  My love for Nick at Nite is well documented on this site, but I have many, many memories of the daytime network.  I can remember watching the first episodes of the original Nicktoons, Doug and Rugrats.  I also remember watching the first weekend of "Snick" or the weird summer programming with Mark Weiner's Weinerville (1992, I believe).  The teen-involved sitcoms like Clarissa Explains it All, Salute Your Shorts, and Hey Dude were among my early Nick favorites.  I also loved the game shows like Guts, Legends of the Hidden Temple, and Wild and Krazy Kids.  Of course, Stick Stickley (PO Box 963, New York City, New York State, 10108!) is another great memory stored in my mind.  

Before all of that ever existed, though, when I was in preschool and kindergarten, I would watch things on Nick Jr. (not its own channel back then, but just a morning programming block) at Grandma and Grandpa's house at lunchtime after school. I watched shows like Eureka's Castle, David the Gnome, and some weird show about magical Koalas that I believe was called The Adventure of Little Koala.  

As I type this, I went over to YouTube to watch the intro to The Adventures of Little Koala, and holy moly, did that theme song instantly transport me back to Granny's living room rocking chair in 1988 or 89!

Around that time, Nickelodeon was also home to several "educational" or "informational" programs meant to teach or inform kids about life.  These programs were often hosted by journalist Linda Ellerbee, and I always found them boring and preachy and couldn't change the channel fast enough.  

But one episode of the shows of that ilk has always stuck with me.... and it ties in perfectly to our "Wrestlemania Month" here.  

It was the one-time special called "Stories from Growing Up."  The show aired in 1991 and focused on Hulk Hogan (and Jamie Lee Curtis), telling a mix of funny and relatable moments from childhood.  I can remember it was a Saturday evening; at that age, 7 p.m. was close to my bedtime.  Since it was Hogan and wrestling, I'm sure I begged my parents to stay up or at least delay getting ready for bed.  They must have relented because staying up late is part of what made this show so memorable to me.

For years, I thought it was a show about how Hulk inspired an overweight kid to get into shape.  A few years back, I looked up the show, and it turns out I wasn't the only one who fondly remembered it.  I also learned I had "misremembered" the story.  It turns out that Hogan didn't help an overweight child.  The Hulkster WAS the overweight child.   

I also learned that the Hulk Hogan episode wasn't supposed to be a one-time special.  It was intended to be part of a series of episodes featuring childhood stories from celebrities.  Unfortunately, only the episode with Hogan and Jamie Lee Curtis ever aired.  

Jame Lee Curtis's half of the episode featured a story about trouble in school that blew up in her face.  I don't really recall that portion of the show, and in 1991, I likely wouldn't have even known who Jamie Lee Curtis was. 

The show was created and produced by actress and producer Shelley Duvall, best known as Wendy Torrance in The Shining and Olive in the live-action Popeye movie.  The program intended to focus on "different" childhood experiences, with celebrities sharing "true" anecdotes and through funny and relatable stories.  Through a combination of interviews and reenactments by child actors, the show planned to provide learning experiences in an entertaining way.  Duvall planned her series to be 30 minutes of encouragement for junior high aged- kids sorting through the problems we all faced and were forced to figure out.  

In a February 1991 article in Tulsa World, Shelley Duvall says, "Growing up is hard enough to do.  Kids don't exactly have the weight of the world on their shoulders, but the problems they do have are all very real."  

The article mentions, "This Saturday at 6 p.m. (central) on Nickelodeon, her (Shelley Duvall) latest creation "Stories from Growing Up," will air for the first time."  

In this first and only episode, Jamie Lee Curtis talked about how she once plotted to get even with the class tattletale and how it backfired when the principal caught on.  

I think we can all remember struggling to get along with a teacher or the school principal, and that's the point.  As adults, we can empathize with a young Jamie Lee Curtis, and young children watching could have associated it with their day-to-day problems.

The second half of the episode featured World Wrestling Federation and pro-wrestling icon Hulk Hogan discussing his struggle with weight, low self-esteem, and food addiction.  Hogan recounts a story about how the "cool" music teacher helped him find the desire to change his eating habits.  

Everyone struggles with accepting their appearance at one time or another, especially during our preteen and early teen years.  Many will feel for the young Hulkster's humiliation and can easily celebrate alongside him as he discovers his inner Hulkamaniac.

The Tulsa World article asks, "Why wasn't this a series?"  Duvall replied, "We're waiting to hear from the network.  If they want more, we'll do them."  

It appears Nickelodeon didn't want more.

The Los Angeles Times also covered this show in February of 1991.  Mocking the way Hogan performs his wrestling interviews, they said, "Hey, dudes!  Want to see how a chunky little kid called "fatso" grew up to be that mountain of muscle?"  

The article called the show a "mildly beguiling" new series on Nickelodeon that featured celebrities retelling humorous stories of their own childhood in the hopes of teaching children a lesson.  It called Hogan's story an "idiosyncratic, pumped-up narrative..." while claiming "...even the Hulkster couldn't stand that type of punishment!"    

The Times also mentioned that Jamie Lee Curtis was there too, calling her the actress from "Anything but Love," would learn that revenge isn't always as sweet.  

Ultimately, they said the show was a pleasant half-hour of family viewing:  "Adults can watch without wincing, and children can see that the miseries of the average childhood are survivable." 

Unfortunately, at times, a show that is memorable to so many was just another throwaway show for the network.  I'm willing to bet that after this show debuted (at 7 p.m. on February 23, 1991) and aired its scheduled reruns on February 24, at 11 a.m. and 6 p.m., the show never saw the light of day again.  There is very little information on the internet about it, aside from several viewer memories on wrestling message boards and the two old articles from Tulsa World and The Los Angeles Times.  

Thankfully, someone recorded the show on VHS and eventually uploaded it to YouTube so that it would continue to live on.  Please watch below to relive some of Nickelodeon's 90s glory days and The Hulkster himself—Hulk Hogan!