Ariana Grande is many things to many people. To you, she is likely either the next big thing in pop music or an unintelligible screecher with poor grammar. But to your young relative despondent over the recent cancellation of a Nickelodeon show, she was, is and forever shall be Cat Valentine.
Long before Grande exploded onto the national pop stage, she was a Nick star who broke out of a supporting role on one show into a starring role on another. That show, Sam & Cat, was a massive ratings success for the kids network. It is also now cancelled, amid public dramas over treatment of cast and crew and the leak of one star’s racy photos.
How did the smash hit fall apart? We’ve got your essential guide for knowing exactly how it all went down.
Who are Sam and Cat? Where did they come from?
Grande has played red-headed Caterina “Cat” Valentine on Nick since 2010, when Victorious debuted. Sam Puckett first appeared as the secondary lead on iCarly in 2007, as played by Jennette McCurdy. Both shows were created by megaproducer Dan Schneider, and had already been placed in the same fictional universe via a crossover special years before. So with two young stars and plenty of existing fans at their disposal, Schneider and Nick created Sam & Cat.
So they just took two stars from past properties and lumped them together in one show? And that worked?
Basically! In the pilot episode, Sam's passing through Los Angeles and just happens to see Cat being dumped into a garbage truck (you read that right) and saves her. They move in together and start a babysitting business. Before you laugh, know that the pilot brought in over four million viewers. That’s more than the average viewership for the last season of Community. So yeah, despite the somewhat silly plot, it worked.
OK, so it was a hit. How did I not hear about it? It must’ve been on for years, right?
Nope. In fact, with this cancellation, the series will fail to even complete its first season. The order was for 40 episodes – only 36 were completed before production was halted back in April. Sam & Cat premiered just a little over a year ago.
How did it all fall apart?
After an initial order for 20 episodes, Nick was thrilled by the show’s success – so much so, in fact, that they doubled the episode order to 40. That’s a notably large order, even for a kids show. Victorious only had 19 episodes in its first season, while iCarly had 25. This allegedly caused some tensions behind the scenes – TMZ reported rumors that McCurdy’s salary was much lower than Grande’s. Extending one season instead of just renewing for a second likely denied McCurdy a chance to renegotiate.
Things got significantly worse for the show in March, when sexually suggestive photos of McCurdy were leaked onto the net. McCurdy pointed the finger at ex-boyfriend Andre Drummond of the Detroit Pistons. Drummond denied involvement.
To anyone disappointed: I sent those pics to 1 person. You can connect the dots. Shocked someone would stoop so low. I just speak w/ candor.— Jennette McCurdy (@jennettemccurdy) March 4, 2014
Regardless of how they were leaked, the damage was done. Shortly after the leak, McCurdy skipped the Kids’ Choice Awards, causing a stir. However, the starlet insisted her absence wasn’t about the photos, instead taking aim at Nick on Twitter. McCurdy alleged that she was “put in an uncomfortable, compromising, unfair situation,” and that her absence was a form of “sticking up for what is right and what is fair.” Shortly after came the production shutdown.
If production was shut down back in April, why is the cancellation just making news now?
Nick took its sweet time before bringing down the axe, probably because killing a cash cow is painful. Grande addressed the cancellation last night on social media after remaining silent, thanking Nick and Schneider for giving her the chance to make a “childhood dream” come true and fans for their support. She also paid rather lovely tribute to her now-defunct character, saying, “I will always hold Cat near and dear to my heart and appreciate her help in my personal growth from teenager to adult.”
Plenty of kids shows have had behind-the-scenes problems before, though. Why should I care about this?
Sam & Cat’s collapse is a black mark for Nick. Schneider's legacy with the network goes back decades, having at least one show on the network every year since 1994. iCarly featured Miranda Cosgrove of Drake and Josh fame, which in turn featured The Amanda Show cast member Drake Bell, which itself was spun off from star Amanda Bynes’ previous show All That. Victorious starred former Zoey 101 cast member Victoria Justice. Every show just mentioned was produced by Schneider, and each was a major success for Nick. The only show that ended in anything resembling similar disarray was Zoey 101, thanks to star Jamie-Lynn Spears’ unexpected pregnancy, but that show still managed to have four seasons.
Schneider has a new show called Henry Danger premiering on Nick later this month, so if that's a hit, he’ll probably be fine. But, notably, it is his first Nick series since All That not to share any stars or connection with his other shows.
What’s next for the stars?
McCurdy, who has yet to address the official cancellation, is working on an animated film called Action Heroes 3D with Taylor Kitsch, according to her IMDb page. As for Grande, well …
We think she’ll be fine.