Nickelodeon is considering a special for
its young audience about sex and love following the news that 16-year-old “Zoey
101” star Jamie Lynn Spears is pregnant.
The television network has made no announcement about the future of “Zoey
101,” its popular program aimed primarily at youngsters aged 9-14. Filming for
the show’s fourth and final season has finished, and episodes are scheduled to
begin airing in February.
For the special, Nickelodeon said it’s talking with veteran newswoman Linda
Ellerbee, the veteran newswoman who has stepped in frequently in the past with
shows on talking to children about difficult issues in the news. She’s done
shows about same-sex parents, AIDS, the Columbine shooting and President
Clinton’s impeachment scandal.
“I think it’s important that something be done,” Ellerbee told The Associated
Press on Thursday. “But I think it’s important that it be done in a measured
way, and not just to feed the beast of news stories.
A Nickelodeon spokesman, Dan Martinsen, confirmed the discussions but said no
decision had been made.
Spears, the younger sister of pop star Britney Spears, told the OK! celebrity
magazine this week that she was pregnant. The father is her 19-year-old
boyfriend, Casey Aldridge. She said she plans to raise the baby in her home
state of Louisiana.
Nickelodeon has made no comment beyond a supportive statement for its star:
“We respect Jamie Lynn’s decision to take responsibility in this sensitive and
personal situation. We know this is a very difficult time for her and her
family, and our primary concern right now is for Jamie Lynn’s well being.”
The company has received a mixed response so far from its viewers, and the
news has launched a public discussion about how parents should deal with it.
“This is a great opportunity for parents at this moment to talk to their kids
about this — more important, to listen to their kids about this,” Ellerbee
Rather than focus strictly on Spears, Ellerbee said she’s considering
producing a broad discussion about how people know they’re in love, when is the
right time to have sex and what are the value systems of their parents and
friends. It could air as soon as next month.
“Right now what Nick is trying to do — and what I am trying to do — is figure
out what is the best thing to do for kids,” she said.
One television critic, David Hinckley of the New York Daily News, wrote
Thursday that to end “this sordid moment” with a lesson, Nickelodeon should pull
the plug on “Zoey 101.”
“If Nickelodeon keeps Jamie Lynn Spears because her product sells, it runs
the risk that a valuable message it has spent years crafting could shift from
`trust us’ to `whatever,“‘ Hinckley wrote.
Although Nick executives are still discussing the future of “Zoey 101,” it’s
considered unlikely that it would shelve the final season. The third season ends
Jan. 4 with a cliffhanger episode about whether Spears’ character continues to
attend a boarding school in California or moves to London with her parents.
Executives at Nick’s rival Disney Channel public relations crisis this summer
when Vanessa Hudgens, the 18-year-old star of its “High School Musical”
franchise, posed for nude photos that were leaked to the Internet. Hudgens
apologized, Disney stuck by her and the issue quickly faded.
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