2004 was an important year for Nickelodeon. While classics like Rugrats, Hey Arnold!, and Rocket Power ended, Josh Peck and Drake Bell received their own live-action sitcom, Drake & Josh. The show brought the two from The Amanda Show into a new generation of kids’ TV. After the show ended in 2008, Drake focused on producing music and inane tweets. Josh went on to have a more successful post-Nickelodeon career. After appearing in a line of independent movies, Peck is currently performing as the lead in Fox’s comedy Grandfathered.
Nominated for a 2016 People’s Choice Award, Peck may be about to re-enter the spotlight. With that in mind, let’s look at how his career has developed.
Stand-up & Nickelodeon
Joshua Michael Peck was born in Manhattan in 1986. Growing up with asthma, he spent a lot of time indoors watching old sitcoms, which is perhaps what led to him developing an interest in stand-up comedy. Peck performed stand-up at Caroline’s Comedy Club, one of Broadway’s most established comedy clubs, and when he was 13, he was offered a role on The Amanda Show. The Amanda Show was created by Dan Schneider, the driving force behind Nickelodeon’s earlier live-action successes, All That and Kenan & Kel.
The Amanda Show was a sketch comedy and variety show starring Amanda Bynes. The show was where Josh Peck and Drake Bell first worked together. After a season, Nickelodeon recruited Josh to work in Snow Day, and the next year he starred in Max Keeble’s Big Move, produced by Walt Disney Pictures.
In the second season of The Amanda Show, Peck was featured in a number of the recurring sketches, notably “Moody’s Point,” a parody of contemporary teen dramas. While The Amanda Show was ending, Peck landed a role in Spun. Spun focused on the drug subculture of Eugene, Oregon, and was a massive departure from his previous work in light comedies for children.
While there was some comedy to Spun, nothing was funny about Peck’s next film, Mean Creek. There’s a lot that happens in Mean Creek, but essentially Josh Peck plays a bully who is lured into the woods and accidentally killed. The same Josh Peck who a couple years earlier was dancing with giant lobsters on The Amanda Show.
Peck received critical praise for his role in Mean Creek, and it seemed as though, in 2004, he was ready to transition away from children’s TV to gritty independent cinema. Dan Schneider, in the meantime, had produced What I Like About You for The WB, also starring Amanda Bynes. Ready to come back to basic cable, Schneider pitched a new show to Nickelodeon, and Drake & Josh was born. Peck’s transition out of kids’ TV would have to wait a few more years.
The series focused on two polarly opposed step-brothers, Drake Parker (Bell) and Josh Nichols (Peck), and was the first sitcom Schneider had produced for Nickelodeon. The show was instantly one of the best live-action shows Nickelodeon has produced, and led to three TV movies: Drake & Josh Go Hollywood, Drake & Josh: Really Big Shrimp, and Merry Christmas, Drake & Josh. In 2008, Peck was nominated for Favorite Television Actor at the Nickelodeon Kids Choice Awards. It’s worth noting that Peck also directed the music video for Drake Bell’s song “Found a Way,” used as Drake & Josh‘s theme music, as well as several later episodes of the series.
In 2006, Peck was in two films. He voiced Eddie, one of the two possums in Ice Age: The Meltdown, and was a character in Special. Special, an English production, was a comedy-drama pyschological thriller sci-fi satire. Clearly, the film was a departure from Peck’s normal fare of children’s comedies, but not entirely off-the-cuff given his role in Mean Creek.
Films after Drake & Josh
In 2008, after filming for the last season of Drake & Josh had wrapped, Peck went on to appear in four films (and reprised his role as Eddie in that year’s Ice Age sequel). Drillbit Taylor, a comedy designed to showcase Owen Wilson, is hardly worth mentioning, but he was the star of his other three performances that year. Wild About Harry and What Goes Up were both relatively weak, and saw little recognition in the box office or from critics. The Wackness was Peck’s strongest film that year, winning the Audience Award for Dramatic Film at the 2008 Sundance Film Festival. The movie was highly reliant on Peck’s ability to deliver a character, for which he received decent recognition.
In 2012, after positive reception for The Wackness, Josh Peck starred alongside Chris Hemsworth in the MGM-led remake of Red Dawn. The film has since been called one of the worst remakes of all time, though many of the criticisms revolved around the plot, which was the same as the critically acclaimed 1984 original. Regardless, the film was a flop, and was the last film Peck has worked in to date.
Josh Peck Now in 2018
Red Dawn doesn’t seem to have hurt Peck’s career. After several small roles for a variety of sitcoms, Peck was cast as a supporting actor in Amazon Studio’s test pilot, The Rebels. From there, Peck was cast as a lead in Fox’s comedy Series, Grandfathered.
Premiering in September 2015, Grandfathered stars John Stamos as Jimmy, a 50-year old restaurant owner who discovers he has a son (played by Josh Peck) and granddaughter from a relationship over 25 years before the start of the series. The show has been well received by audiences and slated for a 22-episode first season on Fox. Grandfathered has led to both Stamos and Peck being nominated for the same award, the People’s Choice Award for “Favorite Actor In A New TV Series.” Most praise focuses around the strong performances, while criticism involves the lackluster writing and sense of humor.
The writing will, in all likelihood, sort itself out through the rest of this first season, and if the early episodes are any indication, Peck has likely found himself a primetime slot on Fox that will help keep him in front of audiences, now that Nickelodeon’s golden age has ended.