Series / Salute Your Shorts

Ug: Camp Anawanna...
Z.Z.: We hold you in our heart...
Donkeylips: And when we think about you-
Budnick: It makes me wanna fart!
[other kids laugh]
Ug: It's "I hope we never part"! Now get it right or pay the price!
Excerpt from the opening theme

Airing on Nickelodeon in the early/mid nineties, Salute Your Shorts was a network contemporary of such shows as Clarissa Explains It All, The Adventures of Pete & Pete, and Are You Afraid of the Dark?, and like those three tends to be among the more clearly and fondly remembered pieces of the era (making it a prime candidate for the Nostalgia Filter). A sitcom centered around a group of kids at summer camp Anawanna. The title of the show comes from a common prank in initiating new campers. Older, jerkier campers would loot their luggage, steal their underwear, and run them up the nearest flag pole to let them flap in the breeze. Seeing how there's no way to un-steal it, the appropriate response is to "stand at attention, click your heels, and salute your shorts!"

The first episode introduced Michael Stein (Erik MacArthur), the Na´ve Newcomer, to the existing ensemble cast, which was set up as a Six Student Clique. The other campers included:

  • Bobby Budnick (Danny Cooksey): The Schemer and resident Jerkass, Budnick is a con artist and more than a bit of a bully, preferring to use manipulative ploys more often than outright coercion, though he has Donkeylips to back him up in that department as well. His attitude initially repulsed most everyone at camp, but as time went by his hostile veneer started to rub off. Essentially the leader of the group when he's not being a total jerk.
  • Eddie "Donkeylips" Gelfen (Michael Bower): The muscle (Donkeylips is fat, but tough enough to qualify) and sometimes Budnick's enforcer, though he is rather amiable in personality otherwise. Openly crushes on Dina, to her disgust... most of the time.
  • Eugene "Sponge" Harris (Trevor Eysternote ): the quirk, a smart, scrawny kid with occasional hyperactive tendencies.
  • Telly Radford (Venus DeMilo Thomasnote ): the smart one, although more in a common sense way, Telly is a tomboy obsessed with sports. Also the token black kid.
  • Dina Alexander (Heidi Lucas): the pretty one - a bit of a Brainless Beauty, and can be a Rich Bitch.
  • Z.Z. Ziff (Megan Berwick): the wild one - Granola Girl and Cloudcuckoolander, very conscientious about the environment but less conscious of just about everything else.

The only authority figure in sight is Kevin "Ug" Lee (Kirk Baily), the dim-witted loser guy counselor. Dr. Kahn, his superior, is only heard through loudspeaker (voiced by series creator Steve Slavkinnote ).

In season two Erik MacArthur left the show and accordingly Michael left camp, (ostensibly due to chicken pox), and was promptly replaced by Ronnie Pinsky (Blake Sopernote ). Pinsky, in his debut episode, is established as a wise-cracking Ferris Bueller-like character (Michael's polar opposite, really) and immediately becomes the most popular kid in camp (except with Budnick). Later in the season, however, he becomes much more restrained and fallible (though still with his moments of Bueller-like mischief), and his popularity is significantly lower.

The series is not available on DVD. With the announcements that The Wonder Years and Batman will finally be available in the format, Salute Your Shorts is now the #1 most requested show not released on DVD, according to TVShowsOnDVD.com.

This show contains examples of:

  • The Ace: Pinsky in his introductory episode. He's rich, athletic, handsome, immediately popular, continually gets away with pulling stunts, and — most obnoxiously as far as Budnick is concerned — almost completely unflappable, easily laughing off all of Budnick's insults and pranks. Clearly, "cheesing Budnick off with his mere existence" is Pinsky's greatest skill set, which seems to have been the entire point. In later episodes Budnick's dislike of him is completely forgotten, and likewise Pinsky's ace status seems to fade away, leaving him a more ordinary and flawed High School Hustler type.
  • Afraid of Blood: Telly.
  • Adults Are Useless: Well, only one, really...Camp counselor Kevin "Ug" Lee. But he's still useless.
  • All Girls Want Bad Boys: Dina doesn't like Budnick unless he's a bad boy.
  • Alliterative List: Ug's "Four F's of Leadership": Fearlessness, Fairness, Firmness and Control.
    Telly: Control isn't an F.
    Ug: Well then it's three F's and a C.
    Telly: Sounds like Donkeylips' report card.
  • Alliterative Name: Z.Z. Ziff.
  • Alpha Bitch: Dina, more or less.
  • Amusing Injuries: Nine times out of ten, Ug, but "Budnick Loves Dina" had so many characters suffer accidents that by episode's end those two were the only people not on crutches.
  • And Starring: As Danny Cooksey was the most familiar face in the cast through his appearances in Diff'rent Strokes and Terminator 2: Judgment Day among others, he gets the "And" treatment in the opening credits, appearing last in both seasons; the other performers are billed in alphabetical order (Baily, Berwick, Bower, DeMilo, Eyster, Lucas, MacArthur/Soper).
  • Anticipatory Breath Spray: Michael does this repeatedly in the "Cinderella Play" episode when he's cast as the male lead (who thus gets to kiss Dina). When the actual moment does come, however, he winds up chickening out and shaking Cinderella's hand instead.
  • Artifact of Doom: The cursed cow skull found inside a cave in "The Cursed Skull". Legend say it was first used by an indian tribe as part of a Rite of Passage, where those that fail are forever cursed. At the end of the episode, it turns out to be a souvenir that was made in Korea.
  • Badass Bookworm: Sponge, occasionally.
  • Batman Gambit: After concluding that the directions to Sara Madre's buried cash stash that Budnick sold them in exchange for their boomboxes are worthless, Dina, Michael, Sponge, Telly, and Z.Z. get revenge on Budnick and Donkeylips with one of these. By planting a straw hat similar to the one Sara Madre is wearing in her photograph among the trash they empty over the two conmen, they get them to think the directions actually do lead to the treasure. As expected, Budnick and Donkeylips return the five boomboxes in an attempt to get the directions back, but they are unaware that they have been given a different set of fake directions. The five former marks then convince Budnick and Donkeylips that each is trying to get the treasure entirely for himself, leading them to go digging in the middle of the night... right in the middle of the baseball infield Ug has been meticulously grooming for a photograph. Every step in the plan relies on Budnick and Donkeylips' greed and selfishness - and, as a result, the plan goes off without a hitch.
  • Beautiful All Along: Telly has one of these moments when she loses her glasses in favor of contact lenses.
  • Bedtime Brainwashing: One episode had Budnick telling a ghost story about Zeke the Plumber, a custodian who was killed in a gas explosion. The gist of the story is that whoever touches his plunger will be haunted by them in their dreams, and since Telly was one of them, she has a sleepless night which causes her to nod off in the mess hall, after which Budnick comes up and starts whispering in her ear, "Zeke the Plumber, Zeke the Plumber..." Guess who she starts dreaming about?
  • Big Eater: Donkeylips
  • Big Guy, Little Guy: Donkeylips and Sponge
  • Big Girl on Campus: Telly.
  • Butt Monkey: Ug.
  • Call Back:
    • Pinsky's introductory episode is one Call Back after another to Michael's, right down to the pranks. However, events don't play out the same way a second time, a few outcomes being reversed entirely.
    • "The Wrath of Kahn, Jr." references the "Awful Waffle" from the first episode. Also the music used when the girls' trap was tripped plays when Kahn's niece gets her just desserts.
    • In "The Cursed Skull", the boys try to form a secret society, like Budnick and Donkeylips tried to do in the first episode.
  • Capture the Flag: Episode of the same title.
  • Catch Phrase:
    • Budnick's words of choice for victims of his scams and pranks are "Roasted, toasted, and burnt to a crisp."
    • Ug's preferred way to express complete indifference to campers' objections to his discipline is "Tough nuggets."
  • Cavalier Consumption: Pinsky nonchalantly continues to munch on his smuggled-in sausage even as the bed he's lying in is collapsed by Budnick, who'd rigged it to fall (the same prank he'd pulled on Michael, who was a lot more obviously irritated by it).
  • Chained to a Railway: A model train rail, in this case. In "The Wrath of Kahn, Jr.", Sponge's first run-in with Dr. Kahn's niece Ellen ends with his head tied to the tracks of his model train set; his rescue invokes Mundane Made Awesome as Telly leaps across the room to... flip a switch and cause the train to take a different route.
  • Character Development: In the first few Season One episodes, Budnick can't stand Michael and picks on him at almost every turn. In the fourth episode of the season ("Budnick And Michael Fake Being Sick"), the two find themselves alone in a doctor's office, which eventually leads to him opening up to Michael about his troubled family life. Later in the episode, the two toast over a ton of ice cream, and Budnick even invites Michael to see an Aerosmith concert with him. Throughout the rest of the season, Budnick treats Michael a lot better than he did before this episode.
  • The Chew Toy: Ug.
  • Cloudcuckoolander: Z.Z.
  • Comedic Sociopathy: Often.
  • Control Freak: Ug. Telly also has her moments.
  • Continuity Nod: Michael's "wuss hat" is Harry the Hippo.
  • Cool and Unusual Punishment: Punishments have included:
    • Having to fill the swimming pool with water, one bucket at time
    • Ringing a bell with your nose while doing push-ups
    • Having to clean entire rooms with your own toothbrush (a perennial favorite)
    • Hugging a tree (this is apparently terrifying)
    • Forced to hold out buckets of water at arm's length (similar to Standing in the Hall)
    • "There is a very deep hole in the middle of my infield. Eventually, the hole will fill up with water and the scum will float to the top! Then, Bobby Budnick, you will be mine!"
  • Cool People Rebel Against Authority: The reason for Pinsky's enormous popularity in his debut episode (see also: The Ace). Of course, throughout the remainder of the series, this attitude backfires on him at least as often as not.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: In "Anawanna, Inc.", Budnick, Dina, Pinsky, Telly, and Z.Z. become examples of this when they declare themselves the management of a wooden birdhouse making company as part of a Career Day venture, with Donkeylips and three other campers providing the labour. They spend all of the investment money on pizza and soft drinks for their meetings, with almost nothing left for the four campers who do the actual work. Eventually, the money runs out and the workers go on strike. In an example of Laser-Guided Karma, Donkeylips strikes a deal with one of their investors, Jessie Bartlet, to buy the birdhouses for his uncle, Captain Bartlet's, souvenir shop in exchange for a share of the profits, then he spends his own share of the profits on the other workers, leaving the five "executives" with nothing.
  • Crosscast Role: Almost happens in-universe with the Cinderella play. When Dina claims she lost her voice (she really got stage fright), Cinderella is nearly played by the only other person that knows all the lines: Sponge, who is briefly shown in costume. Michael is horrified at the prospect of having to kiss Sponge instead of Dina.
  • Curse Cut Short
    Budnick: Right now we gotta swear to each other.
    Donkeylips: Ok! You're a big dripping piece...
    Budnick: I'm not talking swear like that. I mean, swear that whatever we find, we'll split 50/50.
  • Dartboard of Hate: Budnick has one for Pinsky in the latter's introductory episode, but it's just a piece of paper with Pinsky's name written on it.
  • Date Peepers: In "Budnick Loves Dina, Part 2", Budnick's date with Dina is observed by the entire camp. Pinsky hides behind a bush and uses a mirror tied to one of his crutches as a periscope to spy on them directly, then he relays events to Donkeylips, who signals in semaphore to Sponge on the other side of the lake; his translations are passed to Z.Z. to carry over to Telly, who is standing in front of the bleachers with a bullhorn to announce every moment to the rest of the campers.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Pretty much everybody (including Ug).
  • The Ditz: Both Z.Z. and Dina have exhibited ditzy traits.
  • The Dog Bites Back: Despite being his friend and enforcer, Donkeylips had no qualms about doing this if Budnick went too far.
  • Drunk with Power
  • Economy Cast: Now and again there will be some extras milling around, or even an additional speaking role, but for the most part as far as the show was concerned there could have been only seven kids and one counselor in the entire camp. This could be justified as it's repeatedly suggested that Anawanna is a really crappy camp.
  • E = MC Hammer: Uttered by Dina during an Imagine Spot of Budnick's in "Budnick and Dina In Love, Part 1".
  • Embarrassing Nickname: Michael is "Moosh-Moosh" to his grandparents.
  • Ensemble Cast: There's no single main character; each of the eight primary cast members features in the A-plot of at least two episodes, although some of them get more A-plots than others.
  • The Everykid: Michael.
  • Evil Redhead: Budnick has bright red hair (the other main characters all have blond, brown, or black hair) and is by far the most scheming and manipulative person at Camp Anawanna.
  • Fake-Out Make-Out: After sneaking out of camp to go to the theater, Sponge and his date manage to avoid detection from Ug by kissing passionately in the phone booth they'd been trying to hide in. Ug (who's being dragged out the door anyway for disturbing a patron he thought was Budnick, who turned out to be female) reasons it can't be Sponge if he's getting some action... meanwhile, in the booth, Ug has been long since forgotten and the episode ends with them still kissing.
  • Fat and Skinny: Donkeylips and Sponge.
  • Fire-Forged Friends: Maybe friends is too strong a word, but after "Budnick and Michael Fake Being Sick," the two get along much better and pretty much have each other's respect.
  • Fly Crazy: In "Citizen Pinsky", Ug was eating when he noticed a fly. He swings the fly swatter around until he finally hits it. Then flies with a vengeance and attacks Ug. All this happened from the fly's point-of-view.
  • Food Fight: Of course. The campers would much rather use the camp's terrible food as ammunition than nourishment, and several episodes feature scenes where they put the "mess" in "mess hall". Ug will invariably get hit in the face when he blows his whistle to stop food fights.
  • Fool's Map: Happens when Budnick finds directions from a long-dead camp counselor, in dance steps, to where she supposedly hid a fortune. Since the original was hard to read, he types it out and gives copies to the other kids in exchange for their boomboxes. The directions lead them to collect a bunch of junk, but they find something that makes him think they were very close to it, so he and Donkeylips start trying to get the directions back. In this case, the player gets played, as the directions he gets back were fake as well, written by the other kids to lead Budnick to dig a hole in the middle of the softball field that Ug had been meticulously trimming.
  • Freudian Excuse: Budnick comes from a broken home.
  • Friend in the Black Market: Budnick sells candy to campers at sizable prices. Given the "No Outside Food" rule, no one complains too much.
  • Funny Foreigner: Z.Z.'s friend Spanakopita, a quirky Greek refuse and recyclables collector (whose name translates as "spinach pie").
  • Gasshole: Donkeylips. In "Michael Comes to Camp", Budnick tells Michael and Sponge that if they don't go into the girls' bunk to steal a valuable item from each of Telly, Dina, and Z.Z., Donkeylips will sit on their heads and fart. Michael and Sponge agree to the challenge without a moment's hesitation.
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar: Many times.
    • In the episode "The Radio Call-in Contest", Eugene "Sponge" Harris quite clearly says "I'm pissed off because I'm not as smart as I thought I was!" The profanity was never removed from the episode. Also, several mentions of flipping the finger are made in "Budnick and Michael Fake Being Sick".
    • In "Budnick Loves Dina":
      Pinsky (re: Budnick's crush on Dina): I don't know what you're thinking with, but it is certainly not your brain.

      Budnick: (to Dina) You know, before we met the only time I used the word "bull" is followed by another word.
    • In "Brownies for Thud Mackie"
      Budnick How many fingers am I holding up?
      Michael: How many fingers am I holding up?
    • In "Budnick and Michael Fake Being Sick":
      Donkeylips (in an outhouse): Hey! There's this thing on the wall that sells balloons!
    • In the first episode, Ug offers a milkshake and a pizza every night for the rest of the summer to the person who reveals to him who set up the trap that got him Covered in Gunge and feathers:
      Budnick: And rat on our friends? Sorry, Big Bird, go pluck yourself!
    • In "Cinderella Play", when auditioning, Budnik sings the "Beans, beans" song (both the "Good for your heart" and "musical fruit" versions) and gets cut off before he can say "fart" or "toot". Which is odd considering the word "fart" was said in the theme song.
    • At the start of "Anawanna Incorporated", the campers are playing cards, using marshmallows as money:
      Z.Z.: Donkeylips is eating the money!
      Donkeylips: I won it!
      Telly: How are we supposed to win it back?!
      (Donkeylips thinks for a moment)
      Telly: Don't answer that!
  • Gold Digger: Budnick's favorite thing about Dina is her rich father.
  • Gold Fever: "The Treasure of Sara Madre" episode being an obvious Homage/Whole Plot Reference.
    Z.Z.: Look, I found a Junior Park Ranger's badge!
    Michael: Badges? We don't need no stinking badges!
  • Granola Girl: Z.Z. Or as Telly puts it...:
    Telly: Are you out of your granola-munchin', whole-wheat, tie-die, save-the-planet mind?!
  • Happy Dance: On being told that the winner of the frog jumping contest gets a night on the town, Z.Z. starts to do a peppy little song-and-dance number around the room before Dina interrupts.
  • He Who Must Not Be Seen: Dr. Kahn, the camp director, who 'appears' only as a disembodied voice over the loudspeaker. Someone once hung a sign on a goat saying "This is Dr. Kahn", and all they got was a loudspeaker request to remove it.
  • Hidden Depths:
    • Generally Ug is portrayed as dim-witted, kind of lazy, and a bit of a loser, but he has moments of scary competence, usually sees through most of the kids' schemes, and is a certified athletic trainer. He may seem a little high-strung sometimes, but dealing with those kids would drive someone to drink. Add in that while taping the Cinderella auditions with Sponge's camera, Ug shows off some rather bodacious biceps.
    • Donkeylips showed he had some decent wrestling chops in one episode. He is also a very clever strategist as shown in "Capture the Flag".
    • Budnick is revealed to have done SO MANY puzzles in his life that he can easily put one together in no time at all,...with the picture side down.
  • High School Dance: "Donkeylips Loves Dina" features a summer camp version of this trope. Dina tries to ask Michael to the dance, but her message is delivered to Donkeylips by mistake.
  • High School Hustler: Pinsky on his better days. His Zany Schemes backfire, he often promises more than he can deliver and some of the stuff he gets away with is only by virtue of having no shame, but he did get Sponge a girlfriend and helped Donkeylips live out his dream of championing a game of "Capture the Flag."
  • Homage:
    • More than a few elements of the show harked back to M*A*S*H. The most obvious were the frequent establishing shots of the camp overlaid with some bizarre news or orders from Dr. Kahn's PA. Ug's general character as the erstwhile but hapless authority figure drew inspiration from Colonel Blake, down to wearing the same hat.
    • Ug also draws parallels from Frank Burns, Sponge sometimes channels Radar, and Pinsky fills in the Hawkeye role once he comes to camp.
  • Hypocritical Humor:
    • Dina in particular supplies a lot.
    • In "Anawanna, Inc.", Ug tries to fill Sponge's time capsule with mementoes of himself, but when they find a previous camp time capsule, he is disgusted to find that it only contains mementoes from a previous camp counselor, whom he dismisses as an egomaniac. Sponge, clearly waiting for the penny to drop with Ug, sarcastically agrees.
  • I Ate WHAT?:
    • One Cold Open sees Budnick's candy black market get busted by Ug. He calls out various tricks he used to smuggle candy inside, and culminates with him eating "red shoelace licorice." When the others sympathize with him briefly, Budnick tells them that "those shoelaces he ate weren't made out of licorice..." and he shows his bright red shoes sans laces.
    • After Michael misses lunch in "Brownies for Thud Mackie" because of his brownie punishment, he goes to the kitchen to get something to eat and finds only oatmeal. As he leaves the kitchen while eating, Ug comes along and takes it, informing Michael that it's not for eating because it's his oatmeal bath for poison oak. Cue power puke (all over Thud Mackie, no less).
    • One of Z.Z.'s cures for Dina's apparent laryngitis in "Cinderella Play" involves giving her a thick white liquid. A few mouthfuls in, Z.Z. reveals that the liquid is made from milkweed and bullfrog. Dina spits it out in disgust, and is not consoled by Z.Z.'s insistence that it's not real bullfrog.
  • I Just Want to Be Normal: When rock star Jamie Mallet, Jr. comes to camp in "Dina and the Rock Star", he just wants to be treated like everyone else, which supremely frustrates Dina, who has persuaded him to come to Camp Anawanna to perform at a camp dance.
  • Informed Judaism: In "Budnick Loves Dina, Part 2", when Budnick plans to video tape he and Dina's future dates. Sponge says when they get married and kids, he and Donkeylips will video tape his bar-mitzvah.
  • Ironic Echo:
    • In "The Radio Call-In Contest", Sponge dismisses the girls' suggestions that the remaining two questions in the radio contest he has entered might require pop culture knowledge he doesn't have, such as "What is George Michael's real name?" Eventually, the second question is asked... and it's "What is George Michael's real name?"note 
    Telly: You know what my 3 favorite words are: "told", "you", and "so".
    • In "The Cursed Skull":
    Pinsky: That's the problem with girls, in every camp I've ever been to, you're always fighting with each other. Just gotta learn to get along.
    [at the end of the episode]
    Telly: That's the problem with you guys, you don't know how to get along with each other.
  • I Want My Beloved to Be Happy: Poor Z.Z., yet she got better in part 2.
    Z.Z.: I know I'm gonna hate myself for saying this. But if you tell Dina, what you just told me? She'd probably change her mind about you.
  • Jerkass:
    • Budnick.
    • Ug is also this to some extent.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold:
    • Also Budnick, whose good qualities start coming out more frequently in the second season.
    • Really, almost all of the campers tended to fall into this at one point or another.
  • Judgment of Solomon:
    • Spoofed via Shaggy Frog Story in "Bunk Chief Elections", when Z.Z. can't decide between Dina or Telly as bunk chief, and Budnick's initial advice leaves a bit to be desired.
      Budnick: It's like when Solomon King had to make his decision.
      Z.Z.: You mean King Solomon when he had to cut the baby in half?
      Budnick: No, I mean Solomon King. I went to school with the guy. He had front-row tickets to two incredible concerts on the same night, he had to make a decision.
      Z.Z.: What'd he do?
      Budnick: Well, he came down with the chicken pox, so he couldn't go to either one of them.
      Z.Z.: That... doesn't help me much.
    • In "Counselor Budnick," the trope is played straight: Dina and Z.Z. have a dispute over the ownership of "Wartbreath", a frog Dina found (but initially wanted to squash) that Z.Z. had trained into a champion jumper, when it turns out the frog jumping contest actually has a prize for winning. When the old Let Him Choose method fails, Budnick has them both grab the frog and tug-of-war for it. Of course Z.Z. immediately lets go ("are you crazy!?") and Budnick declares her the real owner. The elegance of this solution confirms him as a real counselor to the other campers, but Budnick confesses it had been his own idea — the counselor's guidebook would have awarded the frog to Dina.
  • Karma Houdini:
    • Dina and Telly in "Bunk Chief Elections". They leave the boys to take blame for the mess left in their personal Food Fight, with nary a qualm of guilt, even knowing Ug's been making their lives hell for some time already and is just looking for an excuse to dish out more punishment.
    • Thud Mackie also counts in "Brownies For Thud Mackie". In the episode's final scene, he beats Michael senseless after spending the entire episode threatening to do so unless Michael can replace the box of brownies he accidentally sat on, and he never receives any sort of punishment for it.
  • Keep the Reward: Z.Z. can't get the campers to pitch in and help the environment until she creates an incentive to save up for a trip to the water park. At the end of the episode, they decide to surprise her by using the funds to purchase a tree instead.
  • Kick Me Prank: In "The Wrath of Kahn, Jr.", Budnick thinks he has managed to get through to Kahn's niece Ellen in getting her to reel in her prank-playing antics. That is, until Donkeylips kicks him in the backside and explains that he's just doing what the sign on Budnick's back told him to do.
  • Let Him Choose: In "Counselor Budnick", Ug tries to resolve the fight for ownership of Wartbreath between Z.Z. and Dina by putting the frog in the middle of a circle and saying that the owner would be whichever the frog jumps to first. Unfortunately, Wartbreath jumps toward Pinsky instead.
  • Limited Social Circle: As a result of the series' Economy Cast, the seven main campers are only very occasionally seen interacting socially with the other kids at camp.
  • Locked in a Room:
    • The A-plot of "Budnick and Michael Fake Being Sick".
    • The "Cursed Skull" episode also becomes this, when Telly and Dina (after constantly bickering with each other over who gets to return the skull to where it belongs) find themselves in a cave full of garbage. A thunderstorm begins, so they spend the night in the cave and reconcile their differences.
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: In "The Cursed Skull", the eponymous object supposedly brought a lot of bad luck into camp. It turns out it's a cheap souvenir.
  • Mass "Oh, Crap!": The final scene of "The Treasure of Sara Madre" features one with all seven campers. Dina, Michael, Sponge, Telly, and Z.Z. have gathered to mock Budnick and Donkeylips for falling for their revenge prank and digging a hole for non-existent treasure in the middle of the camp's baseball diamond, but as a furious Donkeylips smashes down his shovel, there is the clang of something metallic. Budnick eagerly digs at the spot with a pickaxe... and then water suddenly begins gurgling from where he is digging...
    Budnick: I've struck gold! I've struck silver! I've struck... (he swings the pickaxe one more time, and water suddenly starts pooling around the end of the pickaxe; rapid cut to extreme close-ups of all seven campers' eyes, wide with fear of impending doom) ... a water main!... (water begins gushing out of the broken pipe in a fountain, sparking a Crowd Panic as Sponge, Telly, Dina, Michael, and Z.Z. run for their lives, with Donkeylips not far behind)
  • Metaphorgotten:
    Pinsky: Look, I know we may have gotten off on the wrong foot, but I have another foot that you haven't even seen yet! This is the foot of honesty, and that foot spoke to me.
  • Moment Killer: In "They Call Me Ms. Tibbs", Ug and Mona were about to kiss until Budnick arrived (which inadvertently led to their near-breakup).
    "Somebody better eat this squash quick, it's starting to smell like sweat socks!"
  • Mood Whiplash: The gang feeling depressed with Michael gone, only to cheer up when they meet Pinsky who one-upped Budnick.
  • Motionless Makeover: Ug is in a trance after his girlfriend dumps him. One of the campers puts a danish on his head.
  • Mouthy Kid: Budnick and Pinsky.
  • Na´ve Newcomer: Michael. Pinsky... not as much, although it is lampshaded once.
    Pinsky: (to Dina) Look, I know you're normally a sweet, wonderful kid without an ounce of meanness in you—
    Telly: You haven't been in camp very long, have you...
  • Nerd Glasses: Sponge, although Telly had a pair that were never seen past the first episode (she got contacts).
  • New Job as the Plot Demands: Mona was a mail carrier in season one. She becomes a forest ranger in season 2, because she won't work in a place that put Elvis Presley on a first-class stamp.
    Donkeylips: I thought she's the mail lady.
  • Noodle Implements: The "Awful Waffle" from the first episode, requiring syrup and a tennis racket. The viewer never gets to see what one looks like, and the ingredients list grows longer and stranger each time it's invoked. It probably started off based on the real-life hazing of a bare-skin paddling with tennis racket applied to leave a "waffle-like" bruise pattern. (It also needs to be said that there's another, much more disgusting version of an awful waffle, that would never fly on any show, ever.)
  • Not So Above It All: Ug. Sure, he dispenses severe and exaggerated punishment, but in the context of the campers actually breaking the rules. Still, whenever given the chance to prank Budnick, he jumps at the chance.
  • Odd Friendship:
    • Donkeylips is overweight and not too bright, while Sponge is intelligent but short and scrawny, but they are both social outcasts and/or bullying victims in their lives outside camp as a result, and they have bonded over this, seen most prominently when they are both trying out for wrestling in "Donkeylips and Sponge Weigh In", and when they are collecting merit badges in the two "Budnick Loves Dina" episodes.
    • Of all the campers Ug is probably the closest to ZZ (probably because she's, usually, the best behaved) and she's one of the few campers who likes going on his nature hikes.
  • Oh Crap!: "The Wrath of Kahn, Jr." features two examples near the end of the episode.
    • First, Kahn's niece Ellen, having finally received her comeuppance at the hands of the seven regulars, storms off to her uncle's office in spite of Ug's attempts to keep her calm and keep his job. Seconds later, a loudspeaker announcement booms, "This is Dr. Kahn. Would Kevin Lee please come to my office... NOW." Ug leaves with the look of a condemned person being led to the scaffold.
    • But when the campers see Ug seemingly dressed to leave camp, he tells them that Dr. Kahn was delighted that someone finally taught Ellen a lesson about going too far with pranks, and he has given Ug a raise and permission to take the campers to a rock concert. However, the gang are now the ones with the expressions of horror when they learn that Ellen will be coming back to camp the next summer. And she learned a few tricks from them.
  • Onion Tears: In "Bunk Chief Elections".
  • Only Known by Their Nickname:
    • Kevin Lee is almost universally addressed as Ug, as in "Ug Lee". Dr. Kahn is the only character who routinely uses his given name.
    • Although Eddie Gelfen occasionally uses his real name (most prominently in "The Treasure of Sara Madre" and "Donkeylips Loves Dina"), everyone else calls him Donkeylips.
    • Eugene Harris is always referred to as Sponge, in light of his brain's uncanny ability to soak up information.
    • Z.Z. is known by her initials only; the second Z stands for Ziff.
  • Opposite Day:
    • Budnick and Ug switch places as camper and counselor.
    • And the girls dressing up as guys and vice-versa. In fact, one of the girls says she looks forward to it because "it's the only time you can see Budnick in a dress." Make of that what you will.
  • Pet the Dog: Both the kids and Ug have (rare) moments where they show they actually do care about each other somewhat.
  • Playing Cyrano: Pinsky does this for Sponge, creating a new persona for him to get him with a girl from another nearby camp that's way out of his league. It later turns out that the girl in question was just as geeky, and her fellow campers also were pulling the same stunt.
  • Playing Sick:
    • A popular ploy for getting out of instructional swim, as seen in "Budnick and Michael Fake Being Sick". Budnick has a killer recipe for realistic-looking vomit. Their fake illnesses seem to backfire on them when Ug takes the other five campers on a trip to the beach, but the beach trip ends up being a complete disaster while Budnick and Michael start bonding after spending the day stuck in the nurse's office.
    • In "Cinderella Play", a stage fright-struck Dina claims to have lost her voice on the day of the performance. Sponge "cures" her laryngitis by shocking her by upending a bottle of water over her head.
  • Please Dump Me: Dina employs this to break up with Budnick, who ceased being bad boy while they were a couple (and thus ceased to be interesting).
  • Poorly Disguised Pilot: The pilot aired on another Nickelodeon program called Special Delivery.
  • Positive Discrimination: Telly is the most athletic camper, and frequently the most honest and level-headed one as well.
  • Previously On: At the beginning of "Budnick Loves Dina, Part 2". Donkeylips uses flag signals explaining the events that happened in "Part 1" as Sponge writes them down while we cut to the accompanied clips from said episode. In-universe: they do this to get another merit badge. However, a bee was on Donkeylips and he tries to swat it with his flags, confusing Sponge.
  • Public Domain Soundtrack: Used a lot, though not exclusively. Tchiakovsky's "March Slav" is frequently used. The show's famous classical music soundtrack is used a bit less often in Season 2, with generic stock music being the norm by that time.
  • Punny Name: Ug Lee. From the first episode, when he introduces himself as "Kevin Lee" only to have the kids start chanting "Ug Lee, Ug Lee, Ug Lee," one might get the impression the nickname "Ug" was actually picked by the kids for exactly this reason, although it's never stated outright.
  • Radio Contest: An entire episode revolves around Sponge entering a radio trivia contest; if he can answer three trivia questions asked by the DJ at random intervals over the next few days, he will win $1,000. Technically, he only answers the first one correctly; he has to recruit help from the girls for the second, and Ug supplies the answer for the third and then confiscates the prize money.
  • Real Women Don't Wear Dresses: As an in-universe example, Telly is pathological about this. In "Zeke the Plumber", the forfeit she offers if Budnick succeeds in spending a night in the clearing where Zeke is alleged to have died is that she will wear a dress for a day, a nod to her Zeke-related nightmare about being trapped in a dance hall wearing a ball gown.
  • Rhymes on a Dime: Ug gets a few instances of this in "Dina and the Rock Star". Star-struck at meeting Jamie Mallet Jr., he introduces himself by saying "Hi there Jamie, Kevin is my namey," congratulating himself on the rhyme. At the end of the episode, when Dina's attempt to spread lies to turn the camp against Jamie backfires and she is forced to clean up the mess from a Food Fight, Ug tells her, "You told a mess of lies, now clean up the mess of pies," once again congratulating himself on the rhyme.
  • Rich Bitch: Dina, although she tends to be shallow and ditzy more often than outright bitchy. Her family is loaded, so she has no shortage of luxury goods at camp, and she is not shy about showing them off.
  • Right Through the Wall: Subverted in "Park Ranger Mona" when Ug and Mona start to fight. But they notice they're being watched, so Ug closes the door on the campers, but the door has glass so they can still see.
    Z.Z.: I can't believe they're fighting! This is terrible!
    Donkeylips: I know! I can't hear a word they're saying!
  • Romantic Runner-Up: Near the end of "Budnick Loves Dina, Part One," Budnick tells Z.Z. he might have been interested in her if he didn't currently have a thing for Dina.
  • Running Gag:
    • If a food fight breaks out Ug is always the one to blow the whistle to stop it and always gets hit with something immediately after he blows the whistle.
    • In "Budnick Loves Dina, Part 1", someone gets their leg broken and ends up in crutches.
  • Scarily Competent Tracker: Donkeylips can not only track people but determine the kind of sandwich they were eating at the time. Dina, meanwhile, is not good at tracking most of the time but is a crack expert at following limo tracks.
  • School Play: Though not set at a school, the series featured an example of this plotline in "Cinderella Play", with Ug and the seven main characters providing not just the entire main cast (Dina as Cinderella, Michael as the Prince, Telly as an ugly stepsister, Z.Z. as the Fairy Godmother, and Donkeylips as a rapping mouse) but also the entire technical crew (Ug, Sponge, and Budnick).
  • Second Person Attack: In "Brownies for Thud Mackie", Michael is leaving camp to avoid a beating by Thud Mackie after he accidentally sits on Thud's box of brownies and fails to deliver a replacement. In the episode's climax, Michael decides to face Thud down. The camera switches to Michael's POV for the confrontation just before Thud delivers an anticlimactic One-Hit KO and the screen goes black.
  • Sentimental Music Cue: Considering the general tenor of the show otherwise, it can be a bit surprising when this gets played completely straight, most notably in the episode where Budnick and Michael play sick to get out of Instructional Swim, and in the "Budnick Loves Dina" two-parter.
  • The Short Guy with Glasses: Sponge is the shortest main cast member, one of the youngest, and the only one to wear glasses. He is also the most book smart of the group.
  • Shout-Out:
  • Shown Their Work: Danny Cooksey, who played Bobby Budnick on the show, was/is a big heavy metal fan. Thus, Budnick occasionally drops some surprisingly astute references to bands of that era. Such as Aerosmith (a 70's rock band who had a major comeback a couple years before the show premiered) and even Metallica (who, at the time of reference, was just getting ready to release "The Black Album").
  • Sickeningly Sweethearts: Ug and Mona, and Dina and Budnick for all of five minutes.
  • The Smart Guy: Sponge is nicknamed for his ability to absorb information, and he is usually the first person the campers consult on factual matters. He was also ahead of the curve in acknowledging the value of computers and the Internet.
  • Soap Box Sadie: Z.Z. In most episodes this is mild to the degree it is present at all — she is usually among the nicer and more easygoing campers, as well as a bit of a dreamy Cloudcuckoolander. But she makes up for it with a vengeance in "The Environmental Party", when she is loudly opinionated, pushy, and harshly judgmental to the point that she comes off as less reasonable and likable than Dina, who actually tries to help her out until Z.Z.'s harshness drives even her away. Her hippie folk song about saving the environment eventually devolves into outright, literal yelling at people.
  • Solar-Powered Magnifying Glass: Done by Donkeylips and Sponge to get the last merit badge they need (task: start a fire without using matches, lighters, etc.) to go on a camping trip. Z.Z. gets the assist, demonstrating it to the two, with Ug watching.
  • Speech Impediment: "Donkey Lips" is so named at least partly because of his pronounced lisp.
  • Spinning Paper: "The Pinsky-Sponge Gazette" features a montage of spinning papers with such headlines as "Dr. Kahn: Man or Myth?" and "Dewey Defeats Truman: 'He Sucker Punched Me', Says Truman".
  • Spoiled Brat: Dina has rich parents who shower her with luxury items, contributing to her perception that she is above participating in the less glamorous camp activities.
  • The Strategist: Donkeylips' ambition in "Capture the Flag".
  • Summer Campy: The entire premise. The food is better suited for fighting with than eating, the activities are a mixture of the unpleasant and the boring, the counselor is a rules-obsessed loser, the campers are divided into the bullies and the bullied, and the local wildlife is hostile. Sponge sums it up best in his first encounter with Michael:
    Sponge: The food bites, the bugs bite, activities bite... everything bites!
  • Teens Are Monsters: Played straight in many instances. Possibly justified, since Anawanna is such a crappy camp.
  • Thematic Theme Tune: This would be a subversion, as while the song is supposed to be about how great camp is and how strong the friendships are, the obviously forced and insincere delivery of the sappy lyrics really serve to tell the audience how bad it is, while hinting at the flaws that are bound to cause friction in individual character relationships.
  • They Call Me Mister Tibbs: Mona says that's what everyone calls her in the episode "They Call Me Ms. Tibbs".
  • Title Drop:
    • Sponge does it in the first episode, just before the cut to the theme song as Budnick runs a humiliated Michael's boxer shorts up the flagpole.
    • Happens again in the season 2 premiere as Budnick does the same thing to Pinsky. Pinsky does so happily and continues on.
  • Tomboy and Girly Girl: Telly, who is one of the camp's top all-round athletes, and Dina, who obsesses over her personal appearance. Their conflicting priorities lead to a lot of friction between them over the course of the series.
  • Triang Relations:
    • "Donkeylips' Crush on Dina" is a type 5: Donkeylips likes Dina, who likes Michael, who isn't interested in anyone.
    • "Budnick Loves Dina" also starts as type 5: Z.Z. likes Budnick, who likes Dina, who isn't interested; but becomes a type 4: Budnick and Dina are in a relationship, leaving Z.Z. a Hopeless Suitor (who eventually decides she just wants Budnick to be happy).
  • Troubled, but Cute: Budnick has had both Dina and Z.Z. crushing on him.
  • TV Teen: Played completely straight. Although they evolve/develop a bit during the second season, the characters generally remain married to their respective high school stereotypes. Michael is somewhat of a subversion, since he's less easily stereotyped than the others. The downside is that he had no real personality to speak of. So maybe, in this case, it would've been better if he DID have some kind of stereotype attached to him! Probably he's meant to be the "average guy".
  • Unrequited Love Switcheroo: Seems to have been invoked somewhat unintentionally. A number of episodes of the first season, in particular the Camp Dance episode, indicate Dina is attracted to Michael, while Michael is completely uninterested. But in the "Cinderella Play" episode, Michael is extremely psyched up about getting to kiss Dina and teases her about it constantly, while she acts disgusted by him and has a crush on a boy from another camp.
  • The Voice: Dr. Kahn.
    Dr. Kahn: Man or Myth?
  • Welcome Episode: "Michael Comes to Camp".
  • "Well Done, Son!" Guy: Donkeylips' parents are implied to be this. According to him, they only acknowledge him when he brings home wrestling trophies.
  • We Want Our Jerk Back: "Budnick Loves Dina."
  • Whole Plot Reference: "The Treasure of Sara Madre" to The Treasure of the Sierra Madre and "Zeke the Plumber" to A Nightmare on Elm Street.
  • Why Did It Have to Be Snakes?:
    • Budnick is perfectly content to spend an entire night alone in the woods, and laughs loudly and triumphantly at the others' attempts to frighten him. However, he breaks down crying and pleading for help when he stumbles into a large batch of spider webs.
    • Donkeylips has this reaction while playing "Capture the Flag" when he sees the other team's flag being protected by a hundred tires (an obstacle he always failed at miserably on obstacle courses).
  • Will They or Won't They?: Budnick had to break up with Dina. But Dina seems to still have feelings for him. He even let Dina keep his Steve Vai guitar pick and says they might be back together someday.
  • You Can See That, Right?: Inverted. Ug gets hit on the head in one episode and hallucinates. He asks the kids to reassure him that the brontosaurus he sees tap-dancing in the corner isn't real.
  • You Go, Girl!: Telly.

...And when we think about you
This thing came apart...
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