Series / The Torkelsons

An American sitcom that aired on NBC from 1991 to 1993, about a family (named The Torkelsons) living in Pyramid Corners, Oklahoma. Deeply in debt after divorcing her husband, Millicent takes on a boarder to help make ends meet. Millicent has five children, but the one that recieved the most focus was the eldest, Dorothy Jane, a young dreamer who wishes for a better life.

Never a ratings success, NBC miraculously renewed the show for a second season, but it was given a Re Tool, having the family move to Seattle so Millicent could work as a live-in nanny, with the show's name being changed to Almost Home. These changes didn't help the show much, and this time, NBC axed it. The series then played in reruns on the Disney Channel for the rest of the decade.

The Torkelsons and Almost Home contain examples of the following tropes:

  • Ambiguous Ending: Season 2 had a few of these, a.o.:
    • In one episode Brian comes home very late from a date and gives a contrived story including him being attacked by a guard dog as an excuse for this, which is ridiculed by Millicent. First it's implied he made this story up, but in the very last split-second shot of the episode, his clothes are shown to be shred to pieces, suggesting the dog story is true after all. It never becomes clear what's the case.
    • An episode is dedicated to Dorothy Jane dating the most popular, jock boy of her school but not being attracted to him, resulting in her rejecting him. In the very last shot, after just having rejected him and him giving her a kiss as a good-bye, she suddenly says "Oh, wait..." and goes running after him. It's strongly implied she at least went to kiss him again, and possibly they became more seriously romantically revolved. However, in a What Happened to the Mouse? way, the boy (played by a then yet-unknown Ben Affleck) is never mentioned again during the rest of the series, so it's unclear what happened between Dorothy Jane and him.
  • An Aesop: In the first Season, the Torkelson kids (mostly Dorothy Jane and Steven Floyd) frequently learned life lessons. Once it became "Almost Home" and the Morgan family came into play, it was mostly the Morgan kids (due to their being played as spoiled and not well parented by their father) who learned the Aesops, from Millicent and sometimes even Dorothy Jane.
  • Babies Ever After: Millicent and Randall's apparent sentiment during the first eight years of their marriage, as they have five children then. As Millicent herself remarks when talking about her (previous) marriage to Randall: "I was pregnant all the time!" Not a case of Babies Make Everything Better, since Randall abandons the family.
  • Bad Liar: What Millicent thinks of Brian, comparing him to her (apparently Consummate Liar) ex-husband Randall, after Brian comes home extremely late after a date and tells a contrived story as the reason for this to Millicent and his teenage daughter Molly.
    Millicent: That's the best that you can do?! I was married to the Mark Twain of long-winded excuses; he could have done better than that in a coma!
  • Belligerent Sexual Tension:
    • Season 1: Millicent and the handsome, single Reverend Wilson clearly were romantically attracted to each other, but this never lead to anything during the first Season (probably because Millicent, though separated and abandoned, was still legally married to her husband, and still emotionally attached to him).
    • Season 2: There's tension between Millicent and Brian Morgan.
  • Bratty Teenage Daughter:
    • Molly was this is spades, to the point it almost was a parody: shallow, dumb (or played as that initially - it's later implied she's actually lazy instead of dumb, and has Hidden Depths), spoiled, boy-obsessed and gossipy.
    • Season 1: Dreama is this; in contrast to Molly, she's also mean, bullying Dorothy Jane for wearing a dress she [Dreama] deems inferior.
  • Butt Monkey:
    • Kirby, Dorothy Jane's schoolmate who has a crush on her - he's played as nerdy, not handsome and slightly Cloudcuckoolanderish. Even the normally insecure Dorothy Jane mocks him in his face.
    • In a more subtle version, Dorothy Jane within the Torkelson kids. She's the only one who's embarrassed by her family and their poverty, feels like a fish out of water there, and the other Torkelson kids never let her live that down. When she, almost lampshading it, accuses her mother Millicent of focusing (negatively) disproportionately on her as opposed to Millicent's four other children, Millicent answers: "You're the oldest, I've been stuck with you the longest, now you're like a habit I can't break."
  • Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: When the family moved to Seattle and the show's name changed to Almost Home, Steven Floyd and Ruth Ann evidently got left behind in Oklahoma and were never spoken of again.
    • As well as their boarder, Wesley Hodges. Justified in that he wasn't a family member, but rather just a tenant renting out the basement.
  • Cloudcuckoolander:
    • Dorothy Jane is not your average teenage girl: talking to the Man In The Moon, being bookish (loved reading, poetry especially - to the point that she seemed to have an obsession about Emily Dickinson), shy (mostly towards peers, boys in particular), and as she herself a few times pointedly exclaims "I have NO social life!". She is also seen as this by her peers due to wearing outdated / fixed up / weird clothes, but that's not her choice and purely due to the family's tight finances.
    • Mother Millicent acts pretty wacky herself. Subverted as when she breaks down emotionally a few times throughout the series, it becomes clear this is a facade she puts on to deal with her being a single mother-of-five with financial stress.
  • Crack Defeat: Dorothy Jane Torkelson is in the finals of a contest whose winner will get to be a foreign exchange student in Paris. Her family situation gets high marks, and the judges do seem to like her... but still loses anyway because the family in France wanted a boy. Thus making the finals completely meaningless since there was only one boy out of the three finalists.
  • Everyone Calls Him "Barkeep": The Torkelson's tenant Wesley Hodges is almost always referred to as "Boarder Hodges."
  • Family Theme Naming: All five (original) Torkelson kids have double names: Dorothy Jane, Steven Floyd, Ruth Ann, Chuckie Lee, Mary Sue (and it even extended to Mary Sue's doll, that (whom?) she named Martha Lou). Molly lampshades this:
    Molly: You all have two names. Is that a family thing or just... indecision?
  • Global Ignorance: In the first episode of Almost Home, Molly mistakenly states that the Torkelsons are from Arkansas, only to be corrected by Gregory, leading to a Shout-Out.
  • Hidden Depths: Molly is played as an almost exaggerated Bratty Teenage Daughter, who's not so bright on top of that, but
    • She sometimes opens up emotionally (in O.O.C. Is Serious Business moments), which indicate that deep down she's very sad about her mother having died and her father now emotionally neglecting her.
    • She also at a certain point is given a Jane Austen book to read by Dorothy Jane, which she reads, and then admits to liking (again an O.O.C. Is Serious Business).
    • In a Played for Laughs way, she confides to Dorothy Jane (making a big point about that she's never told anyone this), that more than anything she wants to become a weather girl (which makes Dorothy Jane burst out laughing hysterically).
  • Hopeless Suitor:
    • In a sort of love triangle, Kirby has an intense crush on Dorothy Jane, which is not requited. She herself has a crush on Riley, but as he (painfully, for her) tells her after this has going on for some time, he himself does not feel the same about her.
    • Season 2: both Dorothy Jane and Molly both have a crush on their boss, and even go into a Designated Girl Fight over him on their workplace. Turns out he doesn't feel the same about either of them, and has a girlfriend.
  • The Man in the Moon: Dorothy Jane often sits outside her window talking about her various concerns with "The Man In The Moon" as a means of thinking out loud (the fact that it also served to keep the audience updated on what she was thinking was a nice bonus).
  • Mood Whiplash: Happened beteween the first "Torkelsons" season and the second, "Almost Home". After it got completely retooled, the tone of the show changed drastically from more dramatic, to more pure comedy.
  • New Season, New Name: As a result of the Re Tool that also had the family (sans two of the kids) moving to Seattle, Washington.
  • O.O.C. Is Serious Business: In the pilot episode, Dorothy Jane is shown to feel embarrassed by her family. At the end of it, when a store-owner Millicent and Dorothy Jane deem to be in the wrong, brushes off Millicent, Dorothy Jane goes on a tirade defending her mother (Lampshaded by immediately following that with saying "...I can't believe I said that...", and later when Millicent thanks her for it, her answering "It will never happen again").
  • One Steve Limit: Inverted for Molly in "Almost Home", who has no less than three best friends called Heather. Combined with Molly being glued to the phone a lot, this gives stuff like:
    Molly: [On the phone] OMG did Heather really say that to Heather?! No way, Heather!
    [Brother Gregory gives a "Man this stuff is getting old" eye roll]
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni:
    • Season 1: Dorothy Jane (shy, into poetry) was this to her younger sister Ruth Anne (more brash and self-confident).
    • Plus, Stephen Floyd (tough boy and almost a jock - Red Oni) compared to his younger brother Chuckie Lee (who came across slightly nerdy, and socially insecure).
    • Once Ruth Anne disappeared and Molly made an entrance, Dorothy Jane was the Blue Oni to Red Oni Molly (who was much more outspoken and confident and less brainy).
    • Molly is also the Red Oni to her brother Gregory (she's the socially confident and popular one; he's played off as slightly nerdish).
  • Shout-Out: What's the difference between Arkansas and Oklahoma? One's a musical.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: The single mother-of-five has a sometimes-mentioned husband she's separated from after his abandoning the family. He makes an appearance in two episodes in the first season - one of which ends in them signing their divorce papers, giving some closure; but he bails out again each time and isn't really mentioned again in the rest of the season. Once the family sells their Oklahoma family home and moves across country to Seattle, he is not mentioned at all again. One might even ask if he ever got their change of address; or, Fridge Horror: he was actually always on the move without means of communication (...this was all before e-mail and mobile phones existed), so he probably never did get their change of address.

Alternative Title(s): Almost Home