A 1990s television Fantastic Comedy series based on the 1985 movie of the same name. Hollywood Nerds Gary and Wyatt, unable to hook up with real girls, use a computer to "create" the perfect woman: Magical Girl Lisa, whose powers initiate wacky adventures.The series, which aired on the USA Network from 1994 to 1997, changed settings from Illinois (in the original film) to California. Probably for budgetary reasons, but they could have at least pretended it was still Illinois.
Tropes exhibited by this series include:
Absentee Actor: Chett missed a few episodes here and there, with no explanation given for his whereabouts.
The Ace: As goofy as he could be, Scampi was always able to rein in Chett during high school and foil all of his pranks.
In "The Bazooka Boys," Wyatt and Gary's clones do a better job of leading their lives than they do.
Be Careful What You Wish For: One episode revolves around the guys being given a brand new computer game by Lisa; they then blow her off completely to play the game but are disappointed that the game turns out to be too short. When they complain to Lisa — well, she's so miffed at being ignored, she brings the video game villain to life. See also Turned Against Their Masters.
Break the Haughty: In season four, Chett ends up convincing Lisa to make him a successful male stripper. Everything goes great until his female fanbase begins to stalk him, his female boss forces him to have sex with her to keep his job, and finds his attempts to become a "legitimate" dancer squashed by sexist talent agents who see him as a glorified whore.
Brilliant, but Lazy: Gary. In "Slow Times at Farber High," he spent hours writing cheat notes all over his body (writing backwards for his back so he could read them in the bathroom mirror) rather than just study.
Brought Down to Normal: In "Horseradish," Wyatt's computer gets a security upgrade, but Gary forgets the password - locking Lisa out and cutting off her magic.
Bullying a Dragon: After learning about her, Chett had a habit of purposefully annoying or goading Lisa. It went as well as you'd expect.
"Note to self: stop pissing off the genie."
Butt Monkey: Both male leads but especially Gary. Wyatt usually at least managed to keep some dignity even when kicked by another wish gone wrong. Chett probably qualifies too, though he (mostly) deserves it.
Cannot Keep a Secret: In "Girl Talk," Lisa feels bad about keeping secrets from her new friend and tells her she's a genie. Unfortunately, the friend tells her sister and ultimately leads to about thirty other people (including Scampi somewhere along the line) finding out.
Censor Box: In the Pilot, Lisa initially talked about all the incredible things she could do with her powers, and Wyatt responded with the request "Can we see you naked?" Lisa was actually completely OK granting this request, but after a bit of increasingly confused staring the boys asked why there were two Censor Box's, and Lisa explained that they'd made her to have a level of perfection that didn't exist in real women so they were there for their protection.
Catchphrase: When Gary is proven wrong or surprised, he usually responds with "Son of a gun."
Clingy Jealous Girl: In "Fatal Lisa," a botched wish causes Lisa to fall in love with Wyatt. She becomes increasingly clingy and possessive - to the point of making everyone else disappear to leave the two of them alone.
Lisa: If I told you every time I put your lives in danger, we'd never get out of the house.
Comes Great Responsibility: In "Rock Hard Chett," a prank on Chett is about to go horribly wrong, so Lisa gives him invincibility to save his life. He finds out about his new powers when he stumbles onto and foils a bank robbery. He quickly decides to put on a costume and become a superhero. Amazingly enough, he takes it very seriously and does a great job.
Comically Missing the Point: When Gary and Wyatt sneak onto a talk show (see below) and reveal they have a genie, Chett, Principal Scampi and a Jerk Jock at school feel "that explains a lot." Gary's father, however, asks, "Where'd Gary get the money for a sex change operation?"
Continuity Nod: The boys sneak onto the the set of a talk show and appear as guests. The topic of the day? "Men who turned into women who turned into men again." See Gender Bender below.
"What Genie?" sees Wyatt and Gary going over the former's journal - referencing several past episodes.
Courtroom Episode: "Community Property." Wyatt and Gary fight over Lisa, leading to a cyber-court battle over who should get custody.
"Wicked Wish" features Wyatt's mom going all Evil Queen and tries to zap Wyatt and Gary into monkeys. Only their lower halves are transformed, which Chett finds hilarious until he sees the tails.
"Outstanding! What do I got to do to get one?"
Everything's Deader with Zombies: In "You'll Never Eat Brains in This Town Again," Lisa is trying to make an indie horror movie with zombies. When the student actors don't work out, she zaps up some real zombies. The zombies do what they're told and behave, but when the sun goes down, they get hungry. And one of them bites Lisa...
The Family for the Whole Family: "It's a Mob, Mob, Mob, Mob World," where the Donnellys become the Donnellis, a loving family that runs the Homeowners Association like a criminal empire. This later leads to a goofy Mob War between them and the Wallaces.
Flanderization: Lisa, from a competent but unpredictable genie to a full-fledged Inept Mage whose spells never work right.
Forgot About Her Powers: Lisa and the boys are constantly resorting to zany schemes to do things that Lisa could accomplish with one wave of her hand. Lampshaded in "Searching for Boris Karloff" after Lisa makes a heartbroken speech over the dead body of Frankenstein's monster:
Gary: Uh, Lis? Can't you just, you know, zap him back to life? Lisa: Oh. Yeah.
"Freaky Friday" Flip: "Switched at Birth." Feeling the other doesn't appreciate their current life, Wyatt gets to enjoy time with the down-to-Earth, present Wallaces and Gary gets to enjoy parental free life with a working credit card.
Freudian Excuse: Chett's bullying of Wyatt. A flashback in "Strangers in Paradise" shows Chett was moved into a smaller room to make way for newborn Wyatt. This is followed by a montage of moments of their parents constantly praising Wyatt and criticizing Chett.
His grudge against Scampi, as well. At first, it just seems solely based on Scampi foiling his pranks and disciplining him, but "Stalag 16" reveals that he blames Scampi for being expelled and sent to military school.
Gender Bender: In one episode, Lisa (annoyed at the boys' sexism) gets her own back by turning the boys into girls. And nobody could forget the episode where an underage online thief steals Lisa's image, replacing it with Abe Vigoda. (Yes, TV's Fish.).
In Quantum Wyatt, Gary jumps into a phone-sex operator at the end. And in the Pilot, Gary (thinking that Lisa had left forever) told Wyatt that he wouldn't be happy unless Wyatt was a "killer babe." Cue Wyatt turning into a gorgeous blonde. And then cue credits before anything interesting happens.
In "Bee in There", Wyatt asks Lisa to not only send himself and Gary back in time to 1987 but to leap them into their fathers a la Quantum Leap so they can teach their younger selves show to throw a baseball. Gary, however, leaps into his mother. This leads his dad and Wyatt's mother to believe that their spouses are having an affair.
Honor Before Reason: In "Rock Hard Chett," Chett uses his new invulnerability to become a superhero. When the wish wears off, he gets shot during a bank heist (though Lisa manages to bring him back to life just as quickly). Wyatt suggests just walking away, but Chett goes back in to save the day despite losing his powers. (He manages to talk the robbers down by convincing them their guns have already failed to stop him.)
It's a Wonderful Plot: Double subverted in "It's a Wonderful Life (Without You)" when Wyatt and Lisa see a world where the former was never born. A world without Wyatt seems perfect, as Chett is a straight A overachiever, while Gary is the most popular guy in school and has a steady girlfriend. However, without Wyatt around, the parents have put so much pressure on Chett that he hates his life and is about ready to crack, while Gary was so desperate for popularity that he resorted to chronic lying and stealing.
Jackass Genie: Not Lisa (usually), but her powers seem to do this to her as well without her wanting it by making wishes come true with unnecessary caveats and in ways that cause all kinds of trouble/plot. As one of the guys once puts it, "Your magic sucks."
Invoked in "Master Chett," where Lisa cons Chett into making three wishes and purposefully does a bad job in order to get him to stop bothering her.
Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Chett. While generally a Jerkass to Wyatt and Gary and often brazenly hitting on Lisa, Chett would demonstrate genuine concern and affection for Lisa. He also showed genuine care for a pet dog he had for an episode.
Last Minute Hookup: "WS4" reveals that Lisa and Wyatt had been secretly dating for some time. Course, they actually break-up before the episode is over.
This is the cover story the guys give Chett in "Rock Hard Chett" to explain his sudden invulnerability. When the wish wears off, Wyatt then tries to tell him, "The lightning wore off!"
Literal Genie: In "Cyrano Debrainac," Gary wishes for the brain of Albert Einstein, so Lisa zaps up Einstein's Brain in a Jar. Note this was after he tried to be very careful with his wording to avoid a mishap like his head being replaced by Einstein's.
Mad Libs Catch Phrase: "Oh, man! Dumped by a ______!" Usually said by Wyatt ("Oh, man! Dumped by a robot/car/fictional character!") but also by Lisa when she experiences the ultimate humiliation: "Oh, man! Dumped by Gary Wallace!"
Her Catwoman outfit in "A Tale of Two Lisas" is probably the best example of that. Oh, my.
Mundane Wish: Despite Lisa's nearly-limitless (if temporary) powers, nearly all Gary and Wyatt's wishes are for incredibly mundane things. Lampshaded within an inch of its life in the Grand Finale after Wyatt reveals Lisa's existence to the school:
Student: So how come you're not, like, the richest men in the world living on an island with Cindy Crawford and Naomi Campbell? Wyatt: We, uh, never really wished for that. Student: So what did you wish for? Wyatt: I wished to be president of the chess club once. It didn't work out.
Musical Episode: "Pirates!" Wyatt is cast as the lead in the school musical, but Lisa accidentally brings singing pirates to life, and they make Chett their leader. After four brief interludes, the episode ends with a lengthy musical number.
Mythology Gag: Why is Gary so certain that they can create a woman on a computer?
Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: In "Master Chett," the guys and Lisa antagonize Chett without any on-screen justification and then openly brag about how they were able to do it with a genie. They do so because they think they can wipe his memory... only to then find out that they can't. Whoops.
Oh Crap: In "You'll Never Eat Brains in This Town Again," after Lisa realizes her zombie actors are about to turn carnivorous.
Lisa: Uh-oh. (runs off) Wyatt: Before she ran out of here in a blind panic, did the all-powerful genie say "uh-oh?" Gary: You heard that too, huh?
Older than They Look: Done In-Universe during "Grampira," when Wyatt wishes for his grandmother to feel young again. Unfortunately, as a side-effect, she takes the youthful energy of anyone she touches, and it soon spreads like a virus. All the infected teenagers still look the same, but they have really become as old as senior citizens and will die if the wish isn't reversed.
Our Vampires Are Different: In "Gary & Wyatt's Bloodsucking Adventure," the guys and Lisa become vampires, but substitute blood-drinking for Yoo-hoo and there's no indication that sunlight affects them. Of course, they run afoul of more typical vampires.
Out of Focus: With the increased emphasis on Chett in the final season, Gary and Wyatt often didn't have much to do on their own show. Many final season episodes have them reduced to subplots or just standing around and making snarky comments.
Parental Abandonment: Wyatt and Chett's parents are usually always away on business, leaving them the run of the house.
Parental Neglect: Chett was neglected after Wyatt was born, while Wyatt gets neglected due to work.
Marcia: Did we forget his birthday again? Wayne: If we did, my secretary's going to be looking for a new job.
Parental Substitute: Implied with Gary's parents to Wyatt. In "It's a Mob, Mob, Mob, Mob World," Al and Emily throw Wyatt a small celebration for his perfect scores on the SATs, while his own parents didn't even know he had taken them. Presumably, Gary's parents kept an eye on Wyatt before Chett moved back home.
Ping Pong Na´vetÚ: Lisa was created with a high IQ, but when she has to actually function in the real-world ("Horseradish," "Teen Lisa"), she tends to be clueless. Justified, because she may have intelligence and information, but no real life experience, being just created.
Planet of Steves: Quite literally, recurring characters from an alien race all named Steve who wanted Lisa as their new queen.
In "Community Property," Wyatt and Gary accuse the other of hogging Lisa, leading to a fight and a custody battle.
Pro Wrestling Episode: In "Men in Tights," after Chett picks a fight with a nasty wrestler, Lisa gives him wrestling skills to survive it. Because he was trying to pull him out of the ring at the time, Wyatt also got half the power. Chett and Wyatt subsequently become tag-team wrestlers Uncle Slam and Paul Severe. King Kong Bundy makes an appearance As Himself.
Real After All: In "Free Gary," Lisa is drawn to a guy nicknamed Kahuna that seems to know everything about her, but speaks vaguely about it. She soon believes he's a genie (especially when Gary is somehow saved from a wish gone wrong), while Wyatt thinks he was just giving her pickup lines and everything else was a coincidence. The last scene reveals that Kahuna is a genie.
Repressed Memories: In "Fly Boy," Chett is hypnotized as part of an FBI interrogation to get to his subconscious. It turns out he remembers a lot of the weird things that have happened to him during the series.
Ripple-Effect-Proof Memory: In "Universal Remote," the guys use it to play around with time. As Gary increasingly hogs it for his own use, Wyatt remains aware of all the loops, rewinds and fast-forwards.
Sand In My Eyes: In "Searching for Boris Karloff," after Wyatt gives a heartfelt monologue to a comatose Lisa.
Gary: I think I got something in my eyes. Creature: Me, too.
Secret Keeper: Chett (begrudgingly) becomes this after repeated memory wipes give him an immunity.
Secret Test of Character: In "Magic Comet Ride," Lisa embarks on some training to be a better genie. In the end, her Yoda-like mentor tells her she can go to a place where all of her questions can be answered, but it would mean leaving Wyatt and Gary forever. While she admits that they're not the helpless losers they used to be, Lisa says she still needs them and won't go. Her mentor replies, "Pass the most important test of all you did."
The plots of both "Quantum Wyatt" and "Bee In There" are parodies of Quantum Leap and it is mentioned in the latter. For you trivia buffs, Michael Manasseri (Wyatt) appeared in the Quantum Leap episode "Return of the Evil Leaper".
In one episode, Gary dates a cheerleader from Santo Domingo High, the high school on Parker Lewis Can't Lose, which many of the producers had previously worked on.
Skepticism Failure: In "Girl Talk," Lisa tells her new friend Tisch that she's a genie. Tisch actually believes in a lot of supernatural-type stuff, but doesn't believe Lisa because she thought she was making fun of her. Lisa convinces her by making it rain... inside the Java Man... with men instead of rain.
Gary: I don't wanna even know. Wyatt: I can't feel my legs.
Spoiled Sweet: Wyatt. His parents routinely shower him with expensive gifts and give him far more leeway than other teenagers out of guilt for always being away due to their jobs.
Spotlight-Stealing Squad: Chett became so popular with the writers that in the final season he wound up getting more spotlight episodes than the leads.
Status Quo Is God: Taken to the extreme. In several episodes, one of the guys actually got a girlfriend. But since this would've left the writers without an objective to drive future plots, she would quietly disappear between episodes.
A more in-universe example: Lisa's magic eventually wears off, resetting things back to normal no matter how out of control the wishes make things. Her only spells that seem to be permanent are the ones that restore the original status quo, like erasing people's memories of her.
Averted in "Master Chett," with the revelation that Chett had been mindwiped so many times by Lisa, that he had become immune to her ability to erase/alter memories. This leads to him becoming part of the group and participating in various adventures.
Weirdness Censor: In "Sex Ed," Lisa takes over Farber's health class and openly performs magic in front of the class. To get around the problems of that, she zaps the other students and tells them that nothing they see in the class for the next week will seem out of the ordinary.
Wham Episode: "Master Chett," where Chett has developed immunity to memory wipes and learns about Lisa permanently.
Wham Line: After Wyatt drops his grandmother off at the home, she encourages him to visit more often and to bring Lisa.
"But tell her to leave her magic at home. I don't need it." (smiles)
Who Writes This Crap?!: In season three, episode nine, Lisa is genie-napped and the boys lose all memory of her. Wyatt, reviewing past entries of his journal, finds references to her. He lists the plots of a few past episodes to Gary and exclaims: "Who could come up with this stuff?" Gary remarks: "Oh, please, a 4-year-old could come up with this stuff."
Whole Plot Reference: Several episodes take the premise of existing shows. In "Sci-Fi Zoned," when the boys were fighting, Lisa zaps them into a world based on their favorite show, The Sci-Fi Zone. Another episode, "Quantum Wyatt," helps Wyatt figure out possible careers by spoofing Quantum Leap.
Written-In Absence: John Mallory Asher doesn't appear "Phantom Scampi." (Point of fact, it's the only one he missed.) Gary is said to have wished for shrinking pills, leading to a brief scene of a pile of clothes and some low-level squeeking.
Vanessa Angel was unavailable for some episodes while she was shooting the movie Kingpin, so the writers wrote in various excuses for why Lisa has only one scene, including a computer hacking incident that makes her look like Abe Vigoda.