. Set at Tom Nevers Field on the island of Nantucket,
focused on the complicated relationship between the idealistic young pilot Joe Hackett (
Other characters included lovably dumb mechanic Lowell (replaced in the show's penultimate season by
Budd Bronski), daffy clerk Fay, greedy rival Roy, and Helen, the owner of a nearby lunch counter (and later, Joe's wife.) Later additions to the cast included sad sack cab driver Antonio (after
scored in a small role as a waiter) and Helen's neurotic sister Casey.
show about military airplanes which eventually spawned its own network (now known as the
- Accidental Misnaming: One of the many things about Carlton that annoyed Antonio was the fact that he kept addressing him as Angelo, despite Antonio's constant efforts to correct him.
- Actually Pretty Funny: In "Miss Jenkins," Roy's mother is almost tricked into marrying a con man, but the con man dies of a heart attack. He was leading a game of Simon Says when he had the attack. He said, "Call an ambulance." No one moved, because he didn't say "Simon Says." When Roy tells everyone the story, he starts laughing. Everyone calls him cruel for that, but then they begin laughing also.
- This exchange from "This Old House:"
Lowell: Is the power still out, Roy?
: No, it's Thomas Edison
's birthday, so we gave all our light bulbs the day off.
Lowell: You know, Roy, sarcasm is the lowest form of humor. (chuckles to himself) That's a good one, though.
- Agony of the Feet: In "When a Man Loves a Donut," Antonio buys a pair of extremely tight leather shoes which the salesman promised him would stretch and conform to his feet. This doesn't happen, of course, and he spends the entire episode in agony. He keeps wearing the shoes, though, because everyone keeps telling him how stylish he looks in them.
- Alliterative Name: Budd Bronski, and Helen Hackett (after she got married.)
- All Just a Dream: Spoofed in "The Big Sleep" and "Dreamgirl."
- "The Big Sleep" features a Dream Within a Dream within another dream. Joe and Helen fight over the plans for their new house and go to bed angry. The next day at the airport, Joe tells Brian that he dreamed last night that he died in a plane crash; Brian warns Joe not to fly that day. Joe tells Helen that they can't fly to Boston to see their architect, but Helen assumes that Joe is simply trying to get out of having to change the house plans back to the way she wants them. She forces him to fly anyway, and the plane really does crash... But before they die, Joe wakes up in bed. He then wakes Helen up and tells her about the dream. Helen comforts Joe, tells him the house plans can stay the way Joe wanted them, and then the two have sex. Cut to Joe waking up again, for real this time. He rouses Helen in the hopes of duplicating what happened in his dream. It doesn't work.
- All Up To You: The episodes "High Anxiety," "My Brother's Back and There's Going to Be Trouble," and the two-parter "Joe Blows" involves Joe somehow unable to keep Sandpiper Air in business, and Brian has to take the responsibility. Also, "Airport 90" involved Helen having to land the plane since Joe isn't there and Brian hit his head on the plane ceiling.
- All Work vs. All Play: Joe is All Work and Brian is All Play, most of the time.
- Almost Kiss: Repeatedly in "Friends or Lovers?," including a sudden cramp, an interruption by a teenager, but mostly by Helen's laughing. Eventually subverted, as they share a long, hot kiss afterwards.
- And a Diet Coke: Done with an overweight country music singer in the episode "Wingless, Part 2."
- Anguished Declaration of Love: With Joe and Helen, of course. Ironically, the first time he does this is in a very quiet, subdued manner. The second time, he has followed her to New York to stop her from accepting another man's proposal. Helen tries to blow him off and insist that previous night (when they slept together) was a mistake, but Joe finally loses it:
Joe: How can you even THINK about marrying Lynch! It's WRONG! Having kids with him, growing old together, that's OUR marriage! Those are OUR kids! That's OUR lifetime! We're supposed to be together. (Pauses) I love you, Helen.
- Annoying Laugh: In "Exit Laughing," Helen dates a man with a laugh like a braying hyena.
- Arranged Marriage: In "She's Baaack," Sandy Cooper arranges a wedding of herself and Joe since she couldn't accept the fact that Joe and Helen were engaged. She hides this perfectly in front of the others.
Sandy: When I heard that you and Helen were getting married, I couldn't let that happen. Welcome to our wedding, Joe!
- Antonio's parents were married because their families decided it should be so. The two did not meet until the day of their wedding, yet eventually grew to love each other.
- Artifact Title: Originally, the plot of the episode "Try to Remember the Night He Dismembered" involved Roy tricking the others into digging a space for his hot tub by telling them, while apparently hypnotized, that he had dismembered his late wife and buried her in his back yard. After a disastrous table read, the writers decided the subject matter was too dark and instead had Roy confessing to stealing a large sum of money and burying it. The title remained unchanged despite the fact that it was no longer descriptive of the episode's plot.
- Artistic License – Sports: In the episode "The Team Player," Antonio, temporarily running the Sandpiper counter while Joe and Brian are away at a Bruins hockey game, causes the Bruins' star player, Danny "Dead End" Connelly, to miss the game. The wrath of all of Massachusetts descends on Joe and Brian, but the airline is saved from disaster when the hockey star abruptly leaves the team to sign a huge contract with their rivals. In what sporting league is one able to walk out on one's contract and immediately join a rival in the middle of the season? Not the NHL, at least.
- As Himself: Ray Charles, Clint Black, George Kennedy, Steve Young, and Oliver North all appeared in episodes playing themselves.
- Bad Dates: In "Four Dates That Will Live in Infamy," Joe, Brian, Helen, and Lowell all make dates for the same night. To make the evening more interesting, and to provide a consolation in case somebody's date goes very badly, they decide to pool some money together which will go to the person who has the worst date. Joe, Brian, and Helen's dates are all disasters. Lowell's the only one who has a decent date, but he's disappointed by this because it means he won't win the money.
- In the same episode, Fay mentions that she had so many bad dates that she managed to buy a snowmobile with the money she gained.
- Bad Impressionists: Lowell attempts to do some impressions for Roy, all of which consist simply of him speaking in a slightly gruffer version of his normal voice and saying, "Hi, I'm (celebrity)!"
Roy: Lowell, that is the worst Jack Benny impression I have ever heard.
Lowell: But you knew who it was!
- Bad Job, Worse Uniform: In "Moonlighting," Alex is thoroughly embarrassed when she has to take a second job as a server at a medieval-themed restaurant, complete with humiliating outfit.
- Bait-and-Switch Comparison: Helen, regarding Roy's Russian mail order bride. "Could you imagine your only two choices in life being Roy and Siberia? One is cold, vast, and depressing, and the other is way the hell in Russia."
- Batman Gambit: In "The Puppetmaster," Brian hires an actor to play Helen's ideal man, who is supposed to make Helen fall in love with him, then he'll confess that he's a pilot so that Helen erases the 'no dating pilots' rule, and she'll no longer be able to use that excuse for Brian. This fails later, of course.
Joe: Way to go, Brian. You managed to get Helen, who you want to go out with, to fall for a guy who turns out to be a pilot so she won't go out with him, but with you instead.
- Big Eater: Helen in the past, which was the reason she was so overweight. She got better, though she's shown to still go on binges whenever she gets upset.
- Big Ego, Hidden Depths: Roy got this quite a bit. Lampshaded in "Sports and Leisure" when he cries after being disinvited from a group get-together.
Brian: I think we may have underestimated his sensitivity level.
Joe: Who knew he had one?
- Big "NO!": In "The Tennis Bum," Lowell does this after seeing his destroyed blimp.
- Bikini Bar: On "The Lyin' King," where an exotic dancer (played by supermodel Carol Alt) is coming to town for her final performance. Only the back of her legs are shown.
- Bizarrchitecture: In "So Long, Frank Lloyd Wrong," Joe and Helen hire a famous architect to build their house for them... But are less than thrilled when the house he designs is shaped like a 7.
Helen: How does this work again? The master bedroom is on top... And in the morning, we just slide down to the kitchen?
Joe: Helen... He already explained why there can't be stairs.
- Black Widow: Subverted with Fay, though it's hard not to wonder since all her husbands are named George.
- Blessed with Suck: After an esteemed conductor tells Helen she's no good, Helen is initially devastated but is then thrilled, realizing she can finally give up the cello and get on with her life. Then he has a change of heart and informs her that she possesses "a glimmer of talent"... Which not only forces her to take up the cello again, but now she must sacrifice an even larger percentage of her time to the instrument than she ever had before.
- Book Ends: Season 7 opens with Brian and Casey burning down Joe and Helen's house, and ends with Joe and Helen burning down Brian and Casey's house.
- The show itself begins with Brian and Joe being sent on a scavenger hunt by their late father, only to be disappointed when it seems to prove fruitless. The series finale has them sent off on another one. Only this time it ends with them finding a briefcase full of $250,000.
- The Boxing Episode: "Raging Bull%$%#." Joe signs up for an amateur boxing tournament, expecting to get some revenge on a childhood bully, while Brian signs up as an alternate in case Joe backs out. However, when the other fighter backs out instead, the brothers find themselves pitted against one another.
- Bread, Eggs, Milk, Squick; Helen invokes this in "The Puppetmaster:"
Helen: I met a guy.
Brian: Oh, really?
Helen: We went on a date last night and I had the best time. Candlelight dinner, cappuccino on the works, terrific sex...
Helen: Just testing if you're listening. You know I hate cappuccino.
** This is subverted in "This Old House" after Lowell eats some spoiled food.
Helen: Lowell, I hope you didn't suffer any ill effects from what you ate here the other day.
Lowell: No, I pretty much followed my usual routine. Watched a little television, took off my shoes, threw up, and went to bed.
Helen: That's your usual routine? Throw up and then go to bed?
Lowell: Yes, I've found that to be far and away the best sequence.
- Briefcase Full of Money: Double subverted. The pilot episode has the briefcase containing a picture of Joe and Brian with the writing "You're rich." Fast forward seven years later, it turns out that the lining of the briefcase contains money, which kicks off a treasure hunt that eventually makes the brothers $250,000 richer.
- Brilliant but Lazy: Brian got a scholarship to Princeton and was one of the youngest people ever accepted into The United States space program, but washed out of both because he wasn't willing to put in the work necessary to succeed. He was kicked out from the latter because he kept bringing his girlfriends in the simulator.
- Bunny-Ears Lawyer: Lowell is borderline insane, but apparently an excellent mechanic. Brian is the island's biggest goof-off, but based on the stories, he is an outstanding pilot, accepted into the space program and survivor of many dangerous flights in tropical storms.
- Butt Monkey: Helen regarding her music career. Even Crystal Bernard said in an interview that she always liked that Helen is a 'loser' character. Antonio is implied to be a butt monkey several times, but it's mostly just Roy who abuses him. Lowell too, though Joe occasionally gives him a hard time, it's usually work related, not personal.
- Buxom Is Better: When Frasier and Lilith Crane visit the island, Frasier makes a couple of comments regarding their Danish nanny's bosoms, causing Lilith to query: "What is this recent obsession you have with large breasts?" When Frasier then runs into Helen and doesn't remember her, Lilith proclaims: "Of course not. Her breasts are smaller than beach balls!"
- Also in 12-year-old Joe's fantasy, Casey is his wife, and when Helen replies with disgust, Joe says: "We were 12 years old and Casey was the first to get boobs."
- Calling the Old Man Out: The episode "Mother Wore Stripes," in which Joe lashes out at his mother for abandoning the family.
- Car Meets House: Helen deliberately drives her car into Joe's office — twice. And as if that weren't enough, it's then driven into his office a third time, only this time it's unintentional and Joe is behind the wheel.
- The Casanova: Brian.
- Cassandra Truth: The three Sandy Cooper episodes. Everyone insists that Sandy is a perfectly sane woman, except Joe — whom nobody listens to. Justified since it's got to be seen to be believed.
- Also, in the high school years this happens to Joe as well, but Sandy was stalking him.
- Cat Fight: Helen and Carol in "Return to Nantucket, Part 2." Luckily, Joe and Brian come to stop them...
- Celebrity Lie: Brian's claim that he knows Clint Black in "I Love Brian."
- Celebrity Paradox: In an early episode, an unimpressed Fay mentions how Helen once gave her a Debbie Reynolds workout tape for a gift. Reynolds later guest starred in an episode, playing Helen's mother, of all people.
- Censor Suds: Done in "Divorce, American Style" with Helen.
- Cerebus Retcon: Done in the final flashback "This Old House," when we see the dinner scene of the then-happy Hackett family in their new home.
I've got a good feeling about this place, boys.
Yeah. I think we're gonna be happy here for a long, long time...
* Chain Letter
: Antonio, Roy, and Fay each get one in "B.S., I Love You." Roy and Fay maintain the chain and prosper, while Antonio ignores it and suffers.
- Chain of Corrections:
: It's like Dylan said. "Do not go gentle into that good night. Rage, rage, for the times they are a-changing." Roy
: I think you're confusing Bob Dylan
with Dylan Thomas
Don't be silly, Roy. Dylan Thomas was the poet laureate of Wales. Bob Dylan was the star of Gilligan's Island
No, no, no, that's Bob Denver
No, Bob Denver was the guy who sang "Rocky Mountain High". Roy:
- Incidentally, that was actually John Denver.
- In "Blackout Buggins", the group sees the national anthem being performed on television by a fictional rapper named "Ice Tray", leading to the following conversation.
Is this Ice Tray the one who was in Boyz n the Hood
No, that's Ice Cube
Then who sang the song about the Ninja Turtle
That was Vanilla Ice
Wait. Isn't Ice Cube the basketball player? Helen:
No, that's Ice-T
No, that's the Ice Man
I wonder if Ice-T is related to Mr T
I wonder if Mr. T is related to Mr. Coffee. Roy:
) I wonder if your mother is related to your father.
- Chain of Deals: In "Joe Blows", Brian works out one of these to get the plane back when the bank takes it.
How did you ever come up with that? Brian:
I got it from an old episode of McHale's Navy
- The Chains of Commanding: after Joe leaves Nantucket in 'Joe Blows' due to being overworked, Brian discovers how difficult it is to operate a business.
- Chekhov's Gag: In "Crate Expectations", Joe is on the phone with his girlfriend, thanking her for his birthday present. In the background, we see Lowell pulling said present, a gaucho hat, out of the garbage and trying it on, expressing pleasure with the results. We don't see Lowell wearing the hat again after that, but later in the episode, this exchange takes place regarding an unrelated matter.
Brian: So now who's the idiot?
Joe: Still you.
Brian: I know, but I think Lowell's gaining. Have you seen that hat he's been wearing?
- Chew Toy: Antonio during the later seasons. And the more screentime he got, he more pathetic he became, culminating in the final episode when he's attacked by a pack of wild dogs.
- Childhood Friend Romance: Helen has been in love with Joe ever since they were kids together. Oddly, their courtship for most of the series had him chasing her more often than the other way around.
- Christmas Episode: One every season except Season Three and the abbreviated first season. "A Terminal Christmas", "The Customer's Usually Right", "Happy Holidays", "Insanity Claus", "Twas the Heist Before Christmas", and "All About Christmas Eve".
- Chuck Cunningham Syndrome:
- Budd's absence during the final season is never explained.
- Kenny is introduced midway through Season 2, made a handful of appearances, and then vanished from the series and was never mentioned again. Justifiable, as in-universe there was a gap of nearly a year between Seasons 2 and 3, during which time Joe got his pilot's licence back, and Kenny was likely deemed surplus to requirements and/or moved onto college.
- Citizenship Marriage: Antonio and Helen
- Class Reunion
- Cliff Hanger: Seasons 2, 3, 5, and 7 ended with one.
- Closed Circle: There are a few episodes where the gang are stuck in the airport for some reason, usually weather.
- Cloudcuckoolander: Lowell. Fay also lapses into this from time to time, especially in the later seasons.
- Cold Turkeys Are Everywhere: In "Exclusively Yours", Brian agrees to date Alex exclusively. Almost immediately, his path keeps being crossed with one beautiful woman after another. Joe suddenly finds himself scoring dates with beautiful women left and right, much to Brian's envy, and as if that weren't enough, one of Sandpiper's flights ends up being a plane load of gorgeous models, who proceed to have a fashion shoot in the hangar followed by a party at the Hackett house.
- Comfort Food: Everything, according to Helen. Every time she's anxious, worried or depressed she would eat a lot. A deconstruction, because it caused weight problems for her.
- Comically Missing the Point: In "2 Good 2 Be 4 Gotten", Joe finds a teddy bear hung on his office (in a similar position to a person committing suicide by hanging) with a note that says "Joey Bear; Till death do us part". Joe is extremely concerned about this, but Brian, Alex and Helen make numerous remarks about the bear.
Joe: What did I tell you? Sandy is crazy! Maybe you'll believe me now.
Helen: Yeah, maybe Joe's right. This is pretty weird.
Brian: Let's not jump to conclusions, okay. Maybe it's suicide, check the bear for signs of a struggle.
- Helen nearly subverts this:
Helen: Come on, guys. How can you kid around at a time like this? A bear has died!
- Also, in "Joe Blows" part 2, we see Helen and Lowell both calling in a missing person report. Helen is calling for Joe, describing him, while Lowell is calling for his Harley Davidson which Joe rode away on.
- Coming-Out Story: "There's Always Room For Cello" has Roy's Straight Gay son R.J admitting that he's gay. Roy isn't initially too happy about it.
- Convenience Store Gift Shopping: In "Portrait of the Con Artist as a Young Man", the gang throws an office birthday party for Casey. Not wanting to go to any effort, Brian just takes a book off his bookshelf and gives it to her. Which he might have gotten away with, except the book turns out to be called 101 Ways to Pleasure a Woman. Roy, on the other hand, simply grabs a jar of charity money off of his counter and hands it to her as-is. When Joe takes offense to this, Roy admits that it isn't a real charity anyway; he made it up.
- Cool Old Lady: Fay (Evelyn Schlob Dumbly DeVay) Cochran can be this, especially in the later seasons when her wacky side was emphasized a lot more.
- Could Say It But: In "Noses Off", Brian debates having plastic surgery to fix a bump on his nose while Joe tries to talk him out of it. On the day Brian leaves to have the procedure done, he swears Antonio and Lowell to secrecy.
Joe: Any of you guys seen Brian?
Lowell: Yeah, Joe, he went-
Antonio: Lowell, Lowell, Lowell. He told us not to say.
Joe: What do you mean? I need to talk to him.
Antonio: (to Lowell) Well... perhaps we could tell him without really telling him. (to Joe) Where's Brian? Nobody nose.
Joe: (realizing what has happened) I don't believe this.
- Courtroom Antics: When Joe accuses Helen of faking her injuries to get sympathy from the judge in "Is That a Subpoena in Your Pocket". Turns out she isn't.
- Courtroom Episode: "Is That a Subpoena in Your Pocket?". Joe takes Helen to court after she crashes her jeep through Joe's office, and accuses her of faking an injury to acquire sympathy from the judges.
- Crash Course Landing: Helen is forced to make one in "Airport '90".
- Crazy Jealous Guy: Matt, a hired actor in "The Puppetmaster" ends up becoming this towards Helen and Joe. It's all a fake planned by Joe.
- Crazy-Prepared: Lampshaded in "Lifeboat" when the gang is adrift in a lifeboat after making an emergency water landing:
I think I know what the problem is. We're all getting a little cranky because we're all hungry. Well, I keep something in my purse for just such an occasion. Brian: Wait
. You keep a little something in your purse in case you're stranded at sea in a lifeboat in an evening gown? Fay:
Oh, shut up.
- Cross Over: With Cheers - Norm and Cliff in "The Story of Joe", Frasier and Lilith in "Planes, Trains, and Visiting Cranes", Rebecca Howe in "I Love Brian".
- Deadpan Snarker: Roy, sometimes Brian.
- Defenestrate and Berate: Casey dumps her husband's money out the window of his yacht when she finds out he was lying about being poor. She eventually throws him overboard as well.
- Department of Redundancy Department: Joe says this in "2 Good 2 Be 4 Gotten" when he tries to make an excuse for not going to the Club Car with Sandy Cooper.
Joe: I won't be there. I got to check on some stuff that I haven't checked on since the last time I checked on it.
- Helen once worked in a New York strip club called "Totally Nude Nudes", which Brian lampshades.
Brian: What in the world is a 'Totally Nude Nude', anyway?
Joe: I just found out. Let's go!
- Did They or Didn't They?: The entire focus of "It May Have Happened One Night" is the other characters trying to find out if Joe and Alex slept together. Even Alex doesn't know (she was very drunk the night in question).
- Disproportionate Retribution: Even if you could argue that Helen driving her jeep through Joe's office after the revelation that he was seeing another woman was justified, she then did it a second time for no other reason than that Joe was gloating over beating her in court.
- The Ditz: Lowell.
- Dresses the Same: Used in the episode "The Waxman Cometh." When Casey goes to the grand opening of Lowell's new wax museum, she is mortified to see that the museum's wax figure of Eva Gabor is not only wearing the same dress as her, but also has better jewelry.
- The Dutiful Son: Joe. In the first episode Brian points out how Joe has remained on Nantucket instead of following his dreams. Later in 'Joe Blows' Joe cracks under the presssure of a miserable day and leaves in a rage.
- Dysfunctional Family: Joe and Brian's father went insane, their mother left them, leaving Joe to take care of Brian and his father. And their aunt Sarah smells like play-doh. Helen lampshades this by saying that Joe's life is just a tiny step away from being a Greek tragedy.
- Early Installment Weirdness: Originally the show had a lengthy, somewhat boring title sequence showing Sandpiper's plane in flight, which got swapped out early in Season 3 for a simple title card and the actors' credits playing over the opening moments of the episode. Also, the full hangar set wasn't built until midway through Season 1, and so the show's earliest episodes resorted to greenscreening it in.
- Easy Amnesia: Discussed by Antonio in "Joe Blows" part 2:
Antonio: Unless, he fell off that bike, hit his head, and got amnesia.
- Elegant Classical Musician: Helen and her cello.
- Embarrassing Slide: In "Portrait of the Con Artist of a Young Man," Brian decides to play a joke on Joe by taking a close-up shot of a certain private portion of his anatomy with Joe's camera. The joke's on him when he finds out that Joe sent the film to Helen's parents.
- In "Wingless, Part 3", Cord prepares a slide show for Sandpiper's business presentation during an all-night pizza and soda binge, then bails on the meeting, forcing Joe and Brian to give the presentation in his absence. There are several slides which leave the brothers absolutely baffled (such as photos of a half-eaten pizza, a dog, and an extreme close-up of Cord's face).
- Enforced Method Acting: Fictional example; Joe surprise kisses Helen during their elaborate act in "The Puppetmaster". It is strongly implied that both of them wanted to do so, as indicated by the exchange below.
Helen: The kiss sure took me by surprise though.
Joe: We [already] talked about the kiss.
Helen: No we didn't.
Joe: I could swear we did.
Helen: I think I would've remembered.
- Epic Fail: Brian's plan in "The Puppetmaster". His goal is to make Helen fall for Matt, a hired actor who is her ideal man, except that he's a pilot, hoping to make Helen erase the rule of not dating pilots. His plan seemed to be going well, until Helen declares that she's in love and plans to go serious, and Matt's also falling for Helen. When Brian and Joe goes to stop them and gives out the truth, Helen doesn't care. Joe objects to this by (fake) confessing his love for Helen. Matt doesn't take it well, and pulls out a gun. Eventually, it seems like he died after a fight with Joe, but it's all a staged act planned by none other than Joe.
- Erotic Dream: "All's Fare" opens with Brian having a sexy dream about Helen. This irks Joe, who by this point in the series is engaged to her. Helen, on the other hand, has no problem with joining Brian in teasing the elder Hackett brother about it.
- In "The Late Mrs. Biggins", Lowell references a dream he had about him having sex with various celebrities. Antonio demands to know what Lowell had for dinner that night in the hopes that he can have the same dream himself.
- Everyone Went to School Together: Most of the characters not only went to the same high school, they all have their reunion together, despite being different ages. This is Hand Waved by saying that the school was too small for individual classes to have separate reunions.
- Evil Roy: More like Jerkass Roy.
- Expy: Several of the characterisations are pretty obviously borrowed from Cheers, which Angell, Casey and Lee were the showrunners on before creating this series. In particular, Lowell has a very similar Genius Ditz personality to Woody, Brian's womanizing ways are reminiscent of Sam, and Helen combines aspects of both Carla (her short stature and even shorter temper) and Diane (her artistic side).
- The Faceless: Lowell's cousin Beavo is mentioned in many episodes. He only appears onscreen once, and we only see him from behind.
- Faking Amnesia: "Try to Remember the Night He Dismembered" has Roy pretending that he was hypnotized by Brian, claiming that he buried a huge sum of stolen money in his backyard. Pretending that he forgot everything that happened while he was hypnotized, he was secretly creating a Batman Gambit; the others would dig a hole in his backyard to make space for his new hot tub.
- Fat Bastard: Roy
- 15 Minutes of Fame: In "Just Call Me Angel", Brian becomes a media sensation when he lands a commercial flight (on which he and Joe had been passengers) when the pilots fall ill. His celebrity vanishes almost instantly when everyone becomes obsessed instead with a cat who saved her owners from a house fire. Brian is extremely depressed over this, but Joe pulls him out of it by reminding him that while the rest of the world may no longer care, everyone who was on that flight will always remember his heroism.
- Filth: Brian could be counted on for many a racy joke over the course of the series. Roy as well, though he tended to be more blunt about it.
- Five Stages of Grief: Parodied in "Goodbye Old Friend". When Lowell refuses to believe that his friend Weeb is dead, Brian notes that he's in denial and explains that over the next few weeks, they can expect to see Lowell go through the remaining stages: anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Lowell then comes back into the room and expresses each stage one after another, in order, in the space of a few seconds.
Lowell: I'M ANGRY AS HELL AT WEEB FOR DYING! But I'd trade anything to get him back. [crying] Oh, what's the use! It's hopeless! He's gone! [recovering] But what are you gonna do? Life goes on.
- Flashback Cut: Repeatedly in "It's Not the Thought, it's the Gift". The scenes would regularly cut to a home video of Helen's twelfth birthday, which was distinguished by the younger characters and the sepia-like tone.
- Follow the Leader: Taxi
- The Fool: Lowell.
- Foolish Sibling, Responsible Sibling: Brian and Joe, respectively. Casey and Helen are a less extreme example.
- Foregone Conclusion: "Marriage, Italian Style," when Antonio is threatened with deportation back to Italy. It's obvious from the very start that's not going to happen, mostly due to that also happening to be the episode where Tony Shalhoub was officially elevated to the main cast.
- Forgotten Birthday: A variation occurs in "Crate Expectations". Joe tells his friends not to throw him a party, but he actually wanted one. Fay takes the bait, but nobody can make it that night, so they move the date forward by a day. Joe overhears Fay ordering the cake but doesn't find out that the party is the next night, so he stays at the office anticipating a surprise party that never happens. A crate is delivered to the hangar, but Joe embarrasses himself by assuming that his friends are in the crate when they aren't. Joe stays late again the next night, where another crate is delivered. Joe is positive his friends are in the crate this time, but again, they're not. They're in a crate, just not the one being delivered to the hangar; it turns out that the crate was accidentally switched with one being shipped to the mainland.
- Formerly Fat: Helen.
- Fragile Flower: Male example; Helen dates a man who cries when she mentions her missing kitten story, finding his sensitivity to be attractive. She becomes disillusioned when she realizes he cries at everything.
: We went to a Marx Brothers
film and he was crying because Harpo couldn't talk.
- Freudian Excuse: In "Mother Wore Stripes" Joe blames his mother abandoning him as a child for him growing up to be a nervous tightass. In "This Old House", Brian discovers the letters he wrote to Captain Kangaroo that he wrote when they were kids and that Joe was supposed to send and then expounds an elaborate theory about how believing he had been ignored by his hero eventually led to all his failures in life as an adult. Joe is skeptical.
- Freud Was Right: Parodied, In-Universe. Lowell comes to Brian with a baffling dream about riding a train speeding towards a tunnel with a cigar in one hand and a snake in the other. Suddenly, his train jumped the track and another train entered the tunnel. And another. And another. And another. When a thoroughly weirded out Brian informs him that it means he is afraid of heights, Lowell agrees, saying that that would explain the one about sitting atop the Washington Monument.
- In "The Big Sleep", Brian explains dream interpretation to Joe when he has nightmares, saying that if you dream that you're underwater, it's about sex. Joe says there was a clown in his dream. According to Brian, that too is about sex. Then Joe was trampled by tigers. Well, that's about group sex.
- The Fun in Funeral: When Joe pretends to be a corpse in "Death Becomes Him".
- Funny Foreigner: Antonio
- Gay Aesop: "There's Always Room For Cello" subverts it; Roy does not come to terms with his son R.J. being gay over the course of the episode. "Sons and Lovers", six years later, plays it straight when Roy must face the fact that being unable to accept his son's sexuality will mean not having R.J. in his life anymore.
- Genius Ditz: Lowell maintains 8 planes by himself and is also a skilled carpenter, a world class chef, and a fluent speaker of French.
- The Ghost
- Lowell talks about his two sons, Lowell Jr. and his brother, but they are never seen.
- Antonio's girlfriend Edna, "the big-faced girl".
- Gilligan Cut: When Joe pretends to be a corpse in "Death Becomes Him". "Try to Remember the Night He Dismembered" had Roy claiming he couldn't be hypnotized, cut to hypnotized Roy singing show tunes, but it’s revealed at the end that he was faking it.
- Subverted in "I've Got a Secret", when it is revealed that Alex once posed in Playboy. Antonio insistently tells Joe and Brian that he won't reveal Alex's secret, then the scene immediately cuts to the guys, having learned the secret, trying to locate a copy of the magazine in question. However, Antonio indeed did not tell them; they learned it from somewhere else.
- Girl Next Door: Helen.
- Glass Eye: Lowell mentions his grandmother gets a big laugh every year at Thanksgiving when she takes out her glass eye and sticks it in the stuffing.
- Greasy Spoon: The lunch counter at the airport terminal possibly counts.
- Gretzky Has the Ball: In "The Team Player", Antonio, temporarily running the Sandpiper counter while Joe and Brian are away at a Bruins hockey game, causes the Bruins' star player, Danny "Dead End" Connelly, to miss the game. The wrath of all of Massachusetts descends on Joe and Brian, but the airline is saved from disaster when the hockey star abruptly leaves the team to sign a huge contract with their rivals. In what sporting league is one able to walk out on one's contract and immediately join a rival in the middle of the season? Not the NHL, at least.
- In "Blackout Buggins", the group goes to Fenway Park to watch Roy sing the national anthem. After Roy finishes the song, a Red Sox player with the name Casey on his jersey is seen taking the field. The Red Sox have never featured player names on the back of their home jerseys.
- Hands in Pockets: Casey reveals that she can only draw people as caricatures, and always draws skis on them because she can't draw feet.
- Have a Gay Old Time: In "There's Always Room For Cello", Fay has trouble sorting out 'gay' (happiness) with the other 'gay'. When R.J exclaims enthusiastically that he's gay to Fay, she responds that he should be, because he's still young.
- Her Code Name Was Mary Sue:
- In "Hooker, Line, and Sinker", Roy writes a children's book about an overweight youth named "Ray Wiggins". The book ends up being basically a vehicle for Roy to live out his revenge fantasies on all those who wronged him in his youth.
- In "Life Could Be a Dream", Joe, Brian, Casey, and Helen read letters that they wrote as children of what they envisioned their futures to be like. Joe is a star baseball player, Brian is a James Bond-esque secret agent, Casey is a famous model, and Helen is the world's most successful "rock cellist". Helen's letter turns out to be a subversion, however. The rock star thing was something she made up on the spot after hearing the others' letters. Her real dream was to be Joe Hackett's wife.
- Hidden Purpose Test: In "Date Package Number Seven", Brian and Alex have a wonderful time on their date. Then Alex finds out that what appeared to be a spontaneous evening of fun was carefully staged by Brian, and is understandably upset. She walks in on Brian playing basketball and tells him she'll give him one shot to make it up to her. Brian agrees, and Alex promptly passes him the basketball, informing him that his "one shot" is to make a basket. Brian tries the shot and misses, but Alex, upon seeing his crushed reaction, gives him another shot; she just wanted to make sure that he genuinely liked her.
- Hollywood Dateless: The last couple of seasons seemed to have an awful lot of jokes about how Brian was having trouble scoring dates.
- Hot Teacher: Miss Jenkins has apparently been an object of lust for just about every male student she's ever had. She's played by Peggy Lipton from The Mod Squad, so it's not surprising.
- House Fire: Done twice. In the season 7 premiere, Brian and Casey accidentally burn down Joe and Helen's house, causing the four to have to live together. In the season 8 premiere, after moving into their own new house, Joe and Helen accidentally burn down Brian and Casey's house, forcing the four to keep living together a while longer.
- Then the insurance agent who refused to believe the fires were an accident burns down her hotel room while having sex.
- How We Got Here:
- "As Fate Would Have It" opens with the gang in Joe's plane as it's about to crash. The bulk of the episode is spent describing the circumstances that put everybody in that particular situation.
- "Joe Blows, Part 1" opens with Joe face down in a pool while a voice-over discusses how he never expected this to be his fate. The rest of the episode shows the events that led to him being there.
- I Can Live With That: In "Roy Crazy".
Roy: So what you're saying is, she's not interested in me, that I don't mean anything to her. She just wants to get me into bed and use me like some cheap piece of meat?
Roy: I can live with that!
- Idiot Savant: Lowell.
- Ignore The Disability: In one episode, Fay helps a passenger named Tupperman with a very bad toupee. Although she's distracted by it, she manages to get through the conversation without mentioning it... until the end, when she accidentally calls him "Mr. Toupee-man."
- I Have This Friend: An interesting variation, wherein the person being addressed assumes that they are the friend in question.
Brian: (after finding out that his new mechanic, Budd, is hiding something about his past) Hey, Roy, let me ask you something. If you knew somebody who had some sort of incident in their past, what would you-
Roy: (becoming nervous) What are you looking at me like that for? What did you find out? Damn it, those records were supposed to be sealed! Don't you believe in a fresh start? (walks away, leaving Brian dumbfounded)
- In "Et Tu, Antonio", Antonio tries this when asking Lowell for love advice. Lowell tells Antonio that he isn't fooled, he knows exactly who this "friend" is... and then promptly makes several wrong guesses, never realizing that Antonio is talking about himself.
- I Need to Go Iron My Dog: Numerous. In "It's Not the Thought, It's the Gift", where Joe and Brian compete over who can give Helen the better birthday gift, Joe wants to leave to get a better gift without making Brian aware of his intentions.
Joe: I have to, uh... go get my foot measured.
- Another one in "2 Good 2 Be 4 Gotten":
- I Never Got Any Letters: In "This Old House", Joe hides all the letters Brian wrote for Captain Kangaroo.
- Immune to Mind Control: Roy Bigguns uses this strength to his advantage, pretending to be hypnotised to trick others into doing his work for him.
- Insatiable Newlyweds: After Joe and Helen get married.
- It Meant Something to Me: The reason Antonio didn't inform Helen that he won the Green Card lottery was because he expected that after a while, she would like him a little. She didn't, and they divorced. He then asks her on a date now that they're both single.
- Invoked earlier in "The Puppetmaster". When Brian hires an actor to play as Helen's ideal man so he could date Helen (somehow), the plan goes awry after he falls for Helen and vice versa. Joe apparently ganged up with the two to outgambit him.
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Roy.
- The Joy of X: The episode's titles are often this. Examples are "I Love Brian", "Ex, Lies, and Videotape" and "Fay There, Georgy Girl".
- Just Between You and Me (with shades of Engineered Public Confession): While talking to Joe, who is disguised as a corpse in a coffin, Eleanor Kingsbury reveals in shocking detail how she murdered her father as an act of vengeance for leaving all his money to his bimbo wife.
- Just Friends: Originally, Joe and Helen. They ended up married.
- Just The Way You Are: In the episode "Noses Off", Brian becomes obsessed with a bump on his nose after a plastic surgeon points it out. He eventually plans to have his face overhauled until his brother Joe points out how much his various feature resemble those of several deceased relatives.
- Key Under the Doormat: Lowell does this in "Ex, Lies, and Videotape", which he reveals when some of the gang goes to Boston to be in the audience of a talk show. Thinking that he may have left his iron turned on at home, he announces to the camera his address and key hiding place, asking someone to check for him. Predictably, this leads to thieves stealing everything he owns. ("Except the iron...which was off!").
- The Lad-ette: Alex veers toward this trope at times. Initially, makes her more attractive to Joe and Brian, though once the latter began dating her, he started becoming frustrated and increasingly wishing she could be more of a girl.
- Last Name Basis: Roy usually refers to everyone using their last names, unless he's trying to suck up to them for some reason.
- Leap Day: Roy was born on Feb 29 and holds a birthday party for himself every 4 years, where he pretends to be one quarter of his real age. While Roy acknowledges his real age, he demands that everyone follow the tradition of throwing him a kids' party based on his Leap Year age.
Casey: So let me get this straight. I'm supposed to get him gifts that you would get for a 12-year-old?
Joe: Yeah. But a word of advice. He hates clothes, school supplies, and he got all the Batman stuff when he turned 11.
- Least Rhymable Word: In this scene, Brian tries to win Alex back by improvising a song over the terminal microphone. His plan hits a snag when he realizes "nothing rhymes with Alex." Nevertheless, he gets a round of applause at the end (but doesn't win her back).
- Leno Device: The episode "The Team Player" involves Antonio, manning the Sandpiper ticket counter while Joe and Brian are attending a hockey game, refusing to let a star Boston Bruins player on the plane when he shows up right before takeoff. The Bruins lose the game and a public relations disaster ensues, capped off by the characters seeing Leno make a joke about the incident on The Tonight Show.
- Less Embarrassing Term: In "Just Call Me Angel", Joe carries around what looks very much like (and what the other characters keep referring to as) a makeup case. However, he keeps insisting it's a man's travel bag.
- Life's Work Ruined: In "The Tennis Bum", Joe accidentally causes Lowell's painstakingly crafted model blimp to be destroyed. Lowell doesn't take it well.
- Light Bulb Joke: In "Gone But Not Faygotten", Fay retires and the Hackett brothers hire Casey to replace her as Sandpiper's ticket agent. When Fay wants to come back, neither Joe nor Brian has the heart to tell her no, but they can't bring themselves to fire Casey either, so they let them both run the counter, even though the job can easily be handled by one person. Roy comments on the situation.
Roy: Hey, I got one for you. How many Sandpiper employees does it take to change a light bulb? Four. Two to change the bulb, and two other idiots to pay them for doing it.
- Like an Old Married Couple: Joe and Brian. They've also been Mistaken for Gay several times.
- Line-of-Sight Name: Episode "Lynch Party," Helen recalls her (failed) attempt to break off her engagement with Davis Lynch so that she could marry Joe; not wanting to tell him the truth, she claimed that she had a disease, which she named "Faulkner's Syndrome" after spotting a Faulkner novel on Davis' table. The trope is compounded when Davis offers to find her a doctor, and she claims to have already seen the "top Faulkner man," named "Dr. Dickens."
- Literal Metaphor: Used in the episode "Plane Nine From Nantucket":
Joe: Who won the arm-wrestling match?
Helen: Fay licked me.
Joe: She beat you, huh?
Helen: No, she licked me. She literally licked my hand. I was so startled, she caught me off-guard, pinned me to the table.
- The Loins Sleep Tonight: In "Miss Jenkins", when Brian dates his old teacher. Then something happens which has never ever happened to him before - "I got an incomplete".
- Loony Fan: In "What About Larry", Brian runs into George Kennedy from Airport, and begins following him around obsessively, making him repeat lines from the film.
- Love Before First Sight: In the episode "Ms. Write", Brian falls in love with "R", the author of some very passionate, poetic love letters delivered to his house by mistake. He eventually meets "R", who turns out to be a 12-year-old girl.
- Ma'am Shock
- The Maiden Name Debate: Fay kept all the last names of her husbands (making her name Fay Evelyn Schlob Dumbly DeVay Cochran, though she's usually called Fay Evelyn Cochran). Before she married her first husband, her name was Fay Evelyn Schlob - not that her husband's last name (Dumbly) is any better.
'Brian: You married a man named Dumbly and took his name?
- Make-Out Point: Joe takes Helen to this in "Friends or Lovers?".
- Mathematician's Answer: In "2 Good 2 Be 4 Gotten", Sandy forces Joe to participate in a recreation of their high school prom that she has set up in her basement, and disapproves of the way he dances.
Sandy: You're not doing it right.
Joe: How should I be doing it?
Sandy: Do it better.
- Mattress Tag Gag: Brian complains about what a goody-two-shoes his brother is.
Brian: I bet you don't even take that stupid tag off your mattress.
Joe: It says "DO NOT REMOVE!"
- May-December Romance: Joe dates 19-year-old Courtney in "Hey Nineteen". She then dumps him for a man who's 12 years older than Joe.
- Memento MacGuffin: The cameo that Joe gives to Helen in "It's Not the Thought, it's the Gift" belongs to his runaway mother, as evidenced in the home video of Helen's 12th birthday party. This cues the raising implication that Joe likes Helen more than a friend.
- Midseason Replacement: Wings was one of these.
- Minor Flaw, Major Breakup: In "Exit Laughing", Helen decides to dump her boyfriend because of his Annoying Laugh; however, he ends up dumping her first, because he cannot stand her Southern accent.
- A subversion occurs with Lowell.
Lowell: Sometimes a person has annoying habits that you just can't overlook. Take my wife Bunny, for instance. Every morning as she read the newspaper, she would drum her fingers on the table. Drove me crazy. That's what broke up our marriage.
Helen: I thought it was because Bunny slept with other men.
Lowell: Okay, make that two annoying habits.
- Missing Mom: Joe and Brian's mother, who ran away and ended up in jail. Deconstructed since Joe is especially bitter about the reconciliation, and this is implied to be the cause of his nervousness and fear.
- Missing the Good Stuff: In "Planes, Trains, and Visiting Cranes", several of the guys get together to watch a boxing match in the hangar on a big screen TV that Brian has purchased (with the intention of returning it after the fight). The TV gets unplugged right when the fight is about to begin, and by the time they replug it, the fight is already over. And then they can't watch the instant replay because the TV gets smashed.
- Mistaken for Gay: Played for Laughs with Joe and Brian, a couple of times. One example "Looking For Love in All the Wrong Places", Joe waits for Helen in a make-out point. A couple annoyed by him then sees Brian riding a bicycle calling for Joe.
- One other time has Brian and Joe celebrating and kissing on the lips. Everyone looks at them weird.
- Mistaken for Murderer: In the episode "Murder She Roast", Brian thinks that Fay is the criminal being described on a TV program about fugitives from justice.
- Mistaken for Terrorist: In "Das Plane", Joe has to make an emergency landing in a cornfield. The farmer who owns it holds Antonio at gunpoint, believing him to be a Libyan terrorist.
- Mondegreen: Antonio misheard the lyrics of a song to be My goat knows the bowling score, when it's actually Michael row the boat ashore. And then the next line (Sister, help to mend the sail) as Sid's new hair is in the mail.
- Lowell was prone to this also. In "A Terminal Christmas", the group sings "Walking in a Winter Wonderland", but Lowell sings the title phrase as "walking in my winter underwear". When Brian corrects him, Lowell disagrees, stating that Wonderland is a dog track and would be closed in the winter.
- "Gone But Not Faygotten" opens with Lowell mangling the words to "Moon River" ("Moon River, wider than the Nile, my brother's name is Lyle... okay..."), despite demonstrating earlier in "The Puppetmaster" that he knew the correct lyrics perfectly ("Moon River, wider than a mile, I'm crossing you in style someday...")
- More Hypnotizable Than He Thinks: In "Try to Remember the Night He Dismembered", Joe and Helen claimed that they can't be hypnotized. Fast forward, and Joe is seen hypnotized, forever cursed that he would cluck every time he hears the word "tortilla". Helen as well, though only discussed. Subverted with Roy, who only pretended that he was hypnotized so that the others would do his digging work for his new hot tub.
- My Friends... and Zoidberg: In "The Taming of the Shrew", Fay reassures Helen that she is surrounded by a group of caring, nurturing friends who want to help her... and Roy.
- My Nayme Is: Subverted in "My Brother's Keeper". A visiting socialite has a brief relationship with Brian, who she calls "Brian With an I"
- Naked Apron: When Joe and Helen, having kicked Brian and Casey out of the house, decide that they will celebrate their newfound privacy by being "all nude, all the time" while at home. This later leads to an argument when she comes out of the kitchen wearing an apron, but nothing else. (He's covered up by a newspaper he's conveniently reading at arm's length while walking down the stairs.)
Joe: Helen, what is with that apron? I thought we agreed, all nude all the time!
Helen: I am not cooking bacon naked.
- The rest of the episode was one Scenery Censor gag to another, until their neighbors' perverted kid managed to get blackmail photos of them... cleaning the rain gutters in the nude.
- Neat Freak: Joe. Mostly lampshaded and mocked by Brian.
- Lowell turns out to be a bit of a neat freak as well.
- Never Heard That One Before: In "The Faygitive", Fay reveals that one of her former married names was "DeVay". Before Joe and Brian can begin cracking any jokes, she informs them that she's "heard them all": "Can you show me DeVay?" "Do you go all DeVay?" and her personal favorite: "Old soldiers never die, they just Fay DeVay."
- Never Live It Down: In-Universe. Although her character was thin throughout the run of the show, Helen was constantly teased because she used to be fat. In fact, there were more fat jokes about Helen's character than the actually overweight Roy.
- Never Recycle a Building: Double subverted in "This Old House". It seems that the Hackett brothers' old house is being demolished for good (it was in very poor condition), until Fay revealed that Herman Melville lived there for some time, which made the house a historical landmark. The others didn't get this information before they totally destroyed the house, though.
- Nixon Mask: In "The Bank Dick", the bank is robbed by an unknown man wearing a Nixon mask, though he's eventually caught.
Lowell: I don't believe it, Brian. I dreamed about this and it came true!
Brian: You dreamed about a bank robbery?
Lowell: No, I dreamt I met Nixon!
- No Celebrities Were Harmed: Done from time to time. One example is when the Hacketts fly a charter plane for country music duo The Todds, a reference to the real life country act The Judds.
- No Matter How Much I Beg: When Brian and Alex decide to date exclusively, Brian gets nervous about being able to live up to the commitment. So when Joe throws a party at the house for a bunch of gorgeous girls, Brian instructs him to lock him in his room until morning. After he does so, a girl walks out of the bathroom wearing only a towel.
- No Name Given: One of Lowell's sons.
- Noodle Implements: Roy finds the subject of one's parents having sex distasteful:
Roy: Look, my mother was a saint. My father was a pillar of the community. The last thing I want to do is imagine mom wrapped in cellophane and dad wearing tights and a miner's helmet. I didn't wake up and ask for a drink of water again for 25 years.
- Subverted in the second half of "Joe Blows", when Brian explains each of the Noodle Implements that ended with trout fishing.
- Noodle Incident: The series did this more than once.
Brian: Relax. I will take care of everything. Trust me.
Brian, the last time you said, "Trust me," I wound up naked
on I-95 trying to flag down oncoming traffic.
But who pulled over for you?
Brian: I'm gonna make you my personal project.
Joe: No. No. No. Not again. The last time you had a project, I had to go to court.
Oh, yeah. Thanks a lot, Mr. Witness for the Prosecution.
Brian: Lowell, tell us your deepest, most darkest secret.
Lowell: Once, when I was out of underwear... [Everyone in the airport protests]
Brian: Lowell, what is your fondest memory?
Lowell: Once, when I was out of underwear...
- Budd Bronski, Lowell's Suspiciously Similar Substitute after Thomas Haden Church left the series, once mentioned "The Incident" in which he was involved while in the military. He wasn't allowed to divulge specifics, but did say that as a result two Senators and a Congressman had to hit the silk, and there's no longer a town in Kentucky called Taterville...
- Official Couple: Joe and Helen.
- One Steve Limit: A minor subversion; all of Fay's husbands are named George. They're all dead, too. When she gets into a relationship with someone named Lyle, she plans to marry him until she finds out that his first name is George.
- One-Word Title
- Onion Tears: In the final episode, Joe sees Helen crying and asks what's wrong. She claims it's from the onions she's peeling. Except he doesn't fall for it, because she's actually peeling potatoes.
- Only Sane Man: Joe appears to be this, but this is deconstructed numerous times.
- Oops I Forgot I Was Married: When Helen is about to marry Joe, she finds out that she is still Antonio's wife, whom she married for citizenship reasons. Turns out she forgot to send in the divorce papers.
- Orphaned Punchline: "So the hooker says to the gynecologist, 'My hourly rates might be higher, but...'"
- Outdated Outfit: In "She's Baaack", Fay gives Antonio her third husband's 70s wardrobe. She thinks that he looks great in it, never noticing that the clothes are hopelessly out of style.
- Out-Gambitted: Occurs near the end of "The Puppetmaster".
- Out of Order: In "Just Call Me Angel", Antonio mentions having recently moved in with Brian. The episode where this takes place, "House of Blues", was produced earlier but would not be broadcast until afterward.
- Overly Long Name: Fay Evelyn Schlob Dumbly DeVay Cochran. She's been married three times and apparently kept all her names, though Fay Evelyn Cochran is what she actually goes by.
- Pass the Popcorn: In "There's Always Room For Cello", Roy and his son R.J have a basketball match to determine whether R.J is "allowed" to be gay or not. After a fast forward shot of the two tired and worn out, Joe and Brian are seen watching from the door while eating popcorn.
- Lampshaded in "An Affair to Forget;" while Alex and Brian fight, Joe, seated in a rocker by the fireplace, tells Helen, "I wish we had some popcorn."
- Perpetual Poverty: A running gag with Antonio.
- Pet the Dog: Roy had just enough of these moments that he was able to avoid being an unlikeable Jerk Ass. An especially prominent one is in "Let's Talk About Sex" when he breaks up with his talk show host girlfriend after she ambushes Joe and Helen on her show.
- Another good example is the episode "If Elected, I Will Not Live" which involved Roy making a passionate plea to Fay to throw an election for city council. Notable also, in that most mentions of his city council work show him to be competent at it.
- An almost-literal example is seen in another episode, when Roy is shown petting his "hamster" (a stress toy that his doctor gave him) when talking to Fay about how his wife left him.
- Pop-Cultural Osmosis Failure:
- In "Stew in a Stew", Antonio reads Scarlett and raves about it, but finds himself wanting to know more about what happened to Scarlett O'Hara and Rhett Butler during the Civil War. When Helen and Roy inform him of the existence of Gone with the Wind, he responds incredulously "Get out!" As if that weren't enough, he then mentions liking The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi... but the title Star Wars does not ring even the tiniest of bells for him.
- In "She's Gotta Have It", Helen claims to be a huge fan of The Monkees, yet has no clue who Peter Tork is.
- Roy and Antonio are about to discuss the fruit cellar scene from Psycho when Lowell tells them to stop, as he hasn't seen the film yet.
Roy: Lowell, that movie came out 30 years ago. How could you have missed it?
Lowell: I've had things to do.
- Porn Stash: Joe has Playboy magazines hidden in his secret compartment at his old house, along with Brian's letters he was supposed to send Captain Kangaroo.
- Roy has a stash of Playboys in his office.
- Joe and Brian's father had one, so Brian didn't have to buy them.
- Posthumous Character: Joe and Brian's father.
- Posthumous Narration: Subverted in "Joe Blows". The episode opens with Joe face down in a pool in a shot intentionally reminiscent of the opening of Sunset Boulevard, with a voiceover from Joe telling us that he's going to show us how he got there. At the end of the episode (Part I of a two-parter where Joe leaves Sandpiper Air and Brian, Lowell and Helen have to figure out how to track him down and convince him to come back) it's revealed that he was face down in the pool because he was setting a new breathholding record at a wild party.
- Practice Kiss: Helen does this to Joe in the end of "The Puppetmaster" to show what a 'stiff lipper' Joe is. Also, for Ship Tease.
: You wanna kiss me again
: Don't be stupid, this is just an acting exercise
. Now just relax, and don't pucker up like that. Just relax your lips... (they kiss
) Lowell (through a suddenly on walkie-talkie)
: Moon river, wider than a mile. I'm crossing you in style someday... God, I love that song! Joe
) Like that? Helen
: That was better, that was much
: Well, thanks for the tip. Goodnight. Helen
: Goodnight. Joe
: (''tries to walk out and trips on a row of chairs''
) Chairs. Helen
(smiles, sipping calmly from a glass of ice water, which she then dumps down the front of her blouse as soon as Joe is out of sight
: Hey, look at that. I just saw a car exactly like yours go by, Roy. Who would've guessed there are two purple El Camino in Nantucket? We're after the same rainbow's end, waiting 'round the bend, my huckleberry friend... Roy, are you my only friend?
- Primal Scene: Roy witnessed his parents have sex once.
- Professionals Do It on Desks: Joe tries to invoke this in "Is That a Ten-Foot Sandwich or Are You Just Glad to See Me?". It didn't really work.
- Promotion to Parent: Joe.
- Psycho Ex-Girlfriend: Actually, a woman Joe rejected in high school, who sought vengeance through psychological warfare on three separate occasions.
- Punctuated! For! Emphasis!: Sandy Cooper does this a lot during her violent mood swings. Overlaps with Compelling Voice at times.
- Put on a Bus: Lowell's departure at the beginning of Season Seven
- Quietly Performing Sister Show: Wings never got the critical acclaim or the ratings that its companion pieces Cheers and Frasier did, but it ran for eight seasons and had a very loyal fanbase.
- Rage Breaking Point: In the first part of "Joe Blows", Joe completely explodes after an annoying customer says the Rant Inducing Slight of demanding that Joe pay for a minor scratch on his briefcase.
Joe: Alright, Scotty, or whoever. Yeah, you were asking me about my life. (pulls out a map of Nantucket) I think that right here is everything you need to know. I was born here, I live here, and I'm probably gonna die here!
Brian: Joe, take it easy, Relax!
Joe: Relax? I can't relax! If I relax, who's gonna take care of this damn airline in business? Certainly not you. Oh, no. You're too busy wrestling with life's greater problems, such as your recent battle with mediocre sex!
Brian: Little louder Joe, I don't think everyone can hear you!
: No, I can hear fine, thanks.
Helen: Joe, stop it!
Joe: No, you stop it Helen! Stop coming to me every time you have a problem with your boyfriend! Did it ever occur to you that I'm alone here, and I don't want to hear about it? I am sick of everyone running to me every time they have a problem! Fay has a crisis, run to Joe. Antonio wants to buy a new cab, run to Joe. Roy wants to gloat, run to Joe. Where do I run to? Where do I go?! Where do I go? When my dream, of flying jets, turns into the nightmare of being a baggage handler, huh? Somebody tell me. Where do I go? When it finally dawns on me, that my life sucks!
- A Rare Sentence:
- In "The Waxman Cometh", after the gang has learned that Cloudcuckoolander Lowell's family possesses a huge family trust which all Mathers get a huge payout from upon turning 31 1/2 years old:
Antonio: God, if only I'd been born a Mather!
Joe: Now there's something you don't hear every day.
- In "Too Beautiful for You", Antonio volunteers at a suicide hotline and makes a date with a female caller. He tells Joe and Brian about it the next day, prompting this response:
Brian: Never in my entire life did I think I would ever say this. Antonio... you can do better!
- Really Gets Around: In "There Once Was a Girl from Nantucket", Brian sets Joe up with a woman named Cindy who's an exaggerated version of this. She had slept with almost every men on the island - except Joe. This is deconstructed later on, though, and Cindy moves to Boston by the end of the episode to have a fresh start.
- Lowell's wife Bunny pretty much sleeps with everyone except Lowell. When the pair finally got divorced, she started sleeping with Lowell, too.
- Real Song Theme Tune: Piano sonata No. 20 by Franz Schubert. Doubles as an Instrumental Theme Tune.
- Recursive Crossdressing: In the episode "Escape from New York", Helen has to pretend to be a transvestite male in order to enter a drag contest.
- Recurring Extra: The rent-a-car place tucked in the corner of the airport not noticed nor discussed until one line in the very last episode of the show.
- Remember the New Guy: Casey is never mentioned until her arrival at the beginning of the sixth season. Yet from that point on, she is written as if her relationship with Helen and the Hackett brothers had been an integral part of the continuity from day one.
- Retcon: In an early episode, Helen mentions having a sister named Lorraine who is married with at least two children. Later, Helen's sister Casey shows up. It is clear from the context that Lorraine and Casey cannot be the same character, and it is implied that Casey is Helen's only sister.
- In an early episode Joe mentions that he saw Helen naked once and they didn't talk for a couple years, but in "It's Not the Thought, it's the Gift", he attends Helen's birthday party and most likely talked with her.
- Revision: Antonio is firstly introduced as a waiter in "Looking for Love in All the Wrong Places". When he makes his second appearance roughly a season later, he's rewritten as a cab driver, but mentions in an episode that he used to work in a restaurant.
- Rich in Dollars, Poor in Sense: Casey's main gag during her first season on the show. However, she eventually grew out of it and developed into a neurotic screwball-type character.
- Romantic False Lead: Davis Lynch, whose main purpose on the show was to stir up tension between Joe and Helen.
- Scenery Porn: The opening credits sequence used in the first two and a half seasons contained a lot of this.
- Screw the Rules, I Have Money!: Invoked by Brian with a hired actor in "The Puppetmaster".
- Serendipitous Symphony: The opening for episode "Date Package Number Seven" starts with everybody bored because the airport is fogged in. Antonio is clinking his spoon in a coffee mug, Joe is noodling on a guitar, and Brian is flipping through a magazine. Then Lowell starts sanding the door frame nearby. His rhythmic sanding coincides with Antonio's clinking beat. Suddenly Brian starts scatting, and they're doing a full-on Bossanova number. Eventually they realize what's happened and pause——before continuing right on with the music.
- She Is All Grown Up: Brian to Helen in the pilot episode. Actually, pretty much everyone who hadn't seen Helen in years would comment on how thin she is now.
- She's Got Legs: In "All for One and Two for Helen", after telling the Hackett brothers she won't date them because they're pilots, Helen turns and walks away. All Joe and Brian can think about as Helen leaves is how great her legs look.
- Shirtless Scene: Subverted with Antonio in "2 Good 2 Be 4 Gotten". He takes off his shirt... only to reveal another shirt underneath. YouTube viewers were not happy with this.
- Shoo Out the New Guy: Alex was introduced midway through Season Four and by Season Five had become a main character. However, fans never warmed to the character, and she was written out at the end of Season Five when the writers decided her relationship with Brian wasn't going anywhere.
- Shout Out: Many of the episode titles are paraphrases of film titles, common sayings, or song lyrics. Also, the opening and endings of "Joe Blows" are similiar to Sunset Boulevard.
- Sibling Triangle: Joe and Brian are involved in a number of them: Joe/Brian/Carol, then Joe/Brian/Helen, then Joe/Brian/Alex.
- Sibling Yin-Yang: Joe and Brian, especially in the early seasons.
- Sitcom Character Archetypes: Joe's The Square, Brian's The Wisecracker and The Charming, Roy's The Bully, and Fay and Lowell are The Goofballs (though Lowell usually fills the role).
- Slap-Slap-Kiss: Joe and Helen during their break-up. The slapping was done with meat, apparently.
Joe: One minute we're spanking each other with meat, and the next minute it got weird!
- Something Only They Would Say: In "The Bank Dick", Brian is caught in a bank robbery and hears the masked robber use the unusual phrase, "We'll all be sitting in butter!" Later, as he flies an unknown client back to the mainland, the client uses the same phrase, cluing Brian in to the fact that he's transporting the robber.
- Stalker with a Crush: Sandy Cooper, at least in the high school years. See Yandere for the version that appears during the three separate episodes.
- Stepford Smiler: Sandy Cooper is a Type C. In "2 Good 2 Be 4 Gotten", she locks Joe in the basement to a weird re-enactment of the prom, which Joe never asked her to.
Joe: Come on out you guys, the joke's over. (he laughs nervously) Since when have you been planning this?!
Sandy: Since June 5th, 1978.
- Straight Gay: Roy's son R.J.
- Straight Man and Wise Guy: Joe and Brian, respectively.
- Stripper/Cop Confusion: In "Boys Just Wanna Have Fun", Helen ends up handcuffed to the stripper cop hired for her bachelorette party.
- Stupid Sexy Flanders: In "Noses Off", while the guys are having a bull session about famous men they think are handsome, Antonio goes a little overboard in praising gymnast Mitch Gaylord. Brian's attempt to establish plausible deniability on Kevin Costner may go even worse. Antonio finally exits the conversation, saying, "Excuse me. I have to go pick up a copy of something with naked women in it."
- Super OCD: Joe's primary gag. He can't sleep if his shoes are touching one another, all the cups in his pantry have their handles pointing due east, and the first thing he did when he got his first bike as a kid was put away the box and fill out the warranty card. When Alex invites herself into Joe's office to share a drink with him, Joe takes it as a sign of personal progress that he was able to wait a couple of minutes before ripping two pages out of his desk organizer to serve as makeshift coasters.
- Suspiciously Similar Substitute: Budd Bronski, the replacement character for Lowell.
- Season Six's "The Shrink" features George Plimpton as Dr. Grayson, a psychiatrist who helps Brian get over his breakup with Alex. When a psychiatrist was needed again for "One Flew Over the Cooper's Nest" a year later, Plimpton was unavailable, so the producers cast Robert Joy as Dr. Grayson's son, who had taken over his father's practice.
- Take That: In a Season 4 episode that revolved around renting the film Sea of Love, Lowell remarks that the film's star Ellen Barkin looks like she slept with half of her face on a bedspread.
- Take-That Kiss: Inverted. There had been a couple of (male-to-male) kisses simply because one person had no other way to express their happiness.
Lowell: (after finding the lost suitcase) Please don't kill.
Joe: (kisses Lowell)
Lowell: (to a reporter for a school newspaper standing nearby) I'd appreciate if you'd keep my name out of this.
- Tempting Fate: Lampshaded in "As Fate Would Have It". As the gang is flying over the ocean, a storm whips up and one of the plane's engines dies and the plane struggles to stay in the air. After jettisoning a bunch of the plane's seats, the plane levels itself out and the crisis seems to be over, until Helen opens her mouth.
Helen: I can't believe today! I mean, with all its ups and downs, it's turned out pretty well. I mean, normally, I wouldn't say that because I would be afraid of bringing bad luck, but considering what we've been through, what more could possibly happen? (lightning strikes the remaining engine)
- Theme Twin Naming: In "Sleepless in Nantucket", Lowell is asked to name his pregnant sister's child, and she has twins, which gives him some trouble, since what with Lowell being what he is, he thinks the names have to rhyme. Joe jokingly throws out Nancy and Fancy, which Lowell immediately loves, leading to the line:
Years from now, when a large, angry man named Fancy Mather comes looking for you... hide.
- They Do: Joe and Helen get together for good at the beginning of Season Six. The ending of "The Love, Life, and Times of Joe and Helen" indicates to the audience that they will grow old together.
- This Is Wrong on So Many Levels:
- Time Skip: There was a ten month Time Skip between the finale of season 2 ("Duet For Plane and Cello") and the premier for season 3 ("The Naked Truth"). Nothing much happened, except that Joe found a new girlfriend (Gail) and Helen ran out of money in New York.
- The ten month gap was later Ret-Conned as six months. The writers apparently realized that the show did episodes taking place on Valentine's Day and Election Day that year (for both of which Helen was present), and there aren't ten months between those two days.
- "The Love, Life, and Times of Joe and Helen" ends with a Time Skip to many years in the future and shows Joe and Helen's grandchildren watching the engagement video of them that Brian had been making throughout the episode.
- Title-Only Opening: Third season and later
- Tomboy and Girly Girl: Helen and Casey, respectively.
- Curiously, when Alex was on the show, Helen was the girly girl, if only by comparison. She would switch between skirts & tights and sweatshirt & jeans depending on the comparison needed.
- Tomboyish Name: Alex
- Took a Level in Dumbass: Joe's intelligence and competence declined markedly in the later seasons. A prime example is "Hosed", where Joe is so upset at a $185 vacuum cleaner repair bill that instead of paying the fee, he spends $1500 on a videotape with which to blackmail the salesman. And after doing so, he remarks how good it feels to win.
- Trivial Pursuit: Used in "Sports and Leisure".
- Trust-Building Blunder: In "One Flew Over the Cooper's Nest", psychotic Sandy ambushes Joe in his psychiatrist's office for some emergency couples therapy. (She's under the impression she and Joe are married.) Sandy decides to do the trust game with Joe, but since she's completely delusional and Joe is sick of dealing with her, he simply lets her fall.
- T-Word Euphemism: Lowell is telling the guys about his fears that his wife is cheating on him.
Lowell: I actually called her the U word.
Brian: You called her unfaithful?
Lowell: No, I called her unsatiable!
Brian: That's "insatiable". You called her the I word.
Lowell: No, the I word is "indiscreet".
- Undisclosed Funds: When Joe and Helen go to a meeting with the insurance adjuster after the loss of their house and all its contents in a fire. The meeting doesn't go so well, and the adjuster finally writes something on a check and says "I'm sorry, but we can't do any better than this.", and gives it to them. After they see it, they shrug, and then begin spontaneously chanting "We're rich! We're rich!"
- In "Labor Pains", Lowell's salary demands are never made known to the viewer. He simply hands Joe and Roy a piece of paper and says this is what he's looking for.
- In "Gone But Not Fay-gotten", Joe is looking to hire a replacement for Fay during her temporary retirement. When the interviewee asks what her salary will be, Joe responds by writing it down and handing it to her. Upon reading it, she begins laughing and walks out of the interview.
- Un Entendre: After Roy mentioned that his son R.J had a crush (read: dirty thoughts) on Helen in "There's Always Room For Cello", the next few sentences that Helen said were made to sound like euphemisms for sex. The guys took joy in pointing that out. Eventually it was revealed that R.J's gay, and he was lying to take cello lessons from Helen.
: Helen, I'm curious about your teaching methods. Do you lecture the students or do you prefer the 'hands-on' technique? Helen
: Oh, definitely the hands-on. I like the personal contact. Roy and Brian
: Say, I think R.J's gonna get a lot out of this. He's been awful shy about performing. Helen
: Don't you worry Roy. When I get through with him, he'll be taking out that instrument
and be entertaining the whole family. Joe and Roy
Helen: Why don't we get to the hangar and get starting?
R.J: Okay, but I gotta tell you I don't know anything about this. I mean, I don't even know where to put my hands.
Helen: Don't worry. I've got this great book that tells you about all this great positions.
- Vetinari Job Security: "Joe Blows", part 2. Fast forward a week after Joe left to places unknown, and leaves everything on Brian's shoulders. Kind of zig-zagged in that the airline's on the verge of bankruptcy, then it's fine again after a while.
- Visits By Divorced Mom: Invoked in "Mother Wore Stripes" by Brian, Joe and Brian's mother (who abandoned them) visits Nantucket after 18 years. Joe is very bitter about this for a good reason, but it all ends well.
- Vitriolic Best Buds: Roy and Antonio
- Wacky Marriage Proposal: Joe proposes to Helen with his arm stuck in an elevator door. Apparently this was an omen, because he later married her with his hand stuck in a toilet.
- Walk On The Wild Side Episode: In the two-parter "Joe Blows", Joe decides that 35 years of being responsible is enough, so he takes Lowell's motorcycle and goes to a beach to hang out with women barely half his age, leaving his party-boy brother Brian stuck running their airline.
- Wealthy Ever After: The finale has the brothers discovering the $250,000 in the lining of the suitcase (from the first episode).
- What Does She See in Him?: Done in a very odd way with Roy, who gets set up on a Blind Date with a lovely woman who laughs at his jokes, tells him he's handsome, and basically seems infatuated with him. He keeps asking her what her problem is, until she finally loses her temper with his insecurity and stomps off... leading Roy to smugly tell his fellows that, "I KNEW she was too good to be true!"
- Done with Roy again in "Roy Crazy", when it appears that his ex-wife Sylvia wants him back. It turns out, however, that she's only dating him to get back at her cheating husband.
- Done with Roy yet again in "Let's Talk About Sex" when he dates a talk show host whom Antonio idolizes, causing the latter to have something akin to a mental breakdown.
- Whole Episode Flashback: The main plot of "This Old House". That, and the characters destroying the Hackett brothers' old house.
- Who's Watching the Store?: Joe and Brian are the owners/only pilots in Sandpiper Air (save for a young one, who didn't last long), and half the time they're hanging around the airport or flying the plane for non-business reasons. Although, the episodes might as well highlight the 'funny' parts of their lives - the business flights are cut off, unless they're important to the plot. This is occasionally Hand Waved by having one of them say it's the off-season or that business just happens to be slow at the moment.
- Workaholic: Joe can be this, although decreasing in later episodes.
- Work Com
- Wrench Wench: Alex
- Written-In Absence: Rebecca Schull was absent from several episodes during the last two seasons; her character Fay was usually said to be on vacation. When Thomas Haden Church had to miss an episode, his character Lowell was said to be away attending a family reunion.
- Yandere: Sandy Cooper in all three episodes focusing on her. Not so much on the high school years.
- Your Approval Fills Me with Shame
- The episode "Ex, Lies, and Videotape" involves Brian going on a talk show and being depicted as a sexist, chauvinist pig. When he returns to the airport following the broadcast, Fay gives him a bunch of phone messages he received: "You got three death threats, ten calls from women who think they can change you, and an 'Atta Boy' from Andrew Dice Clay." , , 
- A humorous version of this trope is used in the episode “My Brother’s Keeper”. When Brian starts dating Mimsy Borogroves, an older woman who decides to invest millions of dollars in Nantucket, all of the main characters are delighted except his brother Joe. Joe’s shame vanishes after Borogroves offers to give him money for a new airplane. However, when Brian tells Joe that he has taken Joe’s advice and ended the relationship, everybody loses as Mimsy then refuses to invest her money and leaves the island. , , ,