Hi, and welcome to sort of a... musty episode of You Can't Do That on Television. The show that makes modern history every week by continually appalling its viewers.Canadian Saturday Morning Kids Show Sketch Comedy, running from 1979 to 1990, and rerun on and later produced by Nickelodeon. Heavily influenced by Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In, borrowing modified and age-appropriate versions of several of Laugh-In sketches (most obviously, the joke wall, redesigned as a set of locker doors; the habit of dumping buckets of water and green slime on cast members, and the announcer) and catch phrases.First introduced at CJOH Ottawa (a CTV affiliate) as a kids' variety show, the show's wild success in America made it one of the defining shows of Nickelodeon's history. It would run far longer on that network than it did in Canada, and the network's trademark green slime started with this show. The show's influence went beyond Nickelodeon, as homages have popped up everywhere from the sitcom NewsRadio (in one episode, the cast was doused with buckets of green slime and water) to Family Guy (an episode in the 2011-12 season is titled "You Can't Do That On Television, Peter", and in another episode, Peter Griffin is himself slimed for saying "I don't know").Brought Covered in Gunge to North America (and associated it with Nickelodeon). And Alanis Morissette. No, really. The proof is here. Also, the show was an early writing job for Bill Prady, who went on to create The Big Bang Theory and the 2015 reboot series (on ABC) for The Muppets, which he is no stranger to.In 2012, Shout! Factory released You Can't Do That on Film, a documentary about the history of the show.In August of 2017, it was announced on the website AV Club.com that You Can't Do That on Television is getting a reboot. A premiere date and network have yet to be announced, but it has been confirmed that Roger Price will be involved with the new series and that it will be made in Ottawa. The new series will be co-produced by Jimmy Fox and Main Event Media.Now with its own Getting Crap Past the Radar page.
—Christine "Moose" McGlade, the show's host from 1979 to 1986
You Can't Do That on Television provides examples of:
- Abusive Parent: Mrs. Prevert's character became more of this (both physically and verbally) and less of a Cloudcuckoolander in the final two seasons - for example, paddling her kids (though usually with humorous results), imprisoning Christian in a cage so he wouldn't wreck her dinner party, or tying Jennifer to a chair (and forcing her to watch a marathon of educational television) as punishment for picking her nose. However, her abusive behavior wasn't limited to those final two seasons - such as when she told Dougie flat-out, when he complained that she loved his brother/sisters, the neighbors' kids, the cat, etc., more than she loved him, that she didn't love him at all. It's possible that she (right down to her red hair) may have partially inspired Lois Griffin of Family Guy, who displays similar sadistic tendencies particularly toward her daughter Meg.
- Acceptable Targets: Invoked by Christine in a link sketch in "Work, Work, Work" from 1981 in which she describes emptying a wheelbarrow full of dirt one shovelful at a time as the "Irish" way to empty a wheelbarrow. She immediately points out that she can make this joke as her parents are Irish Catholic immigrants, and she herself only missed being born in Ireland by a few weeks.note
- Adults Are Useless: Adults are usually portrayed as bumbling morons...at their best. The one who isn't—Ross, the stage manager—is despicable for all other sorts of reasons. This was deliberate on the part of creator Roger Price, who hated that adults in kids' shows tended to be reliable, helpful, Reasonable Authority Figures and wanted to teach kids that not all adults were like this.
- All Your Colors Combined: Moose not only got drenched with green slime in one sketch, but then she got hit with yellow, red and blue slime one after another. Then she got hit with striped slime, which was all four colors at once.
- Annoying Younger Sibling: In 1986-87, Amyas Godfrey to his older brother Matthew, and in 1989-90, Amy Stanley to her older sister Jill.
- Arcade Sounds:
- Owing to the series' low budget, the machines in Blip's Video Arcade were just prop cabinets which used mechanical buzzers and bells to provide their sound effects, while the visual displays involved flashing lights behind coloured overlays.
- In a rare example of this trope being used correctly (owing to the year in which it was filmed), the 1982 episode "Addictions" features Christine playing the Atari 2600 port of Pac-Man in many of the link segments, complete with appropriate sound effects (since she really is playing the game, not just waggling the joystick to a recording).
- Art Imitates Life: Many of the show's trademark gags came from taking the actors' real-life quirks and experiences and exaggerating them. "Moose" was Christine's nickname in real life, so it became her nickname on the show as well and to thousands of viewers across North America. Lisa Ruddy was late for a script read-through because she'd gotten detention for talking in class, so her character became a "motormouth" who was always getting sent to detention. Jill Stanley's inability to remember her lines in real life became her trademark during her two seasons on the show, and so on.
- Ascended Extra: Amy Stanley, who was hired for the series by Roger Price after a visit to the set, much to the chagrin of big sister Jill who thought Amy was "invading her turf." Originally Amy was hired to play Big Teddy (the living, walking Teddy Bear who more resembled an Ewok), but beginning with the "Celebrations" episode began appearing as herself, and by the start of the 1990 season she had really blossomed.
- The Backstage Sketch: The show showed the backstage area on occasion, but the best example of this from it is the introduction/theme elaboration sketches on the blue triangle set, which more often than not would lapse into being more about the making of said sketches.
- Bad Boss: In the 1981 and 1982 seasons, Barth, proprietor of Barth's Burgery, had a not-too-bright teenage employee named Zilch (Darryl Lucas) whom he routinely belittled, insulted, and hit upside the head with a frying pan. All for minimum wage (at best).Zilch: (entering while tying his apron) Good morning, Mr. Barth, sir!
Barth: Good morning, zit-face!
Zilch: Mr. Barth, give me one good reason why you can never say a kind word to me!
Barth: Because you are a wishy-washy, weak-kneed, acne-covered jellyfish!
Zilch: (glumly) One reason would do...
- Bad Habits: Played straight in the 1983 "Manners" episode, with Christine doing the introduction in a nun's habit and greeting the viewers with "God bless you all." Seems the Literal-Minded costume lady saw the show was about "bad habits" (such as burping, picking your nose, etc.) and went from there.
- Bankruptcy Barrel:
- Ross and Moose end up wearing these during 1981's "Crimes & Vandalism", when their clothes (and most of the set) have been stolen. Moose's still has water and a rubber duck in it.
- Shows up again in "Effort" (1989) when Mom, tired of Sariya's complaining that she has nothing to wear, makes the complaint come true by donating Sariya's entire wardrobe to charity and forcing Sariya to wear "[her] father's favourite fertilizer barrel" to school.
- Be Careful What You Wish For:
- In one early episode, Ross grants the kids' requests to be treated more like grown-ups by giving them the privilege of paying income taxes.
- "Fairy Tales, Myths and Legends" (1986) featured Amyas Godfrey as Pinocchio, who, after having his wish to become a real boy granted by his fairy godmother (Les Lye) and being given a long list of chores by Mom, promptly begs the fairy godmother to change him back into a puppet.
- Also invoked with the numerous Jackass Genie gags (see below).
- Bland-Name Product: The series featured many commercial parodies (in fact, fake commercials were a regular part of the show during the 1982 episodes, which were originally aired before Nickelodeon became advertiser-supported); the objects of the parodies were often obvious, but the names were changed just enough to make them lawyer-friendly (for example, Head and Shoulders shampoo was parodied as "Shed and Holders", which cures Alasdair's dandruff by making his hair fall out).
- Averted in the original, local-only 1979 season, in which commercial products and trademarked objects were referred to by their actual names on several occasions. The McDonald's characters even visited the show in one episode. The 1984 "Foreign Countries" episode also featured two kids chowing down on Big Macs while referring to them by name (and passing them off as "French food" and "Italian food" since they bought them at McDonald's restaurants in France and Italy).
- Another later aversion occurs in 1986's "TV Commercials" episode, in which Doug tests a blindfolded Alasdair to see if he can tell the difference between Coke and Pepsi (which results in both boys ending up drenched for saying the "w" word after Doug switches the cans of soda with a can of spring water).
- Braces of Orthodontic Overkill: Later episodes of the show featured a character called "The Lovely Dentist," who had a tendency to stick kids in cumbersome and painful headgears. A few times he even used padlocks.
- Broken Aesop: Several examples, usually in the form of Hypocritical Humor, in keeping with the series' deliberate subversion of the usual philosophy of children's television.
- There were a couple of these in the "Addictions" episode from 1982, notably a link set skit where Lisa reprimands Christine for being "addicted" to video games, but then it turns out Lisa has her own "unhealthy" addiction - to soap operas.
- In 1983's "Medicine", Senator Prevert (Les Lye) yells at Alasdair for having been caught smoking cigarettes in school, and then proceeds to light up a cigar.Alasdair: Wait a minute, I thought you just said smoking was bad for your health!
Sen. Prevert: No no, I said, smoking is bad for your health. I never said anything about mine.
- Bucket Booby-Trap: Happens to Christine (with water) at the end of the 1983 "Manners" episode, courtesy of Kevin and Alasdair. To add injury to insult, the bucket hits her on the head afterward.
- Bulletproof Human Shield: A staple of the firing squad sketch, as El Capitano would typically be tricked into saying "Fire!" while standing directly between the condemned and the firing squad. El Capitano would then be shot by his own men, with the prisoners generally emerging unscathed.
- Butt-Monkey: Zilch, Barth's (sub-)minimum wage employee in the 1981 and 1982 seasons, was constantly on the receiving end of slapstick abuse and degradation at Barth's hands, always Played for Laughs.(Zilch has been forced to dress as a clown to compete with McDoomland's and Burger Queen)
Barth: Hey, Zilch, c'mon! (honks a bicycle horn) You're supposed to be a clown! Make us laugh!
Zilch: (folds arms and scowls defiantly) If I'm going to be a clown, I want more money!
(Barth and the customers laugh uproariously)
- Christine and especially Lisa at various times as well; the Lisa-bashing reached a new height during her final season on the show (1985). Also Ross, although in his case not completely undeserved.
- Call-Back: Eagle-eyed viewers will notice many iconic props and outfits reused. For example, in 1982's "Not-So-Fair Show," Natalie Radmore is wearing a dress identical to the one worn by Lisa Ruddy in the 1979 "St. Patrick's Day" episode (the dresses were bought in bulk because of the number of times Lisa was to be slimed in that episode and because there wasn't time to wash the dress after each sliming). And some of the number and letter props from 1979's Episode Two showed up again eleven years later in one of the series' final episodes, 1990's "Learning."
- The Cameo:
- The 1989 episode "First Times" and the 1990 episode "Privileges" both featured cameo appearances by 1981-84 cast member Kevin Kubusheskie (by then an associate producer for the series) and 1984-87 cast member Adam Reid (by then a writer for the series); in both episodes, they played upperclassmen being hazed by the regular cast members in opposite sketches set in the school corridor.
- The 1989 episode "Age", hosted by a returning Vanessa Lindores, features cameo appearances by four of the other more high profile cast members from 1979-87. Doug Ptolemy has a single line ("Hey Van, did you say my name?" after Vanessa comments that old YCDTOTV episodes with Doug will give her nightmares), while Christine McGlade, Kevin Kubusheskie, and Alasdair Gillis make silent appearances in a post-credits classroom sketch (in which Mr. Schidtler growls, "Class dismissed - years ago!").note
- Canada, Eh?: The show is a Canadian production. Other Canadianisms that found their way into the show: going "to university" instead of "to college",note and saying "grade ten" instead of "tenth grade." Although the writers did their best to internationalize the show's content (very likely at Nickelodeon's insistence, since Nick and CJOH were production partners beginning with the 1982 season) by making references to American things such as the Fourth of July, it was little things like those in the script that (even without seeing the words "Ottawa, Canada" in the closing credits) made the show's country of origin obvious.
- More obvious in Season One and in Whatever Turns You On (which were never intended to be seen outside of Canada), with a number of jokes about one guy (Marc Baillon) being French, leading to the line "You don't speak Frog, eh?" ("Frog" is an offensive term for a French person [as in "from France" French], but can also be applied to someone from a French-speaking country — in this case, Quebec.)
- In another scene, one girl (Cyndi) talked about her first crush being "a frog." Thinking Cyndi was using the offensive slang term, Christine scolded her. It turned out Cyndi was talking about an ACTUAL frog, which she then had to dissect for school, but didn't feel bad about it because she said, "Frogs aren't human." Upon hearing this, Marc came up and announced (referring to the Quebecois independence movement), "Any more of that, and we WILL separate!"
- Along the same lines, the "internationalization" of the show's content after 1982 could be considered an example (though perhaps not an extreme one) of Canada Does Not Exist, and the local 1979 and 1981 episodes as well as Whatever Turns You On could be considered an aversion of that trope - they were unapologetically Canadian, since the show's original raison d'etre was to improve the quality of CANADIAN kids' entertainment programming.
- As the Nostalgia Critic pointed out, "aboot" is said quite a lot in this show.
- Catch-Phrase: Some of the more repeated ones:
- Dungeon prisoners under the impression they are about to be freed always cheer, "Fresh air, blue skies, Barfy Burgers, girls!"
- Barth's sketches often include a character quipping, "What do you think's in the burgers?" To which Barth invariably replies, "Duh... I heard that!"
- During arguments between two members of the Prevert family, a third family member often chimes in with, "She's got a point." To which the one without the point replies, "Don't encourage her."
- Mr. Schidtler reacts to smart-mouthed or dim-witted students by moaning, "Where do they find them, and why do they keep sending them to me?"
- When one of the performers outwits another (usually, but not always, a kid outwitting an adult), he or she tells the camera, "Sometimes it's so easy, I'm ashamed of myself."
- The execution scenes nearly always feature the following exchange between firing squad leader El Capitano and the intended victim:El Capitano: Ready!... Aim!...
Kid: Wait a minute, stop the execution!
El Capitano: What is it this time!?
(and, if the kid succeeds in tricking El Capitano into letting him/her go)
El Capitano: That is one sneaky kid...
- Dungeon prisoners often tell dungeonkeeper Nasti, "But you can't do this, this is torture!" To which Nasti replies, "I know!"
- Ross, when conning the kids out of yet more money, has a favourite price of "Ten bucks. Each."
- Ross brings many episodes to an end by shouting, "Roll the closing credits!"
- The kids, upon realising that a given situation is too good to be true, will groan, "That means... this is Just the Introduction to the Opposites!"
- Christmas Episode:
- The 1984 episode "Christmas" has Christmas-themed sketches, a running gag on the link set in which Alasdair is trying to get a kiss out of Christine, Lisa, and/or Vanessa by standing under the mistletoe,note and a Christmas gift to Lisa's little brother: no locker jokes!
- Whatever Turns You On also did a Christmas episode five years earlier, which involved the kids trying to sneak into the network Christmas party, which they have been forbidden to attend because of the serving of alcohol. They end up singing Christmas carols on the link set and getting pied one by one by Les Lye's character Mr. Dime (dressed as Santa), as revenge for their giving him a pie in the face as a gift earlier in the show.
- Cloudcuckoolander: Mrs. Prevert usually - at least until the show's 1989 reboot when her character seemed to become less flighty and a lot meaner and more sadistic.
- Lisa certainly had her moments as well.
- Cool and Unusual Punishment: Zigzagged with the opposite skits when the kids insist on doing something practical and the adults make them do something fun. Once in a while, the adults have them do something boring and/or practical instead of fun because the opposite skits are about to end.
- Couch Gag: Each episode is bookended by couch gags.
- Before the opening, a graphic announces that a regularly-scheduled show parody will not be seen tonight and will be replaced by an episode of You Can't Do That On Television. The parodies being pre-empted always pertain in some way to the episode's main topic (e.g., Mr. Rogers: Neighborhood Pusher for "Drugs", George Bush Shoots the Wrong Quail for "Mistakes", The Huxtables Put Their Kids Up For Adoption for "Adoption", etc). In some instances, the show pre-empts itself.You Can't Do That On Television cannot be shown at this time, because... we couldn't do it. In its place, we present a programme about television. ("Television", 1982)
The regular broadcast of You Can't Do That On Television will not be seen at this time, in order that the sponsors may bring you a new, improved, extra-strength, whiter than white, and extra clean programme! ("Media", 1983)
You Can't Do That On Television will not be seen today, in order that we may get your priorities straight. Now turn off that television and go and do something constructive! ("Priorities", 1983)
- At the end of the closing credits, the announcer (played by Les Lye) declares, "You Can't Do That On Television has been a (insert theme-relevant gag) Production". The camera then cuts to him as he makes a final gag about the show (which in itself could be an Homage to Gary Owens in Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In).
- Before the opening, a graphic announces that a regularly-scheduled show parody will not be seen tonight and will be replaced by an episode of You Can't Do That On Television. The parodies being pre-empted always pertain in some way to the episode's main topic (e.g., Mr. Rogers: Neighborhood Pusher for "Drugs", George Bush Shoots the Wrong Quail for "Mistakes", The Huxtables Put Their Kids Up For Adoption for "Adoption", etc). In some instances, the show pre-empts itself.
- Cover Innocent Eyes and Ears: In "Censorship" (1986), Alasdair puts a paper bag over James' head at the movies, during a particularly hot-and-heavy scene in the picture. Unfortunately, he uses the bag James was carsick in on the drive over.
- Covered in Gunge: Green slime, usually, though water was also common, as were cream pies. Covering the kids (and sometimes the adults) in gunge was one of the series' most familiar comedy devices.
- Credits Gag:
- The 1979 and 1981 series featured side comments in the credits, such as "Isn't this interesting?" and "This is like watching paint dry", and credited executive producer Bryn Matthews as "Executive Producer and Dragon Slayer" or similar titles.
- A number of episodes from the middle of the run featured the credit "Wardrobe courtesy Christine McGlade - Christine McGlade takes no responsibility for any clothes in which she appears".
- In the "Rip-offs" episode from 1982, Ross tries to run the closing credits immediately after Christine's introduction in a nod to the tendency of manufacturers to advertise a new, improved product that actually contains less content.note
- In "Priorities" from 1983, Ross runs the closing credits in the middle of the programme in an attempt to leave early for a baseball game.note
- At the end of "Jealousy" (1984), the technicians refuse to run the closing credits when Christine cues them to do so, because they're jealous that Christine got a raise when they didn't. Faced with the possibility that they'll all have to stay in the studio forever (since they're contractually forbidden to leave until the closing credits roll), Christine is finally forced to reluctantly share her raise with her coworkers so that the credits can roll and the show can end.
- The credits for the Worst of You Can't Do That On Television compilation video has several, as the credits are twice as long as normal.
- Cue Card:
- Several episodes feature link set segments in which we see Ross holding up cue cards containing Christine's lines (for example, in "Nutrition" from 1981, she refuses to read the card as written as she knows it will result on her getting milk dumped on her). In some cases, Christine is also shown holding cue cards containing Ross' lines, especially during scenes in which they are arguing about overreliance on cue cards. Despite the cue card gags, all lines on the show were memorized in real life.
- In some cases, unfortunate things slated to happen to Christine (or others) would not be written on the cue cards until AFTER they had happened. For example, Moose is drenched with water in "Culture Junk" (1982) for calling the writers' scripts "lousy" and then complains about how she hadn't said "Water," before the camera cuts to Ross holding up a cue card with a crew member writing the word "Water" on it.
- Curse Cut Short: A common method of Getting Crap (And Other Words Like It) Past the Radar.
- From Episode 7 from the 1979 series:Bradfield: Dad?
Sen. Prevert: Uh, yeah?
Bradfield: What's the definition of... "ignorance and apathy"?
Sen. Prevert: "Ignorance and apathy"? I don't know, and I don't give a sh- (catches himself) care.
- From "Safety First" (1981):Angie: Hi, I'm Angie the Talking Doll!
Kevin Schenk: Angie, what can be done about juvenile crime? (pulls Angie's string)
Angie: Invent an electric armchair, and burn the little-
(cut to next scene)
- From "Divorce" (1984):Marjorie: (opens her locker) Hey, Alasdair?
Alasdair: (opens his locker) Yeah, Marjorie?
Marjorie: Do you ever worry about your parents getting a divorce?
Alasdair: Nah, not really.
Marjorie: Why not?
Alasdair: 'Cause I don't think they ever got married.
Marjorie: You mean that you're a-
(Lisa, Christine, and Justin open their lockers)
Alasdair, Christine, Justin, Lisa: Don't say it!
- From Episode 7 from the 1979 series:
- Deadpan Snarker: Moose, particularly during her link segments. Her favourite target for snarkery was, of course, the show itself.Christine: (on the 1983 "Medicine" episode) Hi, and welcome to another painful episode of You Can't Do That On Television, the show that has nothing to fear from infection, 'cause it couldn't get any sicker than it already is.
- Did You Just Flip Off Cthulhu?: Amyas won't stop shooting spitballs in church, and after God punishes him by striking him with a lightning bolt, Amyas proceeds to shoot a spitball at God, and subsequently keels over dead for his trouble.
- Does Not Like Shoes: Christine frequently didn't wear shoes in her link segments.
- Partially because (as she was, for many years, the oldest of the kids) she was taller than almost everyone else.
- Anyone who was getting slimed or watered was barefoot during the filming of the sketch to avoid damage to the victim's shoes.
- "Down Here!" Shot: A variant was done in "Fads and Fashions" from 1982. At the end, Kevin and Doug come on-set pretending to be naked as the ultimate fashion; the camera only shows Kevin from the waist up and the much shorter Doug from the neck up. An annoyed Doug asks for the camera to pan down so that they can see more of him. Christine quickly calls out "run the credits" as she realizes that panning down would expose a bit more of Kevin than would be "safe"...
- Drives Like Crazy: Bus driver Snake Eyes (Les Lye). The school bus sketches nearly always ended with Snake Eyes seconds before or after crashing the bus into something or driving over a cliff.
- Dropped After the Pilot: Elizabeth Mitchell, a regular on the first season of YCDTOTV, appeared in the pilot episode of Whatever Turns You On, but when it graduated to a series on CTV, she was replaced by Lisa Ruddy. Elizabeth has said that her parents made her quit, as they hated the show and were not enthusiastic about her acting ambitions to begin with.
- The '80s
- Even the Rats Won't Touch It: Invoked by Christine in "Peer Pressure" (1981).Christine: You know, Barth is always saying he hears us whenever we complain about the food or the service being so bad. I mean, his food is so bad, even the cockroaches won't eat it.Barth: [off screen] D'oh, I heard that!
- Exact Words: Formed the basis for many skits. One example is in 1986's "Pop Music" episode, in which Alanis has Alasdair over for dinner, having told Mom and Dad that he "sings in church." She neglected to mention that he wasn't a member of the church choir, but rather of an anarchist punk band that performs in the church social hall.Alanis: [to her parents, as Alasdair destroys the dining room in his punk-rocker getup] Don't look at me like that. All I said was, he sings in church.
- In another episode, Vanessa decides to change her name to "Charity," so that everything that people "donate to charity" will go to her.
- Finish Dialogue in Unison:
- In the lead-in to the Opposite sketches, the characters gradually join in for a unison recital of "This is just the introduction to the Opposites."
- The Barth's sketches often end with a unison chorus from the customers of "What (or who) do you think's in the burgers?" (To which Barth invariably replied, "Dahhh... I heard that!")
- 555: The infamous "Adoption" episode, during the "Today's Child" segments (555-KIDS, plus "555-MOMS" and "555-DADS" during the opposites).
- Played straight in the local-only, hour-long versions of the 1979 and 1981 seasons, in which the telephone numbers viewers were instructed to call to participate in the phone-in contests often did begin with "555."
- Food Fight: A food fight breaks out in a Barth's sketch in "War" (1984), when Christine, Vanessa, Alasdair, and Adam Kalbfleisch determine that Barth would be willing to go to war for a situation he can no longer stomach... and since they can't stomach his food, they go to war over it.
- Foreign Queasine: Aside from the haggis example, the series featured some other examples of this trope. One is in the 1986 "Poverty and Unemployment" episode in which Rich Bitch Naida invites Doug and Vanessa over for dinner, and Doug and Vanessa are excited to find out what rich people eat... until Naida tells them what's on the menu, which includes such items as escargots and laverbread (a Welsh delicacy made from seaweed).
- Fun with Acronyms: In the 1984 episode "War", Alasdair founds a peace movement called "War's Insane, Make Peace", or WIMP for short. Despite Adam Kalbfleisch's reservations about the name and Ross' constant mockery, Alasdair leads his followers to a peace rally, where the other peace groups beat them up for having such a silly acronym.
- Fun with Subtitles: The 1989 episode "First Times" features a link delivered in Japanese by Chris Bickford with English subtitles. When he reverts to English to protest to Ross, the subtitles remain.Chris: Ross, this is stupid! (subtitle: Brilliant idea Ross.) (Chris notices the subtitle) Wait... I didn't say that! Ross!
Ross: The subtitle is right! You are wrong.
Chris: But Ross!... (subtitle: I don't know!) (Chris gets slimed) Th... that's not fair! I didn't even say 'I don't know!' (Chris gets slimed again)
Ross: But it did on the subtitles. (chuckles)
- Gasshole: When Vanessa introduces the 1987 "Smells" episode, she groans at the prospect of a show filled with flatulence jokes (which is exactly what we get, with Doug as the number one Gasshole). This episode set the tone for pretty much the entirety of the 1989 and 1990 seasons, with Ted Wilson as the usual Gasshole.
- G-Rated Drug: Custard pies in "Drugs" (1981).
- Gratuitous French: Used on occasion in the show's first season courtesy of Marc, the show's token French-Canadian kid. He even gives the question and phone number for a phone-in contest in French, "to give [his] fellow "frogs" a chance to get a jump ahead."
- A decade later, Christian (also French-Canadian) gets his mouth washed out with French soap for swearing in French.
- Greasy Spoon: Barth's Burgery, decorated in an unappetizing shade of green and serving nothing that wouldn't make patrons sick.
- Hoist by His Own Petard:
- Many characters were slimed or soaked when they tried to trick other characters into saying "I don't know" or "Water" and ended up saying the magic words themselves first. For example, "Jealousy" from 1984 features this exchange:Marjorie: Hey Christine, aren't you a little jealous of your parents because they can drink liquor and you can't?
Marjorie: Oh, come on now. You're drinking milk, and they're having scotch and... and...
Christine: ... soda?
Marjorie: No, you idiot, you were supposed to say "water"! (gets drenched)
Christine: Sorry Marjorie, my parents don't drink!
- In the 1984 "Technology" episode, the "interactive gizmo" that claims to allow viewers to vote on how a sketch proceeds by pressing a green or red square on the television screen is used for two "tests" that both fall under this.
- Luke McKeehan, facing execution by El Capitano's firing squad, persuades a sceptical El Capitano to let the viewers decide if he should be shot. The "results" are 9999 votes for, 2002 votes against, and the sketch closes with Luke trying to argue for a computer error as El Capitano shouts, "Ready!... Aim!..."
- In the very next sketch, Vanessa is chained up in Nasti's dungeon, and he is planning to drop green slime on her. Vanessa tries to get out of a sliming by asking Nasti to let the viewers decide; however, he makes a point of presenting sliming as great fun to influence the vote, and the "results" are 9999 votes for, 35 votes against. A resigned Vanessa triggers the slime by answering "I don't know" to Nasti's question, "What is green slime made of?"
- In the 1985 "Revenge" episode, Alasdair decides to get revenge on Moose and Lisa for assaulting him with various food items during the introduction by having the girls read phrases aloud from a box of "Instant Revenge," which contain the trigger words for the slime and water. Alasdair's attempt to get Christine slimed fails when Christine catches on and says "I have no idea" instead of "I don't know," and Alasdair ends up saying the magic words and getting slimed instead. According to writers for the show, this sketch was originally to have ended with Alasdair's trick working and Christine getting slimed, but Christine used her veto power over slimings that season to get the sketch rewritten.
- Played with in the 1987 "Books and Reading" episode. Stephanie Chow asks Matthew Godfrey about mirages in the desert in an attempt to get him to say "Water", but he doesn't cave. Then Matthew says "Water" and gets drenched anyway while explaining Stephanie's trick to Adam Reid afterward.
- Many characters were slimed or soaked when they tried to trick other characters into saying "I don't know" or "Water" and ended up saying the magic words themselves first. For example, "Jealousy" from 1984 features this exchange:
- Hypocritical Humor: As with many children's comedies, much humour was derived from the characters denouncing the very things they were doing. For example, in the "Addictions" episode from 1982, Christine scoffs that, unlike adults, kids are not prone to addictive behaviour... all while she is unable to tear herself away from Pac-Man, Kevin Kubusheskie is buried in an issue of Motor Trend, Martin Kerr is obsessing over a Rubik's Cube, and Lisa is immersed in a pulp romance novel.
- I Ate WHAT?!:
- Most of the Barth sketches involve disgusting revelations about what goes into the burgers the kids are halfway through eating (mouse heads and tails, used kitty litter, maggots, dead human bodies, etc.).Barth: Duuuuuuh...I heard that!
- In an early 1979 episode, one of the boys begins eagerly tucking into a plate of caviar (at first mistaking it for strawberry jam), then, when Christine tells him what's in it ("Jim, that's fish eggs, y'know, like FROG SPAWN"), runs off the link set to puke.
- The 1989 episode "Mistakes" features a breakfast sketch in which Mr. Prevert is drinking what he thinks is the last glass of apple juice. Chris, disgusted at missing out on the juice, gets up to leave for a doctor's appointment, and Mrs. Prevert tells him that his urine sample is in an old apple juice container. Cue massive Spit Take from Mr. Prevert...
- In the 1989 "Celebrations" episode, the kids are eating haggis (sheep's intestines cooked in a sheep's stomach) to salute Scotland - and enjoying it. Of course, this is the introduction to the opposites... when the opposites are over, the kids are grossed out. Amy Stanley asks for a drink to get the taste out of her mouth, and you know what happens when you mention dihydrogen monoxide on this show...
- Stephanie Bauder encountered an unfortunate real life example of this when filming a dining room scene and accidentally taking bites of food Les Lye had spat out on a previous take.
- Most of the Barth sketches involve disgusting revelations about what goes into the burgers the kids are halfway through eating (mouse heads and tails, used kitty litter, maggots, dead human bodies, etc.).
- I Can't Believe It's Not Heroin!: Invoked with cream pies in the episode "Drugs", the pies have this effect specifically because they're stand-ins for heavy drugs.
- Incredibly Conspicuous Drag: Les Lye on a number of occasions, including the Unfairy Godmother in 1982's "Not-So-Fair Show," Barth's mother in "Relatives" (1985), and another fairy godmother (Pinocchio's) in "Fairy Tales, Myths and Legends" (1986). Averted/played with in the 1979 season with the character of Frederick, the flamboyant gay-stereotype wardrobe master.
- Instant Awesome: Just Add Dragons!: Seymour the dragon in the 1981 season.Mr. Schidtler: Angie! Does he eat people?!Angie: No, sir. Just teachers.
- Ironic Echo:
- From 1981's "Crimes & Vandalism":Mr. Schidtler: Hey! (thwacks his cane against his desk to silence his rowdy class) Vandals broke into the school office last night and stole all this year's examination papers. I'm afraid, kids, you're not going to be able to write this year's examinations. (the kids begin cheering)
Kevin Schenk: (sarcastically) Too bad, sir. What a pity, sir. I'm heartbroken, sir, I really am.
Mr. Schidtler: (holding a sheaf of paper) So instead, you are going to write next year's examination... now.
Kevin Schenk: Next year's exam!? We'll all fail!
Mr. Schidtler: (smirks) Mmm. Too bad. What a pity. I'm heartbroken. I really am.
- The 1985 "Revenge" episode featured Alasdair Gillis making everyones' lives miserable as the "Masked Revenger." After Mr. Schidtler apprehends the Masked Revenger for stealing the class's milk-fund money (ostensibly so he could buy a pair of pants and wouldn't be teased for wearing tights anymore), he echoes the Revenger's catchphrase, "My work here is done," as he hauls the Revenger off to the principal's office while the rest of the class applauds.
- From 1981's "Crimes & Vandalism":
- Is This Thing Still On?: After the end credits, the announcer would always make some sarcastic remark about the show, oblivious to the blinking red "On Air" light behind him until an off-screen crew member silently pointed out that they were still live, at which point he would turn to the camera with a deer-in-headlights look.
- Played straight by Mrs. Prevert in a sketch in the 1986 "TV Commercials" episode.
- Jackass Genie: "My work here is done." The writers loved malevolent or incompetent genies as comedy devices, and at least three fall squarely into the Jackass Genie category of deliberate wish-mangling:
- "The Not-So-Fair Show" (1982) features Les Lye as the cigar-smoking, deep-voiced "Unfairy Godmother".Christine: I said I wish I was thinner.
Unfairy Godmother: Thinner! And so - you - shall - be! (transforms Christine into a can of paint thinner) Ha ha! The Unfairy Godmother strikes again!
- "TV Commercials" (1986) has Doug Ptolemy as the "Jiffy Genie".Mrs. Prevert: Oh Jiffy Genie, can you get rid of all this oven grease?
Jiffy Genie: In a flash, ma'am. (waves his arms, and Mrs. Prevert's entire oven disappears. Mrs. Prevert wails and begins to sob loudly)
Announcer: Yes, with Jiffy Genie, you'll never have oven grease again.
Jiffy Genie: (to camera) You'll never have an oven, period. (Mrs. Prevert begins wringing the Jiffy Genie's neck)
- In "Fitness" (1989), Ted Wilson as the "Fitness Genie" ("Fitness Genie is the name, helping fatsos is my aim!") grants Rekha's wish to lose more weight by making her fatter (giving her more weight to lose), then makes her "lighter" by first making her glow like a lightbulb and then making her float away.
- "The Not-So-Fair Show" (1982) features Les Lye as the cigar-smoking, deep-voiced "Unfairy Godmother".
- Jerkass: Moose. The director even more so.
- Just the Introduction to the Opposites: The Trope Namer. Every episode features a short series of sketches, collectively known as "The Opposites", in which roles are reversed, the adults encourage bad behaviour and discourage good behaviour (over the kids' protests), and the kids greet punishments with enthusiasm and rewards with disgust.
- Lame Pun Reaction: Part of the series' self-deprecating humour; for every bad pun used in the jokes (and there are many), there is a cast member groaning at it.Lisa: (talking to a sleeping bag) Look, look, there are a lot of worse things you could be than a sleeping bag! I mean, you could be a pillow, or even a pincushion!
Alasdair: (entering the bedroom) Uh, Lisa, what are you doing?
Lisa: Well... trying to cheer up the sleeping bag.
Alasdair: Why would you want to cheer up a sleeping bag?
Lisa: Well, 'cause my dad says it's a down sleeping bag.
Alasdair: A down sleeping bag, Lisa!? You need help. (starts to make a hasty exit) A lot of help!
(cut to Christine on the link set)
Christine: (disgusted) "Down". Boy, is that ever bad! You know, whoever writes this stuff really needs a holiday.
- Less Embarrassing Term: This exchange between Elizabeth Richardson and Kevin Kubusheskie from "Cosmetics" (1982):Elizabeth: (sniffs Kevin) Gee, that's nice perfume you're wearing!
Kevin: Boys don't wear perfume!
Elizabeth: (sniffs again) Then what makes you smell so nice?
Kevin: Oh, that's my new aftershave.
Elizabeth: You mean, you shave?
Kevin: Well, no, not exactly...
Elizabeth: Like I said: that's nice perfume you're wearing.
- Lethal Chef:
- Barth, unabashedly. He puts almost anything in his burgers except ground beef, and no food is too old to serve. Yet for some reason the kids keep eating at his diner. (Christine, in one episode, claims she eats there because it helps her stick to her diet.)(when the kids complain that the burgers he serves look nothing like the picture advertising his food) "I'll have you know that is the exact same burger that we took the picture of, six months ago."
- He apparently learned it from his mother, as evidenced in the 1985 episode "Relatives" when Barth's mother (also played by Les Lye) takes over the restaurant on a temporary basis and her cooking turns out to be as noxious as her son's.
- Andrea Byrne in "Books and Reading" (1987), when she cooks her family a recipe using Barth's new cookbook.
- Mrs. Prevert is a downplayed example. She can cook, but the only dish she knows how to make is liver and lima beans.
- Averted in one of the very last episodes, "Learning" (1990): Amy makes dinner after receiving cooking lessons from Mom, but as it turns out, she's a much better cook than Mom, as Chris, Christian and Lance readily admit. And Mrs. Prevert is NOT happy about it, to the point where she lies to Amy that the food turned out badly, takes the food back to the kitchen to be thrown out, and announces she's serving cold bread and cheese for supper.
- Barth, unabashedly. He puts almost anything in his burgers except ground beef, and no food is too old to serve. Yet for some reason the kids keep eating at his diner. (Christine, in one episode, claims she eats there because it helps her stick to her diet.)
- Let's See YOU Do Better!: In a meta example, Adam Reid was invited to audition for the series after writing in to criticise the acting by the child performers. He was immediately cast as a regular performer, and went on to write for the series in its final two seasons.
- Literal Genie: As mentioned in Jackass Genie, the writers loved malicious or inept genies as comedy devices. At least two fell into the Literal Genie flavour of accidental wish-bungling:
- "ESP, Magic, and Astrology" (1984) features Les Lye as the "Genie of the Electric Lamp", who grants Christine's wish never to do housework again by making her entire house disappear, then grants Kyle and Korbett's wish to be on the winning team by giving them the uniforms of their opponents.
- "Revenge" (1985) stars Alasdair Gillis as the "Masked Revenger", a genie-like "superhero" who grants wishes for revenge.Masked Revenger: (enters accompanied by heroic theme music) I am the Masked Revenger. Against whom do you seek revenge?
Marjorie: My mother. She promised to make me fried chicken tonight, and she lied.
Masked Revenger: Say no more, little one. (transforms Marjorie into a bucket of fried chicken) My work here is done. (flies off as the bucket of fried chicken clucks angrily)
- Literal-Minded: Played for laughs in one episode, in which Justin convinces Vanessa to change her name to "Charity" so that she can collect all the free stuff people donate "to charity."
- Loads and Loads of Roles:
- Les Lye played all the adult male characters (stage manager Ross Ewich, slobbish Senator and father Lance Prevert, Lethal Chef Barth, greedy arcade owner Blip, Sadist Teacher Mr. Schidtler, etc.), sporting enough distinct looks that this fact wasn't immediately obvious (though Lance Pervert and Barth do sound alike).
- For 1979's Whatever Turns You On, CTV provided CJOH with a bigger budget, and so they were able to hire Ruth Buzzi to play the adult female roles. Previously on YCDTOTV, adult female roles had been played by one of the older girls in the cast; in the 1981 season, all adult female roles were played by Christine.
- From 1982 onwards, the adult female roles (Valerie Prevert [wife of Lance Prevert], the English-accented librarian, the doctor's assistant, etc.) were all played by Abby Hagyard.
- Loss of Identity: Played for Laughs in a 1985 season episode on identity crises.
- Meaningful Name: Most of Les Lye's characters.
- Mirror-Cracking Ugly: Les Lye's Senator Prevert and Barth characters.
- In-universe (and literally), Ted Wilson in the episode "Malfunctions" (1989).
- Motor Mouth: Lisa Ruddy could and would talk anyone's ears off at a mile a minute, to the point that Dungeonkeeper Nasti used her as a torture device at least once, while Christine took advantage of the "gizmo" in "Technology" from 1984 to hold a poll on whether or not the audience wanted her to be forever silenced (the "Yes" votes won by a landslide).
- Ms. Fanservice: Christine on occasion. She hosted the entirety of the "Vacations" (1982) and "Hobbies" (1984) episodes in a one-piece swimsuit. Her introduction for the "Seasons/Weather" episode (1984) involved her illustrating how weather affects the clothes we wear by stripping off layers of clothing from heavy winter garb to a swimsuit, which led Ross to accuse her of trying to get the show taken off the air (which she admitted she ''was'' trying to do); she kept the swimsuit on for the remainder of the links but covered it up with a bathrobe. And in a 1981 episode, her skirt is blown up by a gust of wind a la Marilyn Monroe in The Seven Year Itch.
- Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!: In "Fads and Fashions" (1982), the principal is keeping Lisa in detention because of the clothespin Lisa is wearing on her nose, which the principal takes to mean that Lisa thinks he smells. After Lisa explains that the clothespin is "just a fad," the principal apologizes and decides to let her go - until Lisa mentions that she would never imply that the principal smells because that's something everyone already knows. In response to this, the principal changes his mind about letting Lisa leave and instead gives her an even longer detention.
- No Fourth Wall: In-Universe, the show knows it's a show and the characters constantly interact with the "director". An episode about divorce had the show being interrupted because the producer and his wife split up and was collecting the half she got in the settlement.
- An episode about technology (1984) introduced red and green voting squares at the bottom of the screen which were allegedly to allow viewers to vote on the outcome of certain scenes, which in many cases were a Foregone Conclusion - if the outcome of the dungeon sketch was that Vanessa was going to get slimed, the "results" would be "rigged" so that Vanessa ended up slimed anyway. Likely many viewers who weren't aware the show wasn't live thought these were for real.
- "Smells" (1987), the final episode of the "classic" YCDTOTV era, had the show experimenting with something called "Smell-O-Vision," which would enable the viewers to experience the smells of the studio. During the end credits, the kids note that the Smell-O-Vision device is working in reverse and they can smell the home audience instead.
- Not So Different: Often went hand in hand with Hypocritical Humor. One example is in the 1986 "Illness" episode, when Vanessa is ranting about how stupid boys are, using Doug, Jody and Alasdair, who are in the infirmary with the Green Slime Flu after failing to heed Ross's warnings not to get slimed, as Exhibit A.Vanessa: I mean, look what they grow up to be like. They are so stupid. Despite being told repeatedly not to get themselves green slimed, they went ahead and, stupid as anything, said "I don't know" without thinking. [Vanessa is then slimed, having just uttered the magic words herself without thinking]
- The Not-So-Harmless Punishment:
- One link in "Discipline" had Adam and Vanessa being 'grounded' and having their shoes taken away. Adam points out that having his shoes taken away won't stop him leaving the house. Ross then says that Adam has misunderstood. Now that they have taken off their rubber-soled shoes, they are 'grounded' and Ross tells them to grab a hold of a live electric wire.
- In the 1989 "Mistakes" episode, Ross is made to "punish" Chris, Nick and Ted by giving them each a pie. The boys are excited at first, thinking they'll get to eat them, but of course, Ross thinks the producer meant he was to hit each of the boys with a pie, so that's what he does. The producer then informs Ross he actually DID intend for the boys to eat them... because the pies were poisoned. The boys are shown gagging and retching from the poisoned pies as the scene ends.
- Of Course I Smoke: Touched on in the "Smoking" episode. At the end of the show, Moose gives special thanks to Les Lye, a nonsmoker, but being the only adult on the show, had had to do all the smoking required for the sketches. Les steps out of character as Ross the floor manager to directly address the camera. Looking slightly ill, he asks "Why do people do this?".
- O.O.C. Is Serious Business: Barth was pretty surprised to get so much business from his back to school special from the same kids who always claimed his food made them sick. (Of course, when he expressed that, they told him it was because they wanted to get sick so they'd have an excuse to miss school!)
- One Steve Limit: Inevitably for such a long-running series with such a high cast turnover rate, there were many performers with the same first name, and in some cases their tenures on the programme overlapped. Just to name two examples:
- The 1979 episodes featured Kevin Schenk and Kevin Somers, and in their last series in 1981 they were joined by Kevin Kubusheskie (though no episodes featured all three together), while Kevin Kubusheskie had several cameos in episodes featuring 1989-90 cast member (and writer) Kevin Ward. In between, there was a fifth Kevin (Akyeampong), though he only appeared in one episode (1984's "Marketing").
- The 1985 and 1986 series featured appearances by Adam Kalbfleisch and Adam Reid (though never in the same episode).
- Overly Long Gag: In "Ripoffs" from 1982, a classroom sketch features Alasdair unwrapping a chocolate bar. There are so many layers of wrapping that we cut away to other sketches three times (including, in the original broadcast, the "Let's talk to some kids" interview sequence) before finally reaching the payoff, in which Alasdair finally gets to the disappointingly small chocolate and notes that companies advertising "more (product)" almost invariably deliver less.
- Panty Shot: Christine in an episode where, while in a tennis dress, she suffers a broken leg and is in a leg cast. She asks for some water to take with some aspirin and immediately gets doused with water. Her tennis panties become visible through her soaked dress.
- Parody Commercial: The 1982 series featured parody commercials before cutting to actual commercials.note Just to name a few:
- "Ripoffs" had an ad for the "Wimpex Watch", in which Alasdair's watch is still ticking even after he is beaten up by Brodie and Kevin Kubusheskie.
- "Sports" featured a spoof ad for "Hockey Pro Toothpaste", a toothpaste intended to give the user the "missing tooth" look of professional hockey players.
- "Heroes" promoted "Hero Cereal", the cereal that goes "Slam! Bam! Crunch! Whack!" when Doug pours milk on it (the "Whack!" coming from Mr. Prevert smacking him upside the head for eating such a noisy breakfast).
- "The Not-So-Fair Show" had Doug modelling the "Lotachi Lugman", a personal stereo with full-size speakers for headphones.
- Although fake commercials weren't a regular part of the show again after 1983, the "TV Commercials" episode in 1986 (an Alanis Morissette episode which was also the first episode after Christine's departure) more than made up for the deficit. This episode contained spoof ads for "Shed and Holders" shampoo, "Left Guard" deodorant, and "Ravon" cosmetics among others.
- Parody Names: In parallel with Bland-Name Product, other television programmes were sometimes referenced in the series using parody names. Curiously, the 1982 "Addictions" episode featured a parody name and an actual reference to the same series; in a dining room sketch, Luke McKeehan finds a plush Smurf doll in a cereal box and declares, "There's a free Slurp in the Cannon Crunch cereal!", but in the post-credits stinger, Christine talks about a video game cartridge that allows viewers to "shoot down all those stupid little Smurfs".
- Pie in the Face: Not as ubiquitous as the green slime, but it popped up on a number of occasions. Often they used it if slime and water were used in the same scene but they still needed something else. One episode (1981's "Drugs") was even built around the gag, equating the stupidity of hitting yourself with a pie to the stupidity of harming yourself by taking drugs.
- Punny Name:
- Stage manager Ross' full name is Ross Ewich (try saying it fast).
- Several episodes feature a producer whose name appears on his chair as "R. Sole" (again, try saying it fast). In the 1981 episode "Safety First", Christine even remarks that if she had a name like that, she wouldn't put it on the back of her chair.
- Rain Dance: Jami, the show's token First Nations (Native Canadian) kid, does a dance so that Rodney gets nailed with a bucket of water as revenge for teasing him.
- Reunion Show: The second SlimeCon cast reunion in 2004 included the special episode "Project 131", featuring the now grown Brodie Osome, Vanessa Lindores, and Marjorie Silcoff re-visiting the old YCDTOTV studio following Ross' retirement to film one final episode. The classic sets were recreated with green screen technology, a final sliming and drenching were delivered (to Brodie and Marjorie, respectively), and the final scene featured brief appearances by Alasdair Gillis and Justin Cammy. Les Lye's grandson, Josh Dunn, appeared as the announcer.note
- Retreaux: The 1989 "Time" episode has Ross deciding to change the show from color to black and white format to cut production costs and to make it easier to syndicate alongside classic B&W sitcoms, and the kids are made to wear 1950s-style outfits to match. The episode ends with Christian bungling while fooling around with Ross's equipment, plunging the kids into a silent movie, complete with a 1920s-style arrangement of the theme music and an old-fashioned Laurel and Hardy style pie fight.
- Rich Bitch: One-episode wonder Naida Gosselin in 1986's "Poverty and Unemployment" episode, who makes Alasdair, Doug, Vanessa and Robert work as her servants after the kids are all fired from their jobs on the show. For Alasdair, that means he is the one who gets drenched whenever Naida says "Water." She finally gets her comeuppance at the end of the show when she is slimed (and this time has to face the consequences of saying "I don't know" herself).
- Rouge Angles of Satin: In the classroom sketches, almost every word that appears on Mr. Schidtler's blackboard is misspelled. Although most of the misspellings are not actual words (for example, "basex" for "basics"), occasionally they fall under this trope. For example, in "The Not-So-Fair Show" (1982), Mr. Schidtler quotes Act I, Scene 1 of Macbeth with "Fare is fowl, fowl is fare" instead of "Fair is foul, foul is fair".
- Running Gag: The show literally runs on them.
- "Who do you think's in the burgers?"Barth: IIIIII HEARD THAT!
- "I don't know" and "Water" count as well.
- The parents saying "don't encourage them", or occasionally, "don't discourage them".
- "Who do you think's in the burgers?"
- Sadist Teacher: The teacher in the classroom sketches, Mr. A. Schidtler, looked like Adolf Hitler and had a personality to match. Although he often bewailed the constant parade of dim-witted and/or smart-mouthed students in his classroom, he also delighted in making their lives miserable with huge volumes of homework and other forms of torment.Mr. Schidtler: Now, class, as we are going on a field trip, I think it is most important that we know the basics of nature. Can anyone tell me, what are the four natural elements of the universe? (Lisa raises her hand) Yes, Lisa.
Mr. Schidtler: Right! That's one. Umm... Kevin!
Kevin Kubusheskie: (wakes up and lifts his head off his desk) Uh... air!
Mr. Schidtler: Yeah, that's right, that's two... Christine?
Christine: (wakes up and lifts her head off her desk) Uh... fire!
Mr. Schidtler: That's right! And now... Vanessa. Can you tell me what the fourth element is?
Vanessa: Yeah. But I'm not going to.
Mr. Schidtler: Well, Vanessa... either you tell me what the fourth element is, or you tell me you don't know.
Vanessa: Well, either way I get something dumped on me. (beat; gives in) Okay, water. (SPLASH)
Mr. Schidtler: (grinning) Ohh, it's moments like these that make teaching worthwhile!
- Schmuck Bait/The Scottish Trope: The characters were soaked with water when they said "water" (or, during the early seasons, "wet") or slime when they said "I don't know". As the series' most familiar comic device, this was played with several times:
- In the 1982 episode "Fads & Fashions", Christine, having subscribed to a fashion trend of wearing scuba gear, tried unsuccessfully to trigger a water drop by saying "water". Apparently, it only falls if the kids aren't expecting it.
- In an opposite sketch in the 1982 episode "Heroes", Lisa's saying "I know" triggered the slime... to the amazement of several kids who said "I don't know" and avoided the slime.
- In the 1989 season premiere "Choices," Chris Bickford says "I don't know" during the opposites, yells "Stop the slime!" when the slime begins to fall on him, and then is told that the opposites are over... after which follows the rest of the sliming.
- There were other episodes in which a character said the trigger words for the slime or water during the introduction to the opposites and was surprised when the slime or water failed to fall until learning that it was the introduction to the opposites. Invariably, the slime or water would fall in spades once the opposites were over. See "City Life" (1987) and "Excess" (1989).
- "The Not-So-Fair Show" from 1982 had Christine get water dumped on her for saying "Eau de cologne". An amused Alasdair explained that "'eau' is the French word for 'water'"... and got drenched himself.
- "Know-It-Alls" (1986) introduced Matthew Godfrey as the Insufferable Genius who claimed to know everything; one of the others tried to get him soaked during a trivia game by asking him what surrounded Australia. (He was a little too clever and named gave the names of each ocean, causing the guy asking to remark he was "supposed to say 'water'." Ho boy.) Said genius got what was coming to him at the end by claiming "There is nothing about this show that I don't know." (But then tried to get the last laugh by saying "water" on purpose to use it as a slime-cleaner; only to be pied by the rest of the cast.)
- Also from "The Not-So-Fair Show", the Unfairy Godmother slimed all of the kids except Christine for saying "We know".
- In "Optimism and Pessimism" '85, by the third half of the show, no one has been slimed yet, and Doug was in a funk because he was sure he'd be the unlucky victim; Vanessa feigns concern and calms him down, causing him to remark that "I don't know what came over me!" (Right before - to her delight - it hits him. Of course, Doug gets back at Vanessa right afterward by reaching out with his slimy hand to pat her shoulder and - with his eyes still full of slime - instead touches her chest before quickly correcting himself. Accidental? Perhaps, perhaps not...)
- In the 1983 episode "Future World", Christine tried to avoid a sliming by saying, "Insufficient data." Following the sliming, Lisa said that the slime dispenser was now computer-controlled.
- In the 1984 episode "Hobbies", Christine said "Oh no you don't!" when Lisa tried to trick her into saying "water", only to get soaked. Lisa explained that the water dumper was French, and "'eau' is the French word for 'water'"... and promptly got soaked herself.
- The 1984 episode "Weather and Seasons" featured a heat wave where Christine and Lisa tried to invoke the water drop, only to learn that all the water had evaporated.
- In 1985's "Revenge", Lisa was caught off guard when saying "water" did not trigger a drenching. Thinking the word no longer worked, she tried "H2O", "Wasser", and "Agua"... which finally brought down a bucket of water. Alasdair noted that she had not met Julio, the new stagehand.
- The 1986 episode "Enemies and Paranoia" referred to a Soviet version of the show where one gets covered in red slime whenever one said "free".
- In one show, Christine is soaked simply because, as Ross tells her, the cue cards says she was suppposed to say "water", even though she did not.
- Saturday Morning Kids Show: Literally, as the local-only 1979 and 1981 episodes aired Saturday mornings on CJOH, and the Whatever Turns You On pilot was broadcast nationwide on a Saturday morning as well (although the series aired on Tuesday evenings when it was picked up). Once YCDTOTV was established as a hit on Nickelodeon, CTV would give the show another try on the network in the fall of 1982 - on Saturday mornings.
- Self-Deprecation: Many of the jokes were about how awful/boring the show was.
- Secret Admirer / Love Letter Lunacy: The plot of the 1985 "Romance and Dating" episode involves Lisa being sent gifts by a secret admirer, who invites her on a romantic cruise. The guy turns out to be a movie producer who wants Lisa to star in his new picture - Lisa Ruddy Meets Godzilla - as Godzilla.
- Shot at Dawn: A regular sketch involved one of the kids about to be shot by a firing squad, led by El Capitano. The sketches generally ended one of three ways: either the kid would trick El Capitano into freeing him/her (leading him to mutter, "That is one sneaky kid!"), or the kid would trick El Capitano into being shot by his own men (usually by standing in front of the post and saying "fire" in an unrelated context), or the kid would fail to trick El Capitano and would be left wincing as he shouted "Ready!... Aim!..." before a cut to the next sketch. (On very rare occasions, he would actually get to "Fire!"; for example, in "Ripoffs" from 1982, Lisa demanded that he go through with the execution presented as part of her South American banana republic package holiday.)
- Shout-Out: Several to Monty Python's Flying Circus.
- To begin with, the opening titles are reminiscent of Terry Gilliam's animations.
- In the Whatever Turns You On episode "Educational Programming", Ross is asked why programming that is both educational and Canadian cannot include such topics as lumberjacks. Ross mentions that he used to be a lumberjack, and sings "And I'm OK..."
- The same episode features a reluctant Kevin Somers as the Don't Bee, whose entrances are always accompanied by the battle cry, "Nobody expects the Don't Bee!" This doubles as a combination shout-out and Take That! to Romper Room.
- The 1981 episode "Safety First" features a cinema sketch in which an elderly patron (Christine McGlade in heavy makeup) brings her pet python to a travel film about South America. The python's name? Monty.
- Several early episodes featured characters getting 16-ton weights dropped on them.
- The 1985 episode "Identity Crisis" includes a camp sketch in which Justin Cammy is looking glumly at a poster of Norway and tells a puzzled Alasdair that he is "pining for the fjords".
- Running the end credits in the middle of the "Priorities" episode may be considered a nod to Monty Python, who ran the closing credits after the first sketch in one episode (and right after the opening titles in another).
- One episode of the original 1979 season had Kevin Schenk starring as "Rene Sitard," a parody of Quebecois pop star Rene Simard. (Simard was managed by Rene Angelil, who would later manage, and marry, CÚline Dion.)
- The end of the 1989 "Time" episode features Chris Bickford doing a Charlie Chaplin impression after the kids end up in a silent movie.
- Slapstick Knows No Gender: The girls were pied, slimed and drenched just as much as the boys. In one notable instance, Moose got hit not only with green slime, but also, red, yellow and blue slime. Then, she got hit with striped slime, which combined all four colours at once, followed by water.
- In the 1979 "St. Patrick's Day" episode, Lisa, after watching one of her castmates get slimed, declares that they wouldn't slime her because she's a girl. Less than a minute later, she's proven wrong - the first of six slimings (not to mention two pies in the face) she endures in this episode. This storyline was later remade for an episode of Whatever Turns You On.
- Sliding Scale of Idealism vs. Cynicism: The series was much closer to the cynical end, particularly in its portrayal of adults as bumbling idiots, scheming con artists, or cackling sadists. As mentioned in Adults Are Useless, series co-creator Roger Price took this angle deliberately as a rebuttal to the more idealised portrayal of adults in most children's series as helpful, morally upstanding, Reasonable Authority Figures.
- Smoking Is Not Cool: The show tackled the subject of smoking twice, in 1981 and the second time in 1989.
- In Smoking '81, the show's token First Nations (Native Canadian) kid, Jami, admits that his ancestors taught the white man how to smoke in the hopes that all the white men would die of lung cancer. The episode also ends with Les Lye himself stepping out of character to deliver an anti-smoking message. Smoking '89 focuses considerably more on the "grossness" of smoking, including the theory that green slime is mucus scraped from smokers' lungs.
- Some other, briefer incidents of this trope include Christine referring to smoking as a "disgusting habit" in "Safety First" '81, and Chris Bickford saying in "Choices" '89 that he wouldn't do something stupid like smoking.
- Soap Punishment: Happened several times. One sketch had a kid get his mouth washed out with French soap for swearing in French. Another had a kid get his mouth washed out by his smoking parents for saying "Quit."
- Spiritual Successor: All That, or for Canadian viewers, YTV's mid-1990s sketch/variety series It's Alive!
- The show itself is a complicated case of one. To those who grew up watching the show on Nickelodeon or YTV, the 1979 season is almost entirely unrecognizable as You Can't, lacking most of its defining characteristics as well as its layout. Whatever Turns You On, which flopped on CTV and remained dead and buried until YTV reran it as part of its YCDTOTV rotation a decade later, gave You Can't most of its cast, layout and running gags as well as its style of humor. But it technically came second. Make of that what you will.
- Then there was Don't Look Now!, a clone of the 1979 local-only premiere season of You Can't that Roger Price and Geoffrey Darby made for PBS in 1983, produced at WGBH-TV in Boston, which even had its own version of green slime, called "Yellow Yuck" (which was triggered by the phrase "Don't blame me"). Possibly the show was made at a time when Price and Darby were uncertain whether YCDTOTV would be renewed. And perhaps if PBS had not cancelled Don't Look Now! after its initial five-episode trial run (despite very high ratings), that might indeed have spelled the end of YCDTOTV.
- Between YCDTOTV and All That, there was the SNICK series Roundhouse, which was similar but had a much faster pace, more reduced production values, and a lot more Parental Bonuses. Unfortunately, this left the show uncertain about who its audience was, and this, combined with the tragic death of a key cast member, contributed to the death of the show after 4 seasons and 52 episodes.
- The Stinger: In every episode, there was at least one scene after the credits which sometimes tied up a recurring plot for the episode. Just to give a few examples:
- "Christmas" from 1984 wraps up the plot of Alasdair trying to get a kiss out of the girls in the cast with mistletoe by having Lisa, Vanessa, and Christine kiss him in turn and say, "Merry Christmas." However, Vanessa warns him, "Christmas only comes once a year, and tomorrow is another day!"
- The 1984 episode "Science" ends with a stinger in which Ross reveals that Alasdair's recital of the recipe for green slime, which he has spent the entire episode researching, has been obscured by the credits music. He proceeds to confiscate and eat the paper on which Alasdair has written the recipe.
- "Enemies and Paranoia" from 1986 ties up the "B-plot" of Adam Reid's wrestling bout with the Masked Destroyer by having Adam unmask the Destroyer to reveal... Mrs. Prevert, who drags him home by his ear. As she forces him to sit down to a huge plate of Brussels sprouts and recites further punishments, Adam groans, "With a mom like this, who needs enemies?"
- Suspiciously Similar Substitute: The entire cast over time, and especially when they replaced everyone for the 1989 and 1990 seasons. Some newer cast members are conspicuously similar in looks and demeanor to previous ones, particularly Chris Bickford (a second-generation Alasdair) and Christian Tessier (who is much like Doug Ptolemy).
- Take That!:
- The series took plenty of potshots at other television series, particularly children's series which fell closer to idealism on the Sliding Scale of Idealism vs. Cynicism (for example, Mister Rogers' Neighborhood), but its favourite target was... itself.Christine: (holding up an Atari 2600 cartridge) Now this is the ultimate video cartridge. It lets you play with your favourite TV programme and do what you've always wanted to do. Like, you could shoot down all those stupid little Smurfs, or you could make the Dukes of Hazzard get into a twenty-car collision, or... you could sink the Love Boat... think of it! You could commit arson- (a yellow "THE END" screen appears accompanied by the final chord from The Beatles' "A Day in the Life") ... okay, which one of you guys out there has one of these cartridges?
- A favorite target during the first local-only season was Kidstuff (1975-76), a Montreal-produced musical variety show which aired on Saturday mornings on CTV and was still being rerun as late as 1979 (the show actually aired one hour later on CJOH than on other CTV affiliates because of YCDTOTV). With its goody-goody image typical of Canadian children's shows of the era, Kidstuff was exactly the type of show to which Price and Darby were hoping to provide an alternative. YCDTOTV often made mention of the fact that Kidstuff was airing only in repeats.
- In one early 1979 episode (with one of the older girls playing Mom, and remade for the Whatever Turns You On pilot with Ruth Buzzi as Mom), even the entire Canadian television industry, and in particular the nation's public broadcasting network, was not above reproach. (Of course, once the show went into international syndication, PBS replaced CBC on the show's "hit list.")Mom: Are you watching one of those nasty, violent American programs again?! I thought I told you only to watch good Canadian programs!
Rodney: Aw, Mom, Canadian programs are so boring!
Mom: Well, of course they're boring. The government pays the CBC $500 million a year to be boring so people won't watch too much television.
- The series took plenty of potshots at other television series, particularly children's series which fell closer to idealism on the Sliding Scale of Idealism vs. Cynicism (for example, Mister Rogers' Neighborhood), but its favourite target was... itself.
- The Television Talks Back: In Episode 2 and the Whatever Turns You On pilot, it not only talks back, but shoots back, when Rodney is watching a violent American Western and Mom, who insists her son watch only "good Canadian shows," goes to change the channel.Rodney: [as Mom lies dead on the floor] Will you still be on when my dad gets home?[The cowboy on the screen grins, nods and gives the "A-OK" sign]
- In another episode, the criminal on a cop show shoots a kid watching TV for giving away his hiding place.
- Also, 1982's "Television" puts a new spin on the phrase "pay television" when the program Vanessa is watching is interrupted by a robber yelling, "Your money or your life!" Vanessa screams, "Mom! The pay television channel wants money again!" and Mom comes over with coins to insert directly into the set.
- Tempting Fate: The kids often did this with the slime and water catchphrases. Of course, it never resulted in the outcome they were hoping for. Some examples:
- "Revenge" '85: Lisa saying "water" in several different languages after discovering she isn't drenched after saying the word in English. After saying the word in Spanish ("agua"), she is finally soaked. The reason: the show's new stagehand is Spanish-speaking.
- On the other hand, several episodes featured scenes in which Christine said "Water" repeatedly, actually hoping to be drenched, and nothing happened ("Fads and Fashions", "Rumors", "Seasons/Weather").
- They Call Me Mister Tibbs: Occurs in an episode where Ross's nephew Jeff mentions that he always refers to him as Uncle Ross. One of the cast members urges him to just address him as Ross, without the "uncle". Ross goes berserk and makes him "say uncle" when he just addresses him on an informal first-name basis instead of calling him Uncle Ross.
- Tickle Torture: On the "Medicine" episode, Christine spends the bulk of the episode in a cast, with her bare sole sticking right in the camera. At the very end, Ross, the producer, threatens her foot with a feather duster while she begs him not to. He then tickles her foot, causing her to fall over hysterically into a nearby trash can.
- And again in "Fame", where Christine grabs Lisa's bare foot and, despite her begging not to, tickles the hell out of it after Lisa compares her to Lassie.
- Torture Technician: The monocle-and-eyepatch-wearing,note giggling German dungeonkeeper Nasti had a wide array of torture methods for the kids in his dungeon, ranging from racks and thumbscrews to having Lisa Ruddy talk their ears off.
- Transatlantic Equivalent: The 1979 incarnation of the series was itself the Trans-Atlantic Equivalent of the Thames Television children's series You Must Be Joking! (1975-76) and You Can't Be Serious! (1978), which also featured casts of (mostly untrained) child actors with special celebrity guests and musical guests, used Covered in Gunge as a comedy device, and were created by YCDTOTV co-creator Roger Price. The cast of You Must Be Joking! included lifelong friends and acting partners Pauline Quirke and Linda Robson (then in their teens), most well-known as the co-stars of the sitcom Birds of a Feather.
- TV Strikes: Christine spends the entirety of one 1981 episode on strike for more pay. When she's finally granted her raise, she learns that due to the fact that the raise puts her in a higher tax bracket, she'll be taking home LESS than she did before.
- Other episodes to feature strikes as a plot point included the premiere CJOH episode ('79) and "The Not-So-Fair Show" ('82).
- The Unreveal: In the link segments from the 1984 episode "Science", Alasdair tries to break down the recipe for green slime. He finally succeeds, and reads the list of ingredients to Christine... just as the end credits begin rolling and the theme music drowns out his words. (Christine's increasingly disgusted expression suggests the ingredients are not pleasant.) The Stinger for the episode involves Ross gleefully announcing that the home audience didn't hear Alasdair read the list - which he then grabs and eats.
- Video Arcade: In a nod to the popularity of arcades in the 1980s, one of the regular settings for sketches was "Blip's Arkaid". Blip (Les Lye), the owner, was a money-hungry price-gouger who deliberately sabotaged the machines if the kids were on the verge of winning free games.
- Vomit Discretion Shot: Whoever figures out what (or who) is in the burger in Barth's diner always chucks. Sometimes into buckets typically provided by said Barth. How else do you think he gets his "Special Sauce"?
- Voodoo Doll: In the "Jealousy" episode from 1984, Christine gets a raise while the other cast members do not. Lisa joins Christine for the introduction and claims not to be jealous, only to dig out a voodoo doll and stab its head with pins until Christine is forced to leave the stage with a headache.
- Who Even Needs a Brain?: A sketch had a mother getting far too enthusiastic about cleaning out her child's ears, and cleaning out everything between them as well. It had no noticeable effect on the child.
- Who Writes This Crap?!: The kids often complained about the bad writing on the series (the locker jokes were a particularly common target for their vitriol). See Lame Pun Reaction for an example.
- William Telling: One sketch involves all of William Tell's children dead with arrows through them and apples lying near them, except for one remaining son who's left confused as to how this could have happened. Turns out William Tell had a case of the hiccups.
- You Can Say That Again:Announcer: [voice-over, at the end of 1984's "Friends"] You Can't Do That on Television has been an Unfriendly production.Christine: [voice-over] You can say that again.Announcer: [voice-over] You Can't Do That on Television—Christine: [voice-over, annoyed] Oh, SHUT UP!
- You Just Had to Say It: Invoked by Christine on herself in the 1981 and 1982 seasons whenever she uttered the slime or water catch phrase without thinking, and would then groan, "Oh no, I didn't just say that, did I?" before the slime or water fell.