The show focuses mainly on the life of junior-high-school student Ginger Foutley. She, along with her friends Darren Patterson, Dodie Bishop and Macie Lightfoot, all try to rise from the position of school geeks as they solve many conflicts that come their way. Luckily for Ginger, the most popular girl in school, Courtney Gripling, has taken a liking to her and often includes her in her social plans. She is intrigued by her (what Courtney calls them) 'gingerisms'. However, Miranda Killgallen, Courtney's right hand woman, makes sure that she is not bumped down from her position thanks to Ginger. At home, Ginger records her lively adventures in her diary. Her little brother Carl, is often scheming with Hoodsey Bishop in his own side plots; and her mother, Lois, is always there for advice, which Ginger is always open to listen to. The series takes place in the fictional town of Sheltered Shrubs, located in Connecticut. It ran for about 3 years from late 1999 to 2003.It was among the few animated series in Nickelodeon that was ahead of its time, featuring (relatively) realistic situations and teenage issues which soon set a mark for the futuretitles to come in the TeenNick time slot. The most notable among the show pointed out that it didn't follow the Limited Wardrobe trope compared to the other Nick titles. It is also one of the only shows, not just on Nickelodeon, but perhaps in all of children's entertainment, to portray interracial romance in a serious (and positive) light.
Macie has a more subdued version of the trope. In "The Easter Ham" when Dodie was ranting about how Darren's Birthday Party was one of "the most important BFF thing to happen since we got to buy training bras!" Macie then replied "Those were my darker days," and then left it at that.
Acquired Situational Narcissism: Dodie in "Of Lice And Friends" when she replaces Chett Zipper for school announcer and uses it for gossip, becoming somewhat popular in the process, but only because she dishes dirt on other people.
Hell, Dodie for Courtney. She has Courtney's outfits memorised and claims she could "recognise the Gripling car anywhere".
American Accents - Surprisingly few for a show set in New England. Lois has a thick Noo Yawk accent, and the Griplings speak with posh mid-Atlantic (mid-Atlantic as in FDR-ish, not mid-Atlantic as in DC-area) accents, but most of the main cast sounds vaguely Midwestern.
Amicably Divorced - Lois and Jonas. They don't hate each other, just split up because they have radically different lifestyles. Ginger too is on good terms with Lois and Jonas too, but the same doesn't exactly apply for Carl, who resents Jonas and is rather out of touch with him, in part due to him being much younger and having known Jonas for less of his life. (It also doesn't help that Jonas wasn't making much effort to connect with his kids for the first season or two.)
Ginger: Dodie, Macie...do you think I'm unreasonably distrusting, and maybe that's why I'm having a whole time with this whole marriage thing, and this whole...Orion thing?
Dodie: Well, you did have your heart broken once.
Macie: And you are a child of divorce.
Dodie: Oh, oh, and remember when you sent away for a T-shirt using the proof of purchase from your cereal box?
Macie: And the T-shirt never came?
Dodie: That couldn't have helped.
Also, in "The Summer of Camp Caprice," after Ginger and her friends violate 14 rules of Camp Caprice, Margie lists them
Margie: Three counts of breaking curfew, one count of swimming in the lake without supervision, two counts of illegal use and operation of camp equipment, four counts of failing to report a violation of Camp Caprice rules, two counts of assisting the illegal deliverance of non Caprice Campers to Camp Caprice Grounds, one count of having a member of the opposite sex spend the night in an all-girls cabin.
Other Campers: (gasps)
Macie: Margie, with all due respect, that was only thirteen broken rules. I counted.
Margie: And one count of chewing gum at an assembly! Spit it out, Macie!
Macie: (spits out gum) Oh sorry, that's fourteen, yup.
Art Evolution - Contender for Most Triumphant Example—the show very carefully aged the characters as it progressed.
Darren is arguably the best example in the show, slowly developing from a scrawny teen with head gear to a really in-shape young man due to him playing football in High School.
Although still retaining the Klasky-Csupo look, the animation improved drastically from the pilot.
The Artifact - The animation during the theme song, which still has Darren's headgear well after it was removed and Lucky Junior High even after the main characters go to high school.
Artistic License - History - The beginning of "Next Question" has the answer to the trivia question "In what year was Abraham Lincoln first elected into office?" being "1860." Not true—he was elected to the House of Representatives in 1846.
This is more of a problem with the wording of the question than anything else. "What year was Abraham Lincoln was elected president?" was probably what they were going for.
Attention Whore: Courtney is a more benign example. In "And She Was Gone", she spends a lot of it dressed as an Emo Teen and pretending to be depressed when Ginger started getting attention over her poem. She even admits it- and in "No Hope For Courtney" she almost undergoes Sanity Slippage when Hope becomes the most popular girl in school instead of her.
Beautiful All Along - The girls at school view Darren this way after his headgear is first removed. May be justified since a good portion of his face was obscured by metal.
Macie is also proven this in "Butterflies Are Free."
Becoming the Mask - Thea Mipson. While she was deceiving Ginger (she even wears a wig) she admits that she actually did come to like her and to a degree did feel guilty about the deception, and may have legitimately wanted Ginger to stay.
Ginger herself is in this situation in "Deja Who?" where Courtney asks her to take her place after having an allergic reaction to lobster in order to impress a senator's son. Dodie and Macie are decidedly not pleased with this.
The Bus Came Back - Buzz the handyman shows up as a prospective buyer of the Foutley house in the series finale, "The Wedding Frame," a full season and a half after his first and only other appearance in "Mrs. Foutley's Boys."
Continuity Nod - Another thing that made the show unlike other cartoons was the strict linear continuity. Every episode would make some reference to a previous episode.
Some good examples are quite subtle. "No Hope For Courtney" featured a loser-girl named Hope who temporarily displaces Courtney as popularity queen, and she shows up in "About Face" where a crowd of popular girls come to Dodie's house to confront her about how her mother, the new Home Ec. teacher, is forcing herself in their in-crowd, and Hope is mentioned by name as Dodie welcomes them like a laundry list.
In "About Face", Mipsy gets hit in the eye with a rock twice that was aimed for Dodie's window, and she shows up at graduation in "Butterflies are Free" wearing an eye patch.
In the first season Ginger had a crush on a popular boy, but the character proved less interesting than the relationship budding between her and Darren, so he quickly became The Artifact and disappeared from the show. In one of the later episodes Ginger saw his name drawn on the back of her locker and comments that "That was ages ago..."
In the episode Wicked Game Dodie & Macie conspire with Mipsy and Miranda to break up Darren & Ginger. Courtney exposes the plot to Ginger and Darren at the end of the episode. The very next episode, Dodie, Macie, & Ginger act as though nothing happened, for a while it seem almost a discontinuity. However, it is brought up once in a single off hand comment by Courtney, implying that the girl's decided to deal with what happened by never speaking of it again.
Courtney is heard singing her theme-song from "Come Back Little Seal Girl" in Season 2's "Family Therapy".
One exception, however minor: Ginger went from being right handed to left handed sometime between season one and season two.
Disappeared Dad - At the start of the series, Ginger and Carl's father is nowhere to be found, but is referred to as still alive. He first appears in the Christmas Episode, where he and Carl talk about his lackluster parenting. Afterwards, he resolves to be more involved in his family's lives and makes recurring appearances.
Dreadful Musician: Miranda is noted by Macie as "the only person who can make a clarinet sound bitter."
Drill Sergeant Nasty - George McGrority, the "Big Brother" Ginger assigns Carl in "Sibling Revile-ry" as part of her "Persuasion, Not Punishment" program. A former military school cadet, George constantly carries (and blows) a whistle, makes Carl turn his room into a barracks and sneaks into his doghouse when he tries to flout the 8 pm bedtime imposed by George.
Dude Magnet: Surprisingly enough, Ginger. Of the course of the show she manages to attract Michael in "Deja-Who?" (until she shouts at him for insulting her friends), Joaquin in "In Love With a Proper Foreign Exchange Student", Jean-Pierre in "Stealing First", Camp Caprice Sasha, Although he does get back together with Clover., Jake flirts with her somewhat, Orion and, of course, Darren.
Early Installment Weirdness: The pilot episode "The Party" seems very strange when compared to the rest of the series. The art style is like an early draft of what is typical of most series, the some character design is odd looking at best with both Miranda and Darren get a race lift (Darren had grey hair and his headgear squeaked every time he spoke which got annoying fast). A lot of personalities are the same with the exception of Blake who seems like a normal kid instead for his typical snobbish personality. The episode is the only one that is never referenced too again (the fourth episode Sleep On It is very similar plot wise but with a sleepover instead of a party).
Easily Forgiven - No other way to explain for Dodie and Macie who tried to break Ginger and Darren up.
Evil Laugh - Miranda does this in "The Nurses' Strike," when she discovers Ginger's mom is working as a cleaning lady, effectively scaring a nearby family away.
Et Tu, Brute? - As Ginger finds out that Dodie and Macie are trying to break up her relationship with Darren.
When Ginger sees her friends defecting to the other side in Battle of the Bands:
Et tu, Macie?
Expository Hairstyle Change: As the main characters leave become older, leave junior high for high school and become more mature their hairstyles change. Ginger lets her hair grows out and no longer uses her yellow hairclips, Dodie stops wearing her pigtails in favour of a hairband, and Macie's hair grows out quite a bit. Courtney and Darren let their hair grow longer, too.
Getting Crap Past the Radar - One episode, "The Right Stuff" involved a minor plot point in which girls from Courtney's and Macie's high-school French class try to expose her as a bra-stuffer at Macie's (unwanted) pool party. This later became pulled from rotation, however this statement was blurted in passing by Courtney's little brother Blake in the unaired pilot, which DID make it to a DVD.
In another episode Ginger writes a fake love letter to Dodie from a secret admirer and, when writing, asks how to spell "voluptuous". Dodie is twelve.
Courtney gives Ginger a blow-up doll of herself as a parting gift in "Far From Home, Part 2." Presumably for innocuous purposes, but you never know...
Winston to the whole Gripling family, particularly Mrs. Gripling.
I Just Want to Be Normal: Courtney and Blake, who come from upper class families, try to fit in with the lower-class kids at their school.
I Need to Go Iron My Dog - In "Kiss Today Goodbye," Dodie avoids telling Simone about Ginger's relationship with Darren, and Ginger about Darren's newfound feelings for Simone, both times using some variation on "needing to feed her ferret."
Darren tells Simone this one to avoid telling her about the Foutley-Dave wedding:
Darren: I have this, uh, spinal condition that needs adjusting, or else I could wind up, uh...spineless!
Iconic Item - Darren only has his headgear in the first season, and they're off for the rest of the series. But they are still one of his most recognized features, and the opening credits stay the same throughout the show's run.
Dodie's pigtails were, until she ditches them for a hairband in later seasons.
Important Haircut - In the special "Far From Home" Ginger gets her hair straightened and given a blue streak to signify how much she's changed away from home.
Innocently Insensitive - Hoodsey tries to comfort Ginger after her appendectomy by reading to her at her bedside—from a romance novel. Hoodsey has no idea that Ginger had been dumped by Darren immediately before being admitted to the hospital.
Mipsy manages to be even worse. At least Miranda shows a few occasional moments of compassion. Mipsy shows nothing but cruelty towards her (except for that one time when she and the others needed her help and that was pragmatism.) She masterminded the plan to get Ginger set away (granted it was too a really prestigious boarding school but still.) she also spread nasty rumors during the time away and tried to break up the Darren relationship to make her more vulnerable (and there's the whole "defame the school statue.")
Joanne Bishop anyone? She's very rude to Carl, to the extent she badmouths him in front of Ginger, whom she merely seems to tolerate because of Dodie and makes catty remarks about the Foutley's in general, not to mention just generally being a shrill, irritating nag.
Jerkass Has a Point: She was a bitch about it, but Dodie did have a point when Ginger invited Darren to go with them to the State Fair without asking Dodie or Macie first, especially as it was a long-standing tradition between the three of them.
Jerk with a Heart of Gold - Carl. Hoodsey even calls him a "bad boy with a heart of gold" in "Stuff'll Kill Ya." (Carl isn't really a jerk per se, just a naughty boy who sometimes enjoys teasing other kids mercilessly. And he really is kindhearted on a fundamental level.)
Courtney also qualifies. She may act vain and have a big ego, but deep down, she's a nice person.
Jewish American Princess: Mipsy Mipson. She is part of the inner circle of popular and wealthy girls, her parents hired a sushi chef from Osaka for her 13th birthday, and in "Far From Home" she mentions Bat Mitzvah money. This trope is avoided with the more working-class and less observant Lois and Ginger.
Karma Houdini - Miranda is usually exposed for her crimes (as to let her victims off the hook) but is rarely otherwise punished. Mipsy is just as bad as her, but is never shown getting what she deserves (in fact, one episode has Ginger accuse Miranda of something Mipsy did to her). Simone also counts.
She did get a rock to the eye in one episode. which is something. and she's wearing an eye patch a few episodes later so it definately stuck.
In "I Spy A Witch," virtually all the girls in the play (besides Ginger and her friends) know Miranda and Mipsy defamed a statue and presumably framed Ginger for it. Miranda is forced to confess everything during the play, but is never shown being punished and successfully cheated Ginger out of the play. Mipsy gets off the hook, and the girls who knew what was going on should have said something, but get away with it.
Made even worse by the fact that her father is the Chief of Police. If anyone was going to bust her, you'd think he would eventually.
In "Driven to Extremes," although the jerkass substitute teacher gets her house tp-d, she doesn't get any adequate punishment for being a mean-spirited teacher to the students, and Ginger ends up in detention instead.
Kick the Dog: In the series finale, Dr. Dave's mother sets up an evil plan to keep him from getting married to Lois.
Killed Off for Real - Mrs. Gordon And Maude, too, in the second episode no less, and in the middle of dinner! Her death became a apart of "I Spy A Witch" where Carl uses her gallstone to conduct a séance to help him prank his mother and help Ginger.
Klatchian Coffee - Ginger gets addicted to this in "Stuff'll Kill Ya." It makes her into a major Motor Mouth with an extremely short attention span and a tendency to oversleep.
Leitmotif - Stately-sounding oboe music plays every time Blake Gripling speaks.
Carl had a very eerie sounding theme as well.
Lesbian Jock - The gym teacher in "Gym Class Confidential" is implied to be this way.
Let Us Never Speak of This Again - Implied with Ginger and her friends when its deals with Dodie and Macie trying to break her and Darren up as by the next episode, no one wants to talk about it.
Lonely Rich Kid - Macie teeters on the edge of this since her only friends are Ginger, Dodie and Darren. She lives in a big house complete with pool and tanning room and her parents are rich psychologists whom she has to make appointments to see and they even forget her birthday.
Courtney seems to become this in high school since Miranda disappears from the picture and she's almost always seen by herself.
Polly also counts, having managed to convince Carl, Blake and Brandon to give up their prized petrified eyeball, pickled tonsils and monkey tooth necklace respectively in the school time capsule saying that clinging to them would be childish and immature. She nearly succeeds in taking them all for herself if the three boys weren't so shocked and had second thoughts as they all showed up to exhume the time capsule to retrieve the objects, only to find that Polly was there first squawking "Finder's Keepers!"
Miranda is the daughter of a police officer, after all.
Courtney derives from an aristocratic English surname.
Hoodsey's nickname (presumably) originated from the purple hoodie he always wears.
Mistaken for Gay - Jonas Foutley, Ginger's Dad. His answering machine mentioned him living with a guy named Ben. Until it is revealed Ben is his dog.
Mood Whiplash: In "And She Was Gone", Carl manages to track down the school Noelle moved to and they share a tender moment and it looks like they might kiss, with Noelle saying, "Carl..." then she abruptly shouts in a weird voice, "This is what my voice would sound like if we were underwater!". Carl finds this endearing.
In "Never Can Say Goodbye" Miranda and Darren have a fight and Miranda immediately goes from angry to romantic because they had their "first fight" as a couple.
Averted with Miranda and Darren; Miranda finds Darren very attractive once his braces come off and Darren is flattered that one of the most popular girls in school likes him. They do seem to genuinely enjoy each other's company for a time, but eventually break up because they want to spend time with their friends. (And because Miranda can't stand Ginger.) But they do part on relatively pleasant terms, telling the other they made a decent match.
Parental Hypocrisy - Lois forbids Ginger things like using makeup and shaving her legs, but it's immediately shown that Lois has a whole bathroom full of beauty products that she keeps locked...although she has implied that she forbids Ginger from doing so because she feels she's too young.
This even gets pointed out in "Stuff'll Kill Ya" when Lois bans Ginger from drinking any more coffee. When Dr. Dave asks if this isn't a bit hypocritical of Lois, she replies, "But Dave, I'm an adult!". She is met with silence from Dave and Carl, and then is shown throwing away her instant coffee-maker.
Our Founder: A statue of "Revolutionary War hero" Nathaniel "Lucky" Winslow stands between the namesake Lucky Jr. high and high schools. It's unsure weather or not he's a founder or not.
Out-of-Character Moment - "Wicked Game", while Dodie conspiring to break up Ginger and Darren sadly isn't that much of a stretch, Macie actually getting involved with it too is quite out of character.
Pet the Dog - Miranda, just once in "Ginger's Solo". Ginger is in the bathroom sad, and when she explains why to Miranda, Miranda tells Ginger exactly what she needs to hear.
However, she had done so before in the TV movie, when she had tried to swim across a lake, but couldn't get very far due to a cramp. Dodie then came to the rescue, and in the cabin, was nice to Dodie. Dodie questions this, and Miranda said that Dodie did save her life, after all, with a smile of gratitude on her face.
Pigeonholed Voice Actor- Miranda was originally going to be a white chick but was changed to African American due to the casting of Cree Summer as her VA.
Playing Against Type - The usually dull and slow speaking Ben Stein as fast-talking realtor Buddy Baker.
Plot Hole - Miranda's knowledge of Ginger's feelings for Sasha are an important part of the plot of "Ginger's Solo," when Miranda consoles Ginger in the bathroom after Ginger has a run-in with Sasha's Alpha Bitch girlfriend Clover and Sasha rejects Ginger, leaving her heartbroken. However, Miranda and Courtney left Camp Caprice before the first time Ginger confesses her crush on Sasha, which is even more puzzling given that Miranda knows about the lyrics to Ginger's song:
Miranda: Wait... Sasha? Camp Caprice Sasha? 'There were copper-colored ponies'-Sasha?
Courtney knew she had a crush, it's quite possible she told Miranda. And when Miranda is present in the cabin at night, Ginger giggles while saying "you're so funny Sasha". She also sings the song through a microphone moments after Courtney and Miranda walk from the area, they easily could have heard it.
More egregiously, even though the dognapper is discovered at the end of the summer of Camp Caprice special, Carl and Hoodsey mention having caught the dognapper in the previous summer, and Milty has The Duchess back. How did they catch her? And did any other recently kidnapped dogs (such as Muffin) return? We never find these out - only that she was caught, and that Milty was reunited with The Duchess.
The Pollyanna - Brandon Higsby, especially in relation to his monkey.
Popular Is Dumb: Aside from Miranda, none of the popular kids seem all that bright.
Power Trio - Dodie is the Id, Macie is the Super-Ego and Ginger is the Ego.
Recurring Extra: Several. Noelle Sussman a frequently seen classmate of Carl is was often seen long before she became a main cast member. Another background classmate of Ginger's Hope, gets her own episode and made appearances even afterwards.
Series Fauxnale - "Butterflies Are Free" serves as this in many respects—for a show largely centered around the junior high experience, it focuses on graduation from junior high, and even contains a retrospective montage with clips from earlier episodes at the very end.
Spoiled Sweet - Courtney, she's naive and more than a little vain. But she almost always has good intentions and genuinely seems interested in Ginger's life. And one time she actually helps Ginger avoid a breakup when Courtney's two friends and Ginger's two friends try to do so. Macie as well. She's quite rich and undeniably a better friend to Ginger than Dodie.
Status Quo Is God: For the most part, surprisingly averted for a Kid's show. (Notably with Darren's headgear) But on the plus side, the episodes are disconnected enough that one won't suffer Continuity Lockout. There are sometimes passing mentions to past episodes, and often make for a bit of a Rewatch Bonus when you see characters in the background that had A Day in the Limelight the previous episode.
Strange Girl: Noelle Sussman. She's basically a female Carl, after all.
Stuck on a Ski Lift - Ginger's brother pays off the operator to stop it in order to break the world record for the longest time stuck on a ski lift.
Token Minority Couple - Darren and Miranda in "Never Can Say Goodbye," and Darren and Simone in the latter half of season 3.
Toxic Friend Influence - A lot of Ginger's problems seem to stem from Dodie giving really awful advice; perhaps the most obvious example being the episode 'Next Question', when Dodie encourages Ginger to ask out a teacher she's crushing on. She's also incredibly self-centered, such as when she tries to break up Ginger and Darren, and in the very next episode she thinks Darren's party (organized by Ginger,) shouldn't go ahead because she's not allowed to go (never mind all the inconvenience it would cause to the other guests). Even Courtney, who is billed as the popular ditz, often proves herself to be a more supportive and caring friend to Ginger than Dodie.
Fridge Brilliance - They're in Middle School, a time when kids haven't mentally matured and tend to be more self-absorbed
Uncanny Valley Makeup - In one episode the girls try to look glamorous by wearing makeup they made themselves. The fact that they have no prior experience in applying makeup is made very clear. They end up looking like clowns.
Ungrateful Bastard - Hope. She tries to tell Ginger that she'll be a loser if she hangs out with Courtney. The only reason she's now the most popular girl in school is because Ginger helped her gain confidence and advice on how to improve her image.
Visit by Divorced Dad - Ginger and Carl's dad shows up in a handfull of episodes. He is shown to be more than a little flakey, and it is probably for the best that he wasn't the one with custody of them, considering he doesn't even remember Carl is deathly allergic to peanuts. But he is shown to genuinely care about them.
Walk On The Wild Side Episode - Ginger gets fed up with being called a nice girl and crashes a high school party. This leads to a rumour getting started about her and a bad boy called Jake. Ginger realises she preferred being known as a nice girl.
What Could Have Been - The unaired pilot was quite different from the show we know of today. The main difference were the designs and art style. The hair styles were different, Miranda and Darren were white, and the style was similar to the Rugrats (Deranged Animation and all).
The pilot's since been uploaded here (though Darren looks more grey than white....).
What Do You Mean, It's Not Symbolic? - In-universe. Ginger wrote a poem about a girl who wants to fly and ends up vanishing. Everyone interprets it as a metaphor for suicidal thoughts, and asks her to get counseling for depression.
Women Are Wiser - Played with in that Lois is more reliable than her ex-husband and more able to speak up for herself than her current husband, but also that Dodie and Hoodseys' father shows in one episode that he is more clear-eyed and nicer than his wife Joanne. (Not that that's hard.)
Your Cheating Heart: Happens to poor Ginger twice. First with Sasha and Clover, then Darren and Simone. Although at least Sasha was never officially dating Ginger and was obviously feeling bad about the whole thing.