Western Animation / Martha Speaks

http://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/Martha_Speaks_8458.jpg
"And now she's got a lot to say!"

Martha Speaks is an animated educational series on PBS Kids adapted from a series of books of the same name by author Susan Meddaugh. Martha is an ordinary dog but, well, let's just let the show opening theme explain the premise:

Martha was an average dog. She went
"Bark" And- "Woof" And- "Grrrrrr"
But when she ate some alphabet soup,
then what happened was bizarre.
Narrator: On the way to Martha's stomach, the letters lost their way. They travelled to her brain and now-
She's got a lot to say. Now she speaks.
Martha: How now brown cow?
Martha speaks. Yeah, she speaks and speaks and speaks and speaks and speaks...

It's an educational show disguised as a kids cartoon (not that the network affiliation is fooling anyone), and unlike most kids shows, it doesn't treat the viewers like idiots and actually has quite complex plots for a kids show.


This show provides examples of

  • A Dog Ate My Homework: In one episode, T.D. brings Martha into school and asks her to say that she ate his homework. There's also a song sung by Helen about how Martha ate her music homework and in "Martha Sings", Martha literally eats Helen's homework by mistake.
  • A Dog Named "Dog": The Kitten Martha meets in "There Goes the Neighbourhood" is named Kitten.
  • Absurdly Spacious Sewer: In "Verb Dog, When Action Calls!", Martha and Dr. R. try to hide in one of these, but it doesn't work for long.
  • Accidental Misnaming: In "Martha's Life of Crime," Kazuo calls a mean woman who comes into the animal shelter looking to adopt Martha "Mrs. Crumblebum." Her name is actually Mrs. Bumblecrumb. Later, a man that she's trying to fence a stolen baseball to calls her "Stumblebum." Finally, the police officer that arrests her calls her "Fumblethumb" and she laments that she wishes someone would get it right.
    • Also Martha calling Helen "Joe" at the beginning.
    • And in the one with the school play, Carolina calls Helen "Hailey".
    • Mrs Demson to Martha in "Martha Puts Out the Lights". She calls her Magda, then Marla.
    • Actor/Role Confusion: Martha (and two background kids) are surprised to find that the dog who plays Courageous Collie Carlo (also a collie and also named Carlo) is scared of flowers because his character is fearless and they expect the actor to be fearless too.
  • Adaptation Expansion / Adaptation Displacement: A couple of the early stories from the show are almost note-for-note like the original books on which they are based. Additionally, even though this show is still relatively new, it has probably already displaced the original books by Meddaugh in terms of attention received.
    • Recursive Adaptation: A number of stories from the television show have now been released as books.
  • Aesop: Many episodes have one, but they're normally played quite realistically and aren't extremely Anvilicious.
  • Alice Allusion: Alice plays... Alice in the school play in "Martha Acts Up".
  • All Just a Dream: In one episode, Martha is tricked into helping steal the recipe for the alphabet soup allowing her to talk. She seems to go on a heroic adventure and defeat the villains in a spy parody...but wakes up and finds it's all a dream. Though it actually does help her solve the real crime.
    • There's also an episode where Carolina wakes up as a dog, but it turned out to be just a dream.
    • Lastly, in "Virtually Martha", Martha has a dream where she gets sucked into the computer.
  • Amazingly Embarrassing Parent: It's bad enough for TD to have his mother as the principal, but she does her imitation of the TV dog Courageous Collie Carlos in front of his class. This is kind of unusual as T.D. is usually famous for not getting embarrassed.
  • Animal Gender-Bender: All the adult mallards in the show have drake colors, complete with a green head, whether they are male or female.
  • Animal Jingoism: Downplayed for the most part as dogs and cats dislike each other most of the time but for one instance it was subverted, and the only cat that's really seen mostly is Nelson and he's got a mean personality in general.
  • Attention Whore: Dynamo the robot dog is not usually one of these, however, he does become a downplayed example if left on for too long, in which case he runs in circles and says "Let us play" or, in a singsongy voice, "Play with me, please play with me"
  • Bad "Bad Acting": Frequently, for most instances of Show Within a Show.
  • Bad Liar: Martha. Whenever she lies, her awkward voice gives her away.
  • Baleful Polymorph: Carolina gets one in "Dog Daze" when she wakes up as a border collie. It's all just a dream though.
  • Ballet Episode: In "Alice Twinkle Toes", Alice sees a ballet and wants to do ballet, but is scared Ronald will tease her because she's clumsy.
  • Berserk Button: T.D. hates To Be Continued and stories that end with the word "forever" (because they're not real stories to him).
    • Mariela really hates Mushy Duck, because it's all Ralph ever watches when she was staying at their house and she had the theme song stuck in her head. The rest of the Lorraines, Martha and T.D. dislike it too but Mariella hates it the most.
    • Martha doesn't like it when she thinks dreams are real. She also hates fleas, power outages, "no dogs allowed" signs, squirrels and Nelson (formerly cats in general).
    • The janitor at the school the kids attend hates dogs shedding indoors.
  • Between My Legs: TD's mom's legs were between Mr Sterns when he found dog fur on the floor.
  • Big Eater: Martha, who eats anything except stuff containing chocolatenote . She's particularly fond of garbage found goods. She does have limits, however. Skits and Teddy are also big eaters.
  • Big, Friendly Dog: Skits, sometimes Bob, and Rinty.
  • Big "NO!": Martha after she and Skits try to clear up leaves but the wind blows them away in "Martha's Must-Have"
    • Martha when she misinterprets "dye" for "going to die" about Alice.
    • Martha when she accidentally throws her collar into the trash in "Ain't Nothing But a Pound Dog".
  • Big "WHAT?!": Martha says "What?!" upon hearing it's bathtime in "Martha Makes Scents".
  • Birthday Episode: Several.
    • In "Martha's Chair", the Lorraines celebrate Martha's adoption anniversary, which they call her "birthday".
    • Although it's not the main plot, Mariella has her birthday in "Martha Runs the Store"
    • Alice has her birthday in "Martha Takes the Cake"
    • Grandma Lucille has her birthday in "Martha Says it With Flowers"
    • Grandpa Bernie has his birthday in "Martha's Worst Best Day".
  • Black and Nerdy: Truman
  • Blatant Lies: Martha when she is refusing to admit to Skits, Rinty, Ruby, Bert and Cisco that she and Kitten have made friends. Her awkward voice and behaviour give it away that she's lying.
    Martha: (after jumping on Rinty with a Little "No") and then putting the hat back on Kitten) "uhh, there was something on your ear...uh, it's gone now. Umm, what should we do?"
    Martha: (after Kitten has run into Bob's yard and Bob is barking at him) "Oh, just some chores before I, uh, go to the meat shop and pick up the free samples of salami" (awkward laugh)
    • Also Martha, when she's denying that she's scared of thunderstorms and lies (in the same awkward voice) that she is just spending time with her shoebox.
    • When she's pretending to be Mariella, she lies that she (Mariella) is stuck in the staircase while trying to get a piece of food, and then when Mrs Demson comes to help Mariella, Martha lies that Mariella got free. Mrs Demson doesn't believe Martha, so she has to have a conversation with her own voice and hide under the door to do the other side in Mariella's voice ("I'm fine" "Are you sure?" "I'm sure" "Absolutely?" "Absolutely"). Mrs Demson then asks why Mariella doesn't come out of the house, and this is Martha's answer
    Martha: "I think she's lost her legs"
  • Blind Without 'Em: Alice, Daniel, and the old man from "Skits Under the Weather".
  • Blonde, Brunette, Redhead: Alice, Carolina, and Helen.
  • Brawn Hilda: Brunhilde
  • Breathe on the Fan: Done once during a Heat Wave episode.
  • Broken Aesop: At the end of "Martha's Steamed!", Helen asks Martha if she learned something from all. Martha believes it's you couldn't jump to conclusions and a very hot dog can get very thirsty. Helen says the lesson was you shouldn't go eat food everywhere you see because it will lead to trouble. Martha, of course, misses the point and tries to reach for something in a trash can, only to fall in.
    Martha: Trouble? Eating is no trouble at all. (falls into the trash can) Uh, help!
    • Another episode introduces the character of Bob (an Angry Guard Dog with the habit of chasing after and/or barking at everything in sight). Bob attacks Martha and Helen throughout the episode while Bob's owner calls him a "bad dog". Then, at the end of the episode, Bob's owner starts calling him a "good dog" and Bob suddenly starts acting nice. Now, this could've been a good lesson about how calling someone names can make them angry and take out their anger on others. Just one tiny little problem. Bob was never shown being nice throughout the entire episode. Not once.
  • Bungling Inventor: TD's dad.
  • Butt Monkey: Milo's dad.
  • Cassandra Truth: In "Skits and Mr Scruffles", Milo meets Skits, who he calls "Mr Scrffles" and his dad thinks he's an imaginary friend. When Skits tells Martha about Milo, she thinks Milo is imaginary. Later, when he and his dad go out and show T.D. a picture of Skits, he recognises the drawing as one of Helen's dogs and gives them directions, adding that if they get lost, ask for the girl with the talking dog, which makes Terrence very distrustful of T.D. and to think he's making fun, until he meets Martha and finds out she can talk.
  • Cats Are Mean: Nelson is something of an Evil Genius who plots ways to get Martha in trouble, leaving her to defend her innocence. Martha is invariably vindicated by the end of the episode.
    • Hilariously lampshaded in one episode where T.D. comes up with a ludicrously complicated and unlikely scheme to explain how Nelson got into a house and dumped a birthday cake off the table to frame Martha. At the end of the episode, Nelson is seen with an item identical to one from T.D.'s story.
    • Also subverted for an Aesop in one episode were Martha expects a kitten to be mean, but ultimately finds out it's nice and befriends it, even being heartbroken when it leaves (then overjoyed to find out she can visit it whenever she wants).
  • Cat Up a Tree: Kitten is up a tree in "Martha the Hero", and Martha tries to save him, but he doesn't need saving and climbs down, however, Martha can't climb down and gets stuck.
  • Cereal-Induced Superpowers: Talked about in "Bye Bye, Burger Boy". When the characters' favourite restaurant (Burger Boy) is threatened to go out of business due to the success of another restaurant which they don't like the food of (Big Burgertorium), the children try to make ads and T.D. suggests starring in an ad in which he used to be a weakling until he became the way he is now from eating a burger from Big Burgertorium. However, the others deem that unacceptable as that would be lying.
    • Also discussed in a similar way in "Oh NO!". Granny Flo wants Martha to agree with her upon saying there's an ingredient in her soup which makes dogs talk, but Helen tells her not to because that's like lying as it only works on Martha.
  • Chekhov's Gun: In "Dogs in Space," T.D. attempts to explore space using a jetpack for his report, but the jetpack takes off without him due to T.D. forgetting to strap on. At the end of the episode, a jetpack crashes nearby the school, allowing T.D. to get a higher grade on his assignment.
  • Cloud Cuckoolander: Both Martha and T.D. sometimes go into this territory. Skits can sometimes be this too.
  • Color Blind Confusion: In the episode "Martha the Witness", Martha represents Mrs. Demson as the witness to a traffic accident that destroyed her lawn furniture. At one point, the defendant's lawyer shows Martha three cards; two red and one green. Martha, however, is unable to tell the three cards apart, due to her being colorblind, but towards the end of the episode, she reveals that she is able to tell that the top of a traffic light is always red, and the bottom of the traffic light is always green.
  • Cone of Shame: The main character has to wear one of these to prevent her from scratching her ear mites. She hates it, as it makes things 'sound funny', and scares Baby Jake.
  • Continuity Nod:
    • In "Martha Gets Spooked", Mrs. Parker mentioned the "pickle incident" (from the episode "Martha's Pickle").
    • In "Ice Scream", the picture book "Blue Mangoes" is missing its last page. In "Milo's Reading Buddy" T.D. comes across a copy of the book and proceeds to recap the plot of "Ice Scream" to Milo. In "Martha the Weather Dog", Truman finds the missing page under his bed.
    • In "Martha's No Dummy", Helen mentions the time when Otis and Pablum made a fake talent show to steal Martha in "Martha's Got Talent".
    • In "Martha Bakes", Mrs. Parker mentions the events from "Martha Gets Spooked".
    • In "The Cheating Chum Caper", Helen mentions the singing telegram who's really a crook. Carolina also mentioned the "steak tree" T.D. tried to grow.
    • In "Too Many Marthas", one of the members of the fundraising committee mentions Martha's radio show in "Martha Gives Advice".
    • In "Thou Callest Me a Dog", Helen and her dad mentioned when Martha ate Polish alphabet soup and when she couldn't stop singing.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: Not exactly, but: Granny Flo, the owner of the soup company that makes Martha's alphabet soup decides to cut costs by removing half the letters from her soup, which leaves Martha only able to speak words using those letters. They convince Granny Flo to put the letters back in and Martha gets better.
  • Courtroom Episode: In "Martha the Witness", Martha testifies in court about a traffic accident.
  • The Cuckoolander Was Right: TD, occasionally.
  • Cute Kitten: The reason why Martha stopped being prejudiced against cats.
  • Death Glare: Martha gives one to Billy Collins, thinking he's an impostor.
  • Diet Episode: Martha has one in "Too Much Martha" and "Martha's Dirty Habit" has an unresolved subplot of Daniel going through one.
  • Disappeared Dad: We never find out who Skits's dad is. Mrs Clusky also has three nieces but we don't know who their dad is, although we do know he is either Mrs Clusky's brother or brother-in-law. Additionally, we never find out who Mariella's father (Helen and Jake's maternal grandfather) is.
  • Disqualification-Induced Victory: In the episode "Wagstaff Races", the neighborhood kids enter a green go-kart race. T.D. and Alice's wind-powered go-kart places just behind Ronald and Reginald, whose go-kart appears to be powered by a swimming goldfish, and who have been sabotaging the other racers' go-karts. This isn't what disqualifies them, though. What does disqualify them is that their car is revealed to be a disguised gas-powered lawnmower when they crash into a lamp post after arguing over who gets to drive the victory lap. T.D. and Alice win the trophy as a result.
  • Ditzy Genius: TD's dad.
  • Does Not Like Spam: Grandma Lucille doesn't like bacon.
    • One of the babies Mrs Oatley babysits doesn't like spinach, and saying the word "spinach" counts as negative feedback from that baby.
    • Martha (and a nameless toddler boy) both hate the burgers that Big Burgertorium serve.
    • Helen and T.D. don't like pea soup.
    • Martha doesn't like rhubarb pie or cream.
    • Helen doesn't like rhubarb pie.
    • T.D. doesn't like "hot, lumpy porridge".
  • Dogs Hate Squirrels: Most (if not all) of the dog characters like to chase squirrels and hate the squirrels.
    Martha: "So that's why you should not be prejudiced against cats. Squirrels? Hate 'em all you like"
  • Dramatic Thunder: In "Paws and Effect".
  • Dress-Coded for Your Convenience: Parodied in one of the The More You Know segments
  • Dumb Blonde: T.D. He does things like being tricked into buying a steak tree.
    • The damsel in a black-and-white horror film in the episode "Martha's Pickle" who keeps asking the macho hero the definition of some words he says.
  • Eating Pet Food: Helen accidentally eats dog food in the first episode.
  • Elephant in the Living Room: Truman was right.
  • Everyone Has Standards: Ronald acquires a robot dog named Dynamo and although she initially dismisses Dynamo as nothing, Martha soon becomes envious and wants to get rid of Dynamo. But when she overhears Ronald's intent to get rid of Dynamo when he's bored with it, Martha is horrified, arguing that he shouldn't abandon his pet.
    • Even Evil Has Standards: Nelson, who had formed an Enemy Mine union with Martha to get rid of Dynamo, is also disturbed by Ronald's willingness to get rid of Dynamo.
  • Everyone Hates Fruitcakes: Zigzagged. Mariella apparently once said that one particular fruitcake that Grandma Lucille made wasn't fit for a dog, but Martha liked it.
  • Everything's Better with Llamas: In "Here's Martha!", Martha asks her talk show audience if they loved llamas to assure a llama who heard camels were better than llamas. The audience responds enthusiastically.
  • Everything's Better with Plushies: The abovementioned My Fluffy Puppy Imagine Spot. In real life, there are Martha plushes, too. They don't talk though.
  • Expy: Mrs. Bumblecrumb is similar to Madame Medusa from The Rescuers. Another flapper with too much make-up, partners with a bumbling oaf, and uses someone to steal something from her.
    • Courageous Collie Carlo is possibly a Gender Flipped parody of Lassie.
    • Martha was based off a real dog with the same name.
  • Extreme Omnivore: Zigzagged. Teddy is one, eating furniture and even (apparently) baby Jake's diaper. Most of these had no ill effects on him, but when he ate a rock, he could not digest it and it made him ill (however, he was OK). Butterscotch once ate a sock, and that made him sick. Martha and Skits eat a lot of weird things too (Martha sometimes eats paper), but nothing a real dog would not eat. T.D. also used to eat roly-poly bugs and dog food as a toddler and is not grossed out at the thought of eating blue mangoes (which smell like squid and old socks and taste like cheese). However, even he is grossed out by the thought of Teddy eating Jake's diaper.
  • Fantasy Helmet Enforcement
  • Fire-Breathing Diner: O.G's drawing of Martha eating a chilli depicts her breathing fire.
  • Fiery Redhead: Mr. Sterns, the school janitor.
    • Helen, when she's peeved. However, she is not generally this.
  • Five-Man Band:
  • The Flapper: Mrs. Bumblecrumb from "Martha's Life in Crime" dress like one.
  • Flash Back: Happens several times.
    • In "Martha's Life in Crime" and "Ain't Nothing But a Pound Dog", Martha flashes back to her puppyhood at the pound.
    • Martha has a short flashback to smelling sausages on the dog's breath at the beginning of the episode at the end of "Secret Agent Dog".
    • Martha has a flashback to when she was a puppy and had only recently been adopted and how she used to wet the rug in "Skits Behaves".
    • There are two flashbacks to Skits's puppyhood. One was in "Skits on Ice" when they were explaining why Skits was afraid of hockey pucks and the other was in "Martha Plays Favourites" when Martha remembers being jealous of him.
    • T.D. has a few in "The Martha Code". He remembers his first swim in the river and thinking the silt was frog slime and then having sandwiches, explaining why sandwiches are called "frog slime" in his code. He also is explaining why "firetruck" means "stuck" in his code. It was because he once got stuck in a giant model of an ear at the National History Museum while getting his toy firetruck. Lastly, his explanation of why Helen's codename is "Nap Time" is because at preschool, he and Helen both stayed up during nap time once.
    • The most part of "The Jakey Express" is a flashback centred on Mariella being in labor.
    • "The Trouble With Teddy" has Martha flash back to Teddy eating the furniture, Burt flash back to his allergy to flea collars, and Rinty flash back to when he once got poisoned from licking pesticide off his paws.
  • Flashback Within a Flashback: "The Case of the Shattered Vase"
  • Fractured Fairy Tale: The episode "Martha Spin A Tale" spoofs everything from Jack and the Beanstalk to Alice in Wonderland, complete with characters from the show.
  • Fridge Logic: In-universe, In "Alice Covers Up", Martha is enjoying having fun splashing in a kiddy cool.
    Helen: How is this different from a bathtub?
    Martha: It's a different sort of experience all together.
    Helen: How? It's water from a faucet in a rafting.
    Martha: Don't ruin this for me. Okay?
    • Another In-universe in "Skits on Ice", Skits is afraid of hockey pucks ever since when he was a puppy he nearly drowned on thin ice after chasing a puck.
    Carolina: That makes no sense. He should be afraid of ice.
    Martha: Dog logic.
  • Frothy Mugs of Water: In "Martha Out West", they serve strawberry milkshakes at a saloon.
  • Gainax Ending: Played for Laughs in the ending of the adore segment, with a dash of horror thrown in for good measure.
  • Genre Savvy: TD. In "Martha Gets Spooked", he tells Martha to look for a flashlight inside the haunted house, since they always do.
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar: Yes, even an Edutainment Show can get away with this.
    • In "What's Bothering Bob", Truman has a handheld talking dictionary that gives definitions to words that people say aloud. One of the characters says "Bob has gone nuts!" and the device proceeds to give various definitions of the word nut. The first is "a seed borne within a fruit", the second was "a metal piece with a threaded hole", the third was "an expression used to display sadness (Aw Nuts!). It attempts to give a fourth definition, but the kids tell Truman to turn it off. He can't turn it off, because it's stuck, but he does place his hand over the speaker preventing the audience from hearing what was stated.
    • In the story in which Martha is saying the opposite of what she means, Martha and Helen find Truman and T.D. at a pie shop, smelling pies. One of them states that "it costs money to eat, but inhaling is nearly as good, and it's free."
      • In that same episode, she said Nelson "Drop down from heaven". Care to guess what she really was trying to say?
    • The Toil The More You Know segment. The song Martha sings is pretty much reminiscent of Monty Python's Lumberjack song.
    • "Hades" was mentioned in one episode. The episode was about Greek mythology, so there is context, but it's still a little shocking.
    • In one episode, Helen is going to see a movie that has "curse" on the title. Martha is worried Helen would get in trouble seeing a movie with "bad words" in it.
    • In "Martha Blah Blah", Martha, who was losing her ability to speak due to less letters in the alphabet soup, tries to say "Hello Grandma Lucille. How's it going?". It came out as "o G u o go g"note , and everyone gasped.
  • The Ghost: TD's sister is mentioned in "Truman's Brother". He forgot because she's in college.
    T.D.: I can't remember every little detail.
  • Gratuitous Spanish: Carolina uses some Spanish words and phrases here. Helen's mom does this as well, but much less frequently.
  • Green Aesop: "Paws and Effect".
  • Growling Gut: Martha's stomach growls in at least four episodes.
  • Happy Rain: Zigzagged. Martha is scared of thunderstorms and Helen, Truman, Martha, and Carolina generally dislike the rain (unless it's hot). However, T.D. and the old man from "Skits Under the Weather" both enjoy the rain.
  • Help, I'm Stuck!: Martha gets stuck in the doggie door in the episodes, "Too Much Martha" and "The Puppy Tooth Fairy".
  • Hidden Depths: Carolina revels so much in being a Girly Girl and Fashionista that she takes pains to hide her athletic leanings:
    • In "Carolina Tackles Football," she showed herself to be a closet football fanatic with a genuine talent for coaching.
    • In "Truman on the Ball," when she teaches Truman how to make a perfect fly ball catch, she effortlessly demonstrates the catch without even looking at the ball.
    • In "Skits on Ice", she cheers for the Canadian hockey team.
  • Homemade Inventions: Professor Monkey's gadgets, such as a couch-helicopter made from a couch, broomsticks, a blender, bicycle handlebars, and a rope.
  • Hypocritical Humor: In "Martha's Pickle", a black and white film's Bruce Campbell-esque protagonist keeps defining words for his Dumb Blonde girlfriend. Truman criticises this as "not being how real people talk".
    • Throughout "Martha Runs the Store", Martha criticizes Skits for constantly getting distracted, only to get distracted herself before she can explain what that word means.
    • Martha has another Running Gag in the series where she'll say she can't get to sleep due to being hungry/scared/whatever, only to immediately fall asleep on the spot.
  • I Ate WHAT?!
    • In the first episode, Helen eats dog food.
    • In "Martha Takes the Cake", Nelson eats a birthday cake, which he probably intendend, but he also accidentally ate a candle along with it, which...did not go so well.
  • I Do Not Like Green Eggs and Ham: Truman thought he didn't like ice cream in "Ice Scream" but he'd never tried it. The reason why he didn't want to try was because Alice wanted him to and he thought that if he did he'd be "giving in to peer pressure".
  • If Jesus, Then Aliens: In "Martha's Worst Best Day", Helen's grandpa basically said anything is possible.
    Helen's grandpa: Helen, you have a talking dog. After that, I believe anything.
    Helen's dad: Good point.
  • Incredible Shrinking Man: TD guesses this is what happened to Truman, after he refuses to show his face (Due to a bad haircut) despite they can see him standing right in front of them (Albeit in the shadows).
  • Pun: "Martha, can I have your PAW-tograph?"
  • Ingesting Knowledge: The show's premise. Aside from ordinary Alphabet Soup, Martha has also eaten Spanish Alphabet Soup to speak Spanish. She also once ate a paper of Spy Speak definitions, which caused her to talk in code.
    • Martha also (inadvertently) speaks Polish in one episode, thanks to Otis Weaselgraft sneaking Polish Alphabet Soup into her bowl.
  • Ironic Echo: In "Martha's Thanksgiving, Part 1", Carolina tells Helen about how she doesn't want to be partners with a girl named Tiffany again. Later, in a flashback, Carolina says the exact same line. In "Part 2", she complains about this again to her cousin Chuck (or "Uck").
  • Ironic Echo Cut: In "The Cheating Chum Caper".
  • Inspector Javert: The security guard in "Martha Runs the Store" who is an unfortunate mix of this and Lawful Stupid, especially in how he continually accuses two boys for stuff they didn't do. Somewhat justified in that it's shown he's still learning how to be a security guard from DVD courses, but is still pretty inept.
  • It Tastes Like Feet: In "Martha's Steamed", Helen's dad found TD's shoes in the freezer. Helen tells him it's to make his feet cooler. But the reason TD put them on their freezer is because his dad won't let him use theirs, due to making the ice cream taste like feet. Helen's dad is eating ice cream during the conversation...
  • Jerk Ass: Mr. Sterns (to a lesser extent) and Eulah Demson (extremely).
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Ronald Boxwood, Grandma Lucille, Mrs Parkington, Bob, and Mrs Demson.
  • The Klutz: Alice
  • Lady Looks Like a Dude: According to Martha, she was once told "Here, boy" by a stranger despite being a girl dog.
  • Lampshade Hanging: In "Martha's Pickles", Truman points out how often the hero of the movie defines words.
    • In "Que Pasa, Martha?", T.D. thought of an idea to help Alice by giving Martha Mexican soup to speak Spanish, then Alice would record Martha when she repeats what Alice said. Alice asked why didn't T.D. use it himself, he never realized that.
  • Large Ham: TD as "Mr. Astonishing"
  • Lawyer-Friendly Cameo: and Ripped from the Headlines: One whole episode revolves around every dog in Martha's town wanting to be Obama's family dog. While the president portrayed is black and uses Obama's speech patterns, Obama's name is never used.
    • The episode when they compete in a talent show to meet Ryan Oceancrest and appear on International Icon.
  • Let's Meet the Meat: Parodied in the deserted and adore The More You Know segments.
    • One time, Helen plays a D.V.D. for Martha, where people dressed as food tell the viewers to eat them.
  • Like Brother and Sister: When Helen introduces Skits to Martha, she calls him a "little brother". Played with in "Truman's Brother". Truman and T.D. want to try and be brothers and they state that Martha and Skits are sort of like siblings.
  • Literal-Minded: Martha, justified as she's a dog. Some of the children have moments of this but aren't as literal minded as Martha, which is also justified because they are kids.
  • Little "No": Martha when Kitten is about to jump on Rinty.
  • Lost in Transmission: In "The Martha Code", Martha eats a secret code and ends up speaking in it, and the children are struggling to understand her phone call.
  • Lovable Coward: Truman, Carlo, Milo, John and sometimes Helen.
  • Magic Realism: It's a Slice of Life series wherein a dog gains the ability to speak like a human thanks to eating alphabet soup.
  • Maternity Crisis: In "The Jakey Express", it's revealed that Mariella went into labour while pregnant with Jake while it was snowing and the car had broken down.
  • Mean Character, Nice Actor: In a The More You Know segment, it is explained how actors are different from the characters they play by showing that Mrs. Demson's actress is nice while her character is mean.
  • Medium Awareness: Zigzagged. There's a bit of This Is Reality in the show itself, but there is No Fourth Wall at all during the The More You Know segments. Also, the narrator is outside the fourth wall.
  • Meganekko: Alice Boxwood, Mrs. Boxwood, Granny Flo, and Mrs. Clusky.
    • Helen as her favorite book character Curious Crystal, complete with Girlish Pigtails.
  • Merchandise-Driven: Averted. Aside from the books, there's only two Martha plush designs (a beanie, and a regular plush), and none of them talk.
    • Parodied in one episode's "My Fluffy Puppy" Imagine Spot where Carolina argues all successful kid's show are like this.
  • Mind Control: When The Perfect Pup obedience school comes to town and starts training dogs to behave perfectly, Martha gets suspicious that it's working too well. She discovers that the school using collars with mind-control devices installed to make the dogs obey every order their owner gives them.
  • Missing Mom: We never find out who Skits's mom is. We also never find out who Mariella's mother (Helen and Jake's paternal grandmother) is. Mrs Clusky has three nieces, although their mother is never revealed (she would be Mrs Clusky's sister or sister-in-law). We also never find out who Carolina and Milo's mothers are.
  • The More You Know: Appropriately for an educational show, before and after each episode members of the cast (including the Narrator) talk about the vocabulary words that will be or had been used in the episode.
    • In season two, the show started displaying key words on-screen as those words were being defined. It was a bit distracting, but probably not a bad idea, as it helps visual learners and allows viewers to not only learn the definition of the word, but see how it looks in print. As of season four, however, the on-screen word display was discontinued without explanation.
  • Motor Mouth: Martha can be this sometimes, and also Bob barks a lot.
  • The Musical: "Ain't Nuthin' But a Pound Dog"
  • Musical Episode: The set of "Martha Sings" and "T.D. Makes the Band"
  • My Little Phony: The show has an Imagine Spot which stars "My Fluffy Puppy". It's used to give an aesop against Merchandise-Driven products.
  • Never Say "Die": Averted hilariously in "Alice Covers Up".
    Mrs. Boxwood: It's not sunburn. It's dye.
    Martha: She's gonna die?! Nooooo!! [bursts into tears]
  • Neat Freak: Grandma Lucille, the janitor in "Raiders of the Lost Art", Carolina, and Mrs Demson. They get very dramatic if something of theirs gets dirty. Also Mariella and Danny to a lesser extent.
  • New Job as the Plot Demands: Martha, who's been a radio advice host, a telephone marketer, a farm dog, a firehouse dog, and quite a few others! Several episodes imply she still has a radio show.
    Martha: What can I say? I'm a dog of many dreams.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!: Martha tends to get into this a good bit, though normally due to someone taking advantage of her good nature. Still, she always tries hard to fix it in the end.
  • Nice Job Fixing It, Villain!: In the first episode, the cat burglar gave Martha food to shut her up. What he gave her is alphabet soup.
  • Nigh-Invulnerability: Dynamo the robot dog is said to be resistant to scratches, shocks, fire, and even being run over.
  • Nightmare Fuel: In an in-universe example, Baby Jake got scared when Martha was wearing a doggy cone to prevent her from scratching her ear... Until his older sister's friend told him a story about Martha as a space dog that went to a fake moon and battled Dr. 2 arms and his cleaning robot The actual show averts this for the most part. Well, minus the giant clown head attempt in the aforementioned episode.
  • No Fourth Wall: Obviously in the The More You Know segments, but occasionally the Narrator is addressed directly.
  • Nosy Neighbor: Mrs. Parkington
  • Not So Different: As shown in "Grandpa Bernie Cleans", he and TD are a lot alike. Bernie even said that Helen is like her grandma.
  • Not-So-Imaginary Friend: In "Skits and Mr Scruffles", Milo moves into the neighbourhood and meets Skits, who he calls "Mr Scruffles" as he doesn't know his name. His dad Terrence thinks he's imaginary due to Mr Scruffles also being the name of Milo's teddy bear. When Skits describes Milo to Martha, she thinks Milo is the imaginary one.
  • Odd Couple: Martha and TD always hang together or partner up in some adventure. As shown in "The Missing Metal Mystery", "Gopher Broke", "Martha's No Dummy", and "TD is Talking Dog".
  • Offscreen Teleportation: Truman somehow did this in "Martha's Life in Crime", at least once in each part. Martha wondered how he did that.
  • One Steve Limit: There's another dog named Martha in "Too Much Marthas".
  • Origins Episode: "Martha's Life in Crime" where Martha tells Truman about her puppyhood prior to being adopted by Helen.
    • "Martha's Thanksgiving" where we learn where she came from and how she ended up in the pound in the first place.
  • Our Presidents Are Different: In "Martha in the White House", a new president is sworn in. And he's black.
  • Out-of-Character Moment: TD in "Dinosaurs in Trouble!". He became unhappy after finding out Truman and Milo wanting to exclude him from their project. It made Jake cry seeing an unhappy TD.
  • Parental Bonus: There are more than a few subtle jokes that only the grown-ups will get.
  • Pet Heir: Sweetums
  • Planet of Steves: In "Dogs From Space," Martha dreams of a planet occupied nothing but Marthas.
  • Plot-Relevant Age-Up: Skits, who is first shown as a puppy but then suddenly becomes a full grown dog upon Martha's command.
  • Potty Emergency: Milo fakes several in "Milo's Reading Buddy" and T.D. gets an actual one in a The More You Know segment about health.
  • Potty Failure: Skits when he was a puppy. It is shown that Martha used to do that when she was a puppy, too. Martha also has one on purpose when she's pretending to be a puppy.
  • Pounds Are Animal Prisons: Averted in "Ain't Nuthin' But a Pound Dog" in that it actually provides a fairly realistic portrayal of an animal shelter— it's not an easy life, but it's not "a smelly, damp concrete prison with no food or water" either.
  • Power-Up Food: Alphabet soup makes Martha able to talk. Though for some reason, it only works on Martha and no other dog.
  • Proper Tights with a Skirt: Helen
  • "Rashomon"-Style: "Never Forget to Remember"
  • Recurring Extra:
    • A married couple that wears fishing hats, cargo shorts, and sandals.
    • The large redhead woman.
    • The girl in Helen's class with the long, black, straight hair and the blue cardigan. Her name is revealed in "Qe Pasa, Martha?" to be Celestè.
  • Ripped from the Headlines: A story in which Helen and Martha discover a dog locked in a car on a hot day. Unfortunately very much Truth in Television, although there are many dogs like this who sadly perish before anyone can find them. The episode featured a non-malicious variant, however. The dog in question was trying to sneak a treat and got locked in the car only because the owner of the car didn't know he was there.
  • The Rival: Carolina's best friend Tiffany Blatsky.
    • Nelson to Martha.
  • Rule of Cool: T.D.'s last-ditch reason for allowing aliens to be included in a western-themed movie. It works.
  • Running Gag: Martha has many dream jobs. She first dream about them ever since he first heard of them.
    • You can't forget Martha's "Hey Joe, whaddya know?" to which Helen responds, "My name's not Joe.", in the theme song. Nobody in the Martha Speaks universe has the name of Joe.
      • In one episode, a talking dog says this to William Shakespeare (played by TD), and he responds "My name's not Joe. It's Will." In an episode about Greek myth, Echo the nymph (Martha) says "Hey Juno, whaddya know?", and Hera (Helen) angrily responds "My name's not Juno!"
    • People being surprised to see Martha talk. Also, those who know her personally are confused by other people who think they're joking around.
  • Sadly Mythtaken: The episode "Myth Me?" removes the endings of the myths, even in the case of Prometheus, which had a happy ending.
  • Samus Is a Girl: In "Martha's Steamed", the dog Ruby's owner is named Ray (short for Rachael).
  • Say My Name: Happens with Martha and Skits several times.
    • Danny shouts Martha's name in a flashback when she wets the floor.
    • Helen says Martha's name (albeit not shouting) in the one about the school play.
    • People shout Skits's name in "Martha and Skits". Mariella shouts his name when he wets the rug and everyone shouts his name when he shows up after running away.
    • In the Flash Back in "The Jakey Express", Mariella shouts "Danny!!" while sledding down the hill. Danny shouts "Mariella!!" and slides after her.
  • Secret Shame: In "The Cheating Chum Caper", T.D. likes a comic book made for little kids.
  • "Sesame Street" Cred: Billy Collins and Kit Luntanne in different episodes
  • School Play: The gang gets to act in a rendition of Alice in Wonderland which involves Alice as Alice and Martha as the Cheshire Cat in "Martha Acts Up".
  • Screams Like a Little Girl: Truman.
  • Secret Identity: When Martha gets to be host of a call-in radio advice show, she starts giving some strange advice to the callers. She becomes extraordinarily popular and everyone finds themselves extremely happy by following her advice, until at her first live appearance, everyone finds out she's a dog and everyone promptly loses interest in her and her advice.
  • Show Within a Show: Several.
    • The show "Courageous Collie Carlo"
    • The TV movie seen in "Martha's Pickle"
    • Several shows about sports seen in "Martha Fails the Course"
    • The medical drama that Martha was watching in "Nurse Martha".
  • Shout-Out:
    • In "Verb Dog, When Action Calls!", Martha spins around to transform into his superhero identity like a certain other superhero dog.
    • TD's own Greek myth adaptation I Love Medusy.
    • In "The Dog Did It", when Martha tells the kids about how dogs helped human discover fire, the story begins with a bone being thrown up in the air. There was even a Match Cut.
    • In "Martha, Sled Dog", Martha screams "Good catch, Skits! Now stop this crazy thing!"
    • When Alice reads a book in "The Martha Code", Ronald tells her that the spider dies. This is likely a reference to a children's book called Charlotte's Web, about a spider who does indeed die.
    • "Secret Agent Dog" has several James Bond references. Martha's title is 002 and the other dog's title is 001. In Martha's daydream she asks for her water "shaken and not stirred", which is said in the films.note 
    • Truman reads The Odyssey in "Truman and the Deep Blue Sea" and Odysseus appears in his dream.
    • T.D. reads Moby-Dick in "Truman on the Ball".
    • Truman is said to have viewed The Wizard of Oz as a little kid, but the tornado gave him nightmares. Martha and Helen, however, enjoy it.
    • In "Martha Models", Helen and Carolina suggest dressing Martha and Skits up as Sherlock Bones and Dog-tor Watson or Romeo and Juliet. They then decide to dress them up as Frankenstein's Monster and Count Dog-Ula.
    • Helen's dad's favorite superhero is the Green Gaslamp.
  • Sick Episode: Helen gets laryngitis (a serious, but very short-lived case) in "Martha in Charge".
    • In "The Trouble With Teddy", Teddy, a neighbourhood dog who is The Ditz, gets stomach trouble. It's because he ate a rock. He was fine after his operation.
    • In "Nurse Martha", Butterscotch swallows a sock and ends up ill. However, he gets surgery and recovers.
  • Skyward Scream: In "Skits on Ice",
    Weather lady: And this just in, Wagstaff City schools are—
    (a shot of Wagstaff City)
    Kids: YAAAAAAAAYYY!!!!
  • Smelly Skunk: In the Pleasant/Unpleasant segment of the show, Martha is explaining things that are Pleasant and Unpleasant, getting sprayed by a skunk is one of the unpleasant things. Being Martha, she goes on to describe getting a bath after being sprayed by a skunk as even more unpleasant. Helen agrees.
  • Soup Is Medicine: Helen is given corn soup when she has laryngitis but mostly this trope is averted, probably due to Martha.
  • Speaks Fluent Animal: Zigzagged. Martha is able to understand, but not speak the language of, cats, birds, and sheep but she is notably not able understand monkeys and has some difficulty understanding puppies. She can understand giraffes, but they cannot understand her. The bird, featured in "Martha Doesn't Speak Monkey", can understand giraffes and Martha when she's speaking English, but not monkeys, and the giraffe from the same episode can understand monkeys and birds but not dogs or people. Professor Monkey, apparently, can understand all the languages in the world, but can only speak in monkey. T.D. once wanted to speak to animals after seeing a guy on TV who can do this, but he can't do it because he can't pronounce barking and doesn't have a tail.
    • Averted with Dynamo the robot dog. He can recognise dogs and barks at them, but his remarks make no sense to dogs. Ironically, the only language he seems to be fluent in is English, while he's meant to be a dog.
  • Spoiler: In-Universe. In the first episode, Martha has already seen a Show Within a Show that the Lorraines were watching and tells a spoiler to it, annoying the Lorraines.
  • Spoof Aesop: As already described, in "Martha's Steamed," there was a dog who got locked in a car by accident because it was trying to sneak a snack, but the owner of the car was accused of doing it on purpose. At the end of the story, Helen asks Martha if she learned anything and Martha says that it's to not jump to conclusions. Helen, however, suggests that the Aesop of the story is to not go digging everywhere for food, which Martha promptly ignores and starts eating out of a garbage bin.
  • Storybook Episode: In "Martha Spins a Tale", Martha tells a story in which she's Goldilocks (but still a dog), Daniel, Mariella and Jake are the Three Bears, Helen is Little Red Riding-Hood, Alice is Sleeping Beauty's cousin, Pablum and Otis are ogres, Nelson breathes fire, Mrs Demson is the Queen of Hearts, Skits is the Mad Hatter and T.D. is Robin Hood.
  • Superhero Episode: In a Continuity Nod to "Martha's Show", the episode of "Return of the Bookbots" revolves around one of the show ideas discussed before. "Verb Dog, When Action Calls" is another superhero episode.
  • Superstition Episode: In "Martha Changes Her Luck", Martha believes she is jinxed due to having coincidental bad luck after walking under a ladder and breaking a mirror.
  • Suspiciously Specific Denial: In "The Cheating Chum Caper", when Helen wonders if anyone in town is hiding something, Martha quickly and nervously asked why would anyone be hiding anything. Later, when Helen spot TD buying a lot of hot dogs he tells her many different reasons why he bought them and then yells why doesn't she believe him, which only further roused her suspicions. Martha calls him out on it for this very reason.
  • Talking Animal: Martha, obviously.
    • In one episode, Martha claimed that all animals could talk since the Dawn of Man but lost their ability over time. However, this is neither confirmed, nor denied.
  • The Tetris Effect: In "Helen's All Thumbs", Helen becomes addicted to a video game and begins seeing sprites from the game in real life.
  • The Thing That Would Not Leave: Ralph and her baby ducklings.
  • This Is Reality: In "Skits Behaves", Helen says that the dogs on TV were trained instantly, "but that's TV. In Real Life these things take time." Also, in a TV show that the kids were watching, a character says "This isn't TV!!"
  • Those Two Bad Guys: Otis and Dr. Pablum.
  • Time Skip: Played with in "Martha and Skits", annoyed Martha tells him puppy Skits to grow up, and then in the next transition he's full grown.
  • Title Drop: "The Cheating Chum Caper"
  • Title Theme Tune: See theme song above.
    • Expository Theme Tune: Again, see theme song above.
      • Bragging Theme Tune: Yes, we might as well throw this in as well, as part of the theme tune has Martha showing off her knowledge of words.
      Martha: Communicates, enumerates, elucidates, exaggerates, indicates, and explicates, bloviates, and overstates and (pant, pant, pant) hyperventilates!
  • Token Trio: Carolina (Mexican-American), Tiffany (blonde Caucasian) and an African-American girl.
  • Tomboy: Alice Boxwood
  • Tomboy and Girly Girl: Martha and Helen.
    • Also, Alice and Carolina.
  • Tongue Twister: Martha shows she's good at saying these in "Martha's Got Talent".
  • Totem Pole Trench: Martha and Truman perform this during the interlude segment between the episodes, "Cora! Cora! Cora!" and "Cora Encore!"
    • Martha, Helen and Alice perform this (with Skits providing snarling sound effects) in "Martha Camps Out" backfiring Ronald's plan to scare them.
  • Trademark Favourite Food: Martha has steak and alphabet soup, one of the babies has applesauce.
  • Unusually Uninteresting Sight: Despite the fact that Martha is the only known talking dog in her world, in general, nobody seems freaked by it. The most common reaction to her talking is no reaction, though sometimes people may be mildly surprised, then simply decide to just go with it. In "Ain't Nuthin' But a Pound Dog," Kazuo of the animal shelter thinks that he's having a joke played on him when Martha's dad calls up asking if a talking dog has been taken to the animal shelter, but when he actually does finally hear Martha talk, he just takes it in stride. Oh, and you would think that if there were a talking dog in town, everyone would know about it, but apparently not.
    • Lampshaded in an episode where Martha goes to see a famous television dog visiting the town.
      Random Child: "WOW! A TALKING DOG!"
      Martha (not wanting to take the attention off the famous dog): "Yeah. But, this one's ON TV!!"
      Another Random Child: "Yeah, she's got a point"
      Everyone looks back at the famous dog.
    • However, the two recurring villains in the show, Otis Weaselgraft and Pablum, constantly make plans to kidnap her to make money off of her, so at least its an interesting sight to someone.
    • The episode where she became a host of a radio advice show, she makes her first public appearance. This would explain why not a lot of people were freaked out in later episodes, since the people already known about it from this episode.
      • Also in the first episode, a few people in Helen's neighborhood noticed Martha talked for the first time.
    • Played straight in some episode where some characters who never met Martha think they're joking about a "talking dog". Helen and others are confused by it, because they're so used to Martha talking they forget a talking dog is an unusual thing.
  • Vomit Discretion Shot: Nelson throws up after eating Alice's birthday cake. The audience doesn't see it but the characters sure do.
    • Burt throws up offscreen in a flashback to him having an allergic reaction to his flea collar.
  • A Weighty Aesop: Martha gets overweight in "Too Much Martha".
    • "Fit Fights Fat" can also be this despite most of the episode being a dream.
  • We Want Our Jerk Back: Subverted. There's a character on the show who is basically a grouchy old lady and treats everyone around her meanly. In one story, her doctor tells her she needs to adopt a positive outlook for her health, so she starts being ultra-nice to everyone, playing with the kids and Martha and everything. Nobody goes so far as to suggest that they'd prefer she'd go back to the old way, though Martha does come very close.
  • Whole Episode Flashback: Several, including covering the birth of Helen's baby brother (in a kid-friendly manner), Martha being kidnapped and used for crime by a one-shot villain, why Skits is afraid of hockey pucks, and a time when Martha was jealous of puppy Skits getting all the attention.
    • A time when she almost loses her ability to speak (which happened soon after the first episode).
    • When Skits was T.D.'s pet before being Helen's.
    • When Martha tells Helen of the vase mysteriously broke.
    • "The Big Knockover", where Martha talks through a camera about the incident.
  • Why Did It Have to Be Snakes?: Carolina has a bad case of stage fright. She just freezes up on stage and doesn't even remember it.
    Carolina: When do we go on?
    • And also with Skits and hockey pucks.
    • Milo is scared of reading in front of others.
    • Truman is scared of bugs, tigers, and clowns.
    • Martha and Skits are scared of fireworks.
    • Martha is scared of storms and Skits used to be but he outgrew it.
    • Helen is scared of ghosts and also has a lesser case of stage fright.
    • Carlo is scared of flowers, ever since he sneezed from flowers, blowing some onto two peoples' faces, leading them to drop a vat of white stuff (glue? paint?) they were carrying onto Carlo.
  • A Wizard Did It: In "The Dog Did It", Martha claims dogs used to talk (even before humans developed language). The reason they don't anymore, she claims, is because William Shakespeare told a powerful magician to cast a spell on all dogs.
  • Worthless Yellow Rocks: "Never talk to a dog about money."
  • You No Take Candle: When O.G. draws Martha eating a chili pepper and breathing fire, Martha imagines herself saying "Water, water". Also, Martha once translates Polly's squawking as "me want mirror" and notes it's terrible grammar.
  • Your Tomcat Is Pregnant: Ralph
  • Youthful Freckles: TD, Alice, and Ronald.

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/WesternAnimation/MarthaSpeaks?from=Main.MarthaSpeaks