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Series / Boston Public

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A comedy-drama series created by David E. Kelley and airing on FOX, Boston Public basically told the story of the Teen Drama from the point of view of the teachers. It took place in Winslow High, a public high school in Boston, hence the show's title. Boston Public was basically Degrassi in America!, except the teachers are the troubled ones.

The show aired from October 2000 to January 2004 for a total of 81 episodes in four seasons.

This series provides examples of:

  • Abusive Parents: Meredith Peters (AKA The Hook Lady) beat her son Jeremy and locked him in the basement as punishment.
  • Adults Are Useless: Both played straight and inverted. The faculty does generally make attempts to help; they're just not always effective or successful. But parents? Forget it. They are always portrayed as either useless, pretentious, or overprotective of their kids; setting hypocritical double standards for children and teachers; and going for Frivolous Lawsuits about twice per episode. In most cases, this undermined every effort made by the teachers to help the kids, successful or not.
    • Harvey has it Played for Laughs as part of his character; he's completely clueless about what's going around him and how to react.
  • Armor-Piercing Response: When Harvey is facing termination for his bigotry in season one, Kevin Jackson, a Black student, speaks out against it. The following exchange is what saves Harvey's job:
    Steven Harper: It doesn't offend you when he says it's his job to get your Black ass into college?
    Kevin: Not really.
    Steven: Why not?
    Kevin: Because he will. That man will get my Black ass into college.
  • Arson, Murder, and Lifesaving: Harry Senate was often on the receiving end of these kinds of speeches.
  • Artistic License Law: The series runs on this, with Frivolous Lawsuits left and right, using loopholes as standard procedure, and judges officially claiming in their verdict they treat the case as fully personal.
  • Bad Boss: Superintendent Marsha Shinn in the first season. She seemed more interested in getting Steven fired for both his own actions (specifically slamming a bully against a locker in defense of another student in the very first episode) and the unusual antics of his faculty than backing him up. Steven even tells her right to her face that he considers her to be one of many problems he faces as the principal of Winslow High. There is a reason she has the nickname "The Dragon Lady."
  • Badass Teacher: Steven Harper (despite being the principal), Scott Guber (although he's the vice principal), Harry Senate, Marla Hendricks, and Danny Hanson all qualify.
  • Black Republican: Marilyn revealed that not only she was a Republican, but was against affirmative action, after a white student protested publicly against it (which, turns out, was for a petty reason - a black student was admitted into Harvard with GPA lower than his, but only by a tenth of a point and the white student was already admitted into Yale). Principal Harper and especially teacher Marla aren't sympathetic (Marla basically calls her a traitor), but during a debate, she explains her point of view concisely which brings more understanding. She also reveals that despite being Republican, she's for a 3-day wait period for gun control, against the death penalty, and regarding prayer in schools, she says that "she's a Republican, not Pat Robertson."
  • Benevolent Boss: Steven, most of the time.
  • Break the Haughty: This happens to Guber in a Season 1 episode. Guber orders Harvey to go see a doctor to ascertain his mental state. Later, he receives an invitation to conduct an orchestra in Northampton, which requires him to drive for an hour to get to the symphony. Once Guber arrives, he's devastated to find out that Northampton doesn't have a symphony. He returns to Winslow and goes on the warpath, searching for the one responsible for pranking him; he first suspects Harry, then a visiting Milton, and Lisa Greer. The true culprit is revealed to be Harvey. Guber is dumbfounded.
    Harvey: I called my doctor. He asked me the date; I got it right. He asked if I changed my underwear; I told him every day. He asked if I ever drove an hour to stare at an empty lot under the delusions that I could conduct an orchestra. I said "Do I really look that crazy?"
    Scott: You?!
    Harvey: Pick a new target, Scott. [walks off]
  • Bunny-Ears Lawyer:
    • Harvey, Marla, and Harry should all be fired right in the first episode for their quirks and highly questionable actions, yet they're part of the regular cast.
    • Ronnie is an actual lawyer teaching in school for fun.
  • Butt-Monkey: Guber is often on the receiving end of this trope.
  • Call-Back: Buttle
    Buttle: Oh, my head's up a horse's ass. I feel like...bending over and pooping in my mouth.
  • Captain Smooth and Sergeant Rough: Steven and Guber have this dynamic in spades, with Steven as the benevolent and understanding authority figure and Guber as the strict but even-handed disciplinarian.
  • Celebrity Star: See High-School Dance.
  • Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: Lauren, Louisa, Brooke, Carmen Torres, and Charlie Bixby all disappear with little or no trace or mention of what happened to them (it's stated Lauren got a job at a private school, though).
  • Code Silver: "Chapter Nine" revolves around a lock-down of the school and a desperate attempt by the police to find a student who murdered a restaurant owner.
  • Crossover: With The Practice in Season 1 and Boston Legal roughly a year after this show's cancellation.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Harry Senate's schtick. As the series progress, it turns into World of Snark.
  • Dramedy: Serious social issues, death, and teaching problems are combined with black and cringe comedy, while many negative traits of the faculty are Played for Laughs.
  • Emo Teen: They start to show up in later seasons to address (or dismiss) the issue with emo subculture.
  • Epic Fail: In the Season 1 finale, the student body gives the Teacher of the Year award to Guber in an attempt at Behavioral Conditioning in order to get him to lighten up. It works, but not as they want it. Instead of viewing it as negative punishment (removing their hatred in an attempt to get him to change his behavior) as the students intended, Guber views it as positive reinforcement (the students appreciated the job he was doing) and continued to act as before. They seem to not have learned from their parents not to reward unwanted behavior.
  • Everyone Has Standards: At one point, Guber takes a meeting with the owner of a porn site who returns a VHS someone sent him of stolen security footage from the girls' locker room. The owner is a quiet, polite man in a nice suit who explains that all of his models are of age and he verifies each one before featuring them on his website. As such, he refuses to accept unsolicited videos that are filmed without consent featuring girls who probably aren't over eighteen.
  • Everything Is Racist: Whenever black parents show up, they always start with racism accusations, no matter what was the case, and add it to their Frivolous Lawsuit against the school.
  • Flanderization: Guber suffers this during the whole series, turning into a shallow parody of his uptight behavior.
  • Former Teen Rebel:
    • Steven mentions he once got drunk and got into a car accident, and was involved in a robbery as a teenager.
    • It's mentioned that Danny Hanson got busted for grand theft auto. Twice.
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners: Steven and Scott, to the point where they invite each other over for Thanksgiving dinner and exchange holiday presents.
  • Hidden Depths: Guber, with his interest in classical music and Hidden Heart of Gold.
  • High-School Dance: Whitney Houston performed at the prom in the third season finale.
  • Hollywood Atheist: In one Season 2 episode, Danny becomes very uncomfortable when students want to discuss religion in school, and later in Season 4, he outright states he doesn't believe in God.
  • Hot Teacher:
    • Lauren, Marilyn, Ronnie, and Carmen are all very attractive, to say the least. There was even a student poll where students voted for which teacher they wanted to sleep with most.
    • There was also Jenna Miller, an English teacher who once counseled a male student (who had been ogling her ass and even started to reach out to touch it) that smart guys get the chicks with "nice asses." Guber even describes her as "a nasty little thing."
  • Idiosyncratic Episode Naming: Each episode is titled "Chapter One," "Chapter Two," etc.
  • Informed Judaism: Guber and Harvey both state they are Jewish.
  • Inner City School: The setting of the show. It's even in the title.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Guber, Danny, and Charlie Bixby.
  • Jerkass: Many of the parents who show up, in addition to being neglectful or abusive, generally behave like absolute assholes toward the faculty. Let's name a few examples, shall we?
    • Early in Season 1, there's Walter Harrellson, who pretty much expects the teachers to give his son Jason the lessons he needs when he easily could've done so himself.
    • In "Chapter Four," John LaBlonde's parents blame Steven for their son's suicide.
    • In a Season 2 episode, the parents of a handicapped student deceived Danny, and by extension Steven and Scott, so they could get their son into a school that could meet his needs.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: In Season 1, Guber took a lot of flak for firing Kevin Riley, who failed to report Milton Buttle's affair with Lisa Greer, a student. However, in having an affair with a student, Milton was committing sexual abuse. Kevin, as a teacher, was a mandatory reporter, required to report any instance of child abuse he discovered. This is the law, and the law doesn't care about how anyone feels or if the abuser is a personal friend. Legally, Kevin did not have the option to give Milton the choice to end the relationship or turn himself in on his own. Failing to carry out his legal duty made Kevin a criminal. Similarly, Guber had no choice but to fire Kevin for failing to carry out his duty as a mandatory reporter.
  • Later-Installment Weirdness: The series started off featuring things that regularly happen in inner-city high schools. Later seasons had really weird things happen, like a student getting electrocuted and thinking he's Jesus.
  • Lesbian Jock: Tina Knowles, a phys ed teacher responsible for her cheerleaders performing a very suggestive dance routine, was suspected of being this in Season 1.
  • Logging On To The Fourth Wall: Sheryl's website, Such features were news, blogs, polls, and her flash movies of the school's staff, viewable in full (unlike on the show). According to the Wayback Machine, it began redirecting to the Fox front page no earlier than 2003, when the fourth and final season began.
  • Looking for Love in All the Wrong Places: For the first few seasons, Guber can't catch a break with the ladies. First, he dates a woman who turns out to be a hooker (hired by his brother, no less; he's not very happy about that), then hooks up with Meredith Peters, a psychopathic Abusive Parent with a hook for a hand. Not to mention hopelessly pining for Lauren and later Marilyn. And what's amazing is that, being Jewish by his own admission, Scott always falls for non-Jewish women. And in Season 4, he ends up with an ex-porn star. ("At least she's a Democrat," he tells Steven.)
  • Loophole Abuse: Sheryl Holt's favorite way of saving her ass, her website, and its content. After a while, Guber got really sick of dealing with her, so he turned the tables and used a simple loophole of his own: Since every time he suspended Sheryl and her father would send a lawyer, Guber simply did the math and realized how costly it will be in the long run if he keeps on suspending her every single day and then force the lawyer to wait for him for a few hours.
  • Luke, You Are My Father: Harvey finds out in Season 2 that he has an African-American son, grandson, and great-grandchildren.
  • Mean Boss: Guber, though he's also a Jerk with a Heart of Gold.
  • Mood Whiplash: It's not uncommon to start or end an episode with someone dying and then go through some wacky antics by Harvey or Harry's snarking. Or make the episode light and funny to then do something terrible.
  • Morton's Fork: Invoked but ultimately subverted in "Chapter Three." Bobby Renfro, a linebacker for the school football team, is seemingly gay and expects to share the same accommodations, including shower facilities, as the other players. The teachers discuss the dilemma they face: If they deny Bobby's request, he will sue for anti-gay discrimination; if they grant it, the other players could sue for sexual harassment. It turns out to be a false dilemma, as Bobby isn't even gay.
  • N-Word Privileges:
    • In "Chapter Ten," Harvey uses the term "African-American Black-Colored Negroes." No one is particularly amused.
    • In "Chapter Thirty-Seven", Danny leads a class discussion about the n-word and receives lots of flack for it from Marla and Steven, the latter of whom actually ends up taking over the discussion after Danny, in a fit of anger at being denied the chance to explore the double standard that exists around the racial slur, suggests he do so.
  • Nave Newcomer: Kimberly Woods in the third season.
  • Napoleon Delusion: In the fourth season, a student, Peter Feldman, gets electrocuted and believes he's Jesus.
  • No Medication for Me:
    • Marla doesn't want to take her meds because she "can't feel anything" under them. Just for the record, she's mentally unstable and left her class with a suicide note on the board.
    • Later on, a kid with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder was introduced. While annoying, he was also a brilliant student when off his pills, but under them, he barely functioned.
  • Obstructive Bureaucrat:
    • Superintendent Shinn in Season 1.
    • Dave Fields in Season 3.
  • Only Sane Man: Steven and Guber.
  • Open Secret: Milton and Lisa's romance in Season 1. They keep on denying any relationship between them.
  • Parents as People: Most often subverted and hit with maximum force. Parents are useless. Or abusive. Or both. You can count "good" parents on your fingers for all four seasons.
  • Pet the Dog: The hard-nosed Guber gets several moments like this.
  • The Place: The show's called Boston Public.
  • Promotion to Opening Titles: Meredith 'The Hook Lady' Peters in Season 2, Brooke Harper in Season 3.
  • Psychologist Teacher:
    • Bob "Big Boy" Lick. Students either ridicule or openly hate him despite him being a Nice Guy.
    • Ronnie becomes one after Lick leaves.
  • Put on a Bus: Milton Buttle, Kevin Riley, Lauren, Louisa, Harry, Kimberly Woods, Brooke.
  • Pyrrhic Victory: The resolution of firing Kevin Riley in Season 1. Not only did the case itself create a lot of bad air, strain all the relations between the faculty and the years-long friendship between Steven and Scott, it also ended with six teachers quitting in protest and ridicule of Scott for his actions. The only "gain" was the court verdict that his decision was right. No matter what.
  • Reaction Shot: When Marilyn and Mr. Lick are watching a tape showing a father molesting his daughter, they turn back with disgust. For obvious reasons, viewers are never shown what they've seen.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech:
    • After being fired, Kevin delivers one to Steven about his double standards, hypocrisy, authoritarian ways, and walking away from any serious problems. Even if he's doing it out of anger and spite, he is right.
    • Marla also gives one to Danny in the Season 3 premiere when a student gives birth to a child (that she then leaves in a toilet) and Social Services takes the baby away from the student after Marla lies to the police about where she found the baby and Danny reveals the truth. She spitefully tells him he only did so just to get noticed and bolster his ego.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure:
  • Resign in Protest: In "Chapter Fourteen," six teachers resign from Winslow High in response to Kevin being fired.
  • Ripped from the Headlines: Every school-related controversy of the late 90's/early 2000's was featured on the show. Threat of a school shooting? Check. Transgender prom queen? Check. Affirmative action-related race riot? Check...
  • Rousing Speech: Harry Senate tends to give inversions of these, pointing out how much his students failed him and how they are on the best way to wasting their lives. It works most of the time to get them back on the right track.
  • Running Gag: In-Universe. The students have a joke to riotously cheer Harvey singing "If I Were a Rich Man" during the variety show, despite his being bad at it. It's been going on for 20 years and he has no clue, even refusing to believe a colleague when they told him.
  • Sassy Black Woman:
    • Loretta Devine does sass like nobody's business.
    • Don't forget the bus driver, Mrs. Parks, who frequently stopped by and demanded that the staff "SMELL THAT SHOE!" and also never let them forget that she ONLY makes $19,000 a year!
  • Satellite Character: Despite impressive primary cast, the series circles almost entirely around them and everyone else is just an extra that exists only as long as they interact with the main cast. This is particularly notable with any sort of love interests, especially if they are Gruber's.
  • Save Our Students: But they just don't care or bother to be saved. Most of the kids are completely ignorant to anything. And their parents usually support that. The teachers themselves invoke how this got ridiculed by pop culture and turned into a sappy Dead Horse Trope, so kids don't want to be "saved."
  • Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness: Guber talks all the time in a very elaborate and official way. Some of the students hardly follow what he's saying to them.
  • School Play: A small charity play was organized in first season, as a sketch covering all recent events involving the faculty.
  • Soapbox Sadie: There is always at least one student around filling this role, and as seasons (and thus school years) change, a replacement is readily introduced.
  • Stalker with a Crush:
    • Lauren dates Daniel Evans, who turns out to be one of these at first before realizing what a psycho he is. And get this? He used to be a student of hers.
    • Kimberly Woods is victimized by one of these in the third season.
  • Stern Teacher: Guber often gets called out for being this. As does Lauren in the second season.
  • Strawman Ball: A recurring plot device throughout the series is to either introduce a random new character (or give some bit character) a "wrong" stance and majority of the cast facing them off. First season at least was careful enough to use it for the B plots, but from second season onward, it became part of the formula to use this trope.
  • Teacher/Student Romance: Milton Buttle begins a relationship with Lisa Greer, whom he believes is a college student but later learns is a student at Winslow High. He ultimately ends up getting fired for it.
    • Lauren Davis engages in a borderline case as she begins a relationship with a former student named Daniel Evans, who is revealed to be a stalker.
  • Team Dad: Steven is this to the rest of the faculty.
  • Teen Genius: Riley in the third season.
  • Teen Pregnancy: A few cases.
  • Tonight, Someone Dies: Second-string characters would get introduced for the express purpose of dying later on in the series, sometimes as soon as the same episodes they've been introduced.
  • Two-Teacher School: While the faculty is quite big for a show set in the school, it's still around 10 people all the time. And did you notice that the only non-Humanities teacher ever mentioned in first three seasons is a math teacher who is a Posthumous Character?
  • Troubled Sympathetic Bigot: Harvey is completely oblivious about how bad his bigotry is. He doesn't even think of himself as a bigot and when he finally realizes it, it's a Heroic BSoD for him.
  • Wacky Homeroom: The Dungeon. The very reason why Marla walks out on the class, though not before writing "Gone to kill myself. Hope you're happy" on the blackboard.
  • Walk and Talk: Most of the time, the teachers talk with each other while traversing the corridor. Steven is usually informed about the situation while walking to the site.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: Harry Senate. Dear God, Harry Senate. It even almost gets him fired at one point in Season 1.
  • Wide-Eyed Idealist: Kimberly Woods in the third season.