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Series / City Guys

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"C-I-T-Y. You can see why. These guys, the neat guys, smart and streetwise."

City Guys was an American teen sitcom that ran from September 1997 to December 2001 on NBC, as part of the network's Saturday morning Saved by the Bell-clone block, TNBC. Created by Peter Engel (who was responsible for the vast majority of TNBC's shows, except for a small few such as NBA Inside Stuff) and Scott Spencer Gorden (a former writer for SBTB), the series centered on a group of students at the fictional Manhattan High School in an unidentified section of the New York City borough of Manhattan, specifically Chris Anderson (Scott Whyte), an otherwise normal upper-crust teen from Park Avenue, and Jamal Grant (Wesley Jonathan), who comes from a working class family in Harlem. Both boys transfer to Manhattan High (or "Manny High," as the school is usually called in-series) in the pilot episode "New Kids," where they're both revealed to have been troublemakers (Chris was kicked out of two schools, and actually was dishonorably discharged from military school, while Jamal was suspended during his first two years at his last high school and expelled junior year). Chris and Jamal don't get along at first, but despite their different upbringings, the two eventually become friends after realizing they're not that different.

Helping round out their group are Cassidy Guiliani (Marissa Dyan), an aspiring actress who serves as Chris' love interest; Alberto "Al" Ramos (Dion Basco), a cool guy grifter; and Dawn Tartikoff (Caitlin Mowrey), a smart girl who initially served as a Soapbox Sadie, before being turned into more of the smart girl. Lionel "El-Train" Johnson (Steven Daniel) is introduced in the pilot as the aforementioned school bully whom Chris saves Jamal from, but is given a Heel–Face Turn, becoming a likeable lunkhead (a seventh year senior at the start of the series) known for his constant malaprops. Finally, there's Karen Noble (Marcella Lowery) is Manny High's no-nonsense principal and Reasonable Authority Figure, who routinely catches Chris, Jamal and the others in their schemes.

The show is notable among TNBC shows for featuring virtually the same cast throughout its run (whereas the others have had some cast changes) and its racially diverse cast (consisting of three Caucasians, four African-Americans and one Filipino).

Also has a character sheet.

Tropes related to the series:

  • The Ace: Al and Jamal are both depicted as this in separate episodes: Al in "Kickin' It" and Jamal in "Mr. Baseball".
  • Accidental Hero: In "Reluctant Hero," Jamal takes down a mugger while coming home with Chris, using techniques he learned in a self-defense class, whose attractive female instructor Jamal had went out to the movies with earlier that night. Problem is, his dad grounded Jamal for being late to a volunteer gig at the church. So, Jamal has Chris pretend to be the hero. Jamal eventually admits the truth to his dad.
  • Acquired Situational Narcissism: Occurs to Jamal in "Mr. Baseball," after he leads Manny High's baseball game to victory. He becomes humbled though, when he fails to help the team win their next game, causing him to make the rash decision to quit the team.
  • Adults Are Useless: Averted thanks to Ms. Noble and (usually) Jamal's dad. Pretty much every other adult qualifies, though.
  • Ageless Birthday Episode: "The Third Wheel" has Dawn and El-Train arguing over whom Al should spend his birthday with. The episode makes no mention of Al's age, though.
  • Agony of the Feet: Twice in one episode, as the result of an Operation: Jealousy gone awry (see below).
  • All Men Are Perverts: Played heavily straight in "Raise the Roofies," in which Cassidy's Guy of the Week Trent tries to use the date rape drug Rohypnol to have his way with Cassidy.
  • An Aesop: Regularly doled out by Ms. Noble.
  • And Starring: "and Marcella Lowery as Ms. Noble".
  • Artistic License – Geography:
    • Invoked In-Universe. During a Quiz Bowl in "Keep on the Download," Manny High's team (consisting of Dawn, Al and El-Train, the latter two of whom replaced Cassidy and Martin after they quit due to Dawn's rigid teaching) is asked, "in which Dakota is Mount Rushmore located?" El-Train's answer?...
      El-Train (with confidence): East Dakota!
      Dawn: No! No, that's not our answer!
      Ms. Noble: Sorry, I said I could only accept one answer and that answer, East Dakota, is very, very wrong.
    • No wonder why El-Train got held back twice. Not only does East Dakota not exist, but there is no U.S. state with the word "east" at the beginning of its name.note  He also thought Nebraska was pronounced "New-braska".
  • Attempted Rape and Date Rape Averted: In season three's "Raise the Roofies," Cassidy attends a party with her college-aged boyfriend Trent, who decides to slip her Rohypnol (a.k.a. "Roofies" or "the date rape drug) in order to take advantage of her. Chris overhears that Trent had slipped Cassidy the drug to put in her punch, and steps in as the still lucid Cassidy is about to be assaulted. Trent's plan failed doubly as Dawn drinks the glass of punch he laced after eating some Jalapeno party mix, and she ends up in the hospital.
  • Auction: In "Get to Preppin'," Al and El-Train sell a 1975 basketball trophy on an online auction site. When they find out that Manny High's 1975 basketball team is coming to take a photo with the trophy to be featured in the local newspaper after they had already sold it, El-Train has a decoy made. The problem? He used a gold balloon as a makeshift basketball, which ends up floating away when uncovered. Ms. Noble lowers the boom and reveals that she bought it back online, knowing that Al and El-Train sold the trophy anyway after she told them not to use the homeroom computer for personal (i.e., non-research) use.
  • The Bet:
    • In "This Old Nerd," Jamal bets Chris and Al that he can't make his grade school friend, nerdy debate team member Vincent, cool. See Pygmalion Snap Back for more.
    • Cassidy bets Chris and Jamal that they can't get Ms. Noble in shape for her class reunion in "Kickin' It". Cassidy has Noble get fit the hard way by having her take an aerobics class and putting her on a strict diet; while Chris and Jamal, with El-Train's help, demonstrate a machine that flexes muscles with electric shocks (which isn't government-approved for obvious reasons) and drink a smelly herbal drink. Ms. Noble decides to go to the reunion the way she is, and reveals that she wanted to get in shape to impress an former crush.
  • Beta Couple: Dawn and Al, during the second half of season four and the early episodes of season five.
  • Bewarethe Silly Ones: El-Train may be a loveable goofball for much of the series, but "Bully, Bully" makes a Call-Back to the pilot, when he was the meanest bully at Manny High. A few episodes have El-Train intimidating some students to get people to do what he wants, such as "Dance Fever," when he gets a boy to donate his jacket while volunteering for a clothing drive.
  • Big Applesauce: The show is set in New York City (but filmed on a Hollywood soundstage). Various buildings in the city are featured virtually throughout the show's opening titles and Idiosyncratic Wipes, and many of NYC's landmarks, streets and sports teams (among other things) are referenced in certain episodes.
  • Big Brother Mentor: Chris and Jamal try to be this to a pre-teen kid named Ernesto, whom they were assigned as part of a Big Brother program in "Big Brothers". It doesn't go smoothly when they don't take the job seriously at first, and then disagree over how to act toward him (Jamal thinks he needs to act as an authority figure, while Chris thinks Ernesto just needs someone to hang out with) when Ms. Noble scolds them into doing better. By the end of the episode, they discover that Ernesto has a talent for art when seeing a mural he spray-painted on the wall of school roof, and team him up with Dawn's adopt-a-grandparent, who used to be an artist, to help mentor him.
  • Blue Blood: The Andersons.
  • Brilliant, but Lazy: Severl episodes depict him as Book Dumb, though "Get to Preppin'" paints him as this, through a self-realization that he later explains to his father about when he doesn't feel right about getting good grades for work he's not doing to rightfully earn them.
  • Buccaneer Broadcaster: In "Shocked Jock," Chris and Jamal get their own show on Manny High's new radio station. After the school board's president Ms. Nusspy shuts down WMNE when the boys play a song not on the school-approved playlist called "School Sucks," Chris starts a pirate radio show under the pseudonym "The Voice". He only gets to enjoy his success for a few days before a parrot in Ms. Noble's classroom accidentally gives away the location of his latest broadcast on-air and Noble busts him.
  • The Bully: Only a handful of the show's incidental characters are this, and only when the plot calls for one to be included. El-Train started out as this before he was retooled as the lunkhead goofball.
  • California University: Cassidy's boyfriend Trent in "Raise the Roofies" attends NYCU (New York City University, as opposed to the Real Life New York University), which Ms. Noble states she was her alma mater.
  • Can't Get Away with Nuthin': Almost every episode featuring some scheme concocted by Chris, Jamal or their friends ends up like this.
  • Catapult Nightmare: El-Train has one in "An SAT Carol," at the end of A Christmas Carol parody.
  • Catchphrase: El-Train's "don't try to fool a fool, fool!" during the later episodes.
  • Characterization Marches On: In "New Kids," El-Train was depicted as the school bully. Episodes afterward depict him as the dumb goofball that fans knew for the rest of the series. A Call-Back to his former bully persona in "Bully, Bully" leads to a Face–Heel Revolving Door, when he briefly falls back into his old ways after knocking out a guy who stole his basketball from Al, whom El-Train loaned it to, and begins running with the crowd of the guy he hit.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: In "Shocked Jock," Ms. Noble brings her very talkative parrot, Molly, to the school while her apartment is being painted. Chris ends up being busted doing a pirate radio broadcast over the P.A. system in Ms. Noble's classroom, when Molly constantly talks on-air.
  • Christmas Episode: Two during the series:
    • "Gift of Friendship," from season two, centers around Jamal discovering that the Ramos family is in need after Al's dad is laid off of his factory job due to outsourcing, a situation which leads him to drop out of school to get a job. When his friends find out, they give the Ramos' a Christmas tree and presents, and Ms. Noble (as Santa) offers Mr. Ramos the one Christmas gift he really needs... a temp job at Manny High until he can get full-time work.
    • "Miracle on 134th Street and Lexington Avenue," from season three, involves Chris and Cassidy helping grant a Christmas wish by a little girl named Allison for the father who left her and her mother because his janitor job couldn't provide for his family return home.
  • Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: Tina (played by Gina McLain), a main character who served as Chris' original Unrequited Love Interest in the episode, was written out after the Pilot Episode "New Kids" without any explanation. Cassidy, who is introduced in the following episode "For the Love of Mother," is more or less her Suspiciously Similar Substitute.
  • Clip Show: Several. "Party Like It's 1999" from season two, "Living in America" in season four, and "Why Y'all Clippin'" and "And Then There Were None" from season five.
  • Closer to Earth: Ms. Noble compared to the rest of the characters, even Cassidy, who herself is usually the more down to earth one out of her friends.
  • Cold Turkeys Are Everywhere:
    • In "Papa Please," while Dawn is trying to help her quit smoking, Ms. Noble imagines Al as a cigarette (which Dawn had him dress as for a lecture about the dangers of smoking), tempting Noble to smoke until Dawn snaps her out of the hallucination.
    • In "Jamal X," El-Train and Al enter into a mattress store's contest, in which the winner gets $500 if they can stay awake for five days. The two try to psych each other out to get the other to fall asleep, until Cassidy and Dawn suggest that they should help each other stay awake instead. Three days in, Al ends up hallucinating, seeing El-Train as Ms. Noble. They fail in the end, when El-Train suggests they swap the sleep-tracking beeper given to Al as part of the contest in order to take turns sleeping, he fails to stay awake himself and the mice that El-Train put the beeper on run loose from the school and get run over by a paving machine.
  • Comic-Book Time: In season one, the characters are implied to be in their senior year of high school, if not in their second semester of junior year (it is mentioned in the pilot that Jamal was expelled from his last school during junior year). However, the characters' grade levels are never explicitly mentioned until season five. The ages of characters are rarely mentioned as well; though in "Mo' Money, Mo' Problems," Ms. Noble states Cassidy's age as being "barely 17". NBC didn't help matters for viewers trying to figure out which grade they're in by merging halves of two different seasons into one beginning with season three (which is comprised of episodes produced during the second half of season two and the first half of season three); this is particularly glaring with "Frisky Business", which is set on the first day of a new school year but aired midway through season four. Against logic, Chris, Jamal, Al, Dawn and Cassidy stay at Manny High for all five seasons (this is excuseable with El-Train, as his lack of intelligence resulted in him having been held back a grade multiple times).
  • Comically Missing the Point: El-Train is a master of this trope.
  • Compressed Vice: Cassidy's caffeine pill addiction in "Over the Speed Limit".
  • Cool and Unusual Punishment: Several.
  • Cosmetic Catastrophe: In "The Divorce," El-Train uses a hair care product called Whoopee-do, to keep his hair in tip-top style. Later, Ms. Noble catches him wearing a hat, a violation of the school dress code, and takes it off to reveal El-Train's hair resembles Buckwheat from The Little Rascals. For his sake, Noble lets the hat infraction slide for the day.
  • Cool Car: The titular car in "Red Ferrari," which Chris takes out at Jamal's suggestion when his parents forget his birthday and gets involved in a hit-and-run while Chris and Jamal are inside the diner. Al hires El-Train, who was working at a garage that repairs classic cars, to fix the car, which they manage to fix... as Chris and his friends try to stall his parents. The plan backfires when Mr. Anderson catches Al in the car.
  • Courtroom Episode: "Presumed Innocent" has this as a plot device by way of the school starting an "Introduction to Law" class. Jamal accuses a student named Lewis Brown of being a skinhead (based on his shaved head, tattoos and style of dress similar to those of the white supremacist group). After getting into a fight with each other after Jamal's locker is defaced with the word "jerk" in spray paint, the issue is taken into a court case as part of the class class and leads to the revelation that Louis is not a skinhead but suffers from cancer.
  • Death Glare: Ms. Noble gives one at times.
  • Department of Redundancy Department: Invoked by Dawn in "Frisky Business," when Cassidy insults her with a crack about her "cheese hips" (after the two girls decide to be honest, which causes more problems than it solves):
    Dawn: At least when I go to a freak show, you know, they don't say "hey, freak! You want to be in our freak show, you freak"!
  • The Dentist Episode: The B-Plot in the episode "Shock Jock" involves El-Train getting a toothache early on in the episode, with Cassidy strong-arming him into going to a dentist due to his fear of seeing one. He gets over his fear late in the episode... after realizing that the dentist he's scheduled to see is a beautiful young woman.
    El-Train: Bring it on, lady doc. My teeth are all yours.
  • Dreadful Musician: Nicely subverted in one episode of Chris, L-Train and Cassidy preparing to perform at an open-audition night at a club. However, Cassidy's horrible singing convinces the guys they'll be an embarrassment if they do this so they let her go on alone. At which point, Cassidy reveals she's a terrific singer and was faking being bad to trick the guys to let her perform solo.
  • Drives Like Crazy: Novice driver Cassidy in "Big Brothers". During the driver's ed class, she is a virtual Driving Disaster Area as shown in "Big Brothers"... and, we mean virtual in the literal sense. While using a driving simulator in class, Cassidy does so badly, making a litany of errors (including nearly crashing into a bus, nearly hitting an old woman on a crosswalk and driving on the sidewalk), that she manages to actually short-circuit the simulator, leading to Al remarking that she "took out more of New York than Godzilla did". In fairness, she did mention earlier in the episode that she sucks at driving simulators. She somehow later does pass, with the lowest passing score in the history of the driver's ed class.
  • Driving Test: As mentioned in Drives Like Crazy above, Cassidy manages to blunder her driver's test using a computer simulation (the experience is not made more relaxing by El-Train's yelling), and ends up inadvertently destroying the simulator by short-circuit.
  • Drugs Are Bad: Enforced in some Very Special Episodes, see that trope for more.
  • Edutainment Show: Because it incorporates life lessons, NBC counted City Guys (and its sister shows) as this on a technicality, brandishing its hand-popping-up-outside-a-head E/I logo at the start of each episode during its network run. It got the same E/I classification when reruns of the series aired in broadcast syndication in the U.S. during the early 2000s.
  • Embarrassing Middle Name: Chris' middle name is referred to as "Mortimer" in "Get to Preppin'". However, this retcons the pilot "New Kids," in which his middle name is said to be Robert.
  • Expository Theme Tune: The rap/R&B-style theme, in a way, summarizes Chris and Jamal's personalities as regular guys from the city.
  • Freudian Slippery Slope: This instance in "A Guy and a Goth," when Chris and Jamal meet a girl named Zoe, a goth whom Jamal set Chris up on a date with sight unseen:
    Jamal: I goth to go. I mean, I got to goth. Jamal's leaving, bye!
  • Funny Foreigner: The Romanians in "Down and Out in Soho," though they're a lot smarter and more tech savvy than everyone thinks. Rashid in "Jamal Got His Gun" and Enzo Perelli in "Mo' Money Mo Problems" also.
  • Gender-Equal Ensemble: Subverted. This was the case during the first season, but this was thrown off in season two when El-Train became a main character, resulting in the cast consisting of four males and three females.
  • Genki Girl: Dawn Tartikoff fits this, especially in season one.
  • Get-Rich-Quick Scheme: Al was continually hatching these. They usually tended to blow up in his face by his own doing or some other circumstance.
  • Girl of the Week: Or, for that matter, guy. Almost every main character has had at least one of these.
  • Gosh Dang It to Heck!!: Zigzagged, sorta, as the word "heck" is used instead of "hell" and Unusual Euphemisms are used to the effect of saying something is "bulls**t," but episodes have also featured occasional utterings of "freakin'" (a word not commonly used in teen-coms) in lieu of "f**kin'," as well as the still relatively tame "suck". The only real standout is in "Presumed Innocent," in which Jamal uses "crap" when describing the stereotyping people do to him because of the way he looks (as he had done to another student).
  • Goth: In "A Guy and a Goth," Jamal sets Chris up on a date with a caller to their radio show named Zoe, not knowing that she is a goth until they meet her in-person. Chris and Zoe bond over common interests and being children of divorced parents (the reason Zoe gives as to why she became goth). After taking a ribbing from his friends, Chris fakes sick to avoid taking Zoe to Ms. Noble's anniversary party, which Jamal chastizes him for. Chris gets caught in the lie when she arrives at the party, leading to An Aesop drop by Ms. Noble about intolerance because of someone's appearance. After asking her to meet at the diner to apologize in-person on the radio show, Chris dresses like a goth out of support, just before Zoe arrives completely made over.
  • Got Me Doing It: Invoked by Jamal in "Frisky Business," after Dawn repeatedly calls Cassidy a "freak" (see under Department of Redundancy Department):
    Jamal: "Look, you both are freaky, all right? And, you're drivin' us all freaky. Look, you got me saying 'freaky' now!"
  • Grand Finale: "Goodbye, Manny High", involving the show's main characters graduating from high school (El-Train, included) and Chris and Jamal's disagreements over doing their last radio show, should qualify as this. However, NBC scheduled two episodes after it, "And Then There Were None" and "Al's in Toyland," which ended up as the last episode broadcast.
    • Gratuitous Japanese: Dawn carries a conversation like this with a Japanese chef named John Wang (which she points out is not a Japanese surname) in "Model Behavior," much to the confusion of El-Train (and probably any audience members who don't know the language, since the subtitles shown during the exchange are mostly in Japanese characters) and the surprise of Al.
      Al: "What the heck?! When did you learn to speak Japanese?"
      Dawn: "What did you think we did in Japanese club, origami?"
      Al: "Yeah."
    • Gratuitous Spanish: "Old Friends" has Cassidy trying to teach El-Train how to speak Spanish. He tries out his new "skills" in the language to a Latina waitress at the diner, while making an order. As she points out to him, he inadvertently orders "tres chili cheese gatos" – or three chili cheese cats – rather than three chili cheese hot dogs.
  • Green-Eyed Monster: A few instances:
    • Al becomes jealous of Nate, a new student whom Dawn has been hanging out with (to get him acclimated at Manny High and to plan the school dance), in "Making Up is Hard to Do". His worries are alleviated when Nate informs Al that Dawn talked about him the whole time they were working together... which leads Al to bail on a plan to spray Nate with ink when he opens the raffle box. The misunderstanding that led to Al and Dawn breaking up is rectified by the end of the episode.
    • Dawn becomes this in "Red Dawn," after Al (whom she mutually broke up with in "E-Breakup") begins seeing a girl named Brittany. Cassidy tries to help Dawn get a date to the school dance to make Al jealous. After that fails, Dawn hatches a plan to break the two up by sending herself flowers claiming to be from Al. After Al finds out and confronts Dawn, Brittany breaks up with him. After Cassidy helps her realize that Al needs to move on at his own pace, Dawn decides to give Brittany her blessing to date him.
  • Group Hug: Chris tries this, when a misunderstanding about Jamal dating Al's ex-girlfriend Samantha is resolved in "Party of Three":
    Chris: "Oh, I feel a group hug coming on!" (holds out hands)
    Jamal and Al: "No, you don't!"
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners: Chris and Jamal.
  • High School
  • High-School Dance: Several episodes have one, some of which usually result in some bungle.
  • Holiday Volunteering: In "Gift of Friendship," Dawn, Cassidy, and unwittingly Chris and Jamal serve as volunteers for the school's food drive. It drives the plot surrounding Al's family, who is going through tough times, by way of Jamal taking some of the donations to the Ramos' apartment third-way through the episode.
  • Hormone-Addled Teenager: This is a high school sitcom. So, yeah.
  • Idiosyncratic Wipes: Very late '90s flash-cut sequences featuring aerials and ground views of the New York City skyline and its buildings (including those used for the exterior shots of some of the settings used for a particular scene).
  • Implausible Deniability: In "Reluctant Hero," after newly-minted student monitors Al and El-Train get two girls some soda by "confiscating" cans from some other students:
    Dawn: (clears throat) Excuse me... were you two just abusing your powers to get those girls soda?
    Al: That depends. Did you get it on videotape?
    Cassidy: Videotape? No.
    Al: Then it never happened, and we were never here.
  • Inspirationally Disadvantaged: Tommy, the wheelchair-bound son of the toy store's owner in "Rollin' With the Homies". Much to his chagrin, when Chris and Jamal treat him differently because of his disability.
  • Karma Houdini: A few times. Yuri the con-artist in "Down and Out in Soho" gets way with stealing the volunteer house's television and computer. The guy who robs Jamal in "Jamal Gets His Gun" is never caught.
  • Large Ham: El-Train has his moments. Dawn, as well, especially in season one.
  • Lethal Chef: During the school fundraising auction, Ms. Noble sells her homemade cookies. Only El-Train bothers to bid on them, prompting a frustrated Ms. Noble to close the bid on El-Train's offer. El-Train grabs the cookies, takes a bite, and then loudly proclaims: "Just the way I like them -- hard as rocks!", much to Ms. Noble's chagrin.
  • Limited Social Circle: The show's social circle originally consisted of Chris, Jamal, Al, Tina and Dawn. Cassidy wound up part of the circle as a result of Tina being Brother Chucked, following the pilot. El-Train would join this group later in season one as a result of his Heel–Face Turn.
  • Local Hangout: The Manhattan Diner, which is owned by Jamal's father Virgil and where Jamal works as a busboy. The main characters and other students serving as extras also hang out on the school's rooftop between breaks in the school day.
  • Look Behind You: The B-plot of the episode "The Roommate" involves Al taking photos of Cassidy and Dawn as they're working as models for an agency. Late in the episode, Cassidy and Dawn confront Al at the Manhattan Diner because the agency has the girls' image photo-shopped for a "before" picture for a weight-loss program. Seeing himself in trouble, Al points to the restroom and say "ooh, Leonardo DiCaprio", and then hightails it out of the diner the moment the girls turn around at the direction of the restroom, prompting the girls to run after him.
  • Love Triangle: In "Party of Three," Jamal advises a girl named Samantha, who calls anonymously into his and Chris' radio show, to dump her current boyfriend and pursue the guy she has a crush on. When Jamal discovers that he is the crush and Al was the boyfriend in question, he tries to act inattentive during his date with Samantha to get her to stop liking him... naturally, the plan backfires. Al finds out everything when he sees them at the diner. After Al is caught shoving Jamal outside of the school, Jamal and Chris explain everything.
  • Malaproper: El-Train is the clown prince of these in the TNBC universe.
  • Mood Whiplash: Particularly noticeable in the more serious episodes in which a comic scene is injected between the serious scenes.
  • Near-Death Experience: Chris, El-Train and Jamal experience this in "Almost Fatal," when a car nearly crashes into them and a lost dog they saw on a poster seconds earlier outside the diner. Jamal starts stops taking things for granted and mellows out, El-Train suddenly becomes scared of anything that could kill him, and Chris decides against going to college and starts doing death-defying stunts such as skydiving, racing cars and ski jumping (despite never having skiied before).
  • New Transfer Student: Chris and Jamal transfer to Manny High in "New Kids," after being expelled from their previous schools. Chris had previously been kicked out of two private schools – Bennington Prep and Danforth Prep – and was dishonorably discharged from Norwalk Military School (one of the expulsion-worthy infractions was for flooding the soccer field at one of the schools during a game, justifying it as a "mercy flood" since the team was losing), while Jamal was expelled from Brooklyn High during junior year (and was suspended during his freshman and sophomore years for getting into fights).
  • New Year Has Come: The wraparound plot device in "Party Like It's 1999," surrounding the characters having a New Year's party on the school roof.
  • The '90s: Cultural references of the decade aren't rampant but they pop up from time to time, although stylistically there are lots of '90s influences throughout the show's run, most apparent in the first three seasons.
  • Noodle Incident: In "Old Friends," Chris asks Al about his meeting with the FBI about an unspecified incident that got him banned from the United Nations Building:
    Chris: Hey, how'd it go down at the FBI, Al?
    Al: Ah, everything's cool. They put the whole incident in the "dead" file.
    El-Train (chuckles): What's that mean?
    Al: Well, that means if I ever go anywhere near the UN again... I'm dead.
  • Not What It Looks Like: In "Harlem Honey," Chris and Jamal decide to create a fake profile on a dating website to cheer up Jamal's father after a breakup. Jamal comes up with a line for Chris to write as "harlemhoney," when Al overhears them in the homeroom:
    Jamal (to Chris): "Watch and learn, bro. 'From the moment I saw those passionate, sensitive eyes, I knew you were that special someone.'"
    Al: "Mmm-hmm."
    Jamal: "Al, man, hold up. It's not what it seems."
    Chris: "No, no, no. You don't understand!"
    Al: "And, I don't want to! I was never here, and this never happened." (runs away)
  • O.O.C. Is Serious Business: In "Raise the Roofies," El-Train plays against a girl named Alexandra in a chess match. He refuses to trash talk her because his mom taught him not to do that to women. Then, Alexandra trash talks El-Train's mom. Big mistake... El-Train is ever so pissed that he trash talks Alexandra's mom, and beats her in the game handily in only two moves.
  • Official Couple:
  • Oh, Crap!: Chris and Jamal's reaction to accidentally blowing up WFAK's radio equipment in "Keep on the Download" equates to this.
  • One Head Taller: El-Train (and by association, Steven Daniel) is the tallest of any of the characters in the series, and is about a foot taller than the shortest of the group, Al (and his actor, Dion Basco).
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: Everybody, except Ms. Noble and his own mother, calls Lionel Johnson "El-Train" and everybody, except Ms. Noble and occasionally himself and some guest characters, calls Alberto Ramos "Al".
  • Operation: Jealousy: The B-plot of the episode "Jamal Got His Gun" has a guy of the week hitting it off with Cassidy, only to reveal near the end that he intends to have Cassidy along with him to make his ex-girlfriend jealous. Cassidy, upon realizing his intention, responds by stomping on his foot before storming off. When Dawn asks him what he'd like, he asks Dawn to pretend to be Cassidy to enable him to carry out his plan. Dawn reacts the same way Cassidy does.
  • Parental Dating Veto: Mr. Giuliani's disapproves of Cassidy's relationship with Chris in "Papa Please," telling her not to see him after a bad first meeting. Cassidy agrees to a plan cooked up by Jamal to date Chris behind her dad's back while having someone weird, i.e. El-Train, pretend to be her new boyfriend. The plan begins backfiring when Mr. Guiliani actually takes to El-Train over their shared interest in golf, and in full when he later catches Chris and Cassidy on a date.
  • Parental Issues:
    • Chris' issues with his parents are touched upon in a few early episodes; his parents' inattentiveness to him due to their careers is depicted in "For the Love of Mother" (in regards to his jealousy towards her treating Jamal as a surrogate mom, and her attention towards charitable causes in that episode) and "The Communication Gap" (in regards to his dad). There's also his hard time dealing with his parents' divorce in "The Divorce". In "Get To Preppin'" Chris's father becomes a domineering dad who forces Chris to go back to prep school, though he changes his mind after Chris faces up to him.
    • Dawn's mother's alcoholism is depicted in the season three finale "Mom on the Rocks".
  • Performance Anxiety: Serves as the plot driver in "An SAT Carol," which leads to the dream in which El-Train is shown what life would be like if he didn't take the SATs.
  • Practical Joke: Jamal, Al and Chris try to concoct a senior prank on Ms. Noble, whose never been pranked during her tenure as Manny High's principal, in "Prose and Cons". After two other attempts fail thanks to Cassidy and Dawn, Noble commends Chris and Jamal for being mature enough to resist pranking her... just as Al is busy turning her homeroom into a farm, complete with hay, roosters, ducks and even a horse! Then, she comes back to school to find out what the boys did...
  • Prison Episode:
    • "Men Behind Bars" has Chris and Jamal end up in jail after getting caught by a cop breaking into the Manhattan Diner to retrieve Jamal's camera, and in possession of fake IDs they were going to use to get into the Fashion Cafe to meet supermodels. Al and El-Train are thrown in jail as well when El-Train is busted impersonating as Chris and Jamal's lawyer and reveals that Al sold them the IDs. To make matters worse, Chris and Jamal were supposed to be at the school fundraising auction to bid on Dawn and Cassidy, to avoid being bought by two slick guys, Vinnie and Rocco, who want more than tutoring from them. Even worse, Ms. Noble finds out that Chris, Jamal, Al and El-Train are in jail.
    • "This Old Nerd" has Ms. Noble pretend to be jailed as payback after she finds out that El-Train bought a watch from a beared woman who robbed it from a jewelry store a week earlier as a birthday present from the group.
  • Promotion to Opening Titles: Steven Daniel (who plays Lionel "El-Train" Johnson) is upgraded to a series regular in season two.
  • Punny Name: When Dawn and Cassidy begin their assignments as Ms. Noble's appointed assistant principals in "Just for the Record," Dawn reads from a roll call sheet that is filled with these kind of names. Hilariously, Dawn, who's supposed to be the smart girl, fails to realize that "Oliver Clothesov" ("all of her clothes off") and "Anita Mann" ("I need a man") are joke names until Cassidy points it out to her.
  • Pygmalion Snap Back: Subverted in "This Old Nerd," Jamal helps nerdy debate team member (and grade school friend) Vincent act cooler to improve his place in Manny High's popularity chain, in a bet with Chris and Al. With his new look and persona as Vince, he gets the girl of his dreams, but starts shuns his nerd friends and quits the debate team, costing him a chance at a scholarship that could get him into college. After Vince finds out about the bet, Jamal convinces him to mix his smart persona in with his cool persona. It works, and Vince and Dawn end up winning the debate finals, earning him the scholarship.
  • "Rashomon"-Style: "Subway Confessions" has Chris, Jamal, Dawn, Cassidy, El-Train and Al make increasingly outlandish recounts (lies) to Ms. Noble on why they were three hours late to school (they left to get tickets to a concert). An cop who recounts the real story explains that the reason they were late was because they (sort of) assisted her, while working undercover as a bag lady on the subway train, in helping a pregnant clown give birth to a baby boy.note 
  • Recycled IN SPACE!!: Quite clearly Saved by the Bell if set on the East Coast and with a more diverse cast.
  • Recycled Plot:
    • Although similar plots have been done on other teen sitcoms, the B-plot involving Dawn in "Bully, Bully" in which Chris and Jamal teach Dawn about the ins and outs of football to prepare for a date with a player on Manny High's football team, is similar to the B-plot in the Hang Time episode "Fighting Words," in which Mary Beth and Julie teach Kristy how to relate to the same interests as her date (ironically played by Chris' portrayer, Scott Whyte). Both episodes even have the latter character in the respective plots incorrectly guess the day most NFL games are held.
    • The plot involving Cassidy's caffeine pill addiction in "Over the Speed Limit" is basically recycled from the Saved by the Bell episode "Jessie's Song".
    • The story of L-Train's blues music idol stealing his songs is taken from a popular California Dreams episode.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Ms. Noble.
  • Repeat What You Just Said: Invoked by El-Train in "Old Friends," while Cassidy is giving him a Spanish lesson to prepare for an upcoming test:
    Cassidy: "Now say, 'my name is El-Train' in Spanish."
    El-Train: "My name is El-Train in Spanish."
  • Right Behind Me: A textbook example when Jamal leads the class in a protest against Ms. Noble canceling the homecoming game. He does a huge speech about fighting for their rights, tossing up his hands to declare "Who's with me?" Seeing everyone looking away, a still-smiling Jamal states "Noble's behind me, isn't she?
  • Screw the Rules, I Have Money!!: After Chris gets a failing grade on his midterm, his father decides to put him back at his old prep school. Mr. Anderson ends up pulling some strings to have his teachers give him good grades by donating money to the school for a new wing.
  • Sexy Santa Dress: Cassidy wears one when she and Dawn bring over a turkey and Christmas decorations to Al's family in "Gift of Friendship".
  • Serious Business: El-Train treats driver's ed this way when serving as the T.A. in class in "Big Brothers". It pays off in the end as the entire class passes, even Cassidy, who blew the driving simulator... up.
  • Shout-Out:
    • "Mo' Money, Mo' Problems" features Chris, Jamal, El-Train and Al stage an infomercial at the diner called Amazing Inventions, a parody of the Amazing Discoveries series of infomercials from the early and mid-1990s, to sell their Glo-sketballs.
    • The "B" plot in "Red Dawn" features references and is a homage to Survivor, as Ms. Noble challenges Chris, Jamal and El-Train to spend five days in the woods without technology and try to use survival skills to get by. However in the episode, Jamal actually votes himself out of the competition, something that isn't allowed on the real-life show.
  • Skyward Scream: Ms. Noble gives one when she spots a bear that Chris and El-Train thought they escaped from in the woods in the school hallway in "Red Dawn".
  • Start My Own: Al creates and sells a glow-in-the-dark basketball called the Glo-sketball in "Mo' Money, Mo' Problems". When Chris and Jamal dislike Al sticking them with all the work, they start their own rival product called the Glo-trotter.
  • Stereo Fibbing: Occurs in "Old Friends," when Ms. Noble asks Jamal and Chris where the camera loaned to them for their video yearbook project is:
    Chris: We don't have the camera with us.
    Ms. Noble: Where is it?
    Chris: At home.
    Jamal: At the diner.
    Chris: At the diner.
    Jamal: At home.
  • Sticky Situation: In "Almost Fatal," Dawn gets her head stuck in a horse head that's part of a costume for Cassidy's latest play. This leads Al to come up with the idea to have Cassidy pretend to be Dawn during an interview with a Harvard recruiter, which bombs when Cassidy (who's an actress!) forgets what she's supposed to say. After the horse head is removed from Dawn's (with turkey grease applied by the lunch lady as lubricant), Ms. Noble tries on the same head at the end of the episode and gets her head stuck.
  • Stock Sitcom Grand Finale: The show managed to do two of these.
    • "Goodbye Manny High" has the gang graduating with Ms. Noble announcing her retirement. It ends with shots of the various school sets as we hear voiceovers of the cast from past episodes of great moments of the show.
    • The actual final episode "And There Were None" has the gang meeting up at the diner a few months later for a Clip Show. It ends with them one-by-one parting ways, Chris and Jamal bidding a final farewell with Jamal telling a diner worker that "they'll be coming back."
  • Tagalong Guy:
    • In "The Third Wheel," El-Train is this to Dawn and Al, leading them to try to set him up on a date, which he takes to the same Japanese restaurant they're dining at. Dawn and El-Train get into an argument and force Al to choose who he'll be spending his birthday with, leading Al to decide to spend his birthday alone instead. Ms. Noble helps El-Train realize that he needs to respect Al and Dawn's privacy and both El-Train and Dawn realize they should have asked what Al wanted to do. El-Train and Dawn decide to plan a surprise party for Al.
    • In "E-Breakup," Jamal becomes this to Chris and Cassidy, when he goes through a dating slump. It leads Chris and Cassidy to intentionally get him detention by T.P.'ing Ms. Noble's homeroom. Even though that plan fails, they manage to get rid of him when Jamal spots a girl he's interested in.
  • Talking to the Dead: Happens to Jamal in "Future Shock," when his friend Charlie comes to Jamal in a dream to convince him to give the eulogy at his funeral.
  • Tell Him I'm Not Speaking to Him: A hilarious instance in "Making Up is Hard to Do", when Cassidy and El-Train try to help Al and Dawn talk things out, when Dawn breaks up with Al over his jealousy of a new male student she has been spending time with. As the following lines show, involving El-Train was a very bad idea.
    Al: El-Train, please tell Cassidy to tell Dawn that she can't be with Nate. And represent, put some bass in your voice.
    El-Train: OK. (lowers voice): Dawn can't be with Nate.
    Cassidy: OK.
    Dawn: Well, tell El-Train to tell Al that he can't tell me what to do, just because he's some jealous freak!
    Cassidy: You can't tell me what to do, just 'cause you're some jealous freak!
    El-Train (offended): Hold up, girl! Who you callin' a freak?! Oh, naw, naw!
    Cassidy: (laughs) No, no! El-Train, I'm not calling anybody a freak. I'm Dawn, remember? (nods to get El-Train to understand they're still role-playing)
    Cassidy: You are, El-Train. (nods again)
    Cassidy (annoyed): El-Train!
    El-Train: Yes, "Dawn"?
    Cassidy: You're driving me nuts!!!
  • That Came Out Wrong: In "Assault and Pepper Spray," Michael tells Coach Katowinski to "watch [coach] Larry Bird closely" for coaching ideas as Coach K prepares to leave for an Indiana Pacers game. Trying to Verbal Backspace as he realizes that came off as an insult to his coaching skills, Michael has Julie step in, causing this before they both run off:
    Julie: "Uh, coach. We'll be in the showers. I mean, not together. I mean, have fun, bye."
  • Title Drop:
    • "Gift of Friendship,": The episode title is said verbatim by Al when he realizes that accepting charity from people isn't embarrassing, when people do it because they care about the person in need.
    • "Presumed Innocent": The episode title is said verbatim by Dawn, when referring to the principal rule of the legal system, after a student named Louis (whom Jamal and Chris accuse of being a skinhead) is accused of spray-painting "jerk" on Jamal's locker.
  • Token Minority: A subversion since almost half of the show's seven cast members are black; Filipino-American Dion Basco (Al), however, fits as he is the only Asian in the main cast.
  • Tyrant Takes the Helm: "A Noble Profession" has an interesting variation: Ms. Noble's replacement, Mr. Brown, isn't strict so much as lazy and apathetic towards his students.
  • Two First Names: Jamal Grant. Chris Anderson could qualify, though Anderson is not as common a first name.
  • Two Lines, No Waiting/Three Lines, Some Waiting: Many episodes had three plotlines: the "A" plot was split pretty evenly among the characters, but most often focused on Chris and Jamal; the "B" plot often involved Cassidy and Dawn, and a "C" plot usually involved Al and/or El-Train. However, this varied a lot as the supporting younger characters and even Mrs. Noble had their own individual or joint "A" plots in a few episodes. There were some exceptions as certain episodes featured a single plot or an "A" story and "B" story. In Very Special Episodes with two or three plots, one plotline was serious and the others were comedic.
  • Unexpectedly Obscure Answer: During a quiz bowl competition in "Keep on the Download," the final question is give one of three nicknames for catfish. Dawn and a student from Washington High are stumped, but El-Train of all people correctly answers all three ("bullhead," "mudcat" and "mud puppy"), winning Manny High the competition.
  • Unusual Euphemism: Ms. Noble tends to use this at times to describe the trouble the kids are in or when she knows they're lying, most commonly "deep doo-doo". The topper is in "Subway Confessions," when Noble uses virtually every (kid-friendly) euphemism for "crap" possible when fed up with the kids' increasingly unplausible "Rashomon"-Style stories for being three hours late to school, the result of them being stuck on the subway:
    Ms. Noble: For the past hour, I've heard more malarkey, double talk, hogwash, poppycock, flim-flam, slip-slop, pish-posh, wang-doodle-hooey than I've heard in years!
    Chris, Jamal, Dawn, El-Train, Al and Cassidy (in unison): Dang!
  • Vandalism Backfire: In "Keep on the Download," Chris and Jamal break into the radio studio at Washington Prep one night, as part of an escalating series of pranks between them and their rivals at Washington's school radio station WFAK. Jamal decides to cut a wire on the studio's broadcasting equipment, and accidentally short-circuit the entire thing when they turn it on. In fairness, Jamal was the one who came up with the idea to mess up the radio equipment, it just ended up going more wrong than he intended.
  • Very Special Episode: Like most TNBC shows, City Guys used this quite a bit:
    • In "The Package," Chris and Jamal discover that Alberto (who had taken a job as a bike messenger) is unknowingly delivering packages with illegal drugs inside for a drug dealer. After Ms. Noble finds the cocaine that Chris and Jamal hid in the video locker during a locker search to find a missing laptop, they inform Alberto of what they found. Alberto is beaten up as a warning by the dealer, Tonio, if he doesn't come up with $2,000, leading the boys devise a plan to bust the guy.
    • In "Future Shock," Jamal befriends Charlie Gresham, a straight-A student who among his accomplishments is Manny High's senior class president and has a scholarship to Harvard, and is an avid prankster. The day after he agrees to help the gang study for the upcoming PSAT exam, Ms. Noble breaks the news that Charlie was killed in an auto-pedestrian accident in which a drunk driver jumped the curb while he was waiting to cross the street. Jamal takes the loss the hardest, causing him to rethink the value of spending time studying. Charlie appears in Jamal's dream to convince him to give the eulogy at his funeral and to not give up on his academic achievements.
    • In "Bye, Mom," Ms. Noble appoints herself as Jamal's tutor for an English test, this leads him to a series of memories of his late mother. After taking the day off to undergo medical tests, Noble is told she needs to go to the hospital to have an operation. His concern for Noble leads Jamal to remember when he found out his mother died, leading him to smother her with care. When she returns to school, Jamal confesses that he was worried about her and that he thinks of Ms. Noble as a mother figure.
    • In "Jamal Got His Gun," Jamal is robbed at gunpoint while closing up at the diner one night. The trauma of the event, which he tries to deny in front of his friends, leads Jamal to ask Al to help him buy a gun to feel safe. Al gets his friends to intervene, but Jamal ends up buying a gun from someone else. While closing the diner, he accidentally shoots his father in the arm, mistaking him for a robber.
    • In "The Divorce," Chris, Al, Jamal and El-Train overhear a major fight between Mr. and Mrs. Anderson, while hanging out in his room. Cassidy (whose own parents are divorced) relates to his situation, and agrees to talk about his parents' issues after school. Later, Chris finds out that his mother has filed for divorce and moved out. Blaming himself for his parents' breakup, he takes Ms. Noble advice to talk things out with his parents. After his parents bail to attend a divorce settlement, he becomes reclusive until a talk with Jamal and Cassidy makes him see that his parents' marital problems are not his fault.
    • In "Saving Private Johnson," El-Train has problems getting up his test scores. Frustrated, he decides to drop out of high school and join the Marines, whose admissions test he ends up failing. El-Train learns that his trouble with passing tests results from him having dyslexia.
    • In "Over the Speed Limit," Cassidy starts taking caffeine pills (as well as sleeping pills when she wants to go to sleep) when she is overworked with having to do schoolwork and perform in a stage play. Chris, and eventually the rest of the gang, find out that she's been taking the pills. She learns her lesson the hard way, when her continued use and the combination of both types of pills results in a drug-induced freakout during her performance, in which she ad-libs her lines and pushes her co-star into the set, before collapsing on the stage.
    • "Raise the Roofies" deals with the topic of date rape and the use of "roofies" (also known as Rohypnol, "the date rape drug") (see Attempted Rape and Date Rape Averted for more).
    • In "Ebony & Ivory," Chris and Jamal each fall for Kristen, the daughter of New York City's deputy mayor. Jamal tries to prove to Chris that the fact that Kristen didn't let him meet her at her house for their date or take her home must mean that she has a boyfriend on the side, but is surprised when Kristen lies to her father that Chris is her date to the school dance. Kristen later confesses to Jamal that her father is prejudiced against black people, despite preaching about cultural diversity in public speeches. Jamal agrees to a plan to go to the dance with Kristen, but have Chris act as her date in front of Deputy Mayor Jones and for pictures he'll want to see of her with her date. Mr. Jones catches Chris kissing the date Jamal set him up with, and finds out that her daughter lied. Kristen, Jamal and Ms. Noble confront him about his racist beliefs.
    • "Funny Business" deals with sexual harrassment, from the perspective of a male victim. While Chris and Jamal are working at an architectural firm during Manny High's career week, their boss Rebecca starts making seductive advances toward Chris. The episode has him figure out the recourse he should take in reporting Rebecca, who threatens to give him a failing grade if he doesn't agree to her advances.
    • In "El-Train in the Sky with Geena," El-Train's girlfriend has a secret addiction...she steals from people to continue her drug habit.
    • In "Mom on the Rocks," Dawn – who's directing the school's dance recital – deals with her mom's addiction to alcohol. Chris and Cassidy discover this, and figure out how to help. After her mom makes a drunken spectacle of herself after arriving midway through the recital, Dawn confides to Ms. Noble about her anger and despair over dealing with her mom's problem, which is overheard by Ms. Tartikoff, to whom Dawn reveals that she's afraid her mom's drinking problem will kill her. Ms. Tartikoff decides to seek treatment for her addiction.
    • "Presumed Innocent" deals with the topic of judging people by their appearance (see Courtroom Episode for more).
    • In "Frisky Business,"note  Manny High installs a metal detector to prevent a violent incident, but when a member of the school board sees El-Train with a switch comb, more stringent security measures are undertaken (including installing clear locker doors and security cameras) that make the students feel like they're in a prison. Ms. Noble encourages the students to find a constructive way to voice their objections, leading them to organize a strike by not attending class that lands them all suspensions. The gang decides to give the board members a taste of what they now have to go through. They propose a compromise policy where the metal detectors would be kept, but the stricter security measures are abolished, the new zero-tolerance policy is modified and students are allowed the responsibility of reporting those possessing a weapon on-campus; the board members agree to the plan.
    • "Jamal X" deals with the underdiscussed topic of reverse racism. After Jamal's professor uncle Kadeem speaks to the class about the struggles of African-Americans, Jamal becomes a radicalist black pride activist, and ends up shutting out his non-white friends in the process. Chris, Ms. Noble and El-Train call him out on his reverse racism in excluding his "non-nubian" friends, and later realizes his errors.
    • In "Unhappy Hour," the boys come over to Cassidy's apartment (as she and Dawn were planning to have a sleepover) the night before the gang is supposed to appear on a teen show (hosted by guest star, actress/comedienne Kiki Melendez), when El-Train breaks out some tequila from her parent's liquor cabinet for the gang, which they get sloppily drunk on. El-Train and Al's call to Ms. Noble during their date with Billy in the school's homeroom tips them off, and they walk in on them as Al and Chris are fighting after catching the latter kiss Dawn after Jamal kissed Cassidy. Chris, Jamal, Al, Dawn, El-Train and Cassidy go on the show hung over, and take responsibility for what they did.
    • In "Funny Business" Chris's older female boss(who was a Valedictorian at Manny High) in his school program makes unwanted romantic advances toward him and Chris is shown to be uncomfortable about the whole thing, Chris and the other students formulate a plan to catch her in the act(as they don't believe Ms Noble will believe him due to her speaking so fondly of her)and it works resulting in her father chewing her out for her inappropriate behavior and Ms Noble saying she will no longer send students to her.
    • In "Wager Money Go," Jamal, Chris, Al and El-Train go to an underground casino, where only Jamal ends up winning. Hoping his hot hand will come through again, he shirks his responsibilities at the diner to gamble, where he loses everything. Jamal's addiction strains his friendship with Chris, Al and El-Train, after he gambles away the money El-Train earned from his new job at the diner to pay for his mom to go on vacation and ends up stealing $200 from the diner's cash register, leading to El-Train's firing. Jamal ends up admitting his gambling problem to his father, and buys airplane tickets to Bermuda for El-Train to give to his mother.
    • In "Chicken Run," Jamal is challenged to a fight by a gang member and ends up being called a chicken when he refuses. With his reputation on the line, he decides to agree to fight. A worried Chris tries to intervene and save Jamal, but is inadvertently stabbed when the gang member pulls out a knife; Chris, of course, gets better later on, but...
    • In "Weight on Jamal," Jamal is being scouted by a recruiter for the University of Southern California. After his baseball coach tells him that he not enough in shape to be considered for the Trojans baseball team, he decides to start working out to get in shape. While at the health club, Jamal is offered steroids as a shortcut to bulk up.
    • In "Cassidy Couch," Cassidy lands an audition for a play by prominent Broadway director Derek Wagner, and ends up getting a smaller role, which she is just fine with since she gets to work in one of Derek's play. While attending Cassidy's rehearsal, Chris overhears Derek propositioning the lead actress; after the original lead quits in disgust, Derek awards the lead role to Cassidy. When Chris tells her what he overhead Derek do, Cassidy accuses him of being unsupportive, but finds out the hard way that Chris was right when Derek comes on to Cassidy. After Cassidy quits the play, Chris and Jamal have Derek appear on their radio show to confront the director about his "methods" in choosing his actresses.
  • Vitriolic Best Buds: Chris and Jamal, and Cassidy and Dawn may snipe at each other at times, but for the most part are very close friends, and are there for each other when push comes to shove.
  • Wacky Guy: El-Train, full stop.
  • Who Names Their Kid "Dude"??: In "Mo' Money, Mo' Problems," Chris asks this about El-Train's cousin Lumpy during a story about how El-Train injured his nose while playing basketball. El-Train responds that if he was born a girl, Lumpy's parents were going to name him Lumpina.
  • With Great Power Comes Great Insanity: When Al and El-Train are appointed school monitors in "Reluctant Hero," the two end up abusing their responsibilities by "confiscating" soda cans to give to two girls, and accepting fudge brownies from a student as a bribe to get out of a littering citation. Cassidy and Dawn teach the guys a lesson by having the same student who gave them the brownies and donuts give them chile-spiced Philly cheesesteaks, and toying them with some sodas.
  • Yet Another Christmas Carol: A twist in that the episode itself isn't set around Christmas. "An SAT Carol" features a dream sequence in which Ms. Noble as the funkily-dressed Ghost of SAT Future shows El-Train, who had given up on studying for the SATs earlier in the episode, two scenarios on what life will be like if he doesn't take the test.