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Series / Coach

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Coach is an American sitcom that ran on ABC from 1989 to 1997. It starred Craig T. Nelson as Hayden Fox, a successful but insensitive college football coach in Minnesota. His assistant coaches include his old friend Luther Van Dam (Jerry Van Dyke) and the much younger "super senior" Dauber Dybinski (Bill Fagerbakke).

A divorced father, Hayden has to juggle his responsibilities as coach with his relationship with his girlfriend Christine Armstrong (Shelley Fabares), a successful anchorwoman, and learning how to be a dad again when his daughter Kelly (Clare Carey) comes to the university for the music and dance program. Kelly also starts dating an artistic and somewhat effeminate young man named Stuart Rosebrock (Kris Kamm), whom Hayden strongly dislikes.

Over the course of the series Hayden progresses from being the inexperienced coach of the hapless Minnesota State Screaming Eagles all the way to becoming the head coach of the Orlando Breakers, an NFL team owned by the wealthy and eccentric Doris Sherman (Katherine Helmond). Meanwhile, Hayden and Christine eventually get married and adopt a baby boy, while Kelly marries (and then divorces) Stuart before graduating and taking a job with an ad agency in New York.

There was an attempt at reviving the show in 2015, but it was canceled due to a troubled production and an unsuccessful pilot. Notably, the new series would have written Christine out as having died due to Shelley Fabares battling autoimmune hepatitis and being unavailable for production.

As of January 2018, the show can seen on Antenna TV.

Tropes featured include:

  • Amicable Exes: Despite Hayden's occasinal insults towards his ex-wife Beth, they got along pretty well whenever she appeared.
  • And Starring: "And Shelley Fabares as Christine Armstrong."
  • As Himself: A number of sports personalities appeared on the show as themselves including Troy Aikman, Keith Jackson, and Joe Theisman; also, Mary Hart in the Clip Show.
  • Bait-and-Switch: In The Teaser to one episode, a game is not going well. During halftime, Luther and Dauber listen in as an off-screen Hayden screams about performance and how he wants to see some changes.
    [The door opens and out stumbles the university's priest]
  • Better as Friends: Kelly feels this way about her and Dauber after they slept together in "Kelly's New Guy pt. 1"
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Stuart; he makes a big deal of being sensitive and artistic, but in the end he only cares about himself and his feelings, making Hayden's dislike of him completely justified.
  • Book Ends: Season 7 begins and ends with Hayden being offered the chance to coach in the pros.
  • Brick Joke: In the episode "That Shouldn't Happen". The episode starts off with an announcement of the signing of a superstar quarterback. At the signing, a local channel offers a half hour show to Hayden as an aside at the announcement. After other build ups, Hayden injures the quarterback just before the game when high-fiving him. Hayden goes into a downward spiral, along with his fellow team members. At the very end of the episode, when Hayden hits his lowest point, the TV crew shows up at his home to film his show.
  • Christmas Episode:
    • "Christmas Brains": Hayden is depressed over a lonely Christmas and screwing up his relationship with Christine, so Kelly brings the in-laws and her mother for a visit.
    • "My True Love Gave to Me...": Hayden and Dauber both get Christmas gifts from the same jeweler. A mix-up, though, sees Judy get the ring meant for Christine and thinking that Dauber just proposed.
    • "Christmas of the Van Damned": Luther learns he has an extended family in the state, but his first meeting is a disaster and none of them want to come to his Christmas party.
  • Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: Several recurring characters, like player Fred Webb, Mrs. Rizzendough and Dr. Elaine Tewksberry, just stopped appearing after a while with no explanation.
    • Averted for Martin, the houseboy of the Fox's who disappeared after a few episodes in season 8. In the next season, Hayden mentions him, only for Christine to reveal he quit months ago.
  • Clip Show: Presented as a In-Universe TV special, Mary Hart interviews Coach Fox, with clips illustrating his comments.
  • Commuting on a Bus: Kelly, after season 6; despite moving to New York, she was still credited as a regular and made several appearances. It wasn't until the next season her appearances became sparse.
  • Crippling the Competition: In one episode the Orlando Breakers are in Buffalo to play the Bills when Luther accepts a dinner of Buffalo Wings from a bar/restaurant called "Buffalo Billy's." The entire team comes down with food poisoning and Coach Fox has to draft anyone he can find to fill the uniforms. Afterwards, Luther goes back to "Billy's" and asks the owner if it was intentional. The owner says no, but isn't too convincing about it.
    • "Out Of Control" had Coach Fox order one of his players to take out the star player on the opposing team to give the Screaming Eagles a chance to win. The player does it, but the hit is so awful it's implied the opponent will never play football again. Fox's player is understandably distraught and Coach realizes he crossed the line.
  • Crossover: In 1997, ABC forced a crossover stunt on this and the other Wednesday night sitcoms - The Drew Carey Show, Ellen and Grace Under Fire. Titled "Viva Las Vegas," the idea was that characters from the four shows would be in Las Vegas for different reasons and encounter each other. Only a couple characters from each series did this, however, and they amounted to cameos at best. This series' contribution was "Viva Las Ratings" - mocking the network's stunt. Notably, Craig T. Nelson didn't support doing this, so Hayden did no crossing over. Luther wound up doing so instead - running into Drew and getting into a memorabilia bidding war with Mimi.
    • One episode started with Luthor winning the grand prize on America's Funniest Home Videos with footage from a previous episode - one of Hayden and Christine's botched wedding attempts, which ended with Christine falling off a balcony, trying and failing to catch herself on a chandelier, and landing in the cake.
    • In the Grand Finale, when Hayden and Christine go back to the old Minnesota cabin, they find three squatters: Larry, his brother Darryl, and his other brother Darryl.note  Barry Kemp created both shows.
  • Dating What Daddy Hates: Kelly ends up dating and marrying Stuart, a guy whose entire personality rubs Hayden the wrong way. He's effeminate, emotional, very liberal, vegan, artistic and, worst of all, a mime. Notably, though, Hayden doesn't mind most of that in general, he was just hoping for someone who would at least enjoy fishing or watching sports. Stuart makes no real attempt at bonding, but desperately wants Hayden to just accept him anyway.
  • Disappeared Dad: Luthor's dad has been missing since 1942. In one episode Hayden actually finds him.
    • Hayden feels this way about his relationship with Kelly. He kept in contact but, by and large, she was raised by her mother. The early seasons was mostly about the two reconnecting.
  • The Ditz: Before Patrick Star, there was Dauber.
  • Doom It Yourself: Luther and Dauber try to install a floor in Hayden's rec room on two separate occasions. The first time (done off-camera), they get it so off-level that setting up a pool game caused all the balls to roll to one side of the table. When they tried to fix it, they lost control of the cement mixer, which buried them up to their ankles in concrete, which hardened before they could get out.
  • Dramedy: Has shades of this depending on the episode. The show juggled the line between Dom Com, Work Com and Singles Comedy, along with a healthy dose of mid-life crisis thrown in. It was not afraid of having more pensive and emotional stories, or ending an episode on a serious note. One in particular is when Stuart tells Kelly he is leaving her, the episode ends when Hayden asks her what is wrong and her sobs can be heard over the credits.
  • Easily Elected: Howard was a member of a lodge, "The Fraternal Order of Loons" and was campaigning to be the "High Loon". The lodge has an actual loon, which hasn't made a sound in twenty years, present at all meetings. If the loon squawks while someone is talking, that person become High Loon.
  • Expy: Minnesota State seems to be a substitute for the University of Minnesota (which originally supported the show but pulled out prior to filming), with the fight song very similar to the "Minnesota March". Outdoor scenes of campus, though, are shots of the University of Iowa.
    • The Orlando Breakers are a clear expy of the Jacksonville Jaguars, who joined the NFL in the same year the Retool took effect. The Breakers, like the Jaguars, surprisingly make the playoffs in only their second season, and play the Buffalo Bills in their first playoff game. Also, one episode has the Breakers' owner plotting to move the team to Los Angeles because of low attendance (which is more Hilarious in Hindsight than anything).
  • Flawless Token: Hayden learns that a current member of his team is gay, which leads to the discovery that previous players were also gay and kept that information from him. All of whom were excellent players. Terry, the current gay player, is a hard-working and level-headed kid who ends up putting Hayden in his place about passive-aggressively singling him out during practice after learning he was gay.
  • Football Fight Song: The Screaming Eagle's fight song is set to the tune of the show's theme song. Nobody (Including Hayden) knows more than the first two lines of the actual lyrics (When the Screaming Eagles fight/They fight with all their might).
  • Funny Foreigner: Martin, the Fox's short-lived houseboy in season 8.
  • Gay Bar Reveal: In one episode, Coach Fox is concerned that Terry, one of his athletes, is less than heterosexual. He ends up in a peaceful bar talking with the student, and everything is fine. A slow dance tune comes on, and two young people go to have a quiet dance on the floor behind Coach Fox. They have a gender in common...
  • Happily Adopted: Timothy Daniel (T.D.) Hayden & Christine's son in the final season.
  • Handshake Refusal: Hayden Fox ran into one of his fans coming out of one of the private rooms, who promptly recognized him and held out his hand for a shake.
  • Held Back in School: Hayden made Dauber an assistant coach when he learned that his protege hadn't earned enough credits to graduate (In fact, given how many credits he had earned, Dauber was still technically a sophomore after four years of college) and his football scholarship only ran for four years. He finally does graduate halfway through his ninth year in college. Thanks to Dauber's rather random selection of courses, he even ends up getting three degrees: In Physical Education, English, and Forestry.
  • Hypocrite: In one episode Dauber lectured a player about the importance of keeping his grades up, bulling through the speech even after the player pointed out that Dauber was an eighth year senior at the time.
  • I Gave My Word: In one episode, Hayden tells the parent of a prospective student that he promised Dauber's mother that he would ensure he graduated. This was still at a point when Dauber hadn't yet graduated, so Hayden notes that he's still trying to make good on this.
  • Instrumental Theme Tune: Composed by John Morris (best known for his work with Mel Brooks) and performed in the style of a typical college football "fight song" by a marching band.
  • I Want You to Meet an Old Friend of Mine: Luther (played by Jerry van Dyke) learns that he was adopted and ends up attending a reunion of his birth family. As he enters he complains to Hayden that there's no way he could be related to any of these people. An unnamed character (played by Dick van Dyke) chooses that moment to walk conspicuously across the set.
  • I Warned You: Hayden gets to say this over and over after his wife Christine finally makes a mistake and gets arrested after a rowdy bachelorette party by not listening to him.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Hayden. Like any good coach, he is A Father to His Men.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: After Stuart dumps Kelly in season 4, Hayden points out that he was against the wedding from the beginning.
    • In "Nice Job if You Can Get it," Christine is hired as co-host on local talk show, with Hayden noting that the host had been trying to get him on the show for awhile and that her hiring may have been due to her being his wife. Christine is livid about such an accusation, until she talks to her co-host and finds out that was in fact the deciding factor.
  • Job Title: Also a One-Word Title.
  • Jock Dad, Nerd Son: Nerd daughter in this case, as Coach Fox struggles to relate to Kelly, a drama major who uses raison d'etre in regular conversation.
  • Kavorka Man: Luther. Over the course of the series he had several girlfriends. The episode "Fool For Lunch" had three women all competing for his affection (with food).
  • Local Hangout: The Touchdown Club.
  • Mood Whiplash: In "Christmas Brains," Stuart's family has a tradition of the Christmas Wish—wearing a festive hat and telling the group what you want most of all. Hayden thinks this is stupid and looks ready to say so, but when it's finally his turn, he quietly expresses his regret over the recent break-up with Christine and blames himself for it.
  • Object Ceiling Cling: At one point, Luther is in Hayden's office throwing and sticking pencils up into the ceiling to the point where it's literally covered in them. When Hayden kicks Luther out of his office he slams the door causing all the pencils to fall down.
  • Oddly Small Organization: The coaching staff of Minnesota State's football team apparently consists of three people: Hayden (Head Coach), Luthor (Defensive Coordinator) and Dauber (trains the rookie players and manages the never seen minor staff like waterboys). Possibly justified by the fact that Minnesota State isn't a big sporting college, but you'd think they'd at least have a dedicated Offensive Coordinator to be a counterpart to Luthor.
  • One-Word Title: Because its a Job Title.
  • Only Known By His Nickname: Michael "Dauber" Daubinsky. When Dauber's girlfriend referred to him as Michael in front of Hayden, he honestly didn't know who she was talking about.
  • Overly Long Title: Several, including "I Don't Know Much About Art, But I Know What Makes Me Mad," "If Keith Jackson Calls, I'll Be At My Therapists," and "Sunshine On My Shoulder Makes Me Happy: A Show About Bird Ransom."
  • Passed-Over Inheritance: When a wealthy alumnus of Minnesota State dies, Hayden is certain that he's going to leave a large bequest to the University and starts making plans to use it to build a new athletics center. He's outraged when the will leaves the entire estate to the man's widow, and spends several episodes unsuccessfully trying to pry the funding for a new athletics center out of her.
  • The Pirates Who Don't Do Anything: Played with. While the cast is shown doing many parts of their jobs, there is one part that is always kept off-screen - coaching the actual football games. Hayden might be shown holding strategy meetings and giving rallying speeches before the game, but then there'd be a scene cut and he'd be talking to the team or the press after the game.
  • Promoted to Opening Titles: Kris Kamm (Stuart) in season 2, Kenneth Kimmins (Howard) in season 7 and Katherine Helmond (Doris Sherman) in the third episode of season 8.
  • Put on a Bus:
    • Stuart leaves the show after he and Kelly have an (offscreen) divorce at the start of season 4.
    • Kelly lands a job with a New York ad agency in season 6, making a few guest appearances afterward before leaving the show entirely.
  • Retool: Hayden Fox leaves Minnesota State University to coach a pro team in Orlando in Season 8.
  • Ripped from the Headlines: The aforementioned food poisoning episode was based on a similar incident involving New Zealand's team during the 1995 Rugby World Cup.
  • Running Gag: Once or twice a season there would be a spectacularly destructive event that the characters just barely avoid getting seriously hurt, typically a series of Disaster Dominoes that gets worse until the roof caves in. Probably the most famous was an attempt at Hayden and Christine getting married had Christine instead crash through a stairway banister, grab on to the chandelier for a moment before falling into the cake. Luthor won the grand prize in America's Funniest Home Videos with that tape.
  • Sitcom Arch-Nemesis: Hayden has Judy Watkins, coach of Minnesota State's women's basketball team. Becomes even more of a problem after Dauber starts dating her.
  • Stripper/Cop Confusion: Christine is at a bachelorette party where a real cop shows up and is mistaken for the male stripper.
  • Surpassed the Teacher: Hayden's first Bowl Game victory as a coach was over his own college football mentor.
  • Trademark Favorite Food:
    • Hayden loves steak, to the point he'll enlist Luther in ruining one of Christine's dinners so they can hit a steakhouse.
    • Luther starts every morning with a cup of coffee and a jelly doughnut. He's shown to have an enormous Sweet Tooth throughout the series.
  • Unsympathetic Comedy Protagonist: It's done in a largely unique way, Hayden is fully aware that he can come across as a jerk and just sort of accepts that he is not going to get along with everyone. As a college football coach he has to put on a Drill Sergeant Nasty persona on a frequent basis but he is rarely malicious and fully capable of being a mature adult when things don't go his way.
  • Twin Cities: While most of the cast lives near the fictional Minnesota State University, Christine lives in downtown Minneapolis.
  • Wedding Episode: It took at least three tries before Hayden and Christine actually got married, since the early attempts kept ending in disaster (The incident mentioned in the Crossover example, plus the time Luther set Christine's wedding dress on fire, and possibly others). The advertisement for the actual wedding episode lampshaded this by billing it as "The wedding of Hayden and Christine. Honest. Really, this time!"
  • Wham Line: "The Bigger They Are" has Hayden be visited by one of his former players, now in the NFL, who is retiring though not due to a knee injury, but because he has cancer brought on by steroids he took in his youth. Hayden is shaken by this, with Christine noting that the kid took steroids without Hayden's knowledge, so he shouldn't feel upset about what happened:
    Hayden: That's the thing Christine. I knew.
  • "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue: The finale has one, where Dauber narrates what happened to the main characters:
    • Luther retired and Doris note  bought him a Graceland-style mansion where he could live out the rest of his days.
    • Howard was fired from the Breakers for giving Hayden info on other pro teams looking to hire him, so he and his wife Shirley sold their Barbie collection and bought a dinner theater in Jupiter, Florida where they regularly perform.
    • Dauber became the Breakers new head coach, leading them to two consecutive Super Bowl victories, before joining the announce team of Monday Night Football.
    • Hayden's is rather ambiguous as it was just mentioned he became in charge of the cabin's fireworks celebration & was named "king of the lake."
    • Timothy, Hayden & Christine's adopted son, grew up to be just like his dad, even having friends resembling a younger Luther & Dauber.
  • Woman Scorned: The new female college president Dr. Elaine Tewksberry, who debuted in "Haven't I Slept With You Somewhere Before?" Hayden slept with her years ago and walked out on her, and since becoming the president she frequently causes trouble for him as a result (despite that being a major conflict of interest).
  • Work Com
  • Yank the Dog's Chain: "The Kicker" had Hayden, Dauber & Luther traveling to a fictional country under martial law to sign an amazing kicker. The trio ends up stuck in a cave and nearly freezing to death before finally locating the kid... only to find that Notre Dame's Lou Holtz (playing himself) got there before they did and signed the kid already.