The series focuses on Graham Lubbock (Bill Kirchenbauer), a gym coach who used to teach at the high school that the Seaver kids from Growing Pains (where he appeared on a recurring basis), and who is the father of eight children. As the series progressed, Coach Lubbock's four eldest daughters, the teenagers Marie (Heather Langenkamp), Cindy (Jamie Luner), Wendy (Brooke Theiss), and Connie (Jo Ann Willette), became the primary focus of the show.
The series aired from April 26, 1988 to May 4, 1990.
This series provides examples of:
- 555: The Lubbocks' phone number is 555-3273
- Abhorrent Admirer: The girls all view Gavin Doosler as this.
- Actor Allusion: Upon moving into the house, Marie comments that it "looks like something out of "A Nightmare on Elm Street". Marie is played by Heather Langenkamp who starred in the original, Part 3: Dream Warriors, and New Nightmare, JoAnn Willette (Connie) in Part 2: Freddy's Revenge, and Brooke Theiss (Wendy) in Part 4: The Dream Master.
- Actually a Good Idea: To get a couple of students to stop making fun of Graham, J.R. claimed in "The First Day" that the old man previously killed a student and that that's why the family had to move across the country. The lie quickly spreads across campus, and Graham has to reprimand J.R. for it. Of course, when saying the lie caused all the students to not mouth off to him or go anywhere near his teenage daughters, Graham is sheepishly having this reaction. He even suggests J.R. take his time setting the record straight with the teenagers.
- A-Cup Angst: Connie has this. She gets over it after Wendy tells her that they're the same size and realizes that it's her negative attitude that's costing her dates, not her small breasts.
- Always Identical Twins: Averted. Wendy and Cindy are fraternal twins.
- Anger Born of Worry: Many an episode has Graham rant and rave in comical fashion about something bad that one or more of his kids did, but he admits to Wendy in "Dangerous Liaison" that he genuinely dreads the possibility of them getting into the kind of trouble that he can't get them out of.
- Armor-Piercing Question:
- Connie keeps trying to deny how her article in the "St. Augie's Blues" two-parter caused so many problems, but even Marie (as politely as possible) blames her for it. A simple question is all it takes for Connie to realize the truth.Marie: Do you think Father Hargis would be selling our house, if you hadn't written that article?
- J.R.'s graffiti stunt in "Ratboy Lives" takes him all night to finish. He's brought home by a cop just as everyone else is heading for church on Sunday morning. J.R.'s question is how Elizabeth ultimately realizes why he did what he did.J.R.: Mom, I haven't been home all night. Didn't you notice? Didn't anyone notice?
- Connie keeps trying to deny how her article in the "St. Augie's Blues" two-parter caused so many problems, but even Marie (as politely as possible) blames her for it. A simple question is all it takes for Connie to realize the truth.
- Armor-Piercing Response:
- "Highway to Heaven": En route to a convent, Elizabeth starts to wonder if she unintentionally pushed Marie into wanting to become a nun as a way of gaining approval and that this trip might be a mistake. She's briefly reassured when Marie says she wants to be a nun to to serve God as best she can. Marie then does this trope without realizing it, but it still cuts Elizabeth the same way.Elizabeth: Oh, Marie, I'm so very proud of you.
Marie: Good. I want you to be pleased.
- "The Birthday Gift": Elizabeth wants to know how the girls raised the money for Graham's gift and grills them one-by-one.Connie: Okay, okay, we did! But I wouldn't exactly call it prostitution!
- "Close Encounters": After breaking up the party, both parents get this when Graham wants to have a word with the kid they left in charge.Graham: Where is Marie? [no one answers] Where's Marie?! [no one answers again] WHERE! IS! MARIE?!
Connie: [sheepishly] She's upstairs in her bedroom with a boy.
- "Ratboy Lives": Graham is certain that J.R.'s graffiti stunt was just obnoxious vandalism, until Elizabeth points out it was obviously a reaction to Parental Neglect. She cites how, earlier in the episode, they just glossed over all the kids' report cards because they were too busy looking for legal documents.Graham: But we didn't look at anybody's report card.
Elizabeth: Yeah, but with J.R., we didn't even notice he was in the room.
- "Highway to Heaven": En route to a convent, Elizabeth starts to wonder if she unintentionally pushed Marie into wanting to become a nun as a way of gaining approval and that this trip might be a mistake. She's briefly reassured when Marie says she wants to be a nun to to serve God as best she can. Marie then does this trope without realizing it, but it still cuts Elizabeth the same way.
- Awful Wedded Life: The subplot in "Close Encounters" shows this is true of the other couples on the faculty retreat. One of the wives had been openly dismissive of Elizabeth being a full-time mother and, when this finally comes out in front of the whole group, the woman's husband scolds her and says she's always copping a dismissive attitude towards him, too. The other husbands in the group defend Elizabeth, leading to their wives venting their own frustrations. It all results in multiple shouting matches.
- Bathroom Stall Graffiti: To get their father out of the house so they can plan a surprise for him, daughter Cindy tells her father that obscene things are written about her on the boys bathroom wall. Incensed, he goes to paint it over himself. She later asks her sister Connie how she could stomach writing those things.Connie: Most of it was already there, I just had to paint your name over Wendy's (another sister).
- Being Good Sucks: Coach Lubbock has to bench the star football player right before a championship game because he failed a test. The team loses horribly and everyone hates him for it, with the exception of his wife, who gives him a handmade trophy and commends him for his bravery in making the right decision despite knowing full well how unpopular it would be.
- Big Sister Instinct: The first flashback in "Coach's Court" shows Marie broke the porch railing by punching out a guy that was getting into it with J.R. (who's now too mortified to show his face afterwards). It turns out she had actually punched out the same guy earlier that same day (though that time was more in response to him insulting her than him threatening J.R.). Graham is stunned to hear it, especially given how the guy in question is the school's best boxer.
- Bilingual Backfire: An episode had the Lubbock family boarding a Spanish exchange student who promptly made advances to all four of the teenaged daughters, who each believed that they were the first to successfully teach him English—only to have it turn out that he already knew and merely used the supposed language barrier as a tool of seduction. The funny thing is, he reveals this when he gets fed up with two other characters bad-mouthing him for his lecherous behavior (not realizing that he can understand them) and blurts out an angry retort. His satisfaction at embarrassing the other two is short-lived when he—and they—realize that he's just revealed himself to be even more of a jerk than they originally thought.
- Biting-the-Hand Humor: In the Season 3 premiere episode, which coincided with ABC's branding of their Friday night block as "TGIF", the cold open features the four older girls in the living room with "Fun Night on ABC" on the television. Marie, the "good girl", is excited for it while Wendy brags that she has a date whereas Connie has "Fun Night on ABC." (The same episode has a Take That! against CBS.)
- Black Comedy Rape: In one episode, Cindy defends herself against a date trying to get fresh with her, to the point of putting him in the hospital. Despite this being a Date Rape Averted situation and some very important lessons being imparted—her parents assure her that she did nothing wrong and that he had no right to ignore her telling him "No"—it's presented in a humorous way, never like a Very Special Episode.
- Blind Without 'Em: In the first episode, Marie tried to make use of The Glasses Gotta Go to impress a hunky jock. That part worked, but she couldn't see a damn thing. This is also an issue when the girls start singing at the pizzeria, as she needs to be led around or else she bumps into whatever's in her path.
- Blonde, Brunette, Redhead: Wendy (blonde), Connie and Marie (brunette), and Cindy (redhead). Sherry was black-haired (but could technically count as a brunette).
- Bottle Episode: The entirety of "Comedy Tonight" takes place at Danny's Pizzeria.
- Boyfriend-Blocking Dad: Having four teenage daughters makes this a given. The girls do date, but Graham is very strict and the various male students walk on eggshells around him.
- Brilliant, but Lazy: Wendy is quite adept at scheming and sneaking out of the house unnoticed, but her grades are often dismal, especially compared to the other kids. Graham suspects this trope of her, so he claims in "Head of the Class" that an IQ test revealed she actually has a genius intellect. Wendy subsequently feels more motivated and starts bringing in better grades. Ironically, in trying to prove Wendy isn't a genius, Sherry discovers that a school official in New York pulled the exact same trick on her.
- Bumbling Dad: Averted. Graham has his silly moments, but he's consistently portrayed as a good father, competent provider, and the disciplinarian. The kids would rather get yelled at by Elizabeth than by him.
- Can't You Read the Sign?: In the Christmas Episode, this is the basis for Graham's gifts for Wendy and Cindy: two pink sweaters each with a specific warning ("Don't touch my daughter" and "Beware daughter of a madman").
- Catchphrase: "Hi!" for both Wendy and Cindy, usually in unison.
- Celebrity Paradox:
- In the pilot episode, the house the Lubbocks move in is described by someone as being like "something out of A Nightmare on Elm Street". Nobody bats an eye at the fact that Marie and Wendy look like Nancy and Debbie respectively from that film series — because they're played by the same actresses.
- In "Dreamgirls", Wendy fantasizes about watching the Oscars with Kirk Cameron. Cameron played the star of Just the Ten of Us's parent show and his character even had a crush on Wendy during her two- part appearance on that show. Tracey Gold, who played Carol on Growing Pains, is mentioned in the episode "Snow Job".
- Chained Heat: The subplot in "The Merry Mix-Up" has Graham (sick of the constant fighting) handcuff J.R. and Sherry together so that they'll have to learn to get along. He reasons it worked in a certain movie. They ultimately work together to procure a hacksaw.
- The Chains of Commanding: When Graham and Elizabeth spend the night away for a faculty campout in "Close Encounters", Marie (being the oldest) is put in charge. She hates it because the other siblings constantly complain about her enforcing the rules (to the point of outright likening her to Hitler) and try to pull a fast one on her to throw a party. She gets frustrated enough to pass the buck to Cindy (the second oldest), who doesn't want the job since she'd be the one most in trouble for the party. Wendy doesn't like the sound of that, but Connie jumps at the chance to be in charge, only to regret it when no one listens to her. After the folks come home early and bust the kids, Elizabeth ultimately cuts Marie some slack after listening to her explain what she had to put up with.
- Characterization Marches On:
- Cindy is the ditziest of the older girls, but in the Growing Pains two-parter where she debuted, she seemed witty and down-to-earth.
- Connie is a budding Teen Genius and fairly perky Little Miss Snarker, while she's more of an Emo Teen in her Growing Pains appearance.
- Marie was not so devout in the first episode, instead grousing about missing the perfect way to sneak out of the apartment and later demonstrating creepy interest in the new house (excitedly likening it to a horror movie). The next episode establishes her interest in becoming a nun, but she's still half-and-half about it rather than treating it as the religious calling that would define her character.
- Child Prodigy: Sherry is taking advanced classes and was rated as a genius back in New York. She loves it since it helps her stand out in such a large family, but she's also annoyed over not being taken more seriously, due to her young age. She's crushed to learn she was lied to about her IQ score as a way to motivate her and that she isn't actually genius level, but Elizabeth points out she's still succeeded at work that's rather advanced for someone her age.
- Christianity is Catholic: While this is hardly a religious show, this trope is in full swing—the family is Catholic, Coach Lubbock works for a Catholic school, which the girls attend, Elizabeth is often seen crossing herself whenever something upsets her, oldest sister Marie aspires to be a nun, etc.
- Christmas Episode: "A Christmas Story" from Season 2. The station wagon's transmission is shot, and Graham can't afford to both have it repaired and buy Elizabeth's present (a church organ). Graham scrambles to come up with the present money, while the girls set out to cover the transmission bill as a surprise gift to him.
- Commonality Connection: Marie hits it off with a boy in "Close Encounters" after learning he's also the oldest of several siblings and often saddled with looking after them.
- Continuity Nod: When trying to figure out who he knows that could've afforded to give him so much money for his birthday, Graham briefly considers Jason Seaver.
- Cool Big Sis: Towards the end of the series, Sherry has taken to Wendy as a role model and sought her advice on things. Wendy was happy to do so in exchange for favors, like cleaning shoes. Graham is incredulous that, out of the four teenage girls, Sherry picked Wendy to look up to.
- Cool Teacher: Despite his well-deserved reputation as a Papa Wolf, Graham is well-liked by the students for making classroom lessons fun and for being a reasonable coach. Duane says he was always like this, being the type that would work his charges hard but always be inspirational and caring. When a rumor spreads that he's dying, students turn out in droves at the hospital to hold a vigil.
- Courtroom Episode: "Coach's Court" takes place in the living room but is otherwise this. Graham had a nasty tumble off the porch after the railing suddenly gives way, and it comes out that Marie punched out a guy hassling J.R.. Graham proceeds to get to the bottom of this by holding a mock trial, complete with a shoe for a gavel, Connie as the disinterested baliff, and the other kids called to testify. Elizabeth acknowledges how they did this sort of thing when the kids were younger, but now it just seems silly.
- Crisis of Faith: Father Hargis admits in "Voice of God" that he sincerely respects Elizabeth's level of faith and how she prays every single morning, all while (not too subtly) alluding to how the daily grind has long since wore him down and made him more cynical. The events of the episode make him more optimistic, and it ends with him praying for the first time in a while.
- Desperately Looking for a Purpose in Life: Marie spends several years wanting to grow up to be a nun. After she starts having serious doubts about that path near the end of the show, she has a period of feeling unsure of what she is good for and what she should do with her life.
- Diegetic Soundtrack Usage: To cover up accidentally rear-ending Father Hargis's car into a pool, Wendy wants to pound some dents out of the station wagon, so she tells Cindy to sing something really loud. Cindy proceeds to sing the show's theme song, and Wendy really likes the sound of it.
- Diet Episode: "A Couple of Swells" from Season 3. Graham is feeling very subconscious about his weight lately and resolves to go on a diet, with Cindy joining him. Graham is constantly faced with temptation, only to find that Elizabeth convinced local stores to not serve him any junk food. He ends up getting into the school's food locker for a snack and catches Cindy about to cheat, but they both crack and gorge themselves on the food. Graham feels like a failure and Cindy feels sick, but Elizabeth points out that weight loss is a long-term commitment and that slip-ups now and then are bound to happen.
- The Ditz: Unusually, Cindy the redhead, rather than Wendy the blonde (though she had a few ditzy moments herself).
- Dumbass Has a Point: Unlike Connie, Cindy immediately grasps the downside of being left in charge of the other siblings in "Close Encounters": getting the lion's share of blame from the folks for any shenanigans.
- Eye Contact as Proof: Elizabeth eventually figures out in "The Birthday Gift" that the girls are responsible for the money that Graham received. They deny everything, so she says she'll be looking each one of them in the eye. Wendy is the only one able to look her directly in the eye and lie. Cindy is more fidgety and keeps turning away, while Marie noticeably never looks Elizabeth in the eye at all. Connie cracks while Elizabeth is still talking to Marie.
- Favors for the Sexy: Though the family benefits from "Friends" Rent Control, the house was still in dilapidated condition in the first episode, looking like it had been a number of years since anyone used it (barring a lone raccoon). Upon noticing a gathering of male students eager to introduce themselves, Wendy and Cindy cajole them into doing some home improvement work. They get the house in much better condition by the time Graham comes home and kicks them out for being in his teenage daughters' bedroom.
- Fearless Fool: J.R. has challenged students twice his size to fight and suffered for it. Graham is incredulous he picked a fight with the school's best boxer and says he's lucky to be alive.
- Fired Teacher: The series' story began when Coach Lubbock got fired from his teaching job at Dewey High School in Growing Pains.
- Freudian Excuse: "Highway to Heaven" actually has three examples, two serious and one as a gag.
- The episode mainly explores whether Marie genuinely wants to become a nun or is just seeking Elizabeth's approval. A flashback from before Connie was born shows Elizabeth had scolded Marie for some misbehavior and, when trying to get her to stop crying, simply said, "You just be a good little nun." It's a rather tough realization for both mother and daughter to deal with.
- Elizabeth also has to contend with how her parenting style was influenced by her own mother, who she says was prone to laying on "Don't you wanna make your mommy happy?"-style guilt to get her way. Elizabeth initially balks at claims that she does the very same thing and has a very disturbed realization after the above flashback.
- As a joke, the flashback also suggests that Wendy and Cindy's boy crazy antics were the result of Elizabeth not stopping them from Playing Doctor with a couple of boys.
- "Friends" Rent Control: Justified. While the financially-struggling Lubbocks live in a house in Eureka, California that's big enough to comfortably house ten people, it's explained that the school owns the house and allows the family to use it while Coach Lubbock is working for them. It's also made clear that it isn't the nicest of places—from the very first episode, one of them describes it as being like "something out of A Nightmare on Elm Street". The four oldest sisters share an attic bedroom, son JR shares with his baby brother, and youngest daughter Sherry shares with her baby sister.
- Graceful in Their Element: Doosler is often hapless at school (whether on the field during games or when tasked with cleaning up the equipment), but "Who Cut the Cheese?" reveals he has an assistant manager job at the Burger Barn and is quite adept at it.
- Greater Need Than Mine: On his birthday, Graham receives a large amount of money, but no name is signed to the box it came in. It actually came from his teenage daughters' date raffle because they wanted to help Graham pay off a sizable moving bill, but he never suspects them and instead runs through other names he knows. Ultimately, he begins to wonder if Elizabeth was right about it being a literal gift from God, so he goes to church to say his thanks to the Lord and to explain why he'd rather drop the money in the poor box. Between his wife and kids, he says he's already been rather blessed and feels that someone in worse shape needs the money more. Elizabeth (having been at church herself) is deeply touched to overhear this.
- Gym Class Hell: "Personal Best". When Coach Lubbock wants his kids to start exercising more, Marie is the only one who likes the idea, and only because she considers the physical exertion required for gym class to be a form of self-punishment to atone for her worst sins.
- Hard Truth Aesop: "Cindy Breaks a Date" from Season 3. After all the grief she got for fending off a grabby date, Cindy finds he was a jerk all along and feels stupid for doubting herself. Elizabeth assures her she did nothing wrong and behaved appropriately (with Graham chiming in that men are indeed pigs looking for any excuse to escalate), but it's acknowledged how this kind of situation is likely to happen again and that the burden is on Cindy to be on guard.Elizabeth: I wish that I could tell you that if a guy misunderstands that what you say, or what you do, or what you wear, then that's his problem. But, honey, that's not the world we live in.
- Here We Go Again!: After running herself ragged in "A Day in the Life" cleaning the house and looking for Harvey, the suspended Wendy has learned a lesson about responsibility and her own behavior, much to Elizabeth's own relief and exhaustion. Then J.R. and Sherry return home to announce they've also been suspended.
- Hidden Depths:
- Sister Ethel is actually a gifted artist. Everyone assumed her paintings were made by professionals for high sums.
- On one occasion, J.R. (typically written off as an idiot by his sisters) is shown playing chess with Marie.
- Cindy auditions for a radio gig in "Radio Days" because she feels her opinions are dismissed out of hand because of her attractiveness. Her fantasy sequence in "Rock-n-Roll Fantasy" is being Happily Married and having kids, suggesting she's looking for a quality partner when dating rather than just to fool around.
- Hidden Heart of Gold: Father Hargis is often blunt and stingy, but he actually works overtime to keep the school open and functioning. Graham finds him on the verge of tears when the school's at risk of being shut down.
- Honesty Aesop: Connie's review in "The Critic" pulls no punches, deriding a school rehearsal of Death of a Salesman as "the production from Hell" and somehow getting even worse from there. The people working on the play are obviously displeased with this caustic review, and Elizabeth is outraged out of concern for Graham's feelings. Graham himself, however, is far more forgiving and says he doesn't want Connie to compromise what she genuinely believes for the sake of sparing his feelings.
- Hope Spot: The Teaser for "The Dinner Test" features an invoked example. It's obvious to everyone that Cindy's date is washing out, but Graham makes a show of congratulating the guy to lull him into a false sense of security. He then offers up a beer because he knows the guy will be dumb enough to admit to underage drinking.
- Hormone-Addled Teenager: Wendy and Cindy were frequently preoccupied with boys. Connie and Marie had their moments too.
- Hypocritical Humor: After finding proof that one of the kids is smoking, Elizabeth expresses disappointment and says she thought she taught them to never put anything harmful in their bodies. Graham insists he always tried to set a good example, all while helping himself to a beer.
- I Should Have Been Better: "Who Cut the Cheese?" reveals that, due to the number of kids and level of income, the Lubbocks are technically destitute and thus entitled to free food from the government. The rest of the family is ecstatic, but a frustrated Graham tries to increase their income by moonlighting at an embarrassing Burger Fool job (working himself ragged in the process). Much humor is derived from this, but what he says to Connie highlights how this is less about mere pride and more about feeling like all his efforts to be a provider still aren't enough.Graham: You think I enjoy having you guys eat leftovers every night? You think I enjoy watching you have to make your own clothing? Which, by the way, is some of the ugliest stuff I've ever seen.
- Language Fluency Denial: The exchange student in "Zorro en el Gallinero" is revealed to be doing this, much to the displeasure of Graham and his four teenage daughters. The guy says he does this to see how school officials really feel about him, testing whether they genuinely want him as a person or just intend to exploit his athletic abilities to boost their own profile. (The part about wooing four teenage sisters was due to being a Hormone-Addled Teenager not used to getting such attention, which he fully admits was inappropriate and apologizes to Graham and Elizabeth for.)
- Leaning on the Fourth Wall:
- "The Critic": Graham is directing a school production of Death of a Salesman. In the face of the cast and crew chuckling over shenanigans, Graham shouts, "If you wanna laugh, go watch a stupid sitcom!"
- "Radio Days": During a radio interview with Graham, a student accuses him of fixing games for organized crime and sleeping around with beautiful women. After getting yanked off the air, the student says this was just to gin up ratings. Father Budd berates the kid by saying ratings aren't the most important thing in the world, but Graham concedes they actually are.
- "Highway to Heaven": Marie is leaving to go to a convent for two weeks, as part of her becoming a nun. Everyone expects her back home afterwards, but Sherry thinks she's gone for good.Sherry: It'll be just the nine of us.
- Connie's journal dates their arrival at the school campus as April 26th, the day the episode premiered.
- Let Me Get This Straight...: Graham sums up the events of "Coach's Court" thusly:Graham: All right, now let me get this straight. J.R. got in two fights with my best boxer and didn't get hurt? Then Marie decked him twice, and he's on the verge of proposing to her?
- Massive Numbered Siblings: Coach Lubbock has eight children. In an episode where they figured into the show it spun off from, Boner was amazed at this, and correctly guessed they were Catholic.
- Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane:
- "Voice of God": Played straight. Elizabeth is positive she heard God Himself talk to her during a morning prayer, so she has the rest of the family join her early the next morning. Nothing happens, but just as Graham heads back to bed, a tree crashes through the bedroom window and lands right where he would've been sleeping. The family think this was God's way of saving Graham's life, while Father Hargis suggests it was just a big coincidence. Interest in early morning prayers tapers off when nothing else happens, though Elizabeth can't shake the feeling this all had some higher purpose. In private, Father Hargis agrees and thinks this was God's way of getting him more interested in his faith again, though it's still left up in the air for viewers to decide.
- "Highway to Heaven": Averted. Elizabeth is taking Marie to the convent for nun training, but a lot of strange coincidences keep occurring. The station wagon experiences sudden trouble that strands them at a quirky diner, where friendly bikers suggest staying for food, a mechanic seems to know a lot about Marie's inner doubts about becoming a nun, and a mother lays on a guilt trip to her child that Elizabeth finds oddly familiar. By the time they get to the convent, Marie has to accept she does have doubts on becoming a nun and how Elizabeth unintentionally forced it on her. The episode's Wham Shot demonstrates none of this was mundane, as the two find the diner looking like it's been abandoned for years.
- My Significance Sense Is Tingling: In trying to get Wendy to stop misbehaving, Graham claims that he has a sixth sense that allows him to know what any of his kids are doing whether he's actually there or not. He bluffs his way through convincing her and, while settling in for the night, is quite amused by this trick. All of a sudden, he sits up, demands to know why Cindy is sneaking around at night, and yells at her to go back to bed. It takes a moment for him to realize what just happened.Graham: Maybe I do have a sixth sense.
- My Sister Is Off-Limits: J.R. downplays it, as he never objects to his sisters dating, but he does take offense to random guys making lewd comments about them.
- Never My Fault: With so many kids in the house, this comes up quite a bit, but "Dangerous Liaison" really runs with it. Wendy gets picked up by a thug that ultimately robs a convenience store and gets arrested. The security camera footage proves Wendy didn't break the law, but she thinks that proves she didn't do anything wrong at all, despite breaking curfew and getting caught with fake IDs. Some of this is out of stubbornness, while the rest is out of genuine ignorance and confusion. Graham and Elizabeth spend the rest of a very long night trying to convince her that her bad judgment and failure to abide by family rules put her in a very bad situation.Elizabeth: [frustrated] This is not Marie's fault for being too permissive, nor is it the fault of the pizzeria for hiring you, nor is it the fault of the convenience store for being open all night, nor is it the fault of Congress for not making stricter gun control laws.
Wendy: Well, I just thought I'd mention it.
- No Periods, Period: One adult woman and four teenage girls (Sherry was too young to have started), yet this topic never came up. then again, with the mother constantly pregnant, she wouldnt have been really part of the topic.
- "No" Means "Yes": After Cindy puts a date in the hospital when he gets fresh with her, she goes to apologize. He mentions several things that she did during their date that made him think that she wanted to make out with him, so he ignored her attempts at rebuffing him. When she hugs him, assuming that they've made amends, he gropes her again and again uses the "you hugged me, so. . ." excuse.
- Not So Above It All: Prim and proper Marie frequently chastised the boy-crazy Wendy and Cindy, but she had quite a few lustful moments herself.Marie: I'm a terrible person.
Connie: What did you do?
Marie: It's what I think about doing.
- Obnoxious In-Laws: Elizabeth's mother never appears in-person and has apparently passed on, but what we've heard indicates she and Graham had a rather tense relationship. (He nicknamed her fairly large goiter, which had been something the rest of Elizabeth's family avoided talking about.) It's also mentioned early on that Graham has a rivalry with Elizabeth's brother, with him claiming the man is always trying to show him up.
- O.O.C. Is Serious Business:
- Elizabeth is so outraged about one of the kids smoking that, for the only time in the series, they're more afraid of her than of Graham. For his part, Graham is both intrigued and a little scared himself.
- Graham is always shouting about one thing or another, but at least one of the kids usually has a snarky comment in response, even when being the one getting yelled at. J.R.'s graffiti stunt in "Ratboy Lives" makes Graham so angry, however, that everyone else just gets out of his way and won't even make eye contact. Even Elizabeth, usually one to second guess any overreactions, would rather sneak behind Graham's back to coddle J.R. rather than do so openly.
- Owls Ask "Who?": Convinced that God talked to her during a morning prayer in "Voice of God" and commanded spreading the word, Elizabeth gets the family up and early the next morning. Someone off-screen did indeed join them, just not who Elizabeth was expecting.Elizabeth: God, we're here.
Graham: The Lubbocks!
Graham and the kids: THE LUBBOCKS!
J.R.: It's only an owl.
Sherry: God is an owl?
- Parent ex Machina: The Lubbock parents are rarely seen later on the show, where Coach Lubbock's four eldest daughters replaced him as the primary focus of the show.
- Parental Hypocrisy:
- Connie's love story in "Song of Constance" is largely dismissed as pornography, earning her the ire of adults and unwanted advances of her classmates. Graham in particular was fuming about all this, until Elizabeth showed him an "obscene" poem that he had written for her back in high school. Graham is suitably embarrassed, particularly when he recalls how adults back in his day had the exact same overreaction to his sincere expression of love for Elizabeth and that he called them old and foolish for it.
- Graham admits that Sherry's penchant for snark can be really grating, despite the fact that she obviously got it from him.
- Passing Notes in Class: What gets "Strangers in the Night" rolling is Graham catching students passing a note. His back was to the class, too; he just knew they were doing it. Since Doosler was the one holding it at the time, he's told to read it aloud for all to hear. Doosler refuses (to the point of trying to eat the note), and we soon find out why. It's about an unnamed student bragging about having a make-out session with "the hottest Lubbock babe" the previous night.
- Pet the Dog:
- "The Critic": Connie pulls no punches in her review of Graham's play, save for calling Cindy (usually the favorite target of her sarcasm) the lone bright spot.
- Janitor Bob is alluded to have a criminal past and most everyone is openly afraid of him, but he respects how Connie had the courage to talk to him for an interview. He gives her encouragement in "St. Augie's Blues, Part 2" to face the angry parents and teachers, even yelling at the adults to shut up so that she can speak.
- Phrase Catcher: Graham is frequently greeted by students and school staff with, "Yo, Coach!"
- Plot Parallel: Both plots in "Ratboy Lives" are about one's desire to leave a mark on the world. After talking to a lawyer about his will, Graham finds he has nothing to leave his children and feels like he hasn't accomplished anything (whereas his old high school buddies all built businesses or achieved local fame). At the same time, J.R. is feeling neglected (being the only kid not given any reaction for a report card and consistently ignored in other respects), so he decides to leave his mark on the world by using his nickname for a major graffiti stunt at school. Graham is pissed, but after Elizabeth points out why J.R. did this, he reflects on how people want so badly to believe they've been noticed and made a difference somehow. He talks to J.R. about legacies and how he's realized his children are his mark on the world. He also yells at J.R. for his bad report card and gives him a hug.
- Pom-Pom Girl: As some of the only girls at their school, the older Lubbock sisters act as cheerleaders for the football team and try hard at it. Wendy and Cindy can be dumb or boy crazy at times, but all four girls are generally nice.
- Practically Different Generations: Graham and Elizabeth have four teenagers, an 11-year old, an 8-year old, and two babies.
- Resentful Outnumbered Sibling: J.R. isn't the only boy, but Harvey is just a baby, so he's generally on his own. His focus episodes primarily deal with how he wants some way to distinguish himself from his teenage sisters and prodigy younger sister, all of whom he feels have a much easier time of getting noticed and making friends.
- Sand In My Eyes: "Personal Best" ends with J.R. privately crying Tears of Joy over his successes (tying for first place at the track meet and getting a cool nickname from Graham). When Sherri asks if he's crying, he insists he's sweating through his eyes and doesn't want to talk about it any further.
- Scatter Brained Senior: Sister Ethel, a recurring nun that works at the school. She's often distracted and doesn't pick up on things very easily.Sister Ethel: [looking at an effigy] My God, you've hung the Coach!
- Screw This, I'm Outta Here: "Close Encounters" has a rather large example when Graham and Elizabeth find the kids held a party while they were gone. When Graham starts screaming, every boy in sight heads for either the front door, the back door, or the nearest open window.
- Sibling Seniority Squabble: The first time it's mentioned in the series that they're fraternal twins, Cindy stresses that she's older than Wendy by 11 minutes.
- Slut-Shaming: Frequently. The show throws the word "slut" around pretty casually, by various characters, any time any one of the girls even thinks about a boy. Even little Sherri uses it (via subtitles) when talking about her sisters in Spanish, causing a reaction of disapproval from the studio audience.
- Spotlight-Stealing Squad: The four teenage daughters wound up getting more stories than their parents.
- Take That!:
- In "Dreamgirls", Connie says she'd rather be a novelist than help her sisters become a famous singing group. Wendy says that if Connie gets famous, it will guarantee that anything she writes will be published. To exemplify this, she contemptuously points out how Suzanne Somers published a book of poetry (which Cindy likes but the other sisters view as trash). note
- In "Heartbreaker", Wendy says, "I'm not comfortable with dying. That's why I don't watch Pat Sajak." note
- Take That, Audience!: This gem from "Song of Constance":Graham: From now on, I want you to do what everybody else in America does: stop using your brain and start watching TV.
- A Taste Of His Own Medicine: Cindy's boyfriend in "Betrayal" ends up expressing more interest in Wendy, to the point of asking her out to a concert and lying about why he can't take Cindy. Wendy's flippant about it even after getting caught, as she just wanted to go to the concert and says it's not like Cindy was engaged to the guy. At Marie's suggestion, Cindy goes out with Wendy's boyfriend "Blitz" and makes sure this doesn't go unnoticed. Suffice to say, Wendy has a decidedly different reaction to being on the receiving end.
- Team Pet: Hooter, the family dog. Never the focus of an episode, but always shown hanging around in or out of the house. Elizabeth dotes on him, while Graham is more flippant (especially when it's time to pay vet bills).
- Time Skip: During the first episode to account for the lengthy trip across the country. Connie's journal entry for when they're leaving the old apartment in The Teaser is dated April 2nd, while the arrival at the school after the opening credits is dated April 26th.
- Too Dumb to Live: In one episode, the parents learn one of the kids has been smoking and try to figure out which one. Cindy is ruled out pretty quickly, due to a belief she would struggle with the minimal hand/eye coordination that'd be involved. Cindy didn't actually do it, but she's offended by this, so she tries to prove she could do it and fails miserably.
- Twerp Sweating: In one episode, Wendy recruits a ringer to pass her father's "dinner test", then drive her to meet her real date. All the sisters want to actually date the ringer, as he is played by a young, charming Matthew Perry.
- Two-Teacher School: Played with. We primarily see Graham, Father Hargis, and a handful of other recurring faces at the school, but one-off teachers appear as needed for specific plots. Early on, Graham did fill in for any random class and none of them were English Literature (what he's actually trained to teach). This was justified by how he was hired as a favor to Duane rather than out of need for a new teacher, so he gets whatever assignments are available until a proper opening comes along.
- The Ugly Guy's Hot Daughter: All of the daughters of Coach Lubbock. It's not as obvious with the grade-school age one and the one who's still an infant, and more prominent with the boy-crazy two of the four teenaged daughters, but they are all much prettier than one would expect them to be.
- Ugly Guy, Hot Wife: Graham and Elizabeth.
- Unwitting Instigator of Doom: In the "St. Augie's Blues" two-parter, the teachers successfully convince Father Hargis to give them a raise, but it'll require a tuition increase. That was to be handled delicately, but Sherri overheard Graham talking about it, and she told Connie about it (who in turn put it on the front page of the school newspaper). Parents by the droves respond by pulling their kids out of school, so to cover the cost of the raise, Hargis has to sell the Lubbock house. Her attempt to fix things is an article lionizing Graham and throwing the teacher's union under the bus, leading to a lot of angry teachers showing up at the house.
- Vacation Episode: The two-parter "Snow Job" where the four oldest girls go to the Virgin Islands. To wit, the girls had planned to go to a school-sponsored ski trip when they learn that Doosler, bummed that he was unable to secure a spot on the trip, will be spending the weekend at his parents' beach house in the Virgin Islands instead. Wendy, Cindy, and Connie decide to join Doosler "for comfort." Unfortunately, Doosler's parents believe that the three girls "are too sleazy to hang out with", however, his parents love Marie. So Wendy lies to Doosler by saying that Marie has a crush on him. To convince Marie to go with them, Wendy tells her that Doosler is dying of a rare disease. Feeling sorry for Doosler, Marie agrees to go with them to the Virgin Islands.
- Vanity License Plate: "YO COACH" for Graham. Elizabeth got it for him as a birthday present to replace the one they had in New York.
- Wham Shot: The last scene in "Highway to Heaven" has one that's basically a supernatural twist. After coming to terms with her doubts about becoming a nun, Marie reflects on the events of the day and tells Elizabeth she never would've had this realization if not for their lengthy stopover in that quirky diner. Just then, they drive by that diner, only to see it boarded up and looking like it's been abandoned for years. Elizabeth doubts this is the same place, but then Marie finds the crucifix she had dropped earlier.
- What the Hell, Hero?: When their scheme in the Vacation Episode blows up, Connie denounces Wendy.Connie: You're scum! You're worse than scum! You're worse than Cindy! She's just dumb!
Cindy: [insulted] Hey!
- Wise Beyond Their Years: The preadolescent Sherry is the third youngest of eight siblings but is assertive, well-read and savvy about the mischief her older sisters get into. She resents not being taken seriously because of her young age and sometimes acts out as a result.
- You Just Told Me: Graham seems to favor this tactic, referring to it as a fun trick.
- "Strangers in the Night": When he finds a student's note detailing a date with one of his daughters, he lies about it giving a name and says the guilty girl better speak up of their own will or else. This approach, though, throws the audience a curve because, while Wendy was shown sneaking back in that night, it turns out that Connie was also out and just got back earlier.
- "Smoke 'Em If You Got 'Em": Upon discovering one of the kids has been smoking, he makes a big show of accusing the kids of doing something wrong and wanting a confession immediately. He already suspects Wendy, but he hopes being so vague will trick one of the others into confessing something. He's supremely disappointed when Elizabeth spills the beans before the one-on-one interrogations start.
- Your Television Hates You: "Betrayal" has a two-fer in the same scene. While watching a TV-Movie about an adulterer, Cindy scoffs at the cheated on woman not being able to figure it out, all as Marie and Connie try to bite their tongues about Wendy going out with Cindy's boyfriend. Graham (still spooked by a horror movie featuring Eye Scream) comes in during the movie's commercial break, just as a guy talks in great detail about eye irritation.Graham: Enough already! [changes the channel]
Announcer: This is CBS.
[Graham sees the eye logo, feels sick, and runs away]
- Zany Scheme: Frequently invoked by Wendy.