The Kids: Oh, yeah! I would! Great idea! Yeah, that's it!
Focus Group Guy: And who would like to see them do just the opposite — getting into far-out situations involving robots and magic powers?
The Kids: Me! Yeah! Oh, cool! Yeah, that's what I want!
Focus Group Guy: So... you want a realistic, down-to-earth show... that's completely off-the-wall and swarming with magic robots?
The Kids: That's right. Oh yeah, good.
Milhouse: And also, you should win things by watching.
The series revolved around a literal five-man band (the number did inflate to six for two seasons) of children and teenagers who encountered a very random assortment of plots. Most of these were standard After-School Teen Drama stories. Every so often, however, they'd face a more outlandish adventure involving Time Travel, magic robots, Leprechauns and other, crazier things. Whatever the story involved, it'd always be punctuated by often-Bowdlerized covers of popular songs.
The show was formulaic in nature: with only a few exceptions (a few all-musical "concert episodes", and once featuring kid break-dancers competing for a Karaoke Machine), each episode began with the band performing a number on-stage at "The P*lace", a local hangout with an illustrious history. (It had once been called "The Palace", and was renamed after the 'a' in the marquee had burned out.) After this, a short scene would set up the plot before the band returned to the stage to perform a second number. As the plot unfolded, two more songs would be performed off-stage, usually one solo number by whichever member of the cast was spotlighted that week (which in almost all cases is a slow ballad or love song), and one song worked into a Dream Sequence or Imagine Spot. In the final minutes, the plot would be resolved, and the band would perform a closing number on-stage, sometimes accompanied by a Montage Out of the guest characters. The third and fourth songs were always directly relevant to the plot (for example, a cover of "As Time Goes By" during a Casablanca-themed Dream Sequence), the second and fifth songs were usually linked no more than thematically, while the first number was generally unrelated to the action of the story (The final season dropped the second song for three extra minutes of dialog).
The show's longevity (it predated the Disney Channel's policy of imposing a 65-episode limit), despite being aired during a period when the Disney Channel was a commercial-free premium station, is taken by fans as evidence of the quality of writing and acting, in spite of the crazier episodes being prime Snark Bait. The show launched the careers of Stacy Ferguson (aka Fergie, of The Black Eyed Peas), Mario Lopez (of Saved by the Bell), Scott Wolf (of Party of Five), Eric Balfour (of 24 and Haven), and Jennifer Love Hewitt, then only credited by her middle name. Note that the cast swapped people in and out nearly every season. So by the time the show ended, the titular fictional band was an entirely different group of people from where they started!
The show has had a very convoluted production and broadcast history. During the show's first season, MGM distributed and co-produced the show alongside Lynch-Biller Productions, the production company of executive producers Thomas W. Lynch and Gary P. Biller, and K-Tel Entertainment, a music company best known for producing compilation albums advertised on television which could only be purchased through direct-response mail order by calling a toll-free number. After the first season ended, however, K-Tel filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy protection and Hal Roach Studios, which, coincidentally, had previously collaborated with MGM on The Little Rascals and Laurel and Hardy, took K-Tel's place. At the conclusion of the second season, the show was cancelled from syndication due to low ratings. This was largely due to shuffling time slots from the local television stations that carried the show. However, reruns were picked up by CBN and they received positive ratings which convinced Disney Channel to put the show back into production. In addition to resuming production with new episodes and using the same cast, Disney's buyout package also included the entire syndicated run. As a result, edits were made to remove fee plugs and commercial outros. After the fourth season, HRS merged with RHI Entertainment and the combined company was named Quintex after an Australian media company of the same name which had purchased a share in the new venture. The show temporarily went on hiatus after the sixth season in 1989, and returned in 1991. By this time, in addition to a major cast overhaul, Quintex had also filed for bankruptcy and RHI acquired their assets. Also during this time, Biller sold his share of Lynch-Biller Productions back to Lynch, and the company was renamed Lynch Entertainment. This continued until 1993, when the show was unofficially cancelled.
Four platinum-selling albums of cover tracks by the cast and produced by K-Tel were released while the show was still in syndication. No further albums were made with the move to Disney, however, due to K-Tel's aforementioned bankruptcy.
Now has a Recap page in progress.
This series provides examples of:
- '80s Hair - Several examples ranging from Ryan Lambert's Spiky Hair from his first three season to Kenny Ford's Jheri curl in his first season to Stacy Ferguson's poofy hairstyle from her last season.
- Ambiguously Gay - The Kid, though this is mostly due to the actor, who is now openly gay. Also, it was The '80s. Popular standards of masculinity were very different.
- Ambition Is Evil - It gets especially awkward when it dawns on you that the writers never really state how successful Kids Inc. is as a band.
- ...And That Little Girl Was Me: The Season 3 episode "Stacy and the Clown" has a clown named Henry telling Stacynote about a young boy who wanted to be a clown but was stricken with polio. Henry was the kid in questionnote .
- Annoying Younger Sibling - Stacy seems to be portrayed as this in some early episodes.
- Bachelor Auction - The center of the season 4 episode "Win a Date with Renee." In the episode, Richie raffles off a date with Renee in order to raise money so that the band can buy posters. Unfortunately, however, Richie completely fails to ask for Renee's permission first.
- Blonde, Brunette, Redhead - This seemed to be the case with the girls in the band during the 1988 and 1989 seasons.
- 1988 lineup: Stacy (blonde), Connie (brunette), Devyn (redhead)
- 1989 lineup: same with the exception of Robin (brunette; Jennifer Love Hewitt's character)
- Book Dumb - The Kid, as inferred in the 1984 "School's For Fools" episode (with Germany's favorite singer in a guest role).
- Bookworm - One of the main characteristics describing Ryan.
- Bowdlerise - As mentioned in the section referencing the show on the trope page, this tended to be done with surprising inconsistency.
- Camping Episode: Season 1's "The Camp-Out Blues" and Season 6's "Roughing It"
- Celebrity Star - Guest appearances included visits by David Hasselhoff; U.S. Olympic gymnast Kathy Johnson; singer Siedah Garrett; Brian Robbins; boxer Ray "Boom Boom," Mancini; Tae Bo creator Billy Blanks and comedian Paul Rodriguez.
- Cloudcuckoolander - Stacy
- Continuity Nod - After the kids narrowly prevent the demolition of The P*lace by getting it designated as a historic landmark, a historic landmark plaque is visible on the facade of the building in the Title Sequence for the rest of the series.
- Cowboy Episode - Two of them: "Rockin' Saddles" and "When the Clock Strikes Twelve".
- Cute Clumsy Girl - Connie's first appearance (in the 1987 episode "A Kid's Line") shows her as this due to being nervous about auditioning for Kids Inc.
- Deadpan Snarker - Renee is the most prolific example, with Ryan, Kid and to a lesser degree Devyn not far behind.
- Disabled Love Interest:
- The 1985 episode "I Love You Suzanne" has Ryan develop a crush on a cousin of Riley's. Then he learns she's blind.
- A later episode features Ana adjusting to her crush requiring a wheelchair.
- The Ditz: Stacy is depicted as such in the first few seasons.
- "Do It Yourself" Theme Tune - With Martika providing the lead vocal for Seasons 1-3. By Season 4, the whole cast had a verse.
- Dream Sequence - Often mixed with an "I Want" Song.
- Drunk with Power - Season 2's "Student Government Day", where the kids perform various government duties for a day, sees Kid become this after being named The Sheriff, going on to lock up the others for infractions that didn't even rise to the level of jaywalking.
- Early Installment Weirdness
- The original pilot had Renee and Stacy as relatively minor characters while many of the songs were performed by miscellaneous kids at "The MaltShop". Additionally, Rahsaan Patterson was cast between the production of the pilot and the first season, resulting in additional scenes being added before the pilot was released on VHS. Also, the manager of the malt shop was named Michael and he was played by Michael Lewis, being replaced by Riley (Moosie Drier) in the first regular episode. Finally, producers Thomas W. Lynch and Gary P. Biller joined the show somewhere between the pilot and the beginning of regular series production.
- If you look closely, you can see above the stage area a marker labeled "Asbestos". About a month after the series premiere, it was revealed that prolonged asbestos exposure could lead to illnesses such as mesothelioma. By Season 2, the label was changed to "Fire Curtain".
- Embarrassing First Name - Rahsaan.
- Everyone Calls Him "Barkeep" - Rahsaan Patterson as "The Kid".
- Expository Theme Tune: Also a Bragging Theme Tune"Kids In-co-por-ated/K! I! D! S, yes!..."
- Fairy Tale Episode - Typically at least one per season
- Fake Band
- Fake Video Camera View - The 1987 episode "Video Madness" (featuring Richie making a video project on communication for his English class) uses this trope on several occasions.
- Fantasy Sequence: Frequently used for the more imaginative segments, typically during the middle of the episode.
- Fashion Show - The 1992 episode "Fashion Forward" featured Haylie as a fashion designer during the fantasy sequence (set to a cover of Paula Abdul's "Promise of a New Day").
- Gender-Equal Ensemble - The 1987 and 1988 seasons had 3 main male and female cast members each (all of the other seasons had 3 girls to 2 boys).
- "Gift of the Magi" Plot
- The 1986 episode "The Gift"; in which Renee and Stacy (whose birthdays are two days apart) are unable to afford "the perfect gift" to go with other birthday presents they received.
- Lampshaded by Kid when the story ends.
- Green Aesop - Starting with 1988's "Kahuna Kids"; there was at least one episode per season with this aesop for the remainder of the show's run.
- The Glorious War of Sisterly Rivalry - Renee and Stacy. It got so bad that, in 1984's "Her or Me" episode, the band was considering keeping only one of them.
- He Who Must Not Be Seen - Billy the Gweeb, an unseen character in the first few seasons who is often teasingly suggested to have a crush on Stacy.
- Hopeless Auditionees - Parodied in the original song "Wrong for the Part" (from the 1987 season opener)note
- Imagine Spot - Usually during the middle of each episode.
- Lethal Chef: The Season 3 episode "Stacy and the Clown" has a scene where the other kids are reminiscing over several incidents where Stacy managed (unintentionally) to make others laugh. The last of these was Stacy's casserole winning first prize in the science contest.
- Limited Wardrobe - Only a few costumes are shown in a season during the period Disney Channel aired the show (1986 until the show's 1993 cancellation)
- Lower-Deck Episode - Featuring on normally-non-speaking characters, such as the drummer and dancers.
- Local Hangout (also Malt Shop) - The P*lace
- Long Runner - Almost ten years first run, the first two in syndication (9/1/84-2/9/94), reruns lasting until 5/30/96, making this Disney Channel's overall longest-running series.
- Long-Runner Cast Turnover - At least one member dropped out and was replaced every season. Usually two or three dropped out each season.
- Mistaken Message - The 1987 episode "You've Got the Wrong Date" involves Stacy convincing sister Renee to ask a guy Stacy has a crush on to go out on with her to a Sadie Hawkins Dance; only for the boy to think Renee was the one asking him out.
- Mood Whiplash - Comes when you try to tackle serious subjects like drug abuse or bullying in a series that (to paraphrase The Simpsons) was also completely off-the-wall and swarming with magic robots. All that is missing is to win things by watching.
- New Year Has Come - The 1986 special "Rock in the New Year". This marks the only episode specifically related to a particular holiday.
- Nice Hat - A trademark of the Kid.
- Noir Episode - Season 2's "Ryan, Ryan P.I." is mainly an Imagine Spot with Ryan imagining himself as a private eye in his detective story book.
- One Born Every Minute
- O.O.C. Is Serious Business - Season 4's "Now Appearing" has this set up the main plot when Kid is the only member of the band not excited to see an upcoming Patti LaBelle concert despite being a big fan of the singer. It's later revealed that the opening act, a comedian named Billy Blaster, is the Kid's estranged brother; who he hadn't seen in five years.
- Or Was It a Dream? - The Season 1 Halloween Episode "The Ghost of the P*lace" ends with this trope when the lights flicker at the P*lace (during the Dream Sequence, it was mentioned that a ghost needed at least 200 scares to make the Ghost Society; which - after a failed attempt to scare Stacy - the ghost manages to achieve after scaring the others).
- Paper-Thin Disguise - One early episode had the Kid and Mickey use a few of these to try to get in where the girls (having left them out) are shooting a music video with guest star Siedah Garrett.
- Playing Cyrano - Renee attempts to do this for Stacy in Season 4's "You've Got the Wrong Date"; only for Jason to think Renee was asking him to the Sadie Hawkins dance.
- The Power of Rock - Can reverse the effects of Time Travel and destroy a robot, it seems.
- Pretty in Mink - During their cover of "You're a Friend of Mine" in the episode "The Gift". Renee tried on a white fur coat, and Stacy tried on a white fur stole, each as a potential gift for the other sister.
- Recap Episode - "Rock in the New Year"; the New Year's Eve special that aired in 1986 showed the kids reminiscing following rehearsal for a New Year's Eve concert; working in opportunities for clips of the previous two seasons.
- Recurring Riff - Several portions of various original songs would also be used as this, among them:
- A slower version of the theme for particularly dramatic scenes.
- Portions of at least 5 original songs (among them "My Special Friend"; "Bad, Bad Trouble"; "That's What Friends Are For"note ; "Come the Night" and "You're My Friend"note were also used frequently as background music.
- Rearrange the Song - The closing theme during Kids Incorporated's final season was revised into a more rock-oriented version.
- Recycled Soundtrack - A few examples
- Some songs performed by Jerry Sharell (who played Mickey) for the 1984 season were reused in the 1986 and 1987 seasons with Ryan Lambert.
- The original song "Music for the Modern World" debuted in the 1985 season; then was reused in 1987note and finally 1988.
- The song "That Dream" from the 1987 episode "You've Got the Wrong Date" was originally used on the TV show Fame in their Season 3 (1984) episode "A Way of Winning" (both series were produced by MGM Television and initially had much of their music written by Michael Cruz). Another song shared by both shows was "That's Dancin'", which appeared in the Fame episode "The Rivalry" and the Kids Inc episode "The Wallflower".
- Revolving Door Band: Every season except the first produced for Disney Channel in 1986 had at least one cast member replaced.
- Running Gag: During Season 6, new owner Flip would make a joke by setting it to an imitation of the "Da-na-na-na" guitar riff originally performed by Bo Diddley in his song "I'm a Man" as well as George Thorogood and the Destroyers' "Bad to the Bone".
- "Sesame Street" Cred: Applies to series directors Greg V. Fera and Gary Halvorson. After Kids Incorporated ended its run, both men went on to direct episodes of Muppets Tonight and Halvorson also directed The Adventures of Elmo in Grouchland
- Shout-Out - "The Ghost of the P*lace" contains one to "It's a Wonderful Life"; where it's mentioned that when lights flicker, a ghost has just been inducted into the Ghost Society.
- Sibling Team - Renee and Stacy serve as this for the band in Seasons 1-4. In Season 7, it's Robin and Ana, who are actually cousins, but live in the same home.
- Small Name, Big Ego - The Kid; whose ego can rapidly run out of control.
- Snap Back - Like you cannot even imagine. For instance, one episode was built around Renee having to get new glasses. She becomes very self-conscious about it and the gang try to cheer her up. She grows to like her eyewear — which of course she is never seen wearing ever again, outside of one season 4 episode where she uses them as reading glasses.
- Storybook Episode - Along with the Fairy Tale Episode; this is one of the most common formats.
- Superhero Episode - A 1989 episode has Kenny imagining he was a superhero named "Cosmoboy".
- Superstition Episode: The Season 3 premiere "O Lucky Me" features Stacy finding an old magicians ring in a trunk that she assumes is lucky, with a number of events seemingly confirming the superstitionnote until letting Gloria borrow the ring prior to a science test, only for Gloria to lose the ring on her way to return it. In the end, Stacy gets the part of Dorothy without the ring, while Gloria is revealed to have not done well on the test.
- Suspiciously Similar Substitute - None of the original cast members saw the show out, nor did any of the cast members who replaced them. Stacy Ferguson was the longest tenured; from '84-'89.
- Techno Wizard - Riley, the P*lace's soda jerk from '84-'88. His bizarre inventions drove a good number of the more outlandish plots.
- The Tonsillitis Episode - 1985's "A Pain in the Neck" has Gloria getting her tonsils removed.
- Treasure Hunt Episode - 1984's "X Marks the Spot" has this used for Renee's birthday.
- Unusually Uninteresting Sight - Riley's inventions are treated as just business as usual. Hmm, not to mention the all-under-eighteen cover band.
- Unwanted Glasses Plot - This trope was played out to the letter in one episode: "Best of all, I got contacts for when I'm onstage singing!" And, apparently, for every time ever, since we never see Renee in her glasses again.
- Vague Age - Most blatantly Stacy, who is assigned at least three different ages during her run.
- Very Special Episode - A few, though only the dysfunctional family episode was advertised as such.
- Visit by Divorced Dad: Season 7's "Breaking Up is Hard to Do" has this as a major plot point (with Ana thinking a visit to the P*lace by her fathernote meant her parents were getting back together.
- Where the Hell Is Springfield? - Word of God says the show was set in Fort Greene, New York. And not an accent in sight.
- Whole Plot Reference: Season 6's "Play It Again, Kids Inc." has the episode's Dream Sequence serve as a condensed version of Casablanca; even down to the inclusion of a cover of "As Time Goes By".