As part of a new wave of television shows that debut during the early summer, Kyle XY is a modern-day sci-fi show built around the title character of Kyle that aired 2006-2009. In the first episode, Kyle is a mute, naked, wide-eyed teenager with no memory and no belly button found wandering out of the woods and into the Puget Sound area of Washington state. After a short stay at a juvenile delinquent center, social worker and psychiatrist Nicole Trager sees a benign personality in Kyle that doesn't belong there, so she obtains permission to provide a type of foster care with her own family.
Her family is hesitant at having a stranger around, but Kyle shows a certain affection for them and his simple honesty despite not saying a word wins them over. At the end of the first episode, Kyle says his first words to his surrogate family and their story begins, but not without him having strange traits like preferring to sleep in the bathtub.
The rest of his new family consists of patriarch Stephen Trager, a brother in Josh Trager who is convinced Kyle is an alien, and Lori as a big sister who shows him the nuances of teenage life. Kyle quickly gains a crush in the literal Girl Next Door Amanda and a best friend in Declan, who has an on/off relationship with Lori. Also included is a shadowy stalker Tom Foss who knows where Kyle is from.
Over time, Kyle gathers an array of impressive abilities that no human should have. It appears that all of these abilities are a result of using far more of his mind then anyone else. He learns entire languages and memorizes the encyclopedia in minutes. He is capable of instantaneously solving graduate level calculus. He jumped off a roof without any harm and recreated a .jpeg image after briefly seeing the base computer code.
While it doesn't take too long for the mystery to be solved, there are other problems surrounding it, not the least being that there is someone else exactly like him.
Airing on the ABC Family network, part of the success of the show comes from the impressive advertising campaign, including viral marketing and several obvious sponsors. Critical reception has been very warm, with a lot of praise going out to actor Matt Dallas for a tone-perfect performance as the title character.
The series concluded with its third season, leaving a myriad of questions unanswered, in true Kyle XY style. Word of God did, however, say a few things about where the would have gone had it continued for a couple more seasons.
This show provides examples of:
- 90% of Your Brain: Specifically, Kyle (and later Jessi) uses around 50% of his brain, which is why he is so gifted and intelligent.
- Almost Kiss: Kyle is FINALLY about to kiss Amanda at the dance when Jessie blows a fuse... Literally!! The ensuing light show throws them off their first kiss at the very last nanosecond. Audience's heads asplode.
- An Odd Place to Sleep: Kyle preferred the family bathtub over a bed.
- Artistic License Biology: Played with. Kyle, drunk out of his head, instantly sobers up after violently puking, then explains that "I reversed the polarity of my liver to return my body to homeostasis!" This is implied to be a joke, though, in response to Josh suggesting that he do something like that earlier in the episode—which begs the question of how he actually sobered up so quickly.
- Awesomeness by Analysis: Kyle and Jesse both have super advanced brains and can copy anything by watching or doing the math. A good example is when Kyle joins the basketball team at school and can make any shot just by measuring the angles or learns how to fight by watching martial arts movies (he also learned Chinese this way).
- Become a Real Boy: A great deal of the first season's most poignant moments deal with Kyle expressing his desire to fit in with the rest of humanity, and more specifically, be a real son to the Tragers.
- Buffy Speak: Lori: "I could see the sparkage in your eyes."
- Can't Get Away with Nuthin': Josh smokes pot only a couple of times and his parents come down on him. Hard. Even more bizarrely, the pot he was smoking belonged to his parents.
- Changeling Fantasy: Subverted at the end of the first season when the Kyle supposedly found his real parents. In fact, he was grown in a lab, the parents are actors, and Kyle goes along with the plan to protect his adoptive family, a situation which lasts a whole episode and then requires Kyle to make up another story for why he's returned.
- Characterization Marches On:
- Hilary was an outstanding example of this. When we first meet her in Season One, she starts out as an unlikeable an Alpha Bitch, but as time goes on, she gradually evolves into a much better person, genuinely repentant for her past misdeeds, and actually becoming one of the most likable characters by the time of the final season.
- Similarly, Declan, who went from being a jealous jock with a dislike for Kyle to his best friend and confidant.
- Conveniently Unverifiable Cover Story: Kyle is given a plausible backstory for his lack of memories, intelligence and absence of a navel. His female counterpart, Jessi, however, is given false memories because an agent for a Corrupt Corporate Executive finds her first.
- Darker and Edgier: The series got progressively darker as it went along, but Season 3 marked a definite shift.
- Gamer Chick: Andy, full on. Her goodbye party is playing G-Force and eating junk food. This is one of the reasons Josh falls for her.
- Gender-Blender Name: Andy (short for Andromeda), which in classic tradition causes some identity mix-up. Josh didn't know she was a girl until she told him her screen name, which left him with his jaw hanging open because she'd been the one kicking his ass online.
- Genius Bruiser: Jessi is as smart as Kyle, but has a more of a tendency to get violent - and enjoys it.
- Green-Eyed Monster:
- Amanda and Jessi sure have a lot of tension concerning Kyle once Jessi's programmed into developing feelings for him.
- Jessi actually is described as having green eyes, making this trope that much more fitting.
- Hilarity Ensues: A lot of the pranks in the show, while funny, would be extremely illegal (as per the description). Notably, Josh sneaking in to Amanda's house and covering for her while she visits Kyle (It Makes Sense in Context), is probably some sort of felony.
- I Am Spartacus: When Jesse tries to jump from the roof, Kyle, Lori, and Josh all step forward and say they'll try too.
- Important Haircut: Lori cuts Jessi's hair near the end of season 2 when Sarah, who has shorter hair, comes and Jessi leaves her "father", Brian Taylor. Lori even utters the line, "Once we do this, there's no turning back."
- Jerk Jock: At first it seems that Declan is this trope, but he ends up becoming one of the most awesome characters on the show, and a great friend and confidante to Kyle (and love interest to Lori). Whereas Charlie, Amanda's boyfriend, starts off as a subversion of this but by Season 2 he's taken to cheating and eventually they break up. Also, he turns out to be highly homophobic - ironic considering the role his actor would land later on in a highly LGBT-friendly environment.
- Left Hanging: And how! If anything, the series finale raised more questions than it answered.
- Love Triangle: Kyle/Amanda/Charlie, Lori/Declan/Jessi, Declan/Lori/Mark, and Amanda/Kyle/Jessi.
- Making a Splash: Kyle develops hydrokinesis in "The Future's So Bright, I Gotta Wear Shades."
- Mentors: Several...
- Mid-Season Twist: In season 1, Kyle sees Foss in his dreams, which have begun to show flashes of memory.
- Misplaced Wildlife: The Other Rainforest doesn't have rattlesnakes.
- Muggle Foster Parents: Twice. In the first season, Kyle lives with a foster family while he himself is unaware of his true origins. In the second season, Kyle returns to live with his foster family because he wants to live the normal life his genetic father was never allowed to have.
- Naïve Newcomer: And how. Much of the first season's comedy was derived from Kyle's attempts to understand various social mores and ideas.
- No Social Skills: Kyle was not raised by anyone and so is not familiar with any social norms.
- Not Me This Time: When social services gets called in to investigate Kyle everyone assumes (not without reason) that Mrs. Bloom is responsible. Though at the time she disliked Kyle immensely, she had nothing whatsoever to do with it.
- Omniscient Council of Vagueness: Latnok, complete with shadowy figures sitting around a table watching Kyle on TV screens. Later in the series, it becomes less shadowy as Kyle actually meets some of the members.
- Photographic Memory: Kyle goes one step further, having a holographic memory, reliving events in three-dimensional space.
- The Plan: Kyle and Jessi hatch one to ensnare Cassidy at the end of Season 3.
- Porn Stash: Josh keeps one (of course). It's the source of much hilarity, especially in Season 1. Arguably the best moment being when he doesn't want to play the Ouija Board, because that's where the magazines are hidden.
- Portmanteau Couple Name: Many, a surprising amount of which are actually in-universe: Leclan (Lorri and Declan), Keclan (Kyle and Declan), Kylanda (Kyle and Amanda) and Kessi (Kyle and Jessi).
- Power Incontinence: Kyle and Jessi use their Psychic Powers unintentionally when they feel distressed.
- Product Placement: Kyle's Trademark Favorite Food for most of the first season was, quite specifically, Sour Patch Kids. This actually served to make the character more endearing.
- Prom Is for Straight Kids: Happens as one of the principal's Kick the Dog moments; forgetting that in a public school, having a straight-only prom is not actually legal (not that this stops many schools in real life).
- Psychic Nosebleed: Happens to Kyle and Jessi when they strain or over-use their mental powers. It's a kind of warning since over use of their powers without developing their bodies to cope can kill them.
- Red Herring: In the first episode a news reporter talks about a girl who washed up on a beach with no memory like Kyle. She's never identified, does not show up in the plot, or really impact the story in any way whatsoever.
- Refuge in Audacity: Apparently in the past Adam Baylin's girlfriend /counterpart Sarah wrote all the answers to a college test on the ceiling of a classroom. The professors, while angry, were far too impressed and shocked to expel her.
- Rule of Pool: Averted. In the first episode, Kyle has a fight with a Police Officer by a swimming pool, yet no one ends up getting thrown into it.
- Shirtless Scene: Kyle in "Grounded." It also overlaps with Innocent Fanservice Guy, because of the context:Amanda: I know you're one of those guys who'll give the shirt off his back to help, but...(Kyle takes off his shirt) I didn't mean it literally.
- Think Unsexy Thoughts: Suggested by Josh to Kyle so he can avoid embarrassing public erections, in addition to A Date with Rosie Palms (for which Josh lends Kyle one of his girly magazines.)
- Title Drop: "I'm Kyle XY!" - said by a very drunk Kyle in Season 3.
- Two First Names: Brian Taylor.
- What Happened to the Mouse?: The fate of Miss Thatcher and the Head of Security at Zzyzx is never revealed, although it is implied that they were killed when Foss firebombed the facility. Similarly, many minor characters appear in only one episode and never show up again, and even main antagonists can simply drop off without a word. After MadaCorp is defeated in Season 2, the corporation - and the newly-promoted Emily Hollander - are seen in one further episode, and are then never mentioned again. In Season 2 alone, there were three separate Big Bads, all of which pretty much went unmentioned after they were defeated.
- Wrong Guy First: Amanda with Charlie, who ends up cheating on her.
- X Called; They Want Their Y Back: "Hilary Duff called, she wants her shirt back."
- Yandere: Jessi. Not quite Ax-Crazy, but she does have a very strong tendency to force out the competition, emotional instability, and very strong protective instincts toward anyone she considers family. She even threatens Cassidy with death if he touches the Tragers.