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Series / My Parents Are Aliens

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My Parents Are Aliens is a British children's sitcom which aired on ITV between 1999 and 2006. It told the story of Brian and Sophie Johnson, a couple of Shapeshifting Valuxians stranded on Earth, and their adopted children, Mel, Josh and Lucy, with new children being adopted into the family in later seasons. For the final season, the set and most of the cast were completely changed.

While stranded, Brian and Sophie attempt to study Earth culture, in order to fit in and thus avoid being found out and taken away for scientific experimentation. A typical episode would begin with Brian and Sophie learning about some aspect of Earth culture and misunderstanding it completely, resulting in various wacky hijinks. Often, they would attempt to help the children out with their schoolwork and social lives, inadvertently making things far more complicated than they were in the first place and resulting in some painfully farcical plots.

The show's self-referential humour and frequent Parental Bonuses attracted a cult following above the target age group. Sadly, few episodes were ever released on VHS, and the closing of ITV's in-house production of children's shows means that the show ended abruptly after the eighth series. The show continued to be repeated on ITV's children's channel CITV until its closure in 2023.

My Parents Are Aliens provides examples of:

  • An Aesop:
    • Like any show about families, everyone drives each other crazy, but cares about each other deep down.
    • There is a price for scamming people, try telling that to Josh.
  • Alien Catnip: the Bizarre Alien Biology of the titular parents cause them to get very high from various innocent things. A Running Gag was that eating ice cream would cause Brian to sprout a pair of moose antlers.
  • Alien Invasion: In "Hallowe'en Tales", Brian tells a tale of a potential Valuxian invasion of Earth via a Zombie Apocalypse.
  • Aliens Speaking English: Despite being from the planet Valux, Brian and Sophie can speak perfect English and talk with English accents.
  • Animated Credits Opening: Having several changes as the series goes on, it shows Brian and Sophie when Brian pressed the red button which resulted in them crash-landing on Earth (the opening credits is the only time we see the exterior of the ship or Brian and Sophie in their true alien forms). We then see them morph into their human forms and head to the children's home and pick up the kids, then back at the house.
  • Annoying Younger Sibling: It's played straight, and subverted at the same time. Lucy due to her cleverness and, in particular Josh with his mischievous behaviour, fit the trope quite well for Mel (just as she, with her aggressive and sarcastic attitude, sort of does for them), but there is also Brian, since, despite being their foster-father is able to morph into any one of the siblings at will (though usually only when asked) and can cause "annoying" problems in that sense. Also, since he and Sophie are not from planet Earth, the role of an adult using experience to explain things to a clueless child is generally reversed from the parents to the children throughout.
  • April Fools' Plot: In Series 5's "April Fools".
  • Back for the Finale: After being absent for all of Series 7 up to that point, Mel returns in the finale "Thanks for All the Earthworm Custard", having discovered the existence of Aunt Sophie and Uncle Brian in Canada.
  • Big Red Button: The Animated Credits Opening shows the bridge of the Johnsons' ship having one, which is pressed by Brian, causing the ship to crash on Earth, thus starting the show.
    • In Series 3's "Aliens Go Home", a red button shows up in the living room, signaling that a Valuxian rescue ship is in the galaxy and thus giving Brian and Sophie an opportunity to return home. Ultimately, they choose to press the button, which the Barker children believe means they have called for home only to learn that pressing the button infact cancelled the call.
    • In "Thanks for All the Earthworm Custard", Sophie expressly tells Brian not to touch the red button as they take-off for Valux. It doesn't take long for Brian to forget and hit the button, sending them crashing to Earth again.
  • Bizarre Alien Biology: Aliens can morph into the appearance of anyone/thing.
  • The Bus Came Back: After being absent for all of Series 7 up to that point, Mel returns in the finale "Thanks for All the Earthworm Custard", having discovered the existence of Aunt Sophie and Uncle Brian in Canada.
  • Butt-Monkey: C.J. He's always the victim of Brian's mischief, not that he minds though.
  • Christmas Episode: The show has three in total, at the end of Seasons 2 ("First Christmas"), 6 ("The Naughty List") and 8 ("Winter Blunderland") respectively. The first two were two-parters, while the third was a one-hander which ended up being the last ever episode.
  • Canon Discontinuity: Reruns on CITV omit Season 8, and after the Season 7 finale go back to the Season 1 opener.
  • The Eeyore: Pete, he always seems so sad all the time. Well, you would be if you had a friend like Josh.
  • Embarrassing Damp Sheets: after a burglary in series 5, episode 3, Lucy starts wetting her bed.
  • Everyone Has Standards: Josh may be an unrepentant scammer and liar but in "The Naughty List (Part Two)", he scolds Brian for dressing up as Santa and promising to fix a child's broken leg by Christmas Day.
    Josh: You can't promise things they're not going to get. It's mean and cruel and... (looks at the list which includes a Hovercraft, a Giraffe and Freddy the lost tortoise) worse than I thought!
  • Evolving Credits: The Animated Credits Opening is altered to reflect cast changes across seasons.
    • From Series 3, Sophie's hair is changed from red to blonde as Barbara Durkin is replaced by Carla Mendonça. As the human form is not changed otherwise, this results in what is essentially a cartoon Barbara Durkin Sophie with red hair. Despite noticably growing older over the seven series, the Barker children are never altered and so look the same as they did in Series 1.
    • CJ is added to the children's home when he joins in Series 6.
    • Mel is replaced by Harry in Series 7.
    • Series 8 has the most radical change, with the change of setting to a coastal town being reflected as well as Brian and Sophie's change in fashion, thus the animated Sophie finally looks like Carla Mendonça. Ironically, they find the four Bennett children at a children's home identical to that where they found the Barkers.
  • Frankenstein's Monster: In "Hallowe'en Tales", Josh tells this as his story, with Frankie acting as Professor Frankiestein, transforming Pete into his monster with Poppy Manning as his diminutive assistant. Abducting Josh, Frankiestein has his brain removed from his body and preserved in a jar. When the family try to recover Josh, Frankiestein has them all captured and shackled, with plans to incorporate parts from all of them except for Brian. Insulted, Brian exposes both himself and Sophie as aliens, which only serves to make Frankiestein all the more enthusiastic to experiment on them, the story ending as he advances on them with his equipment. This story apparently causes Brian to wet himself, though he attributes the fact that he had done so to a "spooky coincidence".
  • G-Rated Drug: One episode sees Brian and Sophie become addicted to a Top Trumps-style card game involving pop stars. It's treated as them being drug addicts - they become obsessed with the game, the house is a mess, Brian stops washing and shaving, they hide cards, they go cold turkey and finally sell a laptop to buy more cards.
  • Guilt-Induced Nightmare: Played for laughs in one episode where Mel accidentally ends up killing the school's beloved old canary by feeding it popcorn, and manages to keep it a secret. Whilst we don't get to see it, the next day she describes to Trent about a weird dream the night she had the night before where she was covered in yellow feathers and spelt out the word "murder" with blood-soaked pieces of popcorn, she then wonders what it could possibly mean. Causing a disbelieving Trent to declare it means he needs to find new friends.
  • Halloween Episode: The show has three, in Seasons 3 ("Halloween"), 6 ("Joshferatu") and 7 ("Hallowe'en Tales"), the latter being a Treehouse of Horror-inspired episode with two spooky tales.
  • Homeschooled Kids: One episode had Brian try to do this with Josh after falling foul with his teacher. It didn't last very long as Josh found Brian's Biology lesson stupid.
  • Hong Kong Dub: An episode has Lucy arriving home to find Brain in a karate outfit. When he talks his lips don't match up with his mouth. Lucy then sees Brian has been watching a karate videotape and tells him that it is dubbed.
  • Involuntary Shapeshifting: An extremely frequent element, both as minor gags and plot points, with Brian's aforementioned ice cream-induced antlers being a memorable example.
  • It's All About Me:
    • Brian and Sophie are so damn self centered that it is amazing. Brian even wrote a musical about himself and in the episode where he tries to be nice, he has pictures of himself everywhere.
    • Wendy is so full of herself and takes pride in being clever, that she doesn't want to share it with anyone, especially Lucy. The biggest example are when she and Lucy are cast in the Nativity and Wendy spends more time making the play focus on herself rather than anyone else in the cast.
  • Jerkass:
    • Josh always scams people for money and gets Brian and Sophie to do things for him. He barely shows any sympathy for anyone. However...
    • Mr Whiteside is selfish, arrogant and blames people for things that they actually haven't done.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold:
    • Mel, despite her sarcasm and nastiness, she actually does care.

    • Brian and Sophie, despite their self-centered behaviour, do pull through for the kids and each other time and time again.
    • Josh has his moments too, as he does care really.
  • Just in Time: Subverted in "Aliens Go Home": a countdown clock reaches zero — and goes on down into the negative numbers. "On our home planet, countdowns go to minus 10!".
  • Klingons Love Shakespeare: The episode King Brian is closely based on the Shakespeare play King Lear, in which Brian gets fits of insecurity and challenges the three kids to dsplay who loves him best. Lucy will have nothing to do with it, makes a point of saying "nothing" several times, and walks out, playing the Cordelia role. And they say kids' TV is rubbish and un-educational...
  • Laser-Guided Amnesia: In the first episode of Series 8, Brian and Sophie are forced under pain of death to agree to have their memories of their time on Earth up to that point erased by Guido, the holographic avatar of the Galactic Guidebook, thus leaving them a blank slate to learn about humanity.
  • Laugh Track: Though absent in the first three series, Series 4 onwards has a notoriously repetitive one, with a persistent "Oooooooo!" and the same exclamation of disgust being used for pretty much any instance of gross-out humour. Parodied in Series 6's "Oh Brian!", when Brian turns the house into a comedy show, thus making the track in-universe.
  • Lethal Chef: Virtually everything cooked by Sophie Johnson uses rather... nonstandard ingredients. Like sausage cake, or chicken nuggets — complete with bones, feathers and "fresh" chemical additives.
  • Licensed Game: The CITV website hosted a Space Invaders-inspired game in which the spaceship which doubles as Brian and Sophie's house must defend itself against waves of Valuxian saucers, using the visuals from the Animated Credits Opening. Note that the blasts it fires are not lasers but ice cream.
  • Mistaken for Gay: In "Worst Aid", Josh tries to shake off a crazy girl by having Sophie morph into someone who will make it clear that he's taken. Though it was his intention for Sophie to pose as his girlfriend, she doesn't exactly gets the message and so morphs into Pete.
  • Multi-Part Episode: The first two Christmas Episodes are two-parters. There's also Season 4's "Beauty and the Breast" and Season 5's ""Wheels of Misfortune".
  • My Friends... and Zoidberg: Josh is a victim of this on several occasions.
    • In the Series 6 episode, The Alienist, where Brian gives a speech on alien rights.
      Brian: "Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, carbon and silicon-based organisms, Josh."
    • In the Series 7 episode, The Love Bug, a letter that Brian and Sophie leave behind after they run away starts with "To our dear children... and Josh." Justified in that Brian loathed Josh for apparently trying to steal Sophie from him, when he just wanted them to stop being all lovey-duvey.
    • Brian himself becomes a victim of this as part of Josh's story in "Hallowe'en Tales". Professor Frankiestein captures the entire family, intending to harvest important parts from each of them for his Frankenstein's Monster, with the exception of Brian, who he believes would only be useful for spare parts as a back-up in the worst case scenario.
  • Nice, Mean, and In-Between:
    • Lucy is nice - polite, good-natured and caring.
    • Mel is mean - sarcastic, rude, abrasive and tempermental.
    • Josh is inbetween - a mischievious schemer, but he has a heart.
  • Noodle Incident: In 6x10, it is recalled that Brian once gave Josh a tattoo of his own face while Josh was sleeping.
  • The Nth Doctor: In series 1 and 2, Sophie Johnson was played by the blonde Barbara Durkin. From series 3 onwards, Sophie was played by brown-haired Carla Mendonça. It was explained in-show as Sophie having got 'stuck' that way after morphing.
  • Oop North: The show was filmed in Yorkshire and most of the cast are from that county. Mrs Hardman, Poppy Manning and some of the students speak in very strong Yorkie accents, but strangely not the main cast.
  • Origins Episode: Series 3's "Aliens Go Home" has the family remembering through flashback the story of the Johnsons adopting the Barker children, though this ultimately ends up getting Retconned by the series 7 finale.
  • Put on a Bus: Mel is absent for most of Series 7. The explanation being that she went to Canada.
  • Real Life Writes the Plot: Actor Alex Kew's voice broke between Series 4 and 5. As a result, the Series 5 opener "Age Concerns" plays a bit of fun with this, having a B-plot where Josh uses his newly deepened voice to pose as Brian and call the school in order to skive off.
  • Replacement Goldfish: At the start of Series 7, Brian adopts Harry to replace Mel after the former is Put on a Bus.
    • Played literally in Series 4's "Fish Fingers". After Brian takes the death of his pet goldfish Fluffy hard, to the point of holding a funeral, Mel takes out insurance with dozens of spare goldfish.
  • Retcon: There's a few examples, but there is one which sticks out the most. How Brian and Sophie chose their disguises. Originally they had disguises resembling two people they had seen on television. Unfortunately, the show was Crimewatch and the forms they had taken were wanted felons. One quick catalogue search through later, and they were in their familiar forms. In the series 7 finale, Thanks for All the Earthworm Custard, it was said that they had taken the familiar (series 1 and 2 for Sophie) forms from the real uncle and aunt of the Barker children, who also happened to be named Brian and Sophie
  • ReTool: Series 8. Brian and Sophie's memories were erased, resulting in them not remembering anything of the Barkers, any events that occurred, or Earthling ways that they learnt during the shows entire run. This series was dubbed "Phase 2" by fans, as the styles of Brian and Sophie, the rest of the cast, the sets, the location and even the galactic guidebook all changed. Needless to say, it was not taken well. With only one series of this new style, some fans felt that the final episode of series 7, Thanks for All the Earthworm Custard, should have been the final episode, as it was the last to feature the original regular cast, and concluded ongoing plots from the first seven series.
  • Running Gag: Brian's ambition to become King of Canada, specifically Canada rather than Earth or even the Commonwealth. This is first mentioned in Series 3's "Magic Johnson" and carries on into Series 7, one example being "Hallowe'en Tales". Perhaps it is no coincidence, as revealed in "Thanks for All the Earthworm Custard", the Barkers' Aunt Sophie and Uncle Brian lived in Canada.
  • Santa's Existence Clause: In "First Christmas", Lucy, the youngest Barker child, believes in Santa. Josh does not but says he does for Lucy's sake. Then Santa shows up on Christmas morning to give Josh a present he had forgotten before taking off in his sleigh. Santa later returns in "The Naughty List".
  • Schmuck Bait: The website had a button in its side menu which when you rolled over it highlighted in red and a voice said "Do not press" (and was labeled accordingly). The question is, what did happen if you pressed it?
  • Sequel Hook: The Series 7 finale, which sees Brian and Sophie saying goodbye to the Barkers, sets up Series 8 by having Brian accidentally crash the ship during take-off when he forgets not to press the Big Red Button, landing at a coastal town. Having lost an opportunity to return to their home planet which they won't get again for another 70 years, Brian and Sophie decide to head to the children's home to adopt a new family. Though Series 8 did follow, "Phase 2" [[Main/Cancellation did not end well]].
  • Suspiciously Similar Substitute: Harry serves as this for Mel in the Series 7, even in-universe. In "The Trouble With Harry", Brian explicitly adopts Harry in order to replace Mel after her departure, naming her the "new Mel". Harry shares Mel's tough exterior, protectiveness of her younger siblings (she had lost her little sister in a house fire), reluctance to share her true feelings.
    • A majority of the new characters in Series 8 are this to the old characters who appeared from series 1-7.The Bennetts resemble the Barkers in personality, and some of the supporting characters resemble those from the original run.
  • Those Two Guys: The show had Frankie and Pete for seven years. There was also a kid called Mikey for the first three episodes, and occasionally a kid called Dave.
  • Vomit Indiscretion Shot: In the episode "Nappy Rash", Baby Brian projectile vomits over Lucy, and Mel vomits in the episode "Pygmalien" after she discovered that she ate a hamster.
  • Wedding Episode: Series 3's "The Wedding" has the Barkers learn that Brian and Sophie are not technically married, and so their wedding is arranged.
  • Zombie Apocalypse: In "Hallowe'en Tales", Brian tells this as his story doubled with Alien Invasion. Basically, the Valuxians transmit The Virus through the Galactic Guidebook to Brian and Sophie, who proceed to spread out, converting Trent, Wendy, Frankie & Pete then Lucy, CJ and Harry before ultimately Josh is surrounded by zombies at the house. As Brian explains, Josh too becomes a zombie while Brian finally gets to be King of Canada. This story fails to scare anyone, least of all Josh.