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Series / My Wife and Kids

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Dom Com that aired on ABC from 2001 to 2005. The show is about Michael Kyle (Damon Wayans, in what is arguably his most famous work worldwide, his wife Jay (Tisha Campbellnote ), and his kids Junior (George O. Gore II), Claire (Jazz Raycolenote /Jennifer Nicole Freeman), and Kady (Parker McKenna Posey).

Also known for Noah Gray-Cabey's first big role (the Child Prodigy Franklin) and for the first appearance of Terry Crews in a big work after his breakout role as Latrell Spencer in White Chicks.

This show provides examples of:

  • Absurdly Youthful Mother: Jay, who got pregnant with Junior, the eldest of the Kyle children, at 16 years old. She becomes an Absurdly Youthful Grandmother later on in the series.
  • The Ace:
    • Franklin takes the Child Prodigy trope up to eleven by excelling at a lot of things in spite of his very young age.
    • June Hopkins, the maid hired by Jay to take care of the house while she's out in a congress. In her first visit to the Kyle house, she already brings many food items the family likes. Later, she reveals her ability to fix TVs and cars, as well as a knowledge of basketball and having invented or helped inventing things like peach cobbler, Canadian bacon and basketball itself. She also proves to rival Franklin's intelligence, at least to the point of beating him in chess while cooking. Justified by the fact that she's a Mary Poppins Expy.
  • Achievements in Ignorance:
    • When Junior's test papers come back with a perfect score he starts acting genuinely smarter. Later in the episode it's cleared up he didn't even get his own name correct on the paper, but the paper he helped Claire with was still an A+ and the climbing frame he put together himself was still built perfectly. That being said, he still got his head stuck in it.
    • When Michael tells Junior that his infant son makes him smarter it actually seems to work, to the degree that Michael can turn his son's intelligence on and off mid-sentence by taking his hand off the baby's head.
  • Actor Allusion:
    • Damon Wayans playing a character that makes a joke about doing heavy lifting in the bathroom? Not the first time.
    • When Michael and Jay are having a night out and he remembers he forgot to recite the rules to the kids, she asks him: "You know, wouldn't it be funny if we came home and the kids were having a house party? You know how they do that in the movies?". Tisha Campbell was in House Party and its first two sequels.
    • A mouse hunt scene features Michael in a full military uniform, evoking Major Payne, where Damon Wayans played the military protagonist.
  • Aerith and Bob:
    • The protagonist family has Michael, Janet (Jay), Michael Jr., Claire... and Kady.
    • All of the suggested names for Junior and Vanessa's baby are weird/uncommon names: Vanessa's mother suggests Shamashalon if it's a girl, Michael comically suggests Clajaydy (a portmanteau of "Claire", "Jay", and "Kady") if it's a girl, and Junior and Vanessa themselves suggest two portmanteaus of their first names: Janessa if it's a girl and Vanjer (an alternative to the Double Entendre Vajunior) if it's a boy. In the end, the baby (a boy) ends up being named Michael Richard Kyle III, nicknamed Junior Jr.
  • Age Lift: Jay got pregnant with Junior at 16 years old, but Tisha Campbell is actually 14 years older than George O. Gore II.
  • All Girls Want Bad Boys: In "Claire's New Boyfriend", Claire breaks up with Tony and starts dating a dimwitted, gangster wannabe named Jason who goes by the street name 1040-EZ, has at least two kids already and is openly disrespectful to Claire in front of her parents. Jay tells Michael that the reason Claire dumped Tony was because Michael was warming up to him and the last thing a girl wants is a guy their father approves of. Michael tries to help Tony get back with Claire by giving him a new, bad boy makeover. This fails to impress Claire as she sees right through what Michael is attempting. However, she dumps EZ anyway due to him being too much of a jerk.
    • The same episode has this exchange between Michael and Jay.
      Michael: Am I your bad boy?
      Jay: You knocked me up at 16. It doesn't get any badder than that.
  • All Men Are Perverts: Michael has a very cynical and paranoid view of teenage boys, seeing all of them is sex-crazed dogs who will take advantage of his eldest daughter. This clearly stems from Michael getting Jay pregnant when both of them were teenagers and wanting to keep his daughter from making the same mistakes as he and his wife.
  • Alliterative Name: Kady Kyle.
  • An Aesop: One episode introduces a friend of Michael's (played by Mos Def) who has become paraplegic since the last time they saw each other. Michael acts like he's not capable of taking care of himself, and eventually his friend calls him on his behavior and says that he wants to be treated the same as everyone else and not like he's half a man.
  • Armor-Piercing Question: When Claire is upset about getting second place in a dance contest, Jay tells her that it's not whether you win or lose but how you play the game, to which Claire responds asking if Jay tells that to her clients in the stock market.
  • Artistic License – Biology: When Junior confesses to having broken one of Michael's rules by eating peaches with cheese, Michael says he's "not supposed to mix dairy and citrus". Peach is not a citrus fruit.
  • Asshole Victim: Michael's Boyfriend-Blocking Dad tendencies are so big it's very satisfying to see him getting out-gambitted by Claire and learning to trust her word about not having sex with her boyfriend.
  • At the Opera Tonight: Mike and Jay attended an opera, and mainly got a few jokes about a rich old man and his young girlfriend wearing a black fur wrap. Mike also tricked Jay into leaving early, and they find Junior in the middle of losing his virginity.
  • Awkwardly-Placed Bathtub: Junior moves into a studio apartment where the bathtub doubles as a bed and couch.
  • Backhanded Apology: From "They Call Me El Foosay," when Michael and Jay tell Junior to apologize to Vanessa for being an obnoxious winner:
    Junior: I'm so sorry that I beatcha like an old rug! LOOPALINDA! I'm gonna tell the baby, he'll never respect you!
  • Benevolent Boss: Michael is friends with the workers at his shipping company at treats them kindly, but still reminds them that he's the boss.
  • Berserk Button:
    • Jay and being clapped at to do something faster.
    • Michael and being told he's not capable of doing something.
  • Big Brother Instinct: One episode featured Junior befriending a group of jerkasses who take advantage of him and pick on him. Because they're cool, Junior refuses to stand up to them...until they started hitting on his younger sister.
  • Big Eater:
    • Calvin almost ate all the food of a Chinese restaurant.
    • Jay's gluttony is a Running Gag.
  • Black and Nerdy: Franklin.
  • Boyfriend-Blocking Dad: Even after getting proof, time and again, that Tony is pretty much a boy scout, Michael still offers some stubborn resistance to letting Claire date him - even going so far as to drag Jay with him to turn their first date into a double date.
  • Bratty Half-Pint: Kady. In the final seasons, as she grows older and more clever, she starts showing signs of being a Manipulative Bastard, just like her dad.
  • Bratty Teenage Daughter: Claire. Her tantrums get progressively more intense and loud due to Flanderization, though a few episodes hint it may be because she is averting No Periods, Period.
  • Bread, Eggs, Milk, Squick: When Michael bets with the kids that they can't last one week without going to him for anything, he tells them he will only provide "food and shelter — and bail money, if necessary".
  • Break-Up/Make-Up Scenario: Michael and Jay, or Junior and Vanessa constantly fight, but they always go back to being madly in love by the episode's end.
  • Brick Joke: In the cartoon My Wife and Kid, Junior gives his father the same "I'm rich, you're broke" answer Michael gave him in a previous season.
  • Buffy Speak: When Michael is talking to Jay about reforming the garage with Junior, he refers to a saw as "the thing that goes 'bzzz', [and] that cuts through stuff".
  • Butt-Monkey:
    • Junior is the butt of the jokes more often than the others, due to his stupidity.
    • Occasionally, Claire. While not as much as her brother, she is sometimes made fun of by Michael. Also, a running gag involves her falling down stairs.
  • Calling Me a Logarithm: A variation happens in the episode with Michael's sister. As she's leaving she says "Nutmeg", prompting Jay to say "What'd you call me?!" However, she explains that nutmeg is the secret ingredient in a family recipe (the fact that Michael's mother never told Jay always bothered her).
  • Casting Gag:
    • Tisha Campbell plays the wife of the main protagonist, like in Martin.
    • Andrew McFarlane plays the boyfriend of a girl from the protagonist family, having previously played one in... this very series. Before Tony, he was Roger, the single-episode boyfriend of the single-season Jazz Raycole's Claire. (Yes, the producers changed Claire's actress and gave her a new boyfriend, but did not change the boyfriend's actor. Go figure.)
    • Damon Wayans, being one of the men behind the series, casted former colleagues of his in some episodes: T'Keyah Crystal Keymáh, David Alan Grier, Kim Coles (all from In Living Color!), and Taylor Negron (the villain Milo from The Last Boy Scout). The latter three share scenes with him.
  • Character Catchphrase: Averted in Season 1. After that, it was open season...
    • Michael had "Ehhhh... No." whenever someone made an idiotic suggestion and he felt like giving them false hope, and a Running Gag was Michael dragging out the "Ehhhh..." part or coming with increasingly creative ways to drop the phrase. Eventually adopted by the rest of the cast.
    • In later seasons, Claire had a a ditzy giggle and Jay had a high-pitched cackle.
    • Franklin (and later, Michael) had the habit of making a particularly bad joke and then following it up with "Any-who...", with a slight elongating of the "any" much in the way of "".
    • Jay also had "What kind of foolishness...?" whenever someone did something stupid.
  • Characterization Marches On: Tony was initially just a Nice Guy boyfriend of Claire's, that in his early appearances got a bit rude when Michael's Boyfriend-Blocking Dad tendencies got a little too far. Then he got a bit more subdued and even nicer, until he becomes a holier-than-thou Christian evangelist, and pretty condescending to Claire and Michael when they do or say things that don't agree with his beliefs.
  • Chekhov's Skill: In the pilot episode, Michael finds out that Junior draws very well and says it could be his future. In the last season, an episode shows that Junior has created a comic strip about him and his family that later gets turned into a cartoon, which makes him finally earn money by himself.
  • Cool and Unusual Punishment:
    • In order to stop Jay and his sister from fighting, Michael starts singing "Oh Canada" badly and with the wrong lyrics: "Oh Canada, I love you Canada!/You gave us bacon! You gave us hockey!"
    • When Jay and Kady fall ill, Jay asks Michael to take Kady to see a physician. Faced with Michael's unwillingness to do so, Jay threatens to kiss Michael (and infect him along the way). That gets Michael on the move quickly.
  • Dating What Daddy Hates: In one episode, Michael finally warms up to the idea of Claire and Tony dating and Michael even says he likes Tony because he's such a good kid. The next day she dumps Tony and starts dating a good-for-nothing gangsta wannabe who constantly talks down to her. After trying to win Claire back fails, Jay has a talk with her, wanting to know how can she dump a good guy like Tony and start dating a thug who doesn't appreciate her. Claire says that lately she has gotten annoyed with Michael and just wants to see him suffer. Jay tells her that she understands she's going through a rebellious phase, but that's still no reason to date the other guy, and suggests to Claire she break up with him and give Tony another chance. Once Claire and Tony make up, Michael jokingly tells them he hates him.
  • Deadly Sparring: In "Papa Said Knock You Out", Michael decides to get back in shape by taking up boxing and picks Junior as a sparring partner. During one of their sessions, Michael encourages Junior to be more aggressive with his blows, resulting in Junior accidentally knocking Michael out.
  • Dead Pet Sketch: An episode has Michael accidentally kill Kady's pet hamster. She stays completely oblivious until told about it. Funnily enough, she doesn't seem squicked until Michael explains how he had to keep up the charade.
    Yuck! You let me play with a dead hamster?!
  • Denied Food as Punishment: Subverted.
    • When none of the kids confess to having eaten the piece of pie he intended to eat at the halftime of a basketball game, Michael decides to make them eat the exact same kind of pie in all their meals until the perpetrator gives up.
    • When Claire and Junior are under a deal with Michael to not go to him for anything so as to not having to follow his rules, he gives them a whole frozen chicken to eat but does not tell them how to cook it.
  • Department of Redundancy Department: In one episode Michael meets Jay's psychology professor, Floyd F. Tillman (played by James Avery). Turns out the F stands for "Floyd".
    Michael: So your name is "Floyd Floyd"?
    Tillman: Yup yup.
  • Dirty Coward: Calvin personally brings this out of Michael.
  • Disproportionate Retribution:
    • Michael does this to all his kids. He'll go to great lengths to punish them or get a confession no matter how small the issue is. In one instance, he tries to get Junior thrown out of the house for drinking all the milk. Subverted though, in that he needed an excuse to throw him out because Junior got a tattoo and wasn't able to punish him for it.
    • Tony does this to himself once. In "The Lady is Not a Tramp", it's revealed that he went to spend 40 days and 40 nights in the desert as self-punishment for getting drunk at Claire's house party and running naked in the street (both seen in "While Out").
  • The Ditz: Junior, Claire (in later seasons) and Tony are this sitcom's resident moronic fools who exacerbate the other characters with their stupidity but are usually well-intentioned.
  • Dope Slap: Junior gets this treatment whenever he says something exceptionally stupid. Michael is usually the one to do this to him, though Vanessa does this once herself.
  • Downer Ending: To the episode "Road Trip".
    Kady: Are we there yet?
    Michael: Yes, we are. That is Paul Revere's house.
    Junior: Which one?
    Michael: The one behind the sign that says, "Paul Revere's House: Closed For His Birthday".
    (One by one, the entire family dissolves into Inelegant Blubbering)
  • Duck Season, Rabbit Season: The scheme Jay used to trick Michael into letting Claire (as a sophomore) going to the senior prom. Michael even says, upon realization, "Wait a minute, you Bugs Bunny'd me!"
  • Dumbass Teenage Son: Junior, who at one point can't even spell his name.
  • Eek, a Mouse!!: The episode "Of Mice and Men" involves the family discovering the presence of a mouse in the house. Michael and Jay play the trope's scenario straight, by hopping up onto chairs at the sight of the mouse (well, actually, taking turns sight-scene-by-sight-scene with one jumping onto a kitchen chair and knocking the other off to replace him/her); Junior and Kady just show the typical fear, minus chair-jumping. Claire, however, does not elicit the fear due to refusing to be around for Michael's harebrained attempts at killing the mouse, and Franklin is only around in one scene, studying the droppings.
  • Egg Sitting: Michael makes Junior take care of a water balloon to test if he is ready to be a parent. Junior draws a face on it and calls it Fetus Face. It is eventually destroyed when he slams down the hood of his car while arguing with Michael and the water balloon falls on the floor, followed by a montage of Junior and the water balloon together.
  • Embarrassing Ad Gig: When Michael tries to stop Claire from getting a modeling gig, the recruiter notes that Michael would make the perfect hand model for an ad for a hand cream marketed towards men. What the recruiter doesn't tell Michael is that his hands are supposed to represent the effeminate hands of those who don't buy the product. On top of that, Michael acts incredible goofy while filming the ad.
    Announcer: Don't be a pansy. Be a mansy.
  • Embarrassing Hospital Gown: In "Michael's Garden", Michael is reluctantly doing a prostate exam and is uncomfortable about "his butt hanging out". On cue, the nurse comes into the room from behind him and checks him out and jokes that it's because "us poor underpaid healthcare workers have to get some perks".
  • Exact Words: After Michael makes a deal with the kids to see if they can last one week of independence from him, he gives a frozen whole chicken for Claire and Junior to eat (he had committed to provide food, but did not say anything about it being in an edible state) and changes the locks to make Junior sleep on the garden after coming home late at night (he had committed to provide shelter, but did not say anything about it being only in the house).
  • Expospeak Gag: When Franklin invites Kady to drink soda and watch cartoons.
    Franklin: Let's drink some of that colored water saturated with high-fructose corn syrup, get a huge sugar rush going, and then watch hours of insipid animated marsupials sing and dance their way through a jungle festooned with product placement featuring candy-laced cereals that will no doubt destroy my pancreas before I'm 12 and leave me twitching in a diabetic coma.
  • Fireworks of Love: A fireworks show is used as a visual metaphor for the event in which Junior lost his virginity.
  • Flanderization: Hoo boy, where to begin. Junior's stupidity, Claire's clumsiness, Jay's callousness, etc.
  • Flexibility Equals Sex Ability: In "The Big Bang Theory", Claire and Tony decide they are going to have sex for the first time. To that end, they both take yoga lessons believing their increased flexibility will make the experience more enjoyable.
  • Foreshadowing: When cooking in an episode, Michael wears an apron with illustrations and the names of nutmeg and thyme. Later episodes show that nutmeg is the secret ingredient to Michael's mother's cookies (as told by Kelly, Michael's sister, during a visit) and that Michael and Jay mistake for thyme an aphrodisiac plant they got from Kady and Franklin.
  • For Want of a Nail: Not hearing the very first sentence ("Tony, I cannot wait until we can go out on a real date"note ) from a set of two Double Entendre-filled dialogues between Claire and Tony makes Junior think they're talking about having sex, which makes him take boxing lessons from Michael to give a lesson to Tony... which ultimately makes him end up with a black eye, courtesy of Tony himself.
    • First, Claire continues the conversation on the phone:
      Claire: I know! We're like the only ones at school who haven't done it. Erica and Damien did it. I heard they did it three times in one week, give or take.
    • Later, after Claire and Tony return from baseball practice (another thing that Junior didn't know):
      Tony: Well, how'd you like it?
      Claire: Wow, Tony, you were so good. It was my first time and I'm really glad I did it with you. You were so quick, but you hit it so hard.
      Tony: Yeah, that's why it's important to use protection.
      Claire: I'm glad you brought some. I didn't even know how to put it on. You are so much better at it than me.
      Tony: No, you were good too. I mean, you really got your hips into it a couple of times.
      Claire: I liked it more than I thought I would.
      Tony: Yeah, once you get started, it's hard to stop.
      Claire: I know. I'm exhausted.
      Tony: Yeah, that's natural. I mean, I usually go to sleep right afterwards. But don't worry, the more you do it, the easier it gets.
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus:
    • The briefly seen back cover of a book Claire is holding in the last scene from "Of Mice and Men" shows that the book is Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone.
    • In "What Do You Know?", when the family is playing the eponymous game, Kady asks Franklin which of The Powerpuff Girls is her favorite. When he gives wrong answers and she hits him with the cardboard paper, the answer (Blossom) can be seen — very blurry, but identifiable — if you pause exactly at the right moment.
  • Freudian Excuse: When Michael and Jay were still in high school, she got pregnant with junior, they got married and had to put off whatever plans they had for after high school for several years. That experience made Michael an overbearing Boyfriend-Blocking Dad towards Claire, and the only reason she's allowed to date is because Jay convinced him to. Even though her latest boyfriend, Tony, is more than happy to wait until marriage, which he understands and has clearly stated to be several years after high school, and even college, Michael would rather he stayed as far away as possible from Claire.
  • Gag Penis: In one episode Jay paints a picture of Michael in the style of Michelangelo's David, and a friend puts it in her art gallery. When it's unveiled, a woman standing next to Jay says "Holy moley, how do you find time to paint?!" Subverted since Michael had altered it the night before to avoid embarrassment about what Jay had actually painted.
  • Genius Ditz:
    • Claire is portrayed as an overly vapid, clumsy ditz who mostly cares about her appearance and superficial things... but she is an honor student.
    • Junior has shown himself to be quite bright when the chips call for it, and he's a very talented portrait artist and cartoonist. In later seasons, he's more or less at extreme levels of stupidity, although an episode focuses on the idea that Junior's son is a trigger for otherwise unseen levels of intelligence. Also, it's hinted that his flash cartoon parodying his own family might become a hit.
  • Genre Savvy: Micheal is usually the one to suspect if his kids are up to something and occasionally does his own little Batman Gambits in order to prove a point, although occasionally he's wrong and it turns out his kids weren't up to anything suspicious and he was just quick to jump to assumptions.
  • Good Parents: "Perfect Dad" basically centers around this, with the kids elaborating to Michael on their definition of a perfect father, whilst being immune to repercussions as they are under a family meeting as they know Michael will retaliate otherwise.
  • Gratuitous Spanish:
    • In the pilot episode, Kady speaks a bit of Spanish that her Latina nanny taught her.
    • When Junior wants to have a "man-to-boy" conversation with Tony about the latter's intentions with Claire.
      Junior: Let's step outside for a minute, Tony. I wanna have a little mano-y-boyo chat with you.
  • Groin Attack: One of Michael's favorite home movies is Junior catching himself in his fly.
    "My ding-ding!"
  • Grounded Forever: Michael punishes Claire by grounding her (and forcing her to do all the chores in the house) until she gets him an apple from the apple tree in the backyard. Then he gives her a few apple seeds.
  • Hormone-Addled Teenager: Junior and Claire. Arguably more so Junior given that it resulted in a Teen Pregnancy.
  • Hypocrite: Several examples.
    • Jay taking offense to Michael calling their therapist, openly stating they only call him when she has a problem with Michael. When Michael decides that since he pays for the therapist, they're seeing a different one; Jay gets upset & immediately starts complaining when the new therapist takes Michael's side instead of hers, Eventually, they find an impartial therapist.
    • Michael saying he won't punish Junior for getting a tattoo, then kicking him out of the house when he finds out Junior drank all the milk, and again when Jay points out that her husband has an earring that his own father didn't exactly approve of.
    • In a later season, Jay decides that all the couples should play a game where they have to answer personal questions about their partner to see how well they know one another. All the men get their questions wrong, and after the women storm off the men realize that the women had yet to answer any questions, so they convince them to return so they can answer the men's questions. When they do, all the women get their answers wrong and forgive their partners for getting their questions wrong... except Jay, who refuses to forgive Michael for getting his question wrong even when she got hers wrong.
    • In the episode "Road Trip," Michael berates the family for breaking one of his rules of the car by switching seats, despite the fact that he broke one earlier in the episode when he threw Claire's phone out the window.
    • In the last episode, "The "V" Story", Jay expects Michael to go and get a vasectomy because she's really that paranoid and petty about not having anymore children, so much so that she kicks him out of his own bedroom just because Michael doesn't want anyone else touching his reproductive system, but when he suggests that she get her tubes tied, Jay cannot be bothered to do the same thing. It's bad enough to the point that they try to make Michael out to be the monster to the very end just because he doesn't want anyone fooling around downstairs to be infuriating, and it's even more insufferable when Jay acts like she, and the sex by association, is 100 percent worth it when it's probably not even worth that much and how Michael does not even get a say despite it being his body and his decision.
  • Improbable Parking Skills: Junior, trying to show his dad how he can drive responsibly and that he's maturing, parallel parks his car perfectly in less than a second.
  • Incorruptible Pure Pureness: Tony. Or at least he tries to be. Way too hard.
  • Infection Scene: At the doctor's office near the end of an episode, the scene turns to slow motion as it shows the doctor sneeze into his hand and then touch the doorknob. Michael, who has spent the whole episode trying not to get sick, touches the doorknob and then touches his face, all while ominous music plays. The same slow-mo effect and scary music comes up during the basketball game, when Michael sneezes into his hand before shaking hands with LeBron, which leads to LeBron having to sit out of the game.
  • Lady in Red: Selma, Jay and Michael's replacement Samba instructor in "Samba Story", is seen wearing a very revealing red dress during their lesson. For extra points, she's played by Sofía Vergara.
  • Latin Lover: "Samba Story" has Marcello Roccocco, Jay and Micheal's Brazilian Samba instructor. He often wears outfits that show off his hairy chest, often speaks in a breathy tone and clearly has some effect on Jay. Michael scares him into fleeing back to Brazil by pretending to be an immigration officer and has him replaced with a female instructor named Selma.
  • Left Hanging: The series ends with Jay attempting to have a tubal ligation surgery because Michael was too afraid to subject himself to a vasectomy, only to find out that it's too late and she is already pregnant.
  • Lethal Chef: Claire. One episode has Franklin trying to help improve her cooking... and it doesn't quite pan out.
  • Literally Laughable Question: In one episode, Junior wants to follow his girlfriend when she goes to college and says he can get a job in the city she goes to. He asks the guy sweeping the pizza parlour floor what his job pays, and is greeted by hysterical laughter.
  • Manipulative Bastard: Michael forced Junior to live in the garage for around about two seasons, as he had kicked Junior out of the house. By the time he was allowed to move back in, Michael had converted his son's room into his own play area and didn't want to give it up. Eventually, Junior was joined by his wife and son in "The Remodel", which led to him asking Michael if they could convert the garage into an apartment. An entire episode was spent doing that, after which Michael tells Junior he can move back into the house purely so he can take the remodeled garage for himself. And everyone else just went along with this.
  • Magic Feather: In one episode, Michael convinces Junior that as long as he's holding his son, he's a genius. When Junior starts being an Insufferable Genius, Michael reveals that it's a Magic Feather, explaining that his own father did the exact same with him in the past.
  • "Metaphor" Is My Middle Name: A variation where Honest is Tony's real first name while Tony is actually his middle name.
  • Missing Episode: In-Universe. In the episode "The Director", Michael was trying to record his basketball game. Later, he found out that the tape is overwritten as "Kady's First Steps", and tries to recreate the video. Fortunately, Jay made a DVD copy of all of their home videos beforehand.
  • Nepotism: Averted in one episode. Junior comes to help Michael at work and starts bossing around his employees on the grounds that being the boss's son means he's the second-in-command. Michael ends up putting Junior through some demeaning jobs like scrubbing the toilet to teach him that he isn't the boss, and that you should treat your employees with respect.
  • Never Trust a Hair Tonic: In "The Sweet Hairafter", Michael's friend Jimmy has a hair-growth pill that makes him paranoid. Once Michael starts to take the pills, he displays the same symptoms.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Michael makes Junior lose a contract opportunity with ABC — and, due to word of mouth from its executives, every other TV channel that broadcasts cartoons — to adapt his comic strip into a cartoon due to posing as his agent and asking for too much money for a beginner artist. He later makes up for that by strucking a deal with a startup website that would still make Junior earn a good amount of money (not as much as with a broadcast network, but still good), with the bonus of letting him keep the ownership of his cartoon.
  • Not Distracted by the Sexy:
    • In the episode "They Call Me El Foosay", Jay dresses up as a sexy maid and talks seductively to Michael to try and get him away from the new foosball table. He's more excited by the fact that he was able to move the foosball table to their bedroom.
    • In "Quality Time", Jay tries to seduce Michael to get his attention away from the game that he's sucked into at the moment, by sensually dancing for him... only for Michael to tell her to do that off to the side while still playing his game and not even giving Jay a glance.
  • Obnoxious In-Laws: As shown in "Sister Story", Jay does not get along well with Michael's sister Kelly. It is quite obvious that Kelly doesn't approve of Jay and their interactions are riddled with condescending remarks and passive-aggressive snark. It's also suggested that Michael and Jay don't like each other's mothers.
  • Offscreen Moment of Awesome: It's mentioned that Tony saved children from a burning orphanage after his first date with Claire.
  • Pac Man Fever: In the episode "Quality Time", Michael gets hooked on a video game. We never see the game in question (and judging by the few lines of dialogue referring to it, it's not a real game) and whenever Michael plays it, he mashes the buttons on the controller and wiggles the joystick around wildly non-stop.
  • Parallel Porn Titles:
    Junior: Okay, I admit it. I accidentally ordered Star Whores on Pay-Per-View last night.
    Michael: Accidentally?
    Junior: I meant to order I Know Who You Did Last Summer!
  • Parental Favoritism: Michael with Kady. It's revealed Michael is this way because Kady has always preferred Jay to him, ever since the day she was born where she would cry whenever he went near her, and so he has been trying to win his daughter's affection literally since she was born.
  • Parenting the Husband: Implied with Vanessa and Junior.
    Jay: You're going to make a great mommy.
    Vanessa: I get a lot of practice with Junior.
  • Parody Sue: Betty White played a one-shot character that was an obvious parody of Mary Poppins.
  • Pet the Dog: It's clear that Michael truly does care for his family, despite his Jerkass behavior.
  • Poor Man's Porn: Junior escaping to the bathroom with increasingly supposedly non-sexual magazines, the height of which was an issue of a monthly cooking magazine.
  • Prematurely Bald: It's mentioned a couple of times that Michael began losing his hair in his 20s. Same also for Damon Wayans.
  • Prom Baby: Junior. According to Michael, this is why Jay missed her high school prom.
  • Public Domain Soundtrack: In some airings of the episode Marathon, Survivor's "Eye of The Tiger" is used for the race between Jay and Michael. But, later airings instead use a song that sounds similar to "Eye of The Tiger" likely to get around copyright and/or having to pay royalties to use the song.
  • Puppy Love: Kady and Franklin.
  • Real Life Writes the Plot:
    • An interesting version — Damon Wayans' kids were on the writing staff in later seasons, so various plot points (such as Junior getting Vanessa pregnant) occurred because it had just happened to the writers.
    • Played straight when Jay was missing for the first part of Season 2, due to the actress taking maternity leave. Handwaved as Jay's mother having had an accident, so Jay had left to take care of her.
  • Rebus Bubble: In one episode, Michael attempts to help Jay study for a psychology test using what he calls "Sight-Kyle-ogy" (for example, Lion + Shaquille O'Neal = Rorschach). Unfortunately this causes her to fail the test, so she hands him one that says "Booty on lockdown". Later, when he convinces the teacher to give her a re-test and she passes, she hands him another and walks off.
    Michael: "Spank that donkey"? Why would I want to spank that a- ("Eureka!" Moment, runs off after her)
  • Samba: "Samba Story" revolves around Jay convincing Michael to take Samba lessons with her. The conflict brews when they both grow jealous from watching each other perform the dance's sensual moves with their respective teachers, though the two make up by doing a duet together at the end of the episode. However, the rhythm and movements of the "samba" are closer to other Latin American rhythms than to the actual samba.
  • Scary Black Man: Vanessa's father is a massive mountain of a human being played by American Football player and wrestler Rasta.
  • Screaming Birth: Vanessa giving birth to her baby (with some help).
  • Screams Like a Little Girl: Michael. Want proof? Watch him meet LeBron James.
  • Shipper on Deck: This is the main source of contention between Jay and her sister-in-law Kelly. Michael's first girlfriend Sharon was also Kelly's best friend. All three were very close until Michael broke up with Sharon for Jay. Kelly has never kept her disapproval of Jay a secret and is even stated to have invited Sharon on one occasion when she visited Michael's family.
  • Stating the Simple Solution: When Michael complains about coming home and finding it empty, telling Jay he wants to come home and see his wife and kids and some food on the table, she laughingly suggests him to just come home later.
  • Stout Strength: Calvin can throw standard-size refrigerators easily & has been shown to be strong enough to move an entire factory truck.
  • Summer School Sucks: The threat of summer school is held over Junior's head when he has poor performance in math. When taking the final, the teacher says that if they fail they will have a chance to make it up. Beat This SUMMER.
  • Surprise Pregnancy:
    • In "Anniversary Part 1", Michael implies that Junior wasn't his only unplanned child.
      Jay: (to Claire) Baby, you have got to communicate with Tony. That is the secret to any good relationship. How do you think your father and I have hung in there for so long?
      Michael: Unplanned pregnancies?
    • Vanessa in the Season 3 finale.
    • In the series finale, Jay goes to the hospital to have a tubal ligation surgery but ends up finding out she's pregnant.
  • Suspiciously Specific Denial: After Michael discovers he taped over the video of Kady's first steps by accident and Junior walks into the room.
    Junior: What are you doing?
    Michael: I ain't erasing anything!
  • Take a Third Option: One episode has Jay feuding with Michael's sister (played by Vivica A. Fox). When they demand to know who he'd save first if they were drowning, his response ("I'd probably kill myself trying to save both of you") is what makes them calm down and start listening to him.
  • Taped-Over Turmoil: As the result of Michael accidentally taping over a video of Kady's first steps.
  • A Taste Of His Own Medicine: Michael, an avid Batman Gambit player when teaching lessons to his children, falls into one from Claire when she wants to prove he could trust her about not having sex with Tony when he returned from his self-imposed religious exile.
    Claire: You know what this is? This is the very first "Claire Kyle signature moment".
    Michael: I taught you well.
  • Teen Pregnancy:
    • Jay was pregnant with Junior during her senior year of High School.
    • Season 2 has a friend of Claire's who got pregnant and turned to Claire for advice. Michael ends up being very supportive of her, given his own experiences.
    • Junior later on gets his girlfriend Vanessa pregnant.
  • Testosterone Poisoning: Michael hits the gym in one episode upon realizing he needs to get fit. For this, he enlists the help of Daryl (played by Terry Crews), who's extremely macho and flexes his pecs like there's no tomorrow. Daryl's training regimen is outlandish, what with the high-intensity workouts and yelling "EURO TRAINING!" on top of his lungs, and Michael is unable to keep up with his antics.
  • Title Drop: Once a Season up to and including Season 3.
    • Season 1 — In "Snapping and Sniffing", when Michael complains to Jay about coming home and seeing it empty.
      Michael: Look at the time. Where is everybody at?
      Jay: The kids are in their afterschool programs, Rosa's picking up Kady from Tumble Tots, and I had a late meeting. Come on baby, what is the big deal? Would you smile? (kisses)
      Michael: I'll smile when I come home and see my wife and kids and some food on the table like my father used to have.
    • Season 2 — In "The Kyles Go to Hawaii Part 3", when the family is boarding the bus to the airport.
      Jay: So, Michael, did you have a good time?
      Michael: Any time I spend with my wife and kids is a good time.
    • Season 3 — In "Man of the Year", when Michael gives his acceptance speech after winning the Father of the Year Award from his family.
      Michael: I want to thank you guys for reminding me what's really important in my life. That's the love and respect of my wife and kids.
  • Token White: Brian is the only one of Michael's employees who is white.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Junior has a standout moment in "Outbreak Monkey". While all other members of the family come down with flu through the usual means (Jay being patient zero, and Michael avoiding it like the plague it is until the end), Junior is the only one who actually infects himself voluntarily (if obliviously): he explains to Michael he had made a "study" on how the flu enters people's bodies, and demonstrates with a trashcan full of Jay's discarded tissues, which he proceeds to rub on himself while explaining how the virus could "hypothetically" enter his body.
  • Trademark Favorite Food:
    • Michael and peach cobbler.
    • Calvin and bacon. He's never actually seen eating it, but it's mentioned that he stops by the Kyle house everytime he smells it when passing by and that he once pursued a bacon truck.
  • Trailers Always Spoil: The next episode preview at the end of "Anniversary Part 1" reveals that Michael's surprise for Jay is a proper wedding, which they could not have when they got married, and that Brian McKnight, of whom Jay had shown to be a big fan in that same episode, sings at the ceremony.
  • Tsundere: Jay, a rare case considering she's, well, married.
  • Twerp Sweating: Michael to all of Claire's boyfriends (Roger and Tony), and more than once with the latter.
  • Unsympathetic Comedy Protagonist: Michael. He may be a Jerk with a Heart of Gold, but there are many reasons for the "jerk" part of that: full of himself, a Manipulative Bastard, a Boyfriend-Blocking Dad that's not afraid to say how he preferred that Claire never dated anyone, never supports Jay from the start when she wants to do anything that takes her away from her housewife duties (like going back to college), and does a lot of Disproportionate Retribution to his children when punishing or trying to get a confession from them, the worst of which is banishing his son to the garage and changing his former room into a mancave just because Junior had sex in Michael and Jay's room (which also makes Michael a Hypocrite, since he and Jay had previously had sex on Junior's bed in his old room and he later tries to convince her to do it again in the garage before it's reformed).
  • Volleying Insults:
    • Michael and his father when his parents visit him.
    • Michael and Wanda whenever they're seen together, except when both reveal to Jay that Wanda helped Michael with the surprise wedding ceremony.
  • Water Wake-up: In the morning after making Junior spend the night in the family's garden, Michael wakes him up by activating the sprinklers.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Michael is often called out by Jay when he goes too far, mostly with his way of dealing with the kids.
  • Wham Line: The very last line of dialogue heard in the series.
    Jay: "I am pregnant."
  • Who Would Want to Watch Us?: In the final season, Junior comes up with an idea for a TV show called My Wife And Kid. The premise is essentially his life, albeit flip flopped with him being promoted to the breadwinner whilst his parents are instead mooching off him. Cartoon Michael has a giant head and is obsessed with get-rich-quick schemes, while Cartoon Jay's ass is its own separate character. Named Rufus. Surprisingly enough, they both find it Actually Pretty Funny.
  • Whole Episode Flashback: Twice in Season 4 ("Empty Nest", parts 1 and 2).
  • Wrestler of Beasts: Vanessa's father is a large, imposing man who has displayed unusual feats of strength offscreen. One of these is killing a wolf using nothing but his hands and teeth, which only makes him even more intimidating to Michael.
  • Your Head A-Splode: In Season 5, Tony's stern religious beliefs begin conflicting with his sexual desires for his girlfriend Claire to the point that he couldn't be around her and do even the most mundane things. To deal with this, Claire decides to stand in front of him completely naked until he's so desensitized to her that they can go back to how they were before. Tony promptly freaks out and his head explodes, and then it turns out that it was just his imagination, since Claire comes down stairs fully clothed, leading to Tony running away screaming.