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Series / Parker Lewis Can't Lose

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Parker Lewis Can't Lose was a sitcom on Fox, running from 1990 to 1993. It centered around a good-hearted (but low-scrupled) High School wheeler-dealer and his two associates, and the scams, cons and manipulations that they got away with (mostly) day to day. It starred Corin Nemec, now known for playing Jonas Quinn, the former Trope Namer for Suspiciously Similar Substitute on Stargate SG-1.
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It was clearly influenced by the classic teen movie Ferris Bueller's Day Off — much more so than the movie's TV adaptation; many consider Parker Lewis Can't Lose to be the Spiritual Successor to the Ferris Bueller film. Initially, Parker Lewis Can't Lose actually had lower ratings than Ferris Bueller, but the Fox network was still in its early years and thus had lower expectations, allowing Lewis to outlast Bueller by two seasons.

In later seasons, the show's title was truncated to simply Parker Lewis. In one episode the title character has such unusually bad luck that the main title credit was changed to Parker Lewis Can't Win.


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This show provides examples of:

  • Achilles in His Tent
  • Actor Allusion: Shelley goes undercover using the name "Shelley Nemec".
  • Actually Not a Vampire: In one episode, Frank Lemmer is shown avoiding sunlight and other things, prompting Shelly to think he's a vampire. This culminates with her splashing him with a bucket full of holy water.
  • Annoying Younger Sibling: Shelly Lewis
  • Bad Vibrations: Kubiak was often heralded by thunderous footsteps.
  • Bag of Holding: Jerry's trenchcoat.
  • Berserk Button: Kubiak and his lunch, don't ever touch it. Urban Legend states he once punched out (and possibly killed) a nun for sitting on his lunch bag.
  • The B Grade: Jerry Steiner
  • Catchphrase: "Coolness!", "Not a problem," "Synchronise Swatches!" "Food/Eat now!" "Mooomm!"
  • Clip Show : This trope was used in the series finale
  • Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: Lemmer, after season 2.
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  • Dean Bitterman: Miss Musso and Dr Pankow, which the latter is fitting as he is played by the actor who played the Obstructive Bureaucrat foster father Phil Simpson from Child's Play 2.
  • The Dragon: Frank Lemmer.
  • Embarrassing Middle Name: "...Lloyd?!"
  • Expy: Parker Lewis, of Ferris Bueller.
  • Extreme Omnivore: Kube. At one point he's seen eating leaves off a tree.
  • End-of-Series Awareness: This trope is played out in the series finale where Kohler lost the lease to Atlas diner and is about to be pulled down to be replaced by a strip mall.
  • Flanderization: In the early episodes, it was made clear that Kube's Hulk Speak and general attitude were an act, and that he was in fact both intelligent, capable of proper speech and highly sensitive.
  • Grand Finale : The series finale in the third season has a Clip Show with a End-of-Series Awareness and a Saving the Orphanage trope on the atlas diner plot except our heroes failed.

  • Great White Hunter: In "Future Shock", Principal Russo hires Great White Hunter Rex Huston to track down and retrieve Kube who is hiding in the ventilation system to avoid a vaccination.
  • Hammer Space: Jerry's velcro-lined coat.
  • Height Angst: A running gag for an episode was Kubiak having random growth spurts that grew him out of his clothes and him seeking treatment from a hormone clinic. They managed to stop it with the side effect of giving him a ZZ Top beard.
  • High School Hustler: Parker Lewis is an iconic example.
    • Parker was also a rather sympathetic example. Many of his schemes are designed to help others (like getting Kubiak into college, or helping Mikey talk to a girl he likes). That fact that he often benefits himself is just a bonus. He also has lines he won't cross, like altering grades.
  • Hulk Speak: Kubiak
  • I Have This Friend...: Inverted in "Close But No Guitar": Parker decides to talk to his parents about Mikey deciding to drop out of school, but since he uses the trope phrase, his parents think he wants to drop out and want him to talk to a psychiatrist.
  • I'm Going to Disney World: Parodied. When Larry Kubiak finds out he has actually met his weight loss goals and can stay on the football team Parker asks:
    Parker: So, Kube, what are you going to do now?
    Kubiak: I'm going to eat Disneyland.
  • Lamarck Was Right: The Reunion episode.
  • Love Floats: One episode shows this happening to Jerry every time Shelly says something nice to him.
  • Mean Character, Nice Actor: The Kube is this in-universe, as the atypical bully act he initially has is just to play up how people view him but he's actually a pretty decent guy at heart.
  • Mrs. Robinson: Miss Musso tends to stare at virile young men...just long enough to make it awkward.
  • Nerd: Jerry is one of these in the biggest way... and a doormat.
  • No Fourth Wall : The characters in the show break the fourth wall a lot
  • Operation: [Blank]
  • Power Trio: Ego = Parker, Id = Mikey, Superego = Jerry.
  • Rebus Bubble
  • Shout-Out: Parker describes his rival Matt Styles:
    Parker: Who does this Matt guy think he is, Ferris Bueller?
    • In the same episode when Matt uses Parker's excuse Rolodex:
  • Sitting on the Roof: In later seasons.
  • Sitting Sexy on a Piano: Once, during an Imagine Spot.
  • Spiritual Successor: To Ferris Bueller's Day Off.
  • Subordinate Excuse: Frank Lemmer and Miss Musso.
  • Take That!:
    • Soon after the Ferris Bueller series was cancelled, the season finale "Parker Lewis Can't Win" ended with the camera pulling back to reveal the film crew and the set layout, along with rows of chairs. Two boys sit near the back in shadow:
      Boy #1: So that's how they do it!
    • In another episode the school marching band can be seen holding up a banner that says "Thank you for not watching Eerie, Indiana", which aired on rival network NBC. Amusingly, Fox Kids later ended up airing reruns for Eerie, Indiana after NBC cancelled it, which ultimately ended up giving the show a second chance in popularity and recognition.
  • Tyrant Takes the Helm: Dr Pankow.
  • Unskilled, but Strong: In one episode, Kubiak reveals that he actually doesn't know how to fight, and simply relied on his size for intimidation, leaving him rattled when a rival bully showed up who was unfazed by him.
  • Unusual Euphemism: In the episode "Home Alone with Annie", Parker and his girlfriend keep dancing around the prospect of a... Relationship Upgrade by referring to it as "watching cable (TV)."

...Mr. Lewis? ...Mr. Randall? ...Mr. Phillips?! ...hellooooo?!
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