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Series / Smart Guy

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Smart Guy is a sitcom that aired on The WB for three seasons (technically, two-and-a-third, since the first season was seven episodes) from April 2, 1997 to May 16, 1999 and is the sister series to Sister, Sister (pun intended), by way of both being produced by Suzanne dePasse's production company dePasse Entertainment.note 

It stars Tia and Tamera Mowry's real-life younger brother Tahj Mowry, playing the (initially) 10-year-old protagonist T.J. Henderson, who (after being discovered as a Child Prodigy) ends up skipping from 4th-gade all the way up to 10th-grade—he's transferred to Piedmont High School, a (fictional) high school in Washington, D.C. that's also attended by T.J.'s two older siblings, Yvette (Essence Atkins) and Marcus (Jason Weaver)—in fact, T.J. ends up being put in the same grade as his older brother (much to Marcus's dismay).


The show's primary focus is on T.J. trying to adjust from elementary school to high school and his trouble at fitting in not just with his significantly older classmates, but also kids his own age; secondary storylines (and in certain episodes, both the "A" and "B" storylines) usually focus on Marcus, Yvette and Marcus's best friend, Mo Tibbs (Omar Gooding). The kids are often guided in their situations and caught in their wacky schemes by Floyd Henderson (John Marshall Jones), the widowed single father of Marcus, Yvette and T.J. who runs his own roofing contracting business.

Even though the series didn't last long enough to reach the 100 episodes necessary to make it to broadcast syndication (it produced and aired 51 episodes), the series has had some staying power – adding to the fanbase that already watched the show on The WB – during its syndication run on Disney Channel (in certain countries such as the U.S. and U.K., and Family Channel – no, not that onethe one in Canada) during the 2000s, and has since aired in the States on BET, Up (the former Gospel Music Channel) and MTV2, along with being available for streaming on Disney+ since its November 2019 launch.


Not to be confused with The Smart Guy.

This series provides examples of:

  • Acrofatic: The husky yet muscular Mo does a backflip after getting kissed on the cheek by Yvette after he defends her honor when Deion pushes up on her yet again in "The Dating Game"note .
  • A-Cup Angst: The season three episode "From A to Double D" features Yvette auditioning for a role in a play, but being passed over for a less talented but more developed actress. She then proceeds to stuff her bra to see if she would have gotten the part if she was bustier. Yvette does get the part, but (after some inner conflict) decides that getting breast enhancement surgery isn't for her.
  • Adults Are Useless: Inverted with Floyd, averted/subverted with Vice Principal Militich and played somewhat straight with Coach Gerber.
  • Air-Vent Passageway: How T.J., Marcus and Mo are able to break into the Truman High computer room in "The Code".
  • A Lady on Each Arm:
    • T.J. has not two, but three girls on his arm at the end of "Baby, It's You and You and You", after the spectacular failure of a plan by Marcus and Mo to keep the girls from running into each other leads him to decide to take the three dates set up by Marcus, Yvette and Floyd to the Piedmont school dance.
    • Mo gets this treatment during the episode "Gotta Dance" when an aptitude test indicates that he's best suited as a motivational speaker and brings with it the popularity with the ladies. Unfortunately for him, this is undone at the end of the selfsame episode when Vice Principal Militich informs him that his actual aptitude test result got mixed with another student's, revealing his best-suited career path as:
    Mo: (reading from the result) VICE PRINCIPAL?!
    *The girls leave him in disgust*
    Militich: Get used to it.
  • All There in the Manual / Lost in Translation: Subverted with the former and played straight(-ish) with the latter in "Diary of a Mad Schoolgirl," when Marcus and Mo catch Floyd fumbling with building a barbecue grill he purchased on the cheap (he got it at a bargain price due to it being winter), due to a translation error:
    Marcus: Why don't you use the instructions? I mean, there's no women around.
    Floyd: I can't understand the instructions, the computer translated 'em into English from Japanese.
    Mo: From uptighten of hard-working king bolt, say "oh, yes, please." For fullness of grill, see diagram #3. In slot-making handle time, a happy sound occurs leaving nothing to hope at. Have joy with your hot saucy food. Makes sense to me.
  • Amazingly Embarrassing Parents: Usually averted with Floyd, however he inadvertently plays it straight near the end of "Bad Boy":
    Floyd (to Brandi, T.J.'s friend): In fact, if you can follow my rules, you can come kick it in my crib 24/7. (T.J. and Brandi turn away from Floyd in embarrassment) I said it right. Didn't I say it right? I've been watching Yo! MTV Raps, didn't I say it right?
  • An Aesop:
    • Quite often delivered by Floyd to T.J. or Marcus.
    • However, Floyd himself learns a couple as well; most notably, a dual-aesop about peer pressure aimed at parents and kids in "Never Too Young".
  • Are You Pondering What I'm Pondering??: This exchange from "Perchance to Dream," before Marcus reveals his idea to start a homework hotline:
    Marcus: Are you thinking what I'm thinking?
    Mo: Yeah. What's a Linzer torte?
  • Aside Glance: T.J. gives one in a minor recurring gag (in which he tilts his head toward the camera with a look that exclaims "how pathetic" or "really?"), seen mainly during season two.
    • It first appears in the second season premiere "Primary Brothers," when Marcus suddenly goes along with T.J.'s idea to have him join the race for student council president (after his own campaign spectacularly flops due to lack of student interest), after a girl assumes that Marcus is running when she sees T.J.'s "Henderson for President" poster.
    • In "Big Picture," T.J. gives one when Yvette meets a hunky but not-too-smart swimmer and accidentally fails to "remember how to point" (the exact words she said earlier about guys being shallow), after Yvette talks to one of her friends about how guys prefer looks over substance when it comes to women.
    • T.J. gives the look again in "Achy Breaky Heart" (likely an episode carried over from season two that aired early in the third season) after Marcus and Mo give their approval for T.J.'s choice for a new drummer... who happens to be a girl in their age group, so yeah...
  • Asleep in Class:
    • In "Lab Rats," Mo falls asleep during a wildlife documentary presented in class, and wakes up when the lights turn on, trying to cover that he knew what was going on ("The Lion King (1994). Five stars, first feel-good film of the year"). One of Mo's teachers in "Below the Rim" states that this is routine for him.
    • In "Get a Job," Mo asks Marcus how they're gonna get any sleep now that they have a late-night hosting gig at a local radio station, which they accepted despite Floyd's objections. Marcus' response: "in geometry class, like we always do!"
  • Black and Nerdy: T.J. Subverted, in that he leads somewhat of a normal life (he has some friends his age, even after skipping six grades from 4th to 10th, and likes to play sports), but does exhibit exceptional knowledge that may go over some of his high school classmates' heads; it's even revealed that he's read The Washington Post since he was 4 at the latest and reads The Journal of Quantum Mechanics. The series has occasionally gone back and forth to illustrate that he has some semblance of normalcy but does not understand things that a person of average intelligence would such as why The Three Stooges are funny or even contemporary slang such as "'bout it, 'bout it."
  • Black Comedy Burst: Most of the penultimate scene of "Diary of a Mad Schoolgirl" has Marcus and T.J. being chased around the house by Marcus' Girl of the Week Janice Walker (really, Janice, Yvette and Alicia in pig masks and rainslickers, brandishing rubber meat cleavers) to teach Marcus a lesson about reading Janice's diary to find out what she wants in a man.
  • Book Dumb: Marcus, however a couple of episodes imply that he's likely more Brilliant, but Lazy. Inverted in "Dumbstruck," when he actually takes it upon himself to study when T.J.'s intelligence nosedives due to a hit to the head from 2x4s. He blanks during a class presentation of his, T.J. and Mo's World War II oral report, until T.J. reveals he's smart again to Marcus when faced with the possibility of flunking. Marcus admits (and T.J. agrees) that its not the same being the smarter older brother, and T.J. promises not to get more than 100% on tests to keep Marcus from being saddled with extra homework.
  • Bowdlerise: Even a show produced by Disney (again, Smart Guy originated as a WB series and did not air on Disney Channel, in reruns, until after it was cancelled) is not immune to content edits. A few episodes had edits for content deemed inappropriate when it aired on Disney Channel, though compared to edits the channel made to other network series it acquired, the edits in Smart Guy were few and very far between (though the episodes were run in their entirety on the Disney Channel-esque Family Channel in Canada):
    • In "Men Working Badly," a scene in which T.J. and Marcus are shown working in the bathroom has T.J. asking how Marcus would kill Yvettenote , Marcus says he would drive an 18-wheeler through her room and T.J. asks if he could ride shotgun (on the passenger's side). The Disney edit of the episode removes this and jumps to what follows, in which Mo enters the bathroom, confronting T.J. about having to be the only one doing work on their parenting assignment while T.J. is helping work on building Yvette's bathroom.
    • Mo's "maybe she can give me some [acting] tips" line (listed under Freudian Slip) and part of the scene where Yvette has T.J. enlarge her breasts to the point where T.J. "can't see [her] head anymore" in a computer rendering of what she'd look like with larger breasts were cut from the Disney version of "From A to Double D" (part of the latter scene in which T.J. enlarges Yvette's breasts in the rendering to a reasonable size is left in, though).
    • A 40-second-long scene where T.J. catches Deion and two other male classmates from Piedmont with beer was cut from "Henderson House Party"; despite being a Disney-acceptable minced oath, T.J.'s utterance of "crud" when faced with having to admit the party was his idea was also (unnecessarily) cut from the episode. Curiously, the later scene where Floyd discovers Marcus disposing of the beer cans was allowed to stay.
    • "Crushed" has a scene in which T.J., Marcus and Mo fantasize about their attractive teacher, Marcus and Mo's fantasies have Miss Caldwell clad in red lingerie and saying "come on in, we've got all night" (..."and a pizza," in Marcus's fantasy); T.J.'s far tamer fantasy in which Miss Caldwell wears a sundress and says to "come on in, they're discussing structual isomers on the Discovery Channel" is the only one of three's fantasies seen in the Disney Channel airings. The Disney edit of the episode also removes T.J.'s mention that he and Miss Caldwell will both enter their sexual peaks when he turns 18 and she's 34 during a talk-turned-argument with Floyd about his crush on her teacher, whom Floyd starts dating.
  • Boyish Short Hair: Nina. Her actress, Tinsley Grimes, surprisingly manages to pull the look off, though.
  • Brainy Brunette: Yvette Henderson; at times, this is more an Informed Ability, others it's incorporated into the storyline.
  • Brand X: Colonel Bubble is the In-Universe equivalent to Dr. Pepper. It is mentioned in a couple of episodes, and serves as a major plotline in "The Soda Wars"note .
    • A blink-and-you'll-miss-it instance in "Achy Breaky Heart," when T.J. prepares some Chocolatine (the In-Universe Suspiciously Similar Substitute to Ovaltine). Weirdly, the real world product is mentioned by T.J. three episodes later in "Beating is Fundamental."
  • Brick Joke:
    • In "Rooferman, Take One"note , after Floyd discusses the advertising contract with a station representative, the representative mentions the station's upcoming coverage of the Super Bowl, confidently predicting it will be close. Later, the family is watching the game, and it's anything but.
    • In "Dumbstruck," Floyd finds out that T.J.'s regained his intelligence when he brings up a scene in the Archie comic T.J.'s supposedly reading that never actually happened. At the end of the scene, T.J. mentions that the scene his dad made up was pretty clever and that he should send it to Archie Comics. During The Stinger, Floyd is shown on a computer writing an extension of the scene he made up, supposedly to send it to Archie Comics.
  • Broken Aesop:
    • Zig-Zagged in-universe in "The Dating Game": Floyd decides to teach Marcus a lesson about how hard the real world is without a college education by taking him to work. Marcus realizes how taxing being a roofer is at first, but the plan backfires when he discovers the perks of his temporary job (including the $800-a-month salary). Floyd rectifies this by having Sonny, one of his employees, embellish the downsides of the job (among them the inability to live in adequate housing and attract the "prime babes"), causing Marcus to bail. It turns out that Sonny does have a girlfriend... and somehow also has a vacation home in Bermuda that he plans to sail to on his boat.
    • In "Most Hated Man on Campus," T.J. tutors star basketball player Anthony Williams so he can pass a world history exam. The rest of the school turns against T.J. when Piedmont loses a game because of Anthony's newfound interest in Ghandi and his Satiya Graha philosiphy of non-violence. The episode tries to paint the lesson that you shouldn't bow to peer pressure no matter how unpopular doing what's right may be to others. However, keeping Anthony as his spiritually enlightened self rather than changing him back into an aggressive athlete and backing him in his decision to quit the team to live on an ashram in India ends up causing everyone at school to keep hating him – a situation T.J. first lampshades – inadvertently sending the mixed message that if you don't bow to peer pressure, you'll be even more unpopular (though Floyd does give T.J. credit for doing the right thing).
  • Bumbling Dad: Generally averted with Floyd, he is often on top of everything that goes on with his kids.
  • Butt-Monkey: Marcus. Mo, to a lesser extent.
  • Catapult Nightmare: Yvette has these in "Perchance to Dream," after each time she dreams about her and Mo getting married (even during a Dream Within a Dream that occurs after she realizes the reason behind the dreams).
    • At the end of the selfsame episode, a different dream — where Yvette professes her love for Mackey — takes place. It turns out Mackey is the one dreaming about it, but he plays with this trope in that, while he does catapult himself awake, he's thrilled with how the dream turns out.
  • Cat Fight: In "Break Up Not to Make Up," T.J. tries to stop one between Yvette and her friend Leslie by jumping into their fight over an ex-boyfriend of Yvette's whom she finds out that Leslie dated, and fully stopped by Coach Gerber.
  • Celebrity Star: Destiny's Child guest stars in the aptly-titled season three episode "A Date with Destiny," offering T.J. the opportunity to be in their music video and later the chance to go on a world tour with them.
  • Chekhov's Gun: In "The Code," to get back at a rival school for "feminizing" a cafeteria mural of Piedmont's starters (it's exactly how it sounds), T.J. enacts a plan to lower the grades of Truman High's basketball players so they don't qualify for their game against Piedmont. The next day, Principal Dowling informs Marcus and Mo that the list of player names they read to T.J. was found in Truman's computer room (likely dropped as Mo and Marcus were reeling T.J. back into the vent, though we don't see it fall). The dead giveaway that they were responsible? The list was from Mo's personal stationery.
    • Chekhov's Gunman: T.J. himself in "Bad Boy," or really his voice serves as this. He decides to record three different responses ("Yes, dad?," "Dad, I'm in the bathtub. Can we talk about this tomorrow?" and "You're right, dad. I just need to sleep on it.") to questions he knows Floyd will ask when he goes to talk to him about his new hood gear, in order to make it seem as if he's still at home taking a bath. Floyd figures out that T.J. had snuck out to the arcade to see his new friend Brandi, after Marcus (who's controlling the remote to the tape recorder) plays the third response when Floyd asks what topping T.J. wanted on a pizza he was ordering. Marcus implicates himself by holding the remote while denying his involvement in the plan.
  • Child Prodigy: T.J., obviously. He is proficient in most school subjects (except wood shop), he is a Polyglot (though this is somewhat of an Informed Ability, it's only shown twice such as in "The Dating Game," where he recites to Yvette the ways "no" can be said in different languages), and he was even regularly reading The Washington Post by the time he was 4.
  • Children Are Innocent: Invoked in "Trial and Error," when Mo tries to get T.J. to see that he didn't set the fire in the chemistry lab. Mo even notes three stories where kids who were able to see the truth about someone: Frankenstein (whose monster killed a little girl and threw her in a lake), Shoeless Joe (who was banned from baseball) and The Emperor's New Clothes... only the third example checks out (since a kid did know that the emperor was really naked and not wearing new clothes).
  • Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: Most of Yvette's friends disappear after one or two appearances without explanation. The only one to stick around longer is Nina, her main best friend in season three.
  • Cloud Cuckoo Lander: Mo, on occasion. Occasionally fluctuating between this and simply being Book Dumb, he has been shown having the ability to sleep standing up (in "Get a Job") and once (in "Dumbstruck") thought a haberdasher – a person who sells clothing and accessories – was a measurement of bacon – which, as Floyd interestingly points out, Mo confused with a rasher (the latter case was during a conversation in which Marcus told Floyd about what he learned while studying, and brought up that Harry S. Truman once worked as haberdasher before becoming President of the United States).
  • Collective Groan
  • Cool and Unusual Punishment: "Stop the Presses": To make amends with Yvette for putting an edited photo of her in a swimsuit in his newspaper, T.J. offers to print an embarrassing baby photo of him in the publication's last issue. T.J. is surprised when she agrees to the idea.
  • Cool Old Guy: Floyd.
  • Comically Missing the Point:
    • In "Stop the Presses," to get back at Yvette for bribing Mo to give her a scoop for the school newspaper that was intended for his own tabloid The Weekly Veritas, T.J. decides to make her the "Girl of the Week" in his paper. Mesmerized by seeing T.J. seamlessly edit the both of them out of a photo taken of them and Yvette – who's clad in a one-piece swimsuit – at the beach on a Photoshop analogue, Marcus asks T.J. to cut Yvette out of the picture next; T.J. then has to explain the plan to him.
    • This exchange in "Goodbye, Mr. Chimps," when Marcus and Mo figure out that they wound up in a pyramid scheme concocted by Deion to sell Alpha Boost 2000 nutrition bars:
    Marcus: If everybody is working for Deion, then there's nobody to work for us... which means we're gonna make 30% of nothin'.
    Mo: Well, at least that's somethin'.
  • Courtroom Episode: In "Trial and Error," Mo (whose basketball playbook was left in the labroom) is kicked out of school after being Wrongly Accused of setting a fire in Piedmont High's chemistry lab. T.J. volunteers to clear Mo's name (while simultaneously trying to prove that he's fit to play in the school's production of Inherit the Wind) and convinces Principal Whitfield to hold a mock trial at school, though the testimony makes Mo seem guilty. T.J. and Mo break into the school later that night to find chemistry teacher Mr. Bringleman's burned gradebook so T.J. can perform a chemical examination, which determines that a cigarette that Bringleman had smoked between classes (a violation of school policy) was left carelessly on his desk. T.J. gets Bringleman to admit his negligence and confess that he blamed Mo for it because "he was the one that was flunking, anyway!".
  • Crossover: In a season five episode of Sister, Sister, T.J. is hired as an S.A.T. tutor to the girls (apparently being flown in to do it, as Sister, Sister is set in Detroit, while Smart Guy is set in Washington, D.C.). Ray, Tamera's father, even title drops the series.
  • Cut a Slice, Take the Rest: In "Something Wicked This Way Comes", while staying at the Henderson's house, Mo walks into the kitchen as Floyd gets a slice of chocolate cake. Floyd offers Mo a slice, asking for "the least little sliver". As Floyd prepares to cut, Mo twice asks for a bigger slice, Floyd then gives him half the cake when the size of the slice is just right.
  • Cute and Psycho: Janice Walker pretends to be this in "Diary of a Mad Schoolgirl," when she discovers that Marcus has been reading her diary (which she sent to T.J.'s computer by accident, while file sharing their report on Lizzie Borden) to find out what she wants in a man and hatches a plot with Yvette and Alicia to get him and T.J. to confess.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Mostly T.J. and Yvette, though they definitely both get it from Floyd.
    • Even Mo gets in on the act sometimes, though usually with him it's less deadpan and more "cheerfully snide" one-liners.
  • Death Glare: Pretty much everyone in the family is good at giving these, especially T.J. Often accompanies a Beat joke.
  • Delusions of Eloquence: In "Brother, Brother," Marcus develops a smart alter-ego as part of a plan to date twin sisters by having one date himself and the other date his "twin" Marquis. He just barely manages to pull off the Marquis ruse with T.J.'s help, despite confusing Mayan pottery with Mayan poetry (something the Mayans aren't known for) and author Gabriel Garcia Marquez with a brand of Mexican food (in fairness, his date Roxanne did ask Marcus if he "devoured tons" (read) of Garcia Marquez's books).
  • Disproportionate Retribution: In "Stop the Presses," Yvette probably shouldn't have stolen the scoop for T.J.'s newspaper, but she probably didn't deserve T.J. making her the Weekly Veritas' "Girl of the Week" for doing it.
  • D.I.Y. Disaster: In "Men Working Badly," Marcus fails to reinforce the floorboards after he, Floyd and T.J. put in the bathtub in the bathroom they're building for Yvette. It ends up falling into the kitchen... with T.J. (who was busy putting together the tub fixtures) inside it!
    • T.J.'s birdhouse at the end of "Boomerang" also qualifies, as it immediately collapses when shop teacher Mr. Petrasik sets down his coffee cup on the desk it's on.
  • Does This Make Me Look Fat?: Yvette asks this about the top she's wearing in a news report about T.J.'s soda business in "The Soda Wars":
    Yvette: Does that top make me look fat?
    Marcus: No, eating that bag of cookies makes you look fat. (tries to give Mo a dap)
    Mo: Sorry, bro. I can't do it. I like a girl with a little meat on her bones. (puts cookies in front of Yvette)
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: In "Men Working Badly," Mo's argument with T.J. about his inattentiveness to him and his flour baby is played like an unhappy couple getting a divorce. Of course, they're acting as husband and wife for a life management school project, which makes it apt in a hilarious way.
  • The Door Slams You: Marcus has the bathroom door slamming in his face in the episode "Men Working Badly," when he's working behind the door just as T.J., and later, Mo comes bursting in and again, when Mo leaves after his argument with T.J. over raising their flour child.
  • Double Standard: Comes up in the end credit scene of season two's "Something Wicked This Way Comes." Earlier in the episode, Floyd spied Yvette when she arrives outside the house with her college-age boyfriend. Later, Marcus comes back with his date, Yvette asks if he's going to spy and says that it isn't necessary since if Marcus makes a move, it won't go anywhere, leading Yvette to call him out on this; surely enough, Marcus (off-screen) makes a move on his date and gets smacked in the face. Yvette gets Floyd's point then.
  • Dream Sequence: "Perchance to Dream" has this (feeding in with Ship Tease, below), with Yvette having a recurring dream that she's marrying Mo. Her friend Alicia, who got a "B" in a psychology course in which she learned about how dreams work, tries to help her decipher what it means. After the dreams continue, Alicia then convinces Yvette to ask Mo out, after Yvette believes that she may have underlying feelings for him. In actuality, her marriage to Mo in the dreams represented commitment and Mo represented the safer universities that she applied to out of concern that her application Princeton would be rejected.
  • Drop-In Character: Mo. Made into a Running Gag at how often he hangs out at the Henderson house. He even falls asleep there in season two's "Bad Boy" and Floyd is unable to wake him until he calls his mother, arising him when she tells Floyd that cooking bacon is the way to get him up.
    • Floyd sometimes treats him as a third son especially if it involves doing something T.J. and Marcus have no interest in, such as breaking in Floyd's new BBQ, Hilarity Ensues.
  • Drop the Hammer: In "Boomerang," Mo is assigned as T.J.'s shop class tutor (the only class that T.J. isn't good at). Hilarity Ensues. A literal example of the trope happens when Mo teaches T.J. to hammer a nail and Mo holds it, with T.J. driving the nail in on the last hit, breaking Mo's thumb; Mo then teaches T.J. to use an electric screwdriver, T.J. flips it the same way that Mo did but drops it on Mo's foot by accident; Mo then teaches T.J. how to work an electric sander, T.J. loses control of it and sands Mo on the side of his right eye. Mo then quits, and hops off without his crutch when T.J. tries to show him that he can work a nail gun.
  • Early-Installment Weirdness: The Pilot Episode has Mo and Marcus not quite so friendly towards each other as they were from the second episode on (he also doesn't seem to recognize T.J. when he sees him the first time in the episode and is even surprised of how smart T.J. is, implying that he doesn't know T.J. very well), both being rivals for the affections of Marcus's first in-series interest, Mariah (even literally fighting over her, leading T.J. to defend Marcus). It's jarring when you consider that "It Takes Two" in season three establishes that Mo and Marcus have been friends since the fourth grade.
  • Easy Amnesia: Subverted. The season two episode "Dumbstruck" has T.J. getting hit in the head by 2x4s while helping Marcus and Mo take lumber left over from one of Floyd's roofing jobs to the garage and becoming stupid as a result. Mo suggests they hit him in the head again, but they don't because This Is Reality). T.J.'s intelligence resufaces in class halfway through the episode, but he fakes it due to his troubles fitting in. Floyd is tipped off after he finds that a copy of The Journal of Quantum Mechanics hidden in an Archie comic book, and convinces T.J. that being smart should not be something that he should hide; he finally does when presenting a World War II report with Marcus and Mo after Marcus blanks on key parts of the presentation.
  • Expy: Joshua Gibran Mayweather plays Cordell Ross in the episode "Can't Buy Me Love," a preppy and obnoxious student who buys Marcus in a school servant auction (hiring a girl as a front to place the bid for him). Marcus gets fed up with his bossiness and takes him to task, only to find out from him later that he bought him because he just wanted a friend. Cordell's mannerisms and wardrobe are quite similar to that of Carlton Banks.
  • Fashion-Shop Fashion Show: During T.J.'s makeover in "Bad Boy".
  • First Kiss: Between T.J. and Vanessa, the younger sister of Marcus' friend Tony, in "Henderson House Party"... although it's not referred to as such.
  • Fish out of Water
  • Food Fight: A minor one in "Love Letters": Yvette dumps a salad (which he had dumped an entire bottle of dressing on) over Mo's head, he then slaps some mashed potatoes on Yvette's face.
  • Foolish Sibling, Responsible Sibling: Marcus is the foolish sibling (though foolish may be pushing it just a teeny bit) to Yvette and T.J.'s responsible.
  • Four-Temperament Ensemble: T.J. (melancholic), Floyd and Yvette (choleric), Mo (phlegmatic), and Marcus (sanguine).
  • Freudian Excuse: The reason why Yvette originally refused to attend her high school graduation in "The Graduate," at first, was because she was protesting a right-wing congressman's appearance as the ceremony's speaker (though it's not hinted that this was an excuse until later, when the congressman goes on the lam days before the ceremony, and she still decides against going). She later confesses it is because her deceased mother won't see her graduate.
  • Fun-Hating Confiscating Adult: "Book Smart" shows Mr. Delk confiscating students' hats and later even T.J.'s computer in class. Both T.J. and Marcus try to have Floyd sign notes to retrieve their respective laptop and hat, though Floyd only signs T.J.'s, citing that him getting back his computer (given that T.J. was taking subject notes to discuss with Delk) was more important than Marcus trying to get back a hat that "make[s him] look like a banana".
  • Funny Background Event: If background dancers count. During Yvette's second dance performance in "Gotta Dance," an uncoordinated white dancer accidentally kicks a black dancer in the leg; a few seconds later, he accidentally trips the same guy as they both do a leg rotation. The two boys start a brief fight on-stage while Yvette is still dancing.
  • Game Show Appearance: In "A Little Knowledge", T.J. goes on Jeopardy!-clone Knowledge College, only to crash and burn due to a sugar high caused by coffee and candy while studying all night for the show (doing it to support his family, who is going through money problems). Marcus subs in after T.J. comes off the sugar high and gets tired, however he does no better:
    Hugh Sterling (the game show's host, played by John O'Hurley): How much did President [Thomas] Jefferson pay for the Louisiana Purchase? (Marcus buzzes in) T.J.?
    Marcus: Well, uh, let's see. In-In-In D.C., the most that you can take out of the ATM is $300, and you would want to hold back a $20 in case something come up. So, I'm gonna say $280, Hugh. (Hugh and Yvette, who is watching off-stage, look at Marcus strangely; Marcus gives an "OK" hand gesture, with Yvette giving him a half-hearted thumbs up)
  • Garage Band: Marcus' band Mackadocious is a subversion, in that they only practice in the garage and actually get gigs.
  • Gene Hunting: In "That's My Momma," Mo discovered he was adopted after walking in on a discussion between his mom and dad about whether the night of his 17th birthday party was the right time to tell him. Miffed that his parents' kept this secret from him his whole life,note  Mo went searching for his biological mother, dismissing his adoptive parents. After getting a false lead, Mo meets his birth mother, a Delaware fortune teller who after a strange conversation about why she gave him up for adoption, dismisses his offer to get to know him better. At the end of the episode, Mo realizes that his adoptive parents truly care about him.
  • Generation Xerox:
    • In "Sit In (a.k.a. Dawgburger Rebellion)," T.J. decides to stage a sit-in in the vice principal's office after Mr. Militich bans students from lunching off-campus because of students repeatedly being late to class. He gets the idea from hearing the story of his great-uncle, Meredith "Mert" Henderson, who staged a lunch counter sit-in during the civil rights era of the 1960s. Though Floyd later points out to T.J. that Mert was fighting against being discriminated because of his skin color, whereas T.J. was fighting for the privilege to eat off-campus.
    • In "The Graduate," Yvette plans to protest a controversial congressman who has a speaking engagement at her graduation, Floyd mentions that his late wife/Yvette's mother had been active in protests during their senior year of high school. Floyd only went along with them, because she would get wound up that she would want to "go for ice cream".
  • Genki Guy: One-time character Lester, in "The Code," so much so that Marcus suggests he switch to decaf coffee.
  • Gone Horribly Right: Played for Laughs in "Gotta Dance". When T.J. gets a performing tap-dancing spot, he considers quitting upon realizing he can't master tap dancing as easily as he can with most academic subjects he's taken on. After Yvette successfully argues to Floyd that T.J. is only quitting tap because he can't hack it, Floyd insists that T.J. stick with it, in an attempt to teach his son the value of dedication to hard work. The problem? Floyd only intends T.J. to stick with tap dancing until his recital ends, whereas T.J. ends up dedicating himself to tap dancing AFTER said recital, meaning that, not only has Floyd lost his safest retirement safety net options (he states at the start of the episode that he was counting on T.J. to have a high-paying job to make Floyd's retirement-age life easier), he also has to continue to put up with the sounds of tap dancing -- which, as indicated during T.J.'s rehearsal montage, Floyd could barely tolerate, much less enjoy. Floyd is understandably disgruntled by how things unfold.
    Floyd: I ain't givin' Yvette nothin' for Christmas!
  • Good Parents: Floyd is this in the end, despite making mistakes on occasion.
  • Gosh Dang It to Heck!!: Even though it's a Disney-produced series, since Smart Guy aired on a broadcast network, it's averted and played straight depending on the episode. A few episodes, generally during season three, feature utterances of "hell" and "damn".
  • Grade Skipper: The whole premise of the series. T.J. was a 10-year-old fourth grader who jumped six grades to the tenth. In "Goodbye, Mr. Chimps," he explains that this happened because his teachers, who originally thought he was a discipline problem due to his acting out in class, discovered that he was bored with the subjects he was being taught in the fourth grade.
  • Grammar Nazi: Sidney Bloom, a retired English teacher whom Mo and Yvette manage to drive out of a competition to win a car by intentionally using gratuitous slang in "Love Bug". The plan doesn't work, since Sidney snuck back into the car and hid in the trunk, causing Yvette (the last contestant still inside the car) to lose. He even uses the same improper grammar he decried Mo and Yvette for using to rub his victory in Yvette's face.
  • G-Rated Drug: When Floyd buys a deluxe barbecue grill in "Diary of a Mad Schoolgirl," he (and eventually Mo) develop an addiction to using it, to the point of stuffing nothing but meat in the fridge, and seeing nothing weird or dangerous about grilling in the middle of a thunderstorm. Yvette tried to hold an intervention, but it just went over Floyd and Mo's heads.
  • Gratuitous Animal Sidekick: In "Goodbye, Mr. Chimps," in which T.J. (who volunteers in a primate research program) offers to teach a chimpanzee named Homer to teach him 20 words in order for the chimp to avoid being sent to a zoo.
  • Gretzky Has the Ball: The chess episode. Listing everything they got wrong would take way too long, but just for some examples, black moves first in one scene, and TJ states that an initial move with the knight is a crazy idea, despite it being a popular opening IRL.
  • Grounded Forever: Invoked word-for-word in "Never Too Young," when Floyd confronts T.J. about lying to him about not drinking alcohol at a former classmate's birthday party.
  • Happily Adopted / Oblivious Adoption: Mo. He had a happy relationship with his adopted parents, then in the episode "That's My Momma," he discovered he was adopted after walking in on a discussion between his mom and dad about whether the night of his 17th birthday party was the right time to tell him. Miffed that his parents' kept this secret from him his whole life,note  Mo went searching for his biological mother, dismissing his adoptive parents. After getting a false lead, Mo meets his birth mother, a Delaware fortune teller who after a strange conversation about why she gave him up for adoption, dismisses his offer to get to know him better. At the end of the episode, Mo realizes that his adoptive parents truly care about him.
  • Happy Dance: First seen in "Brother, Brother," Marcus would break out into this on occasion; starting with "T.J. Versus the Machine," Mo usually does it along with him.
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners: Mo and Marcus.
  • Hidden Depths: As much of an oddball as Mo is, he is shown to be proficient with tools, can be a decent hair-cutter (as long as his attention isn't diverted), and becomes a pretty decent cook (with training from Yvette).
    • Anthony in "Most Hated Man on Campus". He's the star basketball player, but only because everyone expects him to be since he was a kid. But thanks to T.J. helping him study in order to get at least a B in a history test to play, Anthony discovers he can be more than that and becomes a follower of Gandhi's philosophy.
  • High-School Dance: Once a Season. Depicted in "Baby, It's You, and You and You" (season one), "The Dating Game" (season two) and "A Date with Destiny" (season three).
  • Hilarious Outtakes: Only shown once during the series, in the closing credits of "The Soda Wars".
  • Horrible Judge of Character: T.J. and Karen towards Mark in "Strangers on the Net," although it's done to drive the episode's internet safety aesop. It's not a good idea for any kid to buy bootlegged computer games from an adult male who contacts kids on a chat room, and go to their house to see a game he made. You never know if he could be a serial child predator using this as a ruse to try to molest kids. T.J.'s friend Karen is a worse judge, as she was willing to stay there, though he wised up and got her out of there before Mark could do anything.
  • Hot for Teacher: T.J. has a crush on Miss Caldwell in "Crushed". Yvette also has a crush on her dance teacher Mr. Tierney in "Gotta Dance".
  • Hypocrite: Yvette. In "Something Wicked This Way Comes", she's dating a college student. The following season in "T.A. or Not T.A.", she refuses to date a sophomore because he's younger than her. He actually ends up dumping her for a college student!
  • Instant Cultured: Averted in this case. T.J. having the interests of both a kid and a genius is a running theme, though the season two episode "Dumbstruck" has him sad that he can't get into The Three Stooges like his dad and brother.
  • Insufferable Genius: T.J. at his worst.
    • Blake Jordan in the episode "Beating is Fundamental," T.J. finds him pretentious from their first meeting and grows to outright dislike him. Blake knocks Marcus and Mo for their idea for a barber business (which they created for a school project), shamelessly hits on the much older Yvette and rigs a camera to peep at her in her bathroom, and slams T.J.'s Berserk Button by disrespecting his family to his face for being working class. T.J. calls him out for his jackassery ("Smart kids like us get a rap for being really snotty, condesending little jerks. And I don't want you to take this the wrong way, but it's completely because of you!") and gets so fed up that he punches Blake.
  • Intelligence Equals Isolation: T.J. again. This fluctuates though depending on the episode, as T.J. has been shown having friends his own age and knows quite a few people closer to the ages of both his siblings.
  • I Want You to Meet an Old Friend of Mine: Tia and Tamera Mowry, Tahj's sisters, guest star in a season one episode.... tongue-in-cheekly titled "Brother, Brother". The episode even has an inverted Twin Switch, where Marcus pretends to be his own (non-existent) twin in order to date both Tia and Tamera's characters, a plan that backfires when they both fall for his worldly alter ego Marquisnote  (also counts as Real-Life Relative).
  • Jaw Drop: T.J. does this in "The Graduate" when the cannon he put in the podium to spray the graduating seniors with pancake batter sprays Yvette and Floyd after the ceremony.
  • Jerkass: Marcus has a few moments of this in regards to T.J. (particularly in the Pilot Episode), but they are caused by his insensitivity, frustration with his brother or lack of good judgement, he is not actually a mean person and usually recognizes what he did wrong by the end of the episode.
  • Just Testing You: When a jittery T.J. appears on a game show in "A Little Knowledge," he accidentally hits the buzzer on his podium. Hugh Sterling, the host of Knowledge College, tells him to wait until the first question to do it, to which T.J. responds "just testing."
  • Kangaroo Court: Mo is subjected to one (thanks to T.J.) when he is suspected of causing a fire in the chemistry lab in "Trial and Error".
  • Kissing In A Tree: In "Perchance to Dream", during one of Yvette's dream sequences, Marcus recites this while serving as the minister of Yvette and Mo's wedding.
    Marcus: Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today to honor Mo and Yvette... sitting in a tree, K-I-S-S-I-N-G! You're married. Mazel-tov. (to Mo): Slobber down, dog.
  • Knight of Cerebus: "The Soda Wars" features Mr. Breslin, a Corrupt Corporate Executive who's the CEO of Colonel Bubble Soda... and also, a middle-aged man who decides to go to war against a 12-year-old! Breslin launches a campaign to bring down Admiral T.J. soda, before it encroaches on Colonel Bubble's business by enticing T.J.'s teenage consumer base with contests, buying up their distributor's caramel syrup supply and having the health department to write up T.J. for numerous code violations in the garage where he makes the soda. It causes a case of Tyrant Takes the Helm as T.J. battles to keep his business going. After successfully driving T.J. out of business, Breslin then buys off a reporter T.J. had confront Colonel Bubble about its practices with an offer to work as a correspondent for a cable news channel his company owns, leading T.J. to commit a speech about the corruptness of corporate America.
  • Little Boy Seeks Big Girl: T.J. towards Nina (a girl whom he was tutoring whom Marcus dates, not Yvette's friend from season three), in "Working Girl".
  • Love Triangle:
    • "Love Letters" has one mixed with Little Boy Seeks Big Girl. T.J. tutors Nina Duperly, a classmate that Marcus tries to woo with T.J.'s help (not realizing that she's just as shallow as he is). When Floyd asks about it during a conversation where T.J. admits he's helping Marcus pull a Cyrano, T.J. denies he likes Nina; later, T.J. tries to derail Nina and Marcus' relationship unknowingly to the former, but later realizes that those two are better suited for one another after confessing his crush to Nina.
    • A variant in "Break Up Not to Make Up". Marcus breaks up with his girlfriend Dana for being too controlling. After finding out from Mo that Marcus is over her, she invites Mo to an Outkast concert she planned on seeing with Marcus. T.J. inadvertently reveals this to Marcus while Mo tries to address it (after he went out with Dana to the concert), causing a rift between the two older boys, since Marcus' feelings for Dana are still there somewhat. Floyd helps Marcus and Mo see that they should talk things out.
    • "Crushed" crosses this with Hot for Teacher as T.J. develops a tremendous crush on his 28-year-old teacher Miss Caldwell. He gets jealous when, as a result of Yvette misinterpreting T.J.'s inviting Caldwell to the house as a means to set his father up with her, Floyd and Miss Caldwell go out on a date. Yvette makes T.J. see the error of his jealousy, and he gives Floyd his blessing to keep dating his teacher.
  • Male Gaze: "T.A. or Not T.A." features a female student named Rosalinda (who Marcus dated earlier in the episode, in an ill-conceived method of learning Spanish by having her speak the language to him the entire night). Rosalinda is then named the new teacher's assistant for the Spanish class Marcus and Mo are in, she is introduced to the class to begin her instruction, wearing an outfit that really accentuates her curves. Needless to say, Marcus and Mo find incentive to stick with the class; Mo even comments that "[he and Marcus] might have to stay after class".
    • During a volleyball game in gym class in "Break Up Not to Make Up," T.J. guide a pretty blonde student named Jennifer (whose gym uniform includes a cropped shirt) to pretend to bend down to tie her shoe in order to allow a member of his team to make a serve. Yvette considers it morally reprehensible, until T.J. points out that whoever wins the game does not have to run laps, asking Jennifer to "do what the kid says." Mackey and another male student on the other team look in awe when Jennifer bends down, allowing the ball to bounce off Mackey's head, giving T.J.'s team the extra point.
  • Manipulative Bastard: Less on the "bastard" part, but T.J. is very good at manipulating people to get what he wants (such as in "Boomerang," when he tricks Floyd into doing his woodshop class project) or for what he thinks is someone's own good (like in "Achy Breaky Heart," when he tries to cheer up Marcus by having his ex-girlfriend and new drummer in Mackadocious pretend that she's taking Marcus back in order to get him to perform at a nightclub gig), and every once in a while an episode or subplot revolves around him doing so. To his credit, though, he is always very apologetic about it if he ever ends up hurting someone, and tends to go out his way to make amends.
    Floyd (after another good-intentioned scheme goes awry): "How many times do I have to tell you no experimenting on humans!?"
  • May–December Romance: Not May-December in the typical sense, but in "T.A. or Not T.A.", Yvette begins dating Calvin, a handsome and muscular fellow Piedmont High student who one could swear was a 20-year-old but Yvette is surprised to discover is a 15-year-old sophomore (she assumed he was a senior). Since Yvette is a 17/18-year-old high school senior, she reacts with shock to the discovery and becomes self-conscious that people might not bo so understanding about it (as Mo did later in the episode, making a couple of jokes about her and Calvin's relationship). Her friend Nina, however, helps her see that age shouldn't matter if you've found someone who could be your soulmate. When Yvette heeds the advice and publicly announces that she's dating someone two years younger than her, Calvin informs her that because he knew that she felt uncomfortable, he started seeing another girl, who is a sophomore... at Howard University.
  • Men Are Uncultured: Seemingly, Floyd, Marcus and Mo are this.
    • Averted with T.J., who is pretty worldly.
  • Metaphorgotten: From "Gotta Dance," after a career placement test states that Mo is destined to be a motivational speaker:
    Mo: Don't put concern in your future. Put concern in your past, put optimism in your future. 'Cause when you believe in your future, the present happens today.
    Floyd: That doesn't make any sense!
    Mo: I'm just getting started.
  • "Metaphor" Is My Middle Name: In "T.J. Versus the Machine," Marcus' pep talk to T.J. to get him to agree to a chess rematch against a supercomputer he lost to earlier that episode creates a combination of this and Overly-Long Name (on account of him barely being able to come up with a metaphor using just T.J.'s first and middle initials):
    Marcus: You're a winner, man. You can win on anything, you're tenacious. Hey, that's what T.J. stands for, Tenacious... Just Won't Give Up Guy.
  • Misblamed: Marcus is mistakenly blamed by Floyd for throwing the Wild Teen Party that T.J. threw in "Henderson House Party," then Yvette tells her father that someone else was responsible; T.J. walks in, surprised Floyd came home early, and confesses everything. Marcus takes the blame anyway, since he was the one in charge of the house.
  • Missing Mom: T.J., Yvette and Marcus' mother already passed away prior to the start of the series. This is first mentioned in the third season episode "Beating is Fundamental," when he mentions that he's a widow to a single mother of an Insufferable Genius. This also serves as a major plot point later that season in the episode "The Graduate," in which Yvette decides to boycott her graduation due to a controversial politician's appearance as the graduation speaker, only to hold firm on her decision when she finds out the congressman cancelled due to his arrest; it's revealed that Yvette doesn't want to go because her mother won't be there to support her, a talk with Marcus reminiscing about their mom helps change her mind about not attending.
  • "Mission: Impossible" Cable Drop: A normal-speed version in "The Code". However, the rope that Mo uses to lower T.J. into the Truman High computer room so he can change the grades of the school's basketball team starters winds up being too short to allow him to reach the floor. Mo tries to explain to a critical Marcus that if T.J. was a regular-sized 10th grader (which he clearly isn't), his feet would have been able to reach the floor with the length of rope that was used.
  • Moment Killer: In "Love Bug," just as Marcus is about to kiss Erica Drew while on their house date, T.J. calls Marcus to pick him up after he falls ill after inadvertently eating shellfish hidden in the stuffing at a sleepover.
  • Mood Whiplash:
    • "Strangers on the Net" features T.J. and his friend Karen buying bootlegged computer games from a guy they met in a chat room; meanwhile, Yvette, Marcus and Mo try to fix the new car the latter two boys bought. Midway through the episode, T.J. discovers that the man is a child predator, turning it into a Very Special Episode; the last three scenes switch between the humorous "B" plot with Yvette, Marcus and Mo, the serious "A" plot with T.J., and then back to the comedic "B" plot in that order.
    • "Never Too Young" deals with T.J. succumbing to peer pressure by underage drinking at a party and then lying to Floyd about it; it switches back-and-forth between this plot, and Marcus and Mo becoming lunch ladies as punishment for accidentally hitting Vice Principal Militich with bread pudding (Hilarity Ensues).
  • Mr. Fanservice: In "Big Picture," Yvette dates a muscular but shallow swimmer named Xavier; she begins overanalyzing her relationship with him when Floyd and Marcus assume that she's only dating him because he's good-looking. When she tries to break up with him, he arrives from swimming practice shirtless, befuddling Yvette, who asks him to meet her later when he's fully dressed.
    • In "That's My Momma," Floyd is seen wearing only two towels (one over his neck and another over his waist), he had been taking a shower and got interrupted when Mo's mom Verla Mae knocked on the front door to find out where Mo was, after he went in search of his birth mom.
  • Mr. Vice Guy: While T.J. can be kind-hearted and helpful when he wants to be, he can also be very selfish and manipulative. Many has come the time when he sets out with every intention of solving the problem the episode revolves around. But over the course of the episode he becomes competitive and egotistical so he starts to care more for getting his way than fixing the problem that he originally intended to solve.
  • Ms. Fanservice: In the cold open of the season three episode "Crushed," Marcus, Mo and T.J. each fantasize about their attractive teacher, Ms. Caldwell. Mo and Marcus daydream about her wearing a red leather bustier, tempting them with an inferred invite for a night of, well... (Marcus' fantasy adds a pizza to the night of fun). T.J. fantasizes about Caldwell asking her to come to her house to watch a Discovery Channel special on structural isomers, clad more conservatively in a sundress. Marcus and Mo give looks of confusion, implying they might have found T.J's fantasy a bit odd.
  • My Sister Is Off-Limits: T.J.'s reaction to Blake trying to peep into Yvette's bedroom using a jerry-rigged camera in "Beating is Fundamental".
  • New Job Episode: Season three's "Get a Job".
  • Noodle Incident: What was the felony that Coach Gerber said that the teacher's union couldn't fire him for committing without "ironclad evidence" in "Below the Rim"?
  • Not so Above It All: A major joke in the show is the contrast between T.J. being a Wise Beyond His Years genius and being a naive immature kid at the same time.
  • Obfuscating Stupidity: Whenever the group has to trick somebody for whatever Zany Scheme is going on, it's a fair bet T.J. will have to do this and pretend to be a regular (even overly irritating) kid.
    • "Dumbstruck" also has him do this after a hit to the head makes him actually stupid; after his intelligence returns, he decides he likes how people treat him better when he's not smarter than them.
  • Odd Friendship: Mo and T.J. have something of a friendship (though "Henderson House Party" has Mo state he thinks of T.J. as a brother) even with the six-year age difference; however, Mo is usually a Nice Guy and is Marcus' best friend, so he's known T.J. for as long as he's known Marcus.
  • Oh, Crap!: Describes the reaction on T.J. and Coach Gerber's faces when a cannon rigged to spray pancake batter at the graduating seniors in "The Graduate," accidentally sets off on Floyd and Yvette after the ceremony when everyone else leaves, after T.J. slams the remote to activate the cannon on a chair in disappointment over the plan's failure. T.J. then asks Coach Gerber (who's living in the school due to tax issues with the IRSnote ) if he could hide out with him.
  • Only Known by Initials: What T.J.'s full name stands for is never revealed during the course of the series.
  • One-Neighbor Neighborhood: Mo is the only regularly featured neighbor. The only other neighbors mentioned are his parents, which we only see in season three's "That's My Momma".
  • One-Steve Limit: Averted. Reagan Gomez (then Gomez-Preston) and Tinsley Grimes play characters named Nina in different seasons (the African-American Gomez plays Nina Duperly, Marcus and T.J.'s love interest in "Love Letters;" Caucasian Grimes plays Nina [No Last Name Given], Yvette's best friend in several season three episodes).
  • Out of Focus: T.J., to a certain extent, in season 3. Most episodes that season had a heavier focus on Marcus, Mo, and Yvette while T.J.'s storylines were often relagted to the B-Plot. In fact, he doesn't appear at all in "Get a Job."
  • Out of Order: "Achy Breaky Heart" and "Beating is Fundamental" both appear to have been produced for season two, but were held over until season three and repackaged with that season's opening title sequence for broadcast. The key tells being the interstitial music and main sets that were used, and Marcus and T.J.'s hairstyles in both episodes.
    • Series Fauxnale: "The Graduate," which focuses on Yvette deciding not to go to her high school graduation due to the fact that her late mother won't be there, was clearly intended to be the show's series finale (or just a season finale, if The WB had renewed it for a fourth season). However, "Never Too Young," which was presumably intended to air before "The Graduate," aired the week after that episode.
  • Pair the Spares: A non-romantic example in "Men Working Badly". Mo and T.J. are paired as husband and wife for their life management skills assignment, since they were the last ones to make it to class, on account of Mo (who was driving T.J. to school) taking a 38-block detour following Salt-n-Pepa's tour bus.
  • Parental Obliviousness:
    • Hillary, Blake Jordan's mother in "Beating is Fundamental," is so in awe of her son's genius that she is completely unaware of how obnoxious and conceited he is, to the point where she refuses to believe that Blake was the one who provoked T.J. into hitting him when Floyd tries to discuss their fight.
    • Usually averted with Floyd, with one major exception. In "Never Too Young," T.J. lies to Floyd when he asks him if he saw any kids drinking alcohol at a former classmate's birthday party a couple of days before. Floyd refuses to believe Yvette when she tells him that she thinks T.J. had been drinking. He finds out the truth from Rich and Kevin, two ex-classmates of T.J.'s, after catching T.J. holding a bottle of Peppermint Schnapps they give him. As Yvette states later on, the plot illustrates to parents that they should be aware that their children are not immune to succumbing to peer pressure and that they should discuss the topic with their kids.
  • Plank Gag: The reason why T.J. briefly lost his intelligence in "Dumbstruck". He was helping Marcus and Mo load lumber for a roofing job Floyd was booked to do, when Mo and Marcus failed to pay attention as T.J. laced up his shoes, and well... wham!
  • Pretty Fly for a White Guy: Invoked word-for-word by Yvette in "The Graduate", when Mackey streaks at the senior class graduation after T.J.'s pancake batter cannon prank fails.
  • Profiling: In the episode "Get a Job," Yvette and her friend Nina interview a job at a store at the mall. Yay! It turns out, for Nina, that the job involves following black people to make sure they don't steal. Awkward. It's even more awkward since Yvette was also hired at the same store, which the manager uses to claim her profiling isn't racist. Right... This also bites the manager, Ms. Hendra, in the butt later on when she ends up doing this to the founder/president of the store (in other words, her boss). Things clearly don't well for Ms. Hendra's employment at the store.
  • Promoted to Opening Titles: Omar Gooding, who plays Mo, starting with the second season. Also a mild case of Fake Guest Star, as Gooding appears in six of the seven episodes in season one (his only absence is in "A Little Knowledge").
  • Pronouncing My Name for You: Mr. Ferret, T.J.'s smarmy co-worker in "Working Guy". "It's Fer-ray," not Fer-ret (as T.J. derisively mispronounces it as).
  • Punctuated! For! Emphasis!: From "Gotta Dance," when T.J. asks Mr. Tierney, the dance teacher, if he struggled when he first started dancing:
    T.J.: So, where you as bad as me when you started?
    Mr. Tierney: Well, it's not really important what I did. I mean...
    Mr. Tierney: No.
  • Pygmalion Plot: In reverse and without the "falling in love" bit (considering who serves as the Henry Higgins of the story). In "Bad Boy," Marcus and Mo help T.J. act more "hood" to impress Brandi, a new friend he met earlier in the episode at an arcade, after she comments that he dresses "corny". T.J. learns enough slang to get by, but the plan blows up in his face when he starts Becoming the Mask and adopts a rebellious attitude, ends up in a fight (that he tried to stop) with another group of kids at the arcade after insulting one of them (who assumes that T.J.'s tough), and Floyd finds out that he snuck out the house after forbidding T.J. from dressing like a "thug" and sending to his room.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: In "The Soda Wars," T.J. gives one to Mr. Breslin and his board at Colonel Bubble, which serves as a Take That! about corporate greed.
    T.J.: You just care about your stock price and your profits. You don't care if you buy sugar from a factory where children work 16-hour days in unventilated sweatshops. You sit around in your custom-made Italian suits, drinking $200 bottles of scotch and giving each other undeserved stock options, while factory workers in your plants in Des Moines toil for minimum wage, praying that they can make this month's rent in some rat trap you probably own. Do I want to work for you? Not in this lifetime, mister!
    Mr. Breslin: Are you done?
    T.J.: No, I just got a little winded. America was built by little guys like me, and now it's the megafirms like you that are killing that individual spirit. My dad was right... (switching to T.J. in the kitchen with Floyd) I don't want to end up like Colonel Bubble, and if I take this job, that's exactly what's going to happen to me.
  • Rhetorical Question Blunder: In "Big Picture," T.J. creates one in a long rant about losing creative control over his music video project to the other students involved (the blunder happens again when T.J. makes the same rant to Floyd a couple of minutes later):
    T.J.: Was it perfect? No, but it was fine just the way it was. Why couldn't they have left it alone?!
    Yvette: Well, sometimes...
    T.J.: That was rhetorical.
    Xavier: What?
    T.J.: A question that doesn't require an answer. (beat) If you're determined to find something wrong, you'll find it. Nothing's perfect, so why can't people just look at what's good?
    Xavier: Why can't they?
    T.J.: Still rhetorical. My point is people need to lighten up, they need to stop overthinking everything. Is that so hard? (Xavier and Yvette don't answer) Hey, this one's a real question!
  • Running Gag: An occasional running gag has Marcus and Mo doing a "happy dance," which varies depending on the episode which it is featured. Marcus does it for the first time in "Brother, Brother," Mo joins him in doing the dance for the first time in "T.J. Versus the Machine".
  • Scare 'Em Straight: When Marcus works a few days with Floyd on his roofing business and enjoys it and thinks about leaving school to work, Floyd has one of his workers amp up some of the worst aspects of this profession, such as the worker lives out of his car, the bad weather they endure, and one older co-worker Marcus thinks is in his fifties is actually in his 30s but is physically broken from the hard grueling work. This makes Marcus run back to school.
  • Scenery Censor: The end credit scene in "Break Up Not to Make Up" has Floyd discovering T.J. cooking in the nude, most of his body blocked by the wall island separating the living room and the kitchen, we see his head and shoulders though (considering his height, it would have blocked most of T.J. even if he was clothed).
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here: In "Gotta Dance," T.J. shakes his head, hands over his top hat and baton to Mr. Tierney and walks off, when he finds out he has to practice a split during dance rehearsal.
  • Second-Person Attack: "Beating is Fundamental" has T.J. punch Blake Jordan after the latter disses T.J.'s family for being working class, which then goes to a Hit Flash wipe to Floyd asking T.J. (from T.J.'s point of view) "you hit him [Blake]?!.
  • Serious Business: T.J. occasionally takes things he's passionate about to some extreme. Such as:
    • "Below the Rim": T.J. substitutes for Coach Gerber after he has a breakdown and bails during a basketball game. His coaching style becomes akin to that of Lou Piniella or Mike Ditka, yelling at players and arguing with referees. It even goes as far as T.J. asking Marcus to injure an opposing player. Floyd pulls T.J. out of the game, and teaches him a lesson about teamwork.
    • "Stop the Presses": T.J. decides to start his own newspaper when he becomes disgruntled with editor Yvette assigning him puff pieces for the school's paper, The Piedmont Penguin. When nobody reads his paper, Marcus and Mo convince him to attract readers by putting in tabloid features. He enacts revenge against Yvette for buying Mo off with movie passes in exchange for giving her some photos for a story he was going to put in The Weekly Veritas, by editing a family beach photo and making a swimsuit-clad Yvette the Veritas' "Girl of the Week". After Floyd shuts down his paper, T.J. apologizes to Yvette for what he did and offers to put an embarrassing childhood photo of him (known as "The Tush Picture") in one last issue of the Veritas.
    • "The Soda Wars": Angry with Colonel Bubble raising its prices, T.J. starts making his own low-cost soda, Admiral T.J. When Colonel Bubble's CEO launches an all-out attack on T.J.'s company before it encroaches on their business, T.J. becomes something of a tyrant trying to keep his soda company afloat, raising prices in the process. He ends up being forced to shut down his company, causing T.J. to confront the CEO and his board with a CMOA speech about corporate greed.
  • Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness: T.J., being a genius, delves into this on occasion. He gets called out on it in "Diary of a Mad Schoolgirl," when he stumbles upon a computer diary entry from Janice, a girl whom he is working on a Lizzie Borden report withnote .
    Mo (reading from diary entry): He's [T.J.] really smart, but I think people would like him better if he didn't use such big words all the time.
    T.J.: Oh, that's proposterous! (Mo and Marcus look at him, knowing T.J. just proved Janice's point) Shut up.
    • Noting this, T.J. later has to break down his previous statement in Laymen's terms, during a meeting with Janice about their report:
    Janice: Hey, T.J., I found Lizzie Borden's laywer's closing arguments!
    T.J.: Great! That will butress our postulation that Massachussetts v. Borden was a seminal instance of jury nullification. (Janice looks at him in a manner exclaiming "what?") We'll say she done it, but the jury didn't give a hoot.
    Janice: Oh, OK. I'll see you online this afternoon.
    T.J.: Oh, good! T.J. go class now.
  • Ship Tease: Between Mo and Yvette, more and more as the show went on. Two episodes focus on this: season two's "The Dating Game," when the two pretend to be a couple to keep Deion away from Yvette, when Mo starts to fall for her; and season three's "Perchance to Dream," when Yvette tries to get to the bottom of a series of dreams where she marries Mo and asks him out on a date to see if the dream meant that they should be together (it didn't).
  • Shout-Out:
    • In "Don't Do That Thing You Do"note , Ernie (a DJ-turned-music producer who emceed the Battle of the Bands contest earlier in the episode and T.J. hires to give Mackadocious an offer for a phony gig as revenge for being kicked out the band after he shows up Marcus with his keyboard playing ability during the contest), talks to Floyd about managing T.J.'s music career. Ernie mentions that T.J. needs to present an image that people will remember (like, as he says, Mickey Mouse's ears, Michael Jackson's gloves and Prince's infamous pants with a cut-out of the butt), T.J. then comes out wearing the signature early '90s vertical afro worn by Kid 'N Play's Christopher Reid (who guests as Ernie and sports cornrows in the episode), only to topple on the floor while dancing due to the weight of the hairstyle.
    • In "Dawgburger Rebellion," Deion turns on the radio while he, T.J. and several other students (including Marcus and Mo) are holed up in Vice Principal Militich's office to protest the school's ban on off-campus lunches. T.J. asks Deion to turn off the radio by saying "Would you turn that off? This is a sit-in, not Soul Train!''
    • The opening Dream Sequence in "Perchance to Dream" has Marcus asking why T.J. is playing "ice skating music". T.J. points out that the songnote  is a "timeless musical expression of the union of two individuals". Marcus has a radically different suggestion:
    Marcus: Well, Kurupt does the same thing with "We Can Freak It".
    T.J.: I'm saving "We Can Freak It" for the first dance.
    • "It Takes Two" references two films already in theatrical release around the time of the episode's airdate: Patch Adams and Beloved. When Mo goes into the theater playing the latter as Marcus tries to have him catch Mo's girlfriend cheating on him (only to miss the other guy several times), Mo reacts to this and to a nude scene in the film:
    Mo (to a theater patron): This is stupid, I am not going to spy on my girlfriend. And I sure don't want to see Danny Glover's naked butt!... Oprah look pretty good, though.
    • "Never Too Young" has Marcus exclaim Chris Tucker's famous line from Rush Hour, "Do you understand the words that are coming out of my mouth?," to a lunch lady who insists that the days-old cafeteria food is fresh.
  • A Simple Plan: Several.
  • Smart People Play Chess: T.J., as revealed in the episode "T.J. Versus the Machine". He loses to a supercomputer named Socrates in a match, and has to be convinced by Marcus (who makes matters worse when T.J. finds out that he and Mo were going to bet against him) to do a rematch. Weirdly, it's Marcus who gives T.J. the idea to make ridiculous moves on the board to stump Socrates, confusing the computer to the point of overheating, allowing T.J. to make a move to beat him.
  • Smoking Is Not Cool: Invoked twice by T.J. in the teaser of "The Code," before he is caught holding the cigarette Mo dropped on the boys' bathroom floor by Principal Dowling:
    T.J. (grabbing Mo's jacket): Don't you know smoking can cause lung cancer, heart disease and yellow teeth?
    Mo: Don't you know that grabbing on my jacket is bad for your health, too? Think about it, homey. (Mo chuckles, then smokes his cigarette)
    T.J.: Hey! I'm just trying to help a brotha' out.
    • A few seconds later, after Marcus and Mo leave:
    T.J.: Why would you put this stinky stick in your mouth? (mockingly): 'Cause I think I look cool. Too bad I can't breathe.
  • Smug Snake: Recurring general louse Deion, who has several jobs over the course of the series, all of which seem to involve smoothly using someone else so he can make a buck. Amped up to eleven in "The Dating Game," where he wanted to date Yvette, only for T.J. to have her pretend to date Mo to fend off Deion's advances.
  • The Smurfette Principle: Yvette was the only female main character, out of the five on the show.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: While trying to stop Yvette from dancing with another guy before Mo comes back with his present for her in "The Dating Game," T.J. changes the song during a school dance from an R&B song to the U.S. national anthem... then to "The Itsy Bitsy Spider" and then to a French instruction tape, before Yvette stops him.
  • Spinning Paper: Invoked in "Stop the Presses," when we see the first issue of the new tabloid-ized Weekly Veritas.
  • Spiritual Successor: A.N.T. Farm (an actual Disney Channel Original Series, whereas Smart Guy only aired on DC in reruns after its network run ended); both shows have a Child Prodigy who is a Grade Skipper that attends their brother's high school.
  • Sports Widow: Inverted in "T.J. Versus the Machine," due to it being father and daughter, rather than husband and wife. When Floyd watches a football game with a friend of his (whom later spies T.J. in the stands when the camera turns to him, off-screen), Yvette tries to talk about the colleges she's considering applying to. Yvette holds a grudge over his ignoring her, and even flips the script while she's watching Caroline in the City, and Floyd tries to talk with her about college.
  • Stalker with a Crush: Played with in "Diary of a Mad Schoolgirl," Janice starts acting like this when she, Yvette and her friend Alicia conspire to teach Marcus a lesson when they find out that Marcus made himself into Janice's perfect guy after reading her computer diary (which Janice mistakenly sent while file sharing her and T.J.'s report on the Lizzie Borden trial). It leads to a horror film parody when the three each dress up as a killer trying to off Marcus and T.J. Janice reveals herself, and as she makes them think she's going to chop them up with meat cleavers (which are actually rubber), she brings in the other two girls to lower the boom on them. Marcus apologizes to Janice, and then promptly asks her out on a date, to her dismay.
  • Standardized Sitcom Housing: The Henderson household, although the layout is inconsistent throughout the series, Marcus and T.J.'s shared bedroom is the only room regularly seen in the show that appears the same throughout (though it is not seen for the first time until two episodes into the series in "Brother, Brother"). In the pilot, the kitchen looks like a revised version of the kitchen in the Matthews home on Boy Meets World (Piedmont High's hallway and classroom is the exact same as that used on that show; but also changes appearances in the following episode and again in season three). For the remainder of season one, the kitchen is slightly larger than in the later seasons and contains a flight of stairs; the stairs are moved to the living room when it is added in season two. The third season has the living room slightly rearranged with the front door moved from the back of stage center to far stage left, though the window appearing next to it remains in the same position. Yvette's room is not seen until "Perchance to Dream" in season three, and is only seen once more in "The Graduate" later that season. The house has a storage room, which is converted into Yvette's personal bathroom in season two's "Men Working Badly" (it is not seen or mentioned again after that episode).
  • Start My Own: Each time this happens, the success doesn't last:
    • T.J. starts his own newspaper in "Stop the Presses," after he objects to Yvette relegating him to write puff pieces. The Weekly Veritas doesn't get any readers until he tabloidizes the paper at the suggestion of Marcus and Mo. Needless to say, the inclusion of sensationalized stories and a "Girl of the Week" feature increases readership. Yvette bribes Mo with movie passes in exchange for a story that was going to be in T.J.'s paper. As retaliation, T.J.'s doctors a family beach photo to remove himself and Marcus, leaving a swimsuit-clad Yvette in the photo and makes her the "Girl of the Week". Yvette is furious, and Floyd shuts down the Veritas. T.J. offers Yvette to post a baby picture of himself in The Piedmont Penguin, but has him do it in a final edition of the Veritas instead to preserve her journalistic integrity; Floyd, who is fond of "the tush picture", approves of the posting.
    • In "Perchance to Dream," T.J., Marcus and Mo start a homework helpline to help students, which isn't toll-free (T.J.'s the only one providing answers for obvious reasons). It becomes so successful that they add additional phone lines to handle all the calls, as Marcus and Mo become money-hungry. After Mackey gets a "D-" on a math midterm (due to Marcus and Mo limiting the length of the calls T.J. takes, preventing T.J. from giving more thorough help), Floyd puts the hotline back on track, paring them back down to one line. He then lampshades how unnecessary Mo and Marcus are to the project when Mo asks what they are going to do when T.J. is taking calls.
    • In "The Soda Wars," when the cost of a can of Colonel Bubble soda went up to over a dollar, T.J. began to create his own (Admiral T.J.). However, Colonel Bubble catches on to the early success of Admiral T.J. Soda at Piedmont High, and the company's president wields his power to stop them in their tracks before Admiral T.J. encroaches on their territory. T.J. tries his best to keep the company going even after Colonel Bubble buys the caramel syrup supply T.J. relied on to make his soda, and begins raising his soda's prices. After T.J. is forced to shut down his business after Colonel Bubble calls the health department on him, he storms the company's offices and reams them for their behavior (T.J. is also offered a job with Colonel Bubble – complete with exceptional pay and benefits – after he graduates school, to which he rejects in speech, though he later reveals to Floyd that he did take the business card in case he changes his mind).
  • Stop Being Stereotypical: In "Bad Boy", T.J. starts dressing more "hood," in an attempt to impress a girl who dresses the same way. Floyd expresses his dislike of T.J.'s new style on the basis that people will think he is a troublemaker. T.J.'s attitude begins to change, even causing him to sneak out of the house.
  • Straw Feminist: Played with and inverted in "Can't Buy Me Love," Yvette buys Mo at a servant auction in order to teach him about feminism (this after he knocks the WNBA). Mo is exasperated with being subjected to relentless feminist teachings, so Mo takes T.J.'s advice by agreeing with her positions non-stop. Mo constantly comes to Yvette either talking about feminism or asking about his positions on feminist subjects. Mo lowers the boom on her, when Yvette tells him that he should form his own opinions. Oddly, some of the stuff Yvette taught Mo stuck, when he turns down Marcus's offer to watch a tape of The Players Club (a film released in 1998 that is set in a strip club). The final scene has Marcus and Mo watching a WNBA game, but only because they find the female players attractive.
  • Streaking: This is Mackey's M.O. for a group prank against Yvette and the rest of Piedmont High’s graduating senior class (in retaliation for their prank on T.J., Marcus, Mo and the other juniors), which involved him running naked to the podium during Piedmont’s graduation ceremony and shouting "Class of '99 bites, 2000 rules!" before running off-stage. While T.J., Marcus, and Mo all repeatedly shoot down the idea, he does get to do it for real when T.J.'s own class prank (a device that launches pancake batter) fails to work at the crucial moment. That being said, some of the reactions he garners aren't that negative, either.
    Yvette: Wow. Pretty fly for a white guy.
    Nina: Wow. Who knew?
    Coach Gerber: (to vice principal Militich) If I knew he could run that fast, I would have enrolled him in the track team.
  • Supreme Chef: Mo is revealed to be one in "Love Letters". Yvette teaches him how to cook for his Osso Bucco assignment, and ends up sparking Yvette's jealousy when the family raves about his cooking. It leads to a Food Fight, when the two both work in the kitchen on making dinner.
  • Surprise Party: In "That's My Momma," Mo's parents Delroy and Verla Mae arrange for Mo's birthday party to be held at the Henderson house (since their home is being fumigated due to an infestation of Australian bulldog ants that arrived at their house via a mail-order meat shipment). Mo finds out about the party beforehand from a phone message, however when Mo gives a hammy look of surprise, Marcus, T.J. and Yvette are definitely not convinced.
  • Tempting Fate/Horrible Camping Trip: In the season two finale "My Two Dads," after Floyd returns from his camping trip with T.J., he complains to Yvette about all the things that went wrong during the trip and vows never to return to the camping site again. Then this happens:
    Yvette: Where's T.J.?
    Floyd: Oh, crud. (walks back out the door)
  • Terrible Interviewees Montage: In "Don't Do That Thing You Do," the members of Marcus' band Mackadocious audition for a replacement for their keyboardist, who broke his finger. One guy plays well but is on the run from the police, the second auditionee is an attractive girl who is mediocre at the keyboard (though Mo likes her) and the third is an accordion player who treats the instrument as Serious Business.
  • Theme Tune: For the first two seasons, it was a light, poppy Expository Theme Tune: "Another slice in the life of Master T.J. Henderson". In the second, it was changed to a more soulful, R&B theme about living life and loving and learning lessons. Both versions contain the refrain: "He's a smaaaaart guyyy..."
  • Therapy Backfire: Happens in "From A to Double D," when T.J. uses his knowledge of psychology to get to the root of why Tucker has been bullying him about his ears, after T.J.'s crack about his father being so ugly he got arrested for mooning touches a nerve (since Tucker's dad really did go to jail). Tucker starts bullying another student just after their session is over, though T.J. sees it as a compromise since he's not the subject of Tucker's bullying anymore.
  • This Is Something He's Got to Do Himself: Done by Marcus of all people in "Boomerang," when he informs Floyd that T.J.'s been using his dad to complete his wood shop project.
  • ¡¡Three Amigos!!: T.J., Marcus and Mo, though T.J. is sometimes considered to be the Tagalong Kid in the trio, depending on the episode.
  • Throw It In: An in-universe example with the Rooferman commercial for Floyd's contracting business in "Rooferman, Take One". Marcus – who is supposed to drip water from the bucket he's holding onto the table to simulate a leaky ceiling – accidentally loses hold of the bucket, drenching Yvette. The blunder and Marcus apology ("Sorry. Bucket slipped.") is left in the finished ad.
  • Token White: Nina and Mackey. There are a few other characters that serve as this, in fact, all but two of Yvette's friends are this throughout the series.
  • Two Lines, No Waiting: Virtually every episode, except for the Pilot and most notably "That's My Momma", had a main plot and "B" story, with one revolving around T.J. and the other involving Marcus with/without Mo or Yvette. The show often alternated which character received the B plot, and sometimes which one received the A plot; Marcus and Mo were often part of the A plot in a given episode.
  • Two-Timer Date:
    • In "Baby, It's You, and You, and You," Yvette, Floyd and Marcus get T.J. dates for the upcoming dance, but because they didn't tell the other (and because T.J. fears saying "no" to their choices would hurt his family), he wound up having three dates, and Mo's plan to hide it makes it hilariously worse. Marcus and T.J. try (and fail) to keep the three girls from seeing each other (Mo comes over just to hang out with Marcus and T.J., forgetting he was supposed to be at the dance... with his date! ...and apparently forgetting the whole plan). After everyone finds out about the mess, T.J. ends up taking all three dates to the dance!
    • Also invoked on Marcus, who unwittingly ends up asking twins out in "Brother, Brother". See I Want You to Meet an Old Friend of Mine above.
    • Mo's girlfriend Tracy, in "It Takes Two," is this. Marcus catches her with another boyfriend while he and Floyd are at the mall. After initially deciding not to tell Mo due to a bad experience Floyd had when a friend of his didn't believe him when he told the guy that his girlfriend was seeing someone on the side, Marcus decides to tell Mo – only for him to think Marcus doesn't like Tracy. After Mo issues an ultimatum that he and Tracy need to get along or he'll lose him as a friend, Marcus tells Tracy what he knows. He catches Tracy in a movie theater, and manages to get her other man to run into Mo and reveal that she's been seeing him.
  • Very Special Episode: Three in all:
    • In season two's "Strangers on the Net", T.J. and one of the friends whose his own age, Karen, meet a guy named Marky412 in an internet chat room for kids. When they meet him at a burger restaurant to purchase some bootlegged games that he's selling, they find out he's a 30-something man. Mark invites them to his house to test a surfing game he's "developing," only to give away the fact that he's had other kids play it at his house... having taken photos of kids who he convinced to take off their clothes to play the game. A shocked T.J., who got Karen out before anything bad happened, later tells Floyd about it. While not explicitly mentioned, when it cuts to after the police interview T.J. about Mark, it is later revealed that Mark had a prior arrest for child molestation, and violated the terms of his parole in talking to T.J. and Karen.
    • In season three's "Get a Job," Yvette and her friend Nina get jobs at a clothing store. Their new boss, Ms. Hendra, asks Nina (who is white) to follow black people around the store to make sure they don't steal items. After Yvette catches Nina doing the task, Nina tells Yvette with clear disgust about being asked to racially profile black people. To convince Ms. Hendra that shoplifters can be of any race, Yvette sets up hidden cameras around the store, and hires Mackey (also white) and Mo to walk around the store (with Mackey playing the shoplifter, he puts the stuff back later in the tape); the tape of it doesn't convince Ms. Hendra and she effectively fires Yvette for disagreeing with her stance. Yvette has the founder and president of the store chain, who is black, come in and pretend to browse in the store, only to notice Ms. Hendra following him and informing her what Yvette told him about Ms. Hendra (though not mentioned, it's clear Ms. Hendra was fired afterward). Yvette mentions a Truth in Television that the average shoplifter is a middle-aged Caucasian females (particularly those who carry large bags, this fact is often taught in the merchandise industry).
    • "Never Too Young" has T.J. being pressured into drinking alcohol by Rich and Kevin, two former classmates from when he was in the fourth grade at a birthday party of another classmate. He wakes up the next morning with a hangover, which Floyd doesn't realize – and even after Yvette tells him that a parent of one of the partygoers heard that some kids drank, he dismisses it, believing T.J. wouldn't drink while underage. Floyd stumbles upon T.J. holding a bottle of Peppermint Schnapps in the garage, which Rich and Kevin pressured him to drink. Floyd grounds T.J. "forever," but Yvette's conversation with him makes him realize he overreacted and that even T.J. isn't immune to peer pressure. Later, Floyd sits down with T.J. to talk about why he drank at the party, and that T.J. should think "is this something I'm gonna have to lie to my father about?," if he ends up in a situation like that again and there should be honesty between T.J. and Floyd about issues like this.
  • Vomit Discretion Shot:
    • In "Love Bug," T.J. runs into the bathroom to throw up after eating oysters (he's allergic to shellfish) hidden in the stuffing at a sleepover. Not even puking up seafood deters him from being the smart guy:
    Erica (to Marcus, whom she's on a date with): I read this book, Hawaii, by James Michener, all about the history of the islands. They were discovered by this British guy. I forget his name.
    T.J. (heaving): James Cook!
    Erica: That's it.
    • Carl, one of Marcus and Deion's friends who attended a house party at the Henderson house that Marcus had broken up moments earlier, vomits on the walkway in "Henderson House Party," just as Floyd comes home while they are carrying Carl out.
  • "Walk on the Wild Side" Episode: "Bad Boy": Normally good kid T.J. starts dressing more street in order to impress Brandi, a girl he meets at an arcade. When Floyd objects to his new clothes and T.J. disagrees with his opinion, T.J. is sent to his room. He sneaks out, with Marcus using a remote to control a tape of things he knows Floyd will say when he comes to talk about it, under the guise he's taking a bath. The plan goes awry when Floyd asks what topping he wants on a pizza he's about to order, and finds T.J. wrapped up in an altercation (which he didn't start). Floyd gets T.J. that his attitude changed with his attire, and that he shouldn't have to change himself just to make friends.
  • Wall Slump: Mo does this after Marcus shoves him against the locker doors (as part of Marcus' plan to impress his crush Janice, which Mo was in on) in "Diary of a Mad Schoolgirl".
  • Waxing Lyrical: In "Baby, It's You, and You, and You," Shirley (a girl Mo asked to be his date to the school dance) accepts Mo's invitation to the dance after he recited a poem. When Shirley brings it up when Mo introduces her to Marcus, it turns out that the "poem" is actually the lyrics to The Temptations' "My Girl" (Mo claims his alteration, changing the "girl"s to "Shirl"s, as his version when Marcus calls him out on it).
  • Wham Episode: "That's My Momma," in which Mo finds out that he's adopted and searches for his birth mother.
    Delroy Tibbs: When we get home, we're gonna tell Mo he's adopted.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Anne-Marie Johnson played Miss Williams, Piedmont High's guidance counselor, in the pilot episode, even getting an And Starring credit in the episode (she was written out when the show was picked up to series).
  • What Were You Thinking??: Invoked by Floyd, when he finds out about T.J.'s meddling into the Marcus and Yvette's relationships for a school project in "Lab Rats".
  • Wild Teen Party: In "Henderson House Party," T.J. throws a party while Floyd is at a home convention in order to increase his popularity (Mo places a $5 cover charge for people attending the party; surprisingly, it doesn't hamper the turnout). Marcus catches wind of this after seeing Mo arrive, before everyone else does. Unfortunately for T.J., everyone thinks the party was thrown by Marcus. It's not all too bad for T.J., as he meets the sister of one of Marcus and Mo's classmates (even getting kissed by her when he walks her home after the party). The party gets out of control, when a guy who Nina tries to fend off thinks Mo's making a move on her, and accidentally punches another partygoer through the window. Floyd arrives early (though Marcus gets everyone, except a guy who snuck beer into the party and got drunk and throws up on the pathway, out before he arrives). Floyd blames Marcus, but after being informed that T.J. threw the party, T.J. confesses; Marcus admits blame since he volunteered to be in charge while Floyd was gone, and both brothers are grounded (though they are forced to attend Yvette's all-female adaptation of The Brothers Karamazov).
  • Wounded Gazelle Gambit: T.J. pulls one on Floyd in "Lab Rats". Though Floyd finds out when T.J. films his motive reveal for his documentary, as Floyd is leaving the room:
    T.J.: And so, we see that the young cub of the pride, simply by exhibiting helpless behavior, effectively exploits the adult's inherent protective instinct. Thereby, escaping punishment and surviving to see another day.
    Floyd (sitting at the bottom of the stairs): I don't think so.
  • You Know You're White, Right?: Mackey, who is white, often tries to "act black" in an attempt to be cool. Played with further in "Sit In (a.k.a. Dawgburger Rebellion)," when he decides to do an oral report on Jackie Robinson like Marcus, Mo and Deion plan to do, only for them to object to it, and then when he gives the report at the end of the episode and receives complete silence unlike the applause that the others get. Both times, he exclaims, "it's because I'm white, isn't it?"
  • Your Mom: The dirty dozens are Serious Business for Mo and Marcus, who treat it like a martial art, even bowing before and after a match. Hilarity Ensues in "From A to Double D," when they attempt to instruct T.J.