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Series / The Torkelsons

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The cast of The Torkelsons / Season 1. Left to right: Front: Dorothy Jane, Chuckie Lee, Ruth Ann, Mary Sue, Steven Floyd. Back: Millicent, Boarder Hodges.
The cast of Almost Home / Season 2. Left to right: Molly, Gregory and Brian Morgan; Millicent, Mary Sue, Dorothy Jane and Chuckie Lee Torkelson.

An American sitcom that aired on NBC from 1991 to 1993, about a family named The Torkelsons.

Between Season 1 and 2, it got a name change and such a drastic Retool that the two Seasons can essentially be considered two separate shows.

The Torkelsons (Season 1)

The titular family of a single mom and her five children live in the very small town Pyramid Corners, Oklahoma. Financially struggling as her husband has abandoned the family, Millicent takes in a boarder (Mr. Hodges) to help make ends meet. The children are:

  • Dorothy Jane, 14, is the protagonist of the series; a dreamer who wishes for a better life. She hates living in her small town and dreams of going to Paris. She's bookish, pretty, smart and precocious. She often feels embarrassed by her quirky family, but in the end really loves them.
  • Steven Floyd, 12, who has a difficult time after his father left which left him as the eldest male of the family. He tries to hide this behind a "tough guy" exterior and rebelling against Millicent.
  • Ruth Anne, 10. A confident and sassy girl, very different than Dorothy Jane and often a snarky Annoying Younger Sibling to Dorothy Jane.
  • Chuckie Lee, 8. Much less a jock than his older brother. He often does magic and other tricks to get attention.
  • Mary Sue, 6. The adorable and cute littlest sister.

Almost Home (Season 2)

The show isn't a ratings success, but NBC renews it for a second Season. Thoroughly altering it though, its name is changed to Almost Home and it gets a profound Retool. Two of the five Torkelson children are removed from the show (never to be mentioned again) and the remaining family moves to Seattle, drastically changing the setting. They move because Millicent takes on the job of live-in nanny of the Morgan family, whose house they move into. The Morgans are widowed father Brian, and his teenage children Gregory and Molly.

The changes don't help the show much, and this time, NBC axes it. The series then plays in reruns on the Disney Channel for the rest of the decade.

    The Torkelsons (Season 1) 

  • '80s Hair: Millicent (in Season 1 at least) and Dorothy Jane both have 80's-looking haircuts, and Dorothy Jane's hair is also BIG. The series was actually shot as well as set in the early 90s, and Fridge Brilliance sets in when you realize that their slightly out of date looking hairstyles are a subtle way to show they're financially struggling (a hair stylist would be the least of their priorities). Plus, this was the very early part of the '90s, which still retained a lot of the fashion and culture of the late '80s, especially in Middle America.
  • Alpha Bitch: Dorothy Jane's class mate Dreama Donathan is the most popular girl at school, and also very mean and she bullies, publicly puts down and sneers at Dorothy Jane when the latter wears a second-hand dress to a dance; and when other girls try to say something positive for Dorothy Jane, she sets them up against Dorothy Jane, humiliating her further.
  • Ambiguously Christian: The Torkelson family in Season 1 are clearly committed members of some Protestant denomination; they go to church regularly, and attend church social occasions (e.g. Steven Floyd going on a hay ride organized by the church). Also, the opening theme song (by the Judds) mentions God: "People say God looks out for the working man; Sure hope He's looking out for me...". On the other hand, there isn't any dialogue directly mentioning God, the Bible, etc. The Trope isn't applicable anymore anyway during Season 2, when church-going isn't mentioned at all anymore.
  • Annoying Younger Sibling:
    • Ruth Ann is Dorothy Jane's younger sister and usually acts annoying towards Dorothy Jane. Ruth Ann is consistently snarky towards Dorothy Jane, playing pranks on her and outright telling her she'd rather be without Dorothy Jane; while Dorothy Jane, as the oldest, has to babysit / care for Ruth Ann.
    • Mostly averted for youngest sister Mary Sue towards Dorothy Jane, as Mary Sue mostly is a sweetheart. She does have her moments though in which she is this Trope—most evidently in "An American Almost in Paris" when Mary Sue first puts mud on the sink, and when Dorothy Jane, babysitting her, has to clean this mess up and scolds Mary Sue for it, Mary Sue dumps an entire bucket of mud all over Dorothy Jane and the kitchen floor and refrigerator - in front of Dorothy Jane's class mate / nemesis Dreama, no less.
  • Artistic License: In the episode taking place when the school year ends and summer starts (thus, June or end May), Kirby leaves to Paris to go on an exchange program. Earlier in the season, it was explicitly explained that it was a high school exchange program, where the American student would attend French high school. The problem is that, like virtually any school system in the Northern Hemisphere, schools in France are closed during summer, just like in the U.S., so Kirby shouldn't have left until August at the soonest. note 
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: At the beginning of "I Fought the Law", Dorothy Jane talks to the audience directly instead of the man on the moon.
  • Butt-Monkey: Kirby, Dorothy Jane's schoolmate who has a crush on her—he's played as nerdy, not handsome and slightly Cloudcuckoolanderish. Even the normally insecure Dorothy Jane mocks him in his face.
  • Crack Defeat: "An American Almost In Paris": Dorothy Jane Torkelson is in the finals of a contest the winner of which will get to be a foreign exchange student in Paris. Her family situation gets high marks, and she gets highest marks overall so technically is the winner... but still loses anyway to Kirby because the family in France turns out to want a boy—thus making the finals completely meaningless since Kirby was the only boy out of the three finalists. In a bit of Irony, Tempting Fate and Harsher in Hindsight, when Dorothy Jane first realizes Kirby is her competitor, she says to him "There's no way I'll lose to you" and is only concerned about the third finalist, Alpha Bitch Dreama.
  • A Day In The Lime Light:
    • Boarder Hodges is a minor character who isn't given any backstory or a clear personality—except in "Return To Sender", an episode dedicated mostly to him, in which it is revealed he had a son who died, and now a granddaughter whom he lost contact with.
    • "A Sigh Is Just A Sigh": The protagonist is Steven Floyd, and it's all about his insecurities at school and about his family. To facilitate this story-wise, Dorothy Jane, who's normally the protagonist, in this episode has the flu and just lies in bed the entire time.
  • Everyone Calls Him "Barkeep": The Torkelsons' tenant Wesley Hodges is almost always referred to as "Boarder Hodges".
  • Family Title: The show is named The Torkelsons, after the family.
  • Flyover Country: Season 1 is set in a small town in Oklahoma, not a frequently-used setting for shows set in the U.S. Many characters subtly, and Dorothy Jane very explicitly, suffer from Small Town Boredom here.
  • From New York to Nowhere: Applies to Riley, who moves into the small village Pyramid Corners from big city Philadelphia, and makes a remark about his Small Town Boredom here at a certain point.
  • Hopeless Suitor: In a sort of love triangle, Kirby has an intense crush on Dorothy Jane, which is not requited (this seems to have been going on from even before they were teens, and it sometimes borders stalkerish territory). Dorothy Jane herself has a crush on Riley, but as he (painfully, for her) tells her, he himself does not feel the same about her (to her mother, and the audience, it was clear her love was unrequited, but she didn't realize that or ignored that).
  • Informed Attribute: Dorothy Jane is constantly touted as being wise beyond her years however very little is shown to prove this aside from a superficial interest in poetry. Instead, she spends the whole series having a childish crush on an older boy, being ashamed of her family and roots, and bullying Kirby.
  • Irony: "Double Date": 14-year old Dorothy Jane has been begging her mother Millicent to be allowed to go on a date with a boy; when "Dr. Love" steps in, it is agreed that Dorothy Jane can go out on this much-expected first date, and Millicent herself is talked into going on her first date since her divorce—mostly against her will, as she doesn't want to go on a date at all. Turns out Dorothy Jane's date, which she begged and pushed for and looked out to vehemently, is a big disappointment for her since she finds the boy extremely boring; while Millicent, who originally didn't want to go on a date at all, has a very pleasant evening and clicks with the blind date she has been set up with.
  • Just the Way You Are: "The Ice Princess" has Dorothy Jane "reinventing" herself on the outside (by making herself bleached-blonde) and inside (by transforming her personality into the titular "Ice Princess" because she thinks that will help her get boys). At the end of the episode, she realizes not only is she not her true self, but her new self is worse; and that the platinum blonde looks ridiculous on her. To drive the point home: first she was asking Callie for advice on how to turn into the "Ice Princess", but at the end, Callie is the one asking Dorothy Jane for advice.
  • Lovable Alpha Bitch: "The Ice Princess": Callie Kimbro is one of the most pretty and popular girls in school, initially set up to resemble real Alpha Bitch Dreama Donathan. Dorothy Jane asks Callie for advice on how to seduce boys, and Callie explains how she manipulates boys to get them, but doesn't even like them. When Dorothy Jane ends up feeling unsatisfied and "wrong" trying Callie's approach and tells Callie that, Callie genuinely asks Dorothy Jane how and why, and ends up asking Dorothy Jane for advice for herself, on how to feel (also making her a Defrosting Ice Queen). Showing that Callie really cared for Dorothy Jane, is open to learning from other people and actually feels bad about her manipulative ways.
  • Motor Mouth: Dorothy Jane when she gets annoyed talks very fast and in long ramblings (e.g. in "Return To Sender" when she wonders whether bringing in Hodges' daughter-in-law was a mistake). Like mother, like daughter, because her mother Millicent is prone to this herself and in some scenes they even talk simultaneously over each other.
  • Nice Guy:
    • Boarder Hodges is a sweet old man, always very friendly and caring for the Torkelson children.
    • Riley Roberts rejects Dorothy Jane romantically, but afterward is still nice to her and tries to be friends with her and give her advice.
  • Obnoxious In-Laws: Zigzagged with Bootsie, Millicent's mother-in-law. Both downplayed but applicable Trope (Bootsie has some habits which vex Millicent, like her extreme nosiness and meddling in other people's live's, including in Millicent's love life note ) and inverted Trope (for all her character flaws that annoyed Millicent (and possibly the audience), she genuinely cared for Millicent - even seemed to love her more than her own son - and their bickering aside, they seemed to have a close bond (probably tightened because her son / Millicent's (ex-)husband had abandoned them both)).
  • O.O.C. Is Serious Business: Dorothy Jane is normally embarrassed by her family, but in "Fence Neighbours", when a store-owner Millicent and Dorothy Jane deem to be in the wrong, brushes off Millicent, Dorothy Jane goes on a tirade defending her mother. (Lampshaded by her immediately following that with saying "...I can't believe I said that...", and later when Millicent thanks her for it, her answering "It will never happen again"). The rest of the season she's embarrassed by her family again, but aforementioned moment is to show that deep down she loves her mother / family.
  • Parental Bonus: When 14-year old Dorothy Jane remarks she loves reading Jane Austen because it makes her look forward to kissing a boy / man, her mother Millicent says "You're too young too read that stuff". Then Dorothy Jane asks what Millicent herself read when she was a teenager, and Millicent answers "D.H. Lawrence"... And then downplays it because when Dorothy Jane asks "What did he write?" Millicent blatantly lying answers "Nancy Drew..."
  • Pie in the Face: "The Ice Princess": Dorothy Jane pushes a pie onto Kirby's face when she is once again exasperated by his Stalker with a Crush tendencies.
  • Shot Gun Wedding: This back-story is explained in the episode "Educating Millicent": Millicent got pregnant with Dorothy Jane when she was 18 and in her Senior high school year; so she married Randall.
  • Silent Snarker: Aside from her verbal snarking, Ruth Ann snarks a lot with body language—eye rolls, crossing her arms, sighing. Mostly directed towards Dorothy Jane.
  • Small Town Boredom: Dorothy Jane hates her small town Pyramid Corners and dreams of going to bigger, exciting places, preferably Paris. Riley Roberts, who moved in from Cincinatti, is the only other character that shares her boredom about the town.
    Riley: I'm going to the Frostee King. And I'll try to come to terms with the fact that in this town, the only place you can go on a saturday night is The Frostee King.
  • Spoiler Title: That Dorothy Jane loses the competition to go study in Paris at the end of the episode, is a foregone conclusion knowing the episode is titled "An American Almost in Paris".
  • The Peeping Tom: Kirby regularly climbs up the tree that goes right up to Dorothy Jane's window, just to look at her—without her knowing. In one episode, she gets aware of this, and tries to stop him from peeping on her.
  • Tragic Dropout: Dorothy Jane realizes her mother never graduated from high school because she was pregnant with her.
  • Visit by Divorced Dad: Two episodes in Season 1 have Randall, the kids' dad, show up in town. He's normally disappeared from their (and their mother / his wife Millicent's) lives and isn't around; and he ends up signing the divorce papers in one of these episodes.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: What happened to "boarder" Hodges when the Torkelsons foreclosed their house and moved away as of beginning Season 2? Of course the Real Life explanation is that the producers didn't want to let Hodges' actor return to shoot just one scene, but he isn't even mentioned in any dialogue, so Hodges' fate is left completely in the dark...
  • Writers Cannot Do Math: During Season 1, oldest daughter Dorothy Jane is repeatedly stated to be 14 years old, and her mother Millicent mentions she's 35 years old, so she would have given birth to Dorothy Jane at 21. Come the episode "Educating Millicent", it is revealed that Millicent actually got pregnant with Dorothy Jane during her Senior year at high school, establishing she had Dorothy Jane at age 18—contradicting the facts stated earlier in the series.

    Almost Home (Season 2) 

  • Ambiguous Ending:
    • "Sleeping With the Enemy": Brian comes home very late from a date and gives a contrived story including him being attacked by a guard dog as an excuse for this, which is ridiculed by Millicent. First it's implied he made this story up, but in the very last split-second shot of the episode, his clothes are shown to be shred to pieces, suggesting the dog story is true after all. It never becomes clear what's the case.
    • "Is That All There Is" is dedicated to Dorothy Jane dating the most popular, jock boy of her school but not being attracted to him, resulting in her rejecting him. In the very last shot, after just having rejected him and him giving her a kiss as a good-bye, she suddenly says "Oh, wait..." and goes running after him. It's strongly implied she at least went to kiss him again, and possibly they became more seriously romantically revolved. However, in a What Happened to the Mouse? way, the boy (played by a then yet-unknown Ben Affleck) is never mentioned again during the rest of the series, so it's unclear what happened between Dorothy Jane and him.
  • Bad Job, Worse Uniform: Dorothy Jane and Molly both get a job at fast-food joint "Chicken in a Hat". The job itself is pretty boring, but to top it off they have to wear chickens on their heads (hats shaped like chickens, made from yellow feathers).
  • Bad Liar: What Millicent thinks of Brian, comparing him to her (apparently Consummate Liar) ex-husband Randall, after Brian comes home extremely late after a date and tells a contrived story as the reason for this to Millicent and his teenage daughter Molly.
    Millicent: That's the best that you can do?! I was married to the Mark Twain of long-winded excuses; he could have done better than that in a coma!
  • Belligerent Sexual Tension: There's tension between Millicent and Brian Morgan. They repeatedly bicker a lot, but through their looks at each other and body language it's clear they're attracted to each other. In one scene, they do a Slap-Slap-Kiss and share a passionate kiss (which isn't mentioned again in the series).
  • The B Grade:
    • When Dorothy Jane comes home with her report card, she's very frustrated and disappointed, because "There are letters on it that I've never seen before". Turns out she's talking about her one B—she usually is a straight A student.
    • Inverted for Molly, who in the same episode is very proud of her B, because it's the first time she's scored above a C.
  • Big Eater: Dorothy Jane in this Season is shown eating a lot somehow. She often walks into the family kitchen to take food out of the fridge, and there are a few scenes where she eats at night when she can't sleep (including a Cut a Slice, Take the Rest she once does). In-Universe, Molly even remarks, when she sees Dorothy Jane eating a big bowl of ice cream, that she herself can't eat as much as Dorothy Jane.
  • Birthday Episode: A double whammy: in the aptly-titled episode "Dueling Birthdays", Dorothy Jane and Molly are shown to have the same birth date (both turn 16 in the episode), and it is about how them both having their birthday parties at the same time in the same house, causes friction in the Torkelson family.
  • Bowling for Ratings: In the aptly-titled "Bowling for Daddies", all of the Torkelson and Morgan family members go bowling together and bond over this (especially Chuckie Lee with Millicent and Brian).
  • Bratty Teenage Daughter: Molly is this is spades, to the point it almost is a parody: shallow, dumb (or played as that initially - it's later implied she's actually lazy instead of dumb, and has Hidden Depths), spoiled, boy-obsessed, gossipy, teen-speaking and glued to the phone.
  • Bread, Eggs, Breaded Eggs: When Molly is freaking out over what her father's reaction will be over a wrong she did:
    Molly: He's going to send me to military school. No it's worse, he's going to put me in a convent.
    Dorothy Jane: No he won't...
    Molly: But what can be worse than a convent? O my God! A military convent! Nuns with guns.
  • Bumbling Dad: Brian Morgan has become widowed, and thus the single father of his two teenage children, just before his appearance in Season 2. He fumbles a lot in his new role as the sole caretaker of his children, and Molly and Gregory have a tendency to take advantage of his naivety; but with the help of Millicent, over the Season he grows in his role as dad.
  • Burger Fool: Dorothy Jane and Molly get jobs at a fastfood place ("Chicken in a Hat") where they have to wear embarrassing work clothes, and Dorothy Jane even admits the job is boring.
  • Car Meets House: "Sleeping with the Enemy": Molly accidentally drives her father's car through the wall of the house, into Millicent & Mary Sue's room. (She wasn't even intending to drive the car, she was just using it as a place to make out with a boy her father had forbidden her to see.) Since this destroys Millicent's room, Molly's room is given to Millicent & Mary Sue, and Molly moves in with Dorothy Jane, and stays living there for the rest of the Season.
  • Chained Heat: "The Dance": Dorothy Jane and Molly get handcuffed to each other at the most inconvenient of times. Dorothy Jane is going to a school ball with a date, Molly won't be going and is sitting on the couch with a facial mask on and in a bath robe. Just as Dorothy Jane's date arrives, Chuckie Lee cuffs them to each other and finds out the handcuff key is taken by Millicent (who's a chaperone at the ball) to the ball. Thus (after Molly gets her facial mask off and puts on decent clothes), Dorothy Jane has to take Molly chained to her to the ball note .
  • Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: When the family moves to Seattle and the show's name changes to Almost Home, Steven Floyd and Ruth Ann disappear. They didn't just get left behind but they were retroactively considered to never have existed, because Millicent calls Chuckie Lee "my only son" in Season 2 - she wouldn't have if the other 2 kids would still have existed back in Oklahoma in this continuity.
  • Cock Fight:
    • "Winner Take Millicent": Brian Morgan fights with his brother Jim over Millicent; it starts as a bet between them that whoever wins a basketball game, will get her, then gets a bit out of hand.
    • "Girls and Boy" gender-flips it, with Dorothy Jane and Molly physically fighting over their boss and mutual crush, Jeff. Also Food Fight.
  • Cut a Slice, Take the Rest: "To Jane Eyre Is Human": Dorothy Jane is fretting about something Molly did to her, to the point she can't sleep. To kill her frustration, she goes downstairs, takes a whole big pie, cuts a slice out—and takes the rest of the cake to eat.
  • Dead Artists Are Better: Since Brittany Murphy died, her early work such as Almost Home has been seen in a better light.
  • Distinction Without a Difference: Molly's defense after she has handed in Dorothy Jane's book report as her own at school:
    Dorothy Jane: You copied [my report] word for word!
    Molly: I didn't - I changed the date and the name on it!
  • The Ditz: Molly is dumb, often misuses words note , or doesn't understand them note , speaks in Teen Speak with lots of "you know" and "like", and is overly focused on clothes, make-up and boys. See also Bratty Teenage Daughter. She arguably qualifies for Valley Girl as well.
  • Dumb Jock: "Is That All There Is": Kevin, the guy who Dorothy Jane tutored and then dated for an episode. He's on the school football team, only cares about sports and needs the tutoring because poor school performance, but doesn't even take it seriously, as he mocks the books he's supposed to read.
  • The Fashionista: Molly prides herself in her fashion sense, wears flashy and hip (well, for the early 90's) clothes and also frequently criticizes Dorothy Jane for the latter's clothes, which are more modest.
    [Molly nonchalantly throws a pile of Dorothy Jane's clothes on the bed]
    Dorothy Jane: Hey, those are my clothes!
    Molly: [Condescending tone; deadpan] I wouldn't brag about that if I were you.
  • Food Fight: Dorothy Jane and Molly get into a physical fight over their mutual crush Jeff at work—which happens to be a fast food joint. They splash each other with soda (Molly: "That'd better be diet!").
  • Global Ignorance: "New Moon": Molly mistakenly states that the Torkelsons are from Louisiana, only to be corrected by Gregory, leading to a Shout-Out.
  • Green-Eyed Monster: "Winner Take Millicent": Brian's brother Jim visits the family and goes on a date with Millicent. Brian is jealous of this (he has Belligerent Sexual Tension with Millicent himself), and they end up fighting over her. More generally, Brian has also reason to be jealous of Jim because Jim is a playboy and lives a flashy lifestyle.
  • Head Desk: When Millicent tries to have The Talk with her son Chuckie Lee, he makes it clear he isn't comfortable to discuss the subject of sexuality with his mother by repeatedly smashing his head on the table. Millicent then Lampshades it when she tells Brian "The problem isn't having [this talk]; the problem is how to keep him from knocking himself unconscious".
  • Hidden Depths: Molly is played as an almost exaggerated Bratty Teenage Daughter, who's not so bright on top of that, but
    • She sometimes opens up emotionally (in O.O.C. Is Serious Business moments), which indicate that deep down she's very sad about her mother having died and her father now emotionally neglecting her.
    • She also at a certain point is given the book "Jane Eyre" to read by Dorothy Jane, which she reads, and then admits to liking (again an O.O.C. Is Serious Business, as she normally constantly bashes Dorothy Jane for liking books).
    • In a Played for Laughs way, she confides to Dorothy Jane (making a big point about that she's never told anyone this) that... more than anything she wants to become a weather girl (which makes Dorothy Jane burst out laughing hysterically).
  • It's All About Me: Molly is very selfish (also see The Ditz, Bratty Teenage Daughter and Valley Girl). Most evident in:
    • "Sleeping with the Enemy": Molly destroys Millicent & Mary Sue's bedroom by driving her father's car through its wall. Upon that, even though it's entirely her fault, she expects to be given Dorothy Jane's room and for Dorothy Jane to be sent to sleep on the couch in the living room, instead of the other way around. When her father tells Molly she'll have to move in with Dorothy Jane, she lets Dorothy Jane carry all her luggage upstairs. And then expects Dorothy Jane to sleep on the cot in her [Dorothy Jane's] own room and give the bed up to her [Molly].
    • "Dueling Birthdays": Dorothy Jane and Molly happen to share the same 16th birthday, and Molly's party is extravagant and she is very demanding towards her father about the party having to be perfect. Mainly to impress her classmates Candace and Kimberly. Deconstructed when Molly overhears Candace and Kimberly trash-talk about her and her party, gets upset and insecure, and admits to Dorothy Jane that close family bonds are what happenings like birthdays should be about, instead of impressing peers with material wealth.
    • When Dorothy Jane gets a job at fast-food joint "Chicken in a Hat", and Molly finds out Dorothy Jane's boss is actually an attractive boy, she takes on a job there as well, purely to pursue Jeff even though Dorothy Jane met him first and has indicated to have a crush on him already; even worse, Molly is Lazy Bum and lousy co-worker doing so.
  • Just Friends: Subverted in the end. Sam is Gregory's tomboyish best female friend; in a gender-inverted as opposed to how it's usually played way, Sam is actually in love with Gregory (which he doesn't have a clue about initially) while he only sees her as a friend. Encouraged by Millicent, Sam asks him to a dance, and they kiss at the end. In an episode later in the Season, she is his girlfriend.
  • Lazy Bum:
    • Dorothy Jane and Molly's co-worker Mel at Chicken in a Hat is supposed to look after them when their manager is absent. He sits down and goes to read the newspaper and smoke a cigarette, and completely ignores Molly and Dorothy Jane - who are on their first day on the job. He rebuffs Dorothy Jane when she asks for assistance. When Dorothy Jane and Molly, now unsupervised, get into a fight and nobody is there to tend to the customers, a customer asks Mel to help him—and Mel rebuffs the customer and doesn't do anything about Dorothy Jane and Molly fighting, leaving the entire joint unattended.
    • Molly copies Dorothy Jane's book report to hand it in as her own at school, but can't even be bothered to copy it entirely and just leaves out the last page (reason she got a B while Dorothy Jane got an A for it). Also, when she gets a job at a fast food joint, she's a lazy, sloppy worker—ignoring customers and not paying attention to instructions.
  • Lots of Luggage: When Molly has to move in with Dorothy Jane, the former brings an absurd amount of stuff with her—making Dorothy Jane remark "It looks like something exploded...". Molly also tricks Dorothy Jane into actually carrying her stuff upstairs, and spends the entire episode complaining that she has to sleep on a cot instead of a real bed.
  • Mood Whiplash:
    • The second, Almost Home, season is this compared to the first, The Torkelsons, season. After it got completely retooled, the tone of the show changed drastically from more dramatic, to more pure comedy.
    • The Dance: Molly and Dorothy Jane come to the titular dance handcuffed to each other, which of course is Played for Laughs, and makes it a slapstick scene. Then we cut to a very Played for Drama scene between Gregory and Sam, talking about their changing feelings for each other and how to handle their relationship.
  • New Job Episode: Dorothy Jane (and later, also Molly) gets her first job at fastfood place "Chicken in a Hat" and remarks that it is going to learn her responsibility. She soon finds out the job is boring.
  • New Season, New Name: As a result of the Retool that also had the family (sans two of the kids) moving to Seattle, Washington.
  • One-Steve Limit: Averted and Played for Laughs: Molly has no less than three best friends called Heather. Combined with Molly being glued to the phone a lot, this gives stuff like:
    Molly: [On the phone] OMG did Heather really say that to Heather?! No way, Heather!
    [Brother Gregory gives a "Man this stuff is getting old" eye roll]
  • Phoneaholic Teenager: Molly is on the phone a lot (goes with her being a Bratty Teenage Daughter). Her father Brian, though he doesn't fit the age of the Trope, is also phoneaholic (mostly for his business; often his taking phone calls interferes with talks with, and parenting of, his children). Between Molly and Brian, the phone of the household was used a lot (especially considering this was pre cell-phone age, and the family shared one land line).
  • Punctuated! For! Emphasis!: When Molly gets a job at fast-food joint "Chicken in a Hat", she (rather unprofessionally...) answers this to her first customer, who asks what's on the menu:
    Molly: It's called. Chicken. In. A. Hat. Duh.
  • Shout-Out:
    • What's the difference between Louisiana and Oklahoma? One's a musical.
    • The Three Stooges: When Gregory is trying to play a prank / practical joke on other characters (opening the fridge would launch a pie in their face) but this doesn't work, he's reluctant to open the frige himself, citing "I've seen every Three Stooges film; I know if I open it myself it will suddenly work on me...". He opens the fridge and does get the pie all over him.
    • Gregory is a Star Trek fan and frequently references this: he refuses to eat dinner at table when Deep Space Nine is on, and sells a scarf to Chuckie Lee convincing him that it's a "Klingon" scarf.
  • Spoiled Brat: Brian's children Gregory and Molly are pretty spoiled and entitled. Gregory also uses his father's credit card without asking for expensive stuff he isn't supposed to do (such as when he buys incredibly overpriced, second-hand tickets to a rock concert).
  • The Talk: A big point is made of when Chuckie Lee almost enters puberty and his mother Millicent tries to have a big talk to him explaining sexuality, but he dismisses this saying he can't discuss that with his mother; Millicent, feeling that it's not something a mother can discuss with her son, then begrudglingly asks Brian Morgan to step in to connect with Chuckie Lee in a father-son manner.
  • Ur-Example: In-Universe, Dorothy Jane calls the book Jane Eyre this.
    Dorothy Jane: Jane Eyre; every romance novel ever written, was based on it.
  • Why Did It Have to Be Snakes?: Chuckie Lee brings home a big Boa Constrictor, which is his class' pet, apparently freely allowed for the 3rd graders to bring home. When Molly sees it, she freaks out and is clearly very afraid of snakes. The snake also is a Chekhov's Gun, as at the end it serves to scare partying teenagers whom Molly had invited to a party, out of the house, conveniently preventing Dorothy Jane from getting punished by Millicent for the (not allowed) party.

    The Torkelsons and Almost Home (both seasons/series) 

  • Alliterative Name: Molly Morgan (one of the protagonists of Season 2); Riley Roberts (Dorothy Jane's crush in Season 1); Callie Kimbro note  (Dorothy Jane's popular school mate in Season 1); Dreama Donathan (Dorothy Jane's school mate and Alpha Bitch in Season 1).
  • An Aesop: In Season 1, the Torkelson kids (mostly Dorothy Jane and Steven Floyd) frequently learn life lessons. Once it becomes Almost Home and the Morgan family comes into play, it is mostly the Morgan kids (due to their being played as spoiled and not well parented by their father) who learn the Aesops, from Millicent and sometimes even Dorothy Jane.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: Millicent is a nice and friendly woman, but certainly does vehemently stand up for herself if necessary. E.g. in "I Fought the Law" she fights the police and city council in order for the town people to sell their produce; in "Girls and Boy" she doesn't take Brian's cajoling her when he's sick, and she stands up to him.
  • Book Dumb: Molly is a below-average high school student (she doesn't get "anything better than a C", so a B, until her sophomore year, and it is for driving lessons...). But she is very good socially, and knows a lot about clothes. Most likely she will not make it into university, but she'd be awesome at taking over her father's clothing shop.
  • Book Smart: Dorothy Jane is an excellent high school student (she doesn't ever get anything other than A's up until once in her sophomore year when she gets her first B, which devastates her). And she's an avid reader, especially of classical literature and poetry, and has taught herself French. Of course, all of this is often contrasted with Book Dumb Molly.
  • Cool Uncle:
    • Season 1: Kirby has an uncle called Herbie, who's known to be good with the ladies, and actively tries helping Kirby getting together with Dorothy Jane (though that's ultimately unsuccessful).
    • Season 2: Molly and Gregory have their uncle Jim (Brian's brother), whom they adore. Jim lives a cool lifestyle, gives them presents and just acts cool with them.
  • Deadpan Snarker:
    • Season 1: Ruth Ann, Dorothy Jane's Annoying Younger Sibling, has no qualms about frequently expressing her disdain of Dorothy Jane with sarcastic and cynic remarks (also non-verbally).
    • Season 2: Brian has some snarky moments towards his children at times when he drops the loose parenting and has to discipline them.
      [After Molly has driven Brian's car through the wall of the house, destroying a bedroom, and Brian tells her she now has to sleep on the couch in the living room]
      Molly: I can't sleep here by myself, I'm scared to be down here in the dark...
      Brian: [Deadpan] Yeah, traffic here has been a little heavy lately.
    In the same episode, when the car is shown to be torn to pieces:
    Brian: Well, this ought to make parallel parking a snap.
  • Dom Com: Both seasons were about a familiy in one household (the first, about the original family of six; the second, about the two blended families sharing a house). In Season 2, the domestic seemed to be used very literally, as that season nearly didn't feature any scenes outside of the Morgan / Torkelson house.
  • Everything Sounds Sexier in French: Dorothy Jane loves France and the French language, and likes to say words in it. And once Chuckie Lee starts getting French lessons at school in Season 2, the Trope is almost literally cited by Millicent:
    Millicent: Say something in French. It always sounds so beautiful...
    Chuckie Lee: Il y a un odeur dans ma chambre d'hotel.
    Millicent: See, that just sounds so romantic! What did you say?
    Chuckie Lee: "My hotel room stinks."
  • Exactly What It Says on the Tin: Many episodes had these kind of names. In "I Fought the Law", Millicent fights with the police and city council over selling food. "The Cotillion", "The Dance" and "Double Date" are about these exact events. In "Educating Millicent", Millicent is getting her high school diploma. "Duelling Birthdays" is about Dorothy Jane's and Molly's birthdays being on the same day and their respective birthday parties conflicting with each other.
  • Family Theme Naming: All five (original) Torkelson kids have double names: Dorothy Jane, Steven Floyd, Ruth Ann, Chuckie Lee, Mary Sue (and it even extends to Mary Sue's doll, that (whom?) she named Martha Lou). Molly lampshades this:
    Molly: You all have two names. Is that a family thing or just... indecision?
  • Foil:
    • Season 2: Dorothy Jane and Molly accentuate each other's differences. Molly is popular, obsessed with clothes, make-up and boys, ditzy and slacking at school. Dorothy Jane is serious, bookis, responsible and a straight-A student note . In every episode they are contrasted against each other.
    • Season 1 had Dorothy Jane's sister Ruth Anne, who basically was a less exaggerated, but snarky version of Molly.
    • Season 1 had minor characters Dreama Donathan and Callie Kimbro, who were there mostly to contrast them with Dorothy Jane.
  • Gay Paree: Dorothy Jane is obsessed with France, the French language and Paris in particular, often mentioning how much she wants to go to Paris. She seems to have an idealized and romanticized view of Paris, probably out of her Small Town Boredom towards her own village Pyramid Corners, OK. Subverted trope in that she never actually gets to Paris during the series; although she almost does get there in the Exactly What It Says on the Tin episode "An American Almost in Paris".
  • Hollywood Genetics:
    • Season 1: Mother Millicent is a blonde with light eyes, and father Randall is a pale, blond man. Their two oldest children, Dorothy Jane and Steven Floyd, are brown-eyed and dark-brown-haired, which can't be likely given that dark brown hair and eyes are a dominant genetic trait and both their parents are blond.
    • Season 2: Downplayed with Brian (blond, pale and blue-eyed) and his children Molly and Gregory, who both are black-haired and dark-brown-eyed note  - since they look remarkably unrelated to him, but their mother, having passed away, is never shown - so it theoretically can be assumed they both just got her looks.
  • The Man in the Moon: Dorothy Jane often sits outside her window talking about her various concerns with "The Man In The Moon" as a means of thinking out loud (the fact that it also served to keep the audience updated on what she was thinking was a nice bonus).
  • Middle Child Syndrome:
    • In Season 2 when two of the Torkelson children have been retroactively removed from existence, Chuckie Lee is the middle child, and he's doing a lot of attention-drawing things—always doing magic tricks and other gimmicks, and playing the violin. In "You Ought To Be In Pictures" he almost literally cites this Trope as the reason he wants to be a child model:
      Chuckie Lee: Mary Sue's always the cute one because she's the youngest. Dorothy Jane gets to do everything first and is looked up to for being responsible because she's the eldest. But me? Nobody ever notices me.
    • Of course in Season 1, Ruth Ann was the middle child. And she displayed some of the same behavior Chuckie Lee later did—only in her case she played the trombone instead of the violin, and she entered a Miss Oklahoma competition instead of becoming a child photomodel.
  • Monochrome Casting: Aside from a Native American man and a black woman each appearing in one Season 1 episode, everybody is white.
  • One-Steve Limit: Molly is a major character in Season 2/Almost Home, but before she appeared, in Season 1/Torkelsons, "Molly" was Boarder Hodges' granddaughter.
  • Opening Monologue: Most of the episodes, especially of Season 1, start with (and many also end with) Dorothy Jane talking to The Man in the Moon—a monologue of her to In Universe, The Man in the Moon, and to the audience of the show, as way of a diary / explain what's going on.
  • Parental Abandonment:
    • Season 1: Father Randy has abandoned his wife and five children and they aren't sure about his whereabouts when he's out of town, although he occasionally pops into town and the Torkelson house (he appears in two episodes).
    • Season 2: Gregory and Molly's mother has died. Also, Randy is still absent, and now almost never mentioned anymore.
  • Popularity Food Chain: It's often brought up by Dorothy Jane how bad she feels about not being in the popular crowd, and how much she want to be more liked by her peers. In Season 1, her outsider status is mostly brought on by her family's poverty. In Season 2, she is contrasted sharply with Molly, who is in the popular crowd at school.
  • Retcon:
    • Once Season 2 starts, two of the (originally five) children have disappeared. At first, it's ambiguous if they stayed behind in Oklahoma / with their Dad; but once Millicent explicitly calls Chuckie Lee her "only" son, and Chuckie Lee refers to himself as "the middle" child, it becomes clear that Steven Floyd and Ruth Ann are by now retroactively considered to never have existed, and the family is rewritten to consist of three, not five children.
    • In Season 1, Mary Sue is pretty much a pint-sized Southern Belle (always in dresses and skirts, pretty and beautiful, carries around a doll). In Season 2, Mary Sue now has a more "suburban" hairstyle, hardly ever wears a dress or skirt and in attempt to compete with Full House, has been given Michelle Tanner-type snarky lines and sass.
    • In Season 1, when Bootsie and Millicent question Boarder Hodges about his letters addressed to a "Molly Jeffers", he first tells Molly Jeffers is his granddaughter he lost contact with; then he reveals that story was a prank on Bootsie and Millicent, and he tells the true story is that Molly Jeffers is an ex-lover of his. However, a few episodes later, Molly Jeffers and the letters feature again, and this time it is his granddaughter - the story that originally wasn't true.
  • Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness: For a teenage girl, Dorothy Jane speaks with remarkably difficult words and formal language. Brought on by her being a bookworm, and very serious at schoolwork. Plus, she likes to throw in French. It wasn't so much present in Season 1, but in Season 2 it was, especially to contrast her to Bratty Teenage Daughter Molly, who's often played as dumb (and it often leads to Molly not understanding or misunderstanding what Dorothy Jane says).
  • She Cleans Up Nicely:
    • Millicent usually wears very simple clothing and doesn't make much an effort of her appearance note . In Season 1 she has two male visitors she cooks for on Thanksgiving, and originally wears simple clothes. When she gets a pie all over her and has to change, on instigation of Dorothy Jane she puts on her nicest dress. When she comes down in that, the two men stare at her in surprise and compliment her.
    • In Season 2 when she goes on a date with Brian's brother Jim, she appears in a slinky back dress, with her hair tied up elegantly, and wearing lipstick. The whole Morgan and Torkelson families stare at her in surprise.
    • Gregory has a (female) best friend, Sam, who's tomboyish and he hangs out with as buddies and that he "doesn't think of as a girl". When she shows up all well-dressed and made-up for a prom, he's totally confused about how beautiful she actually is.
  • Shipper on Deck:
    • Oldest daughter Dorothy Jane is this for her mother Millicent and, in Season 1, reverend Wilson, and in Season 2, Brian's brother Jim. It's pretty unusual for a kid whose mother just divorced her father, to be so encouraging of her mother dating and finding new love, as stereotypically, kids are pretty jealous of their parent's new partners. Then again, Dorothy Jane isn't your average teenager, and her father Randall had been out of the picture for years already. In any case, both of potential love interests fizzle out.
    • "The Dance": Millicent herself is this for Gregory and Sam, when she realizes Sam is in love with Gregory. Millicent is the one who encourages Sam to ask Gregory to the dance.
    • In a strange case, in Season 1 Millicent keeps encouraging Dorothy Jane to give Kirby a chance, even though not only does Dorothy Jane simply NOT have feelings for him, but he's actually a Stalker with a Crush who exhibits behavior that in Real Life would warrant a parent to report him to the police, instead of encouraging him.
  • Sick Episode:
    • "A Sigh Is Just a Sigh" of Season 1 has Dorothy Jane (normally the protagonist) in bed with the flu for the entire episode, so that Steven Floyd can have most of the episode dedicated to his storyline.
    • "Girls and Boy" of Season 2 has Brian sick on the couch and ordering Millicent around to take care of him, until she stands up to his misuse of her.
  • Take a Third Option:
    • Season 1: "I Fought the Law": The Pyramid Corners city council forbids citizens to sell their home-made food on the streets. Mostly because a big supermarket sees it as threatening its business. In the end, Dorothy Jane comes up with the solution that profits everybody: the citizens are allowed to sell their food, but they will do so on the parking place of the supermarket instead of on their streets.
    • Season 2: "Dueling Birthdays": Millicent makes Dorothy Jane chose between either spending her birthday with her family, or going to Molly's birthday party, which makes Dorothy Jane conflicted. Brian then comes up with the easy solution: the Torkelsons first share their cake in private, and then all are invited to Molly's party along with Dorothy Jane, so Dorothy Jane doesn't have to chose between her family and friends.
  • This Means War!:
    • Season 1: "I Fought the Law": Millicent declares this on the city council when they try to shut down her selling food. She organizes the entire neighborhood to stand up as well.
    • Season 2: "Girls and Boy": When Dorothy Jane takes a job at Chicken in a Hat and Molly sees her handsome boss Jeff, Molly also takes a job there, specifically to pursue Jeff. This pisses Dorothy Jane off majorly, and she declares war on Molly. This ends with them physically fighting each other at the job.

Alternative Title(s): Almost Home