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Series / The Zack Files

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"[...] You attract the paranormal like dogs attract fleas."

The Zack Files was a Canadian live-action paranormal show that aired from 2000 to 2002 that was based off of a willfully strange and off-the wall children's book series. The show revolved around Zack Greenburg and his friends Cameron, Spencer, and Gwen as they experience various paranormal hijinks thanks to Zack essentially having a literal Weirdness Magnet-gene. Spencer chronicles these adventures, which he dubs "The Zack Files" in his hopes of studying and proving the existence of the paranormal.

Coincidentally, this show has several of the same cast members as Black Hole High, and a number of the actors wound up on Degrassi: The Next Generation.

The series provides examples of:

  • Adaptational Location Change: The book series took place in New York City; the TV show, being made in Canada, moved the setting to Toronto.
  • Affectionate Nickname: Cam often refers to Zack and Spence as "buddy."
  • After-School Cleaning Duty: In "The Terrible Truth", Mr. Munk sentences Zack, Cam and Spence to wash the school dumpster and later to clean the football uniforms with toothbrushes after he discovers that they cheated in order to bring the pop star Vanna Puchenko to the school.
  • Arbitrary Skepticism: Gwen is very dismissive of the paranormal and often tries to convince Spence and Zack to forget about it.
  • Arch-Enemy: Vernon is Zack's arch-enemy. Cam and Spence hate him too - as does Gwen to a lesser extent - but Vernon doesn't hate Cam and Spence nearly as much as he hates Zack.
  • Bad Future: In "It's a Wonderful School", Zack is sent to a future in which Vernon is the school president and has completely taken over Horace Hyde-White.
  • Better as Friends: When Zack can teleport to people's dreams, Cam orders him to change Gwen's mind about going on a date with him, which leads to Gwen's crushing on Zack, as she was dreaming about her prince charming, and she mistook Zack to be him, who, on the other hand, tried to convince her to stay as friends after her kiss.
  • Bland-Name Product: In "Crypt Seeker", the titular video game, featuring an archaeologist named Tara Bond, is one for Tomb Raider.
  • Casanova Wannabe: In "The Terrible Truth", it is mentioned that Cam once dated six girls in one afternoon (due to a scheduling conflict). However, it is clear that Gwen is the only girl he'll ever love.
  • Childhood Friends: Zack, Spence and Cam have all been best friends for years by the time that the series begins.
  • Clip Show: In the penultimate episode "Who Did You Say I Was?", Zack gets amnesia and Cam and Spence have to remind him of his adventures.
  • Comedic Sociopathy: There is a lot of Schadenfreude in the show. Due to their mutual loathing, Vernon takes great pleasure in Zack, Cam and Spence's various misfortunes and vice versa. Although Cam is one of his best friends, Spence is often amused when he makes an idiot out of himself or reveals something embarrassing about himself during the Zack Files testimonials at the end of each episode.
  • The Conscience: In "This is Your Conscience Calling", Zack takes advantage of a computing error at the bank to take out lots of money from his account outside Dan realising. After he does so, his conscience call him up every time that he is in the vicinity of a phone.
  • Fake Band: Scrap Heap and Biting Warts. Cam is a big fan of both and Gwen's cousin is the lead singer of the latter. There's also the solo acts Vanna Puchenko and Ricky Dallas.
  • Fish out of Temporal Water: In "Blast from the Past", Jeb McFadden, who is from 1912, is amazed by the technological advancements that have been made by 2001.
  • Fountain of Youth: In "Little Big Zack", Zack is about to have his Bar Mitzvah. As he is afraid to grow up, he turns into a seven-year-old.
  • "Freaky Friday" Flip: In "The Switch", Zack switches bodies with Vernon and later his manservant Charles.
  • Friendship-Straining Competition: In "Looking for Zack Greenburg", Zack gets a physics tutorial downloaded into his brain and becomes a genius. He is entered into the city physics championship and competes against Spence, putting their friendship at risk.
  • Gender Bender: In "Zack Girl", Zack turns into a girl after trying some girls' deodorant. In a slight twist on Gender-Bender Friendship, he spends his time trying to set Gwen up with Cameron, not with himself.
  • Her Boyfriend's Jacket: In "Sparkin'", Gwen thinks that Zack should give Rita his varsity jacket to mark their one month anniversary. He gives her a chair instead and she breaks up (though she was going to do so anyway).
  • I Always Wanted to Say That: In "Quiet Please, I'm Reading Your Mind", Cam slaps the unconscious Vernon several times and says, "I always wanted to do this."
  • I Can't Do This by Myself: In "Anchovy of Doom", Zack makes Vernon, the Brooks brothers, Dickie and finally Gwen disappear, leading Cam and Spence to hide from him. He eventually convinces them to help him by saying that he needs his team.
  • Idiosyncratic Episode Naming: 13 of the 26 episodes of Season Two include Zack's name in the title. "Run Zack Run" is the only such episode of Season One.
  • Imagine the Audience Naked: Subverted. Zack is told to imagine himself in his underwear (his friend getting the advice wrong), which causes his pants, and any subsequent pants he tries to put on to disappear until he can confront his fear of not only giving a speech, but doing it in his underwear, too.
  • Immediate Self-Contradiction: In "Deja Vudoo", Cam tells Spence that he would not to relive anything in his life as he gets things right the first time. He then asks Spence if they can tape that week's Zack Files testimony again as he was frowning.
  • In-Series Nickname: Zack, Cam and Spence frequently refer to Vernon as "Vermin," both behind his back and to his face.
  • Instructional Title: The book series has a book entitled How To Speak Dolphin in Three Easy Lessons.
  • Invisibility: Zack becomes invisible in "Gone".
  • Last-Name Basis: Mr. Munk refers to Zack, Cam, Spence and Vernon as Greenburg, Dunleavey, Sharpe and Mantueffel respectively 99% of the time. However, he always refers to Gwen by her first name.
  • A Mind Is a Terrible Thing to Read: In "Quiet Please, I'm Reading Your Mind", Zack becomes telepathic. Cam wants to use it to make his fortune. Zack ends up hearing someone plotting murder, then tries to figure out whose mind he was reading and try prevent said murder. Turns out a classroom spider was trying to eat Harvey the grasshopper.
  • No Sparks: In "Sparkin'", Zack and Rita realise that there are no sparks between them and decided to break up. However, Zack does gets sparks (both literal and figurative) from Sarah, who becomes his new girlfriend and remains so for the rest of the series.
  • Not a Date: In "Photo Day", Gwen repeatedly tells Cam that their trip to the cinema was not a date.
  • "Not Wearing Pants" Dream:
    • In "Exit, Stage Fright", Zack has one which bleeds into the real world, leaving him, Cam and Spence without pants.
    • In "In Your Dreams", Cam tells Spence that he once had a dream where he went on a date but forgot his trousers and wore underpants with love hearts.
  • One-Gender School: The main characters all attend Horace White High School for Boys. Gwen is the only girl at the school, because her father is the principal.
  • The Only One I Trust: In "Gone", Gwen tells a female friend that Zack, Cam and Spence are the only boys at Horace Hyde White that she trusts. Unbeknownst to her, Cam and Spence overhear this conversation via the bug that an invisible Zack has placed in her room.
  • Other Me Annoys Me: In "Zack Times Two", Zack starts to dislike his double Zack Two when he starts volunteering for every club and activity in the school.
  • Paranormal Investigation: Spence is a self-described paranormal investigator.
  • Parody: The title video game in "Crypt Seeker" and its protagonist Tara Bond are parodies of Tomb Raider and Lara Croft respectively.
  • Poltergeist: In "Things to Do at Horace Hyde When You're Dead", the ghost of a student named Gilbert Millerson, whom only Zack can see, starts playing pranks around the school.
  • Questioning Title?: "Who Did You Say I Was?".
  • Removing the Rival: Although he claims that he is simply trying to be a good friend, Cam sees any boy in whom Gwen is even remotely interested as a rival and, as such, tries to remove him from the picture.
  • School Play: In the series finale "Zackeo and Juliet", Horace Hyde-White stages Romeo and Juliet with Zack and Gwen as the title characters, Cam as Tybalt and Spence as the Monk.
  • Science Fair: Spence conducts a science fair project on dreaming in "In Your Dreams".
  • Seers: In "The Bottom Line", Zack has to wear glasses for three months to correct his vision and gains the ability to see into the future.
  • Shapeshifting Excludes Clothing: After getting de-aged to 7 in "Little Big Zack", Zack's stuck in his now-oversized teenage clothes for the entire episode.
  • Shout-Out: In "Library of No Return", Zack is asked to say what he remembers about Alice in Wonderland, but accidentally says the author is R. L. Stine
  • Stern Teacher: Mr. Munk. Although Zack considers him a Sadistic Teacher, he is shown to be tough but fair, and it is hinted that he genuinely likes Zack, Cam and Spence.
  • Student Council President: Zack in "It's a Wonderful Plot" and Vernon in the Bad Future in the same episode. Cam and Gwen run for the position in "Zack and White".
  • Time Travel Episode: In "Blast from the Past", Zack, Cam and Spence turn the clock back five minutes and are sent back in time to 1912. They accidentally bring a student named Jeb McFadden, who turns out to be Gwen's great-grandfather, back with them to the present.
  • "Truman Show" Plot: In "The Zack Show", Zack discovers that he is the star of a reality show which is broadcast in a parallel universe. The only problem is that ratings are flagging and, if the show is cancelled, his universe will be destroyed.
  • Tuckerization:
    • Zack and his dad are respectively named after the books' author's son and the author himself. The addition of their surname as Greenburg throws out any illusion that these names are coincidental.
    • The recurring character Christopher Dickie is named after Chris Dickie, who wrote "Crypt Seeker" and "The Talented Mr. Talisman".
  • Two-Teacher School: In Season One, there is Mr. Killerby and Mrs. Coleman-Levin. In Season Two, there is Ms. Arlington and Mr. Munk.
  • Unmanly Secret:
    • Cam has a few.
      • In "The Talented Mr. Talisman", it is revealed that he plays with - or at least used to play with - Barbie and Ken dolls.
      • In "Zack Zero", Zack takes a photo of him in ducky underwear.
    • Spencer has a few as well.
      • In "You Don't Say", Zack's inner voice Mel reveals that Spence sleeps with a nightlight, which Spence is actually a visual aid.
      • In "Zack Girl", it is mentioned that Spence slept with a stuffed rabbit until the previous year.
      • In "The Terrible Truth", Spence mentions that he is not allowed to wear spandex.
  • Weirdness Magnet: Pretty much the whole premise. The books offer this as one of two possibilities. The other is that this stuff happens all the time, and Zack's the only one who notices.
  • Wondrous Ladies Room: Inverted! Gwen bursts in to the Boys' Room to yell at Zack, and has no idea what the urinals are. He tells her they are planters. For vegetables. She believes it.