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Western Animation / Martha Speaks

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"And now she's got a lot to say!" note 

Martha Speaks is an animated educational series on PBS Kids adapted from a series of books of the same name by author Susan Meddaugh. Martha is an ordinary dog but, well, let's just let the show opening theme explain the premise:

Martha was an average dog. She went
"Bark" And- "Woof" And- "Grrrrrr"
But when she ate some alphabet soup,
then what happened was bizarre.
Narrator: On the way to Martha's stomach, the letters lost their way. They travelled to her brain and now-
She's got a lot to say. Now she speaks.
Martha: How now brown cow?
Martha speaks. Yeah, she speaks and speaks and speaks and speaks and speaks...

Like all PBS Kids series, the show is educational. It focuses on mainly teaching preschoolers about synonyms and vocabulary in the English language, with each episode featuring an underlying theme illustrated with keywords. However, it occasionally puts some focus on introducing other learning concepts to kiddies, such as the Spanish language, history, and astronomy. But don't let the simplicity of the content fool you, the show has acquired a good-sized Periphery Demographic because of its writing, which is unsurprising given that a lot of the people on this series also worked on My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic.


This show provides examples of

  • Absurdly Spacious Sewer: In "Verb Dog, When Action Calls!", Martha and Dr. R. try to hide in one of these (during a dream), but it doesn't work for long.
  • Accidental Misnaming: In "Martha's Life of Crime," Kazuo calls a mean woman who comes into the animal shelter looking to adopt Martha "Mrs. Crumblebum." Her name is actually Mrs. Bumblecrumb. Later, a man that she's trying to fence a stolen baseball to calls her "Stumblebum." Finally, the police officer that arrests her calls her "Fumblethumb" and she laments that she wishes someone would get it right.
    • Also Martha calling Helen "Joe" at the beginning.
    • And in the one with the school play, Carolina calls Helen "Hailey".
    • Mrs. Demson to Martha in "Martha Puts Out the Lights". She calls her Magda, then Marla.
      • Mrs. Demson to Martha most of the time, really.
  • Acting Out a Daydream:
    • In "Alice Twinkle Toes", Alice dances while imagining herself as a ballet dancer.
    • In "Martha's Adverb Adventure", Otis Weaselgraft imagines being friends with Martha and eating a peach, but then he accidentally eats a snowball.
  • Actor/Role Confusion: Martha (and two background kids) are surprised to find that the dog who plays Courageous Collie Carlo (also a collie and also named Carlo) is scared of flowers because his character is fearless and they expect the actor to be fearless too.
  • Advertisement:
  • Adaptation Expansion: A couple of the early stories from the show are almost note-for-note like the original books on which they are based.
  • A Dog Ate My Homework: In one episode, T.D. brings Martha into school and asks her to say that she ate his homework. There's also a song sung by Helen about how Martha ate her music homework and in "Martha Sings", Martha literally eats Helen's homework by mistake.
  • A Dog Named "Dog": The Kitten Martha meets in "There Goes the Neighbourhood" is named Kitten.
  • Adoptive Name Change: The eponymous dog and her siblings were originally named by their mother as One, Two, Three, Four, Five, Six, Seven, and Eight. Kazuo renamed them Skipper, Cam, Martha, Caruso, Felix, Star, Mack, and Sarge respectively and that's the names they have now.
  • Adventures in Comaland: In "Verb Dog, When Action Calls", Martha gets knocked out with a book and dreams of being a superhero.
  • Aesop: Many episodes have one, but they're normally played quite realistically.
  • Afraid of Needles: Martha and Skits fear getting shots.
  • Alice Allusion: Alice plays... Alice in the school play in "Martha Acts Up".
  • All Just a Dream:
    • In "Martha: Secret Agent Dog", Martha is tricked into helping steal the recipe for the alphabet soup allowing her to talk. She seems to go on a heroic adventure and defeat the villains in a spy parody...but wakes up and finds it's all a dream. Though it actually does help her solve the real crime.
    • In "Dog Daze", Carolina wakes up as a dog, but it turned out to be just a dream.
    • In "Virtually Martha", Martha has a dream where she gets sucked into the computer.
    • In "Verb Dog: When Action Calls", Martha gets knocked out and dreams that she becomes a superhero with the power to make verbs come true if she commands "[noun], [verb]" (for example, if she said "book-levitate", a book would levitate).
    • In "Fit Fights Fat", Martha dreams that she is being a Bookbot and the books are scrambled up, leading the Bookbots to be out of shape.
    • In "Dogs From Space", Martha dreams that she is an alien.
  • Amazingly Embarrassing Parent: It's bad enough for T.D. to have his mother as the principal, but she does her imitation of the TV dog Courageous Collie Carlo in front of his class. This is kind of unusual as T.D. is usually famous for not getting embarrassed.
  • Ambiguous Situation: In "Martha Takes the Cake", Martha is suspected of eating a piece of Alice Boxwood's birthday cake (along with a candle) because there were crumbs next to her. After Nelson throws up the candle, it's revealed that he was the one who did it, but that doesn't solve the mystery of how the crumbs got there in the first place.note 
  • An Ice Person: In "Verb Dog: When Action Calls", Martha dreams that Alice is an ice person (person who can make ice) named Al Ice.
  • Animal Gender-Bender: All the adult mallards in the show have drake colors, complete with a green head, whether they are male or female.
  • Animal Lover:
    • Helen was the one who suggested adopting Martha and she's always supported cats even when Martha was prejudiced against them.
    • Alice Boxwood hangs out with other people's pets and owns a cat and a parrot.
    • Kazuo likes animals and he works at the pound.
    • T.D. likes animals. Once he even wished he could speak to them.
  • Animal Jingoism: Downplayed for the most part as dogs and cats dislike each other most of the time but for one instance it was subverted, and the only cat that's really seen mostly is Nelson and he's got a mean personality in general.
  • Animal Sweet on Object: In "T.D. and Martha Gopher Broke", TD and Martha are trying to repel a gopher who keeps eating TD's uncle's crops. Martha suggests dressing a potato up like a lady gopher so he would fall in love with it and be lured out, but TD points out that he'd probably just eat it.
  • Attention Whore: Dynamo the robot dog is not usually one of these, however, he does become a downplayed example if left on for too long, in which case he runs in circles and says "Let us play" or, in a singsongy voice, "Play with me, please play with me".
  • Baby See, Baby Do:
    • In "Too Much Martha", Jake joins in when the Lorraines say, "No!" to Martha.
    • In "Oh Nooo!", a singer on the TV sings, "Baby baby yeah!" and Jake sings, "Baby baby baby!".
  • Baby's First Words: In "Martha the Hero Maker", Jake says his first word "door", which leads to his friends being let out from being locked in a room.
  • Bad "Bad Acting": Frequently, for most instances of Show Within a Show.
  • Bad Liar: Martha. Whenever she lies, her awkward voice gives her away.
  • Baleful Polymorph: Carolina gets one in "Dog Daze" when she wakes up as a border collie. It's all just a dream though.
  • Ballet Episode: In "Alice Twinkle Toes", Alice sees a ballet and wants to do ballet, but is scared Ronald will tease her because she's clumsy.
  • Berserk Button:
    • T.D. hates To Be Continued and stories that end with the word "forever" (because they're not real stories to him). However, this is downplayed, as he doesn't go into a seething rage, he's just annoyed by them.
    • Mariella really hates Mushy Duck, because it's all Ralph ever watches when staying at their house and she had the theme song stuck in her head. The rest of the Lorraines, Martha and T.D. dislike it too but Mariella hates it the most.
    • Martha doesn't like it when she thinks dreams are real. She also hates fleas, power outages, "no dogs allowed" signs, squirrels, baths and Nelson (formerly cats in general).
    • The janitor at the school the kids attend hates dogs shedding indoors.
  • Between My Legs: TD's mom's legs were between Mr. Sterns when he found dog fur on the floor.
  • Big Eater: Martha, who eats anything except stuff containing chocolatenote . She's particularly fond of garbage found goods. She does have limits, however. Skits and Teddy are also big eaters.
  • Big Friendly Dog: Skits, sometimes Bob, and Rinty.
  • Big "NO!": Martha after she and Skits try to clear up leaves but the wind blows them away in "Martha's Must-Have"
    • Martha when she misinterprets "dye" for "going to die" about Alice.
    • Martha when she accidentally throws her collar into the trash in "Ain't Nothing But a Pound Dog".
  • Big "WHAT?!": Martha says "What?!" upon hearing it's bathtime in "Martha Makes Scents".
  • Bilingual Animal: Martha gains the ability to talk from eating alphabet soup. She can still bark while able to talk, but if she tries to talk after going a day without soup, she can only bark.
  • Birthday Episode: Several.
    • In "Martha's Chair", the Lorraines celebrate Martha's adoption anniversary, which they call her "birthday".
    • Although it's not the main plot, Mariella has her birthday in "Martha Runs the Store"
    • Alice has her birthday in "Martha Takes the Cake"
    • Grandma Lucille has her birthday in "Martha Says it With Flowers"
    • Grandpa Bernie has his birthday in "Martha's Worst Best Day".
  • Black and Nerdy: Truman
  • Blatant Lies: Martha when she is refusing to admit to Skits, Rinty, Ruby, Bert and Cisco that she and Kitten have made friends. Her awkward voice and behavior give it away that she's lying.
    Martha: (after jumping on Rinty with a Little "No") and then putting the hat back on Kitten) "uhh, there was something on your ear...uh, it's gone now. Umm, what should we do?"
    Martha: (after Kitten has run into Bob's yard and Bob is barking at him) "Oh, just some chores before I, uh, go to the meat shop and pick up the free samples of salami" (awkward laugh)
    • Also Martha, when she's denying that she's scared of thunderstorms and lies (in the same awkward voice) that she is just spending time with her shoebox.
    • When she's pretending to be Mariella, she lies that she (Mariella) is stuck in the staircase while trying to get a piece of food, and then when Mrs. Demson comes to help Mariella, Martha lies that Mariella got free. Mrs. Demson doesn't believe Martha, so she has to have a conversation with her own voice and hide under the door to do the other side in Mariella's voice ("I'm fine" "Are you sure?" "I'm sure" "Absolutely?" "Absolutely"). Mrs. Demson then asks why Mariella doesn't come out of the house, and this is Martha's answer
    Martha: "I think she's lost her legs"
  • Blind Without 'Em: Alice, Daniel, and the old man from "Skits Under the Weather".
  • Blonde, Brunette, Redhead: Alice, Carolina, and Helen.
  • Blue Means Cold: In "Verb Dog- When Action Calls", Martha dreams that she and her friends have powers. Alice's powers relate to ice, giving her the nickname Al-Ice, and she wears a light blue jumpsuit.
  • Bragging Theme Tune: Downplayed. The whole theme doesn't brag, but part of the theme tune has Martha showing off her knowledge of words.
    Martha: Communicates, enumerates, elucidates, exaggerates, indicates, and explicates, bloviates, and overstates and (pant, pant, pant) hyperventilates!
  • Brawn Hilda: Brunhilde
  • Breathe on the Fan: Done once during a Heat Wave episode.
  • Broken Aesop: At the end of "Martha's Steamed!", Helen asks Martha if she learned something from all. Martha believes it's you couldn't jump to conclusions and a very hot dog can get very thirsty. Helen says the lesson was you shouldn't go eat food everywhere you see because it will lead to trouble. Martha, of course, misses the point and tries to reach for something in a trash can, only to fall in.
    Martha: Trouble? Eating is no trouble at all. (falls into the trash can) Uh, help!
    • Another episode introduces the character of Bob (an Angry Guard Dog with the habit of chasing after and/or barking at everything in sight). Bob attacks Martha and Helen throughout the episode while Bob's owner calls him a "bad dog". Then, at the end of the episode, Bob's owner starts calling him a "good dog" and Bob suddenly starts acting nice. Now, this could've been a good lesson about how calling someone names can make them angry and take out their anger on others. Just one tiny little problem. Bob was never shown being nice throughout the entire episode. Not once.
  • Bungling Inventor: TD's dad.
  • Butt-Monkey: Milo's dad.
  • But You Were There, and You, and You: Most of the time, when Martha (or in one case, Carolina) dreams, the characters will either be or resemble real life people.
  • Canada, Eh?: Daniel is from Winnipeg, Manitoba. He is also a hockey coach, and many of the children love hockey, though they likely play for an American team.
  • Cassandra Truth: In "Skits and Mr. Scruffles", Milo meets Skits, who he calls "Mr. Scruffles" and his dad thinks he's an imaginary friend. When Skits tells Martha about Milo, she thinks Milo is imaginary. Later, when he and his dad go out and show T.D. a picture of Skits, he recognizes the drawing as one of Helen's dogs and gives them directions, adding that if they get lost, ask for the girl with the talking dog, which makes Terrence very distrustful of T.D. and to think he's making fun, until he meets Martha and finds out she can talk.
  • Cats Are Mean: Nelson is something of an Evil Genius who plots ways to get Martha in trouble, leaving her to defend her innocence. Martha is invariably vindicated by the end of the episode.
    • Hilariously lampshaded in one episode where T.D. comes up with a ludicrously complicated and unlikely scheme to explain how Nelson got into a house and took a bite of a birthday cake on the table to frame Martha. At the end of the episode, Nelson is seen with an item identical to one from T.D.'s story.
    • Also subverted for an Aesop in one episode were Martha expects a kitten to be mean, but ultimately finds out it's nice and befriends it, even being heartbroken when it leaves (then overjoyed to find out she can visit it whenever she wants).
  • Cat Up a Tree: Kitten is up a tree in "Martha the Hero", and Martha tries to save him, but he doesn't need saving and climbs down, however, Martha can't climb down and gets stuck.
  • Cereal-Induced Superpowers: Talked about in "Bye Bye, Burger Boy". When the characters' favorite restaurant (Burger Boy) is threatened to go out of business due to the success of another restaurant which they don't like the food of (Big Burgertorium), the children try to make ads and T.D. suggests starring in an ad in which he used to be a weakling until he became the way he is now from eating a burger from Big Burgertorium. However, the others deem that unacceptable as that would be lying.
    • Also discussed in a similar way in "Oh NO!". Granny Flo wants Martha to agree with her upon saying there's an ingredient in her soup which makes dogs talk, but Helen tells her not to because that's like lying as it only works on Martha.
  • Chekhov's Gun: In "Dogs in Space," T.D. attempts to explore space using a jetpack for his report, but the jetpack takes off without him due to T.D. forgetting to strap on. At the end of the episode, a jetpack crashes nearby the school, allowing T.D. to get a higher grade on his assignment.
  • Cloud Cuckoolander: Both Martha and T.D. sometimes go into this territory. Skits can sometimes be this too.
  • Cock-a-Doodle Dawn: In "T.D. and Martha Gopher Broke", a rooster is heard crowing at dawn, justified because they're on a farm with chickens.
  • Color Blind Confusion: In the episode "Martha the Witness", Martha represents Mrs. Demson as the witness to a traffic accident that destroyed her lawn furniture. At one point, the defendant's lawyer shows Martha three cards; two red and one green. Martha, however, is unable to tell the three cards apart, due to her being colorblind, but towards the end of the episode, she reveals that she is able to tell that the top of a traffic light is always red, and the bottom of the traffic light is always green.
  • Company Cross References: In "Martha's Chair", Mrs. Demson sees a chair resembling Martha's favorite chair on Antiques Roadshow, which airs on PBS just like Martha Speaks.
  • Compressed Abstinence: In "Martha's Dirty Habit", Daniel tries to give up snacking despite neither being overweight, nor malnourished, nor with an eating disorder. Justified because he was trying to give something up to make Martha feel better about having to give up digging and that was the first thing that came to mind.
  • Compressed Vice:
    • In "Helen's All Thumbs", Helen takes up video games but soon develops an obsession with them to the point of missing out on sleep and neglecting to do her homework and feed and walk her dogs. She even starts hallucinating sprites from the game and so eventually gives up playing the games. Trouble is, she's never shown to have anything that would make her so easily obsessed or hallucinate from obsession, and it can't be a thing with the game as the Boxwood siblings have played it before and not gotten obsessed.
    • In "Martha's Dirty Habit", Mariella shows disdain for her husband snacking between meals. She's never disapproved of snacking before or since.
  • Cone of Shame: The main character has to wear one of these to prevent her from scratching her ear mites. She hates it, as it makes things 'sound funny', and scares Baby Jake.
  • Continuity Nod:
    • In "Martha Gets Spooked", Mrs. Parker mentioned the "pickle incident" (from the episode "Martha's Pickle").
    • In "Ice Scream", the picture book "Blue Mangoes" is missing its last page. In "Milo's Reading Buddy" T.D. comes across a copy of the book and proceeds to recap the plot of "Ice Scream" to Milo. In "Martha the Weather Dog", Truman finds the missing page under his bed.
    • In "Martha's No Dummy", Helen mentions the time when Otis and Pablum made a fake talent show to steal Martha in "Martha's Got Talent".
    • In "Martha Bakes", Mrs. Parker mentions the events from "Martha Gets Spooked".
    • In "The Cheating Chum Caper", Helen mentions the singing telegram who's really a crook. Carolina also mentioned the "steak tree" T.D. tried to grow.
    • In "Too Many Marthas", one of the members of the fundraising committee mentions Martha's radio show in "Martha Gives Advice".
    • In "Thou Callest Me a Dog", Helen and her dad mentioned when Martha ate Polish alphabet soup and when she couldn't stop singing.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: Not exactly, but: Granny Flo, the owner of the soup company that makes Martha's alphabet soup decides to cut costs by removing half the letters from her soup, which leaves Martha only able to speak words using those letters. They convince Granny Flo to put the letters back in and Martha gets better.
  • Courtroom Episode: In "Martha the Witness", Martha testifies in court about a traffic accident.
  • Crying a River: In "Martha's Blue Period", Helen imagines Martha crying enough to flood the house.
  • Crying Critters: Never happens actually, but in "Martha's Blue Period", Helen is worried about Martha missing her and imagines Martha crying so much she floods the house.
  • The Cuckoolander Was Right: TD, occasionally.
  • Cute Kitten: The reason why Martha stopped being prejudiced against cats was because she met a cute kitten.
  • The Danza: In-Universe, the star of Martha's favorite Show Within a Show Courageous Collie Carlo is played by a collie dog who's also named Carlo.
  • Death Glare: Martha gives one to Billy Collins, thinking he's an impostor.
  • Diet Episode: Martha has one in "Too Much Martha" and "Martha's Dirty Habit" has an unresolved subplot of Daniel going through one.
  • Disappeared Dad: We never find out who Skits's dad is. We also never find out who Mariella's father (Helen and Jake's maternal grandfather) is.
    • "Martha's Thanksgiving" is entirely dedicated to Martha reuniting with her mother and siblings, but there is no mention of a father at all, even in the flashbacks.
  • Disqualification-Induced Victory: In the episode "Wagstaff Races", the neighborhood kids enter a green go-kart race. T.D. and Alice's wind-powered go-kart places just behind Ronald and Reginald, whose go-kart appears to be powered by a swimming goldfish, and who have been sabotaging the other racers' go-karts. This isn't what disqualifies them, though. What does disqualify them is that their car is revealed to be a disguised gas-powered lawnmower when they crash into a lamp post after arguing over who gets to drive the victory lap. T.D. and Alice win the trophy as a result.
  • Ditzy Genius: TD's dad.
  • Does Not Like Spam:
    • Grandma Lucille doesn't like bacon.
    • One of the babies Mrs. Oatley babysits doesn't like spinach, and saying the word "spinach" counts as negative feedback from that baby.
    • Martha (and a nameless toddler boy) both hate the burgers that Big Burgertorium serve.
    • Helen and T.D. don't like pea soup.
    • Martha doesn't like rhubarb pie or cream.
    • Helen doesn't like rhubarb pie.
    • T.D. doesn't like "hot, lumpy porridge".
  • Dogs Hate Squirrels: Most (if not all) of the dog characters like to chase squirrels and hate the squirrels.
    Martha: "So that's why you should not be prejudiced against cats. Squirrels? Hate 'em all you like."
  • Dramatic Thunder: In "Paws and Effect".
    • Played with in "Truman's Secret". Truman says that there was thunder and lightning when there wasn't really, because he was "trying to be dramatic".
  • Dream Ballet: In "Alice Twinkle Toes", Alice has a dream where she's dancing ballet with some various adult athletes who wear tutus over the top of their uniforms and are just as clumsy as she is.
  • Dream Episode: "Fit Fights Fat" has Martha fall asleep and dream that she and her friends are the superheroes known as Book Bots that she and the others made up a few episodes ago, and that Ronald Boxwood is an evil scientist who makes exercise books decrease fitness and yoga books tie people in knots.
  • Dream People: Sometimes when a dream happens, there will be an original dream character who is not a real-life character, although they'll usually be based on real-life characters, for example Al-Ice, a version of Alice with ice powers, who appeared in "Verb Dog, When Action Calls".
  • Dreams of Flying: In "Verb Dog: When Action Calls", Martha dreams that she can fly and make other people fly by saying their name and the word "fly" or a synonym (float, elevate, levitate, etc).
  • Dress-Coded for Your Convenience: Parodied in one of the The More You Know segments
  • Dumb Blonde: T.D. He does things like being tricked into buying a steak tree.
    • The damsel in a black-and-white horror film in the episode "Martha's Pickle" who keeps asking the macho hero the definition of some words he says.
  • Early Personality Signs:
    • Carolina went through a Princess Phase when she was little and acted like a stereotypical Spoiled Brat princess. Nowadays, she's still bossy.
    • When Martha's brother Sarge was a puppy, he'd often snarl at her. Now, he's an Angry Guard Dog.
  • Eating Pet Food: Helen accidentally eats dog food in the first episode.
  • Elephant in the Living Room: Truman was right.
  • Embarrassing Relative Teacher: T.D. is embarrassed by the fact that his mother is vice principal at his school. This is odd, as he usually never gets embarrassed.
  • Embarrassment Plot:
    • In "Alice Twinkle Toes", Alice is embarrassed to admit that she wants to do ballet, because she thinks that she's so clumsy that she'd make a ridiculous dancer.
    • In "Martha Fails the Course", Martha is too embarrassed to walk for fear of being laughed at after failing an agility course.
    • In "Martha and Truman Get Lost", those two characters get lost looking for something Truman was too embarrassed to specify, which turns out to be his lucky rock.
    • In "Carolina Tackles Football", Carolina is embarrassed to play American football because she's a girl, even though Helen and Alice play it.
    • In "Truman's Secret", Truman is embarrassed about his haircut.
    • Helen being embarrassed about her clothes takes up a subplot of "Martha Gives Advice".
  • Enslaved Tongue: Any change to Martha's alphabet soup will mean a change in her ability to communicate. For example, in one episode, Martha is compelled to speak Polish after being served Polish alphabet soup. In another, the soup company decides to stop including some letters, and Martha's speech Deteriorates Into Gibberish.
  • Everyone Has Standards: Ronald acquires a robot dog named Dynamo and although she initially dismisses Dynamo as nothing, Martha soon becomes envious and wants to get rid of Dynamo. But when she overhears Ronald's intent to get rid of Dynamo when he's bored with it, Martha is horrified, arguing that he shouldn't abandon his pet.
    • Even Evil Has Standards: Nelson, who had formed an Enemy Mine union with Martha to get rid of Dynamo, is also disturbed by Ronald's willingness to get rid of Dynamo.
  • Everyone Hates Fruitcakes: Zigzagged. Mariella apparently once said that one particular fruitcake that Grandma Lucille made wasn't fit for a dog, but Martha liked it.
  • Everything's Better with Llamas: In "Here's Martha!", Martha asks her talk show audience if they loved llamas to assure a llama who heard camels were better than llamas. The audience responds enthusiastically.
  • Everything's Better with Plushies: The abovementioned My Fluffy Puppy Imagine Spot. In real life, there are Martha plushes, too. They don't talk though.
  • Exercise Excuse: Inverted in the episode "Alice Twinkle Toes", where Alice is dancing, but is embarrassed to admit it, so she claims she's trying to reach her swimming goggles.
  • Expository Theme Tune: The whole theme explains the premise.
  • Expy: Mrs. Bumblecrumb is similar to Madame Medusa from The Rescuers. Another flapper with too much make-up, partners with a bumbling oaf, and uses someone to steal something from her.
    • Courageous Collie Carlo is possibly a Gender Flipped parody of Lassie.
    • Martha was based off a real dog with the same name.
  • Extreme Omnivore: Zigzagged. Teddy is one, eating furniture and even (apparently) baby Jake's diaper. Most of these had no ill effects on him, but when he ate a rock, he could not digest it and it made him ill (however, he was OK). Butterscotch once ate a sock, and that made him sick. Martha and Skits eat a lot of weird things too (Martha sometimes eats paper), but nothing a real dog would not eat. T.D. also used to eat roly-poly bugs and dog food as a toddler and is not grossed out at the thought of eating blue mangoes (which smell like squid and old socks and taste like cheese). However, even he is grossed out by the thought of Teddy eating Jake's diaper.
  • Fake Rabies: In "Ain't Nothing But a Pound Dog", Martha falls into the bathtub and gets soap suds on her face, then she chases after two binmen that are taking her collar and they think she's mad.
  • Fantasy Helmet Enforcement: Helen, Truman, Alice and TD always wear bikes, and when biking, they'll always be wearing helmets, and, in Helen's case, elbow pads.
  • Fiery Redhead: Mr. Sterns, the school janitor, has red hair and he is very fiery, especially if dog hair is involved.
    • Helen, when she's peeved. However, she is not generally this.
  • Filthy Fun: Martha and Skits really like to roll in mud and dig through trash. Martha even rolled in dead snakes once. Her brother Felix used to have this belief, but grew out of it.
  • Fire-Breathing Diner: O.G's drawing of Martha eating a chili depicts her breathing fire.
  • Firehouse Dalmatian: In the episode "Firedog Martha", Martha is read a story about a Dalmatian who puts out fires. Martha wants to put out fires too, so she goes to the fire station but they tell her she has to be a Dalmatian. She puts black and white makeup on, but they still say no.
  • The Flapper: Mrs. Bumblecrumb from "Martha's Life in Crime" dresses like one.
  • Flash Back: Happens several times.
    • In "Martha's Life in Crime" and "Ain't Nothing But a Pound Dog", Martha flashes back to her puppyhood at the pound.
    • Martha has a short flashback to smelling sausages on the dog's breath at the beginning of the episode at the end of "Secret Agent Dog".
    • Martha has a flashback to when she was a puppy and had only recently been adopted and how she used to wet the rug in "Skits Behaves".
    • There are two flashbacks to Skits's puppyhood. One was in "Skits on Ice" when they were explaining why Skits was afraid of hockey pucks and the other was in "Martha Plays Favorites" when Martha remembers being jealous of him.
    • T.D. has a few in "The Martha Code". He remembers his first swim in the river and thinking the silt was frog slime and then having sandwiches, explaining why sandwiches are called "frog slime" in his code. He also is explaining why "firetruck" means "stuck" in his code. It was because he once got stuck in a giant model of an ear at the National History Museum while getting his toy firetruck. Lastly, his explanation of why Helen's codename is "Nap Time" is because at preschool, he and Helen both stayed up during nap time once.
    • The most part of "The Jakey Express" is a flashback centered on Mariella being in labor.
    • "The Trouble With Teddy" has Martha flash back to Teddy eating the furniture, Burt flash back to his allergy to flea collars, and Rinty flash back to when he once got poisoned from licking pesticide off his paws.
  • Flashback Within a Flashback: "The Case of the Shattered Vase"
  • Fleeting Passionate Hobbies: In "Helen's All Thumbs", Helen takes up video games and gets, as Alice puts it, "hooked". She has to give them up though, because they make her see things and she gets obsessed.
  • Funny Foreigner: There is Helen's Hispanic Mexican mother and Caucasian Canadian father.
  • Fractured Fairy Tale: The episode "Martha Spin A Tale" spoofs everything from Jack and the Beanstalk to Alice in Wonderland, complete with characters from the show.
  • Fridge Logic: In-universe, In "Alice Covers Up", Martha is enjoying having fun splashing in a kiddy pool.
    Helen: How is this different from a bathtub?
    Martha: It's a different sort of experience all together.
    Helen: How? It's water from a faucet in a rafting.
    Martha: Don't ruin this for me. Okay?
    • Another In-universe in "Skits on Ice", Skits is afraid of hockey pucks ever since when he was a puppy he nearly drowned on thin ice after chasing a puck.
    Carolina: That makes no sense. He should be afraid of ice.
    Martha: Dog logic.
  • Frothy Mugs of Water: In "Martha Out West", they serve strawberry milkshakes at a saloon.
  • Gainax Ending: Played for Laughs in the ending of the adore segment, with a dash of horror thrown in for good measure.
  • Genre Savvy: TD. In "Martha Gets Spooked", he tells Martha to look for a flashlight inside the haunted house, since they always do.
  • The Ghost: TD's sister is mentioned in "Truman's Brother". He forgot because she's in college.
    T.D.: I can't remember every little detail.
  • Goths Have It Hard: When the kids imagine Milo as unable to feel joy due to not being able to have his favorite ice cream, they imagine him as a broody poet who wears black.
  • Gratuitous Spanish: Carolina uses some Spanish words and phrases here. Helen's mom does this as well, but much less frequently.
  • Green Aesop: "Paws and Effect" has an anti-littering Aesop.
  • Growling Gut: Martha's stomach growls in at least four episodes.
  • Guilty Until Someone Else Is Guilty: In the "Martha Takes the Cake" episode, someone takes a large bite out of Alice's birthday cake and swallows a candle along with it. Initially, Martha is suspected until Nelson coughs up the candle, proving him as the perpetrator.
  • Hairball Humor:
    • At the end of "Martha Takes the Cake", they find out that Nelson was the one who ate Alice's birthday cake and candle because the candle was in his hairball.
    • In the online game "Socks in Space", some aliens that look just like cats throw weaponized hairballs.
  • Happy Rain: Zigzagged. Martha is scared of thunderstorms and Helen, Truman, Martha, and Carolina generally dislike the rain (unless it's hot). However, T.D. and the old man from "Skits Under the Weather" both enjoy the rain.
  • Hates Baths: Martha hates baths, so much that she wishes dogs didn't have to take baths.
  • Help, I'm Stuck!: Martha gets stuck in the doggie door in the episodes, "Too Much Martha" and "The Puppy Tooth Fairy".
  • Hidden Depths: Carolina revels so much in being a Girly Girl and Fashionista that she takes pains to hide her athletic leanings:
    • In "Carolina Tackles Football," she showed herself to be a closet football fanatic with a genuine talent for coaching.
    • In "Truman on the Ball," when she teaches Truman how to make a perfect fly ball catch, she effortlessly demonstrates the catch without even looking at the ball.
    • In "Skits on Ice", she cheers for the Canadian hockey team.
  • Homemade Inventions: Professor Monkey's gadgets, such as a couch-helicopter made from a couch, broomsticks, a blender, bicycle handlebars, and a rope.
  • Holding Both Sides of the Conversation: In "My Mother the Dog", Martha does a voice impression of Helen's mother Mariella while she's out. Then, Mrs. Demson comes over to see if Mariella is okay.
    Martha: "Are you okay? (runs behind the door, Mariella's voice) I'm fine (normal voice) Are you sure? (Mariella's voice) I'm sure (normal voice) Absolutely? (Mariella's voice) Absolutely."
  • Hypocritical Humor: In "Martha's Pickle", a black and white film's Bruce Campbell-esque protagonist keeps defining words for his Dumb Blonde girlfriend. Truman criticizes this as "not being how real people talk".
    • Throughout "Martha Runs the Store", Martha criticizes Skits for constantly getting distracted, only to get distracted herself before she can explain what that word means.
    • Martha has another Running Gag in the series where she'll say she can't get to sleep due to being hungry/scared/whatever, only to immediately fall asleep on the spot.
  • I Ate WHAT?!:
    • In the first episode, Helen eats dog food.
    • In "Martha Takes the Cake", Nelson eats a birthday cake, which he probably intended, but he also accidentally ate the candle along with it, which...did not go so well.
  • Idiosyncratic Wipes: For scene transitions, it often uses alphabet soup falling in front of the screen.
  • I Do Not Like Green Eggs and Ham: Truman thought he didn't like ice cream in "Ice Scream" but he'd never tried it. The reason why he didn't want to try was because Alice wanted him to and he thought that if he did he'd be "giving in to peer pressure".
  • If Jesus, Then Aliens: In "Martha's Worst Best Day", Helen's grandpa basically said anything is possible.
    Helen's grandpa: Helen, you have a talking dog. After that, I believe anything.
    Helen's dad: Good point.
  • Incredible Shrinking Man: TD guesses this is what happened to Truman, after he refuses to show his face (Due to a bad haircut) despite they can see him standing right in front of them (Albeit in the shadows).
  • Ingesting Knowledge: The show's premise. Aside from ordinary Alphabet Soup, Martha has also eaten Spanish Alphabet Soup to speak Spanish. She also once ate a paper of Spy Speak definitions, which caused her to talk in code.
    • Martha also (inadvertently) speaks Polish in one episode, thanks to Otis Weaselgraft sneaking Polish Alphabet Soup into her bowl.
  • Inheritance Backlash: Zigzagged in the episode "Martha Gets Spooked". Mr. and Mrs. Parkington and their dog John get a house left to them by Mrs. Parkington's dead relative, whose name happens to be Martha, so when she hears Martha introduce herself, she thinks the late Martha is haunting the house. Later, a photo of the house shows something that might be a ghost in the background, but it's probably lens flare.
  • Injured Limb Episode: In "Dog Daze", Helen has sprained her ankle, but we never find out how and she's fine the next day.
  • Inspector Javert: The security guard in "Martha Runs the Store" who is an unfortunate mix of this and Lawful Stupid, especially in how he continually accuses two boys for stuff they didn't do. Somewhat justified in that it's shown he's still learning how to be a security guard from DVD courses, but is still pretty inept.
  • Intentional Mess Making: In the episode "Martha Plays Favorites", Martha remembers a time when Skits was a puppy and she intentionally wet the rug to get attention because she was jealous of him.
  • Ironic Echo: In "Martha's Thanksgiving, Part 1", Carolina tells Helen about how she doesn't want to be partners with a girl named Tiffany again. Later, in a flashback, Carolina says the exact same line. In "Part 2", she complains about this again to her cousin Chuck (or "Uck").
  • Ironic Echo Cut: In "The Cheating Chum Caper".
  • It Tastes Like Feet: In "Martha's Steamed", Helen's dad found TD's shoes in the freezer. Helen tells him it's to make his feet cooler. But the reason TD put them on their freezer is because his dad won't let him use theirs, due to making the ice cream taste like feet. Helen's dad is eating ice cream during the conversation...
  • Jerkass: Mr. Sterns (to a lesser extent) and Eulah Demson (extremely).
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Ronald Boxwood, Grandma Lucille, Mrs. Parkington, Bob, and Mrs. Demson are all a bit crabby and impolite, but not complete jerks.
  • The Klutz: Alice
  • Lady Looks Like a Dude: According to Martha, she was once told "Here, boy" by a stranger despite being a girl dog.
  • Lampshade Hanging: In "Martha's Pickles", Truman points out how often the hero of the movie defines words.
    • In "Que Pasa, Martha?", T.D. thought of an idea to help Alice by giving Martha Mexican soup to speak Spanish, then Alice would record Martha when she repeats what Alice said. Alice asked why didn't T.D. use it himself, he never realized that.
  • Large Ham: TD as "Mr. Astonishing"
  • Lawyer-Friendly Cameo: and Ripped from the Headlines: One whole episode revolves around every dog in Martha's town wanting to be Obama's family dog. While the president portrayed is black and uses Obama's speech patterns, Obama's name is never used.
    • The episode when they compete in a talent show to meet Ryan Oceancrest and appear on International Icon.
  • Let's Meet the Meat: Parodied in the deserted and adore The More You Know segments.
    • One time, Helen plays a D.V.D. for Martha, where people dressed as food tell the viewers to eat them.
  • Like Brother and Sister: When Helen introduces Skits to Martha, she calls him a "little brother". Played with in "Truman's Brother". Truman and T.D. want to try and be brothers and they state that Martha and Skits are sort of like siblings.
  • Literal-Minded: Martha, justified as she's a dog. Some of the children have moments of this but aren't as literal minded as Martha, which is also justified because they are kids.
  • Little "No": Martha when Kitten is about to jump on Rinty.
  • Lost in Transmission: In "The Martha Code", Martha eats a secret code and ends up speaking in it, and the children are struggling to understand her phone call.
  • Lost Voice Plot:
    • In "Martha in Charge", Helen loses her voice due to laryngitis.
    • In the first episode, Martha doesn't lose her voice in the normal way, but she loses her ability to speak due to going too long without alphabet soup.
    • Downplayed in "Martha Blah Blah", in which Martha only loses some of her voice due to Granny Flo subtracting half the letters from the alphabet soup.
  • Lovable Coward: Truman, Carlo, Milo, John and sometimes Helen.
  • Magic Realism: It's a Slice of Life series wherein a dog gains the ability to speak like a human thanks to eating alphabet soup.
  • Maternity Crisis: In "The Jakey Express", it's revealed that Mariella went into labor while pregnant with Jake while it was snowing and the car had broken down.
  • Mean Character, Nice Actor: In a The More You Know segment, it is explained how actors are different from the characters they play by showing that Mrs. Demson's actress is nice while her character is mean.
  • Medium Awareness: Zigzagged. There's a bit of This Is Reality in the show itself, but there is No Fourth Wall at all during the The More You Know segments. Also, the narrator is outside the fourth wall.
  • Meganekko: Alice Boxwood, Mrs. Boxwood, Granny Flo, and Mrs. Clusky.
    • Helen as her favorite book character Curious Crystal, complete with Girlish Pigtails.
  • Merchandise-Driven: Averted. Aside from the books, there's only two Martha plush designs (a beanie, and a regular plush), and none of them talk.
    • Parodied in one episode's "My Fluffy Puppy" Imagine Spot where Carolina argues all successful kid's show are like this.
  • Mind Control: When The Perfect Pup obedience school comes to town and starts training dogs to behave perfectly, Martha gets suspicious that it's working too well. She discovers that the school using collars with mind-control devices installed to make the dogs obey every order their owner gives them.
  • Missing Mom: We never find out who Skits's mom is. We also never find out who Mariella's mother (Helen and Jake's paternal grandmother) is. Mrs. Clusky has three nieces, although their mother is never revealed (she would be Mrs. Clusky's sister or sister-in-law). We also never find out who Carolina and Milo's mothers are.
  • Mistaken for Thief:
    • In "Martha Takes the Cake", somebody takes a bite out of Alice's birthday cake. Martha is suspected because there were crumbs near her, but it was actually Nelson.
    • In "Martha and the Thief of Hearts", the kids accuse one another of stealing their Valentines, but really Skits did it for attention.
    • In "The Dog Who Came to Dinner", Francois takes some cupcakes and Martha and Skits are accused.
  • Mistakes Are Not the End of the World: In "Martha Fails the Course", Martha fails an agility course and is laughed at. She refuses to walk for fear of falling over again and being made fun of, but then realizes that mistakes are fine and can even be funny.
  • Mondegreen: In "Alice Covers Up".
    Mrs. Boxwood: It's not sunburn. It's dye.
    Martha: She's gonna die?! Nooooo!! [bursts into tears]
  • The More You Know: Appropriately for an educational show, before and after each episode members of the cast (including the Narrator) talk about the vocabulary words that will be or had been used in the episode.
    • In season two, the show started displaying key words on-screen as those words were being defined. It was a bit distracting, but probably not a bad idea, as it helps visual learners and allows viewers to not only learn the definition of the word, but see how it looks in print. As of season four, however, the on-screen word display was discontinued without explanation.
  • Motor Mouth: Martha can be this sometimes, and also Bob barks a lot.
  • The Musical: "Ain't Nuthin' But a Pound Dog" is not exactly a musical but it's narrated in song by Martha.
  • Musical Episode: The set of "Martha Sings" and "T.D. Makes the Band"
  • My Little Phony: The show has an Imagine Spot which stars "My Fluffy Puppy". It's used to give an aesop against Merchandise-Driven products.
  • Neat Freak: Grandma Lucille, the janitor in "Raiders of the Lost Art", Carolina, and Mrs. Demson. They get very dramatic if something of theirs gets dirty. Also Mariella and Danny to a lesser extent.
  • New Baby Episode: In an episode, we learn how Jake was born. Mariella went into labor early on a snowy slope and they had to slide down the mountain to get to the hospital. Martha tried to help as best she could, but as she couldn't speak then, her ability to communicate was limited.
  • New Job as the Plot Demands: Martha, who's been a radio advice host, a telephone marketer, a farm dog, a firehouse dog, and quite a few others! Several episodes imply she still has a radio show.
    Martha: What can I say? I'm a dog of many dreams.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!: Martha tends to get into this a good bit, though normally due to someone taking advantage of her good nature. Still, she always tries hard to fix it in the end.
  • Nice Job Fixing It, Villain!: In the first episode, the cat burglar gave Martha food to shut her up. What he gave her is alphabet soup.
  • Nigh-Invulnerability: Dynamo the robot dog is said to be resistant to scratches, shocks, fire, and even being run over.
  • Nightmare Fuel: In an in-universe example, Baby Jake got scared when Martha was wearing a doggy cone to prevent her from scratching her ear... Until his older sister's friend told him a story about Martha as a space dog that went to a fake moon and battled Dr. 2 arms and his cleaning robot The actual show averts this for the most part. Well, minus the giant clown head attempt in the aforementioned episode.
  • No Fourth Wall: Obviously in the The More You Know segments, but occasionally the Narrator is addressed directly.
  • Non Sequitur: One of the toddlers Mrs. Oatley babysits just says "applesauce" for "I like this" and "spinach" for "I dislike this".
  • Nosy Neighbor: Mrs. Parkington is quite nosy and, with the exception of one episode, lives next door to the Lorraines. Mrs. Demson, who lives across the street, can also be nosy.
  • Not So Different: As shown in "Grandpa Bernie Cleans", he and TD are a lot alike. Bernie even said that Helen is like her grandma.
  • Not-So-Imaginary Friend: In "Skits and Mr. Scruffles", Milo moves into the neighborhood and meets Skits, who he calls "Mr. Scruffles" as he doesn't know his name. His dad Terrence thinks he's imaginary due to Mr. Scruffles also being the name of Milo's teddy bear. When Skits describes Milo to Martha, she thinks Milo is the imaginary one.
  • Obsessive Hobby Episode:
    • In "Martha's Dirty Habit", Martha becomes obsessive with her digging (said to be something that happens in the springtime) and digs on other people's property.
    • In "Helen's All Thumbs", Helen becomes obsessed with a video game, neglecting her homework, forgetting to walk Martha and Skits, and eventually hallucinating sprites from the game.
  • Odd Couple: Martha and TD always hang together or partner up in some adventure. As shown in "The Missing Metal Mystery", "Gopher Broke", "Martha's No Dummy", and "TD is Talking Dog".
  • Offscreen Teleportation: Truman somehow did this in "Martha's Life in Crime", at least once in each part. Martha wondered how he did that.
  • One Steve Limit: There's another dog named Martha in "Too Much Marthas".
  • Only One Finds It Fun: Subverted. It seems as though Ralph is the only one to like the "Mushy Duck" show, but then it's revealed that his duck friends and Bob like it too.
  • Origins Episode: "Martha's Life in Crime" where Martha tells Truman about her puppyhood prior to being adopted by Helen.
    • "Martha's Thanksgiving" where we learn where she came from and how she ended up in the pound in the first place.
  • Our Presidents Are Different: In "Martha in the White House", a new president is sworn in. And he's black.
  • Out-of-Character Moment: TD in "Dinosaurs in Trouble!". He became unhappy after finding out Truman and Milo wanting to exclude him from their project. It made Jake cry seeing an unhappy TD.
  • Parental Bonus: There are more than a few subtle jokes that only the grown-ups will get.
  • Pet Heir: Sweetums
  • Planet of Steves: In "Dogs From Space," Martha dreams of a planet occupied nothing but Marthas.
  • Plot-Relevant Age-Up: Skits, who is first shown as a puppy but then suddenly becomes a full grown dog upon Martha's command.
  • Potty Emergency: Milo fakes several in "Milo's Reading Buddy" and T.D. gets an actual one in a The More You Know segment about health.
  • Potty Failure: Skits when he was a puppy. It is shown that Martha used to do that when she was a puppy, too. Martha also has one on purpose when she's pretending to be a puppy.
  • Pounds Are Animal Prisons: Averted in "Ain't Nuthin' But a Pound Dog" in that it actually provides a fairly realistic portrayal of an animal shelter— it's not an easy life, but it's not "a smelly, damp concrete prison with no food or water" either.
  • Power-Up Food: Alphabet soup makes Martha able to talk. Though for some reason, it only works on Martha and no other dog.
  • Powers in the First Episode: Martha receives the ability to speak in the first episode.
  • Prejudice Aesop: In the episode "There Goes the Neighborhood", Martha doesn't want to be friends with Kitten the cat because she hates cats, but then she learns that cats aren't all bad.
  • Proper Tights with a Skirt: Helen
  • Pun: "Martha, can I have your PAW-tograph?"
  • "Rashomon"-Style: "Never Forget to Remember"
  • Recurring Extra:
    • A married couple that wears fishing hats, cargo shorts, and sandals.
    • The large redhead woman.
    • The girl in Helen's class with the long, black, straight hair and the blue cardigan. Her name is revealed in "Qe Pasa, Martha?" to be Celestè.
  • Recursive Adaptation: A number of stories from the television show have now been released as books.
  • Ripped from the Headlines: A story in which Helen and Martha discover a dog locked in a car on a hot day. Unfortunately very much Truth in Television, although there are many dogs like this who sadly perish before anyone can find them. The episode featured a non-malicious variant, however. The dog in question was trying to sneak a treat and got locked in the car only because the owner of the car didn't know she was there.
  • The Rival: Carolina's best friend Tiffany Blatsky.
    • Nelson to Martha.
  • Rule of Cool: T.D.'s last-ditch reason for allowing aliens to be included in a western-themed movie. It works.
  • Running Gag: Martha has many dream jobs. She first dream about them ever since he first heard of them.
    • You can't forget Martha's "Hey Joe, whaddya know?" to which Helen responds, "My name's not Joe.", in the theme song. Nobody in the Martha Speaks universe has the name of Joe.
      • In one episode, a talking dog says this to William Shakespeare (played by TD), and he responds "My name's not Joe. It's Will." In an episode about Greek myth, Echo the nymph (Martha) says "Hey Juno, whaddya know?", and Hera (Helen) angrily responds "My name's not Juno!"
    • People being surprised to see Martha talk. Also, those who know her personally are confused by other people who think they're joking.
  • Sadly Mythtaken: The episode "Myth Me?" removes the endings of the myths, even in the case of Prometheus, which had a happy ending.
  • Samus Is a Girl: In "Martha's Steamed", the dog Ruby's owner is named Ray (short for Rachael).
  • Say My Name: Happens with Martha and Skits several times.
    • Danny shouts Martha's name in a flashback when she wets the floor.
    • Helen says Martha's name (albeit not shouting) in the one about the school play.
    • People shout Skits's name in "Martha and Skits". Mariella shouts his name when he wets the rug and everyone shouts his name when he shows up after running away.
    • In the Flash Back in "The Jakey Express", Mariella shouts "Danny!!" while sledding down the hill. Danny shouts "Mariella!!" and slides after her.
  • Secret Shame: In "The Cheating Chum Caper", T.D. likes a comic book made for little kids.
  • "Sesame Street" Cred: Billy Collins and Kit Luntanne in different episodes
  • Scary Science Words: The show sometimes employs this trope due to its habit of defining things:
    • In the episode "Martha in Charge", Mariella hopes Helen "recuperates" from her laryngitis. Martha is scared at the prospect and thinks recuperate means to throw up (possibly confusing it with regurgitate.)
    • In "Verb Dog, When Action Calls", Ronald complains about Martha "ambulating" all over the place and it's unknown what Helen thinks that means, but she seems disgusted and asks if Martha is OK. Actually, "ambulate" is just a rare English verb meaning "to walk".
  • School Play: The gang gets to act in a rendition of Alice in Wonderland which involves Alice as Alice and Martha as the Cheshire Cat in "Martha Acts Up".
  • Screams Like a Little Girl: Truman tends to scream like this. He's eight, and prepubescent boys tend to scream the same as little girls.
  • Secret Identity: When Martha gets to be host of a call-in radio advice show, she starts giving some strange advice to the callers. She becomes extraordinarily popular and everyone finds themselves extremely happy by following her advice, until at her first live appearance, everyone finds out she's a dog and everyone promptly loses interest in her and her advice.
  • Shock-and-Switch Ending: In one episode, Carolina turns into a dog. The episode seems to end with Martha narrating that Carolina stayed a dog for the rest of her life, but then Helen tells her off. Turns out that the real ending was that it was all a dream.
  • Show Within a Show: Several.
    • The show "Courageous Collie Carlo", featuring an action hero dog, which is a favorite of most of the main cast.
    • The TV movie seen in "Martha's Pickle".
    • Several shows about sports seen in "Martha Fails the Course".
    • The medical drama that Martha was watching in "Nurse Martha".
    • "Mushy Duck", a TV show about ducks that Ralph and his duck friends like but everyone else hates, especially Mariella because she finds the theme tune annoying.
    • An unnamed TV show that Skits likes, featuring a blue monkey named Malcolm. Martha and Ronald dislike the show because they think it's babyish.
    • A Sesame Street parody featured in "Dog Fight", which the kids think is a "baby show".
  • Shout-Out:
    • In "Verb Dog, When Action Calls!", Martha spins around to transform into her superhero identity like a certain other superhero dog.
    • TD's own Greek myth adaptation I Love Medusy.
    • In "The Dog Did It", when Martha tells the kids about how dogs helped human discover fire, the story begins with a bone being thrown up in the air. There was even a Match Cut.
    • In "Martha, Sled Dog", Martha screams "Good catch, Skits! Now stop this crazy thing!"
    • When Alice reads a book in "The Martha Code", Ronald tells her that the spider dies. This is likely a reference to a children's book called Charlotte's Web, about a spider who does indeed die.
    • "Secret Agent Dog" has several James Bond references. Martha's title is 002 and the other dog's title is 001. In Martha's daydream she asks for her water "shaken and not stirred", which is said in the films.note 
    • Truman reads The Odyssey in "Truman and the Deep Blue Sea" and Odysseus appears in his dream.
    • T.D. reads Moby-Dick in "Truman on the Ball".
    • Truman is said to have viewed The Wizard of Oz as a little kid, but the tornado gave him nightmares. Martha and Helen, however, enjoy it.
    • In "Martha Models", Helen and Carolina suggest dressing Martha and Skits up as Sherlock Bones and Dog-tor Watson or Romeo and Juliet. They then decide to dress them up as Frankensteins Monster and Count Dog-Ula.
    • Helen's dad's favorite superhero is the Green Gaslamp.
  • Sick Episode: Helen gets laryngitis (a serious, but very short-lived case) in "Martha in Charge".
    • In "The Trouble With Teddy", Teddy, a neighbourhood dog who is The Ditz, gets stomach trouble. It's because he ate a rock. He was fine after his operation.
    • In "Nurse Martha", Butterscotch swallows a sock and ends up ill. However, he gets surgery and recovers.
  • Skyward Scream: In "Skits on Ice",
    Weather lady: And this just in, Wagstaff City schools are—
    (a shot of Wagstaff City)
    Kids: YAAAAAAAAYYY!!!!
  • Smelly Skunk: In the Pleasant/Unpleasant segment of the show, Martha is explaining things that are Pleasant and Unpleasant, getting sprayed by a skunk is one of the unpleasant things. Being Martha, she goes on to describe getting a bath after being sprayed by a skunk as even more unpleasant. Helen agrees.
  • Soup Is Medicine: Helen is given corn soup when she has laryngitis but mostly this trope is averted, probably due to Martha.
  • Speaks Fluent Animal: Zigzagged. Martha is able to understand, but not speak the language of, cats, birds, and sheep but she is notably not able to understand monkeys and has some difficulty understanding puppies. She can understand giraffes, but they cannot understand her. The bird, featured in "Martha Doesn't Speak Monkey", can understand giraffes and Martha when she's speaking English, but not monkeys, and the giraffe from the same episode can understand monkeys and birds but not dogs or people. Professor Monkey, apparently, can understand all the languages in the world, but can only speak in monkey. T.D. once wanted to speak to animals after seeing a guy on TV who can do this, but he can't do it because he can't pronounce barking and doesn't have a tail.
    • Averted with Dynamo the robot dog. He can recognize dogs and barks at them, but his remarks make no sense to dogs. Ironically, the only language he seems to be fluent in is English, while he's meant to be a dog.
  • Spelling Song: While the janitor does get grumpy if dogs are involved (especially their hair), he generally likes his job and he once sung a song about it that was like this.
    "J-A-N-I-T-O-R, the best job by far!"
  • Spoiler: In-Universe. In the first episode, Martha has already seen a Show Within a Show that the Lorraines were watching and tells a spoiler to it, annoying the Lorraines.
  • Spoof Aesop: As already described, in "Martha's Steamed," there was a dog who got locked in a car by accident because it was trying to sneak a snack, but the owner of the car was accused of doing it on purpose. At the end of the story, Helen asks Martha if she learned anything and Martha says that it's to not jump to conclusions. Helen, however, suggests that the Aesop of the story is to not go digging everywhere for food, which Martha promptly ignores and starts eating out of a garbage bin.
  • Storybook Episode: In "Martha Spins a Tale", Martha tells a story in which she's Goldilocks (but still a dog), Daniel, Mariella and Jake are the Three Bears, Helen is Little Red Riding-Hood, Alice is Sleeping Beauty's cousin, Pablum and Otis are ogres, Nelson breathes fire, Mrs. Demson is the Queen of Hearts, Skits is the Mad Hatter and T.D. is Robin Hood.
  • Superhero Episode: In a Continuity Nod to "The Martha Show", the episode "Return of the Bookbots" revolves around one of the show ideas discussed before. "Verb Dog, When Action Calls" and "Fit Fights Fat" also involve Martha and others being superheroes, but they're dreams.
  • Superstition Episode: In "Martha Changes Her Luck", Martha believes she is jinxed due to having coincidental bad luck after walking under a ladder and breaking a mirror.
  • Suspiciously Specific Denial: In "The Cheating Chum Caper", when Helen wonders if anyone in town is hiding something, Martha quickly and nervously asked why would anyone be hiding anything. Later, when Helen spot TD buying a lot of hot dogs he tells her many different reasons why he bought them and then yells why doesn't she believe him, which only further roused her suspicions. Martha calls him out on it for that very reason.
  • Taken for Granite: Martha once dreams that Helen turns into stone, but nobody actually gets turned into stone.
  • Talking Animal: Martha, obviously.
    • In one episode, Martha claimed that all animals could talk since the Dawn of Man but lost their ability over time. However, this is neither confirmed, nor denied.
  • Talking in Your Sleep: In "Dogs from Space", Martha says, "there is no place like space" in her sleep.
  • Thanksgiving Episode: "Martha's Thanksgiving".
  • The Tetris Effect: In "Helen's All Thumbs", Helen becomes addicted to a video game and begins seeing sprites from the game in real life.
  • The Thing That Would Not Leave: Ralph and her baby ducklings.
  • This Is Reality: In "Skits Behaves", Helen says that the dogs on TV were trained instantly, "but that's TV. In Real Life these things take time." Also, in a TV show that the kids were watching, a character says "This isn't TV!!"
  • Through a Face Full of Fur: Martha blushes through her fur in "Martha Sings" while at the vet.
  • Time Skip: Played with in "Martha and Skits", annoyed Martha tells him puppy Skits to grow up, and then in the next transition he's full grown.
  • Tired After The Song: In the theme song, Martha sings a bunch of words ending in "A-T-E-S". She gets out of breath, but then perks up and adds "hyperventilates".
  • Title Drop: "The Cheating Chum Caper"
  • Title Theme Tune: See theme song above.
  • Token Robot: In the episode "Verb Dog: When Action Calls!", Martha dreams that she and her friends are superheroes. Most of them just have powers in the dream, but T.D. is a robot and, being a robot, he lacks a sense of humor, can extend his arms, and is called The T.D. 603.
  • Token Trio: Carolina (Mexican-American), Tiffany (blonde Caucasian) and an African-American girl.
  • Tomboy: Alice Boxwood likes sports.
  • Tomboy and Girly Girl: Martha and Helen.
    • Also, Alice and Carolina.
  • Tongue Twister: Martha shows she's good at saying these in "Martha's Got Talent".
  • Totem Pole Trench: Martha and Truman perform this during the interlude segment between the episodes, "Cora! Cora! Cora!" and "Cora Encore!"
    • Martha, Helen and Alice perform this (with Skits providing snarling sound effects) in "Martha Camps Out" backfiring Ronald's plan to scare them.
  • Trademark Favorite Food: Martha has steak and alphabet soup, one of the babies has applesauce.
  • Tsundere: Bob can be both loud and aggro and a Big Friendly Dog.
  • Unusually Uninteresting Sight: Despite the fact that Martha is the only known talking dog in her world, in general, nobody seems freaked by it. The most common reaction to her talking is no reaction, though sometimes people may be mildly surprised, then simply decide to just go with it. In "Ain't Nuthin' But a Pound Dog," Kazuo of the animal shelter thinks that he's having a joke played on him when Martha's dad calls up asking if a talking dog has been taken to the animal shelter, but when he actually does finally hear Martha talk, he just takes it in stride. Oh, and you would think that if there were a talking dog in town, everyone would know about it, but apparently not.
    • Lampshaded in an episode where Martha goes to see a famous television dog visiting the town.
      Random Child: "WOW! A TALKING DOG!"
      Martha (not wanting to take the attention off the famous dog): "Yeah. But, this one's ON TV!!"
      Another Random Child: "Yeah, she's got a point"
      Everyone looks back at the famous dog.
    • However, the two recurring villains in the show, Otis Weaselgraft and Pablum, constantly make plans to kidnap her to make money off of her, so at least its an interesting sight to someone.
    • The episode where she became a host of a radio advice show, she makes her first public appearance. This would explain why not a lot of people were freaked out in later episodes, since the people already known about it from this episode.
      • Also in the first episode, a few people in Helen's neighborhood noticed Martha talked for the first time.
    • Played straight in some episode where some characters who never met Martha think they're joking about a "talking dog". Helen and others are confused by it, because they're so used to Martha talking they forget a talking dog is an unusual thing.
  • Valentine's Day Episode: "Martha and the Thief of Hearts".
  • Vomit Discretion Shot: Nelson throws up after eating Alice's birthday cake. The audience doesn't see it but the characters sure do.
    • Burt throws up offscreen in a flashback to him having an allergic reaction to his flea collar.
  • A Weighty Aesop:
    • Martha gets overweight in "Too Much Martha" and has to accept her smaller portions.
    • "Fit Fights Fat" can also be this despite most of the episode being a dream. While most of the episode was pro-fitness and anti-laziness, there are some anti-fatness references in the title and the fact that Martha gets fat in the dream sequence.
  • We Want Our Jerk Back: Subverted. There's a character on the show who is basically a grouchy old lady and treats everyone around her meanly. In one story, her doctor tells her she needs to adopt a positive outlook for her health, so she starts being ultra-nice to everyone, playing with the kids and Martha and everything. Nobody goes so far as to suggest that they'd prefer she'd go back to the old way, though Martha does come very close.
  • Whole Episode Flashback: Several, including covering the birth of Helen's baby brother (in a kid-friendly manner), Martha being kidnapped and used for crime by a one-shot villain, why Skits is afraid of hockey pucks, and a time when Martha was jealous of puppy Skits getting all the attention.
    • A time when she almost loses her ability to speak, which happened soon after the events of "Martha Speaks"/"Martha Gives Advice".
    • When Skits was briefly T.D.'s pet before being Helen's.
    • When Martha tells Helen about how a vase mysteriously got broken.
    • "The Big Knockover", where Martha talks through a camera about the incident.
  • Why Did It Have to Be Snakes?: Carolina has a bad case of stage fright. She just freezes up on stage and doesn't even remember it.
    Carolina: When do we go on?
    • And also with Skits and hockey pucks.
    • Milo is scared of reading in front of others.
    • Truman is scared of bugs, tigers, and clowns.
    • Martha and Skits are scared of fireworks.
    • Martha is scared of storms and Skits used to be but he outgrew it.
    • Helen is scared of ghosts and also has a lesser case of stage fright.
    • Carlo is scared of flowers, ever since he sneezed from flowers, blowing some onto two peoples' faces, leading them to drop a vat of white stuff (glue? paint?) they were carrying onto Carlo.
  • A Wizard Did It: In "The Dog Did It", Martha claims dogs used to talk (even before humans developed language). The reason they don't anymore, she claims, is because William Shakespeare told a powerful magician to cast a spell on all dogs.
  • Worthless Yellow Rocks: "Never talk to a dog about money."
  • Wounded Gazelle Gambit: In "Martha Takes the Cake", Nelson fakes being bitten by Martha in order to have her be put in the garage as punishment so he can plant cake crumbs near her while she is napping to frame her further.
  • You No Take Candle: When O.G. draws Martha eating a chili pepper and breathing fire, Martha imagines herself saying "Water, water". Also, Martha once translates Polly's squawking as "me want mirror" and notes it's terrible grammar.
  • Your Tomcat Is Pregnant: Ralph
  • Youthful Freckles: TD, Alice, and Ronald.

The book series contains examples of the following tropes:

  • An Aesop: A lesson occurs about once a book.
    • Martha Speaks: There's a right time, way, and amount to use words.
    • Martha Walks the Dog: Nice words can have beneficial effects.
    • Martha and Skits: Everyone has their own talent.
  • Big Little Brother: Skits is adopted into Martha's family as a puppy and grows up to be bigger than she is.
  • Big "SHUT UP!": In the first book, Martha talks non-stop about her early childhood. Her family can't take it anymore, so on the next page, they tell her, "SHUT UP!" in big red letters.
  • Cassandra Truth: Martha tells Dr. Pablum that soup is the reason she can talk. He doesn't believe her, but has to scram to avoid the angry customers and doesn't have time to get further clarification.
  • Deteriorates Into Gibberish: In Martha Blah Blah, Martha involuntarily begins speaking gibberish all the time because the executive in charge of the soup company cut back on the letters.
  • The Dog Bites Back: After Weaselgraft offends him, Dr. Pablum is quite willing to team up with Martha to expose his "dog training" program in exchange for the secret of how she can talk.
  • Dogs Hate Squirrels: One of the characteristics Martha notices is off about the dogs who have gone through Otis Weaselgraft's program is that they don't chase squirrels.
  • Everyone Hates Fruitcakes: Zigzagged. Martha tells Helen's grandmother that Helen's mom said the fruitcake she sent them last Christmas wasn't fit for a dog, but she thought it was delicious. Naturally, Helen and her mother and grandmother are offended when they hear this from Martha.
  • Formally Named Pet: Played for drama in Perfectly Martha. After being captured, Martha meets Sir Lancelot, the dog used in the demonstrations. His real name is Burt; Weaselgraft robbed him of it along with his free will.
  • Heroic BSoD: Martha sinks into depression after her family finally blows up at her over her overuse of her ability to talk.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: The burglar Martha surprises in Martha Speaks gives her some food he found sitting out to keep her quiet. Unfortunately for him, it was alphabet soup.
  • Mind-Control Device: Perfectly Martha focused on an unscrupulous dog trainer using mind-control collar devices to create perfectly obedient dogs.
  • Motor Mouth: Martha talks quite a bit after first learning how to do it.
  • Not in Front of the Parrot: Played with in Martha Walks the Dog. Martha has fun teaching a parrot sentences, but its owner is not so delighted when he brings home a girlfriend and it starts saying she has fleas.
  • Polly Wants a Microphone: One of the major secondary characters in Martha Walks the Dog is a parrot, which is the only other animal in the neighborhood that can speak in human language.
  • Recycled In Space: Perfectly Martha is The Stepford Wives with dogs (and a happy ending)!
  • Sentimental Shabbiness: The episode "Martha's Chair" has Martha's owners replace her chair, because it's covered in her slobber, with a dog bed, but Martha doesn't like the bed and prefers the slobber-covered chair.
  • Unique Protagonist Asset: Martha is the only dog who is able to speak human language. After adopting Skits, the family feeds him alphabet soup, thinking he'll also begin speaking, but he never says anything humanlike.
  • Unsuccessful Pet Adoption: A flashback reveals that when Helen was younger, she adopted a goldfish named Goldie but when Helen let Goldie play in the lake, she never came back.
  • Toilet-Drinking Dog Gag:
    • In "Martha in Charge", Martha cites drinking from the toilet as a perk of doghood.
    • In "Martha Runs the Store", Skits wanders into the ladies' bathroom at the mall and drinks from the toilet.
  • Tongue Trauma: Skits runs away after biting down on a bee and getting stung in the mouth.


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