Follow TV Tropes


Western Animation / Pepper Ann

Go To
From left to right: Nicky, Pepper Ann, and Milo.

♫ Who's that girl? What's her name?
Is she cool? Is she lame?
(Oh, you're talkin' about "What's-Her-Name"?)
Pepper Ann! (Pepper Ann!)
Is she lame? Is she cool?
Is she breakin' every rule?
Is she anybody's fool?
Pepper Ann! (Pepper Ann!) ♫
— The opening lyrics to Pepper Ann's own Bragging Theme Tune

Pepper Ann is a 1990s Disney-produced Saturday-Morning Cartoon that ran on ABC's One Saturday Morning and UPN's One Too blocks from 1997-2000. It centers on 12-year-old Pepper Ann "P.A." Pearson, her family, friends, and schoolmates. Pepper Ann's parents are divorced, and she lives with her mother Lydia and younger sister "Moose". Nicky Anais Little, a smart and soft-spoken (most of the time) violinist, and Milo Kamalani, an aspiring artist, are her two best friends with whom she goes through a humorous and entertaining series of junior high adventures wherein she faces obstacles, enemies, and choices, and comes out right in the end.

The show was aimed at young and tween girls, thus featuring several strong female protagonists. Pepper Ann herself is sharp and spontaneous, with a vivid imagination. Various episodes feature elaborate fantasy sequences that help her sort out that episode's dilemma. Nicky is extremely mature, serious about school, her music, and her future, and is the only character to have a steady boyfriend. Pepper Ann's mother Lydia is hard-working but loving; some episodes deal frankly with the strain and challenges she faces as a single parent. And Moose, Pepper Ann's sister, is a confident tomboy.

Much of the action takes place at Hazelnut Middle School, where various cliques and characters, including Trinket, obligatory crush Craig Bean, and sometimes love-interest for Milo Gwen Mezzrow as well as a wacky cast of teachers and administrators. As is typical for a kids' show of its time, the episodes cover many topics, from lighthearted plots like crushes, zits, and video games, to more serious issues of divorce and disappointment.

The series was created by Sue Rose, also known for co-creating the advertising mascot Fido Dido, and adapted from short comic strips she created which appeared intermittently in YM Magazine in the early 1990s. Rose thus became the first woman to create and produce a cartoon series for Disney. Another would not follow until 2012.

Pepper Ann and her mother made a brief cameo appearance in the House of Mouse series premiere "The Stolen Cartoons".

As of September 8, 2021, the series is now available for streaming on Disney+.

Tropes present include:

  • 65-Episode Cartoon: The series had 65 episodes, as that was Disney's maximum at the time, over 3 seasons.
  • Academic Alpha Bitch: Alice Kane, who runs for class president against Pepper Ann, and rubs her high grades in her face.
  • Accidental Misnaming: Everybody always gets Moose's best friend Crash's name wrong. It comes to the point where Crash wears a shirt that says "My Name is Crash," which doesn't help anyone remember his name.
  • Accidental Truth: Pepper Ann grows increasingly jealous of Parody Sue new girl Amber and spitefully accuses her of being the locker thief. After Pepper Ann feels remorse for the lie and confesses she made it up, she opens Amber's hall closet by mistake and a tidal wave of everyone's stolen belongings spills out revealing Amber was the locker thief.
  • The Ace: Becky is portrayed as one, being ridiculously smart and also very good with sports. However, Becky mentions that Nicky is actually the stronger and more creative one. (Becky mentions that she can't even bench-press 15 pounds!) See Muscles Are Meaningless down below.
  • A-Cup Angst: "In Support Of", the episode where Pepper Ann thinks gym class wants her to get a sports bra.
  • Adam Westing: Mark Hamill is a Recurring Character with strong jokey overtones. In the near future, he is elected President.
  • Adaptation Decay: Taken to hilarious extremes In-Universe with Moose's favorite superheroine, Tundra Woman, in "Girl Power". The first attempt at a Tundra Woman cartoon turns her into a vapid shopaholic dating her supposed arch enemy. The second attempt turns her into a grunting cavewoman who graphically tears apart baby seals on screen. The TV executives eventually cancel the show after poor reception to both versions.
  • Added Alliterative Appeal: Grampa Leo and Grandma Lilly. In an in-universe example, Grandma explains they were originally going to give all their children L names, but she was so hopped-up on epidurals she wrote the L backwards on Lanie's birth certificate, making her Janie. They would have changed it, but it would have taken too much paperwork.
  • All Love Is Unrequited: There is a Running Gag where Milo and Gwen can never seem to like each other at the same time.
  • Alpha Bitch: Alice and Trinket, though Trinket is more shallow than mean and several episodes reveal that Trinket has feelings.
  • Amazingly Embarrassing Parents: Lydia occasionally slips into this, but especially when she took Pepper Ann bra shopping.
  • Ambiguously Jewish: The Pearsons, until the Christmas Episode where Pepper Ann has to write a report on whether celebrating Christmas with her dad or Hanukkah with her mom is better.
    • If you want to get technical however, Pepper Ann would be considered Jewish. In the Jewish religion, if your mother is Jewish, you are considered Jewish.
  • Amicably Divorced: Pepper Ann's parents. Unlike most other shows that have divorced parents, Pepper Ann's parents didn't split up because they didn't get along; it is implied that they split up because Chuck (Pepper Ann's father) works as a blimp driver and his job got in the way of being a full-time father.
  • Armor-Piercing Question: Pepper Ann uses this to get through to the other adults in "The Velvet Room."
    Pepper Ann: It's nice to have good things, but if you have to keep your loved ones from using them, what's the point??
  • Art Evolution:
    • Starting in Season 2, the show transitioned from traditional cel animation to digital ink-and-paint animation. The color palette became brighter and more lively, and the outlines became thinner. However, the hand-painted backgrounds remained for the whole series. At the same time, the show itself became less "cartoony", decreasing the usage of visual gags and slapstick/physical humor. The animation style changed to fit this new direction, being less fluid, but more consistent and on-model.
    • 3 episodes in season 3 were outsourced to a different, lesser-known animation studio, Hana Animation that still used traditional cel animation, which also resulted in a brief return to the more cartoony animation style seen in the 1st season.
  • Artistic License – Law:
    • In "Single Unemployed Mother," Lydia gets into an argument with her boss about pay and work arrangements and quits her job. Later in the episode, she's seen applying for unemployment benefits. In real life, if one voluntarily quits their position, they are ineligible for their respective state's unemployment benefits.
    • In the Whole-Plot Reference to 12 Angry Men with Lydia in the Rogue Juror role, the defendant is charged with spitting on a security camera. An offense that minor would never go to a full blown jury trial.
  • As Himself: Mark Hamill and the late Alex Trebek make cameo appearances as themselves throughout the series.
  • Big Beautiful Woman: Lydia has a rather curvy body size and is often attractively groomed. She even works at a clothing store where most of the clientele are full figured women who rely on her expertise to shop for outfits to make them attractive. During the brief time Lydia lost her job, the usual customers were all horrified at no longer having her help.
  • Black Bead Eyes: Most of the cast has them.
  • Bragging Theme Tune: A parodied example. The "Pepper Ann Main Title Theme" is about how cool Pepper Ann is, and she is implied to be singing the third person about her own self-image.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall:
    • In one Couch Gag, a French poodle tells Pepper Ann, in French, that the student has "a most entertaining show." In another, Pepper Ann finds scuff marks underneath her desk, but tells the viewers that she can't pick them up.
    • In "Baggy Bean Buddies", Trinket offers to buy Pepper Ann's first of those dolls. In "The Spanish Imposition", when Pepper Ann tries to get Trinket out of Musical Appreciation, she offers to sell her a doll, to which she replies "that is so last episode." (note that Disney+ puts both segments together, ensuring the joke really lands)
  • Call to Agriculture: "The Beans of Wrath" has the students growing crops. Pepper Ann tries an organic approach, Nicky creates a hedge maze, Milo goes for carnivorous plants that grow close to Man-Eating Plant, and Dieter has a technological approach that creates huge vegetables, but that don't taste good and border Botanical Abomination.
  • Celebrity Star: Pepper's mom marries Alex Trebek according to the series finale.
  • Character Catchphrase:
    • "What's for dinner?" could count for Moose. She has said it more than once, and she rarely says anything else.
      • "Peppie, you're (scaring, hurting, etc.) me" could count for Moose.
    • Nicky has "absolutamente." Though she doesn't say it quite as constantly as a regular catchphrase, it does pop up from time to time.
  • Chick Magnet: Craig Bean, who is considered the hottest guy at Hazelnut. Even Nicky pretty much fawns over him.
  • Clip Show: The episode "To Germany With Love" is a parody of these and is intentionally loaded with clips that make no sense unless you've seen the episodes they're from. It's shown as a video letter to Dieter's father in Germany.
  • Cloudcuckoolander:
    • Milo sometimes rambles on in a manner bordering on New-Age Retro Hippie (if not The Stoner!).
    • Brenda from "Old Best Friend" looks, acts, and dresses like an overgrown five year old.
  • Comic-Book Time: The series first aired in 1997 and it consistently took place in 1997, even when it aired in the new millennium. A late-series episode has one of the students note that the class has been in the 7th grade for a long time.
  • Comically Missing the Point: The episode "In Support Of" is framed around Pepper Ann thinking her gym teacher means a bra when she speaks about "support". She just means a buddy to help her on the trampoline.
  • Continuity Nod: Quite a few. Among them, the Chess club researching Pepper Ann and finding school newspapers detailing her involvement with the soccer team, the football team, and a "bizarre trampoline incident."
  • Cool Teacher: Mr. Finky strives to be this, with exploits like the "Photosynthesis is Phun!" project. A straighter example is the Spanish one from "The Spanish Imposition", who does things like teaching active verbs by making the students play soccer.
  • Couch Gag: In the opening sequence, Pepper always finds something interesting under her desk (five dollars, a singing Dieter doll, the remote control, a mood ring, etc).
  • Creepy Twins: Damian and Damiana, Pepper Ann's cousins in "Thanksgiving Dad". They look like prototypes of The Delightful Children from Down the Lane.
  • Crying Indian: Parodied in "Dances with Ignorance" when Pepper Ann, who is "embracing" her Navajo heritage, sheds a single tear after someone tosses a can on the sidewalk and sobs about "how uncaring the white man" is.
  • Cut the Juice: In "Crunch Pod", once Pepper Ann and Milo have a showdown in the Fictional Video Game of the title, Nicky pulls the arcade from the plug complaining that she's tired of them holding a grudge for treating that game as Serious Business.
  • Description Cut: "The Beans of Wrath" ends with Milo asking on who would be defeated by their plants, followed by Nicky lost in her hedge maze.
  • Digital Destruction: The Disney+ run of the series has Season 1 from its PAL master, which reportedly was sourced from an airing of the series on Ireland's RTÉ back in The New '10s.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Depending on the episode, everyone from Pepper Ann, Nicky and Milo to Lydia has this role at some point or another.
  • Dean Bitterman: Principal Hickey in the early episodes.
  • Distant Finale: "The Finale" skips 15 years into the future to show what everyone will become after graduating middle school.
  • "Do It Yourself" Theme Tune: A fairly early Disney example, as Kathleen Wilhoite (voice of the title character) also contributes the vocals - down to imitating a guitar riff.
  • Donut Mess with a Cop: Subverted with Uncle JoJo, who eats nothing but health food. Though he does sometimes eat donuts, they're fat-free donuts called Dough-Nots.
  • Dreaded Kids' Table: Inverted in "Thanksgiving Dad". After counting the seats at the adult table for a holiday, she realizes that there's one extra and assumes it means her dad will be coming. She's disappointed to find out that it isn't the case; the extra seat is for her, since she's now old enough to leave the kid table.
  • Dumb Blonde: Cissy Rooney insists that she merely pretends to be one in order to be more accessible. She has had moments of dubious intelligence, however.
  • Early-Installment Weirdness: For most of season 1, Nicky wasn't shown hanging out with Pepper Ann and Milo outside of school much, and many Season 1 episodes focus almost exclusively on Pepper Ann and Milo, with Nicky sometimes showing up for a bit. There was also a Running Gag with Nicky being picked up by her mom for some sort of after-school lesson or practice, right when Pepper Ann needed her help. Both aspects were dropped by Season 2, with the Running Gag re-appearing in the Season 3 episode "Two's Company" (an episode that involved Nicky and Milo hanging out without Pepper Ann), presumably as a development gag.
    • Speaking of which, Nicky and Milo are never seen hanging out without Pepper Ann in Season 1, and jokes in "Uniform, Uniformity" and "The Environ-Mentals" imply that Nicky thinks Milo is not hygienic.
  • Everyone Went to School Together: As seen in "The Way They Were", it seems that everyone in Hazelnut Middle School was in the same kindergarten class.
  • Everytown, America: Hazelnut, the setting of the show, is a generic yet relatable town.
  • Failed a Spot Check: "Cat Scan" is all about Pepper Ann's cat Steve becoming famous as the mascot for the local lotto, yet Pepper Ann and her friends who she recruits to find him never notice it in their search.
  • Failure Is the Only Option: Several of Pepper Ann's exploits end in her failing miserably, getting punished or being on the receiving end of a public humiliation. Rarely (but not never) do things work out for her.
  • The Fashionista: Lydia's an expert at helping moms and working women find outfits that make them look amazing. After she was fired from the clothing store, her boss lost most of his business because everyone only shopped there due to Lydia's skills at putting together attractive outfits.
  • "Fawlty Towers" Plot: "Crush & Burn" starts with Pepper Ann and Milo pretending to be dating in order to drive Gwen away from him. Thanks to the speed at which Gwen spreads the news, and Pepper Ann's attempts to tie up loose ends, the lie spirals way out of control, somehow involving Pepper Ann being raised by nuns, Trinket and Cissy volunteering at the soup kitchen, and Nicky practicing for a concert of autoharp (an instrument that, later turns out, she abhors).
  • Female Misogynist: In "The Sisterhood," Pepper Ann's grandma is shown to have very old fashioned views on a woman's role in life. Justified in that she most likely grew up in a time and place where women were seen as little more than mothers and housewives, and was too stuck in her ways to be more progressive.
  • Feud Episode: In "The Way They Were", Pepper Ann, Nicky and Milo are having a falling-out at Greasy Cheesy before going in separate ways.
  • Fiery Redhead: Pepper Ann, though she's more spacey and neurotic than fiery. In "Uniform, Uniformity" she admits that it's auburn, which other characters agree to once she tries to take credit for being the trope.
  • Fictional Video Game: Crunch Pod, Milo's favorite arcade game which he is repeatedly shown playing. And as listed in Ultra Super Death Gore Fest Chainsawer 3000, some more as part of a study on violent games, including one that gets Aunt Janie obsessed.
  • Flashback B-Plot: The final episode, "The Finale", takes place in the future, with the B-plot taking place 15 years prior in the in-series present.
  • Four-Fingered Hands: Possibly one of the few Western-animated cartoons to actually avert this trope, as everyone in the cast has five fingers on each hand.
  • "Freaky Friday" Flip: There was a Freaky Friday-style episode with Pepper Ann and Lydia switching bodies after the two of them argue over who has it tougher. After spending several days struggling with each other's jobs, they both declare independently that they want their old life back, switching back by their bodies physically trading places. Pepper Ann's classmates then find her driving her mom's car and Lydia wearing PA's skating gear, and they're about to explain what happened when Milo asks PA for help with his next problem. When PA and Lydia go home, they wonder what they did to successfully switch back, only to find that Moose and Steve switched bodies.
  • Freudian Excuse: In "Green-Eyed Monster", Parody Sue new girl Amber is revealed to be the person who stole the contents of every locker in Hazelnut Middle School. When asked why, Ambe gives a rather dark speech about how society warps individuals like her into criminals with their ridiculous standards of perfection. Absolutely no one buys it, and the girl just admits she's a kleptomaniac.
  • Friendly Enemies: Janie and Margot in "The Sisterhood," until Janie realizes she doesn't have to pretend to like Margot just because she's a woman. A later episode reveals that Janie and Margot's animosity towards each other came from Janie thinking that Margot called Lydia stupid when she asked her for directions in college.
  • Funny Foreigner: Dieter Lederhosen, the happy German kid obsessed with food and trying to fit in with American culture.
  • G-Rated Drug: "Baggy Bean Buddies" had Pepper Ann getting addicted to said "not-Beanie Babies" dolls, even joining a support group.
  • Genki Girl: Brenda, Pepper Ann's old camp friend, is loud and energetic and thoroughly exhausting to be around. She's voiced by the Western Animation queen of this trope, Tara Strong.
  • The Girl In The Mirror Talks Back: Pepper Ann's reflection has talked to Pepper Ann about her issues so many times, it might as well be its own character.
  • Girlish Pigtails: Gwen Mezzrow, with "The Wash-Out" having Milo question when she takes them off to wash her hair.
  • Green Around the Gills: Nicky in "Quiz Bowl". She becomes ill, green-faced and runs off to throw up, when she gets stage fright on a quiz show.
  • "Groundhog Day" Loop: "T.G.I.F.," which involves Pepper Ann pretending to be sick to get out of taking a test. The repeating day finally stops when she takes the test. Unfortunately, the next morning looks like the day's still repeating (her neighbor yells at the paper boy, Lydia enters the room the same way she did before) and it causes Pepper Ann to snap. She then spends the entire day insulting people assuming it won't matter, and then wakes up to find everyone she insulted is super pissed at her. To avoid their wrath, she pretends to apologize and feel bad, but nobody buys it. She spends the day making it up to everyone by being their slave... and then learns this day is now repeating. The biggest hints that the first loop ended are that her one neighbor is no longer upset about losing his winning lottery ticket and none of her friends are at school.
  • Hair Color Dissonance: Milo claims that his hair is actually black, but just looks blue to everyone.
  • Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow: A variation. A flashback to Moose's birth shows Janie (who sports a bob in the present day) with magnificent long hair as she was a hippie at the time.
  • Halloween Episode: "A 'Tween Halloween."
  • Hartman Hips: Pepper Ann's mom is a rare overweight example.
  • Her Boyfriend's Jacket: "Crush & Burn" had P.A. start wearing Milo's ever-present hat so it would look like they were dating, and to cope Milo started wearing continuously more ridiculous hats as the episode progressed.
  • Homage:
  • Hot Teacher: The Spanish one from "The Spanish Imposition", who before being shown on screen is preceded by Milo and a few other students completely smitten with her.
  • House Inspection: One of Lydia's old friends has a TV show called "This Gorgeous House", and wants to feature their home. Of course, Lydia goes nuts decorating and dressing up the place like a classic farmstead. But when the old friend and her film crew arrive, the friend is saddened and upset. "I've been covering unrealistic, dolled-up houses for years. Just once I wanted to do a show on a REAL, living house with a real family."
  • Hypocritical Humor: Pepper Ann's mother in "The Sisterhood" forces Pepper Ann to go to a women's bonding weekend seminar, talking about how her mother forced her to do all sorts of things she didn't want to and learn all sorts of skills that had no place in the real world (all the while making P.A. do stuff like chainsaw ice statues and participate in a mock women's rights protest)
  • I Do Not Like Green Eggs and Ham: In "The Spanish Imposition", Pepper Ann wanted to enter Musical Appreciation because it was a low-effort class, but no vacant spots pushed her towards Spanish instead. As much as she tries to get someone out of the other class, she eventually notices both learning Spanish and liking it.
  • Identical Stranger: In "Doppelganger Didi" Pepper Ann finds out she has a doppelganger named Didi who has a life identical to hers and is temporarily distressed over not being unique. In the end, it turns out that Didi's mother, sister, and aunt are also doppelgangers of Lydia, Moose, and Janie.
  • Image Song: The theme song is sung by Kathleen Wilhoite, P.A.'s voice actor and a musician in her own right, and is implied to be Pepper Ann singing in the third person.
  • Imagine Spot: Loads. In fact, due to Pepper Ann not giving us a signal about having one like Doug Funnie, you can't tell if the surreal things that she witnesses are in fact either in her head or real - like the talking squirrel and bird in the first episode.
  • Important Haircut: Pepper Ann decides to dye her hair green to get people to notice her.
  • Informed Judaism: The Pearsons are supposed to be Jewish, but sometimes non-kosher foods will show up on the table or in the fridge. Possibly this is a sign that Lydia really isn't observant.
  • Instant Costume Change: Mick Snot is able to change in and out of his stage getup as fast as somebody can rapidly open and close a door. This is great for him when trying to hide that he looks and acts like a fussy old man in private, though it's not easy to do as he has to take a bath after changing several times in the span of a few seconds.
  • I Want My Friend to Be Happy: Nicky also has a crush on Craig Bean, but she's still willing to help Pepper Ann get with him.
  • I Want My Jet Pack: "The Finale" takes place in 2012. 2012's been and gone, and flying cars, teleportation and the holographic mail don't exist yet. Mark Hamill isn't President of the United States and Alex Trebek is dead (but he was alive in that year). However, Nicky's comment about the local ice cream shop closing, Milo's comment about the arcade closing, and the outrageous price of pizza are pretty accurate.
  • Jedi Mind Trick: "Sani-Paper" has Nicky gesturing and going "These are not the students you're looking for" to the principal, who is then convinced to stop asking where Pepper Ann and Milo are.
  • Jewish Mother: Subverted with Lydia (who is Jewish — or at least, celebrates Jewish holidays to keep with tradition, but doesn't act like a stereotypical Jewish mom). Lydia's mom (Pepper Ann's grandmother), however, is a straight example.
  • Jitter Cam: While making a movie, Milo shakes the camera excessively during a scene of two characters sitting down to talk at a bowling alley. At first Pepper thinks there's something wrong with the VCR's tracking, only for Milo to inform her he did it intentionally for "realism".
  • Karmic Jackpot: At the end of "The Wash-Out," after Gwen Mezzro was unfairly ostracized because of a rumor Pepper Ann accidentally started about her having lice, Gwen gets to enjoy Fuzzyworld all to herself while all the other kids have to stay home thanks to a lice epidemic Pepper Ann started.
  • Kent Brockman News: Sherrie Spleen, reporter for Channel 96 News. Her style is less that of a reporter and more that of a talk show host. When she's not makimg exaggerated reports on bottles that fell off a shelf during an earthquake, she ridicules people for suggesting Evel Knievel for a new park statue.
  • Kids Shouldn't Watch Horror Films: Pepper Ann gets invited to a slumber party where they will be watching the R-rated film Gutter Clowns, which Lydia warns Pepper Ann against seeing. At first Pepper Ann tries to stop the girls at the party from watching the film but ends up watching it anyway and is terrified for the next few days. Nicky, however, is unfazed and finds the film funny rather than scary.
  • Kissing Warm-Up: Pepper Ann gets ready for Dieter's unsupervised party by warming up on her hand, a watermelon, and a pillow.
  • Lady Looks Like a Dude: There's a Running Gag where P.A.'s family thinks Moose, P.A.'s little sister, is a boy.
  • Late for School: If the opening is any indication (and the fact that her science teacher has pre-printed detention slips made exclusively for Pepper Ann's tardiness), Pepper Ann is late every day.
  • Last Disrespects: In "Spice of Life", P.A. is asked to give the eulogy at the funeral of a cranky neighbor no one liked. She's having a difficult time finding anything nice to say about her, but also realizes she can't just lie about her.
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall: The opening, which includes such lines as "Did someone take my lunch?" (Pepper Ann had been rollerblading to school and somewhere between the shot where she goes the 'Wrong Way' and the shot where she emerges in front of school, the lunch bag she was carrying disappears).
  • Let's See YOU Do Better!: "Burn, Hazelnut, Burn" has Pepper Ann being challenged by a filmmaker she criticized to do a better movie than his. She attempts, but all the changes she endures, mostly Executive Meddling by financer Trinket, makes P.A. depressed and writing an article on how the experience made her realize how wrong she was to judge other movie makers.
  • Like a Surgeon: In "Manly Milo," Milo has an Imagine Spot about himself in an operating room with PA and Nikki as the doctors. Instead of performing surgery, though, they are trying to make him more stereotypically masculine.
    Pepper Ann: Clean socks?! How can he be a guy with clean socks?
  • Long-Lost Uncle Aesop: The Navajo Family from "Dances with Ignorance" were ultimately this. They appear to call out Pepper Ann on her misconceptions about Indigenous peoples (and Navajo in particular) based on stereotypes, and thus for her to learn a lesson. They (and Pepper Ann's own Navajo heritage) aren't brought up again in any future episodes.
  • Mama Bear: Lydia is hinted at having this side to her. One time, she physically threatens a waiter who is making her late for Pepper Ann's play.
  • Marshmallow Hell: In "In Support Of," Pepper Ann winds up in it for a second when she says she wants a bra and her mom hugs her.
    • In the Romeo & Juliet episode, Pepper Ann, Nicky, and Milo wind up in Ms. Stark's.
  • Monster Clown: Pepper Ann watches a film about these called Gutter Clowns.
  • Muscles Are Meaningless: Nicky Little is just as skinny as her two friends, but ridiculously strong. A childhood flashback shows that she was the local bully, overpowering a much larger kid who would normally be considered the bully.
  • Musical Episode: "You Ought To Be in Musicals!", a parody with everything suddenly turning into a musical with Pepper Ann being the only one who notices everyone is bursting into song and dance spontaneously.
  • My God, What Have I Done?:
    • "The Unusual Suspects" has Principal Hickey horrified when he's about to subject Pepper Ann to a lengthy punishment for supposedly stealing HMS's otter statue, only for Vera to come in and reveal she brought the otter back from the cleaning that Hickey asked her to do. Having completely forgotten that he did indeed ask Vera to get the statue cleaned, Hickey breaks down in tears realizing Pepper Ann was completely innocent and he almost punished her for no reason.
    • "Flaw and Order" has a mock trial centering around the Boston Tea Party, and the British East India Company wins the right to be compensated for the tea thrown at sea. When losing defendant Pepper Ann reminds them of the circumstances involving taxes and such that led to the incident, juror Dieter and prosecution attorneys Tessa and Vanessa realize how wrong they were and get really sad.
  • My Hair Came Out Green: Invoked. Pepper Ann decides to mix blonde hair dye with blue to make her hair green.
  • Named After the Injury: Pink-Eye Pete always suffers from conjunctivitis due to the fact that he went into the nurse's office while it was under quarantine for pinkeye, so he's gone by that title ever since.
  • Never Speak Ill of the Dead: Invoked and discussed in "Spice of Life" (the episode where a mean old lady whom Pepper Ann hates dies, and Pepper Ann finds out that the mean old lady was the school secretary's mother).
  • New Transfer Student: Amber, the Locker Bandit. The disclaimer shows she had a reason to be moving around...
  • Nightmare Fuel:
    • An in-universe example that's Played for Laughs. Nicky and Becky are both terrified of swans, and neither of them remembers why. At the end of the episode, their mom throws a box of their old toys out... and inside is a swan that, when active, has glowing red eyes and says, "Swan wants to PLAAAAAAAYYYYY" in a very intentionally scary voice.
    • Another in-universe example, this time not Played for Laughs, is the Gutter Clowns movie from "Mom Knows What P.A. Did Two Nights Ago." Lydia had the displeasure of seeing it thinking it was Sutter's Town, and mentions she hasn't been able to look at clowns or gutters since. Pepper Ann watches the movie at Trinket's sleepover and leaves her terrified of going to sleep lest she dream about the Gutter Clowns.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: Pepper Ann's father is based vocally on Tony Curtis.
  • Noodle People: Every character. Even the overweight characters have skinny arms.
  • Noodle Implements: The one prank Pepper and Milo attempted to pull which got them, and Nicky (who was trying to stop them), sent to boot camp. We don't know what they were planning, but it involved the gym and basketballs, and somehow, they managed to convince Alex Trebek to help them out.
  • Noodle Incident:
    • "The Spice of Life" has Vera mentioning past anecdotes about her mother's life, and is about to tell Pepper Ann about the time Old Lady Gruber thought the sparrows were plotting something. We never find out what, exactly.
    • "One Angry Woman" features Lydia informing Grandma Lillian that Poison Control is a thing so no one has to eat grass.
  • Official Couple: Nicky and Stewart (until the finale).
  • Oktoberfest: The character Dieter Lederhosen fulfills just about every non-Nazi, non-Prussian, non-Kraftwerk German stereotype. So does his family, whose surname is indeed Lederhosen. And although he grew up in Hazelnut (as opposed to being on student exchange), he speaks with the typical accent.
  • One-Hit Wonder: invoked Pepper Ann became a famous pianist in spite of the fact she could only play "Greensleeves," and even then, could only do so because her keyboard had light-up keys to guide her.
  • One of the Boys: Pepper Ann, in an episode where she enters a beauty contest to prove her femininity.
  • One of the Girls: Milo is the guy in the main character's Two Girls and a Guy trio. He even has A Day in the Limelight where Pepper Ann and Nicky are busy, so he tries socializing with other guys (which it turns out he's quite awkward at — at least until he's able to explain that boys and girls are not very different).
  • Only Known by Their Nickname:
    • Moose, a.k.a. Margaret Rose Pearson.
    • The aptly dubbed "Crying Girl" who keeps breaking down in tears.
  • Only Sane Man:
    • When she is not having her random outbursts, Nicky is close to being the only normal person in Hazelnut.
    • Pepper Ann is this throughout "The Velvet Room," being confused and eventually disgusted by all the adults and their respective "velvet rooms" until she finally reaches her Rage Breaking Point and tells both her mother and everyone else that life's for living.
  • Opening Shout-Out: In "Like Riding a Bike," which starts with Pepper Ann finding maracas under her desk and Dieter taking them back. Then in the next scene, Pepper Ann is explaining her conspiracy theory that Mr. Carter is somehow responsible for her being late for school every day, listing a number of things that make her late in the opening.
  • Pac Man Fever: Every video game, specially recurring arcade game Crunch Pod, has old-timey sound effects.
  • Parental Bonus:
    • In the first episode, Pepper Ann goes into Abe's Mall (which features a big statue of Abe Lincoln out front) to buy some pimple cream. The names of various shops in the mall float behind her, including "John Wilkes Photo Booth," "Getty's Burgers," "Four Score and Seven Year Pets," and "Civil Wear."
    • Nearly everything the Jerkass Nietzsche Wannabe title character of the episode "Effie Shrugged" says is some kind of literary reference. As is the episode title itself, for those unaware...
    • In "Cold Feet" a flashback shows a pregnant young Grandma planning to leave for a flight with Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and The Big Bopper, but then she goes into labor before she can leave.
  • Platonic Valentine: In the Bad Future seen during "A Valentine's Day Tune", two garbagemen give each other friendly valentines.
  • Poke the Poodle: Nicky's attempts at pranks in "Impractical Jokes," like switching the cheddar in Pepper Ann's baloney sandwich for swiss. She's the only one who finds this hilarious.
  • Political Overcorrectness: In "The Sisterhood", the "Adamant Eve" event Pepper Ann, her mom and her aunt attend is this. They even spell "women" as "womyn"! P.A.'s grandma lampshades this.
  • Poor Communication Kills:
    • Pepper Ann thinks this is the case in "Bye Bye Trinket", where Trinket is transferring to a private school. She looks back on her previous interactions (which are actual clips from other episodes) and then starts to reinterpret them as if Trinket was making several cries for help. As Pepper Ann tries to aggressively bond with Trinket at a going-away party, Trinket gets fed up and calls her a freak.
    • In "Moose in Love", it turns out that the animosity between Lydia, Janie, and Margot started when they were in community college. Margot called Lydia stupid for asking directions and Janie responded by viciously insulting Margot. The three women have hated each other ever since. However, Margot is legitimately horrified when she learns that is why Lydia and Janie have been after her blood all this time. She confesses she never heard Lydia because she was talking into Margot's deaf ear, and had been discussing a song called "Stupid Can't Find Her Way" with a friend when Lydia approached her.
    • "In Support of", the coach never explained that "Support" means "Spotter" until after hilarity ensued.
  • Protagonist Title: Pepper Ann is the protagonist of the show.
  • Puppy Love: Pepper Ann's sister Moose has a crush on Sean, who is actually the son of Margot in "Moose In Love".
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech:
    • Pepper Ann delivers one in "The Velvet Room" after being pushed past the brink by the ridiculous changes Lydia's made in their house and seeing all of the adults acting neurotic about their respective "velvet rooms."
      Pepper Ann: ENOUGH! I am SICK AND TIRED of you grownups and your VELVET ROOMS!
  • Red Herring: In the episode "Framed," Pepper Ann is smugly accused by Dieter of being the mysterious graffiti artist who's been tagging the word "Hare" in red paint throughout town (thinking it's a play on her red hair). The actual culprit is an unnamed kid who kept appearing throughout the episode. When Dieter breaks down in anguish demanding to know what the purpose of "Hare" in red was supposed to mean, the kid bluntly shrugs stating he likes rabbits. Dieter starts sobbing.
  • Rise of Zitboy: "Ziterella" has PA discovering her first pimple right before school pictures are to be taken.
  • Running Gag: Multiple episodes feature a random girl running off in tears. Eventually, they settled on using the same character for the gag in later episodes (a reoccurring girl with curly blonde hair in a pink shirt). She's even referred to as "Crying Girl" by the main characters.
  • Sea Aping: At the beginning of the episode "Carmello", Pepper Ann and Milo are watching their glasses with Sea Apes in them. Pepper Ann comments that they "Sure don't look anything like they do on the package."
  • School Uniforms are the New Black: In "Uniform, Uniformity", the uniforms boost discipline and academic success to the point where Principal Hickey has nothing to do. He decides to end the program, crediting P.A.'s earlier opposition. Lydia designed the uniforms to look fashionable, so the student body ends up reserving the uniforms for out-of-school special occasions.
  • Science Fair: "The Big Pencil" shows this is an area of contention between Pepper Ann and Alice, with the latter always winning.
  • Serendipitous Survival: Grandma Lillian reveals that her water broke during her pregnancy with Janie when she was about to go on a trip with Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and the Big Bopper. When Pepper Ann asks if Lillian ever met up with those three after she had Janie, Lillian awkwardly answers "No."
  • Shoulder Angels: Sort of. Pepper Ann often deals with situations by talking/arguing with her reflection, which can on any given day be her conscience and chide her for doing something wrong, be her anti-conscience and encourage her to not think about consequences, reassure her about something, express her doubts, or simply be her common sense, which loops back to being her conscience.
  • Shout-Out:
    • In "Career Daze", Nicky is put on wrapping meat on a conveyor belt - and it looks very much like the famous I Love Lucy scene with Lucy and Ethel trying to make chocolates at a factory.
    • Pepper Ann's Imagine Spot of her and Crash together in "Mash into Me" is a parody of Misery, complete with broken hands.
    • The local retirement home is called "Cocoon Gables".
    • In "My Mother, Myself", Moose tries switching Pepper Ann and Lydia's bodies back by wiping their memories of it with a "Neuralyzer", which doesn't work because it's just an ordinary pen.
  • Slice of Life: Was made when this genre was starting to get popular. Albeit the events often get weird.
  • Snowball Lie: Along with the "Fawlty Towers" Plot of "Crush and Burn", there's "The Wash-Out" where Pepper Ann mocks Gwen Mezzrow for leaving school after being called out by the nurse by saying she has lice (turns out she left to attend the funeral for her goldfish), which makes Gwen into a pariah, with P.A. even having a daydream akin to "Red Scare" trials.
  • Soap Punishment: In "The Way They Were" , 5-year-old Pepper Ann has a bar of soap stuffed into her mouth for saying "jerk", and is to stay in the bathroom to reflect on her own actions while her mom is still pregnant with her second child, who turns out to be Margaret Rose, or "Moose".
  • Spin-Off: Pepper Ann was first introduced to readers of YM magazine as Fido Dido's "latest best friend".
  • Spin the Bottle: Happens at Dieter's unsupervised birthday party, to Pepper Ann's chagrin. As it happens, Nicky is the only person to get spun (and subsequently smooched) before everyone decides that the game is boring and they would rather play video games.
  • Stealth Pun: Nicky telling Pepper Ann that "Anatomy is not gross" after Pepper Ann says "Hello 3D gross-a-rama!". Gross Anatomy is actually a term for what they do.
  • Straw Fan: Averted. When Moose learns they're making a cartoon of her favorite comic book character, Tundra Woman, she's disgusted that they turned her from an Action Girl into a vapid Alpha Bitch obsessed with shopping who is now dating her archenemy. Moose starts a protest campaign and gathers together fans of all ages, including Mr. Hickey, who, rather than being stereotypes of the Basement-Dweller type, are all relatively normal men and women whose lives were changed and inspired by Tundra Woman's original influence. Unfortunately, when the producers decide to change the cartoon, they still don't stick to the source material and turn Tundra Woman into grunting cavewoman who graphically slaughters baby seals onscreen. Eventually, the show is just replaced with a cartoon about a skateboarding robot.
  • The Friends Who Never Hang: Nicky and Milo had shades of this early on. Naturally, with the show focusing on Pepper Ann, it was rare to see the two without her. A later episode even addressed this when the two start deliberately spending time together to make their exes jealous. Things end up getting somewhat subverted when Nicky and Milo discover they have a number of shared interests, so much that PA becomes paranoid that she isn't needed anymore.
  • The Stoic: Moose Pearson and Craig Bean, though they've both had at least one Not So Stoic moment.
  • Suddenly Shouting: Nicky is prone to this when she's provoked.
    "My eight hours of required sleep has been encroached upon, and that means momma's gettin crabby!"
  • Take Our Word for It: The art pieces Milo made in "The Environ-Mentals" were so horrifying they were never shown on screen. All we know about any of them is that a caricature he made involved someone with water skis going through their feet. A chalk outline Milo made scared Craig Bean so badly that he lost his voice screaming.
  • Theme Naming: Most towns and other places in the series are named after nuts.
  • Tomboy and Girly Girl: Pepper Ann, who always indulges in boyish hobbies, and Nicky, who borders on Proper Lady.
  • Took a Level in Dumbass: Pepper Ann once had a nightmare where everyone turned stupid while suffering feelings of inadequacy.
  • Took a Third Option: When it was time to elect a student body president, the campaign degraded into a mudslinging contest between P.A. and her rival Alice Kane. On the day the votes were counted, Principal Hickey noted that despite the revitalized participation of the students in this recent election, the winner was joke candidate Mark Hamill. When the girls demand a recount, Nicky reveals she was the reason why Hamill won by way of raising support for him behind the scenes. P.A. points out how Nicky had been complaining about no one taking elections seriously and how the candidates should focus on the issues, and Nicky counters with a speech about how she used her right to vote to form a protest campaign against P.A. and Alice Kane for the way they turned the election into a petty grudge match. Even Hickey agrees with Nicky and tells the girls they should be ashamed of themselves.
  • Too Old to Trick-or-Treat: In “A ’tween Halloween,” Pepper Ann tries to cancel her planned trick-or-treat outing with Milo when her classmates decide not to do so, thinking she's too old for this. The two friends wind up going anyway, and an ending montage reveals that their classmates secretly joined in.
  • Tough Act to Follow: In-universe, Pepper Ann received acclaim after writing a zine article about the time she sneaked out to a party without her mother's permission, but ended up feeling alone and scared at the party (and guilty for deceiving her mom). Pepper Ann followed this up with a tribute to her mother, after learning she went through the same thing when she was younger, but this received hate from students who believe True Art Is Angsty.
  • Trees into Toothpicks "Sani-Paper" featured a field trip to the (supposedly) wasteful Sani-Paper company.
  • Two Shorts: Most of the episodes of the series are this, and most of the episodes that are one double-length story have a To Be Continued graphic at the end of their first acts.
  • Ultra Super Death Gore Fest Chainsawer 3000: The episode "G.I. Janie" has Pepper Ann's aunt deciding to research on the impact of violent video games in the youth, all of whom are killfests like the one Janie ends up addicted to, Warmonger.
  • Unreliable Illustrator: The Season 3 episode "Searching for Pepper Ann Pearson" was animated by the series' usual animation studio, Sunwoo Entertainment; however, it has many of the same qualities of the Hana episodes, albeit in a more subtle manner. Pepper Ann's face and hair are the main differences, as both are drawn in the same "compacted" way as in the Hana episodes, and P.A.'s hair is animated with more fluidity and movement than usual. There is also a quick inking error that results in Pepper Ann herself being briefly rendered in the Thick-Line Animation style.
  • Unusual Euphemism: "Fuzzy", the name of an in-universe comic strip character, is used as an all-purpose euphemism.
  • Unwanted Assistance: Pepper Ann is chronically bad at helping people and giving advice. Lampshaded in "The Amazing Becky Little."
    Milo: How to put this... hmm... often-times when to attempt to help people they end up worse off than before you-
    Pepper Ann: Don't you think I know that?
  • Very Special Episode: "The Great Beyond" which is about Steve the cat being sick with a possibly fatal illness and Pepper Ann wondering what happens to someone after they die.
  • Violent Glaswegian: Shelf McLain, the school bully. It apparently runs in the family.
  • Vocal Dissonance: Moose sounds like a teenage boy despite being an eight-or-nine-year-old girl.
  • Visit by Divorced Dad: Pepper Ann's parents may be divorced, but there are episodes where Pepper Ann's father visits.
  • Vocal Evolution: Everyone sounds different in the pilot, especially Nicky and P.A.'s mom. Nicky keeps this different for almost all of Season 1.
  • Voices Are Not Mental: When Pepper Ann and her mom swap minds, the voice actors do not trade jobs, but they do trade inflections and speech patterns.
  • White-Dwarf Starlet: Annie Briar, Grandma Lillian's understudy from the 1940s shown in "Cold Feet," went on to have an acting career that could've been Lillian's. Throughout the flashbacks, Annie's career spiraled down the drain over several decades with jokes about how many failed marriages and failed sitcoms she had. By the time Pepper Ann was a baby, the woman's been reduced to being the spokesperson for a company that made "face lift clips," with Sherrie Spleen asking "What gutter did they drag her out of?"
  • Who Names Their Kid "Dude"?: Moose does have a real name (Margaret Rose), but there is no explanation for Pepper Ann and several other characters.
    • Allegedly, Pepper Ann's "real" name is Jennifer, but this is never spoken on the show, nor is it officially confirmed. It is only seen on some old Internet episode guide listings.
  • Why Did It Have to Be Snakes?: Nicky has a fear of swans, but runs into them on a frequent basis. It turns out her sister is scared of them as well, and it seems their phobia stems from a seemingly evil swan toy they used to have.
  • Wicked Cultured: Effie Shrugg. She a Child Prodigy (8 to 9 years old despite being larger than Pepper Ann herself) who skipped to 7th grade and is well versed in the writings of Charles Dickens, Charles Darwin and Friedrich Nietzsche. She's also a Social Darwinist Bully who pushes people around (often literally) and muscles them into giving her anything she wants, under the idea that Might Makes Right.
  • World of Snark: Depending on the episode, pretty nearly anyone could be sarcastic.
  • Written-In Absence: Milo was once absent for nearly an entire episode until he appeared at the end. He was at the local pizza place for three days waiting for Pepper Ann and Nicky, who apparently forgot they were supposed to meet him. He spent three days just eating sauce before showing up at school again.
  • Yet Another Christmas Carol: A variation is done for "A Valentine's Day Tune" with the focus being Valentine's Day rather than Christmas.
  • You Are Better Than You Think You Are: Nicky is told this by her sister after she freaks out over her inferiority complex.
  • You Are Grounded!: Happens to Pepper Ann twice. First time for sneaking out in the middle of the night to attend a party in "P.A.'s Life In A Nutshell" and second time for secretly letting Moose see Sean, who ends up injured, in "Moose In Love".
  • You Have to Believe Me!: In "Snot Your Mother's Music" Mick Snot stays with the Pearsons and every time Pepper Ann tries to show Nicky and Milo that Mick is staying with them they don't believe her, because he instantly switches between his stage outfit and his lame old man look depending who's looking.
  • Younger Than They Look: New student Effie Shrug is taller, stronger, and smarter than Pepper Ann. When Pepper Ann brings Effie to her house, Moose sees them enter the door is and terrified at the thought of Effie Shrug being anywhere near her. Turns out Effie was just recently in elementary school and is in fact 8 years old.
  • Zeerust: The Grand Finale can be seen as this as it takes place in 2012, 15 years after the series began going by Comic-Book Time above.

"Catch her if you can, Pepper Ann!"


Video Example(s):


Pepper Ann's Desk

In the end of the opening sequence, Pepper Ann always finds something interesting under her desk which varies in some episodes.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (10 votes)

Example of:

Main / CouchGag

Media sources: