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Western Animation / Recess

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Those meddling kids.note 

"I'm warning you! I'm a Black Belt in Origami!"

Recess is an American animated television series that was created by Paul Germain and Joe Ansolabehere (who worked on Rugrats until the show was originally supposed to end in 1994), and produced by Walt Disney Television Animation. It ran from September 13, 1997, to November 5, 2001, simultaneously on ABC (Saturday mornings) and UPN (Sunday mornings and weekday afternoons, beginning in 1999).

The series focuses on six elementary school students and their interaction with their schoolmates and teachers. In many respects, it serves as an animated knock-off of prisoner-of-war movies such as The Great Escape... combined with a generally positive depiction of the elementary school experience.

The main characters were:

  • T.J. Detweiler, the leader of the gang and the one who comes up with the Zany Schemes.
  • Vince LaSalle, the sportsman.
  • Gretchen Grundler, the group's genius who loves science, yet also kickball.
  • Ashley Spinelli, usually referred to by her last name, who was the "toughest kid in school".note 
  • Mikey Blumberg, the very tall yet good-hearted poet and deep-voiced singer.
  • Gus Griswald, the new kid at Third Street.

Many plots would deal with the kids' Serious Business attitude about simple grade school life, mostly, among other aspects, recess. This includes having a designated 'King'. Nicknames for each other based on their main 'quality' (Swinger Girl, The Diggers, Pale Kids etc.), and the concept of popular fads quickly taking over playground demographics. The series was also well known for its large Periphery Demographic, due to every episode having at least one Parental Bonus.

The series was notably the only show to premiere in the initial season of Disney's One Saturday Morning that would last the entirety of the block's run, going on well into the first two years of ABC Kids (The New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh doesn't count, as it originally ran on ABC from 1988 to 91; they put it on to fulfill ABC stations' E/I quotas). It was also rerun the most out of all the shows on One Saturday Morning, pretty much being on all of Disney Channel's affiliates at one point or another. It was one of the few older shows to air on Disney XD after Toon Disney shut down.

In 2001, a film based on the series, Recess: School's Out, was released in theaters to positive reception. Please put all tropes relating to the movie there. In 2003, the film (and the show itself) was followed up with a Direct to Video sequel and finale, Recess: Taking the Fifth Grade. The main six characters (and Miss Finster) themselves last appeared in a 2006 crossover episode of Lilo & Stitch: The Series. There was also Recess: All Growed Down (2003), which, despite consisting of three previous episodes, one new episode, and framing material, is still considered a "movie" by Disney.

The series and movies are currently available to stream on Disney+.

This animated series provides examples of:

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  • A Taste of Defeat:
    • This happened to Vince after one of the Ashleys outclassed him in kickball. Losing all his self-confidence, things only worsen to the point he can't even make a basic kick anymore, until his friends coax him into kicking a (supposedly) modified ball to bring back his self-esteem and competence.
    • Deliberately initiated in another episode. After Vince becomes conceited about his victory streak in sports games, the rest of the gang dare him to lose. He does so, and acts even more smug about it. It comes to a head when he is against someone as skilled and possibly more conceited. Vince then tries to win after losing and either has to win the game (for pride) or lose (for his friends). He chooses the latter.
  • Accidental Hero: In "The Shiner," TJ gets a black eye and won't tell anyone how he got it. The other kids convince themselves that he got it performing some heroic feat or other and is just too modest to admit it. After initial protests TJ quickly starts enjoying the hero life, even getting a parade in his honour. When he's asked to tell the tale of how he got his black eye at the parade, however, his conscience finally kicks in and he admits the truth - He was square-dancing, and his partner knocked into him.
  • Absurdly Powerful Student Council:
    • Not exactly Student Council President, but King Bob rules the playground with an iron fist.
    • The Board of Education is also absurdly powerful, acting very much like the FBI or the CIA. It's often presented as something akin to Secret Police.
  • Accidental Misnaming:
    • In "Parents' Night", Spinelli's mom gets the names of the rest of the Recess Gang wrong- "Mickey, Vance, Greta, Rus, and B.J.". Later on, she calls Miss Grotke "Miss Gratke".
    • The grandson of Third Street School namesake Thaddeus T. Third III—Thaddeus T. Third V, that is—constantly gets mistakenly called "Mr. Fifth" by adults trying to kiss up to him.
  • The Ace: The episode "Here Comes Mr. Perfect" introduces a new student named Jared. He comes up with better plans than T.J., he's stronger than Spinelli, a better poet than Mikey, smarter than Gretchen, has been to more schools than Gus, he's faster than Vince, can burp louder than Tubby so loud it shakes windows, and is a government agent. But it turns out he's a Broken Ace- He eventually explains that he doesn't have any friends, because people think he's a show-off or get jealous.
  • Achilles in His Tent: In "Dodgeball City", Gus refuses to take sides in a dodgeball fight, despite being a dodgeball virtuoso at one of his older schoolsnote . Upon seeing a younger student (a.k.a. a kindergarten kid who he was keeping an eye on) getting clobbered, however, he enters rage mode and proceeds to wipe out the opposing team single-handedly.
  • Actor Allusion:
    • The old lady in "The Lost Ball" is named Dot and is voiced by Tress MacNeille... who's played another character named Dot.
    • Spinelli's mother is voiced by Katey Sagal aka Peggy Bundy, and her character design looks strikingly like Peggy's.
    • In "First Name Ashley", the first kid to join the Ashleys after everyone changes their name to Ashley is Gretchen—whose voice actress is actually named Ashley!
    • In the episode "The Dude", the main six meet Franklin Dudikoff, the school's original charismatic prankster (Like T.J.) in the '80s, who's now back to become a teacher. T.J. looks up to him like an older brother. The Dude is voiced by Joey Lawrence, who's the older brother of T.J.'s (then) voice actor, Andy Lawrence.
    • In Recess: School's Out, T.J.'s sister, Becky, is shown talking on the phone in one scene with her friend, Melissa. Becky's voiced by Melissa Joan Hart.
    • In Recess: Taking the Fifth Grade, Becky is voiced by Tara Strong instead of Melissa Joan Hart. In two made-for-TV movies for Sabrina the Teenage Witch, both of them star in the films: Melissa Joan Hart as Sabrina, and Tara Strong as Gwen.
    • This is now the fourth time in a row, where Justin Shenkarow has voiced a bully.
  • Actually Pretty Funny: From "Good ole TJ":
    Ms. Grotke: "Everyone is going to be assigned a partner to work with for ancient civilisations week."
    T.J.: "Ancient Civilisations? You mean back when Ms. Finster was a kid?"
    Ms. Grotke: "Actually TJ we are going to go back thousands of years, not hundreds *stifles a laugh*."
  • Adorably Precocious Child: Gretchen is probably the prime example, being a child prodigy, rather level headed, but having most of the same impulses and naiveté as the rest of the group.
  • Adults Are Useless: Adults are often the antagonist, although they are mostly a recurring obstacle with some exceptions. When they aren't, they're worthless — Ms. Finster doesn't seem to be interested in Gus being bullied every single day despite telling the bully not to do it again. Subverted in The Movie, where all of the teachers show up to help fight the bad guy and his Mooks. There were some exceptions to this, notable the single-episode teachers Mr. E and Mr. Dude.
  • Adults Dressed as Children: The episode "The Spy who Came into the Playground" involved said spy disguising as a 10-year-old to get into the school.
  • An Aesop:
    • In Kindergarten Derby: You shouldn't continue a tradition which the children made to take part in don't enjoy, even if you yourself were made to do it when you were younger.
    • In the episode "Yes, Mikey, Santa Does Shave", Mikey learns that he doesn't have to see with his eyes or hear with his ears in order to believe something is real, and that fictional things like Santa can be real if you believe in them in your heart rather than just believing that they don't exist because you can't see or hear them.
    • The episode "Recess Is Cancelled" delivers an Aesop about how children need time to have fun, play together, build friendships, and in general just be kids. In the episode, Third Street School cancels recess in an attempt to improve the kids' test scores. As the weeks go by, all of the children gradually become soulless, emotionless shells of their former selves who can't recognize each other or even formulate thoughts. It's only after their test scores drop dramatically that recess is reinstated, and the kids are immediately brought back to their original, joyful selves, thus improving the test scores. This was further lampshaded in the theatrical movie.
    • "The Rules" dropped a surprisingly thoughtful message about blindly following laws and revering past generations. When King Bob recovers an old playground rulebook written by a past King of the Playground, he immediately starts enforcing the old King's rules on how to properly play games at recess, employing a private force of "fun police" to punish any kids who break the rules. He's so set on following the old rules that he never considers that some of the more baffling ones (requiring the kids to play four-square with an old stump, for example) are completely irrelevant to their lives, and that a previous generation's king might not have had all the answers.
    • "The Rules" also has a lesson that kids at good schools should appreciate how good they have it. The cast learns this when it turns out that the author of the rulebook devised them during the Great Depression as a way to make recess fun without any equipment for sports or games.
    • The kids learn that sometimes a person just doesn't like you for no apparent reason and trying to change that will only worsen things in Nobody Doesn't Like TJ. The episode revolved around TJ learning that Gordy doesn't like him. He spends the episode trying to figure out why Gordy doesn't like him; learns from Ms Finster that, even if she puts him into detention, that doesn't mean she hates him and finally trying to show Gordy how cool and fun he is, so Gordy would like him. When everything backfires, TJ demands to know if there's at least one good reason why Gordy doesn't like him, to which Gordy regretfully admits that there isn't any, he just doesn't TJ in general.
    • "A Genius Among Us" explores that a person's hobby shouldn't necessarily be the same as their career; otherwise it's no more enjoyable than the next job. For being the school janitor, Hank is good at math and even likes it. But he chooses to remain a janitor because if he became a professional mathematician, he wouldn't be able to simply do math for fun.
  • A.I. Is a Crapshoot: The SAL 3000 in "Schoolworld", a parody of HAL. SAL is initially happy to serve the school and the students, dismissing the kids to recess on time, helping them out as they're on the playground, and giving them temperature controlled water at the water fountain. However, as time passes on, he becomes more tyrannical and cruel as he monitors every activity of every student and faculty member, as shown when he refuses Mikey water, forces Swinger Girl to stop swinging, has the Diggers patch up their holes (according to Vince), and dethrones King Bob (according to Gus). Eventually, he gets to the point where he fires all the staff, takes their place, and threatens to lock everyone inside the school (and he has total control of the doors, windows and practically everything in the school)
  • Air-Vent Passageway: T.J. often uses this route to break himself and occasionally others out of detention.
  • All for Nothing:
    • In the season 1 episode "Officer Mikey", Mikey Blumberg wants to become a safety ranger, but was rejected because he made a bad impression on their leader Captain Brad. Mikey becomes sad, stating that becoming a safety ranger was his dream. So Mikey's friends try to help him, learning that the captain can be overruled if a potential recruit is personally sponsored by two other guards. They find two guards, Allen and Ronnie, who are willing to sponsor Mikey if they can make their dream of singing the national anthem over the school PA at the weekly flag raising ceremony come true. They go to Menlo, who helps Miss Lemon with the flag ceremony every week, and he agrees to help them if they make his dream of carrying Ashley A. book come true, Ashley A. agrees if they can get her diary back from her little sister Brittany who stole it, Brittany agrees to give back the diary if they can make her dream come true of her sitting on King Bob's throne, Bob agrees if the gang can give him a true friend that does not care that he's king, someone that just see him as Bob. The gang give Bob a puppy, he lets Brittany sit on his throne, who gives Ashley A. her diary back, who lets Menlo carry her books, who has Allen and Ronnie sing the national anthem over the school PA at the ceremony. Finally, Allen and Ronnie sponsor Mikey and he gets in the safety rangers. The gang go into school happy they made Mikey's dream come true, only to find Mikey eating in the cafeteria. Shocked they ask him what he's doing, and Mikey reveals he quit. When they're shocked, since he hasn't even been a safety ranger for a day, Mikey explains how he had a rotten day - he has to get up early, miss breakfast, and it rained. Also, when he tries to stop kids from skateboarding, they spit at him. Mikey tells his friends he had a new dream of being a jet pilot; as he finishes talking, he notices the gang has left.
    • The episode Pharaoh Bob has King Bob force the entire student body to construct a mud pyramid dedicated to his tenure as king. In midst of the student rebellion, rain begins to pour and melts away his pyramid. With or without the rebellion, the pyramid was doomed from the start.
    • In "Me No Know", Vince spends the entire episode trying to find a way to see a movie that the rest of the school has seen and is quoting constantly which leaves him feeling left out. However after he sees the movie he gets caught by his parents and then grounded which includes not being able to watch television. The next Monday at school he finds out that everyone has moved on from the movie and is now quoting a television show, something he can't watch but could have if he had just waited a week which makes all his efforts for naught.
  • All There in the Manual: Various additional information was given about the characters on the original page for the show on Disney's website (before taken down). Some info includes that:
    • T.J.'s favorite food is "everything but the Tomato Surprise they serve in the Cafeteria!";
    • Michael Jordan is Vince's idol;
    • Spinelli's goal in life was to become an ace fighter pilot;
    • Gretchen having a crush on "the whiz kid from Smart Guy";
    • According to a few press releases/promotional material, Miss Grotke's first name is Alordayne. This isn't mentioned in the show itself, but it was in a few foreign dubs.
  • Alliterative Name: Gus Griswald, Gretchen Grundler, Principal Peter Prickly (also his brother Paul Prickly), Ashley "Ashley A" Armbruster, Brittany "Brittany B" Boulet, Tyler "Tyler T" Tomassian, Thaddeus T. Third III.
  • Almighty Janitor: Hank, who turns out to be a mathematics genius. He was once offered high-profile jobs by NASA and the military, but he'd rather be a janitor at the school.
  • Always Someone Better: One episode introduces a new kid who's better at everything than everybody else at Third Street. In the end it turns out he's better at everything than everybody else in the country, and that the government has him on call. Interestingly, the episode deconstructs the concept of a Marty Stu by making the perfect kid a nice guy who despises being the best because it inevitably makes everyone else hate him and means he can't aspire to anything.
  • Animation Bump:
    • The Movie has better animation than the cartoon, but then again it had a much larger budget and didn't have the deadlines as the animated series has. You can spot some Animation Goofs in the series, such as Gus apparently showing up in a crowd before he actually transferred to school, Gretchen vanishing in mid-air and students appearing as stickmen.
    • Any episode by Grimsaem also falls into this trope. Out of all five animation studios working on the series note , their episodes were noticeably the most fluid and well animated. Most of their notable episodes were made during season one, such as the show's first episode. They also did the title sequence.
  • And Starring: For the main cast credits (the main six kids and the three main teachers; the rest of the cast was listed separately), Dabney Coleman (Principal Prickly) got the "And" most of the time. When Prickly only appeared in the background or didn't appear at all, the "and" went to Allyce Beasley (Miss Grotke). If Grotke didn't appear in the episode, had a background role, or it was a season one episode (before gaining Ascended Extra status), the "And" went to April Winchell (Miss Finster).
  • …And That Little Girl Was Me: Spinelli's ballet teacher tells her, "You remind me of little dancer known by me in old country." When Spinelli asks what that little girl is doing now, her ballet teacher says she'll tell her later. After her big ballet recital, Spinelli asks what happened to the girl, and the teacher reveals, "little girl was me."
  • And the Rest: In "Lawson and his Crew" when King Bob is giving the gang medals and addressing them with nicknames that describe their defining traits, after giving Gretchen her medal and calling her Smart Girl, he gets to Gus and calls him Friend of Smart Girl.
  • April Fools' Plot: "The Big Prank" and its' sequel, "The Madness of King Bob", though they didn't take place on April Fools' Day. "The Big Prank" was about T.J. having to prank King Bob in order to become Prankster Prince, and the second episode was about King Bob trying to prank T.J. for revenge. Both episodes were often aired on Toon Disney on April Fools' Day.
  • Are You Pondering What I'm Pondering?: In "To Finster, With Love"
    T.J.: Hey guys, are you thinking what I'm thinking?
    Mikey: I don't know, I was thinking of getting more french fries.
  • Art Evolution:
    • In season three, thirteen shorts were made with digital coloring instead of the hand-painted cels. This was odd considering that it would go back and forth between digital and hand-painted, ending with "Bonkey Fever", the final episode to use digital coloring until the movie.
    • And T.J. lost the slight puppy-dog sparkle in his eyes after season one. There wasn't much explanation why, but it could've been because he was the only character with it and it looked odd compared to the others. He was also a bit chubbier as well.
    • Gus and T.J. are a bit taller in the later episodes, showing that the kids are getting a little older.
    • The colors got a lot more vibrant in season two.
    • Sunwoo Entertainment easily fell under this trope regarding the series. Their first episode, "Jinxed" was very off-model (As with the rest of their season one episodes). Their episodes in season three (As they were absent during season two's production due to being busy with The Rugrats Movie) became more consistent, to the point where they were regarded as one of the best animation departments working on the show. Same with their job on Recess: School's Out also stood out.
  • Art Shift: One episode had the kids become part of a government experiment to see if getting rid of recess would improve standardized test scores. As everyone lost time to blow off steam, the color palate of the animation becomes more drab. At the end of the episode, the government allows the school to have recess again, and everything becomes vibrant as the children play outside in the sun.
  • The Artifact: The Opening Shout-Out in "Lawson and His Crew" where Lawson interrupts the (shortened) Recess opening after the commercial break and the sequence is then re-done with Lawson and his gang. When the episode aired, One Saturday Morning would often play a shortened version of the opening for each show coming back from the commercial break. The joke became less funny once the show started to play on Disney Channel, Toon Disney, Disney XD, and outside the US (also when the block became ABC Kids, as they had abandoned the practice by then).
  • As Himself: Twice. The late Dick Clark in "Yes, Mikey, Santa Does Shave", and Buzz Aldrin in "Space Cadet".
  • Asleep in Class: Gretchen in "This Brain for Hire", after staying up all night doing everyone's homework, and T.J. in "Good Ole T.J.", after staying up all night trying to revise his and Gretchen's project to give her the A grade she deserved.
  • Assumed Win: In "Principal For A Day." When the faculty draws a student's name out of a box to be principal for a day Randall stands up thinking he won (because he stuffed the box). The actual winner is TJ though only because the teachers rigged it so he would win.
  • Ate the Spoon: In one episode, this happened with the cafeteria meal.
    Gretchen: The tomato surprise isn't without its useful properties.
    TJ: You mean this stuff is safe to eat?
    Gretchen: No. I mean if you let it age, it can burn a hole through a concrete floor.
    Vince: (inserts spoon into tomato surprise and it dissolves) It doesn't have too far to go
  • Attack of the 50-Foot Whatever: After fearing that he's going to grow up to a giant height, Mikey has a nightmare where he's a giant destroying a city in "Big Ol' Mikey".
  • Author Appeal: As with Rugrats and, later, his Pound Puppies (2010) reboot, Paul Germain shows his fondness for WWII-style espionage in this series.
  • The B Grade: Gretchen gets her first A- in "The Dude":
    Gretchen: A-? My life is flashing before my eyes!
  • Backstabbing the Alpha Bitch: In "Outcast Ashley," Ashley B. and the other two Ashleys kick Ashley A. out of the clique for forgetting "Purple Day" (the anniversary of the day they first met where they all wear purple; Ashley A. was wearing yellow), and so Ashley A. decides to hang out with Gretchen for a while. However, the other Ashleys end up befriending her, and then in the end, they leave Gretchen behind and Ashley A. returns to the group.
  • Badass Teacher: Mr E. He's so awesome, no-one can even know what the E stands for. Also counts as a very Stern Teacher. There were rumors going around with the kids that he physically tore down the Berlin Wall, and made a kid repeat the fifth grade for stammering during a book report.
  • Bad "Bad Acting": Whenever the kids have to act, it's usually very bad. The standout example is in "I Will Kick No More Forever," when Mikey feigns an injury and the others pretend that only Vince can save the kickball game.
  • Ballet Episode: The episode "Dance Lessons" has Spinelli being enrolled in dance classes by her parents due to her latest fight at school. She finds out that Mikey is willingly in the same class, and they end up being dance partners.
  • Beady-Eyed Loser: Gus is the shy Lovable Coward who just moved to town, and he's the only member of the regular cast with Black Bead Eyes.
  • Beauty, Brains, and Brawn: The two main girls and Cornchip Girl: Gretchen (Brains), Cornchip Girl (Beauty), and Spinelli (Brawn).
  • Beauty Contest: The Ashleys enter Spinelli in the Little Miss Blush beauty pageant as a joke in "The Beauty Contest". She wins.
  • Beef Bandage: T.J. was carrying a steak over his black eye at the beginning of "The Shiner". His mom told him he couldn't take it to school because she needed to cook it for dinner.
  • Be Yourself:
    • In "The Beauty Contest," after being tricked into entering a beauty contest, Spinelli is taught to be a "beauty queen" by her friends - but ultimately wins by being herself.
    • Deconstructed in Randall's Friends, Randall's father tells him it's good that he spends his free time spying and tattling on the other kids rather than helping them, because that is being true to himself,
  • "Begone" Bribe: In one episode, Mikey imagines himself as a bard/minstrel when he's older. He serenades a couple, making the lady swoon and prompting her date to pay him to move on.
  • Being Personal Isn't Professional:
    • Ms. Finster turns out to be an old friend of Spinelli's parents. She turns out to be quite cool in the end despite her Stern to Sadist Teacher tendencies.
    • Principal Prickly is often compared to TJ Detweiler and said to have a similar role in the school back when he was a kid and is openly shown to be a life long fan of the same comic book superhero TJ enjoys. Prickly also never wanted to be a principal, just a teacher, and only took the job to defend recess at the school.
  • Beta Bitch: The Ashley clique has Ashley A as the Alpha Bitch and Ashley B as the Beta Bitch. When Ashley A is temporarily kicked out, Ashley B appears to be the leader.
  • Beware the Nice Ones:
    • Mikey (the tall, fat kid who's into poetry and art) does have a nasty streak when provoked (as seen in the episode where he fakes a rumor stating that he beat up a boy and shoved him into the girls' bathroom, or the one where Mikey is picked to be a soccer goalie and his friends think he can't do it).
    • Gus brutally knocked out a fifth grade class with dodgeballs on his own.
  • Big Brother Bully:
    • Cornchip Girl has one who isn't seen, but is mentioned in "The Break In", when she says that he calls her "some dumb kid".
    • Subverted with T.J.'s older sister Becky, since she's nicer to him at the end of Recess: School's Out, but mostly just a Bratty Teenage Daughter.
    • Played straight, however, with Paul Prickly, Principal Peter Prickly's brother, who always schemes to make Peter feel inferior, including having a fifty-foot flagpole. Peter, in turn, is eager to put the old blowhard in his place.
  • Big Eater:
    • Mikey, who is normally seen to eat more than the rest and always tend to mention food.
    • Kurst is shown to have an even bigger appetite. All her appearances involve her eating and once was shown eating the cafeteria supplies by herself.
  • Big Guy, Little Guy: Mikey and Gus, who spend more solo time with each other than with any other members of the main gang, although their intelligence is about equal and neither one is the "leader" (that would be T.J.).
  • Big Man on Campus: TJ. He shows one of the key traits most openly in the episode where he was forced to stay with the 'Pale Kids' - kids who would rather stay inside and play Daggers and Dragons than play on the playground. Though he is initially hesitant, it isn't long before he has blended in perfectly and counts each and every one of them as a friend, rallying their unique talents to his side in several future episodes.
  • Big "NO!": In many episodes, though usually done as "!!!!!!"
    • T.J. does one in "The Break In", where he finally breaks himself out of detention only for the bell to ring less than a minute later.
    • Spinelli and TJ after they finished drawing straws knowing that they'll experiment a "kiss" in "The Experiment".
    • Mikey has several, like the one delivered in "Prince Randal" after T.J. comes back as a victim of the "Dodge Ball Wall".
  • Big Ol' Unibrow: King Bob sports a large unibrow.
  • Big Damn Movie: The plot of the movie revolves around the kids and faculty uniting to stop a madman from plunging the Earth into an eternal winter and thus eliminating summer vacation. The series, meanwhile, focuses on mostly playground antics.
  • Big Storm Episode: "Rainy Days," where a week-long rainstorm confines the kids to indoor recess, much to their horror.
  • Big, Stupid Doodoo-Head: In one episode, there's a scene where two first graders are arguing. One of them calls the other a loser, causing him to call the other a "Loser-more".
  • Bigger on the Inside: The Ashleys' Clubhouse. On the outside, it just looks like some old tires fused together but on the inside it has a game room, a study room, a tea party room, a TV room, etc.
  • Birthday Episode: Two of these. "Randall's Friends" (Randall's birthday) and "Bonky Fever" (Mikey's birthday).
  • Birthday Hater: In "Bonky Fever," Mikey dreads his tenth birthday because he's afraid of growing up and having to do things without his mother's help. As the day approaches, he becomes obsessed with Bonky the Dragon and regresses to a kindergarten-like state. A heart-to-heart talk with his mother finally snaps him out of it, though.
  • Birthday Party Goes Wrong: "Bonky Fever" involves Mikey's tenth birthday, with Mikey reverting to kindergartener-like behavior and becoming obsessed with Bonky, a Barney Expy. His friends are horrified among arriving at Mikey's birthday party (thinking he's snapped out of his phase) to see a bunch of kindergartners attending and the whole party having a Bonky theme. And then Bonky comes out to dance with Mikey and the kindergarteners. In a desperate attempt to bring Mikey back to normal, the rest of the gang pounces on Bonky and unmasks him to reveal Mikey's mother Mrs. Blumberg in a Bonky Goofy Suit. Mikey claims his head hurts and he runs out into the backyard to be alone, and then one of the kindergarteners says to T.J. "Now we play Pin Tail on Big Kid!" and chases him.
  • Bittersweet Ending: The ending of "To Finster, With Love", Miss Finster and Hank break up, but they get back to all the work they had missed doing when they were together and bring the school back to order.
  • Bizarro Universe: The episode "The Challenge" had the main characters go to another school for a kickball game. Gus takes notices of the similarities to their school before they face their opponents. Which are near clear cut copies of themselves—except a majority of the counterparts are a different race and TJ's a girl.
  • Black and Nerdy:
    • Vince's brother Chad. A whole episode is devoted to Vince coming to terms with the fact that his brother is a geek.
    • Rodney, one of the Pale Kids, counts as this as well, since he stays indoors during recess with the rest of the pale kids to read comics and play Daggers & Dragons.
  • Black Bead Eyes: Gus, one of a few characters with this eye style. The only other characters with the eye style are Scribe Kid, Adam Able (One of the background characters), and Becky Benson.
  • Blackmail: Done a few times.
    • Randall generally is the most common perpretrator of blackmail. In one episode, he blackmails King Bob with an embarrassing photo to get him to do his bidding.
    • Another episode has Randall team up with Menlo to blackmail the rest of the playground with various embarrassing things such as secrets, knowledge of them having cheated or taken advantage of errors for their advantage, or knowledge of their parents.
    • In The Movie, T.J. obtains his sister's diary and starts reading from it in order to get his sister to drive him around town. At the end of the movie, he gives it back to her and admits he's above such things.
  • Blowing a Raspberry: Spinelli razzes the Ashleys after she beats them in a beauty contest in "The Beauty Contest."
  • Blue-and-Orange Morality: The Law of the Playground can be this at times. In "Fort Tender", when the gang tells King Bob about Lawson taking over their fort, Bob tells them the law actually favors Lawson as what he did falls under "finders keepers".
  • Book Dumb: TJ is perhaps the perfect embodiment of this trope. While his grades are notoriously average/below average, once on the playground he can pull off elaborate schemes from (quite literally) under his hat. Spinelli can be this sometimes, depending on the episode.
  • Book Ends: "Diggers Split Up" opened and ended with a shot of a butterfly flying across the playground.
  • Bothering by the Book: Invoked in one episode when the kids find a playground games rulebook written by a legendary playground king named King Morty. They are eager to implement these rules and since King Bob is busy trying to dictate his memoirs he orders his two lackeys to enforce them. At first, the kids are happy but things quickly turn sour because the rules are increasingly more like farm chores than games. The trope is then invoked by T.J. because the lackeys use literal "fun police" to force the children to adhere to the rules of King Morty so long as they are on the playground so T.J. simply has the kids leave the playground. The lackeys try to arrest the entire school anyway which causes a riot until King Bob shows up. The kids explain the ridiculous rules to King Bob who agrees that they are years and years out of date (King Morty lived in The Great Depression), and so declares the rules of King Morty void.
  • Bowdlerization:
    • The scene in "I Will Kick No More Forever" when Ashley Q. kicks the kickball all the way to Communist China was changed so that she kicked it in a nearby Dumpster (which was recycled footage from earlier when Vince kicked the ball all the way to the Dumpster) when it aired in some overseas versions (except for the U.S. and the U.K.).
    • In "Parents' Night", when Spinelli's dad (her real father, not the biker she hired to be her dad) is showing the other five kids pictures of her as a baby, he says, "Look at her on the rug with her fanny in the air". The "fanny in the air" part was cut in the U.K. (as "fanny" in the U.K. does NOT mean someone's butt like it does in America) and when ABC reran the episode (but not when Toon Disney aired it) as it got complaints for being too sexually suggestive.
  • Brainy Brunette:
    • Gretchen and Spinelli invert their typical hair tropes, as Spinelli (brunette) is fiery and Gretchen (redhead) is brainy. Gretchen did have black hair in the pilot, though.
    • T.J. plays with this, as he's quite ditzy when it comes to academics, but is a genius when it comes to his schemes on the playground.
    • Miss Grotke plays this trope straight.
  • Breakout Character: Gus, who ended up being the most prominent on certain promotional materials and had the second most episodes centered on him. Mikey and Spinelli also became this over time, as did the main three teachers (Especially Miss Finster and Principal Prickly).
  • Brick Joke: When Spinelli calls Miss Grotke "Mama" by mistake the gang come up with several crazy schemes to help her out such as playing subliminal messages over the PA system. This is forgotten about until the end of the episode when Gretchen says "I wonder why the subliminal messages didn't work" and it cuts to Prickly and Miss Finster calling each other "Mama" and "Daddy" without thinking.
  • Briefer Than They Think: The show ran for four years and three seasons (1997-2001), with two Direct to Video movies in 2003. Because Disney never acknowledged the series ending, and due to them advertising the show after it ended as if it was still making new episodes, many people believed it ran longer.
  • Brilliant, but Lazy: T.J. is an absolute genius when it comes to devising schemes on the playground. Though he's got a lazy side when it comes to schoolwork. Usually T.J.'s content with a C or D grade, though he can work hard when motivated (as in "Good Old T.J.").
  • Broken Aesop:
    • The episode "Nobody Doesn't Like T.J." tried to teach the moral, "You can't get everyone to like you." Instead, it came off as "You're allowed to not like someone for no good reason at all."
    • "Pharaoh Bob" also blunders where King Bob confesses to Gretchen he only wanted the pyramid to be remembered. Gretchen tells him great kings aren't remembered for the things they build, but by the things they do for their people. This contradicts the reason why Bob wanted the pyramid in the first place - because King Wally, Al and Chuck were all forgotten in spite of all the good deeds they did for the school playground.
  • Broken Glass Penalty: At the beginning of "Principal for a Day", T.J. accidentally breaks the window to Principal Prickly's office after kicking a kickball too hard, and thus is sent to the office for punishment.
  • Broken Smile: T.J. wears one for most of "The Box" after going insane from the isolation of said punishment.
  • Bubble Boy: The main six ended up together in a big plastic dome when they faked the symptoms of a severe illness (they were aiming for a more minor one but Gretchen messed up).
  • Bubblegum Popping: In the opening, Gus blows a bubblegum bubble and it pops in his face. This also occurs in "King Gus". It's what sets the plot in motion for Mikey in "Bad Hair Day".
  • Bullying a Dragon: Towards the end of "First Name Ashley", Randall starts taunting Spinelli. She quickly goes after him to his horror.
    Randall: Hey, Ashley S! Where's your dolly?
    Spinelli: I'll give you to the count of ten. One...two...ten! Come back here, you little worm!
  • Bully Magnet: Gus Griswald is the new kid and is immediately on the low pecking order until he finds refuge with a group of the other main characters, but even then sometimes he gets bullied. For example, when the Ashleys start ranking students based on popularity from 10 to 1, Gus gets a 0.
  • Bungled Hypnotism: One episode begins at an assembly where a hypnotist tries to hypnotize Miss Finster but it instead causes Principal Prickly to think he's 6 again.
  • But Now I Must Go: Parodied in an episode where Gus goes to his old alter ego of El Diablo the Dodgeball Player in order to win the game for his friends. After he wins, Gus turns around and goes off into the sunset...until one of the kindergarteners reminds him that school wasn't over yet.

  • Cabin Fever: The kids get this in "Rainy Days" when they have to stay indoors for recess for a week due to rain.
  • Calvinball: The Pokémon-esque card game Ajimbo. Just how do you play it, anyway?
    Gretchen: "It doesn't make sense! Some of the rules are completely inconsistent!"
  • The Cameo
    • Pluto the Pup appears in T.J.'s nightmare in "Rainy Days"
    • Owl appears briefly in "Bachelor Gus". What makes it obvious that it's him is from his markings and design.
  • Can't Get Away with Nuthin': In "Me No Know", Vince immediately gets caught by his parents and grounded when he lies to them and goes to see a movie that they forbade him from seeing...because his parents conveniently also decided to go to the movies at the exact moment that he walked out...and walked in on him quoting said movie to everyone in earshot.
  • Cast of Snowflakes: Most of the time. With the exception of the Diggers (who aren't even related) and a bunch of nameless background characters, all named characters have unique designs.
  • Catapult Nightmare: Happens quite a bit:
    • In "Rainy Days", T.J. has one about the never-ending rain during the week flooding the town.
    • In "The Pest", Gretchen has one about being married to Jeffrey in the future.
    • In "The Lost Ball", Gus has one about the fact that he accidentally lost one of the school's balls by kicking it over the fence being obstacles in his future, even to the point of being unemployed or kicked out of Heaven just for that.note 
    • Vince has one in "Copycat Kid" about Mikey taking over his life after trying to basically become a Caucasian version of him.
    • Spinelli has two of them:
      • In "Mama's Girl", she dreams about moving to the Arctic, only to be frightened out of her sleep by her own mother.
      • In "A Career to Remember", she has one about growing up without a job, and seeing her friends be very successful in life while she's homeless.
    • Mikey has one in "Big Ol' Mikey", about him growing up to be a giant and destroying the city.
  • The Cat Came Back: In "The Kid Came Back", the gang meet a younger boy on the playground who seems to cause bad luck to happen to the gang whenever he's around. Every time they try to abandon him, he comes back.
  • Catchphrase: Several.
    • TJ has "Ten-der!"
    • The Ashleys have a loud "SCANDALOUS!" said in unison, and their little brothers do the same with "NOTORIOUS!".
    • Randall uses "moist", usually used after having creepily found something out about someone.
    • Mr. "The Dude" Dudakoff apparently used to use "Sup-ple!" in much the same way TJ uses "Ten-der!"
    • Any variation of "this whomps!" is shared among the main six characters, mostly TJ and Vince since they invented the word.
  • Catch Your Death of Cold: T.J. and the gang all get sick after they play in the rain at the end of "Rainy Days."
  • Cat Up a Tree: In one episode, Spinelli was accused of throwing a rock in a dirt-clod fight. She maintains her innocence the whole time, finally admitting she couldn't have...because she was rescuing a kitten from a tree. When nobody believes her, she reveals that it happened to be Ms. Finster's kitten. After she gives the specifics, everyone realizes she's telling the truth.
  • Central Theme: The Power of Friendship can accomplish more than what one can do alone, and to enjoy childhood while it lasts.
  • Cerebus Syndrome: After the first two seasons the show takes a much darker, much more serious turn. Some of the show's villains go above and beyond the typical stern teacher/troublemaking youth dynamic and show actual malice and we see a lot more deconstruction of the dynamic of seasons 1-2.
  • Chain of Deals: Mikey wanted to be a crossing guard, but the captain didn't want to let him in. So they had to convince two other members to let him in to take advantage of a loophole. This led to a chain of favors what went through Menlo, Ashely A., her Kindergardener sister, and King Bob himself.
  • Chained Heat: Gretchen puts handcuffs on her and Geoffrey, to make him second think about wanting to be "by her side forever", by dragging him everywhere she goes, including her science club meetings after school and skipping lunch to perform science experiments.
  • Character Name and the Noun Phrase: "Gretchen and the Secret of Yo".
  • Character Tics: Gretchen has a habit of adjusting her glasses.
  • Chekhov's Classroom: Almost every lesson the kids learn in school is important to the rest of the episode.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Gretchen's voice-changing device first appears in "The Army Navy Game" and is later used twice in The Movie.
  • Chew-Out Fake-Out: "Prince Randall" begins with Randall telling King Bob that T.J. has been entertaining people with a mocking impression of the King. Furious, Bob orders his guards to bring him forward. As they grab T.J., Bob tells them he meant Randall. Bob doesn't care about what T.J. did because he's a Class Clown who always does stuff like that. On the other hand, he is sick of Randall snitching on the other kids to him and forbids him from speaking to the King ever again.
  • Child Hater: Phillium Benedict in The Movie. When this guy became principal of Third Street School in the spring of 1968, he tried to get rid of recess, which resulted in him losing his job to his then-best friend Peter Prickly. Thirty years later, he tried to get rid of summer vacation to keep kids in school longer, thinking it would raise test scores, although it is pretty clear that he's only in it to advance his career. In one scene, he derides Prickly for "always standing up for the rights of children."
  • Childhood Memory Demolition Team: In one episode, the kids tried to protect "Old Rusty," their ages old jungle gym, from being demolished and replaced because it was... old and rusty. When the demolishers try to appeal to the parents to allow them to do so, the parents have their own memories of having played on it. They all climb up on the jungle gym in a show of solidarity. The combined weight of all the people on the jungle gym ends up destroying it, but the construction crew ends up replacing it with a model that is in every way the same, except less dangerous (and so, it was renamed "New Rusty"). So, both aspects of this trope are subverted.
  • Children Are Innocent: All of the gang are friendly kids who love recess and dread academia like typical little kids.
  • Christmas Episode: "Yes, Mikey, Santa Does Shave". Then it was released in a Compilation Movie released directly to DVD and video, ''Recess Christmas: Miracle on Third Street".
  • Chuck Cunningham Syndrome
    • There was another teacher's pet to be Randall's rival named Douglas. He only appeared once and was mentioned another time, however.
    • The Tylers, the little brothers of the Ashleys, only appear in one episode and never show up in the series again. Same thing for their little sisters the Brittanys.
  • City with No Name: The name of the town the gang live in is never revealed.
  • Clapper Gag: In the episode "Weekend at Muriel's," Miss Finster turns off her bedroom light by clapping her hands.
  • Class Clown: TJ counts as this, though he has a lot of respect from most of the students, and Miss Grotke finds most of his antics charming.
  • Class Pet: One episode revolves around Speedy the hamster dying. It turns out that there have been multiple "Speedy"'s that the teachers replace each time one dies.
  • Clear My Name: The plot of the episode "The Trial", where Spinelli is accused of hitting Randall with a rock during a dirt clod war. Despite claiming her innocence, she is sentenced to playground court and if proven guilty, which everyone besides her alibis thinks she is, a swirlie afterwards. What really happened, Randall hurt himself with a rock just to frame Spinelli because he was jealous over her getting a thank you from Miss Finster for helping her cat down a tree.
  • Clip Show:
    • The Christmas special released on video. All but one of the episodes featured had nothing to do with Christmas at all, although one admittedly was about Thanksgiving.
    • Same with "All Growed Down", except for the last segment, which was most likely an unaired episode.
  • Clock Tampering: In "The Spy That Came in From the Playground", T.J. and the gang show their new friend James around their operation by setting the clock forward to get out of school early. The next day, they find the clock caged off to prevent them from doing it again (thanks to James actually being an adult mole sent by the district to shut down the T.J. operation from the inside).
  • Clothing Switch: In the episode "The Copycat Kid", Mikey starts wearing the same clothes as Vince after deciding to copy Vince (Vince had "saved Mikey's life" earlier in the episode). How does Vince show Mikey how annoying this is? By wearing Mikey's clothes.
  • Cloudcuckoolander: Mikey and Miss Grotke have their moments. And Dottie, who owns the "Yard of No Return" and was rumored to be a psychopath who kidnaps kids, turns out to be this. Even though her sanity is still questionable at best (she has conversations with her lawn gnomes), she is completely harmless and very friendly.
  • Coat Full of Contraband: The Hustler Kid normally has a coat full of toys, junk food and other contraband he tries to unload on the other kids.
  • Cock-a-Doodle Dawn: A rooster can be heard crowing in the background in the episode "Good Ole T.J.", after T.J. pulls an all-nighter to revise his and Gretchen's project.
  • Code Name: The gang almost always use codenames during their schemes.
  • Code of Honour: The Unwritten Kids' Code of Honour. One of its strictest rules is that a kid who gets "jinxed" absolutely cannot speak until someone says his name, even if it means serious trouble. Tattling is another massive taboo.
  • Color-Coded Characters: The Ashleys each usually dress in their signature colors:
    • Ashley A. - Pink
    • Ashley B. - Yellow
    • Ashley Q. - Blue
    • Ashley T. - Green
  • Comedic Underwear Exposure:
    • In one episode Mikey rips his pants while bending, and the others try to hide him from Miss Finster, knowing that she will take him into an office to sew his pants back together. They are afraid that the knowledge Miss Finster saw his underwear will cause the rest of the school to mercilessly tease Mikey. In the end, T.J., Vince, and Gus decide to have their pants ripped as well. All four boys end up in their underwear while Miss Finster sews their pants. King Bob who understands what the other boys did for Mikey recognizes the selfless nature of it, and insists no one mock them for it.
    • T.J. himself is seen in his boxers in a few episodes.
  • Comic-Book Adaptation: A few comics based on the show appeared in Disney Adventures from 1997 to 2001. "Gus's Journal" was later made into a digital comic on ABC's official website for the show, and "The Trouble with Shorts" was included as a digital and optional read-along comic (Narrated by Ashley Johnson, the voice of Gretchen) for the DVD release of Recess: School's Out. One story, "The Long Hot Recess", from 1999, was loosely adapted into "The Coolest Heatwave Ever" for season three.
  • Comically Small Bribe: This happened a few times, since the main characters were children and were bribing their fellow students. Aside from one occurrence where Gus didn't bring a permission slip to a carnival and TJ tried to bribe the teacher into letting him come anyway with a quarter.
  • Company Town: A child-level example; in one episode, T.J comes back to school after being out with the flu for a week, only to discover that the entire playground has formed an economic system around the latest fad - Monstickers bubble gum cards! Starting from the bottom, T.J ends up virtually taking over the playground and turning it into this trope since he controls nearly all the cards, and kids spend all recess either working for him or doing nothing (the latter of which he institutes a fine on). His empire crumbles when the fad runs it's course and is replaced by something new.
  • Compensating for Something: Principal Prickly's brother, a principal at another school, boasts a much larger flagpole in front of his school.
    Prickly: Oh, that's just unseemly!
  • Competence Zone: Kindergarteners are portrayed as wild savages, and adults frequently can't comprehend their children's problems.
  • Competition Freak: Vince is extremely egotistical about winning any game he takes part in. The others become irritated by this and dare him to last a day without winning once, at which point he becomes drunk on losing at every game he plays.
  • Compilation Movie: Recess: All Growed Down. Recess Christmas: Miracle on Third Street could count too, but while Disney advertises it as a "movie", most Recess fans consider it a "special" and not in the movie count, while All Growed Down is the third movie.
  • The Complainer Is Always Wrong: Nicely deconstructed in "Good Ol' T.J." In the episode, Gretchen becomes frustrated with T.J.'s ability to charm his way out of any kind of punishment from teachers. It only gets worse when they're paired together for an assignment on ancient Mesopotamia. While Gretchen does a huge amount of research, T.J. goofs around and comes up with the idea to build a ziggurat out of sugar cubes and put an army man inside. Gretchen voices her complaints to her friends, and they tell her she's wrong about T.J., and should just relax and let him handle all the work. When the project goes bad, Miss Grotke gives them a "barely passing" grade; T.J.'s fine with it, but Gretchen is devastated. This is when the subversion comes in—T.J. realizes that Gretchen, unlike his other friends, cares a lot about academics, and that he was wrong to not take that into consideration. He stays up all night and puts together a new project, presenting in the next day with Gretchen's help. It's another sign that the main characters weren't just a group of friends—they had individual personalities, and sometimes, they were right to complain about each other.
  • Concert Kiss: The episode "The Experiment" has T.J. and Spinelli kiss, as an experiment, in front of all their friends and all the kids in the playground, despite T.J. and Spinelli's request in not wanting to kiss in public in the first place, thanks to their friends inability to keep a secret about it.
  • Continuity Nod: Surprisingly, this happens frequently.
    • In "Weekend at Muriel's", when the gang are explaining to Spinelli about how she gets through hard times, Gretchen brings up Spinelli calling Miss Grotke "mama" in "Mama's Girl".
    • In "No Strings Attached", Vince brings up Spinelli winning the beauty pageant in "The Beauty Contest", and then the Ashleys bring up the time they briefly befriended Gretchen in "Outcast Ashley" when she (pretends to) join their group.
    • In "Lawson and His Crew" (which was intended as the last episode), the montage of Lawson and his crew's achievements is full of nods to things T.J. and his friends have done in the past. They get the Diggers to make up after a fight (as the main gang did in "Diggers Split Up"), Kurst and Randall dance ballet (as Mikey and Spinelli did in "Dance Lessons"), they get access to free ice cream bars (like the main gang did in "The Box"), they befriend the Pale Kids, they help the police recapture the same criminal from "The Barnaby Boys," they make peace between Principal Prickly and his brother Paul, and they stop the Library Kid from going recess-crazy.
  • Contrived Coincidence: All four main Ashleys have little sisters named Brittany and little brothers named Tyler.
  • Converted Fanboy: In the episode "Lord of the Nerds," due to a broken arm, TJ is forced to spend his recesses inside with the much-maligned "Pale Kids." Warned that a rather diminutive boy named Tiny Sedgwick was previously sentenced to the same fate only to disappear from the playground forever, TJ is of course apprehensive. Meeting the group, he discovers they are merely a group of nerdier kids who spend their free time playing Tabletop RPGs and proceeds to bond with them. Always the bridge builder, TJ proceeds to convince the group's very tall leader to spend a recess outside so the other kids aren't so scared of him and his friends. Predictably, local bully Lawson attempts to start trouble with the pale kids, ultimately threatening to do to them what they did to Tiny Sedgwick. This gets him a derisive laugh from the nerds' leader who reveals that he is Tiny Sedgwick having thrived in his new environment.
  • Cool and Unusual Punishment: King Bob's version of capital punishment. "Let him feel the rubbery thunder of the Dodgeball Wall!"
  • Cool Old Guy: In "Old Folks Home", the gang realizes how cool and unique the old people they were chatting with are. Vince plays dominoes with The Streak, a former pro baseball player. Gus meets an old man who looked like Gus when he was little. Gretchen talks with an old scientist that helped out with The Manhattan Project. And T.J. ends up meeting the creator of Señor Fusion himself. Spinelli also meets a woman who knows how to fight.
  • Cool Teacher:
    • Franklin "The Dude" Dudikoff. Known as a legendary student of Third Street School who was the prankster prince, the king of the playground before he became a sixth grader, and an all around badass wanted to become a teacher because he thinks science is interesting.
    • Miss Grotke's a pretty cool teacher herself.
  • Cosmetic Horror: In the episode "Weekend at Muriel's," Miss Finster is babysitting Spinelli for the weekend. When Spinelli is getting ready for bed one night, she is horrified to see Miss Finster wearing a facial mask and hair curlers.
  • Crossover:
    • With Lilo & Stitch: The Series, where the cast had a somewhat clashing animation style and some different voice actors.
    • The gang have also appeared on the One Saturday Morning set a few times as well.
    • The 2001 opening for One Saturday Morning featured characters from the show as well as the characters of Teacher's Pet, The Weekenders, Lloyd in Space, as well as some live action kids. Being the highest-rated and most popular show on the block, the gang appeared the most throughout the opening.
  • Crowd Chant: The opinion of the student body can sway violently and at the drop of a hat, so this happens a lot.
    • Multiple episodes: "T.J.! T.J.! T.J.!"
    • "Jinxed": "FASTER! FASTER!"
      • "CANDY! CANDY! CANDY!"
    • "The Trial": "SWIRLIE! SWIRLIE! SWIRLIE!"
    • "Swing on Thru to the Other Side": "Swing! Swing! Swing!"
    • "Operation Field Trip": "FIELD TRIP! FIELD TRIP!"
    • "Pharaoh Bob": "No more mud! Pharaoh Bob's a dud!"
      • "No more work! Pharaoh Bob's a jerk!"
    • "My Funny Valentines":
      • "GET T.J.! GET T.J.! GET T.J.!"
    • When Mikey rips his pants, he also gets an earful; Vince, T.J., and Gus endure this when they join him in solidarity.
  • Cucumber Facial: The Ashleys have one in "First Name Ashley" while Spinelli gives them their sodas.
  • Cult: Parodied in one episode when Spinelli devotes a cult to Swinger Girl after she thinks she swung on through to another dimension.
  • Cunning Linguist: The Library Kid speaks fluent English, French, German, Latin and Greek. She also speaks Basque but is not fluent.
  • Cursed with Awesome: In "Here Comes Mr. Perfect," where a new kid shows up and the main cast discovers he's better than them at everything. He's smarter than the smart kid, tougher than the tough kid, more poetic than the artsy kid. Except it turns out he never has any friends because everyone keeps forcing him to compete with them. Then a Secret Service agent shows up to ask for his help, and he flies away in a fighter jet.
  • Cute Bookworm:
    • Library Kid subverts this. She appears to be cute and shy, and is always in the library... but when outside, she's an insane Genki Girl.
    • Gretchen could fall under this trope, though she's not as shy.
  • Cute Bruiser: Spinelli, who is the shortest of her friends and cleans up nicely but is also the toughest kid on the playground. And surprisingly, Cornchip Girl.
  • Cute, but Cacophonic: Gus is adorable, and his speaking voice sounds fine when he's calm. When he starts screaming, especially in "Germ Warfare", it gets annoying.
  • Cuteness Proximity: An episode ends with Miss Finster, Principal Prickly and Ashley A adopting a stray kitten each and taking baby talk to them as they cuddle them excessively. Miss Finster had previously been established to have a fondness for cats - turning on the baby talk after Spinelli rescued a cat from a tree, and alluding to leaving saucers of milk out for strays.
  • Dagwood Sandwich: Mikey makes one of these in the main titles, swallows it whole, and burps from inside his belly.
  • Dainty Little Ballet Dancers: Deconstructed when Spinelli is initially forced to take ballet lessons by her mother - who wants her to be more feminine. Spinelli is repulsed by the Girl Posse who fit the stereotype, but then discovers her friend Mikey does it and agrees to be his partner. While she gets cold feet at the idea of performing in front of her school (fearing for her tomboy reputation), she goes ahead with the performance and impresses everyone with the choreography.
  • Dangerous Interrogative: Gus clumsily lets out the gang's code-name for Miss Finster to her face, earning himself a detention:
    Gus: Don't look at us, Crocodilicus.
    Finster: (menacing) What did you just call me, Griswald?!
    (Gus gulps terrified, realizing what he just said)
  • Dark Horse Victory: In the episode where the A.V. Kid is leaving, he uses a series of practical tests to find a successor. TJ and Vince are vying for the position. Initially fiercely competitive, they chose to set aside their differences during the final stage when their equipment malfunctions. They fix each other's projectors just before time runs out and are both successful. A.V. Kid commends them on their teamwork before handing the position to an obviously incompetent third candidate (who we've never seen before or ever see after, yet TJ and Vince apparently know him well), tangled up in the film, for his "independence" (Being a solitary job, the candidate had to prove that they could work without resorting to outside help).
  • Dated History: Gretchen answers the question "Who was the first man to the North Pole?" with "Robert Edwin Peary". Wildly considered correct at the time, more recent histography alledges he was mistaken and about fifty miles short- and that the real winner was yet again Roald Amundssen.
  • Daydream Surprise: Midway through the episode "Mama's Girl", Spinelli has become the laughingstock of the school after accidentally calling the kids' teacher Ms. Grotke "Mama" and announces that she is going to run away from school/home. When T.J. asks her where she could go, Spinelli says "somewhere far far away" where no one will ever call her a "mama's girl" again. We then cut to Spinelli alone in a tower somewhere in the Alaskan tundra with no one for miles. Just as she's getting used to her new surroundings a voice suddenly calls: "Is mama's little girl ready for school?" Cut to Spinelli waking up in bed to the sound of her mother telling to get up.
  • Dead Pet Sketch: The episode "Speedy, We Hardly Knew Ye" had the kids come back after a long weekend to discover that Speedy, the class hamster, had died. During his funeral, several older kids and some parents turn up to pay their respects to their beloved class pet. Then someone pulls out an old class photo with Speedy in it, and everyone starts noticing that the details are wrong—Speedy's feet were supposed to be white, Speedy was supposed to be a girl, etc. Ms. Grotke awkwardly admits that since the teachers thought the students would be too young to know how to cope with death, they would secretly replace Speedy with a new hamster every time the old one died. As this has happened over 40 years, several of the older mourners then begin to realize that that's rather long-lived for a hamster.
  • Death Is a Sad Thing: In "Speedy, We Hardly Knew Ye", when the kids have a funeral on the playground for Speedy, the class hamster, when he passed away during the weekend.
  • Decided by One Vote: Gretchen won the election against Vince this way; Vince was the last person to vote for her. Which, considering that it was stated that the class had an equal amount of boys and girls, would actually be winning by two votes.
  • Deconstructed Character Archetype: The tropes of The Ace, Marty Stu and the Always Someone Better are viciously deconstructed in Here Comes Mr. Perfect with new kid Jared Smith. Jared's depicted as being smarter than Gretchen, more athletic than Vince, been around more than Gus, stronger than Spinelli, a better planner than TJ, more poetic than Mikey, and mentors teachers on how to teach with virtually no effort. He then proceeds to show up every notable kid in school in every one of their interests, which leads to all the kids deciding to shun him with a lockout. However Jared himself is an amicable kid who simply wants to have friends and tries to stay out of the limelight unless asked. Frustrated, Jared proceeds to start Shaming the Mob for shunning him, explaining his history of bullying in over 38 schools for doing the same at previous schools, and expresses he can't limit himself for the sake of others and can't help his natural aptitude despite how miserable it makes him.
    Jared Smith: All I wanted was to be friends with you guys. I never wanted to show anybody up! I didn't tell Ms. Grotke I knew the right answer to Gretchen's problem, or challenge Vince to a foot race, or Spinelli to arm wrestling. You guys challenged me! I mean what do you want me to do? Pretend I'm no good?...Well I can't do that! Don't you see? I can't stop being good at stuff anymore than Gretchen can stop being smart, or Vince can stop being fast, or Mikey can stop being a sweet-souled giant. I'd trade places with any of you guys any day! You think it's easy being Mr. Perfect? You think it's easy being locked out? ...A lot of people say no matter how good you get there's always someone out there who's better than you? Well for me it's different. There might not be anybody better, but there's always somebody happier!
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: Parodied in "The Rules", when it's decided that the first-ever King of the Playground's rules, King Mortimer, should be followed again, even when it involves playing games like dodgeball and four-square with a tree stump. Gretchen points out near the end of the episode when the conflict is being resolved that Mortimer lived during the Great Depression, and thus his rules don't really apply to a much more modern setting.
  • Deliberately Monochrome: "The Girl Was Trouble" is all in grey-scale, involving a story in which Gretchen is discovered for vandalism and explains via flashbacks to another student of how and why she ended up in that room in the first place.. As a twist, the credits were written in red font.
  • Delightful Dragon: Bonky from the Show Within a Show that is the show's equivalent to Barney the Dinosaur; he's a Friend to All Children and beloved by kindergarteners, but disliked by older children. Mikey briefly goes through a phase where he develops an obsession with Bonky out of fear of turning 10.
  • Demoted to Extra:
    • Chucko was only a major character for one episode, then he started to fade into the background until disappearing altogether.
    • In Recess: School's Out, Lawson only appears once to give a thumbs up (after being sprayed with silly string) to someone preparing to save T.J. with the other kids. He's still listed in the credits, however. He was probably going to have a bigger role, and then his scenes were cut. At least he had it better than Cornchip Girl or Swinger Girl, who don't show up at all in the movie.
    • In Recess: Taking the Fifth Grade, Miss Grotke only gets two lines in the movie and doesn't show up after that. Justified, as the main kids all moved up to fifth grade and weren't in her class anymore.
  • Denser and Wackier: Inverted- season one was more fast-paced and cartoony compared to the rest of the show.
  • Depending on the Writer: Prickly ranges from Friendly Enemy to Punchclock Villain with a shade of Cloud Cuckoolander to (admittedly rarely) straight Big Bad depending on the episode. Finster and Randall qualify to a lesser extent.
  • Digging to China: The Diggers tried to help getting T.J. out of detention in one episode but never succeded. At the end of the episode we see them finally getting out of the ground, and about to be attacked by a group of Chinese Kindergarteners.
  • Disappointing Older Sibling: Downplayed in "Big Brother Chad." Vince begins this episode talking about how cool his older brother Chad is, when he's actually a huge Nerd—something Vince apparently hadn't realized until his friends point it out. He spends the rest of the episode trying to reconcile this information with the way that he's always thought of Chad before.
  • Do Not Call Me "Paul": Thaddeus T. Third V (the grandson of the man who Third Street is named after) is always mistakenly called "Mr. Fifth", much to his chagrin.
  • Dodgeball Is Hell: In typical fashion, plays this trope to the hilt, including gratuitous slow-motion shots, excessive drama, and an incredibly good player named "El Diablo" *whip noise* who turns out to be Gus of all people.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: In "Economics of Recess", the American Monsticker currency eventually gets overtaken by the Japanese Lick-and-Stick Alien Stamp currency.
  • A Dog Ate My Homework: The beginning of "This Brain for Hire", which involves Spinelli saying that her dog ate her homework, T.J. ripping up his homework with his mouth and then saying his dog ate it (he still had a scrap of paper on his lip, however), and Vince said that his brother ate it.
  • Don't Ask: About Mikey's Uncle Mary.
    T.J.: My older brother used to play on Old Rusty.
    Spinelli: My mom used to play on Old Rusty!
    Mikey: Heck, my Uncle Mary used to play on Old Rusty!
    Vince: Your Uncle Mary?
    Gretchen: Don't ask.
  • Don't Split Us Up: In the episode "The Biggest Trouble Ever," the gang accidentally destroys a statue and is almost sent off to separate schools as punishment. Even Principal Prickly and Miss Finster thought this was going too far.
  • Doomed New Clothes: In the episode "One Stayed Clean", the Recess Gang have to get all dressed up for their class picture. However, after they realize that they were getting their grade's photo taken last, the gang go through desperate measures to keep their clothes from getting wrecked, mainly Gus's, as this would be his first class picture due to his family moving around all the time before he can get a class photo. The effort ultimately proves futile. After a moment of indecision, Gus throws himself into the path of a handful of cheese sauce thrown by Lawson, sacrificing his own outfit to protect TJ's. After learning of this, his father shows the resulting photo to another soldier, and proudly says the boy has never looked better.
  • Door-to-Door Episode: "The Great Can Drive" episode revolves around the kids supposed to go door to door and collect cans for the less fortunate and win a competition. None of the kids want to participate because they know that the class with the Ashley's always win (because they just buy all the cans). Only Mikey decides to do it because he actually cares about the cause and not the competition.
  • Doppelgänger: In an episode where the gang goes to a school for a kickball game (due to a bet of their principals as they're also brothers), the rival school is a near copy of the group's school with their opponents being copies of the gang themselves.
  • Dork Horse Candidate: In "The Candidates", where Gretchen competes against Vince for fourth-grade president. Gretchen wins by one vote. Unlike most other examples, Gretchen and Vince are actually really good friends.
  • The Dragon: While there is no real main antagonist to the series (since the role is often shared by Principal Prickly, Lawson, and Ms. Finster), there is an obvious dragon amongst several of them. The Dragon to Prickly is either Ms. Finster or Menlo, while Ms. Finster's dragon is Randall.
  • Drawing Straws: In the episode, "The Experiment," Butch tells the gang a story about how his teenage brother Joey made out with his own girlfriend Christy and enjoyed it. This leads Gretchen to conduct an experiment in which a boy and a girl of the gang's number should kiss each other. Using straws, they select the boy and girl, who happens to be TJ and Spinelli.
  • Dreadful Musician:
    • Spinelli, according to Mikey in "The Voice". Could also be an Informed Flaw, since in the episodes which show the gang singing, she's not really that bad.
    • Safety Rangers Ronnie and Al from “Officer Mikey” are shown to be this after their dream of singing the national anthem comes true.
  • Dreaming of a White Christmas: Nearly averted in the Christmas episode, where it is remarked that it is quite warm for December. Then at the end of the episode, down comes the snow.
  • Drowning My Sorrows: Occurs in the episode, "I Will Kick No More Forever", when Vince starts losing his touch in every sport. The scene that features this trope is when he stays home from school binging out on root beer and donuts (complete with Balloon Belly) while watching video recordings of his previous games. Mikey even asks, "Don't you think you've had enough!?"
  • Drunk with Power:
    • King Bob was going away in one episode and decided to place Gus as a temp specifically because he wouldn't overshadow him. While shy at the beginning, Gus little by little started being more and more tyrannical demanding any snack from his subjects and sending them to "the dungeon" if they fail with even a single piece.
    • In a more bureaucratic fashion, it also happened to TJ; when the whole playground started using stickers as a form of currency, TJ went from rags to riches to Corrupt Corporate Executive, implementing extortionate fees for every form of entertainment on the playground.
  • Dub Name Change: The Portuguese dub changed the Ashley's to the Patricia's.
  • Dude, Not Funny!: The gang and Cornchip Girl get really offended when Randall was making jokes at Mikey's expense just to be popular. Mikey himself didn't actually mind, until he started mocking him for being fat.
  • Dumb Blonde: Mikey sometimes, though he's more naive than dumb. Gus also has his moments, but it's more out of naivety and gullibility than stupidity. And while T.J., who's a bit ditzy, is a brunette, some early drawings gave him blonde hair.

  • Early-Bird Cameo: Ashley T. appears briefly in the background at the beginning of "The New Kid" before being formally introduced with the rest of the Ashleys in "Jinxed".
  • Early-Installment Weirdness: Season one might fall under this. Both Miss Finster and Principal Prickly were more sadistic, Miss Grotke wasn't as sympathetic, and everyone's voice was higher, as well as T.J. was being played by a completely different kid. It was much more Off-Model as well. The main six were more of anti-heroes, Vince was more of a Sour Supporter, and the show was a bit more cartoony.
  • Eat the Camera: Spinelli in "Mama's Girl", after the student body begins taunting Spinelli for accidentally calling Miss Grotke "mama", she screams a Big "NO!" and the camera zooms into her open mouth. Upon which she lampshades the effect.
  • Elaborate University High: The playground has elements of this. It includes a jungle gym, a kickball/baseball field, a blacktop, a wooded area, a handball wall, the Ashley's clubhouse, a sandbox, and a basketball court. Larger and busier than the average elementary school playground. There are also two jungle gyms. There is "Old Rusty" which is a sheltered design and a flat top design that King Bob has his throne on.
  • Election Day Episode: The episode "The Candidates" involves a fourth-grade election for class president between Vince and Gretchen. Gretchen wins.
  • Electronic Speech Impediment: The SAL-3000 in the episode "Schoolworld" is an obvious parody of the HAL-9000, with the twist that he's actually malfunctioning pretty badly; toward the end, his voice starts stuttering as well. When they have taken out a lot of its parts it starts singing "School Days" in a distorted way.
  • Elementary School Hustler: T.J. definitely has his moments, among them being able to provide a convincing forged prescription for chewing gum. Hustler Kid is also a prime candidate, but mostly he just provides the goods while the main gang does the planning and executing, Although in First Name Ashley we see him selling phony documents and committing, what is essentially, multiple cases of identity fraud.
  • Elmuh Fudd Syndwome: Randall suffered this speech impediment when he was in kindergarten (as seen in one of the episodes featured on the video Recess: All Growed Down).
  • Embarrassing Damp Sheets: In the episode "Parents' Night," Spinelli's amazingly embarrassing mother boasts to Ms. Grotke that Spinelli "just stopped wetting the bed this year."
  • Embarrassing First Name:
    • Tomboy Spinelli's first name is Ashley. This embarrasses her mainly because her sworn enemies are a gang of snobby, preppy girly-girls "The Ashleys".
  • The Hustler Kid's first name is Francis. And he immediately asked the gang to not tell anyone after revealing it.
  • Embarrassing Middle Name: Theodore Jasper Detweiler. While not revealed in a specific episode, it apparently is embarrassing enough that Menlo could use revealing it as a threat.
  • Embarrassing Old Photo: Spinelli's dad shows the gang some of Spinelli's embarrassing baby photos during parents' night at the school.
  • Endangered Soufflé: In "Chez Vince", the gang decides to save Vince from being sent to France by sabotaging his soufflé test by popping a paper bag, but they try to stop the sabotage once they hear that Vince actually wants to go.
  • Ending Theme: Usually, it's a shortened version of the theme song, though in "Yes, Mikey, Santa Does Shave", the ending theme was a Jingle Bells re-rendition by Mikey.
  • End-of-Series Awareness: The very last scene in the Direct to Video Grand Finale, Recess: Taking the Fifth Grade is T.J. waving goodbye to the audience. As this scene was a reference to the end of the theme song (which could've been interpreted as T.J. waving hello to the audience ready for their next adventure), many tears were shed.
  • Ensemble Cast: The creators wanted to make sure each member of the main six got equal screen time, so they could keep it from turning into "The T.J. Show", "The Gus Show", "The Spinelli Show", etc. Though being the leader of the gang, T.J. got the most episodes focused on him, and was the main protagonist for Recess: School's Out.
  • Establishing Character Moment: The opening theme tells us all we need to know about the main characters. Everyone looking at TJ, who nods at them before they set off. Gus getting gum splattered over his face, tripping, and getting a ball stuck to his head. Vince kicking a ball up into the air. Spinelli threatening Randall for snitching. Gretchen working on an experiment. Mikey eating a whole sandwich in one gulp.
  • Et Tu, Brute?: Gretchen has this reaction in the "When Bikes Attack!" segment of "The Terrifying Tales of Recess" when her bike, Red Rocket, turns on her.
  • Everybody Cries:
    • All of the kids are shown crying at Speedy's funeral in "Speedy, We Hardly Knew Ye".
    • The main gang cry from peeling onions as part of their punishment for accidentally breaking the statue of Thaddeus T. Third III in "The Biggest Trouble Ever".
  • Everyone Calls Him "Barkeep": Characters such as "Swinger Girl" or "Guru Kid" are never called by their real names.
  • Evolving Credits: A minor example. When the show began its third and final season, "Created by Paul and Joe" was added to the bottom of the Recess logo at the beginning of the intro.
  • Exclusive Clique Clubhouse: The Ashleys have a clubhouse on the playground which they actively patrol and prevent other students from accessing. Breaking into it is a common project for TJ's squad.
  • Face Your Fears: When TJ develops a fear of "The Box" (which is basically solitary confinement), Gretchen suggests framing TJ for a crime so he'll have to face his fear. However, she does lampshade the fact that this would either force him to face his fear or just make things worse.
  • Fake Ultimate Hero: In the episode "The Shiner", TJ arrives at school with a black eye from an embarrassing accident. His friends thought he fought bullies which led to a school-wide gossip thinking he's a hero. TJ is unable to confess until the end of the episode, so he confirms he's a hero.
  • Falling-in-Love Montage: Miss Finster has one of these in "To Finster, With Love" with Hank, the janitor, after the main six hook them up. Including the infamous scene of her riding a vibrating floor buffer, laughing.
  • False Friend: Gretchen befriends a little girl named Becky while getting ready for the school science fair, only to find out that Becky was pretending to be her friend so she can steal her project.
  • Family Theme Naming: "Officer Mikey" implies that all of the Ashleys have sisters named Brittany in kindergarten.
  • Fan Disservice:
    • On the episode where Ms. Finster babysits Spinelli for the weekend, Ms. Finster arranges a luau after overhearing Spinelli talk about how boring Ms. Finster is outside of school, featuring the elderly and hunched Ms. Finster and the under-aged Spinelli in coconut bras and hula skirts. This is even lampshaded:
    T.J.: (after watching them hula and is apparently grossed out) ...Guys, we're never going to talk about this again.
    • "The Big Prank" gives us a scene of chubby, under-aged T.J. in nothing but his boxers.
  • Fan of Underdog: Gus (the underdog, and general Unlucky Everydude of the series) is idolized by a kindergartener named Hector who called him "Safety Man" and believed him to be the coolest of all the older kids on the playground. In a later episode when Gus does become "cool" in the eyes of his peers, Hector is the one who tells him he was more respectable before as "Safety Man."
  • Fantasy Twist: The gang finds a $100 bill and all fantasize about what they'll do with their share of the money. Each of their fantasies ends with them owning and flying a jetpack, except even in his own fantasy Gus can't control his.
  • Fat Comic Relief: Mikey is the fattest kid in the bunch, and he is definitely a comic relief character, many jokes revolving around him overeating—including one in the show's opening where he belches.
  • Feeling Their Age: In an episode where Miss Finster sprains her ankle and has to hop around on crutches, after trying and failing to keep order on the playground like she usually does, she laments to Randall that when she was a young woman, she would just have walked off this kind of injury but she's too old and decrepit to just bounce back now. It gets to the point that the main cast feels too guilty to take advantage of Finster's injury and talk the other kids into behaving until she's back on her feet.
  • Feet-First Introduction: Principal Prickley's replacement Dr Slicer steps out of his car in this fashion. On the day he takes over, he steps out again, but it is actually Prickley, taking his old job back because (ostensibly) the salary was too low.
  • Felony Misdemeanor:
    • The show liked to revisit the unwritten code of honor kids must live by on the playground. Everything from how a scuffle is conducted to weird superstitions is treated as deadly serious, and God help you if you don't automatically know all the rules; if you're really lucky, you'll have friends who not only do know the rule you broke, but how to restore your honor as well.
    • The word "whomp" is treated a so bad a swear that SWAT teams are brought in and the kids are out in court.
    • In the episode where the kids protest the tearing down of an old jungle gym by staying on it endlessly, Prickly decides to initiate "Plan P", which Ms. Grotke calls "extreme". The plan: calling the kids' parents.
    • In "Me No Know", Vince ends up grounded for a week after he goes to see a popular new movie that his parents forbade him from seeing. They forbade him from seeing it because it's (gasp!) a brainless screwball comedy. For effect, the writers invent a fictional movie rating (NK-11, as in "No Kid Under 11"), just so Vince is actually too young to see the movie.
  • Feminine Mother, Tomboyish Daughter: Ashley Spinelli is a rough and sarcastic tomboy with a feminine mother who likes shopping, makeup, ballet, and other girly pursuits. It's mentioned that Flo Spinelli has tried a few times to get her daughter to follow in her footsteps.
  • Feud Episode:
    • In "The Break-up", all the other members of the gang get mad at T.J. and at each other when T.J. can't choose which one of them is his best friend. In the end, T.J. brings them back together by sharing an essay about how all five of them are his best friends.
    • In "The A.V. Kid", T.J. and Vince compete over the titular position.
    • "Germ Warfare" pits Gus and Mikey against each other, as Gus becomes Terrified of Germs and obsessed with killing them while Mikey wants to treat them as pets.
    • "Diggers Split Up" was A Day in the Limelight for the Diggers where they decided to part ways after Sam thinks Dave is a control freak.
  • Final Season Casting: More like "Epilogue Direct-to-DVD casting". For the 2003 Direct-to-DVD finale, Recess: Taking the Fifth Grade, Myles Jeffery replaced Andy Lawrence (who replaced Ross Malinger earlier on) as the voice of T.J., due to the latter's voice changing.
  • First Kiss: T.J. and Spinelli in "The Experiment", but as an experiment.
  • Flashback: In a number of episodes:
    • "Teachers Lounge" has one to the gang in second grade, when Vince (almost) gets a chance to see inside the teacher's lounge.
    • "Outcast Ashley" has a flashback to when all the Ashleys met in preschool or kindergarten.
    • "Yes, Mikey, Santa Does Shave" includes a flashback from "The Voice"
    • "Kindergarten Derby": Mikey has a flashback to when he couldn't finish the kindergarten derby when he was a kindergartener.
    • "The Big Prank" has a series of flashbacks to when King Bob was in first grade and the school's prankster prince.
  • Flashback Cut: "The Great Jungle Gym Standoff" has one when T.J. has a flashback to how the gang first met in kindergarten.
  • Flawless Token: Subverted in "The Candidates". Spinelli tries to use girl power to get Gretchen's votes, but Gretchen says that being a girl is immaterial to being president. In the end, Gretchen wins partly because of the girl vote, but also because Vince voted for her.
  • Food as Bribe:
    • In "Officer Mikey", Spinelli tries to bribe Brittney A. with candy so she can give back Ashley A.'s diary. It doesn't work.
    • In "The C Note", after finding out that T.J. found a hundred-dollar bill (Which he was planning to return to the rightful owner), the Ashleys bribe T.J. with candy so he can ditch the Recess Gang and become their friend. It (almost) works.
  • Food Fight: In "Tattletale Heart". A hidden culprit started a food fight. Gus was the only eyewitness but his friends warn him not to break the code by telling Miss Finster who started the food fight. It was Randall who started the food fight, and it is hinted that he was squealed on by every single member of the student body to Finster besides Gus and his friends.
  • Forced into Their Sunday Best: In "One Stayed Clean", the gang resents having to dress formally for picture day. T.J., Vince, Spinelli, and Gretchen in their picture day getup supply the page's image.
  • Forced to Watch: After the Ashleys make Spinelli join their clique after it's revealed that she herself is an Ashley, there's one instance where they tape her eyes open and force her to watch a My Little Pony Expy called My Fuzzy Unicorn.
  • Forged Letter: In "Omega Kids," T.J. and the gang are the only ones attending school for a number of days after the rest of the students fall ill from eating tuna fish tacos, which slowly starts to drive them crazy, to the point that Gus tries to pull a stunt by handing Miss Grotke a note, which T.J. snatches from him and reads for himself.
    T.J.: (Reading the note) "Dear Miss Grotke, please our son Gus from school, he is so sick he should probably stay home until all the other kids are better. Signed, 'My Mom' "?
    Vince: That's pathetic.
    • This is a running theme with Gus. In "Mama's Girl," the Gang tries to save Spinelli's reputation by tricking other kids into calling Principal Prickly "Daddy." Gus writes a note to this effect to stick on Prickly's back, and other kids start calling him things like "Dappy"; turns out that Gus wrote the note in cursive, which he's terrible at.
  • Foul Cafeteria Food: In the pilot episode, the cafeteria food, "Tomato Surprise", is an acid that is so strong that it melts a spoon (and is later used by Gretchen to melt the hinges of a door). T.J. also mentions that they've previously been fed fish sticks made out of cardboard and macaroni and cheese stuck together with paste. This prompts T.J. to break into the kitchen to find the good food, and he finds a fridge full of it. However, when he touches the handles of the fridge, an alarm sounds and he gets caught by Ms. Finster, and he gets punished with a lunch detention.
  • Four-Fingered Hands: Averted- everyone has five fingers.
  • The Freelance Shame Squad:
    • In "Mama's Girl," Spinelli gets subjected to constant teasing after calling Miss Grotke "mama."
    • Subverted in "Mikey's Pants": after Mikey rips his pants, he and his friends try to hide it until Miss Finster gets to him. TJ, Vince, and Gus intentionally rip their own pants, so King Bob orders all the other kids, not to laugh at the boys, but to show respect for their heroic act.
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus:
    • In "Gus and Misdemeanors", one piece of graffiti on the side of the school says, "Geoffrey and Gretchen", referencing back to "The Pest".
    • In "Mikey's Pants", the gang fashions a pair of shorts out of newspaper to cover Mikey's ripped pants. On the back of the shorts, there's a headline "Bottom Falls Out Of Mark", noticeable since the rest of the text is the usual black box to simulate writing.
  • Freudian Excuse Is No Excuse: In the episode Don't Ask Me, Guru Kid needs to use the bathroom, so he allows Spinelli to substitute. When her advice works so well that people start to go to her for advice, Guru Kid is fine with Spinelli taking over his job, and he doesn't even try to take it back until he feels that his time has come. While at first things were good, Spinelli started to advise the kids to use violence to the point where almost every kid was fighting with each other on the playground. Spinelli does not see the problem, as she gleefully advises the kids to use violent moves and badmouths Guru Kid for not giving the kids "advice they could use," which, as Vince points out, is advice kids could use on each other. Eventually, the kids turn on Spinelli, blaming her for the negative consequences of their actions. Guru Kid steps in and saves Spinelli by pointing out that they all chose to follow Spinelli's advice, and that they are in control of their own actions. The kids concede his point, admitting that no one said they actually had to listen to Spinelli.
    Guru Kid: Wait, this is not the way.
    Swinger Girl: Step aside skinny, Spinelli's got it coming.
    Guru Kid: Does she? And why is that? Did you not all receive the help you sought?
    Group of Kids: Yeah and Maybe.
    Guru Kid: Blame not the advisor if one chooses to take her advice. Do we all not have the free will to do as we choose? Why not hold her responsible for her actions or you for yours
    Swinger Girl: You know, turbine boy make sense. I mean, nobody told us we had to listen to Spinelli.
  • Freudian Slip: In one episode, Spinelli accidentally called Ms. Grotke "Mama" when warning her about a mud puddle she was about to walk into, after secretly bonding with her.
  • Friendly Enemy: Randall, Menlo and Lawson can be this to the main gang sometimes. Miss Finster also mentions in one episode that just because she punishes T.J. doesn't mean she doesn't like him, and on more than one occasion she's shared sympathetic moments with Spinelli.
  • Friendship Favoritism: Defied. In the Season 2 episode "The Breakup", Ms. Grotke asks the class to write about their best friends. This causes problems for T.J., however: he can't choose a best friend. And while this strains his friendship with his friends and causes the gang to break up, he still can't choose a friend. In the end, T.J. writes a report about how all five of his friends are his bests friends, and how special they all are. This ends up reconciling the group.
  • Full-Name Ultimatum: In one episode Gus and Cornchip Girl's fathers forbid the kids from seeing each other (since Gus' father is in the army and Cornchip's girl is in the navy). When they found out they still do, they immediatly yells their full names, which are "Gustav Patton Griswald" and "Theresa Laverne LeMaize!"
  • Fun-Hating Confiscating Adult: Subverted when Gus kicks a ball into a yard near the playground where nobody had dared recover a ball from before (complete with a legend about a kid who disappeared after trying to do so). After actually trying, they find out that the owner's a Cool Old Lady who lets them take the lawn-ful of balls that had built up over the years.

  • Gag Haircut: The basis of "Bad Hair Day" centered on T.J. later Vince giving a horrible haircut to Mikey after a mishap with bubblegum. They convinced the others to not mock Mikey by saying it was a new trend, and from there everyone wanted to get their horrible haircuts.
  • Garbage Hideout: Hiding in a Trash-Can is actually one of Randall's favorite spots to spy on people and then rat them out. Unfortunately, if someone's going to take out the trash, he'll sometimes have the trash dumped on him.
  • Gave Up Too Soon: In "Teacher's Lounge" the gang just open the door to the teacher lounge to see it dank and practically empty, leaving disappointed. If they only went inside and pressed the button on the vending machine they would have opened the secret door to the real lounge.
  • Genius Burnout:
    • "A Genius Among Us" (itself a Whole-Plot Reference to Good Will Hunting) has Child Prodigy Gretchen realizing that Hank, the Third Street School's janitor, is a mathematical genius after he solves a seemingly-impossible equation left on a chalkboard. The two become fast friends, but when news of Hank's brilliance gets out, he's recruited by NASA, the U.S. Armed Forces, and major universities to come and work on all manner of top-level projects. Hank politely declines by invoking this trope, explaining that if he did mathematics and science all the time, he'd lose his passion for it and eventually burn out. He happily stays as Third Street's janitor, although he and Gretchen still meet to discuss math every once in a while.
    • In "Old Folks' Home," the kids volunteer at a retirement home. Gretchen meets an elderly man who has apparently been silent for years. After trying and failing to come up with topics that might interest him, she sarcastically suggests that they discuss subatomic particles — and he lights up immediately. It turns out the silent man was one of the scientists who worked on the Manhattan Project (the research and development of the atomic bomb) during World War II. He goes on to explain that he stopped talking years ago because he hasn't found anyone smart enough to justify "the expulsion of carbon dioxide," but remarks that Gretchen "seems possessed of a mind" and eagerly chats with her.
  • The Ghost: Spinelli's older brothers, Joey and Vito. Spinelli tends to mention them a lot, but they never appeared on teh show.
  • Girliness Upgrade: To an extent, Spinelli in the Disney Channel promos for the show. The advertisements only included her, and she spoke like a borderline Valley Girl. This happened to be around the same time Disney Channel was going through their own girliness upgrade.
  • Girl's Night Out Episode: "More Like Gretchen" puts the male members of the Recess Gang to the side and focuses on Gretchen and Spinelli.
  • Go Mad from the Isolation: In the episode "The Box", T.J. is sent to the box (A punishment which is just a square painted on the blacktop), and being isolated, he begins to go insane.
  • Good Eyes, Evil Eyes: The protagonists usually have wider and slightly larger eyes than the antagonists.
  • Good with Numbers: Hank the janitor, as revealed in "A Genius Among Us", when he easily solves Gretchen's math problem after school. He's eventually approached by the military and scientists... but he turns them down, saying he'd rather just be a janitor.
  • Grade Skipper: Downplayed in an episode where Gretchen was set to be evaluated to go to a college-level elementary school meant for gifted children — given the kinds of ingenious things she'd done over the course of the series, it isn't implausible in context. Unfortunately, the thought of leaving the only friends she's ever had and everything she's ever known behind reduces her to a mixture of panic and defeated depression, remembering how lonely she used to be due to her intelligence. TJ comes up with one of his usual schemes to keep this from happening.
  • Gratuitous English: Some of the foreign dubs leave the characters' catchphrases in English (But dubbed with their regular voice actor for the respective dubs)
  • Green Rooming: After Menlo's first appearance in "Officer Mikey", he doesn't show up for the rest of the first season (Minus a few unnamed and unspeaking cameos). He doesn't appear again until "The Girl Was Trouble", and then becomes a recurring character for the rest of the show.
  • Growing Up Sucks: Principal Prickly, an actual grown-up, seems to have this mentality. "The Hypnotist," in which Prickly is accidentally hypnotized into thinking he's a first grader, implies plenty, especially since Gretchen points out that hypnotism taps into the subconscious mind. Then, Recess: School's Out all but confirms that Prickly misses his childhood when he states that his happy memories of recess and summer vacation are the only link he has to his long-lost childhood innocence.
  • Hard Truth Aesop: “Nobody Doesn’t Like T.J.” teaches that you can’t expect everybody to like you.
  • Hard-Work Montage: In "Good Ole T.J." when T.J. is pulling an all-nighter to revise his and Gretchen's project.
  • Headdesk: Gus hits his head on a picnic table on the playground in "The New Kid".
  • Heat Wave: In "The Coolest Heatwave Ever", the gang search for the backup water valve during a heatwave.
  • Held Gaze: T.J. and Spinelli have one right after kissing in "The Experiment"...until they realize how gross the kiss was.
  • Help, I'm Stuck!: Mikey in "The Terrifying Tales of Recess" when he gets stuck in the trapdoor.
  • Here We Go Again!:
    • "The Game": It opens with Gus finding a card that was just thrown over the fence, and it's part of a very addictive game. At the end, after everything is straightened out, Gus throws it back over the fence, and the next kids to find it go down to the corner shop to buy some more cards.
    • "The Economics of Recess": After a few days of sickness, T.J. returns to school and finds that "mon-stickers" have become the currency of the student body. He begins to do various odd jobs in exchange for stickers, and gradually works his way up the ladder to be the richest kid on the playground, only to go mad with power and become a profit-obsessed tyrant. The rest of the Recess Gang then teams up to make alien stickers the new currency, leaving T.J. at the bottom of the barrel again. They hope T.J. has learned his lesson...but he immediately rushes off to start doing more chores for people, and they all sigh.
    • "Copycat Kid": After believing Vince has saved him from being killed by a baseball, Mikey decides to idolize and copy him throughout the course of the episode, leading Vince to act like Mikey temporarily in order for him to snap out of the phase. At the end of the episode, Mikey prevents a baseball from hitting Randall, the same way Vince did for him.
  • He's Got a Weapon!: Parodied when the main six are the only kids at school for the week thanks to everyone else being sick with food poisoning. The gang love it at first, but soon grow tired of it, so Gus tries to give Miss Grotke a fake note from home in order to stay home, causing Mikey to scream, "HE'S GOT A NOTE!"
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners: Mikey and Gus seem to be the closest friends with each other out of the main six main characters, and often take each other's sides in conflicts.
  • Hidden Depths:
    • Gus has incredible dodgeball skills that he used to terrorize one of his old schools. He was known as "El Diablo."
    • TJ has a huge love of space and has dreamed of being an astronaut since he was a kid. He's read many books about space travel, including one without pictures (which for someone as Book Dumb as TJ, is a pretty big deal).
  • Hippie Teacher: Ms. Grotke is a very New Age, pacifist liberal. Also, Prickly and Finster (and all the others) are shown to have been hippies in the 1960s flashback in The Movie.
  • Hollywood Healing: In "Prince Randall", T.J. gets a black eye. The scene after he announces that he has a plan to get King Bob back to his position as king after Randall ursurps his position, his black eye is completely healed. This is a sharp contrast to "The Shiner", which aired almost a year earlier, where T.J. gets a black eye and has it over the course of a few days.
  • How Can Santa Deliver All Those Toys?: This is mentioned in "Yes, Mikey, Santa Does Shave", in which Mikey attempts to prove that Santa is real and indeed can deliver all those toys. Gretchen counters that a man of his size could not fit through the chimney and that the speed he would need to travel at is simply impossible.
  • Huge Guy, Tiny Girl: Non-romantic example: Spinelli and Mikey in "Dance Lessons" where they're paired up to dance together.
  • Hyper-Destructive Bouncing Ball: Glorp (A substance similar to Flubber), which Gretchen accidentally invented when she was trying to invent something to replace liquid soap. It could bounce to extremely high amounts, even with the slightest tap to it. In "I Will Kick No More Forever", the gang decide to mold the glorp into a kickball, so it will go high enough when Vince kicks it after losing his confidence. However, After Vince kicked it (And gaining his confidence back), it was revealed that Gus lost the glorpball, and Vince kicked the real ball. But right as the gang begin celebrating, they wonder what happened to it. Cut to Miss Finster putting it in the ball shed, it dropping, causing her to get trapped in a ball storm.
  • Hypno Fool: The school brought a hypnotist to entertain the kids (and failing miserably). He tried to hypnotize Miss Finster, but she was completely unaffected. But Prickly, who was by the side, got affected and started thinking that he was six years old.
  • Hypocritical Humor:
    • Used a lot. One example from "Soccer Boy":
      Vince: If we lose, Lawson's going to make us look like dummies!
      T.J.: Ooh, don't wanna look like no dummies.
    • In the movie, after the whole plan failed, an assistant of the villian promised to the police to give information if they let him free. Soemthing that Randall, the local snitch, found really low.
      Randall: "Geez, what a squealer."

  • I Am Spartacus:
    • In one episode the Ashleys find out what her first name is and focer her to join them. Her friends get everyone to change their name to Ashley, even the boys. And they refuse to leave unless they let Spinelly go.
    • In another episode Spinelli gets made fun of for accidentally calling her teacher "Mama". Her friends start calling the teacher "Mama" to take the heat off her until the whole class decides to follow along.
  • If You Can Read This: Some of the graffiti on the side of the school in "Gus and Misdemeanors" reads "Geoffrey and Gretchen", a refrence to "The Pest".
  • I Owe You My Life: "Copycat Kid" starts out when Mikey thinks Vince saved his life by stopping a baseball to his face and starts to want to do a lot of thigns for Vince, but it soon changes into more of an I Just Want to Be You scenario.
  • I Resemble That Remark!: In "The Spy Who Came in from the Playground", after the gang get in trouble again:
    Vince: It's all that jerk Randall's fault.
    Spinelli: Yeah, he's always snooping around.
    Randall: (popping out fron a nearby trash can) I am not!
  • I Will Punish Your Friend for Your Failure: After the rest of the Recess Gang refuse to bow down to Randall during his brief tenure as prince of the playground, he sends T.J. to the dodgeball wall for extra punishement.
  • Identically Named Group:
    • The Ashleys, a group of girls who are all named Ashley. They all dress the same and are distinguished by the first letter of their surnames. When word gets out that Spinelli's first name is Ashley, she is forced to join the group, to her abject horror.
    • In a later episode, Spinelli is forced to take ballet lessons and meets a quartet of snooty ballerinas named Megan. She indeed snark about the fact they "remember her of someone."
    • Each of the Ashleys also has a younger brother named Tyler, who form a similar clique.
    • And an episode with a Chain of Deals involved getting Ashley A's diary back from her kindergarten-age sister Brittany. When Spinelli says "Which one of you is Brittany?", of course, a group of toddlers resembling all the Ashleys step forward, and she has to specify "Um ... Brittany A?"
  • If I Were a Rich Man: After T.J. finds a hundred dollar bill on the ground, each member of the gang has a fantasy about what they would do with it. Each one involves a jetpack.
  • Imagine Spot:
    • In "Teachers Lounge", Gretchen, Spinelli, and Mikey have one on what the teachers do in the teachers' lounge.
    • In "The C Note", each member of the gang has one about what they'd buy with the $100 bill they found, all of them including the character with the imagine spot riding a jetpack.
    • In "Big Ol' Mikey", the gang have various imagine spots to see what it'd be like for Mikey to grow up to giant size.
  • In Case You Forgot Who Wrote It: An interesting case. The show was going to always have "Disney's" in front of it's name. However, the creators instead wished for their names to be credited, as they told the executives at Walt Disney Television that Walt Disney didn't create the show (they don't believe in crediting people for work they didn't do). So official merchandise (and the show for its final season) has "Created by Paul and Joe" underneath the title logo.
  • Injured Limb Episode: In "Lord of the Nerds", TJ breaks his arm and has to stay inside with a nerdy group of kids called the "Pale Kids" until it heals.
  • Informed Attribute: In the episode "Spinelli's Masterpiece", Ashley A. tells Ashley B. that Spinelli's drawing brings out the pink in her sweater. Ashley B.'s sweater is yellow.
  • Informed Obscenity: In one episode, T.J. is brought to court for use of his Catchphrase "This whomps". The judge decided that "whomps" was not dirty in and of itself, and that only a dirty-minded person would think it was.
  • Ink-Suit Actor:
    • Spinelli looks slightly like a nine-year-old Pamela Adlon.
    • Possibly the straightest example would be Ms. Grotke, who looks almost exactly like Allyce Beasley (minus the glasses).
    • Gus' voice actor once invoked this in an old, Recess-themed Disney Channel ident, at one point mentioning how himself, along with the voice actors for Vince and TJ, are starting to look like their characters. Though it is evident that they dressed each voice actor specifically to match the colour schemes and clothing styles of their characters for the sake of the ad.
  • Innocently Insensitive: In the season 1 episode "Officer Mikey", Mikey wanted to be a safety ranger, going as far to say it's his dream. His friends work hard to make his dream a reality, doing a bunch of favors to different kids, until they finally get him into the safety rangers. Afterwards, the gang go into school, happy they made Mikey's dream come true, only to be shocked to find Mikey eating in the cafeteria. Mikey told them he quit, because the safety rangers were too much hard work. Mikey tells his friends he has a new dream of being a jet pilot; as he's telling his friends this, he does not notice how shocked and devastated they are because of all the work they did for him was for nothing.
  • Intergenerational Friendship: Spinelli, who's nine, and Miss Grotke, who's most likely in her early-to-mid 30s. She also has this with Miss Finster later on, who's implied to be in her sixties somewhere.
  • Interservice Rivalry: "The Army Navy Game" reveals that Gus's dad and Cornchip Girl's dad have a fierce rivalry with each other that stems from this. They played against each other in the annual Army-Navy game when they attended the academies, had war games against each other, and butt heads over military strategies to this day.
  • Invisible Parents: Parents are only very rarely seen. Justified as most of the action would take place in school.
  • Interquel: Aside from the kindergarten flashback, Recess: All Growed Down is one, taking place sometime during the series and before Recess: School's Out.
  • Irritation Is the Sincerest Form of Flattery:
    • In one episode Mikey begins imitating Vince, the jock, due to seeing Vince as a "cool kid", but eventually admits that the persona doesn't fit him and goes back.
    • Geoffrey gets a crush on Gretchen and says this word for word at one point.
  • Ironic Echo: In the movie, TJ and Benedict refer to summer vacation as "the biggest recess of them all" in their monologues. TJ wishes to enjoy it. Benedict wishes to destroy it.
  • It Kind of Looks Like a Face: T.J. is granted a corn chip in the shape of Lincoln's head for a perceived act of heroism due to his shiner. He hallucinates that the chip is talking to him and Honest Abe is saying he should tell the truth about how he got his black eye.
  • It's the Only Way: Ashley A.'s reason why she decided that Spinelli has to join the rest of the Ashleys and become like them, in fear that due to sharing the same name as them (And being completely different), she'll tarnish their name up into high school.
  • Jerkass:
    • Randall, despite (or possibly in part due to) what some might see as his personal crowning moment of funny: the Mikey refrigerator spelling joke ("O-I-C-U-R-M-T"). And while he does a I Just Want to Be You rant on T.J., he kicks the dog on him as well. Only this can come from Randall.
    Randall: You're fat, you're ugly, you wear that stupid jacket, but everyone wants to play with you!
    • Spinelli's mom has Jerkass moments; She's constantly trying to make Spinelli "more feminine", forces Spinelli to go to school when she's being bullied in "Mama's Girl" and she's outright mean to her in "More Like Gretchen".
  • The Ashleys. While the girls do sometimes have their Lovable Alpha Bitch moments, they're usually stuck-up jerks. Ashley Q. shows this the most
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold:
    • Spinelli is hot-tempered and sarcastic, but will always stand up for her friends.
    • Miss Finster, as revealed after season one. She shares quite a few sweet bonding moments with fellow example Spinelli when she's having trouble with her friends. These get a nice little Call-Back in "Recess: Taking the Fifth Grade" when Miss Finster once again helps her out.
      "Women of power like us, we're not allowed to have feelings."
  • Judgment of Solomon: Parodied in "King Gus", when two first graders are fighting over a doll. Gus suggests that they cut the doll in half as a solution. One girl says it's okay, and the other begins crying, saying she'd rather have the doll given to the first girl than see it be cut in half. Gus gave it to the first girl because of this.
  • "Jump Off a Bridge" Rebuttal: Happens in "Me No Know" when Vince wants to see a movie his parents won't let him see.
    Vince: But all the other kids have seen Nitwitz 3!
    Vince's Dad: If all the other kids jumped off a cliff, would you do it too?
    Vince: If that's all they were gonna talk about afterwards, yeah!

  • "Kick Me" Prank: Former student and school legend Frank "The Dude" Dudicoff once stuck a sign on Miss Finster's back which read "Pony rides for $1.00". When he comes back as a student teacher, he does it again when no one's looking, this time reading, "Point at me and whisper!".
  • Kids Are Cruel: Mostly averted with the main six, but the rest of the student body can show shades of this at times.
    • "Mama's Girl": Spinelli accidentally calls Miss Grotke "Mama" while saving her from stepping in a puddle. This causes all the kids to tease her for it. Even TJ, Vince, Gretchen, Mikey, and Gus are Not So Above It All. Towards the end of the episode, Miss Grotke calls the class out on it, implying that she herself suffered a similar experience when she was a little girl.
    • "The Lost Ball": Gus accidentally kicks a "Spirit of '76" kickball over the fence into the house next door, and his peers give him a hard time about being unwilling to do it. Even Mikey bullies him for it.
  • Kid Detective: Parodied when TJ and Vince become fans of a book series in "The Barnaby Boys" and have the gang go around snooping.
  • Kids Versus Adults: In many episodes the main conflict is kids vs. teachers.
  • Kissing In A Tree: Inevitable, the show is about elementary school students.
    • "The Pest" had "Gretchen and Geoffrey sittin' in a tree, K-I-S-S-I-N-G!"
    • A different version showed up in "The Principals of Golf" once Vince becomes Principal Prickly's golf partner- "Vince and Prickly standin' in the green, P-U-T-T-I-N-G!"
  • Knight of Cerebus: Dr. Slicer from "Prickly is Leaving". As soon as he showed up, the overall mood of the episode shifted to Darker and Edgier territory.
  • Lame Comeback: Randall when he tries to come up with a comeback to Spinelli in "Randall's Reform" but just gives up:
    Spinelli: Forget it, Randall. We'd rather play with a flat ball instead of a slimeball.
    Randall: Ooh, good one, Spinelli! Well, I'd rather play with the good ball than...a dumb...ugh.
  • Last Day to Live: The episode "Gus's Fortune"- Gus finds one of those paper fortune tellers, which tells him that he's going to die the next day. So Gus does everything he can to prevent his death.
  • Last-Name Basis: Many students refer to each other by their last names, and Spinelli in particular is always referred to by her last name within her friend group because of the stigma her first name brings. Most of the teachers also call most of the students by their last names. Some of the characters don't even know the first names of other characters.
  • Late for School: Gretchen and T.J. at the beginning of "Good Ole' T.J.". Gretchen was only late for class, as she was busy doing something in the science room, but still recieved a tardy. T.J. was late but ended up charming his way out of getting a tardy.
  • Latex Perfection: Butch is shown to be skilled in this in the Halloween Episode "Terrifying Tales of Recess," impersonating Principal Prickly and Miss Finster this way.
  • Laughing Mad: T.J. in "The Box" after going insane from being isolated in the titular punishment.
  • Leitmotif: A few characters have one, notably Butch, the Ashleys, the Diggers, the kindergarteners, Cornchip Girl, Randall, Hustler Kid, and King Bob. T.J. originally had two leitmotifs- one played when he came up with an idea, and another played when once of his plans went into action. By the time the first season ended, only his second leitmotif was used. The rest of the gang had leitmotifs, but most of them didn't show up often, aside from Spinelli's.
  • Lessons in Sophistication: In one episode, the Ashleys challenge Tomboy Spinelli to a Beauty Pageant. Bizarrely, sports loving Vince is the hyper-competent coach schooling Spinelli in how to win in a Pageant. His justification is that his characterization is hyper-competitive and will learn how to win at any competition he sets his mind to... he's meticulously studied Beauty Pageants just in case one of his friends was challenged to win one and needed to be taught how to win one. Ultimately, Spinelli wins by explaining to the judges that her rehearsed lines weren't really who or what she's all about, who in turn find it refreshing that for once, someone isn't using the same cliche lines.
  • Let's Meet the Meat: Discussed in "Gretchen and the Secret of Yo":
    Mikey: I just don't get it! Why would the chicken want to make us think he tastes good? Doesn't he know what happens to tasty chickens?
    Vince: It's just a commercial, Mikey.
    Mikey: But it just doesn't make any sense!
  • Let There Be Snow: The Christmas Episode begins with the characters mentioning how warm it is for the time of year. Guess what the weather is by the end...
  • Let Us Never Speak of This Again: The gang agreed to this after seeing Spinelli and Miss Finster hula dancing.
  • Little Professor Dialog: All the kids in the show talk like 1980's businessmen.
  • Limited Animation: A lot of the episodes by Plus One Animation were animated stiffly, and most scenes usually only had the characters heads and mouths moving, with the occasional arm raise.
  • Limited Wardrobe: Even the fashion-conscious Ashleys rarely change clothes.
  • Live-Action Adaptation: Rumors of one started appearing on the internet in 2006, though they were quickly debunked, as a live action adaptation was never planned to be (And isn't in the near future) developed.
  • Locked in a Freezer: "No Strings Attatched" had this happen as the end result. When Spinelli was given tickets to a wrestling match by the bratty Ashley group, she and her friends were naturally suspicious, except for Mikey and Gus. After many attempts to learn what the trick was, Spinelli, T.J, Vince, and Gretchen finally broke into the Ashleys' clubhouse where they discovered that the tickets were genuine. Unfortunately, the clubhouse's security system locked down, resulting in them trapped while Gus and Mikey went to the fight.
  • Look Behind You: In "The Big Prank", T.J. tells Mikey that they're giving out free snacks in one area of the cafeteria, in order for him to get up from the lunch table and activate a prank the gang were going to pull on Randall.
  • Look on My Works, Ye Mighty, and Despair: King Bob attempts to build a pyramid of mud to make it his legacy for all future kids in school. Only for a rain to completley dissolve it.
  • Loud Gulp:
    • T.J. does one in "The Break In" after he has to stay inside for recess.
    • Gus does one in "Jinxed" when he's in Principal Prickly's office, and he still can't talk because of the jinx the Ashleys put him under.
    • T.J. loudly gulps down the candy he's eating in "The Fuss Over Finster" as he has his Heel Realization at the sight of the limping Miss Finster struggling to manage the chaotic playground.
    T.J.: I gulped, Spinelli. But it wasn't a satisfying gulp.
  • Lovable Alpha Bitch: Ashley A could count. When she is kicked out of the clique, she befriends Gretchen, and during the Little Miss Blush beauty pageant, she secretly congratulates Spinelli. She has also asked the gang for help on other occasions and is seen talking to the less popular kids on the playground like The Diggers. Sometimes, the other three Ashleys can also be convinced to be nice and do good, like in "The Great Can Drive" and "League of Randalls".
  • Loving Bully: "The Pest" had a boy named Geoffrey who was harassing Gretchen admit he was this trope after being confronted (the other half of the episode had him acting as a Dogged Nice Guy/Stalker with a Crush).
  • Luminescent Blush: T.J. gets this for a split-second in "Some Friend" during Menlo's birthday party when Menlo's mom kisses him on the cheek.

  • Madness Mantra: In "The Box", T.J. singing This Old Man when he's in the box and repeatedly saying he'll be a good boy.
  • Magical Negro: In "Yes, Mikey, Santa Does Shave", the black man who helps Mikey find his Christmas spirit is revealed in the ending to be Santa Claus.
  • Manchild: Principal Prickly may think he's a Child Hater, but many episodes show that he is rather childish himself. He gets into arguments with his equally immature older brother Paul, he gets absolutely flustered when things don't go his way, and, in one episode, he is accidentally hypnotized to think he's a first grader. The movie confirms that he is a Manchild because he misses his own childhood.
  • Masculine Girl, Feminine Boy:
    • TJ and Spinelli on occasion. TJ is characterized by loyalty and caring while Spinelli is violent and aggressive. The most obvious example is during 'The Experiment' when they both say goodbye to their childhood: TJ gives his old cuddly toy a hug while Spinelli uses hers to trash the room. More generally, Spinelli is the masculine girl to the gentle Mikey's feminine boy, a relationship best displayed in "Dance Lessons."
    • Of the named faculty, we have Principal Prickly and Miss Finster as a platonic example. Miss Finster does most of the heavy-duty work, while Prickly only gets into action when it goes too far.
  • Medals for Everyone: Unlike most examples, this happens at the beginning of an episode. At the start of "Lawson and His Crew", T.J. and the gang are all awarded medals from King Bob after they stop a plan for the school having to issue uniforms. In Act 2 of the episode, King Bob gives medals to the titular crew.
  • Memory Wipe Exploitation: Principal Prickly ends up with the mind of a kid after being hypnotized, T.J. and the gang uses this as an opportunity to manipulate him into mischief, even making announcements about the lunch menu on the school PA system.
  • The Men in Black: In "The Substitute", Gretchen builds a Perpetual Motion Machine as her project. While presenting it, two men from the government enter the classroom, photograph the equations she wrote on the chalkboard before erasing them, take her machine and leave. Mr. E, the substitute teacher filling in for Miss Grotke, simply says "That happens".
  • Military Brat:
    • Gus, whose father is in the Army.
    • One episode reveals that Theresa "Cornchip Girl" LaMaize's father is in the Navy with a rivalry with Gus' father.
  • Mind Rape:
    • Being isolated in Miss Finster's "Box" caused T.J to snap and turn into a whimpering vegetable/obedient slave.
    • Miss Finster's intentions when the school was kept inside during recess from the rain. She intended to turn the student body into her mindless zombie slaves through pure boredom. Butch even Lampshades this when the same situation happened before:
      Butch: They were called the Zombie Class of '89. They were mindless! They had no free will"
      Miss Finster: (cutting in) They were mine. (Cue Evil Laugh)
  • Misunderstood Loner with a Heart of Gold: Done quite a bit with:
    • Principal Prickly, one of the main antagonists, sometimes appears in this light. Despite having shown to detest the children and appearing to be quite fond of simply locking them up in detention, several times he's shown to really enjoy Recess as an act of nostalgia. One episode even implies that he and several friends hid a chest full of toys from when he was growing up specifically for later students to find. The Movie also sheds further light on this.
    • Ms. Finster, the other primary antagonist, and Randall fit this trope sometimes with how Randall is sometimes friendly, while Muriel has actually got a heart of gold underneath the hard exterior. The episode where she takes care of Spinelli for the weekend also illustrates this. And just because she gave TJ Detention doesn't mean she doesn't like him!
    • The old woman in the episode The Lost Ball actually doesn't steal the balls thrown into her yard...she keeps them because nobody comes over to claim them.
  • Moral Guardians:
    • The Unusual Euphemism used in the show is taken by some of the adults to be profanity, and things escalate until T.J. is in a courtroom defending himself. A good chunk of the trial goes along without anyone willing to utter the word in question... until T.J. finally does. Upon realizing this whole thing is over the word "whomps", the judge promptly laughs the Moral Guardians out of the courtroom for wasting his time.
    • A real-life example: When the show was on the air, some parents complained that the show was portraying teachers as being bad. The creators responded with the fact that the adults are portrayed as antagonists to the point of view of the kids in the show. They're just doing their jobs.
  • The Movie: One theatrical movie and three direct-to-video episode compilations with linking material, one of which was notably made from unaired episodes.
  • The Moving Experience: The episode "Bachelor Gus" has Gus getting afraid of having to move again after overhearing a conversation with his parents. It turns out they were only moving his bedroom to his dad's map room.
  • Multiple Demographic Appeal: Children could identify with the show due to it being about elementary school life, and adults loved the historical and political refrences, as well as humor that not only would the kids laugh at it, the adults would, too.
  • Mundane Made Awesome: There's nothing more horrifying than sitting in a box drawn in chalk on the ground in the playground. And you can't come out of it. And you're all alone. And no one can come into it to help you.
  • Mustache Vandalism: One episode has Principal Prickly do this to his own picture while subject to Hypno Fool (and thinking he's a six-year-old child). At the end of the episode he gets distracted by it (thinking he looks pretty good with a goatee) and forgets to punish the cast.
  • My Life Flashed Before My Eyes: Gretchen says this after receiving her first A- in "The Dude"
  • My Little Phony: In one episode, the tomboyish Spinelli being forced to watch "My Furry Unicorns".
  • Mythology Gag: There's a background character that pops up from time to time that slightly resembles T.J. in the unnaired pilot.
  • Mysterious Teacher's Lounge: The kids spend an episode trying to find out what's inside the teacher's lounge. When they finally get inside they're disappointed to find a normal, boring room. Once they're sent away one of the teachers presses some buttons on the vending machine and reveals an elaborate hidden room complete with a spa area.
  • Names to Run Away from Really Fast: Played straight with "El Diablo". A kid notices Gus playing a guitar and tells TJ and the others to get out since Gus was a one-man army in dodgeball in a previous school.
  • A Nazi by Any Other Name
    • Principal Slicer was a shockingly unsubtle example. There was even one part where Randall says he's going to have the jungle gym torn down and replaced with a guard tower. And that old cannon outside the school? He wants it to work. His resemblance to Heinrich Himmler doesn't help.
    • The Fun Police in the episode "The Rules". In order for the old, previously lost rules of King Mortimer to be enforced, King Bob employed Fun Police, who even had red armbands with happy faces on them. There were also higher-up Secret Fun Police.
  • Needlework Is for Old People: In one episode, the gang visits a retirement home, where Spinelli is paired with an old woman knitting. She is really bored by this, until the woman shows Spinelli that she's knitting the lining of a boxing glove.
  • Nepharious Pharaoh: King Bob briefly becomes one of these in one episode, when he changes his title to Pharaoh Bob and makes the other kids work like slaves to build a mud-brick pyramid in his honor.
  • Never Say "Die"
    • Lampshaded / mocked in "Speedy, We Hardly Knew Ye": The episode is about the death of the class' hamster; the word "death" is tossed around freely by the children, but Ms. Grotke always says it in a hushed whisper because she's afraid the kids couldn't handle the concept.
    • In "Buried Treasure", when T.J. tells his friends to promise not to say anything to anyone else, "cross your hearts and hope to—" before Spinelli tells him to get on with it.
  • New Kid Stigma:
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Gretchen, for trying to calm an increasingly mysophobic Gus by saying that germs are everywhere (including on his skin).
  • Nightmare Fetishist: While chasing the Library Kid after she goes Recess crazy, they try reading out of library books, becoming engrossed in them as they read, leading to this exchange after Spinelli reads from an Eastern European war novel.
    Gretchen: Come on - she's getting away!
    Spinelli: Just a sec - this is getting gorey!
  • Nightmare Sequence: A few times.
    • In "Rainy Days", T.J. has one about the never-ending rain during the week flooding the town.
    • In "The Pest", Gretchen has one about being married to Jeffrey in the future.
    • In "The Lost Ball", Gus has one about the fact that he accidentally lost one of the school's balls by kicking it over the fence being obstacles in his future.
    • Vince has one in "Copycat Kid" about Mikey taking over his life after trying to become exactly like him.
    • In "A Career to Remember", Spinelli has one about growing up without a job, and seeing her friends be very sucessful in life while she's homeless.
    • Mikey has one in "Big Ol' Mikey", about him growing up to be a giant and destroying a city.
  • The '90s: While the show premiered in the nineties (1997 to be exact) and ended in 2001 (2003 counting the DTV movies), it's been established that the show only takes place from 1997 to 1998, even if the show is continuing into the next century.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed:
    • Phillium Benedict was most likely named for former Secretary of Education William J. Bennett.
    • The substitute teacher, Mr. E, from "The Substitute" bears a passing resemblance, voice, and demeanor to Clint Eastwood.
  • No Challenge Equals No Satisfaction: When Miss Finster sprains her ankle, T.J. develops an elaborate scheme to steal her stash of confiscated candy. The plan works perfectly, but as the Gang eats the sweets, they look out the window and see poor Muriel desperately trying to maintain order on the playground while hobbling around on crutches. The kids remark that the candy doesn't seem to taste as good since it was so easy, and decide to organize a playground-wide moratorium on bad behavior to give Miss Finster a break—but once she's healed, it's back to business.
  • Noir Episode: "The Girl was Trouble". In fact, the French title for the episode was, "Black Series for the Girl in Blue". (The "blue" part referring to Gretchen's signature outfit.)
  • Noodle Incident:
    • Twice, in the Christmas episode: "It's the Tooth Fairy incident all over again" and "Get me out of here! I don't want another Arbor Day incident!"
    • In the episode "King Gus" they refer to an eggnog incident.
  • Nostalgia Filter: In-universe example: Vince doesn't (At first) recognize his brother is a stereotypical nerd, only remembering how "cool" he was.
  • No Wrong Answers Except That One: In "The A.V Kid", the titular A.V. Kid is holding auditions for his replacement and asks if there are any questions, claiming that there aren't any stupid questions. This dialogue happens.
    Brandon the Singer: (singing) What pray tell does the position paaay?
    A.V Kid: I stand corrected. Stupid question. Out.
  • Novelization: "The New Kid", "The Experiment" and Recess: School's Out all got novels based off of them, and "The Great Jungle Gym Standoff" was made into a picture book. "The Break In" and "The Box" also had novelizations as part of One Saturday Morning novelization compilation.

  • Object Ceiling Cling: In "The Girl Was Trouble", Gretchen helps Mundy with trying to get paper towels to cling to the ceiling.
  • Oddball Doppelgänger: In the episode where the kids go to another school to play kickball. It quickly becomes apparent to Gus that the school they are visiting is one of these with every character from the show having a clone that varies in ethnicity and/or gender. The other kids refuse to believe him until they are introduced to their counterparts on the opposing team. Regalli (Spinelli but blonde), Vance (Vince but white), Greta Grobler (Gretchen but Ambiguously Brown), Russ Rimple (Gus but black), Mickey (Mikey but Asian), and finally C.J. Rottweiler (T.J. but a girl and redhead). Gretchen even refers to them as their doppelgangers. At the end when the kids have declared a tie, the clone kids invite the main characters to play on their playground named "Old Crusty" and T.J. says that they call theirs "Old Rusty".
  • Oh, Crap!: The expression that Gus has on his face when Gelman charges at him. What happens next is that Gelman then kicks the shit out of Gus, and he does this TWICE.
  • Older Than They Look: From one episode, "The Spy Who Came In From the Playground", James Stone, a boy who befriends the gang but is revealed to be a 42-year-old spy for the Board of Education who is bald and shaves.
  • One-Shot Character: There have been a number of kids who have appeared in one episode and no others:
    • Johnny "Baby Tooth" V. ("That Stinking Feeling")
    • Becky Benson ("A Science Fair to Remember")
    • Jared Smith ("Here Comes Mr. Perfect")
    • Brock the A.V. Kid and Lance the Pants ("The A.V. Kid")
    • Yope Halberson ("Yope from Norway")
    • Chad LaSalle ("Big Brother Chad", though he does appear very briefly in Vince's Imagine Spot in "Copycat Kid")
    • Peanut Butter Kid, or Sandwich Boy ("The Kid Came Back")
    • Becky Dettweiler (Recess: School's Out)
  • One-Steve Limit:
    • Averted with the Ashleys (and their brothers). (Spinelli shares their name, but doesn't want to be associated with them.)
    • There are also two characters named Becky in the show: Becky Benson from "A Science Fair to Remember", and Becky Detweiler, T.J.'s older sister.
  • Onion Tears: Seen in "The Biggest Trouble Ever" when the gang have to peel onions in the school kitchen during their punishment. As they are at that moment hated by the town for a complete accident and the punishments have no end in sight, Mikey states that it's hard to tell where the Onion Tears stop and where the actual tears from being robbed of a carefree childhood begin.
  • Only Known by Initials:
    • T.J. (usually); also substitute teacher Mr. E.
    • The Ashleys initialize their surnames: Ashley A., Ashley B., Ashley T., etc.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: Several characters, to the point where even the teachers don't seem to know their real names.
  • Only One Name: While most of the characters have first and last names, some characters lack a last name, such as King Bob, Francis (Hustler Kid), Butch, Jordan, Jerome, Sam, Dave, and almost all the kindergarteners (Sans the Brittneys).
  • On the Next: Episodes from 1999 onwards had an "On the next episode of Recess" voiceover playing over the credits, even if the next week's episode was a repeat. Once One Saturday Morning switched to ABC Kids, these voiceovers were dropped.
  • Opening Shout-Out: In "Lawson and His Crew", a version of the theme song plays in the middle of the episode with Lawson's crew replacing the regular main characters. .
  • Orbital Kiss: Plays this one for all it's worth in "The Experiment", complete with the playground scenery suddenly transforming into a fairy-tale land and back again, when TJ and Spinelli have their Practice Kiss.
  • Origins Episode: The third movie (And second Direct to Video movie), Recess: All Growed Down featured an origins story of how the gang all met.
  • Orphaned Punchline: The ending of "Teachers' Lounge" had Principal Prickly delivering the punchline, "...and so I said, 'That's no kindergartner, that's my wife!'," to great reception among his peers. The second short of the episode, "Randall's Reform", has his opposite number, T.J., delivering the same punchline to his own peers and getting a similar reception.
  • Out of Focus:
    • Aside from Gretchen, the other five members of the gang aren't in the spotlight in "The Girl was Trouble".
    • "More Like Gretchen" focuses more on Spinelli and Gretchen than the rest of the main six.
    • "Weekend at Muriel's" has Spinelli as the major focus, and the rest of the main six only appear in the begining and at the end of the episode.
    • "Bad Hair Day" sends the two girls in the team to a science convention, causing them not to appear until the very end of the episode
    • "League of Randalls" puts the main six out of focus, then brings them in briefly for their plan, then they're gone for the rest of the episode.
    • This would end up happening to Miss Grotke in the later episodes
    • While Vince appears in every episode, he has the least amount of focus out of all the main six characters.
  • Out-of-Genre Experience: "Schoolworld", which took on a sci-fi tone than the regular comedic tone.
  • Paper-Thin Disguise
    • In "Gus's Last Stand", Gus is being tormented by a nasty bully named Gelman whenever he steps onto the playground. At one point, his friends try disguising him by giving him a large gray beard and claiming he's an old man. Gelman doesn't fall for it.
    • In "Wild Child", the six main characters are each paired up with a kindergartener. As T.J. tries to find activities for him and his kid to do together, they inadvertently bother/harass/generally annoy various other people on the playground. At the end of the episode, T.J. gives his new friend his beloved hat...only to realize that he still has a bunch of angry kids after his blood when they show up to seek revenge. He's surprised when the angry group is able to spot him, as he genuinely believed that taking off his hat would render him completely unrecognizable.
  • Parental Bonus:
    • The episode "The Library Kid" featured the gang cornering said Library Kid in the Philosophy section, with Gretchen calling out "Head her towards the existentialists; there's no exit over there," a reference to Sartre's play. The actual opening looks like an elementary school version of Hogan's Heroes.
    • More than half the humor in Recess requires a high-school level of education to notice, much less understand.
    • Then there's the episode that was a homage to 2001: A Space Odyssey.
    • The titles of some episodes like "Kids in the Mist".
    • Recess: School's Out has lots of references to various things. Among them, Ms. Finster yelling, "Hey, teacher, leave those kids alone!", and the song "Green Tambourine" (sung by Robert Goulet, no less) playing over the end credits while the kids danced in front of a psychedelic background.
    • Ms. Grotke was reading Beowulf out loud. And just happened to be reading the part where Beowulf rips Grendel's arm off and begins beating him with it.
    • The Halloween episode was a outright retelling of both Christine and Maximum Overdrive, both adult horror movies.
    • The episode King Gus climaxes with Gus ordering his underlings to throw dodgeballs at anti-monarchy protestors; a cut to a pram rolling down some stairs makes it a clear homage to Battleship Potemkin.
  • Parents Know Their Children: In "The Army-Navy Game", Gus and Cornchip Girl are found together by their dads; their laughter gives them away.
  • Parody Sue: In the episode "Here Comes Mr. Perfect", Jared, a Marty Stu from out of town shows up whose sympathetic character flaw is that he's Marty Stu — his perfection always makes everyone immediately hate him because he's so much better at the stuff everyone else is known for, and he actively tries to avoid showing it off for this reason. He also gives a speech in his own defense, that he didn't decide to be perfect, he just exists.
  • Paste Eater: Discussed and parodied in "Outcast Ashley" when Gus tells the gang that Gretchen and Ashley A. were walking to school together. The rest of the gang doesn't believe him, and Vince tells him that eating paste is bad for him.
  • Perfectly Cromulent Word: "Whomp" (used in the same context as "stinks", "sucks", or "blows" to describe an unfair or unpleasant situation or person).
  • Personality Swap: Briefly in "Copycat Kid". After Vince is fed up with Mikey acting and dressing exactly like him, he decides to show Mikey how stupid the idea was, by acting and dressing exactly like him.
  • Petty Childhood Grudge: Principal Prickley and his brother have been rivals since their childhood and are now both school principals, and eventually attempt to upstage one another when they visit each other's schools, ranging from ludicrously tall flagpoles to gourmet lunch food and painting the atrium of the school to look like the rotundas of a government building. Multiple times, they end up fighting each other and yelling about things that they did in their childhood.
  • Picked Last: Explored at least a couple of times. Played with a bit by having the second-to-last pick actually be the worst sports player (e.g. a random kid with a broken leg and crutches, or Gus), but the one picked last is being socially snubbed.
    • "Partners in Crime" takes this trope to its logical extreme when neither Randall nor Menlo are picked at all for a game of tag.
    • Inverted in "Big Ol' Mikey," where Gus is picked first for Gretchen's adult height calculations involving Galileo.
  • Picture Day: "One Stayed Clean"
  • Pie in the Face: Gus gets pied in "The Madness of King Bob" (It was meant for T.J.) and not just on his face- all over his body, actually. The "Animation Camp" bonus feature on the DVD of Recess: School's Out has a part where one of the show's artists teaches the audience how to animate a scene of Spinelli getting a pie in the face.
  • Pilot: "The Break-In", which was made in 1996 to get the show on the air. It was re-made into the first episode in 1997, though changing the character designs from the pilot to the ones in the series proper.
  • Playground Song: Being a show that takes place at an elementary school, expect these to pop up every now and again.
  • Playing Sick: Used in "Omega Kids" where Gretchen looks up an illness to keep the gang out of school by drawing green dots on everyone with marker and having them lick blue lollypops so that their tounges looked blue. It worked too well, as Gretchen mixed up the colors and they ended up looking like they had an even more serious disease.
  • Politicians Kiss Babies: Parodied in "The Candidates"- when Gretchen and Vince are running against each other for class president, they have to kiss the pets of the other students, including fish. The boys try to discredit Gretchen (who's running against Vince for class president on a platform of "Girls for Gretchen", although she genuinely wants to do a good job) by having her asked to kiss a pet lizard. She gets out of it by claiming to have a cold.
  • Potty Dance: Mikey, after T.J. makes him drink water from a hosepipe in "Parents Night" to use the bathroom as an excuse to get into Spinelli's house and meet her parents.
  • Powder Keg Crowd: The student body will go crazy over nothing.
  • The Power of Friendship: A main theme of the show.
  • Practice Kiss: T.J. and Spinelli, memorably, in "The Experiment."
  • Precocious Crush: In the episode "The Voice", Mikey develops a crush on the middle school's music teacher, Miss Salamone.
  • Prequel: Recess: All Growed Down was released in 2003 (two years after the show was canceled), but features T.J. and his friends as kindergarteners, rather than fourth (or fifth) graders.
  • Previously on…: "The Madness of King Bob" opens this way, as it's a Sequel Episode to "The Big Prank".
  • Produce Pelting: Randall is hit with the rest of the student body's lunch contents in "Stand Up Randall" after he tattles on another kid at the beginning.
  • Protest Song: In "The Great Jungle Gym Standoff", the kids (And later their parents and some of the teachers) sing "We Shall Not Be Moved" on Old Rusty to prevent it from being torn down. The song was later included on the audio cassette, The Music of One Saturday Morning along with the show's theme song.
  • Punishment Box: it's just a square drawn on the playground floor. T.J. at first laughs it off, but eventually, it breaks him.
  • Puppet King: What Jordan and Jerome originally intended Gus to be in "King Gus". Unfortunately, things play out differently.
  • Putting on the Reich: The anti-germ movement in "Germ Warfare". Seriously, the banners and the speech are almost identical to the Nuremberg rallies.
  • Pyrrhic Victory:
    • In "The Great Jungle Gym Standoff", Old Rusty is saved from demolition when the kids' parents join them in their protest... but then collapses under the weight of so many people. Subverted in the end, though, when the workers hired for the demolition realize they can rebuild it.
    • In "Rainy Days," T.J. and the gang finally snap out of their Cabin Fever, defy the rules, and play outside in the rain... but then all catch colds.
    • Lampshaded by Spinelli in "The Story of Whomps": T.J. doesn't get expelled for his invented word after all... but that means he does have to keep going to school.

  • The Quiet One: Ashley T. hardly has any solo speaking lines.
  • "Rashomon"-Style: In "The Trial", where the kids hold a trial to see if Spinelli was guilty of throwing a rock at Randall during a dirt clod war. Randall claimed that Spinelli was ruthlessly attacking all the kids in the dirt clod war and then threw a rock at him, and Mikey claimed that Spinelli was looking out for the good of the rest of the kids when Randall hit her during a "time out" when she was making sure someone was okay, causing her to throw a rock at him in anger. After persuasion from T.J., Spinelli tells her story: She was about to throw a dirt clod at Randall, until she heard a cat from up in a tree and rescued it. It turns out that it was Miss Finster's cat, and Finster complimented her for finding her cat. Randall then adds that he threw the rock at his own head out of jealousy that Finster complimented Spinelli.
  • Reading Foreign Signs Out Loud: Used on the German version, Grosse Pause (Big Recess), at least.
  • Real After All: In "Yes, Mikey, Santa Does Shave", Mikey has a crisis of faith about Santa, but rallies after an inspiring conversation with an old man who turns out at the end to be Santa himself.

  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Principal Prickly, who, although tough on disobedience and often somewhat at odds with the main characters, has joined many an Enemy Mine or cut them a very generous amount of slack when he felt their hearts were in the right place.
    • The kids' teacher, Mrs. Grotke. Probably the antithesis of the Sadist Teacher trope.
    • Although playground monitor. Ms. Finster is generally shown as a stern authority figure, she is usually portrayed as unfailingly fair and given several humanizing episodes.
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: Split into three groups of two with the main characters.
    • T.J. as the red oni (hot-headed, easily excitable) with Vince as the blue oni (cool, sarcastic)
    • Mikey as the red oni (outgoing, drama king) with Gus as the blue oni (shy, quiet)
    • Spinelli as the red oni (hot-tempered, tough) with Gretchen as the blue oni (smart, laid back)
  • Reference Overdosed: 2001: A Space Odyssey, Hey Arnold!, Hogan's Heroes, Rugrats, The Absent-Minded Professor, Dirty Harry, The Wall, Barney & Friends, Maximum Overdrive, Hello Kitty, A Goofy Movie, the list goes on. Some also double as Parental Bonuses
  • Repurposed Pop Song: A re-written version of "Respect" was played in a 1997 ABC advertisement for the series, changing the chorus to "R-E-C-E-S-S" and the rest of the lyrics to be about the show.
  • Retraux: To an extent, the show's art style is reminiscent of Hanna-Barbera cartoons of the '70s and '80s (Specifically, the more action/adventure-based ones).
  • Reunion Show:
    • The Lilo & Stitch: The Series crossover. By that point, Recess had ended its run and the cast had come back to reprise their roles... at least most of them. T.J., Mikey, and Gus were all replaced.
    • Lloyd in Space, which was made by the same creators, counts in a way. Every voice actor from Recess came to do voices on the show, including Ross Malinger, who only played T.J. for season one and two episodes of season two.
  • Revive the Ancient Custom: In "The Rules", the rule book of King Morty is found in the school library, and used to settle a dispute regarding what a kickball kicked into the dumpster means. The kids then decide to use it to see how to play other games. The thing is, Morty attended 3rd Street School during The Great Depression, when the school couldn't afford new balls for the playground. As a result, Morty's rules involve kids making games out of washing rags, playing four squares with a tree stump, and an unspecified game called "Cabbage".
  • Rhyming with Itself: During "Rainy Days," the gang becomes rather zombie-esque after five days of horribly boring indoor recess. Mikey composes a poem like this; it rhymes everything with "thee" and "tee-hee."
  • Robo Cam: Parodied in "Gus's Last Stand", where Gelman is looking for Gus through this trope.
  • Roger Rabbit Effect: In the 2001 opening for One Saturday Morning, the gang (And characters from other OSM shows) appear in a live-action park with some live-action kids.
  • Running Gag: Gus always needed to go to the bathroom at the absolute worst time.
  • Same Clothes, Different Year: Usually any flashback of the gang (Not counting kindergarten) will have them wearing their outfit in the series proper.
  • Saturday-Morning Cartoon: Seasons one, two, and 13 episodes from season three, airing on Disney's One Saturday Morning. 26 episodes from season three aired on weekday afternoons on UPN and in syndication for Disney's One Too.
  • Say My Name: "DETWEILER!!!!"
    • "MISS FINSTER!!!"
  • School Play: The Holiday pageant in the Christmas special, which was being broadcasted to the rest of the world, and Mikey was meant to be the lead of Santa Claus. The episode centered on him debating with himself and his friends as to whether Santa existed or not and Mikey nearly refusing to play the part in the school play.
  • Science Fair: The premise of "A Science Fair to Remember". It establishes that everyone except Gretchen only does volcano models. However, Gretchen's project ended up being stolen by Becky Benson, resulting in Gretchen being automatically disqualified.
  • The Scottish Trope: Featured in one episode, whenever anyone mentions the deadly-good dodgeball player El Diablo. (whip cracks)
  • Scout-Out: The Woodchuck Scouts. Played with in that Phil the Scout wears what appears to be a normal Boy Scout uniform, and is a frequently recurring character.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here: When T.J. becomes rich in Monstickers in "Economics of Recess," Randall becomes his accountant. However, even he leaves T.J. when he sees just how crazy he's become.
    • Also subverted with Jordan and Jerome at the end of King Gus
  • Second Episode Introduction: Well, episode one part B. Gus makes his first appearance in "The New Kid", as well as Miss Grotke. Though for the former, it was his Welcome Episode as he had just moved to town.
  • Secret Test of Character: The "C Note" episode. To wit: T.J. finds a hundred-dollar bill in an envelope outside the school and tells his friends. They all want to spend it, but a chance comment from Gus makes T.J. realize that someone must have lost the cash. They spend the whole episode trying to track down the owner—first at the school, and then in the local papers and bulletin boards. Gretchen realizes that the only local person who could possibly lose a hundred-dollar bill and not be concerned is Thaddeus T. Third the Fifth, the richest man in town. The Gang travels to his house and T.J. returns the money, with Thaddeus not even giving him a "thank you." The kids are at first disappointed, but then Thaddeus reemerges on a jet pack and tells the group that he deliberately leaves envelopes with C-notes all over town to see who'll try to do the right thing and return them. T.J. and his friends are apparently the first group to pass, so in gratitude, he tells them that they, along with their families, will all being going to an amusement park he owns for an all-expenses paid weekend getaway. And in a final surprise, he even lets the kids take turns riding on the jet pack.
  • Self-Deprecation: In "First Name Ashley", Ashley A. despairs that she'll probably date guys named Paul and Joe in high school.
  • Self-Parody: The theme song gets this treatment in "Lawson and His Crew" where Lawson's gang takes the place of T.J.'s gang
  • Self-Soothing Song: In "The Box", T.J. is forced to spend time in a "box" drawn on the blacktop. By the end of his sentence, he's in a Troubled Fetal Position while singing "This Old Man".
  • Series Continuity Error:
    • Cornchip Girl could be in either 1st or 2nd grade, but in "One Stayed Clean" she's nowhere to be seen when those grades are getting their picture taken and she seems to be in kindergarten since she spends most of her screentime with them, even though other episodes have shown that all kindergartners dress and act like savages and she's never been shown in kindergarten before.
    • Gus is shown to be a new kid in school in grade 4, yet All Growed Down shows him in Kindergarten. The Great Jungle Gym Standoff also apparently takes place before Gus transferred to school yet he appears in a few shots (probably an animation goof — happens all the time). They explain Gus being the new kid again in fourth grade by the very canon fact he transferred many times over the past four years. The fact that he went to 3rd Street for a few days and then transferred out fits his backstory well. Nobody (except Finster) remembered him because everybody who would actually have a reason to remember him was too young to remember. His friends think Gus made the whole thing up mostly because he helps over half of them become who they are today.
    • Similarly, despite that it was established that Old Rusty had fallen down and replaced with what T.J. christened "New Rusty", the jungle gym is still referred to as "Old Rusty", likely out of habit (though technically it was rebuilt with the same material, rather than replaced with a new jungle gym).
    • Menlo is revealed to have been T.J's best friend in the past, except for some reason another episode shows him speaking about him like he just heard about him.
    • The Great Can Drive episode shows The Ashleys being in a separate class from Mikey and the gang, yet other episodes show all four being in Ms. Grotke's class.
  • Series Fauxnale: "Lawson and his Crew" was intended to be the final episode to air on TV, and The Movie was supposed to be the true finale. However, the show was so popular that it was renewed for another season note ...and, thanks to Disney's sixty-five episode limit, didn't last long. There were the DTV movies, however note .
  • Serious Business: Recess itself is like this, as is everything else — and who honestly didn't have this happen when they went to elementary school? The Monstickers and Ajimbo games especially take the cake.
    • In "Spinelli's Masterpiece", when Spinelli creates an elaborate work of art with colored chalk on the blacktop, the gang are so impressed with her creation that they do everything they can to prevent anyone else from destroying her creation, bringing all other kids up to the jungle gym for the best vantage point to see her drawing, even convincing Miss Finster and Principal Prickly that the drawing must be preserved. Subverted at the end when Spinelli scoffs, "It's just a stupid chalk drawing."
  • Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness: Gretchen tends to get a bit carried away.
  • Satellite Love Interest: Johnny V. was this for Spinelli in "That Stinking Feeling". Due to him not appearing after the episode, it's confirmed that he only existed as a temporary love interest.
  • School Forced Us Together: School is what brought the group together; otherwise, a group consisting of a nerd, a tomboy, a jock, an artist, a schemer with a conscience, and the new kid would probably have never formed. In addition, there have been some episodes involving one of the groups being transferred to another school, with the others being concerned that this would break up the group.
  • "Shaggy Dog" Story: "The Break In". The gang goes to drastic measures trying to get T.J. out of detention. As soon as they get all the other kids to help them and their plan is almost a success...T.J. breaks himself out. This is even taken further when he breaks out at the very end of recess.
    • "Officer Mikey": The gang goes through a huge Chain of Deals to get Brad to make Mikey a safety ranger...which he gives up by the end of the episode.
  • Shared Universe: With Lilo & Stitch: The Series, American Dragon: Jake Long, The Proud Family, and Kim Possible. The universe is known as the Disney Channel Animated Universe, and Recess is currently the only show from One Saturday Morning in the universe.
  • Shown Their Work: In the episode where Prickly is hypnotized into thinking he's 6 years old, when the kids tell him he's not really a child and has to go back to being a grown-up he gets upset, climbs up Old Rusty and strips down to his underwear for seemingly no reason. It's typical for 6-year-olds to take off their clothes when upset.
  • Shrouded in Myth: Mr. E, a substitute teacher in "The Substitute". Among other things, he's suspected of tearing down the Berlin Wall brick by brick.
  • Similar Squad: The Principal's brother runs a school with characters who are counterparts of the regular gang. There's only one Distaff Counterpart: T.J.'s opposite is a girl named C.J. For the rest of the gang, their counterparts are all race swaps (or almost all, depending on what you consider Spinelli).
  • Singing Voice Dissonance: Mikey's singing voice was performed by Robert Goulet... yet, he was initially bashful and modest about it, singing only when by himself in the bathroom - it took the efforts of a beautiful music teacher to help coax Mikey out of his shell and not be afraid to sing in public.
    • Interestingly, this is actually used as a plot device in a later episode, when a rumor about Mikey starts to swirl that ends up striking fear into other kids and they start treating him with more respect. Mikey later reveals that he started the rumor himself, by disguising his speaking voice with his singing voice.
  • Sitcom Arch-Nemesis: Lawson, to both TJ and Vince. He is often described as the arch-rival of TJ, but he doesn't really seem to single him out; however, we frequently see him butting heads specifically with Vince.
  • Sitcom Character Archetypes: With the Recess Gang:
    • The Wisecraker: T.J.
    • The Bully: Spinelli
    • The Charmer: Vince
    • The Square: Gus
    • The Dork: Gretchen
    • The Goofball: Mikey
  • Sitting on the Roof: Spinelli goes on the roof of the school in "Parents Night" after her parents embarass her in front of her friends.
  • Six-Token Band: The Recess Gang, though not as huge as other examples. We have T.J. (White, chubby, and Ambiguously Jewish), Vince (Black), Spinelli (Italian), Gretchen (White, wears glasses), Mikey (White, overweight), and Gus (White, wears glasses).
  • 65-Episode Cartoon: Thanks to Disney's episode limit. Though if counting the three episodes of Recess: Taking the Fifth Grade and the origin story in Recess: All Growed Down, the episode total is brought up to 69.
  • Skyward Scream: In various episodes, at least one or two members of the gang will do this, screaming, "!!!"
  • Slow "NO!": T.J. at the beginning of "Bad Hair Day" when Captain Sticky is about to pop Mikey's bubblegum bubble.
  • Socially Scored Society: In the episode "The Ratings Game", the popular girls start rating the other kids on the playground, which winds up overhauling the social order. TJ, a 5, can't talk to anybody with higher scores, and after he displeases the Ashleys, his rating drops into the negatives and nobody wants to talk to him.
  • Somebody Doesn't Love Raymond: One episode has T.J. trying to get a kid named Gordon to like him, only to learn by the episode's end that he can't force anybody to like him.
  • So Unfunny, It's Funny: Some of the jokes from the joke book Randall tells in "Stand Up Randall" come off as this.
  • Spaghetti Kiss: Parodied with Mikey and Kurst the Worst in "Kurst the Not So Bad". Once it's clear that they're sharing the same strand, Kurst belches and her end falls from her mouth, leaving Mikey to finish it.
  • Speaking Like Totally Teen: In "Kids in the Mist", Dr. Quilty tries talking like this to the kids in an effort to "communicate" with them.
  • Special Edition Title: In "Lawson and His Crew", when the show returned from the commercial break, a different version of the theme was shown- this time replacing the Recess Gang with Lawson and his crew. The theme song is also shortened for time (Though ABC did briefly use a shortened version of the theme to play when the show returned from a commercial break, which they did for the other shows on the One Saturday Morning block as well if running a Two Shorts format).
  • Spell My Name With An S: Gus's last name is sometimes spelled as "Griswold", in the episodes "The New Kid", "Gus's Last Stand", and "Gus's Fortune". The official spelling is Griswald, as seen on official merchandise.
    • T.J.'s last name is spelt "Detweiler", though some sites spell it as "Detwhiler"
    • Menlo's name has been spelt as "Menlow" at times.
    • Miss Grotke has about five spellings of her last name.
  • Spiritual Successor: To Rugrats, which the creators worked on before it was cancelled in 1994 (Though it was Un-Cancelled shortly before Recess premiered).
    • Fillmore! could also be considered one, as it's another Disney show where everything in school is Serious Business and Mundane Made Awesome. Spinelli even makes a cameo in one episode. Even further, it actually replaced the timeslot for Recess on ABC Kids, though both shows were in repeats by then.
    • Also Lloyd in Space, which was made by the same creators and features almost all of the same voice actors. Most notably is Lloyd, who shares the same voice as Gus (Courtland Mead).
    • The show's been considered one to Peanuts, ever since it started airing.
  • Split-Screen Reaction: The gang have this in "Lawson and His Crew". This is notably the only time in the series where this trope occurs.
  • Star-Crossed Lovers: Gus and Corn Chip Girl. His father is in the Army. Her father is in the Navy. Do the math.
  • Stealth Pun: From Spinelli when she's suddenly wracked with guilt: "Man, I feel like a bad-guy wrestler."
  • Stock Audio Clip: The Ashleys' catchphrase, "Scandalous!", as well as Gus's scream.
  • Stock Sound Effects: The school bell (Already a stock sound effect on its' own, from the Hollywood Edge's "Premiere Edition" sound library), which is used at the beginning of the theme song and in almost every episode ("Big Brother Chad", "Rainy Days", and "The Story of Whomps" use a different bell sound effect, though).
  • Strong Family Resemblance:
    • T.J. looks like his mom, Vince looks like his dad, Spinelli doesn't really look like any of her parents but looks a bit more like her mom, Gretchen looks like both of her parents, Mikey looks like his mom (and has the same hair color as his dad), Gus looks like a smaller, less rugged version of his dad (and has his mom's eyes and glasses), the Ashleys all look like their moms, and Hustler Kid looks like his dad.
    • Randall looks like a minature version of his father, only with more hair (and no pencil mustache).
  • Surprisingly Realistic Outcome:
    • The school starts a sit-in, in protest of their jungle gym, Old Rusty, about to be torn down. After their parents are called, they instead decide to join in the protest as they have many fond memories of Old Rusty as well, and since several of them actually have some pull, being apart of the PTA, and whatnot. Principal Prickly is forced to relent. Unfortunately, with all the kids and their parents, many of whom, probably weigh two to three times as much as their kids, sitting on the jungle gym, it collapses under the excess weight.
    • In the season 1 episode "Officer Mikey", Mikey Blumberg really wants to become a safety ranger, even saying that it's his dream. But after his friends go through a lot of effort to help him get into the rangers, he quits because it's too much hard work, and he says that he now has a dream of being a jet pilot. Most kids Mikey's age can't handle that kind of responsibility and have new dreams of what they want all the time; if Mikey's friends had just waited, he would have gotten over it in time without them having to go through all that effort.
    • In "Recess Is Cancelled", the Secretary of Education theorizes that eliminating recess can bring test scores up. What follows soon gives lie to said theory, as the kids become so bored that they can't even focus in class, and their test scores go down, necessitating the return of recess.
    • "The Trial" involves Randall accusing Spinelli of throwing a rock at him. When Spinelli reveals that she was saving Miss Finster's cat at the time Randall got hit by the rock, Randall is forced to fess up that he himself threw the rock and beaned himself on the head. King Bob loses no time in sentencing him to the swirlie for perjury and for wasting his time.
    • In "Big Brother Chad", the whole playground is excited to see Vince's older brother, Chad, who acted like The Ace to them during their kindergarten years, only to discover that he is in fact a nerd. Gretchen lampshades that in hindsight this makes perfect sense, since no popular self respecting fifth grader would have likely given them the time of day, just to them at such a young age, Chad still seemed cool.
    • In "The A.V. Kid", TJ and Vince stop fighting each other and work together to solve the final problem, seeming to set up The Power of Friendship... and are promptly disqualified from the position because it's a solitary job that is ill-suited to more social students.
    • In "A Genius Among Us", one of the jobs Hank rejects is working with a supercomputer at a university, and the professor angrily tells him, "That $18,000 will go to someone else!" Considering this is an elementary school that serves its teachers pheasant prepared by a private chef, it's not surprising that Hank wouldn't exactly find this offer all that tempting.
  • Swapped Roles: Mikey and Vince in "Copycat Kid". At first it's Mikey copying Vince because he wants to be more like him, while Vince copies Mikey to show him how stupid he's being.
  • Swirlie: Spinelli almost gets one in "The Trial". Randall gets it in the end
  • Swivel-Chair Antics: When T.J. wins the "Principal for a Day" drawing and first sits down in Principal Prickly's chair:
    T.J.: Wow, this is one big chair.
    Prickly: Yes it is. And it takes a big man to fill it.
    T.J.: (immediately starts spinning) WOOHOOOOOO!

  • Taken During the Ending: In Season 2 "The Game", everyone at the school becomes obsessed with a tile game called Ajimbo and it causes everyone to stop playing on the playground and only focus on playing the game. After everyone breaks out of the game's "spell", all the game pieces are thrown in the incinerator, but Gus finds one last game piece in his pocket. After T.J. throws the last piece over the fence, the game piece is found by two kids from another school who picks it up and are inspired to buy more game pieces.
  • The Talk: In "Dance Lessons", we see Miss Grotke finish up a lesson on sex (which Gordy asked her about). Granted, we don't hear the actual discussion (thanks to the TV-G rating).
  • Tastes Better Than It Looks:
    • In "Don't Ask Me," Spinelli feel she's hit on an improvement to the school cafeteria's cornbread: layering lime gelatin on it, as it works as a lubricating agent to the dry cornbread. The other kids are disgusted by this, but Gus eventually tries it out for himself, and he agrees that it actually tastes good.
    • In "Chez Vince," Vince is wrangled into improving the cafeteria food. To vat of gray mush the lunch ladies identify as, "Meat... mostly", Vince adds various different ingredients, ranging from different spices and other additives like eggs and onions. The meat still looks exactly the same, but the added ingredients to go over really well with both the students and the lunch ladies.
  • Teachers Out of School:
    • One episode involved Spinelli having to stay over at Ms. Finster's house for the weekend, discovering Finster was a close friend of her grandmother.
    • Another episode had the main six follow Ms. Grotke after school and discovered she had a secret double life performing.
    • The movie Recess: School's Out showed that the teachers were just as pleased to have summer vacation as the kids were. Principal Prickly stated his intention to spend summer on a golf course, and at the same time T.J. expressed interest in TPing the exact same golf course.
  • Team Hand-Stack: The Ashleys do this right after meeting each other as preschoolers as seen in a flashback in "Outcast Ashley".
  • 10-Minute Retirement: T.J. in "Lost Leader", giving up his position of team leader...and literaly ten minutes, as it was part B to the Two Shorts format of the episode.
  • Tertiary Sexual Characteristics:
    • The show subverts the usual cartoony way of giving all the girls eyelashes and none of the boys- neither are drawn with them. Though most of the girls of the show are drawn with fuller lips than the male characters, with the exceptions of Cornchip Girl, and actually, any female character under nine.
    • The only characters with eyelashes, actually, are Miss Grotke, Becky, and the main sixs' moms. They probably wear mascara.
  • Tie-In Novel: Tie-in novels of "The New Kid", "The Experiment", and Recess: School's Out were made during the show's run. Novelized versions of "The Break In" and "The Box" were included in One Saturday Morning compilation novels, which also included Doug and Pepper Ann.
  • Title Drop: In a few episodes:
    • "The New Kid"
    King Bob: From this day forward, Gus Griswald will only be known as the New Kid! The New Kid and nothing else!
    • "Jinxed"
    T.J.: Now here this! Gus Griswald has been jinxed!
    • "Speedy, We Hardly Knew Ye"
    T.J.: (Burying Speedy) Speedy, we hardly knew ye.
    • "I Will Kick No More Forever"
    Vince: As of this day, I'm retiring from kickball! I will kick no more forever!
    • "The Box"
    Miss Finster: Punishment has a new name, and it's name is- The Box!
    • "Mama's Girl" has the student body calling Spinelli the titular name for the entire episode.
    • "Operation Field Trip"
    Miss Finster: Operation field trip is a go- let's move, move, move!
  • Thanksgiving Episode: "The Great Can Drive", where the Recess Gang try to beat the Ashleys in the Thanksgiving canned foods drive. Later released as part of the Direct to Video Christmas movie.
  • Theme Tune Extended: There's a slightly longer version of the theme song than the one used in the show. It's never been released on an official soundtrack, but it's availiblle as sheet music. It's also played in Recess: School's Out
Digger Dave: Me, bossy? I'm not bossy! Am I bossy?
Spinelli: Jawohl, mein Kommandant.
  • Throwing Out the Script: Invoked. Mikey starts overly structuring his life and loses his knack for poetry. So his friends write on his schedule to tear up the horrible bit he had written to be performed (though not in those words). And in his anxiety, he starts winging it, winning the competition.
  • Time Zones Do Not Exist: In the episode "I Will Kick No More Forever", it is daytime in America and Ashley Q. kicks a ball to China. However, it is also shown to be daytime in China as well.
  • Title Theme Drop: During the climax of the series pilot, "The Break In", the theme song plays as the kids are working together to break T.J. out of detention.
  • Tomboyish Name: Subverted with Spinelli, a tomboy who goes by her last name because she's embarrassed about her "girly" first name, Ashley. It's especially "girly" on this show because there's a club consisting of Alpha Bitch girls with this name (who seem to equate the name with popularity), and one episode was about the consequences when the Ashleys found out her real name and forced her to join their club. Ironically, Ashley was once considered a boy's name (such as in Gone With the Wind), and some well-known guys do have Ashley as a name (like Ashley Cole). Sometimes, they go by "Ash".
  • Tomboy with a Girly Streak:
    • Gretchen may be a science nerd who has very little interest in girly things. But one episode shows her making friends with Alpha Bitch Ashley A and engaging in a few feminine past times. Her picture day outfit also has a pink bow as part of it. Her usual outfit consists of a gingham farm-girl dress and her hair in pigtails with ribbons.
    • Spinelli is a Lad-ette through and through, who despises her mother forcing her to try and be girly. However she shows that - when she's entered in a Beauty Contest against her will - she can look very fine in an evening gown when she wants to. She's also the first of the gang to get a crush.
  • Tooth Strip: The characters are usually drawn with this trope in effect, the only exceptions being when a character is making a more exaggerated facial expression.
  • Totally Radical
    • Miss Grotke often makes use of outdated slang.
  • Training Montage: Gretchen learning how to yo-yo.
  • Traumatic Haircut: The school is subjected to this in "Bad Hair Day", courtesy of TJ and Vince who convinced the school that Mikey's terrible haircut was "cool", and proceeded to give everybody the same hairdo, including the Ashleys. It does not end well for them when Spinelli and Gretchen return and expose the boys' ruse.
  • True Companions: The main six. They are usually always together, and in The Movie, when everyone except T.J. leaves for camp, he becomes depressed as a result.
  • Truth in Television: Probably what made the made the humor in the series resonate so well with different age groups. The "unwritten code" note , kids speculating what the teacher's lounge is like, claiming different areas of the playground as clubhouses, having to dress up ridiculously nice for Picture Day, and the Serious Business of kickball? All common things of Elementary School.
  • Tuckerization
    • T.J.'s original name, P.J., stood for the first initials of the creators, Paul (Germain) and Joe (Ansolabehere). Before animation was done on the pilot, his name was changed for unknown reasons.
    • Mikey's last name, Blumberg, comes from Barry Blumberg, a producer at Walt Disney Television who convinced the executives to give the show the greenlight.
    • In a fantasy sequence in "The Lost Ball", Paul Germain's son, Thomas Germain, was mentioned.
    • One of the science teachers in the show is named Mr. Germain.
    • In "The Challenge", the landscaping crew that came to the school was "Paul & Joe's Landscaping".
    • "Paul and Joe" are once referenced as undesirable names.
  • Tunnel King: The Diggers are two boys who have enjoyed digging holes since kindergartern. In the first episode, they end up digging a hole all the way to Beijing.
  • Two Girls to a Team: Gretchen and Spinelli are the only girls in the main six.
  • Underwear Flag: In one episode, TJ and his friends remove the flag from the top of the Ashleys' clubhouse and replace it with Miss Finster's underpants.
  • Unexpected Kindness: "No Strings Attached," the Ashleys offer Spinelli six front-row tickets to a major wrestling event in town. Spinelli and the rest of the Recess Gang suspect a trick and spend the whole day trying to figure out what the Ashleys are plotting. Eventually, Mikey and Gus decide that it's just them being nice and take the tickets, while Spinelli, T.J., Vince, and Gretchen continue their investigation. Unfortunately, after breaking into the Ashleys' secret clubhouse, the four discover that the girls genuinely did want to give Spinelli the tickets, as their "official code" declares that any gifts they don't want must be shared with someone else named Ashley—which is Spinelli's first name. The quartet ends up trapped in the clubhouse while Mikey, Gus, Miss Finster, and some kindergarteners have a blast at the wrestling show.
  • Unexpectedly Dark Episode: Despite being a light-hearted show about group of kids and their adventures at school, there were a few dark and serious episodes:
  • "Prickly Is Leaving". We were introduced to Dr. Slicer, the most evil villain in the series, who employed cruel and unusual tactics to control the school and, unlike Finster or Prickly, only cared about power without regard for the students' welfare. His behavior even disgusted Miss Finster, and TJ (who was never afraid to stand up to adults before or since) was completely scared of him. He was ousted in the end, but consider this: Third Street wasn't the first school he was principal of, and likely would not be the last.
  • "The Biggest Trouble Ever" is a Wham Episode for the series. It involves the gang accidentally breaking the statue of Thaddeus T. Third III and become the town's most hated people. Ms. Finster punishes them by making them work menial jobs. But the real reason why the episode is so dark is what happens later: Mayor Fitzhugh, the mayor of Third Street, decides to send the Recess Gang to six separate schools, even though they were remorseful and Prickly and Ms. Finster objected. Throughout the episode, Fitzhugh looked very gleefully sadistic about the whole thing, and only relented when Third's own grandson, demanding that they be pardoned, threatened to expose Fitzhugh's own (deliberate) past misbehavior regarding the statue.
  • The Halloween episode which is non-canon, does a parody of both Christine and Maximum Overdrive, adult horror novels. The episode is presented quite well in a very creepy atmosphere, with Mikey's Bike coming to life and stalking him, then all the other vehicles in the city. The ending shows everyone cramming into a driverless bus, which drives off with everyone trapped inside. And just ends there. It never said what happened next, but it's obviously implied that everyone is going to be killed offscreen.
  • Unnamed Parent: Most of the kids' parents, save for Spinelli's parents (Bob and Flo), Gretchen's parents (Phil and Doris), T.J.'s mom (Ellie), Gus' mom (Madge), and Randall's dad (Leonard).
  • Unusual Euphemism:
    • "This whomps!" - a phrase T.J. invented so he would never get in trouble for swearing.
    • As well as "froopin'", but not as often.
    • And "What the hang?"
    • The adults tend to exclaim "Good sweet Mike!" One time Mikey exclaimed "Good sweet me!"
  • Used to Be a Sweet Kid: In "The Biggest Trouble Ever," Thaddeus T. Third V shows some old photos of Miss Finster and Principal Prickly playing on the statue of his grandfather, Thaddeus T. Third III, when they were preteens (Prickly being in sixth grade when his photo was taken). There are other hints of Prickly being this trope throughout the series, most notably in "The Hypnotist" and "Buried Treasure."

  • Vacation Episode: The Lilo & Stitch: The Series crossover, where the gang go to Hawaii.
  • Valentine's Day Episodes: "That Stinking Feeling" and "My Funny Valentines" (Both were paired up together). "That Stinking Feeling" was about Spinelli's crush on a boy, while "My Funny Valentines" (which is the more official Valentines episode) was about T.J. making joke Valentine cards for the girls of the school, but with them thinking that he had crushes on him. Ship Tease ensued between T.J. and Spinelli (again). Oddly enough, the episode didn't air anywhere near the holiday (though the show is usually in its off-season in February)
  • Vertigo Effect: On Gretchen in "The Girl Was Trouble" when she finds out that she needs to talk to Kurst the Worst in order to get her Galileo computer back.
  • Very Special Episode:
    • "Bonky Fever", about Mikey's addiction to the children's character, Bonky the Dragon note . It plays out very much like a drug addiction episode.
    • "Gus and Misdemeanors", which centered on Gus having to steal candy from Kelso's store for Mundy and his gang, and is wracked with guilt.
  • Vocal Dissonance: Back in the day, Miss Finster was a very attractive young woman, but she had the same raspy voice that she has currently.
  • Vocal Evolution: Because the kids in the show are all voiced by real kids, their voices ended up getting lower throught the show's run. Vince's voice broke half-way through the first season, Mikey's voice got a little lower in season three (and then completely broke in the 2003 DTV movies), Gus, Randall, and Digger Dave all had lower voices in the DTV movies, and Digger Sam's voice broke in the DTV movie Taking the Fifth Grade (due to this, we never hear him speak in All Growed Down). It was lampshaded at the end of the movie:
    Digger Sam: My voice! What happened to my voice?
    • Gus also had a slight lisp in some of the early episodes, as Courtland Mead had one at the time.
    • Averted with T.J., unlike the other male characters. Because the creators wanted his voice to always sound cute and youthful, he was replaced three times.
    • Miss Finster was less sinister sounding in the early episodes of season one.
    • When T.J.'s mom first appeared in "Parents Night", she had a higher voice (Similar to the one April Winchell uses for Peg Pete or Lydia Pearson). For the rest of the series (And movies), April Winchell used her natural voice for her.
  • Walk Through the Camera: Mikey in "The Voice" when he's trying to show the rest of the gang that Miss Salamone, the music teacher he developed a crush on, liked him back. He comes in as soon as she accepts her fiance's proposal.
  • The Walls Are Closing In: In "The Box", when T.J. is going insane after being sent to the said punishement (a square drawn on the blacktop), he imagines it going underground and having the walls begin to close in on him.
  • Wanting Is Better Than Having: One episode had the kids build a cool fort to hang out in, only to have it promptly stolen from them by bullies. After spending the whole episode trying to win it back, afterwards they realize that it was more fun trying to take back the fort than actually hanging out in it. They promptly call up the bullies to try and take it back from them.
  • Welcome Episode: "The New Kid", for Gus, and as a rare example, aired as episode 1B (first episode; second story after the commercial break).
  • We Used to Be Friends: T.J. and Menlo, of all people used to be friends. However, even though they don't hang out anymore, they made an agreement that T.J. would come to Menlo's birthday party every year.
    • Given that in the episode "Principal for a Day" it was revealed that Menlo used to be more rowdy than T.J. they may have originally shared more in common.
  • Wham Episode: "The Biggest Trouble Ever", where the gang accidentally breaks a priceless statue and become town scapegoats, to the point where the Smug Snake of a Mayor plans to break them up and send them to six different schools. Sure, you know it'll be resolved and nothing will change, but it's easily the most dramatic story Recess ever did.
  • Wham Line: From "Parents' Night"
    Flo Spinelli: ...And you must be B.J.- he's the one our little honey-bunny [Spinelli] has the crush on!
    • One was used in-universe by the characters during the Senior Fusion competition between T.J. and Principal Prickly.
    Prickly: What was the name of Senior Fusion's one and only sidekick?
    Spinelli: SIDEKICK!?!? I never even knew he had a sidekick!!
    • From "Lord of the Nerds", when Lawson is about to get into a fight with Frank, one of the Pale Kids; the episode had an urban legend mentioned early on about a kid named Tiny Sedgewick, who was sent to the room the Pale Kids hang out in and never returned from it. When Lawson declares to Frank that he's going to do to Frank what he believes Frank did to Sedgewick, the other Pale Kids start laughing. When he expresses confusion, Frank responds thusly...
    Frank: I am Tiny Sedgewick!
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Johnny V. is never seen again after the events of "That Stinking Feeling". Neither is Becky Benson from "A Science Fair to Remember", nor is Lance the Pants from "The A.V. Kid". Most of the one-shot kids usually move away after their debut, but it's unknown what happened to these three.
  • Where the Hell Is Springfield?: The unnamed city the show takes place in never has a proper location revealed. The closest we get is a set of coordinates in one episode, which apparently puts it somewhere in the Pittsburgh area- and that's not likely, as the city skyline (the few times we see it) doesn't resemble Pittsburgh in any way, and the climate is far too mild for the area (rarely getting snow, getting a heat wave once). And the fact that another episode has the kids take the Arkansas Standard Achievement Test makes the location of Third Street School even more ambiguous.
  • Whip Pan: In the theme song, where it whip pans from T.J. playing cards with a few background students to Randall writing something in his notebook.
  • Why Are You Not My Daughter?: "More Like Gretchen." As the title suggests, Gretchen spends the day with Spinelli and her parents, and easily wins the adults over with her wide knowledge base and polite manners. Mr. and Mrs. Spinelli repeatedly wonder aloud why Spinelli herself can't be more like Gretchen. It's promptly deconstructed when Spinelli is shown to be deeply upset by her parents' words, and Gretchen tries to make things right by acting more like Spinelli the next day.
  • Wide Eyes And Shrunken Pupils: This is how the characters are usually drawn when they're scared or shocked.
  • With Great Power Comes Great Insanity: Gus in "King Gus" and "Hustler's Apprentice", and TJ in "Principal For A Day" and "Economics Of Recess". And "Pharaoh Bob" to an extent but he already had great power, he just overdid the ego.
  • Wolverine Publicity: Being the highest rated and most popular show on One Saturday Morning (and Disney's One Too), T.J. and the gang were always front and center and the most prominent on every advertisement, print or on TV, for the blocks. To the point where it continued even after Recess had aired its' final episode.
    • Spinelli and Gus got this type of publicity during Recess promos on Toon Disney, overshadowing Mikey, Vince, Gretchen, and T.J.. Though this is somewhat justified as Spinelli and Gus were only second behind T.J. as the most popular and iconic characters of the series (The three were the most prominant on every promotional item released since the 1990s), and it would've been too difficult for T.J. to get new dialogue written for the promos due to Andrew Lawrence's voice breaking (And possibly Myles Jeffrey's depending on when they were recorded), and it was easier with Gus and Spinelli because Courtland Mead's voice hadn't had broke yet for Gus, and Pamela Adlon was already an adult when she began voicing Spinelli so her voice would never have broken. Once Courtland Mead's voice broke, Spinelli took front-and-center on almost every promo for the show until Toon Disney's demise in 2009.
  • Worthy Opponent: Vince and Gretchen treat each other as such in "The Candidates" when they run against each other for class president. Gretchen even uses the phrase at the end, after she wins the election because Vince votes for her.
  • Wrench Wench: Spinelli and Gretchen. Spinelli was taught by her older brother how to work on cars, and when the bus broke down "Operation Field Trip," she and Gretchen were the ones who fixed the engine. "Regular, or ratchet?"
  • Writers Cannot Do Math: Deliberately invoked in "The C-Note." Upon finding the eponymous $100 bill, T.J. and his friends decide to split the money six ways, and envision spending the "fortune" on elaborate things like a yacht (Vince), research to cure all diseases (Gretchen), and jet packs (everyone). Any adult viewer (or even teenage viewer) quickly realizes that the kids would only be getting about $16.67 each, but that's the point—as kids, the Gang automatically assumes that any large amount of money equals immediate wealth.
  • Wrong Genre Savvy: "No Strings Attached". The Ashleys give Spinelli six tickets to a wrestling match. Knowing what the Ashleys are like, Spinelli and the others become suspicious, and when Mikey and Gus decide that the tickets are real, the rest of the gang dismiss the idea as naïve. By the time they find out that Mikey and Gus were right all along, they end up locked inside the Ashley's clubhouse....

  • You Are Fat:
    • Randall is so jealous at how popular T.J. (who's pretty chubby) is, which makes him pull a I Just Want to Be You mixed with Kick the Dog rant to him, which includes this trope.
      Randall: Look at you! You're fat, you're ugly, you wear that filthy jacket... but everyone wants to play with you!
    • Mikey can be a target of this as well. (Randall's "humor" routine in one episode uses Mikey's weight as the constant punchline.)
    • In "The Ratings Game", out of all characters, Gretchen becomes a target of this trope by a group of tall, skinny fifth or sixth grade girls. What makes it funny was that Gretchen was even skinnier than them!
  • You Are Grounded!: Vince towards the end of "Me No Know" after seeing a movie his parents forbid him from seeing.
  • You Are Too Late: By the time the gang arrived in the cafeteria to break T.J. out of detention in "The Break In", T.J. broke himself out, and shortly after, recess ended.
  • You Meddling Kids: In the Barnaby boys episode, the janitor that the gang follows turns out to be a criminal and responds with "I would have gotten away with it too if it weren't for you meddling kids" after Spinelli shows up with the police.
  • You Never Asked: The Cool Old Lady who has had balls flying into her yard for years has always wondered why none of the kids bothered coming to her front door and asking for their balls back.
  • You Won't Like How I Taste: Parodied. T.J. is captured by the kindergarteners, and then Captain Sticky goes up to him and says, "You Food!". T.J.'s response (While trying to "communicate" with them by speaking like them), "Me? Food? No! Me taste bad! Yucky poo-poo!". It turned out they wanted to give him food.
  • Your Approval Fills Me with Shame: Spinelli questions taking part in a beauty contest after one of the Ashleys tells her approvingly that she is now just like them instead of a "regular low-class kid".
  • Your Tomcat Is Pregnant: Happened in one episode. Turned out Stuart was a Stella.
  • Zany Scheme: T.J. and the gang pull one off in almost every episode. In one episode TJ even suffers Heroic BSoD because his schemes fail. He gets better after the gang prove that none of their plans work without him.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Recess All Growed Down, Recess Christmas Miracle On Third Street


Mikey's Bonky Birthday Party

T.J. and his friends are appalled that their friend Mikey is having a birthday party themed to a kiddie show character, and take drastic measures to snap him out of his Bonky obsession, even if it means ruining the party for him.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (5 votes)

Example of:

Main / BirthdayPartyGoesWrong

Media sources: