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Western Animation / Stressed Eric

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Eric, relax.

Think modern life is stressful? Well, just be thankful that you're not Eric Feeble, the perpetually struggling, forty-something and unfortunate star of this short-lived British Black Comedy animated series, and arguably one of the darkest shows ever made in this category. The series lasted for 13 episodes over two seasons, both broadcast on BBC Two in 1998 and 2000, respectively;note  the first season (but not the second) was co-produced by Klasky-Csupo.

Eric is a divorced father of two and the primary caregiver for both of his kids...which is a stressful duty. Brian, Eric's son, seems to have a learning disability; he is 9 to 10 years old, but has already flunked classes for three years. He doesn't speak at all, wanders aimlessly, and has a tendency to place random items into his mouth. Claire, Eric's daughter, is notably frail; she is 6 years old and her immune system is hypersensitive. She has allergic reactions to just about everything, and has to eat special regulation food. Which doesn't stop her from craving for regular food. Maria, their Portuguese au-pair, is alcoholic. Eric's ex-wife Liz currently lives with another man, and tries to rediscover herself through following New Age ideas, which doesn't prevent her from incessantly calling Eric when she feels like it.

The work environment of Eric isn't much better. His office is sandwiched between the janitor's closet and the men's toilets. Paul Power, his boss, is a very demanding individual. Never satisfied with Eric's work, Mr. Power has demoted him in previous occasions and is always ready to press him further. Eric also has his personal secretary Alison Scabie; unfortunately for him, she provides no actual help, and treats the office line as her personal phone, speaking constantly with her friends, leaving Eric saddled with her work as well as his own.

Eric has an additional reason to feel like a failure. He compares himself to neighbor Ray Perfect, a man who seems to have the perfect family and a great career. Eric finds himself needing the assistance of Doc, his family doctor, who is ready to provide with plenty of medication. Too bad said medication has nothing to do with his stress.

Tropes featured include:

  • The Ace: Eric's next-door neighbors, the Perfect family.
  • The Alcoholic: Maria and, in a few episodes, some of the issues come from her Alcohol-Induced Idiocy (one example comes from when she accidentally sets the house ablaze). According to one episode, she uses booze as a perfume; in another, she only goes to church for the communion wine. And in "Tidy", when she gets caught by the police, she claimed she started drinking when she was 12. Au Pair has her recovering from her alcoholism as a plot point.
  • Alternative Foreign Theme Song: The U.S. version had a completely different theme tune and sequence. When the original creators saw it, they went, "Who wrote this shit?!"
  • Ambiguous Ending: In the episode, "Au Pair", does this. Instead of Eric's temple choking him as usual, he and Maria find themselves cornered by one of the failed applicants for Maria's job, driving a tank. The episode ends with them all screaming. Turns out they live in the next episode.
  • Art Evolution: Season 2 switched to digital coloring, and also had a slightly different animation style, due to the changes in animation studios.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: The Perfects! Oh boy, the Perfects!
  • Brick Joke: Brian fails to earn any badges on Cub camp due to his habit of using his mouth for everything ... only to be the one who acts first to successfully give CPR to the leader when he collapses. This earns him the First Aid badge. When asked what he did to earn it at the end of the episode, he demonstrates on Claire's friend Julie ... provoking a truly massive allergic reaction.
  • British Brevity: The show lasted for 13 episodes.
  • Butt-Monkey: Eric. Oh dear God.
    • Mrs. Wilson, though nowhere near as bad as Eric, can never get her envelope in the post box, which always ends up down the sewer. And even when she does manage to get it in there, it never manages to stay in.
  • Catchphrase:
    • Maria: "Oh, go, please!"
    • Mrs. Wilson: "Morning\Afternoon\Evening, Mr. Eric. Just\Still off to the post". Sometimes it's "Nearly there!" (especially at night) "In you go, you little monkey!"
    • Alison: "I'm busy!", "So I said/He said/She said"
    • Mr. Perfect: "I will AWAY!!!"
    • Mrs. Perfect: "Ah, Eric!", "Hello, Eric. How art thou?" (in a patronizing manner)
    • P.P. bribing Mr. Perfect's job: "Catch you later, hero!"
    • Doc: "Eric, relaaaaaaaaaaaaax."
  • Cartoon Throbbing: Eric's forehead vein is shown throbbing throughout each episode, until it pops out and strangles him at the end.
  • Cloudcuckoolander: The cleaning lady at Eric's work throws out all his work at the end of each day while singing "La la la-la laaah, stick it in the bin!"
    • Liz is known to be out there with her New Age mindset. Who else tries to make a fanbase for hedgehogs? And there's her husband Caleb.
  • Cross-Popping Veins: Eric gets them several times an episode. At the end, they get so bad that they grab him by his throat! Lampshaded in "Pony" when Claire's diary says that she is too scared to ask Eric, because of his stress vein.
  • Cultural Translation: Yes, The BBC have broadcast Dino Babies, Little Bear, and Bucky O'Hare and the Toad Wars! with the American voices still intact, but Stressed Eric? The cartoon was made by Klasky-Csupo (creators of Rugrats and The Wild Thornberrys), but it was the BBC that chose the voice acting for the characters and the setting in it!
    • When the first season aired on NBC in the US, Eric was revoiced by Hank Azaria (all the other voices remained). Also, production went to a different company for its second season (which has never been repeated on British television).
    • "Pony" has Eric reading Claire's note about wanting to participate in the school gymkhana (equestrian events). In the American dub, Claire's voice-over adds an explanatory "England's greatest horse show" even though those words are not in the note.
  • Deliberately Cute Child: Claire, in some instances, acts cute, to get what she wants.
  • The Ditz: Brian. Besides being held back in school for three years, in much of his scenes, he's bordering on Too Dumb to Live, as he's often nomming on something he's not supposed to.
  • Door-to-Door Episode: In the first Season 2 episode, Liz does this to create a fanbase for the hedgehogs. Everyone refuses.
  • Elmuh Fudd Syndwome: Being six years old, Claire talks like this, though it's not as pronounced, except for when she swells up from her allergies.
  • Everyone Calls Him "Barkeep": Doc's real name isn't said.
  • Express Lane Limit: One episode has three such lanes: "Less than ten items but more than four", "less than four items but more than one", and "one item or less" (which Eric promptly uses to checkout one potato.)
  • Extreme Omnivore: Brian will eat almost everything from VHSes to people's hair to fire blankets. Apparently, he has a pica.
  • Failure Hero: Eric never seems to succeed at anything. And after watching the first few episodes, it becomes easier to predict how the episode is going to end for Eric.
  • Girlish Pigtails: Claire wears these in her red hair.
  • Granola Girl: Liz, besides being eccentric and selfish, she acts like this and, once, tried and failed to rally a fanbase for hedgehogs.
  • Hypocritical Humour: Liz will often call Eric selfish when he tries to ask her for a favour. See It's All About Me.
  • Idiosyncratic Episode Naming: This is another member of the One Word Episode Title club (see also Lou Grant, Smallville, The Secret Circle, Revenge, Rosie & Jim, The Young Ones and Tots TV).
  • Instrumental Theme Tune: Both the U.K. and the U.S. versions are instrumentals.
  • It's All About Me: Liz, who refuses to take any time out of her schedule to help Eric with the kids.
  • Jerkass: Just about every character in the show, except for Eric, his kids, and Mrs. Wilson, is a thoroughly unlikable, unsympathetic asshole who you would want nothing to do with.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Maria can be nice but, mostly, she's a jerk who cares mostly about her booze. When she's rehabilitated in Au Pair, she becomes nicer.
  • Kafka Komedy: Eric Feeble can't catch a break. Ever (unless you count the ending of the final episode, which is ambiguous).
  • Lighter and Softer: While both seasons feature bad luck for Eric Feeble, the second season isn't so relentlessly oppressive towards its main character.
  • Meaningful Name: The Feebles and the Perfects.
  • Minor Injury Overreaction: In the "Hospital" episode, Mrs. Perfect is flown by helicopter to the hospital and is given priority because she's a private patient. Her condition?
    Doctor: We've got a broken fingernail!
  • Motor Mouth: Allison, when she's on the phone. It can just about be made out what she is saying after "So I said".
  • Naked Apron: Both doc and his girlfriend wear one in "Potato".
  • Nice Guy: Eric is probably the nicest character in the series, which makes his suffering a lot worse than it has to be.
    • Mrs. Wilson is second to Eric, as she seems to be a kind old lady who doesn't show hostility to him at all, always greeting him before taking her time to post a letter.
  • No Ending: Uses this trope a lot because of Eric's stress killing him.
  • Not Quite Dead: In "Pony", Eric comes home to see that Brian's hair is alight after he eats a chemistry set, but later in the episode, he's alive and well.
  • Once per Episode:
    • Mrs. Wilson's green letter dropping into the sewer. Many of them are seen floating down the sewage water in "Tidy".
    • Eric's head vein choking him by episode's end.
  • Photo Montage: The U.S. version's intro is done in this style, showing the timeline of Eric ever since moving to England.
  • Potty Emergency: "Bursting" centers around him trying to find a bathroom but failing, eventually he has to go in a water fountain.
  • Re-Release Soundtrack: The U.S. theme music is completely different from the original U.K. theme.
  • Running Gag: In "Drool", Mr. Power drooling and saying it's "just a little excess saliva".
  • Sadist Show: Probably the animated king of this trope, as much of the show mostly has Eric being tortured by the plot/other characters until his vein strangles him. Even when something does go right, something comes along to ruin it for him.
  • Same Language Dub: For US airings, Eric's lines were dubbed over by Hank Azaria, making Eric an American living in Britain.
  • Scout-Out: Averted - Brian is a member of the Cub Scouts, the actual junior section of the Scouts. The uniform, however, is distinctly old-fashioned, probably due to Rule of Funny.
  • Seriously Scruffy: Plays this trope for laughs with Eric. As he gets more stressed, the vein on his temple throbs until it eventually bursts out and strangles him. Naturally, his environment tends to be rather cluttered, too.
  • She Cleans Up Nicely: Maria, on the one occasion she makes an effort.
  • Ship Tease: In "Au Pair", it's hinted Eric and the newly rehabilitated Maria may become an item (despite their age gap) ... shortly before the episode ends.
    • Eric also has a thing for Julie‚Äôs mum, Mrs Shackleton. Having previously become exasperated with her on the phone, when he meets her in person he finds that not only is she rather attractive, she's very much a female version of him - a stressed-out single parent who is barely able to cope with raising a child who is allergic to just about everything.
  • Strictly Formula: The first season was very much this: Eric is faced with a looming deadline (typically work-related), tries to meet it, but the whole world prevents him from doing so. The second season was far less formulaic. However, both seasons still ended each episode with Eric's head vein choking him by the episode's end (an exception is "Au Pair", which ends with a rival maid pointing a tank at Eric and the family, and the four screaming).
  • Subverted Catchphrase: In one episode, Eric has rats in his house and asks Doc what he should do. Instead of telling Eric to relax (like he usually does), Doc says to panic.
  • The Alleged Steed: Subverted with Dobbin in "Pony". Dobbin, a donkey(which the seller lies and says is a horse which Eric gets for Claire) at first seems to be slow and weak. Given a serum from Brian's chemistry set, he begins to show great prowess at the event at Claire's school with the other ponies, showing up the Perfect Family. Then it backfires when Dobbin explodes into Ludicrous Gibs.
  • They Killed Kenny Again: Eric dies of stress at the end of almost every episode.
  • The Voiceless: Brian never speaks, outside of odd noises.
  • Vomit Discretion Shot: In the first opening and the beginning of the first episode when Eric finds Maria hungover.
  • Yank the Dog's Chain: An incredibly dark example to boot. Whenever something does go Eric's way, it only lasts at least a minute before someone or something ruins it for him. And then comes the vein.
    • "Au Pair" ends with Maria finally getting her act together, only for her and the rest of the family to be possibly killed by one of the failed auditionees for her job. Turns they didn't die since they all alive in the next episode. Although this is a prime example of Ambiguous Ending and Out of Order ("Au Pair" was the last episode produced, but it aired before "Drool").


Video Example(s):



Eric's boss P.P. angrily yelling his last name was recycled three times throughout the first season. First in "Sex" for not giving the speech Eric was told to do, the second in "Hospital" when Eric lied to him that he was at a funeral instead of work but rather the hospital (although Eric's boss Alison mentioned that he went to the dentist not a funeral) and third for not tidying up the office well which causes the Japanese businessman (just before he can make a deal for the company) to fall out of the window safely but eventually was killed by a car and an ambulance just a few moments later (not shown here).

How well does it match the trope?

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