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Western Animation / Stressed Eric

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Life can be stressful, sometimes.
"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 animated series, and arguably one of the darkest shows ever made in this category. The series lasted for 13 episodes, broadcast in two seasons. The first season was broadcast in 1997, the second in 1999. The first series (but not the second) was co-produced by Klasky-Csupo.

Eric is a divorced father of two. He is 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. His 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 still has a personal secretary, Alison Scabie. Unfortunately for him, she provides no actual help. She 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.
  • Ambiguous Ending: The last 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 the Maria's job, driving a tank. The episode ends with them all screaming.
  • Big Eater: Brian will eat almost everything from VHSes to people's hair.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: The Perfects! Oh boy, the Perfects!
  • British Brevity: The show lasted for 13 episodes.
  • Butt-Monkey: Eric. Oh dear God.
  • Catch-Phrase:
    • 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!
    • Mr. Perfect: I will AWAY!!!
    • Mrs. Perfect: Ah, Eric!, Hello, Eric. How art thou?
    • P.P. bribing Mr. Perfect's job: Catch you later, hero!
    • Doc: Relaaaaaaaaaaaaax.
  • 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!"
  • 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 stess 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! Although when the first season was shown 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.)
  • Door-to-Door Episode: In the first 1999 episode, Liz does this to create a fanbase for the hedgehogs. Everyone refuses.
  • 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.)
  • 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.
  • 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, because you don't have to kill anyone off forever in fiction!
  • Once per Episode:
    • The old lady's green letter dropping into the sewer.
    • Eric's head vein choking him by episode's end.
  • 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... shortly before the episode ends.
  • 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.
  • Suicide as Comedy: In "Pony", an entry in Claire's diary implied she was going to die, because she's never going to get a pony.
  • Vomit Discretion Shot: In the first opening when Eric finds Maria hungover.
  • Yank the Dog's Chain: An incredibly dark example to boot.
    • Really any time things seem to be going well for Eric you can expect it not to last long.
    • "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. Although this is a prime example of Ambiguous Ending.