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Western Animation / The PJs

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Thurgood Stubbs and other tenants of the projects.

"Once upon a time, in the projects..."
Narrator in the opening sequence

The PJs (Short for "The Projects") is a Stop Motion television sitcom created by Eddie Murphy, Larry Wilmore, and Steve Tompkins, and produced for Imagine Television and Touchstone Television. The show centers around Thurgood Stubbs (voiced by Murphy in the first two seasons, Phil Morris in the third season), the superintendent of a housing project in a fictional city modeled after Chicago. It is best remembered for its unique use of claymationnote  when most animated primetime shows still relied on hand-drawn animation.

It lasted for two seasons on FOX, after which the show was canceled. Then, The WB swooped in and gave the show one more season before it was canceled for good due to high production costs.

The third season of The PJs had a number of major changes in production, with the most notable being the recasting of Thurgood Stubbs due to Murphy leaving the series over contractual disputes, as well being involved in other projects at the time. Other notable changes include smaller production budget, outsourcing from Will Vinton Studios to Charged Productions, and Disney having no involvement in the third season, as they were uninterested in making a third season. As a consequence, the season was co-produced by The WB's production arm Warner Bros. Television in Disney's place (Warner Bros. eventually agreed to give the rights to the third season to Disney in order to settle ownership claims).

Not to be confused with characters wearing PJs.

This stop motion animated series provides examples of:

  • Ashes to Crashes: While demonstrating his new cleaning solution in "Miracle Cleaner on 134th Street", Thurgood intentionally dumps the ashes of Sanchez's late wife onto Sanchez's floor, then cleans them up with the solution.
    Thurgood: Don't you worry Sanchez, she's in a much cleaner place now.
  • Big Eater: Juicy. In early episodes his mother has to affix a "Do Not Feed" sign on him when he goes out. This is ironic, as both his parents are so fat they literally can't leave their apartment (though perhaps they were hoping he wouldn't reach their extreme state).
  • Black Dude Dies First: Inverted in the episode "Robbin' HUD" where a one-shot Token White character is the first and only one to die.
  • Butt-Monkey: Emilio Sanchez, who's by far the biggest whipping boy in the entire projects.
  • Camp Gay: Tarnel
  • Christmas Episode: "How the Super Stoled Christmas". See below.
  • Clip Show: One episode served as one, with "Clip Show" even being the title. Notably, the episode wasn't aired until after the series' cancellation.
  • Comically Missing the Point: In "Miracle Cleaner On 134th Street", Thurgood isn't getting that the Corrupt Corporate Executive wants him to keep quiet about the addictive additive in Thurgood's cleaning spray until he explicitly stated it.
  • Couch Gag: The subtitle for the HUD building changes with every appearance.
  • Dagwood Sandwich: In the episode "A Hero Ain't Nothing But a Super" Thurgood contemplates eating one before compacting it to fit his mouth. But then he says. "Muriel, I think the mayonnaise has gone bad."
  • Deep-Fried Whatever: While Thurgood already loves his fried food, it's taken to a comical extreme in "He's Got To Have It", when he's trying to get his blood pressure up to qualify for a drug trial, and Muriel serves him a meal consisting of "chicken-fried steak fried chicken, beer-battered fish (no fish, extra batter), and a fried salad".
  • Depending on the Writer:
    • Sometimes the characters try to be upstanding citizens and hate being associated with ghetto stereotypes, and other times they happily embody those stereotypes to a T.
    • Sometimes the tenants of the Hilton-Jacobs are a close knit group and other times they hate one another.
  • Economy Cast: The Hilton-Jacobs housing projects is a large, multi-story building that's part of a complex of three other buildings. And yet we never see anyone besides the dozen or so characters that make up the main cast (aside from some brief glimpses of other tenants in the Christmas Episode).
  • E = MC Hammer: Actually written by Thurgood in an attempt to prepare for school. His second attempt read, "E=McNuggets"
  • The Faceless:
    • The Corrupt Corporate Executive in "Miracle Cleaner On 134th Street".
    • Also the recurring HUD-lady that is mean to Thurgood, but quite pleasant to Muriel.
    • Rasta Man, who is often either behind a door or covered up by his familiar cloud of ganja smoke.
  • Fat Best Friend: Juicy.
  • Golden Snitch: The gumbo contest from "Operation Gumbo Drop"; the contest has several events, including a quiz, artistic interpretation and a stage show, all of which Thurgood dominates... only for the final event, the gumbo cook-off, to make up 95% of the total score, making the rest of the competition a complete waste of time.
  • Hated by All: Just about every adult in the projects sans Muriel hates Thurgood's guts.
  • Hidden Disdain Reveal: In "Survival: In tha hood" Mrs. Avery goes into what seems to be a hours long rant over how she completely hates Calvin while mistaking Juicy for him.
  • Hollywood Voodoo: Haiti Lady. Whether or not her magic actually works varies by episode. It works fine for quick gags, but not when it could affect the plot.
  • How the Character Stole Christmas: In "How the Super Stoled Christmas" Thurgood becomes a repo man so he can earn enough money to buy his wife a computer. Since residents of the projects have recently quit paying their bills on new items, his job becomes quite easy.
  • In-Series Nickname: Several.
    • Muriel calls Thurgood "Goodie" on occasion. The other tenants (and Smokey) refer to him as "Super."
    • "Smokey" itself is one; his real name is Elister. Thurgood tends to call him "Crackhead", and called him "Mr. Crack" and "Mr. Crackhead" in early episodes.
    • Garcelle Dupree, a Haitian mambo, is usually referred to as "Haiti Lady", though she tends to take offense to that name.
  • It's All About Me:
    • Thurgood. It's not uncommon for him to ruin good opportunities for the other tenants just because it disagrees with him in some way.
    • Played with in the episode where Muriel beats down a criminal (including shoving a hot comb up his ass) and has him arrested, but everyone thinks it was Thurgood. He goes along with it because the tenants are actually respecting him for the first time, but then the criminal's brother comes looking for revenge and kidnaps him. Muriel sees them but doesn't realize the situation, and casually brags about beating down that crook. Thurgood begs the brother not to listen to her and that he was the one who did it. She outshouts him...Gilligan Cut to her tied up along with him.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: While Thurgood's laziness doesn't help, his argument that he has very few resources for the upkeep of the Hilton Jacobs building is absolutely true; HUD gives him little to work with (to the point where he had to resort to burglary just to get a new water filter in one episode), and the fact that they live in a crime-ridden ghetto means that many of the improvements Thurgood could do to the building would just be stolen, as seen in "The Door".
  • Just For Pun: Most of the episode titles, including "Hangin' with Mr. Super", "Cliffhangin' with Mr. Super", and "National Buffoon's European Vacation".
  • Law of Inverse Fertility: Despite being married for decades and Muriel's blatant sex drive, Thurgood and Muriel have no children due to Thurgood having "lazy sperm" that causes a level of impotence according to Muriel. However, Thurgood did manage to unintentionally impregnate Muriel's sister after accidentally sleeping with her while drunk.
  • Lighter and Softer: By a very slim margin, but the show toned down quite a bit of its humor for its move to the WB in the third season.
  • Limited Wardrobe: Outside of special occasions, the characters always wear the same outfits.
  • Made of Iron: Mrs. Avery has a stroke at least Once an Episode, and is still kicking.
  • N-Word Privileges: Played with in "The HJs" when Juicy finds a copy of Bicentennial Nigger in the radio station, Thurgood complains that they can't even say the name of the album, let alone play it, because of "African-American pleas" while the cover itself is given some screen time completely intact.
  • New Year Has Come: Season 3's "Scarthroat". When Sanchez becomes the only resident of the projects to prepare for Y2K, Thurgood and the other residents have to take his rations of supplies when a power outage and food shortage hits the projects.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: One-shot character Deke "The Physique" Van Owen, the ex-professional wrestler turned senator in "Let's Get Ready to Crumble", is based on Jesse "The Body" Ventura.
  • No OSHA Compliance: One of the biggest sources of comedy in the series, especially in the first two seasons. The Hilton-Jacobs projects are almost 60 years old, and have barely seen any upkeep during that time, not helped by HUD's shoestring budgets and Thurgood's laziness. It has features such as ventilation pipes held on by tape, ledges held on by gum, doors put up with plastic twist ties, asbestos insulation, safety levers held in place with paint cans, and a nuclear-powered furnace, which almost went critical in one episode.
  • Nutritional Nightmare: Intentionally invoked with Thurgood's deepfried dinner in "He's Gotta Have It", but also applies to his regular diet, such as deep-fried smothered pork chop sandwiches, and chocolate milk made with Coco Puffs.
  • Obstructive Bureaucrat: Thurgood can never get resources he wants/needs out of the lady behind the window at the HUD. She always ends sentences to him with "NEXT!" even if there's nobody in line behind him. (There's a reason their slogan is "Keeping you in the projects for over 30 years.") The HUD Lady, however, is much nicer to Muriel.
  • Police Brutality: Zigzagged when two cops accost Thurgood during a blizzard. They clearly intend to do this, but neither wants to get out of their warm patrol car to rough him up in the bitter cold. They instead order him, via the car's loudspeaker, to frisk himself, slap himself around, beat himself up, and make it look like a black-on-black assault, followed by an open-mike discussion of whether that technically would make it a black-on-black assault.
  • Political Overcorrectness: Parodied in "The HJ's" when Thurgood shows Richard Pryor's album Bicentennial Nigger to Calvin after finding it in the old projects radio station, and says they can't even say the name of the album anymore.
    Thurgood: African-American, please!
  • Pretty Fly for a White Guy: Well, Jimmy's Asian, but he still fits the bill. He acts this way due to being the illegitimate son of a U.S soldier who was supposedly black, though it's revealed in season 3 that he was actually native-american.
  • Pro Wrestling Episode: "Let's Get Ready To Crumble"; Thurgood reveals that he used to wrestle for the NWA back in the days before the WWE (still known as the World Wrestling Federation when the episode aired) rose to prominence. Not the National Wrestling Alliance, the Negro Wrestling Alliance! He ends up coming out of retirement to face Governor Deke "The Physique" Van Owen, an Expy of Jesse Ventura, to decide the fate of the Projects.
  • Remember the New Guy?: Parodied for all it's worth in "Robbin' HUD", when we meet a never before mentioned Token White guy named Buster. Who is along for One Last Job and just had a baby. You can guess what happens.
  • Rewind, Replay, Repeat: In "Operation: Gumbo Drop", Thurgood discovers that Muriel taped over his "happy tape" (a recording of O.J Simpsons aquittal) to film a documentary about the projects. When he realizes that the footage contains Juicy making his own Gumbo (Thurgood's main conflict in the episode), he decides to take advantage of this and use the tape to study Juicy's cooking methods.
  • Rouge Angles of Satin:
    • In the Christmas episode, Thurgood explains why he paid for all his friends' back payments on their rented stuff because "there's no 'I' in 'friendship'".
    • And in another he leaves a director a note that says he won't get his "flim" back.
    • When the government wants to offer residents free flu shots, Thurgood insists that "Flu" is like "Ful", which you'd be if you trust the government. The episode ends with him having written a Wheel of Fortune puzzle in Muriel's diary that turns out to be "I Luv Yuu"
  • Rule of Three: Combined with Inherently Funny Words. Thurgood is working on a stand up act and the book he got on how to be funny says things in threes are funny, as well as words with a hard k (like knish, tukas, fakakta). He logically assumes then that the funniest thing ever is KKK.
  • Sassy Black Woman: Every woman in the cast, most notably Muriel's sister and the lady at HUD.
  • Scary Black Man: The street thugs who were frequent antagonists.
  • Screw Politeness, I'm a Senior!: Mrs. Avery.
  • Shout-Out:
    • In "Cliffhangin' with Mr. Super", Fry is shown as missing on the back of Thurgood's milk carton. This was a response to an episode of Futurama featuring the show's Title Card manhole cover.
    • In "Miracle Cleaner On 134th Street", Thurgood called one of the Corrupt Corporate Executive's bodyguards Mushmouth.
    • The Hilton-Jacobs Projects are named after Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs, the actor who played Freddie "Boom Boom" Washington on Welcome Back, Kotter.
  • Sick Episode: "Journal Fever" where Muriel comes down with the flu and Thurgood agrees to take care of her.
  • Small Name, Big Ego: Thurgood, from time to time.
  • Sound-Effect Bleep: With a truck backing up.
  • To Be Continued... Right Now: "Cliffhangin' with Mr. Super", a parody of Cliffhanger episodes, looks like it's about to end as one, with several different plot threads still needing to be resolved... only for the "scenes from next season's PJs" to end up resolving them all by way of exposition.
  • When Elders Attack: Florence Normandy Avery has shown time and again why you shouldn't mess with her. She even has a gun, which Thurgood finds out the hard way.
  • Where the Hell Is Springfield?: It's never said what city they live in, all the police cars says Metro Police Department on them. The projects is modeled after Brewster-Douglas public housing projects in Detroit, and the city seems to be an Ambiguous mix of Detroit, Harlem, and Chicago. Mrs. Avery does mention Cook County in one episode, where Chicago is.
  • Wretched Hive: The projects which are crime-ridden and rundown to the extreme, though they have their good spots where the residents have worked together to create something out of the squalor.
  • Who's on First?: Thurgood and Smokey's "Who's on Crack" routine from "The HJs":
    Thurgood: I'm trying to clean up this neighborhood, and I'm wondering if you could help me by pointing out some of the drug addicts.
    Smokey: Mm, okay, but uh, nowadays drug addicts have some pretty peculiar names.
    Thurgood: You mean nicknames.
    Smokey: Well, street names like uh, Who's on crack, Say What's on smack, and uh, I Don't Know freebases.
    Thurgood: Well do you know the fellows' names?
    Smokey: I said Who's on crack, Say What's on smack, and I Don't Know freebases.
    Thurgood: Well, who's on crack?
    Smokey: Yes.
    Thurgood: I mean, the fellow's name.
    Smokey: Who?
    Thurgood: The guy on crack!
    Smokey: Who?
    Thurgood: The crack addict!
    Smokey: Who is on crack.
    Thurgood: I don't know!
    Smokey: I don't know freebases.
    Thurgood: Who freebases?
    Smokey: No, who's on crack.
    Thurgood: Say what?
    Smokey: No, he's on smack.
    Thurgood: Who's on smack?
    Smokey: No, who's on crack.
    Thurgood: I don't know!
    Smokey: Freebase!
    Thurgood: Shut up, you damn stupid crackhead!
    • It ends up becoming their most popular skit, and is the most requested at the fundraiser performance in the end.