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File:Martha Speaks 8458.jpg


Martha Speaks is an animated educational series on PBS Kids adapted from a series of books of the same name by author Susan Meddaugh. Martha is an ordinary dog but, well, let's just let the show opening theme explain the premise:

 Martha was an average dog. She went

"Bark" And- "Woof" And- "Grrrrrr"

But when she ate some alphabet soup,

then what happened was bizarre.

Narrator: On the way to Martha's stomach, the letters lost their way. They traveled to her brain and now-

She's got a lot to say. Now she speaks.

Martha: How now brown cow?

Martha speaks. Yeah, she speaks and speaks and speaks and speaks and speaks...

An educational show disguised as a kids cartoon (not that the network affiliation is fooling anyone), it's probably one of the better kids shows currently on TV, as it doesn't treat the viewers like idiots and actually has quite complex plots for a kids show.

Tropes used in Martha Speaks include:


 Helen: How is this different from a bathtub?

Martha: It's a different sort of experience all together.

Helen: How? It's water from a faucet in a rafting.

Martha: Don't ruin this for me. Okay?

  • Fractured Fairy Tale: The episode "Martha Spin A Tale" spoofs everything from Jack and the Beanstalk to Alice in Wonderland, complete with characters from the show.
  • Gainax Ending: Also parodied in the ending of the adore segment, with a dash of Nightmare Fuel thrown in for good measure.
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar: In "What's Bothering Bob", Truman has a handheld talking dictionary that gives definitions to words that people say aloud. One of the characters says "Bob has gone nuts!" and the device proceeds to give various definitions of the word nut. The first is "a seed borne within a fruit", the second was "a metal piece with a threaded hole", the third was "an expression used to display sadness (Aw Nuts!). It attempts to give a fourth definition, but the kids tell Truman to turn it off. He can't turn it off, because it's stuck, but he does place his hand over the speaker preventing the audience from hearing what was stated.
    • In the story in which Martha is saying the opposite of what she means, Martha and Helen find Truman and T.D. at a pie shop, smelling pies. One of them states that "it costs money to eat, but inhaling is nearly as good, and it's free."
      • In that same episode, she said Nelson 'Drop down from heaven'. Care to guess what she really was trying to say?
    • The Toil The More You Know segment. The song Martha sings is pretty much reminiscent of Monty Python's Lumberjack song.
    • "Hades" was mentioned in one episode. The episode was about Greek mythology, so there is context, but it's still a little shocking.
    • In one episode, Helen is going to see a movie that has "curse" on the title. Martha is worried Helen would get in trouble seeing a movie with "bad words" in it.
  • Gratuitous Spanish: Carolina uses some Spanish words and phrases here. Helen's mom does this as well, but much less frequently.
  • Hair of Gold: Tiffany in "No Dogs Allowed"
  • Incredibly Lame Pun: "Martha, can I have your PAW-tograph?"
  • Ingesting Knowledge: The show's premise. Aside from ordinary Alphabet Soup, Martha has also eaten Spanish Alphabet Soup to speak Spanish. She also once ate a paper of Spy Speak definitions, which caused her to talk in code.
  • Jerkass: Mr. Sterns (to a lesser extent) and Eulah Demson (extremely).
  • Lampshade Hanging: In "Martha's Pickles", Truman points out how often the hero of the movie defines words.
    • In "Que Pasa, Martha?", TD thought of an idea to help Alice by giving Martha Mexican soup to speak Spanish, then Alice would record Martha when she repeats what Alice said. Alice asked why didn't TD use it himself, he never realized that.
  • Lawyer-Friendly Cameo: and Ripped from the Headlines: One whole episode revolves around every dog in Martha's town wanting to be Obama's family dog. While the president portrayed is black and uses Obama's speech patterns, Obama's name is never used.
    • The episode when they compete in a talent show to meet Ryan Oceancrest and appear on International Icon.
  • Let's Meet the Meat: Parodied in the deserted and adore The More You Know segments.
  • Lost in Transmission: See the "Headscratchers" page.
  • Lovable Alpha Bitch: Tiffany
    • Carolina as well.
  • Mean Character, Nice Actor: In a The More You Know segment, it is explained how actors are different from the characters they play by showing that Mrs. Demson's actress is nice while her character is mean.
  • Meganekko: Alice Boxwood, Mrs. Boxwood, and Mrs. Clusky.
  • Merchandise-Driven: Averted. Aside from the books, there's only two Martha plush designs (a beanie, and a regular plush), and none of them talk.
  • Mind Control: When The Perfect Pup obedience school comes to town and starts training dogs to behave perfectly, Martha gets suspicious that it's working too well. She discovers that the school using collars with mind-control devices installed to make the dogs obey every order their owner gives them.
  • The Musical: "Ain't Nuthin' But a Pound Dog"
  • Musical Episode: The set of "Martha Sings" and "T.D. Makes the Band"
  • My Name Is Not Durwood: In "Martha's Life of Crime," Kazuo calls a mean woman who comes into the animal shelter looking to adopt Martha "Mrs. Crumblebum." Her name is actually Mrs. Bumblecrumb. Later, a man that she's trying to fence a stolen baseball to calls her "Stumblebum." Finally, the police officer that arrests her calls her "Fumblethumb" and she laments that she wishes someone would get it right.
  • Never Say "Die": Averted hilariously in "Alice Covers Up".

 Mrs. Boxwood: It's not sunburn. It's dye.

Martha: She's gonna die?! Nooooo!!

  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Martha tends to get into this a good bit, though normally due to someone taking advantage of her good nature. Still, she always tries hard to fix it in the end.
  • Nice Job Fixing It, Villain: In the first episode, the cat burglar gave Martha food to shut her up. What he gave her is alphabet soup.
  • Nightmare Fuel: In an in-universe example, Baby Jake got scared when Martha was wearing a doggy cone to prevent her from scratching her ear... Until his older sister's friend told him a story about Martha as a space dog that went to a fake moon and battled Dr. 2 arms and his cleaning robot The actual show averts this for the most part. Well, minus the giant clown head attempt in the aforementioned episode.
  • No Fourth Wall: Obviously in the The More You Know segments, but occasionally the Narrator is addressed directly.
  • Odd Couple: Martha and TD always hang together or partnered up in "The Missing Metal Mystery", "Gopher Broke", and "Martha's No Dummy".
  • Origins Episode: "Martha's Life in Crime" where Martha tells Truman about her puppyhood prior to being adopted by Helen.
  • Our Presidents Are Different: In "Martha in the White House", a new president is sworn in. And he's black.
  • Parental Bonus: There are more than a few subtle jokes that only the grown-ups will get.
  • Pounds Are Animal Prisons: Averted in "Ain't Nuthin' But a Pound Dog" in that it actually provides a fairly realistic portrayal of an animal shelter-- it's not an easy life, but it's not "a smelly, damp concrete prison with no food or water" either.
  • Recurring Extra: A married couple that wears fishing hats, cargo shorts, and sandals.
  • Ripped from the Headlines: A story in which Helen and Martha discover a dog locked in a car on a hot day. Unfortunately very much Truth in Television, although there are many dogs like this who sadly perish before anyone can find them. The episode featured a non-malicious variant, however. The dog in question was trying to sneak a treat and got locked in the car only because the owner of the car didn't know he was there.
  • Rule of Cool: T.D.'s last-ditch reason for allowing aliens to be included in a western-themed movie. It works.
  • Running Gag: Martha has many dream jobs. She first dream about them ever since he first heard of them.
  • Sadly Mythtaken: The episode "Myth Me?" removes the endings of the myths, even in the case of Prometheus, which had a happy ending.
  • Sesame Street Cred: Billy Collins and Kit Luntanne in different episodes
  • School Play: The gang gets to act in a rendition of Alice in Wonderland which involves Alice as Alice and Martha as the Cheshire Cat in one episode.
  • Screams Like a Little Girl: Truman.
  • Secret Identity: When Martha gets to be host of a call-in radio advice show, she starts giving some strange advice to the callers. She becomes extraordinarily popular and everyone finds themselves extremely happy by following her advice, until at her first live appearance, everyone finds out she's a dog and everyone promptly loses interest in her and her advice. [There is probably a better trope for this]
  • Ship Tease: TD and Alice
  • Smelly Skunk: In the Pleasant/Unpleasant segment of the show, Martha is explaining things that are Pleasant and Unpleasant, getting sprayed by a skunk is one of the unpleasant things. Being Martha, she goes onto describe getting a bath after being sprayed by a skunk as even more unpleasant. Helen agrees.
  • Speaks Fluent Animal: Martha is also able to talk to other animals (except for monkeys). Some of the other animals are able to speak certain animal languages.
  • Spoof Aesop: As already described, in "Martha's Steamed," there was a dog who got locked in a car by accident because it was trying to sneak a snack, but the owner of the car was accused of doing it on purpose. At the end of the story, Helen asks Martha if she learned anything and Martha says that it's to not jump to conclusions. Helen, however, suggests that the Aesop of the story is to not go digging everywhere for food, which Martha promptly ignores and starts eating out of a garbage bin.
  • Stealth Hi Bye: Truman in "Martha's Life n Crime", at least once in each part. Martha wondered how he did that.
  • Superhero Episode: In a Continuity Nod to "Martha's Show", the episode of "Return of the Bookbots" revolves around one of the show ideas discussed before. "Verb Dog, When Action Calls" is another superhero episode.
  • Talking Animal: Martha, obviously.
    • In one episode, Martha claimed that all animals could talk since the Dawn of Man but lost their ability over time.
  • Tear Jerker: "Martha Runs Away"
    • In the first episode, Martha doesn't talk after Helen said she wished she didn't talk.
  • The More You Know: Appropriately for an educational show, before and after each episode members of the cast (including the Narrator) talk about the vocabulary words that will be or had been used in the episode.
    • In the newest episodes, words that are being defined are actually displayed on-screen as they're being defined. A bit distracting at first, but probably not a bad idea, as it helps visual learners and allows viewers to not only learn the definition of the word, but see how it looks in print.
  • Title Theme Tune: See theme song above.

  Martha: Communicates, enumerates, elucidates, exaggerates, indicates, and explicates, bloviates, and overstates and (pant, pant, pant) hyperventilates!

  • Tomboy: Alice Boxwood
  • Unusually Uninteresting Sight: Despite the fact that Martha is the only known talking dog in her world, in general, nobody seems freaked by it. The most common reaction to her talking is no reaction, though sometimes people may be mildly surprised, then simply decide to just go with it. In "Ain't Nuthin' But a Pound Dog," Kazuo of the animal shelter thinks that he's having a joke played on him when Martha's dad calls up asking if a talking dog has been taken into the animal shelter, but when he actually does finally hear Martha talk, he just takes it in stride. Oh, and you would think that if there were a talking dog in town, everyone would know about it, but apparently not.
    • Lampshaded in an episode where Martha goes to see a famous television dog visiting the town.

 Random Child: "WOW! A TALKING DOG!"

Martha (not wanting to take the attention off the famous dog): "Yeah. But, this one's ON TV!!"

  • beat*

Another Random Child: "Yeah, she's got a point"

Everyone looks back at the famous dog.

    • However, the two recurring villains in the show, Otis Weaselgraft and Pablum, constantly make plans to kidnap her to make money off of her, so at least its an interesting sight to someone.
    • The episode where she became a host of a radio advice show, she makes her first public appearance. This would explain why not a lot of people were freaked out in later episodes, since the people already known about it from this episode.
      • Also in the first episode, a few people in Helen's neighborhood noticed Martha talked for the first time.
  • We Want Our Jerk Back: Averted. There's a character on the show who is basically a grouchy old lady and treats everyone around her meanly. In one story, her doctor tells her she needs to adopt a positive outlook for her health, so she starts being ultra-nice to everyone, playing with the kids and Martha and everything. Nobody goes so far as to suggest that they'd prefer she'd go back to the old way, though Martha does come very close.
  • Whole-Episode Flashback: Several, including covering the birth of Helen's baby brother (in a kid friendly manner), Martha being kidnapped and used for crime by a one-shot villain, and why Skits is afraid of hocky pucks
  • Youthful Freckles: TD and Alice.
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