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File:Thecritic 4360.jpg
"It stinks!"
Jay Sherman

The Critic was a short-lived prime time animated series that featured Jon Lovitz as the voice of the titular critic. It was created by Al Jean and Mike Reiss, who were also writers for The Simpsons. The show is notable for being picked up by four different networks. It was launched on ABC in 1994, where it was cancelled after a month, but brought back in the summer to air the remaining season. It was picked up by Fox the following year and ran it for a full second season before dropping it. After this it was aired on Comedy Central. It was later picked up by UPN, who never actually aired episodes of the show. In Latin America, this show was aired on Locomotion before turning into Animax. Ten short flash cartoons (webisodes) based on the series appeared on the internet over 2000-01. The DVD box set was released in 2004, which includes all the TV episodes and has the webisodes as extras. During the late 2000s, the show has aired in syndication. In September 2006, IGN ranked the show 9th in their list of the Top 25 Primetime Animated Series of All Time. In January 2009, they also ranked the show 26th in their other list of the Top 100 Best Animated TV Series. In December 2011, Complex ranked the show 6th in their own list of The 25 Most Underrated Animated TV Shows Of All Time.


Jay Sherman is New York's #3 film critic, with a cable television film review show called Coming Attractions, and it's his job to review some pretty horrible movies. However, it is because he heavily pans every film he reviews that he is very unpopular with the public. It also doesn't help that he's rather unsuccessful at life, overweight, and not really successful with the ladies. His ex-wife Ardeth (not pictured) despises him and keeps demanding more alimony from him, and while he does have a few dates, the women are usually either crazy or just dating him to get a positive film review. His boss Duke Phillips frequently mistakes his statements for come-ons, and his elderly chain-smoking make-up lady Doris frequently verbally abuses him.

Jay is the adopted son of former New York governor Franklin Sherman and his wife Elenor Sherman. Their butler Shackleford (not pictured) has a tendency to greet Jay as "Adopted Master Jay" whenever he sees him. Jay also does have a few friends: his best friend Jeremy Hawke (a combination of Paul Hogan and Mel Gibson), restaurant owner Vlada (well, he's nice to Jay's face, anyway), his teenage sister Margo, and his son Marty who attends United Nations High School (where one of his classmates is a Klingon, and another from Easter Island who has a head made of stone).

In the second season, after FOX picked up the show, the character of Jay was retooled. He was given a rounder face, bigger eyes, a warmer personality, and a long-term girlfriend in personal assistant Alice Tompkins. Like Jay, Alice has a child from her own failed marriage, her young daughter Penny.

The show was resurrected one last time on the Internet as a flash series. The characters from the TV series are gone (except for Vlada who makes an appearance), and Jay keeps hitting on his new and younger make-up girl Jennifer (not pictured). Most fans don't really count this one among the main series.


Not to be confused with Mel Brooks' first film or Richard Brinsley Sheridan's play.


This show uses the tropes:

  • Actor Allusion
  • Adam Westing: "Siskel and Ebert and Jay and Alice," in a big way.
  • Ad Bumpers: The original broadcast featured a shot of Jay in both the ABC ("Stay tuned after the commercials you beer swilling couch monkeys") and FOX ("You're watching FOX, where we can say the word 'boobies'!") runs.
  • Ad Nauseam: Jay's talking billboard in "Miserable".
  • Adolf Hitler: Slackers not only gave footage of him a better rating than that of Jay, they think he's a "cool dude" and played by the guy who played the mailman on Cheers. He apparently frolicked on the beach of Cannes, France with Eva, too.
  • Alan Smithee: "I Can't Believe It's a Clip Show" was directed by someone named "D.R.L. MacMoortler". It's pretty safe to assume that this is a pseudonym for David Cutler, Rich Moore, and Lauren MacMullan, all of whom worked on the show.
  • All Girls Like Ponies: Margo.
  • All of the Other Reindeer: Jay is a constant victim of this.
  • Alliterative Name: Vlada Veramirovich.
  • Alphabet News Network: "This... is PNN."
  • Ambiguously Gay: Vlada.
    • The same goes for his son, Zoltan.
  • Ambiguously Jewish: Jay. The closest to resolving this ambiguity occurs in "Every Doris Has Her Day", when Jay visits the orphanage he was adopted from and asks if he was Jewish. The priest answers, "Well, what do you think?" Jay crows, "I knew it!" and immediately launches into a fake Hebrew song.
  • Amusing Injuries: Every time Jay gets hit on the head by a blunt object, he’ll swerve around and fall like a bowling pin. Even the sound effects are added in.
    • This is one of the reasons Alice's daughter Penny seems to really like him. Jay ended up endearing himself to her when blunt objects kept falling on his head and she thought it was funny.
  • Animated Actor: Jay did this trope a few times.
  • Animated Shows
  • Art Evolution: Most of the characters were given some slight updates to their character designs. Jay's changes are described above, while Margo went from realistically proportioned to completely stylized.
  • Artistic License Geography: In case you want to know, In the episode "Marty's First Date", the name of the Mexico City Airport in Real Life is Benito Juarez, not Linda Ronstadt!
  • As Himself: One episode was noteworthy as one of the few examples of Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel appearing in a work of fiction, alongside other real critics like Rex Reed and Gene Shalit.
    • Another episode had Queen Latifah for no adequately explained reason. Even the characters were confused as to why she was there!
      • Ricki Lake guest stars as herself in the same episode, but that goes back to an earlier gag of Penny watching daytime trash TV.
    • Don't forget the time when Jon Lovitz shows up.

 Jay: Man, I wish I had half his talent.

Marty: Well, you do kind of sound like him.

Jay: You think?

  • Badass Mustache: Duke Phillips.
  • Bad Bad Acting: Valerie Fox in her film Kiss Of Death.
  • Balloon Belly: Jay. He balloons himself by turning into a giant blueberry from eating a candy from Willy Wonka, is shown having one in a picture inside Alice's diamond locket, and from eating a giant bagpipe-playing potato.
  • Beach Bury: Marlon Brando during Jay's trip to the Cannes Film Festival.
  • Belly Dancer: Marty in the episode "A Day at the Races, a Night at the Opera".
  • Betty and Veronica: Jay got into a brief Love Triangle with Alice (the Betty) and Jeremy's twin sister Olivia (the Veronica).
  • Big Applesauce: The series takes place in New York.
  • Big Eater: Jay and Marty Sherman.
  • Big Fancy House: The Sherman family's mansion. Ditto for Duke's mansion.
  • Big No: Jay does this twice in "Miserable" when his "#1 fan" cuts off all his hair and looks as if she was about to break both his feet with a sledgehammer.
  • Bilingual Bonus: Vlada's restaurant L'ane Riche is French for "The Wealthy Jackass."
  • Biting the Hand Humor:
    • In the episode "Sherman, Woman, and Child."

  "I'm Jay Sherman, the famous film critic. I used to have a big show on ABC ... for about a week."

    • One of Jay's voiceovers during the show's Eyecatch:

  "You're watching FOX. Shame on you!"

    • In the episode "A Song For Margo":

 Margo: Johnny is just like you, Jay. He's not afraid of anything. Not even the TV networks.

Jay: Well, they're all pretty crummy. (Turns to the camera when the FOX logo appears) Except for FOX. The last bastion of quality programming. (Does a salute) God bless you, little logo.

    • In the episode "All The Duke's Men":

  "It's a giant horse's ass! (Turns to the camera) You're watching FOX. Give us 10 minutes, we'll give you an ass."

    • And from another bumper:

  "You're watching FOX, where we can say the word 'boobies'!"

    • From the episode "From Chunk To Hunk":

  "Ah yes. Sweet, non-judgmental FOX Network, where coming in third is a triumph!"

  • Brain Bleach: In Season Two, Doris starts revealing an attraction for Duke, and this often resulted in Duke having this kind of reaction.

 Doris: Duke, I've loved you for years. In fact, every thirty seconds I have a hot, steamy fantasy about the two of us.

Duke: Ooh, uh, I got to take this elevator.

Doris: It's just an open shaft!

Duke: It's quicker! (steps in and plummets)

    • Later, Doris sends him a graphic nude photo of herself, which the audience sees (with Duke's fingers as the censor strip). Duke has a heart attack and cries for his pills.
  • Brand X: "Hair in a Can" and "Phlegm Fatale Cigarettes".
  • Broken Heel: This affects Jeremy upon meeting Margot in "Miserable".
  • Burping Contest: Between Jay and Homer Simpson.
    • And Eudora Welty.
  • Butt Monkey: Jay and Marty.
  • The Cameo: Billy Crystal supplied the voice of Gary Grossman in one episode.
    • Phil Hartman provided one of the voices in "Eyes on the Prize".
  • Cancellation: First by ABC, then by FOX.
  • Can't Hold His Liquor
  • Can't You Read the Sign?: On the first episode, Jay tells the taxi driver his dilemma about dating Valerie Fox. The driver points to a sign that reads, "Driver Only Knows Three Words of English." Those three words: "Look at sign!"
  • Catch Phrase: Jay has three:
    • "It Stinks!"
    • "Hotchie Motchie!"
    • "Achhum!"
  • Caustic Critic: Jay Sherman hates just about every movie he sees. If he mentions a movie he DOES like, it's always so that another movie can be compared unfavorably to it.
    • The highest score he ever gives a movie is a 7 out of 10.
  • Celebrity Paradox: Avoided with regard to Jon Lovitz, who exists in this show's universe -- but he came to prominence on Yesterday Night Live. Jay's a big fan, but when he suggests by phone to a movie studio that in the wake of the remake Rebel Without a [Bill] Cosby they should make Dr. Strangelovitz, he has to explain who Lovitz is: "He's a character actor! ...No, I don't think he died!"
  • Chained to a Bed: In the episode "Miserable," a female projectionist (a.k.a. Jay's #1 fan) drugs Jay's glass of wine and ties him to her bed with strips of movie film.
  • Channel Hop: The show jumped from ABC to FOX.
  • Character Development: For the second season, Jay's character design was tweaked to give him a friendlier appearance, and most of his harshness and down-and-out traits from the first season were taken away, giving him a warmer, more likable personality. Even Duke and Elenor got a little more friendly too.
  • Cheerful Child: Alice's young daughter Penny.
  • Cheese-Eating Surrender Monkeys: When a food fight occurs in Marty's school cafeteria, the French students immediately put their hands up and surrender, even though they did not participate.
  • Chekhov's Gun: In the episode "Miserable," Jay’s #1 Fan shows Jay a cardboard cutout of himself holding a book he wrote. She tells him she hooked it up to her Clapper, and demonstrates by clapping to it, which results in the cutout waving the book up and down and saying "Buy my book!" multiple times. At the episode’s climax, when she madly lunges at and attempts to kill Jeremy, Jay claps his hands and triggers the cutout, hitting her on the head and knocking her unconscious.
  • Chekhov's Skill: In "A Day at the Races and a Night at the Opera," while Jay and Marty try on clothes at a department store, Marty discovers he is able to move his stomach up and down. He opens the door from the changing room to show his father, only to be told by a little girl that what he was doing was "gross." Feeling bad, he stops. Later, during a school talent show he attends, he attempts to play "Yankee Doodle" on his electric guitar, only for a string to break off just as he starts playing. Unfazed, he tells the audience "This is the only other thing I know how to do": he moves his vest out of the way and moves his stomach up and down again. The audience and Principal Mangosuthu become impressed. Marty performs more creative belly-dancing routines, and the audience gives him a standing ovation.
  • The Chew Toy: Jay.
  • Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: The ENTIRE CAST (aside from Jay and briefly Vlada) vanishes without a trace in the webisodes. This was probably a necessity of budget, as the webisodes were done on a shoestring and they couldn't afford to bring back the old voice cast.
    • It is implied that Jay and Alice's relationship ended in a messy divorce, though.
      • The "second divorce" Jay mentioned in the first webisode could have been with the Mexican woman he married in "Marty's First Date". Also the fact Alice was never mentioned by name.
  • Citizenship Marriage: At least that's how the Mexican airport employee sees it when she agrees to marry Jay (so he can travel to Cuba to save Marty) in the Season 1 episode "Marty's First Date":

 Mexican woman: Stop! You promised to marry me!

Jay: All right, but I've got to tell you, I'm only marrying you to get to Cuba.

Mexican woman: Well I am only marrying you for citizenship!

Jay: (Starts crying) This is the most honest, caring relationship I've ever been in.

    • For the record, that part of the episode is pretty inaccurate: in Real Life, Mexican airliners doesn't give a damn if an American citizen travel to Cuba via Mexico, as long they can pay the ticket.
  • Clip Show: Final episode of the second season, titled "I Can't Believe It's a Clip Show".
  • Closer to Earth: Weirdly subverted with Jay's parents. His mother Eleanor is sane and wise, but she's also shown herself to be rather spiteful and cold-hearted. On the other hand, Jay's father is completely insane, but he's also a generally pleasant and upstanding guy.
  • Cloudcuckoolander: Franklin Sherman, Jay's adoptive father.
    • When running for Vice President of the United States:

 Franklin: As the first black female head of the Ku Klux Klan, I'd like to say... America stinks!

Duke: (watching) This may hurt us more than it helps us.

    • Another instance:

 Geraldo Rivera: I understand you can say your name backwards.

Franklin: Nilknarf.

Geraldo: What's your favorite food in the whole wide world?

Franklin: Nilknarf.

    • At dinner with the family:

 "Oh, son, if I've said it once I've said it a thousand times...Who are all you people?"

 Jay's #1 Fan: Whenever I get into a relationship with a man, they tend to get dominating and overcritical.

Jay: I can see your point. Although, I wouldn't have used "overcritical," and I think your delivery was wooden and unconvincing.

  • Couch Gag:
    • The beginning of the opening credits where Jay wakes up to a phone call from someone with bad or weird news. In the FOX episodes, they also added in Jay waking up to an announcement on his clock radio.
    • The opening credits also shows Jay on Coming Attractions showing a movie clip/parody (such as parodies of Raiders of the Lost Ark with the Nazis being knocked down like bowling pins by the boulder that Indiana Jones is running from, The Sound of Music where Julie Andrews is bumped into the camera and falls down a hill, a Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers movie where said actors are eaten by a T-Rex, etc), to which Jay says "It stinks!"
    • The post-credits scene where an usher walks up to Jay and says, "Excuse me sir, the show's over." Jay's replies have been: 1)"Is the snack bar still open?" 2)"I'm stuck in the chair!" 3)"But I have nowhere to go." 4)"Get away, zitface!" (only used when the usher sounds like the Squeaky-Voiced Teen from The Simpsons.) There's also an end credits sequence in the FOX episodes that shows Jay and Alice kissing during the credits. When the usher (a different one this time) tells the couple "Excuse me, the show's over," Alice retorts "Get away, pipsqueak!" and Jay tells the audience "That's why I love her!"
  • Cousin Oliver: Penny.
    • Also, one of Duke’s attempts to improve Coming Attractions’ ratings was the addition of a cute child with a speech impediment.

 Jay: Well, I find you "wee-pulsive" and "wee-pugnant"!

Kid: (now with a normal voice) Hey, that speech impediment shtick is copyrighted. You'll be hearing from my lawyers! I mean, wawyers.

  • Crossover: With The Simpsons, on that show's season six episode "A Star is Burns," the only episode not to have Matt Groening's name in the opening or closing credits (as Groening -- and a lot of Simpsons fans -- felt the crossover was an excuse to have the episode be little more than a 22-minute advertisement for a dueling show).
    • This is lampshaded -- just before Jay walks into the Simpsons' living room, Bart is watching The Jetsons Meet the Flintstones, and says he "smells another cheap cartoon cross-over."
    • Jay also had a short cameo in season eight's "Hurricane Neddy" where he is a patient at a mental hospital, as his psychological state seems to have deteriorated to a point where he responds to everything with his Catch Phrase, and he is also in season fifteen's "The Ziff Who Came to Dinner" as one of four characters at Moe's Tavern who have been voiced by Jon Lovitz.
      • Keep in mind, it's established that The Simpsons is a cartoon show in Jay's world. So, Jay visited a fictional television show? The Simpsons family exist in a world where there's a cartoon based on them? Jay crossed over into a cartoon universe where both he and The Simpsons exist? KABOOM!
      • Perhaps in-universe, Jay simply guest starred as himself on a well-known TV series? That explains the lack of the other characters.
  • Crunchtastic
  • Crying Indian: Duke wants "Savvy Indian Chewing Tobacco" to be a sponsor for Coming Attractions. He even has an Indian on the set holding a sign with said name on it. Refusing to take part in it, Jay rips up his contract and throws the pieces at the Indian's feet, making him shed a tear.
  • Curtain Clothing: In the episode "Dukerella", Miranda's costume ball dress was made out of curtains. She even had the venetian blinds as the back of the dress.
  • Cute Kitten: In "Frankie and Ellie Get Lost," during Coming Attractions, Duke tells Jay that the audience only tunes in for the funny clips, and then shows a black and white clip of two kittens playing Ping Pong with their paws. Jay is at first offended, but then he sees one of the kittens frisking with the ball.

 Jay: Awww, they really are cute.

 Jay: (after Jeremy's sister Olivia introduces herself) I wonder what she looks like naked?

Jay's brain: You idiot, you said that out loud. Better cover.

Jay: I mean uh, I wonder what she cooks like ... naked?

Jay's brain: (sarcastically) Oh, nice going.

    • Olivia doesn't mind. She asks if he'd like her to cook naked for him. Jay's stomach just wants the cookin'.
  • The Ditz: "I'm Dan Quayle. I gotta go boom-boom."
  • Don't You Dare Pity Me!: Jay tries to anonymously slip money under Alice's apartment door to prevent her from getting evicted (he actually mistakenly slipped the money in the apartment of the "crazy postman" across from hers). Alice finds out about it and is not pleased about being given charity. Jay then offers her a job to be his personal assistant. At first she doesn't want to take the job because he feels sorry for her, but then decides to take it.
  • Drink Order: Franklin is always seen with a glass of brandy in his hand.
  • Drives Like Crazy: Franklin.
  • Eenie Meenie Miny Moai: The Easter Island children have the stone Moai heads atop human bodies.
  • Embarrassing Rescue
  • Even Evil Has Standards: When Satan denies Wings another season.
    • However, Satan claims that it's beyond even his power, not that it's an act so evil he wouldn't do it.
    • Satan also denies being the reason Cher won an Oscar, but takes credit for Marisa Tomei's win.
  • Every Episode Ending
  • Everything's Worse with Bears

 Bear handler: Come, Sasha. The last time you ate a critic you spent two weeks sitting on the can!

  • Everything's Worse With Penguins: Apparently, they're bad pilots ("Penguins can't fly... PENGUINS CAN'T FLY!!!") and slack off drinking pina coladas when there's work to be done.
    • Is this possibly a reference to A Wish for Wings That Work? A similar scene happens where Opus is piloting an airplane in a dream sequence...
  • Evil Eye: During his Presidential campaign, Duke uses this on a reporter to avoid answering a question. After doing so, Duke asks the reporter if he has a follow-up question, to which he replies in a low monotone voice "How may I serve you, Evil One?" Also could count as Hypnotic Eyes.
  • Expy: Humphrey the Hippo.
    • Duke Phillips is like Ted Turner.
    • Franklin and Elenor Sherman are named after Franklin and Elenor Roosevelt. Elenor herself is like Katharine Hepburn.
    • Jeremy Hawke is a mix of Paul Hogan and (pre-meltdown) Mel Gibson.
      • His twin sister Olivia Newton Hawke is, of course, Olivia Newton John.
  • False Friend: Vlada to Jay. He's honest about it, though.

 Vlada: I love you, too!

Jay: Oh, you just love my money.

Vlada: This is true, but it is a love that will never die.

 Jay: This film gets my highest rating, seven out of ten!

  • Fully-Automatic Clip Show: The final episode "I Can't Believe It's A Clip Show!"
  • Funny Foreigner: While Vlada doesn't quite fit this, his son Zoltan's performance in the UN Talent Show runs on this.

 Zoltan: Hello. I would like to dance and sing my country’s national anthem. *Singing* Eepee-Teepee Peepee Poopee.

*Audience laughs*

Vlada: You don’t understand. He’s singing of all the people who died in the earthquake, fire and famine of 1805.

*Audience is successfully shamed*

Zoltan: *Glares, then sings* Eepee-Teepee Peepee Poopee.

*Audience laughs*

  • Funny Money: In "Dr. Jay", Duke comments the French franc is "fancy-colored toilet paper".
  • GASP: Jay does this in the pilot episode. After giving actress Valerie Fox (who was also his girlfriend at the time) a negative performance review on Coming Attractions, he returns home hoping that she will still be there. It turns out she is -- only for her to slap him multiple times, telling him "You're short, you're fat, and even for a film critic you're ugly," and leaving him. Jay lets out a long shocked gasp after this.
  • Game Show Appearance: Jay and Ardeth appear as contestants on The Newlywed Game. They win.
  • Gene Hunting: Jay and Doris discover that Doris may be Jay's biological mother, only to find out that she is not so from a DNA test.
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar: In the episode "A Little Deb Will Do Ya," when Margo is getting fitted for her dress for the debutante ball, the dressmaker asks her what shade of white she wants:

 Dressmaker: Here's the skinny. We dressmakers have a very strict code, so I need to know, do you deserve to wear virginal white? Because if you don't, you'll have to wear an off-white, what we call a hussy white. So which will it be? White-White?

Margo: Yes ... um, except for the gloves.

    • And, of course, the infamous Orson Welles frozen peas commercial, where he says "Full of country goodness and green pea-ness!". Try saying that last part out loud if you don't get it.
      • There's also a particular accent on "country goodness". Particularly, the first syllable.
  • The Glorious War of Sisterly Rivalry: Jay's girlfriend Alice and her Southern Belle sister Miranda.
  • Goofy Print Underwear: Jay has pairs of underwear that include titles of (mostly) bad movies printed on the backside (they're studio promotional items he's been sent over the years). The best of these is "Backdraft", but there's also "Rear Window" and "For The Boys".
  • Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow: Technically a subversion: Miranda reminds Jay of when he first started losing his hair. Flashback to Jay wearing a white judge's wig, and speaking with a horrendous English accent.
    • Also, when Duke comes in and grabs the wig off his head, there's a Little Orphan Annie wig underneath, with Jay exclaiming "Leaping Lizards!"
  • Helium Speech: The principal speaks in helium voice in "From Chunk to Hunk", due to a helium leak in the school.

  Principal: (Over intercom) Attention, students: Auditions for Peter Pan are being (Voice gets higher) held in the auditorium! (Voice back to normal) Stupid helium...

 Penny: (Giving Marty a sheet of paper) Goodbye Marty. I wrote you a letter.

(Marty sees only the letter P written on the page)

Penny: You can read it on the bus.

    • From "A Song For Margo":

 Hard Copy reporter: Tonight on Hard Copy, O.J. refuses to speak. (Shows a pitcher of orange juice on the witness stand.) Part 2 tomorrow.

 William Daniels: Jay, I just want to say one word: Trucking.

Franklin: And I have one word for you too, Son: Snapple.

Jay: Oh, Dad, you and your nonsense words.

 Jay: All right, it's just you and me. Now what did you think of my script?

Gary Grossman: It was excrement.

Jay: Did you say "it was excellent?"

Gary Grossman: It was crummy.

Jay: Did you say "it was yummy?"

Gary Grossman: It was an awful piece of junk that made me want to puke all night.

Jay: Did you say "it was an awesome piece of spunk that you want to shoot tonight?"

Gary Grossman: It was a bilious piece of dirt that made me cry out in pain.

Jay: Did you say "it was a brilliant piece of work, and you'll fly me to Spain? Where we'll meet King Juan Carlos and drink sangria all night?"

Gary Grossman: You piece of blech.

  • Land Down Under: Jeremy and Olivia's country of origin.
  • Large Ham: Jay on occasion.
  • Lighter and Softer: The second season was made over into this overall.
  • Like Father, Like Son: Hinted at in the episode where Jay goes on a date with Doris and it's implied she may be his birth mother. Doris recounts to Jay about how she used to date a short, balding fat guy who would always take her to movies and then complain about them.
  • Long List: Deciding to wipe her slate clean, Olivia tells Jay a list of all the men she had been with. The list is so long that Jay ends up growing stubble on his face and shaving.
  • Madonna: After her infamous guest appearance on The Late Show With David Letterman in 1994, her other TV show appearance a year later was just as awkward.
  • Make a Wish: In the episode "Uneasy Rider", Marty points to a shooting star and asks Jay to make a wish. The scene then cuts to said star hitting and destroying a billboard advertising Ace Ventura with Jay exclaiming "Thank you, God" while driving past the scene.
  • Marlon Brando: Gets lampooned in the show frequently.
  • Masquerade Ball: Duke holds one in the episode "Dukerella."
  • Maurice LaMarche: Voiced Jeremy Hawke, Orson Welles, and various others.
  • Meet Cute: Alice pepper-sprays Jay in his face when they first meet on the street, but he was not harmed by the act. In fact, he rather liked it ("Mmm, jalapeño!"). However, in this case, no Strangled by the Red String is involved as their relationship has chemistry and flourishes more naturally. Jay is tempted by Jeremy Hawke's sister at one point, but only because he and Alice's relationship had not been resolved yet. As for Ardeth, well, Jay once paid her $200 just to tell her, "Get bent!"
    • Technically, he paid her $100 for that. She informs him (after he had already greeted her) that her lawyer says Jay owes her $100 every time he speaks to her.
  • The Merch: In "Miserable", Jay's #1 fan has a lot of these.
  • The Missus and the Ex: When Jay's girlfriend Alice and his ex-wife Ardeth meet for the first time, Ardeth tells Alice a spooky warning to "beware" and attempts to place a voodoo hex on her. Jay then has to remind Ardeth that the divorce judge has forbidden her to commit such conduct, but that doesn't stop her from trying to ruin things between them, in her continuous attempt to make him miserable for making her miserable.
  • Mistaken for Gay: Jay's boss is convinced Jay has a crush on him, despite Jay's insistence that he's straight.

 Jay: Duke, where's your bedroom?

Duke: (chuckling) You people never give up.

Jay: I am not gay! And if I was gay, I would do something about that wallpaper. Plaids and florals? Oh, puh-lease Dukey-Dukey.

  • Must Have Nicotine: Doris is hardly ever seen without a lit cigarette in her mouth. Duke once snatched one out of her mouth in an attempt to make her quit smoking, only for a new lit one to immediately pop out of it, with a cash register "Ka-CHING!" sound effect. He repeated the act a few more times, only for the same result to happen everytime.

  Doris: I can do this all day.

  • My Life Flashed Before My Eyes: When Jay is about to be shot, his life flashes before his eyes. We then flash back to a teenage Jay on the couch, in a suit, eating chips. Jay fondly remarks, "Ah, prom night."
  • Nancy Cartwright: Voiced Margo Sherman.
  • The Napoleon: Jay.
  • New Job Episode:
    • In "Eyes on the Prize," Jay is fired from Coming Attractions due to low ratings and gets a job teaching English on the 6:00 AM TV program English For Cab Drivers.
    • In "Uneasy Rider", Jay quits Coming Attractions and becomes a truck driver.
  • Nice Guy: Jay, especially in season 2.
  • The Nicknamer: Duke, for Jay.
  • The Nineties: The show aired from 1994 to 1995. These were also the years the show took place.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: The Trope Namer.

 Jay (during the show's closing credits): Celebrity voices are impersonated. No celebrities were harmed in the filming of this episode.

 "Skull cracked. Brains leaking out. Can't wait to see new Chevy Chase movie."

    • While at fat camp, a simple walk tires Jay out to the point of being delirious.

 "Must see Tom Cruise win Oscar in - my - lifetime!"

 Orson Welles: Oh, what luck! There's a french fry stuck in my beard! (chomp, chomp) Oh, yeah.

  • Overly Long Gag: Franklin thinks an owl is Wilson: "Whooo." "My wife, Eleanor." "Whooo." "My wife, Eleanor." "Whooo." "My wife, Eleanor."
    • It lasted 15 seconds. If it had been Family Guy, it would've gone on for 5 whole minutes.
    • And the Director's Cut of JFK, with 2 hours of new footage:
      • "Back... and to the left...Back... and to the left...Back... and to the left...Back... and to the left...Back... and to the left........Back... and to the left..."
        • Interestingly, the inflection is actually different on each "Back... and to the left" statement, which makes it even funnier.
  • Overly Narrow Superlative: "New York's third most popular early-morning cable-TV film critic."
  • Perfectly Cromulent Word: Duke Phillips pays Noah Webster to put the words "Quzybuk" (meaning "a big problem"), "Dukelicious", and "Duketastrophe" in the dictionary. Ignore the fact that Noah Webster has been dead for 150 years.
    • Notably, he did it just so he'd get a really high score in Scrabble.
      • Also notable in that a seemingly random character uses the recently-invented "Quzybuk" when talking to Jay later in that same episode.
    • Describing Lorenzo's Oil.

 Duke: Isn't that the film you described as a combination of fantasy and crap?

Jay: Yes! I called it "fantacrap"!

 Cyrus is just a virus.

He wants to tie you down while you’re still young.

Your potential is what’s essential.

You could someday be another Connie Chung!

Jay finally breaks the spell with this exchange:

 Cyrus: (Singing) Lover, without you there's no other...

Jay: (Interrupting, singing) Give him a chance, he'll do your mother!

After making Cyrus leave, Alice finishes it:

 Alice: (Singing) Jay, I'm glad that you're not gay. I may show you why someday. (Kisses Jay on the cheek)

Jay: (Smiling at her) Yay!

  • Rousing Speech: In "Eyes on the Prize", Jay aims to win another Pulitzer Prize so he could get back his respectability. He writes an essay entitled "The Sorry State of Films Today" and presents it on the TV program English For Cab Drivers, which ends up being a parody of the climax to Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.

  "I am a movie critic by trade, and until recently, I got paid to tell you people which movies merely stink and which ones you shouldn't screen near an open flame. Well, I'm putting the burden of lousy movies back on you. It's very simple: if you stop going to bad movies, they'll stop making bad movies. If the movie used to be a TV show, just don't go. After Roman numeral II, give it a rest. If it's a remake of a classic, rent the classic. Tell them you want stories about people, not a hundred million dollars of stunts and explosives. People, it's up to you. If the movie stinks, just don't go."

    • Understandably, some are less than pleased.

 Arnold Schwarzenegger: If da moovee steenks, just don't go... WHAT AM I SAYING?!

    • Some take it even further.

 Hollywood Executive: Uh oh, the jig is up! *dives out office window*

    • Someone wasn't listening.

 Franklin: If the movie stinks, do-si-do.

Shackleford: Allemande Left, sir. (they square dance)

 Jay: (section 1, from 1988) Rain Man (section 2, from 1992) A Few Good Men (section 3, from 1993) The Firm (all together) is the latest stinker from Tom Cruise. He doesn't act anymore, he's on ... Cruise Control! AAAAAAHAHAHA! AAAAAAHA! I JUST ... I JUST! MADE THAT! UP!

  • Running Gag
    • Duke always assuming Jay is gay.
      • Duke does admit that he knows Jay isn't gay, and just does it to tweak him. Unfortunately, when he and Jay have a Group Hug, Jay's content Squee disturbs him.
    • Jay's stomach having a mind of its own.
    • Dumb college students who watch Coming Attractions, only to mock Jay.
    • Jay sounding like an elderly British woman named "Ethel" and pretending to be his secretary, even having conversations with "her." This gag only appears in the first season.
  • Satan: Appears a few times.
    • He takes credit for Marisa Tomei winning the Oscar, for one.

 Satan: (phoning Jay in the opening credits) Hello Jay, this is the Devil. Despite what you think, I am not the reason Cher won an Oscar. I am the reason Marisa Tomei won an Oscar. (Growls evilly and hangs up.)

    • He also is shown to be responsible for influencing the creation of really awful Hollywood screenplays, but admits that it's beyond even his power to give the cast of Wings another season.
    • Also appears in an interview with Gene Siskel, disguised as a reviewer.

 Reviewer: Tim Allen gives that same likeable performance we always love, once again proving Disney Pictures have the magic touch that may not win awards, but keep America smiling. How was that?

Gene Siskel: You're Satan, aren't you?

(Reviewer transforms into his real form: Satan)

Satan: You win another round, Siskel, but we shall meet again! (growls angrily and disappears)

 George: I thought you were taking Cathy out tonight.

Jerry: Why do they call it "taking out?" I took her to a restaurant. It wasn't out, it was in. I would say I'm taking her in, but then she sounds like a pair of pants.

    • Marty claims that is what "real people" sound like. (Do they?)
  • Self-Deprecation: Much of their Take That was aimed at FOX. "Where coming in third is a triumph."
  • Serenade Your Lover: See Romantic False Lead above.
  • Servile Snarker: The Sherman family's butler Shackleford.
  • Shameless Self Promoter: "VOTE FOR DUKE!" messages appearing during "Coming Attractions" in the episode "All The Duke's Men" where Duke Phillips ran for president.
    • In "A Song For Margo," Jay remarks that all the networks are pretty crummy, except for FOX, "the last bastion of quality programming." Then he salutes the logo in the bottom right of the screen. (See also Biting the Hand Humor above.)
  • Shout-Out:
    • In the pilot, they reference Beauty and The Beast with "Beauty and King Dork" - complete with CGI ballroom.
    • Turns out Vlada and his son are from Pottsylvania.
    • From "Frankie and Ellie Get Lost," Franklin acting like Curly after first drinking alcohol which made him into his present stupid state, with Albert Einstein and Ted Kennedy acting like Larry and Moe respectively.
    • Prince Charles sounds like one of the Gumbies, while Queen Elizabeth sounds like the troupe's usual Cross-Dressing Voices, particularly the "women" in the Spam sketch.
    • One of the more Stealth Pun Shout Outs of the show is Alice's sister Miranda using venetian blinds for her dress, a reference to the famous Gone with the Wind spoof from The Carol Burnett Show.
    • The Crying Game: In the season 1 episode "A Little Deb Will Do Ya", Jay meets the girl of his dreams, but she has a secret - down there. Turns out she's wearing the bottom half of the Humphrey the Hippo costume, his chief rival.
    • A reviewer's face melting off and reducing him to a skeleton (after Roger Ebert shows him a clip of a bad movie) is a reference to Raiders of the Lost Ark.
    • The episode "Miserable" is an obvious parody of Misery. The female projectionist even resembles Kathy Bates.
    • Penultimate episode "Dukerella" is a cross between Cinderella and A Streetcar Named Desire.
    • Arthur. A drunken Arthur Bach (Dudley Moore) appears in several episodes.
    • The penguin pilot's "Waakwakwakwak" speech imitates Burgess Meredith's laugh as, yup, The Penguin from the '60s Batman show.
    • The ending of "Frankie and Ellie Get Lost" has a closing shot of Gilligan's Island, complete with theme song.
    • Franklin dressed up as El Kabong is a reference to Quick Draw McGraw.
    • Elenor saying "No more wire hangers!" is a direct reference to the film Mommie Dearest.
    • Alice's Take That to Tim Allen is funnier when you consider The Critic had preceded his show before ABC dumped it.

 Alice: Listen, honey, I've known men like Duke all my life. There was this one boy back in college – dealt drugs, went to jail – yet today he's the star of Home Improvement.

  Franklin: "Daaa-rinkin'!"

  Shylock: Hath not a dude eyes? If you prick us, do we not get bummed? If we eat bad guacamole, do we not blow chunks?

 William Shatner: Hello, I'm William Shatner and this is Celebrity 911. Tonight, we devote the entire hour to police calls involving James Caan...(makes face) CAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAN!

    • Jay as a boy lies that he's less than 80 lbs when about to ride a pony.

 Stable man: PATCHES! NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!

  • Sleeping Single: In Franklin and Elenor's bedroom, it is shown that they sleep in seperate beds.
  • Slow-Loading Internet Image: In the first webisode, Jay brags about "coming at you at the speed of light!" Pull back to show his legs still downloading.
  • Sound Effect Bleep: Utilized when Jay interviewed Cher, who incessantly swore at him.
  • Spork: This cutlery is mentioned at least twice throughout the show.

  Chicken Shack employee: You want a piece of me, fat boy? I'll spork your ass!

      • That might only provoke Jay.
  • Stalker Shrine: The projectionist in "Miserable" has one for Jay.

 Jay: You seem to have an unhealthy obsession with me. I like that in a girl!

  • Star Trek: Two of Marty's classmates are Klingons.
  • Status Quo Is God: Marty regains all the weight he lost in "From Chunk to Hunk", contriving his despair because he has become too popular. He promptly eats all of the ice cream in an ice cream parlor to restore his weight.
  • Stealth Insult: Shackleford refers to Jay as "Adopted Master Jay," but in this case he says it right to Jay's face.
    • In "Every Doris Has Her Day," after finding out Doris may be his mother, Jay tells him his adoption jives can't hurt him anymore.

 Shackleford: (crying) They can't?

  • Stealth Pun: The E.T. parody, D.T. stands for drunken terrestrial. D.T. also stands for delirium tremens, alcohol withdrawals severe alcoholics go through.
  • Strange Minds Think Alike: In one episode, a research scientist uses the previously mentioned "Quzybuk" word Duke invented.
  • Straw Critic: Jay. In a minor subversion, however, he's essentially a decent guy; in his defense, most of the movies he has to review are horrible. Still, he does attack some noteworthy films and/or performers -- he once sucker-punched Mister Rogers! -- and this is one reason he's so unpopular with the public.

 On Oscar-winner Haing S. Ngor in The Killing Fields: "If you ask me, he should have gone to the acting fields."

"And that's why I'm glad The Beatles broke up."

"And that's why Goldie Hawn should be shot."

  Jay: Well, that's our show. All the movies stink, particularly the three by John Hughes.

    • There's a literal example in one episode. Elenor has finally managed to buy Pablo Picasso's Guernica, and the moment its taken out of the truck, Franklin drives through it in a monster truck (with Penny in the passenger seat) and exclaims, "Take THAT, Guernica!"
    • Every U.S. President from Nixon to Clinton was the target of a "Take That" at least once during the show's run.
  • Talkative Loon: Franklin.
  • The Taxi: Jay is seen traveling by taxi a few times.
  • Temporary Bulk Change: Marty in the episode "From Chunk to Hunk". He and Jay attend a weight-loss camp which results in Marty to lose a lot of weight and gain a lot of popularity at school. However, he gains it all back by the time the episode ends.

 Soda Jerk: Our freezer is broken. We need someone to eat 50 gallons of ice cream.

(Marty immediately runs in.)

Soda Jerk: It's Jay Sherman's kid! We're saved!

 Aide: Sir, are you sure it's wise to be photographed with a film critic? It's the most despised profession there is ... Except for pre-op groin shaver.

Bush: Hey, my approval rating's 90%. How much harm can a little film critic do?

(After the photo is taken, it appears on the front page of The New York Chronicle with the headline "BUSH LOSES! -- Fat, Lecherous Hillbilly Elected.")

 Movie Usher: (to Jay after the show's closing credits) Excuse me sir, the show's over.

Jay: (says one of the following four responses)

  • Is the snack bar still open?

  • But I have nowhere to go.

  • I'm stuck in the chair!

  • Get away, zit-face! (Only in closing credits where the usher sounds like the pimple-faced teen from The Simpsons.)
      • In "Lady Hawke" and "Dukerella"

 Usher: Excuse me, the show's over.

Alice: Get away, pipsqueak!

Jay: That's why I love her!

 Principal Mangosuthu: And now the boy who used to be a girl - Oops, that used to be a secret.

  • Ugly Guy Hot Girlfriend: Jay and Alice were an established couple during the second season. Jay being a short funny fat guy, with the beautiful southern belle Alice.
    • Can be partially explained by her self esteem issues surrounding her sister, and her abusive unfaithful ex-husband. Jay being a sweetheart helps too. Explaining the girl from the Webisodes, however, is just way off.
  • Unsympathetic Comedy Protagonist: Jay.
    • In the first season. He was made more of a Woobie in the second season.
    • Still; even in the first season he goes through so, so much crap from all directions you can't help but feel sorry for him.
  • Unwanted Spouse: Jay is a victim of this. His ex-wife Ardeth admitted to his face of regretting marrying him, during the wedding ceremony.
    • In the episode "Marty's First Date," a flashback reveals how they met. She was a nurse and Jay was wrapped in bandages. She was so lovestruck by him that she was going to give up her job and marry him upon recovery. But when his bandages come off, she screamed like bloody murder!
    • Also Alice's husband Cyrus. A country singer who titled his first album "I'm being unfaithful to my wife, Alice Tompkins. You heard me, Alice Tompkins."
  • Video Wills: Franklin and Elenor prepared their own video will, which was presented to Jay and Margo after their possible death from a plane crash. Orson Welles also took part in it (and made sure to also include his "declaration of love" to Mrs. Pell's Fishsticks at the end).
  • Viewers are Morons: This attitude gets a lot of spoofing in-show.
  • Webisode: Ten of these were made throughout 2000-2001, but YMMV on them.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: The webisodes, of course, had to drop the other main characters due to lack of time and the original voice actors. One curious ommission, however, was Jeremy - whose voice actor was working on the webisodes.
  • What If: ComicBookMovie.com made their own cast list for a live-action movie, if one was in the works.
  • White Anglo Saxon Protestant: Jay's adoptive parents embody this trope, except for the incest. They do, however, try to arrange a date between Margo (their biological teen daughter) and a teenage boy who really bleeds Blue Blood for the debutante ball.
  • Whole-Episode Flashback: The Season 2 episode "Sherman of Arabia."
  • Woody Allen: Gets lampooned in the show a few times (often in reference to dating his adopted stepdaughter Soon-Yi [or an Asian girl who looks like her]).

 Woody: Soon-Yi, I-I’m sorry. I just can’t get past this problem with your age. You know, 22 is just too old for me.

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