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Genius: I'm Herman's intellect. Without me he couldn't hold his job, pay his rent or tie his shoes.
Originally broadcast on Fox (1991-1994), this half-hour Sitcom would have been just an ordinary office-based comedy except for its use of one of the most imaginative devices ever tried on broadcast television: the viewers were allowed to see the inner workings of the title character's mind. The inside of Herman Brooks' head was presented as an attic in which dwelt four characters who represented the conflicting forces which drove his personality and his life: Angel (his Sensitivity), Animal (his Lust), Wimp (his Anxiety) and Genius (his Intellect).
Outside of the "attic", Herman is a young writer working as a fact-checker for a Manhattan magazine, with a typical assortment of supporting characters: His boss Mr. Bracken, a walking encyclopedia; Louise, a meek-but-sweet plain-jane (played by Yeardley Smith, best known as the voice of Lisa Simpson); and Heddy, a man-hungry social-climbing beauty for whom Herman intermittently longs. Playing counterpoint to the office crew is his best friend Jay (Hank Azaria, also better known for his many roles on The Simpsons), a part-time Lothario whose success at writing drives Herman to match him.
Each episode mated a typical sitcom situation with the unique perspective on Herman's choices and motivations afforded by the "inside" scenes. The conflicts, alliances and negotiations between the four "insiders" made for just as much comedy as the events in the "outside" world — and sometimes more, as in the episode where the constantly-warring Angel and Animal discovered a woman they both agreed on.
Sadly, Fox canceled this show after its third season; it had the potential to be a classic, but is today mostly forgotten.
This show provides examples of:
- Bait and Switch Credits: The original opening has a narrator telling us that "sometimes [the insiders] agree... usually they don't," while showing them all arguing loudly. But in most episodes they usually do agree, except for Angel and Animal, and even then, their discussions are more in the form of sarcastic sniping than loud arguments.
- Casanova Wannabe: Jay
- Celebrity Paradox: See Hey, It's That Voice! below.
- Cerebus Syndrome: Any given episode would usually start with Herman doing something wrong, then Hilarity Ensues as he runs about trying to resolve the situation, with an Aesop over not having done it in the first place. Some of the third season episodes would have Herman fail to "fix" things (such as when he cheated on his Girl of the Week) presumably in order to reinforce the Aesop.
- Christmas Episode: "A Charlie Brown Fitzer"
- Completely Missing the Point: Herman's boss is a very serious man who tries to have fun but has no idea how. In one episode, he gets a ventriloquist's dummy and puts together a very convincing show... except that instead of telling jokes, he and the dummy exchange dry historical facts. He is shocked when he is told that's not how a ventriloquism act is supposed to go.
- Consolation World Record: in one episode
- A Date with Rosie Palms: Herman's insiders watch a flashback of when he had sex with Heddy, but the tape breaks. Angel accuses the others of constantly replaying this moment, and demands to know what they've been up to while she's been asleep. Cue guilty look from the three men.
- Different for Girls: in one episode
- Freudian Trio: Literally: Animal (Id), Angel (Ego), Genius (Superego). It's not surprising Wimp faded into the background in later episodes.
- "Friend or Idol?" Decision
- Ghost in the Machine
- Good Angel, Bad Angel
- Greek Chorus
- Half-Hour Comedy
- Hey, It's That Guy!: Jane Sibbett, who played Heddy, is probably better known these days as Carol Willick, Ross's lesbian ex-wife on Friends; and Jennifer Aniston made a brief appearance.
- And the boss is played by Jason Bernard, who played Elias' father Caleb in V.
- Hey, It's That Voice!: Yeardley Smith will always sound like Lisa Simpson.
- Parodied in one episode, where Louise (Smith's character) tells off an old friend (Maureen McCormick) of the boss without realizing who it is. When the boss confronts the staff about it, not knowing who spoke to Maureen but knowing that she sounded "like a cartoon character", Louise gets an Oh Crap moment — only for the boss to turn and start yelling at another woman, who protests in a Betty Boop voice.
- Averted by Hank Azaria, who doesn't sound like any of his Simpsons characters.
- Idiot Ball: Trope Namer — Hank Azaria coined it when referring to writing the episodes.
- Looking for Love In All the Wrong Places: Jay
- Orphaned Punchline: Louise's "Captain, it is I — Ensign Pulver — and I've just thrown your stinking palm tree overboard!"
- Professionals Do It on Desks: Herman and Heddy have sex on Mr Bracken's desk.
- Shout-Out: Many for The Simpsons
- A Running Gag involved Louise being mistaken for Lisa Simpson every time she talked to someone on the phone.
- Eventually it got shouted out on The Simpsons, as well, with Lisa covering up a sinister laugh by saying she was "thinking of something funny I saw on Herman's Head."
- Slap Slap Kiss
- What Could Have Been: According to a writer on the show, had it not been canceled at the end of the third season, a second set of Insiders — for Heddy — would have been introduced in the fourth season.
- Will They or Won't They?: Herman and Heddy, despite Heddy's oft-stated intentions of trapping a rich man to drain dry, start falling for each other by the third season, but resist their attraction with no small amount of angst on both sides over it.
- Work Com