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"The great thing about being screwed up is that nothing rattles me. Hey, once you've driven your drunk father to mom's parole hearing, what else is there?"
Originating as a Fox mid-season replacement in early 2000, Titus is an extremely faithful adaptation of comedian Christopher Titus' one-man show Norman Rockwell is Bleeding. Norman Rockwell itself is closely based on Titus' own life, such as having an alcoholic, five-times-divorced, patronizing, yet caring father; a violent, manic-depressive-schizophrenic mother; and himself having once fallen into a bonfire while drunk.
Titus talked to the audience from a black-and-white room referred to by fans as the "Neutral Space." (It was never verified exactly what that room represented: his stream of consciousness, his thoughts during a therapy session, or a realm where he can literally break the fourth wall and talk to the audience? Hints are given towards each one.) From that room, he detailed his thoughts, feelings and Backstory elements that can better explain the current story. It also allowed a Jump Cut to a Flash Back or Imagine Spot when needed.
The show itself was organized in a different method than most sitcoms. They had a studio audience, but they kept the majority of the action on one set and done close to Real Time. Instead of filming throughout a week, they would rehearse throughout the week and perform for the audience on Friday like it was a play. The Laugh Track was genuine and a video recording of the Neutral Space and subsequent flashbacks were also played for the audience in sequence with the live performance. This allowed the studio audience to see the show almost exactly the same way as it airs on TV.
Setting itself apart from domestic comedy sitcoms, Titus called itself a "domestic disturbance." Every episode dealt with life in a screwed-up world with alcoholism, drug abuse, murders, suicides, death, muggings, greed, child molestation, STDs, domestic violence, gun violence, and road rage. While treating such topics with appropriate seriousness when needed, they always found a method to joke about them, calling it "Find the Funny." Each character approaches their life in a different way: Christopher does everything he can to avoid his Father's issues (drinking, smoking, multiple ex-wives...), his girlfriend Erin is eternally optimistic with a bit of forcing a smile, his brother Dave doesn't realize how messed up he is, his friend Tommy is so neurotic he sabotages himself, while Papa Titus only knew that being hard on his kids was the only way they'll learn how to survive.
Because it made fun of such sensitive things, it was considered pushing the envelope too far and was canceled after three seasons. In retrospect, Christopher Titus said that the ratings were always solid but he would prefer it be canceled for how controversial it was rather than being a failure.
- Abuse Is Okay When Its Female On Male: Deconstructed or averted, depending on the episode.
- On "The Last Noelle," Titus told of how every woman he dated was either unfaithful (like Dakota, who made out with a busboy) or mentally deranged (Taylor, who was so depressed over her dead dog that she cut Titus's hair in his sleep, Chastity, a Satan worshiper with telekinetic powers, and Noelle, a seemingly sweet girl who threatened to kill Titus if he ever left her or looked at other women). Erin explains that the only reason he ever stayed with those women was because he was secretly attracted to women who were as mentally ill as his mom.
- The episode where Titus and Erin try to have their wedding without any members of their respective dysfunctional families coming had Titus, Dave, Ken, and even the priest threatening to kill Juanita's fiance after hearing that he slapped her for not taking her medication. Juanita's response: She shoots him. In the next episode ("The Trial"), Juanita is acquitted of all charges, but ends up taking Ken and the judge hostage because she was sick of Titus condoning her abusive behavior to the men in her life.
- Abusive Parents: Titus took this trope, turned it up to eleven, and played it for both Laughs and Drama.
- A Day in the Limelight: Ken and Erin got chances to narrate the episode from the Neutral Space (Ken narrated on "The Pendulum," where Titus is in a coma following a racecar crash while Erin narrated on "Bachelor Party," where Titus and his friends help a pregnant single mother deliver a baby at a grungy diner). If the show had continued, they would have had episodes with Dave and Tommy in the Neutral Space.
- An Aesop: In all its incarnations and variations. Once Titus took comfort in the fact that he and Erin had a fight and they cheated on each other. Titus said that, for him, good things are just bad things that haven't happened yet. So no matter how perfect their relationship got, Titus and Erin could always take solace in the fact that they once cheated on each other. (And no one could ever take that away from them.)
- Altar the Speed: Titus and Erin tried to get married before any of their dysfunctional relatives arrived. It failed. Hilarity Ensued.
- Ambiguously Gay: Tommy. Justified in that Tommy's father was gay and Tommy emulated what his father did — minus the "having-sex-with-men" part — not knowing that it would brand him as being gay.
- Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: Titus names off three massacres in history that started off with "Surprise!": the Japanese bombing Pearl Harbor, the Vietnam War's Tet Offensive, and...Titus's uncle's 50th birthday party. Turns out the last one isn't as harmless as it should be as Titus's uncle fired a gun in the room and killed two people before Titus stopped him.
- Asian Gal with White Guy: Dave repeatedly lauds the fact that his girlfriend is Asian.
- Author Tract: The show always depicted therapists, social workers, and normal people as trying to do good for screwed-up people, but inevitably making things worse. Especially true of the social workers, as one flashback showed Titus being sent to live with his mentally ill mother after his father, a functioning alcoholic/chain-smoker/occasional pot smoker/womanizing divorcé who uses Tough Love-cum-Comedic Sociopathy to make men out of his sons, was branded unfit to care for children. The therapists were depicted more as being lecherous know-nothing-know-it-alls, as one episode revealed that Juanita was sleeping with her therapist — who, in a later episode, was revealed to be an abusive Jerkass who punched her in the face and got shot during Titus's wedding to Erin.
- Beard of Sorrow: Christopher's car shop went under and he pushed Erin away when he went back to the bottle. He seemed to instantly get three days' growth, but him shaving (after accidentally setting fire to a crudely-made dummy version of Erin during a drunken candlelight dinner) was a sign he was trying to get sober again.
- Beware the Nice Ones: While it's hard to do, pushing Tommy too far may get him to tase your juvenile delinquent ass up or kick the homophobic shit out of you and force you to scream "I'm a homo!"
- Bi the Way: Dave is seen dating Nancy (the Asian girl he picked up when Titus went to the funeral of his abusive ex-girlfriend), but in the middle of Season 3 hints are dropped that Dave doesn't mind being sexual around men (i.e., kissing Tommy to prove that Tommy isn't gay in the episode "Tommy's Not Gay" and working at a bar on nights when gay men drink at half-price.
- Big No: Dave is prone to this.
- Big "What?"/Flat What: Both are running gags on this show, especially in the flashbacks of Titus's childhood where Ken does something to humiliate Titus and/or Dave, a stranger stares at Ken in shock, and Ken replies with a Flat What.
- Black Comedy: The show is best described as this. It can't be a Dramedy because the topics are played for laughs nor is it a Dead Baby Comedy because the topics are still portrayed seriously. As paradoxical as that sounds it works very well.
- Book Ends: Most episodes start with Christopher Titus turning on a bare lightbulb in the Neutral Space and starting his monologue on the topic of the episode. The final Neutral Space segment will then repeat one or two sentences of the first monologue while changing its original meaning on its side, then closes by turning off the same lightbulb (usually by Titus clicking the light, but there were times where the light bulb either broke, was turned off in a weird way [[The Perfect Thanksgiving" had Titus use a remote control], or, in the case of two episodes with dramatic endings ["Episode 11" and "The Pit]] the light bulb stayed on).
- Bottle Episode: Pretty much all the episodes take place in one setting (sometimes two, but usually, it's an adjacent room) with a limited amount of actors and actresses. This is probably the only American TV show in which most — if not all — of the episodes are Bottle Episodes that don't double as ClipShows or special, dramatic episodes (though episodes like "Tommy's Not Gay," "The Visit" [where Titus thinks his mom escaped from the mental hospital, but gets a call from the police stating that Juanita killed herself in Missouri], "The Last Noelle," and "The Protector" have dramatic undertones to them to add to the comedy).
- Brick Joke: A lot of jokes set up in the neutral space (or on a part before the cut to the neutral space) have a punchline either after the neutral space cut or within the neutral space. Example: On the Christmas episode, "Houseboat," after Bob climbs back on the boat, he mumbles, "I have a tiny fish in my pants." After the cutaway to the Neutral Space (in which Titus is overjoyed that his father now learns the true meaning of Christmas and will teach him next year that "...heart attacks are not like women. You just can't keep having them"), Bob can be seen setting said fish free.
- Two episode titles seem very out of place: Episode Eleven and Episode 27, which are not actually episodes number 11 or 27 (They're numbers 9 and 21). The titles (and entire episodes) themselves are the punchlines to brick jokes set up by a couple of throwaway lines said in the neutral space in previous episodes.
- Call Back:
- On "The Protector," in the Neutral Space cutaway, Titus explains that a reckless accusation can ruin a person's life, like his high school rival, Mario Capono of Fremont, California (who, according to Titus, prances around in women's underwear). Another Neutral Space scene later has Titus give a serious speech about how protecting children is hard, especially if they sleep over at a stranger's house and come back physically, sexually, or emotionally scarred. He then ends the speech with, "So, whatever you do, don't let your kids visit the home of Mario Capono of Fremont, California."
- "Sex with Pudding" mentioned that the last time Titus and Dave visited Erin at her office Dave accidentally set a trash can on fire. In the wrap-up of the episode, Dave is seen inching away from another trash can fire.
- "The Pendulum" has Ken Titus tell viewers the story of how he kidnapped Christopher after the court ruled that he was an unfit father. To cover up the kidnapping, Ken tells his son that he's going to get him a Hot Wheels Laguna Beach car set at the toy store...but he never does. When Christopher comes out of the coma and returns to the Neutral Space, he finds the Hot Wheels car set his father promised him years ago.
- Titus drunkenly falling into the bonfire is mentioned frequently, as well as the few times he lived with his deranged Mom as a child.
- Cloudcuckoolander: As stated, Dave. Justified in that he is also The Stoner and most of what he says could be the marijuana talking.
- Creator Cameo: Producer Brian Hargrove had a semi-recurring role as Principal Snell, who was there when Titus was in high school and also shows up in modern day scenes taking place at the high school. Also, Erin's brother was played by one of the writers.
- The Danza: Titus himself.
- Dead All Along: Juanita at the end of "The Visit." Just as Titus, Dave, Tommy, and Ken are about to attack Juanita, thinking that she escaped from the mental hospital again, Erin comes in with a phone, telling Titus that his mom was found dead four hours ago in Missouri from a suicide.
- Dinner and a Show: There was the episode where Titus' family and Erin's family came for Thanksgiving and wound up in the hospital, twice with his mother making dinner (one time drugging the entire family and trying to kill his dad, another with her psychiatrist fiance showing up and punching Papa Titus), and once when Tommy was dating a woman Titus had slept with and they went to her restaurant. Ken even used the trope title as things got more and more awkward.
- Distracted by the Sexy: How Erin helped Titus win a street race.
- Domestic Abuse: Titus dated a woman named Noelle who was a crazy, jealous girl who punched him in the face for inconsequential things (like the fact that Titus loved watching Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer every Christmas) and used sex to manipulate him into staying with her.
- Titus' schizophrenic mother Juanita (who also was abusive to Ken, often threatening his life and using sex to lure him back to her) was abused by her psychologist fiance ( until she shot him).
- Dope Slap: Titus frequently did this to Dave, to the point where when Titus was unconscious in the hospital, Dave would hit himself with Titus' limp hand, crying "It's not the same!"
- Double Entendre: Often. Dave frequently hears things as one, or his goofiness will make things that aren't double entendres into one for the audience. Papa Titus also frequently makes them, especially when he hits on women or makes fun of Tommy's supposed homosexuality.
Titus: "Dad, you're not in love with her; it's the heart attack rebound thing. It's the angina talking!"
- Double Standard: Addressed when Tommy encounters an old girlfriend with a restraining order against him. They had sex when they were together and she was debating on breaking up with him. When he approached her (naked) to have sex again she used it as an excuse to break up with him and filed the restraining order. When talking to her in the present she claimed he tried to rape her. Titus picked apart the trope by telling her that claiming rape when they already had regular intercourse is not a substitute for telling Tommy that she hated him and never wanted to see him again.
- Driven to Suicide: Titus' mom at the end of "The Visit." At the beginning of "Insanity Genetic, Part One," the first thing Christopher and Ken asked when news of Juanita's death hit was "Did she take anyone else with her?" Fortunately for them, she didn't.
- Dude, Not Funny: Christopher Titus said that every episode involved a phone call to the network trying to explain the humor behind such episode topics as mental illness, road rage, gun use, homophobia, family dysfunction, and alcoholism (among other things). The season one episode "Intervention" almost got banned because the story involved Tommy, Dave, Erin, and Titus trying to get Papa Titus to drink again, as he functioned better in life when he was a drunk.
- Dysfunctional Family: The point of the show.
- Dysfunction Junction: See above.
- Even Evil Has Standards: On "The Perfect Thanksgiving," Ken Titus reprimands Erin's dad, Merritt, for physically abusing his son, Michael (telling him that hitting Michael doesn't make him a man; it makes him a "drunken Irish loser!"). Slides right into Hypocritical Humor when Ken berates Titus for jumping a dangerous criminal (Michael) in front of two cops, then informs Merritt that emotional damage is much more powerful in keeping your kids in line.
- Evilly Affable: Ken Titus
- Executive Meddling: See Dude, Not Funny
- Also, FOX wanted Erin and Titus to break up, but Titus refused, which is how the show got canceled. Now considered Hilarious in Hindsight (in a dark and twisted way) in light of Titus's divorce from Erin Carden (Titus's real-life wife who was given the surname Fitzpatrick on the TV show).
- The Faceless: Most of Papa Titus' ex-wives and girlfriends, including Juanita in episodes where Juanita isn't prominently featured, but Titus does mention the insane things she did when he was a kid (like putting Titus in a germ-free bubble to protect him from a brain-eating virus and wearing a green Army jacket and white go-go boots sans pants or underwear).
- Failure Is the Only Option: "For me, the greatest hurdle to success has always been failure."
- Faux Yay: In the episode "Tommy's Not Gay," Dave decides to prove that Tommy's not gay (by kissing him), among other things.
- Flash Back: A lot of the ImagineSpots in the Neutral Space are flashbacks of Titus's (or Erin's) Hilariously Abusive Childhood.
- The Fun in Funeral: Christopher went to an ex-girlfriend's funeral not because he was saddened, but because he wanted to make sure she was really dead.
- Considering how he introduces her at the beginning of the series:
Titus (on Psycho Bitch Cam): My last girlfriend was a 5'1", 100 pound Jewish girl. (gets punched) And I still haven't forgiven the Jewish people.
- Gallows Humor: A lot of the show's humor makes fun of things considered too cruel or serious to be mocked.
- Something interesting but, for all of the gay jokes on the show (mostly centered on Tommy being Ambiguously Gay according to Titus's dad), the two executive producers Brian Hargrove and Jack Kenny were gay themselves. "Tommy's Not Gay" even won a GLAAD award for its hilarious, yet realistic approach to homosexuality and homophobia.
- Cynthia Watros said that nearly every episode she would approach Christopher and ask "This actually happened to you?" and hugged him.
- Go Look At the Distraction: "Dave, cow!"
- Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow: Flashbacks during Titus' high school days had Principal Snell with an afro, while he was quite balding today. Titus himself had long, unkempt hair in high school (which probably was shortened thanks to the bonfire incident and dating a girl who was so depressed over her dead dog that she cut his hair in his sleep).
- Hammerspace: Granted the Neutral Space was not exactly reality, but it did often have random things appear. Video editing equipment, giant wall safe, food and of course hammers showed up often.
- Hilariously Abusive Childhood: The entire series is based around this.
- I Hit You, You Hit the Ground: From "After Mrs. Shafter": "There's gonna be three hits — me hitting you, you hitting the floor, then you hitting on the paramedic."
- In Memoriam: The real Ken Titus was honored in the episode "The Pendulum" (where Titus is in a coma and Ken [Stacy Keach] is narrating the story in the Neutral Space) with a clip from a visit he made to the set where he sat in the Neutral Space chair and said, "There's about 10% of truth to this..." with Christopher laughing in the background going "Right..."
- I Take Offense to That Last One: When Christopher starts drinking again, he calls himself an alcoholic. Papa Titus' reply was "You're not an alcoholic; you haven't earned it."
- Lampshaded Double Entendre: People like Papa Titus will do it straight, people like Dave though...
- The Load: Titus frequently had to bail Dave out of whatever crap he had gotten himself into.
Christopher: "Dave's my brother, and I love him with all my heart...no matter how many times I'm charged as an accessory."
- Magical Security Cam: The Neutral Space would introduce some film clips of past events, sometimes realistically done like a stationary security cam, and sometimes done like a camcorder. Other times, it would show something from someone else's point of view ("Biological Mom Cam," "Dad Cam," "Minimum Wage Cam," "Marijuana Task Force Cam," "Back of Dad's Hand Cam," "Fist Cam," "Stripper Girlfriend Cam," "Miracle of Life Cam," "Psycho-Bitch Cam", "NASCAR Cam," and "Van Damme Fan Cam")
- Meaningful Echo: Papa Titus' Catch Phrase is "Quit being a wussy!" and when Titus' shop went under, he turned to alcohol. Papa Titus gave him a rare moment of genuine concern but also explained the concept of a Crapsack World and finished it with:
Ken: "All of this crap is going to work out. You've just got to quit being a wussy!"
- Mercy Lead: Spoofed. In "The Protector" once the man who molested Amy is exposed, Amy is about to go to town on him with a baseball bat. Then the school principal walks in...
Principal: I am going to have to call the authorities.
Titus: (holding a glass of water) If sex were water...Tommy hasn't had sex in two years. (shrugs and takes a drink)
- Missing Episode: Aired out of order, but you get the sense that they were changed because they were originally going to be taken out entirely, as both episode only aired at the end of the season; while there was only a light storyline, it still created some skewed continuity. They were held back because of how extreme the subject matter got. "The Wedding" was moved five episodes down to the end of the second season because the episode involved domestic violence in a church (Juanita's boyfriend punches her in the face and Juanita shoots him). "The Protector" takes place in the middle of the third season but was moved to the end (after the "Insanity Genetic" two-parter) because it dealt with child molestation ( Erin's niece Amy reveals that she was molested by a family friend who turns out to be the father of a boy who sexually harasses her at school).
- Mistaken for Cheating: "Sex With Pudding"
- Mistaken for Gay: Tommy, frequently. Deconstructed in "Tommy's Not Gay," where after his father comes out of the closet Tommy takes a moment to seriously question himself on the topic and Titus has to deal with some gay bashers.
- Mistaken for Terrorist: Titus having a nervous breakdown about his deceased Mom after smelling a turkey dinner (Juanita, despite her mental illness, was a Supreme Chef and knew how to make a great Thanksgiving meal) and rambling about how he's connected to his mom from turkey (the food, not the country), Dave with a towel on his head and speaking unintelligibly after brushing his teeth, Tommy emphatically saying "a la" without adding "chicken" or "king" (since the flight attendant wouldn't stop calling the meal "Chicken King")...perfect recipe.
- Mood Whiplash: In the episode where Ken's narrating, Chris is in a coma on life support. Ken makes an impassioned plea to the heavens, swearing to give up drinking, smoking, and womanizing if his boy will just wake up...then waits about 10 seconds, shrugs, and goes, "Well, I tried," and lights up a cigarette.
- In Episode Eleven, Titus humiliates his dad and starts joking at him. Then, in the middle of Ken's stuttering rebuttals, he suddenly goes into cardiac arrest, while the doctors come rushing in to help him
- Ms. Fanservice: Several of Erin's outfits, especially in season 3, had her breasts more out than in. Justified in that Cynthia Watros was pregnant for a couple episodes of season two (it was hidden, naturally) and had just given birth in between seasons two and three.
- Mystery Science Theater 3000 Mantra}}
- No Fourth Wall: In the Neutral Space cutaways.
- Non Sequitur Distraction: Erin is chewing Ken out for being a bad father, at one point calling him a "Motard". When her rant ends, he just looks at her funny and says "Motard?"
- No, You: In "The Pendulum" Tommy is too upset and responds to Ken's common insult with "No! You are gay!"
- Only Sane Man: Erin. Sure, she has her "If you can't beat them, join them" moments and her family is more dysfunctional than Titus's, but she's the only one who tries logic first. Tommy tries it too, but he's such a wet sack nobody listens to him.
- The Other Darrin: Played straight with Titus's mom, who was played by three different actresses during the show's short-run, as well as the psychiatrist dating her who only appeared in two episodes; averted with Erin's family, as all of them were played by the same actors in such episodes as "The Perfect Thanksgiving" and "Deprogramming Erin" (though Amy didn't appear in "The Perfect Thanksgiving").
- Out of Order: The first episode "Dad is Dead" was replaced with "Sex with Pudding," which erroneously put the series focus on Erin and Titus rather than Titus and his family.
- On a more intentional Anachronic Order, some episodes reference upcoming stories, such as Ken's "heart attack" while driving ending the first season but was referenced earlier.
- Reality Subtext: Titus's real father (Ken Titus) died in mid-second season and Christopher got some time off to take care of things. The first episode upon returning involved Christopher and Papa Titus (played here by Stacy Keach) being manipulated by Erin to take a road trip together (each thinking the other was dying). The real Christopher had to take a break a few times because he felt really uncomfortable doing an episode about the death of his father.
- Real Life Writes the Plot: Most of what happens to Titus in the series actually happened to him in real life (the bonfire incident, his mom's suicide, Titus going insane on an airplane following his mom's suicide, Titus being abused by his first girlfriend, Titus living with a hard-drinking, chain-smoking, five-times divorced, womanizing father who always crushed his self-esteem and called him a "wussy"). Members of Titus's family had to sign waivers because of how close it came.
- And another instance was with actor Zack Ward, who plays Titus's half-brother Dave. Ward is an incredibly white guy who's married to a hot Asian girl, and the producers found that so hilarious, they gave his character an Asian girlfriend named Nancy (first seen on "The Last Noelle").
- Jokes and stories that were featured in the show but weren't referenced in "Norman Rockwell" would pop up in later stand-up routines by Titus as events that apparently really happened. The story of Christopher's conception (Juanita's boyfriend yelling outside the room), the seminar where Christopher starts to understand his dad better and others.
- Real Time: With few exceptions, each episode's main story took place in real time on one set. If not, then in a close time frame (like an afternoon). They kept up the energy by using the neutral space for flashbacks and imagine spots.
- Refuge in Audacity: The entire series could count given the subject matter, but the episode "Errr" took it to new heights with the topic of people attempting suicide over a jilted romance.
Titus: (talking to Amy) Vodka and pills? (beat) I told you to stay out of my dad's earthquake kit!
- Remember the New Guy?: Played with in the case of Shannon, Titus' sister where even Erin was wondering why she never heard of her before then. But there was a reference to her in season two, in a conversation between Christopher and Papa Titus.
- Rule of Three: Mentioned in the DVD Commentary that they always tried to work in one particular joke three times. Dave's breath spray in "Tommy's Not Gay" is an example.
- Running Gag: Every episode had either actual fire or had the threat of someone or something being set on fire, including the story of how Christopher got drunk during a school beach party and fell into a bonfire (which actually happened to him, according to the comedy special, "Norman Rockwell is Bleeding.")
- In fact, the final shot of the series finale uses fire. Titus pulls the chair used in the Neutral Space to the middle of a street and sets it on fire, then starts walking away while whistling the show's theme tune.
- In "Hard Ass," (the episode where Amy stays over with Erin and Titus) there's a running flashback gag where every time Ken finds teenage Titus's marijuana stash, Ken punishes teenage Titus, then keeps the marijuana for himself.
- The Sadistic Choice: Titus being asked which parent he wanted to stay with.
Ken: "Choose. Who do you want in your life, her or me?"
- Tough Love: Ken Titus speciality. Titus tries it on Dave on the episode "Into Thin Air".
- Screw the Money, I Have Rules and Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism: Subverted. In "Titus Integritus," Titus broods over a request from a customer to make an ugly modern attachment to a classic hot rod which brings him into conflict with everyone else who wants to get paid. Just as he brings some of the others to his side, the customer gives him a check with a lot of 'zeroes.'
- Screwed by the Network: Became one of the many short-lived replacement shows for Family Guy when Family Guy got Un Cancelled and Peter named off all the shows that aired en lieu of their show between 2002 and 2005 on the episode "North By North Quahog."
- Sink or Swim Mentor: Papa Titus throws Dave into the water to teach him how to swim. When he turns out to be too much of a "wussy", he throws Titus in to "save [his] brother." Then he eats Titus' sandwich. The kids were around 10 at the time.
- Special Guest: A few over the three seasons, but they weren't hyped up too much. Jay Leno (as himself in the two-parter where Titus crashes his racecar and ends up in a coma), Frankie Muniz (as a car executive in "Too Damn Good"), David Hyde Pierce (as a motivational speaker who tries to help Titus around the time that his hot rod shop went out of business), Alex Borstein (as the pregnant single mother in "Bachelor Party"), and Elizabeth Berkley (as Titus's sister, Shannon).
- Stepford Smiler: Erin. She was frequently shown as trying to be optimistic despite the horrible surroundings, only to have it all blow up in her face, time after time. This show being what it is, it was always Played for Laughs.
- Survival Mantra: Erin's "HAPPY HAPPY HAPPY HAPPY HAPPY HAPPY HAPPY HAPPY HAPPY HAPPY HAPPY..."
- Taught By Experience: Papa Titus favored this teaching method. When his son was ready to jab a fork in an outlet, his mother tried to stop him. Papa Titus let him go through with it, then simply tells his son, "You won't do that again, will you?"
- Too Good to Last: As Titus himself said, you call your bosses stupid enough times, and they will fire you.
- Too Soon: Averted, as they portrayed the family being mistaken for terrorists on an airplane only several months after 9/11 (though some will argue that airing the episode while the 9/11 wounds are still fresh would be this trope).
- Very Special Episode: The entire show was also a Deconstruction of the very idea. Every episode had something most TV shows either wouldn't do because it's too controversial or would do, but would make it more dramatic than comedic. The closest it's come to something more traditional were "Tommy's Not Gay" (where Tommy gets angry at his father after his father confesses that he's gay), "The Last Noelle," (where Titus goes to the funeral of his abusive ex-girlfriend), and "The Protector" (where Amy recognizes the father of the boy who sexually harasses her at school as the man who molested her as a kid).
- Wham! Episode: "The Visit". After Titus, Dave, Tommy, and Papa Titus have Juanita cornered in the closet — thinking that she escaped the mental hospital again, Erin comes in with a call from the Missouri police, stating that Juanita Titus was found dead four hours ago from a suicide. Titus doesn't believe Erin until he opens the closet and finds no one there.
- Also, "The Pit." After finally getting his drag car working for the big race, Titus starts it up and drives it down the track, only to have it burst into flames. The episode ends in the neutral space, focusing on the wrecked car and the light bulb as we hear EM Ts move a nearly-dead Titus into an ambulance.
- You Are a Credit to Your Race: Papa Titus is racist but in a genuine way.
Christopher: (introducing his new Black Best Friend) Hey Dad, this is Roger. He just moved in down the street.
Papa Titus: What's your rush? Your fifteen kids will still be there when you get home!
Christopher (to Tommy): Look, Tommy, if you do anything to hurt Shannon, you're gonna have to deal with that Swede [Shannon's boyfriend, Stefan], and...(points to himself, then looks over Tommy's shoulder and addresses Papa Titus): Dad, what are we, German-Irish?
- "Well Done, Son" Guy: Even the network was a little confused about it; Christopher and Erin were not the primary relationship of the show, like most other sitcoms. It was actually Christopher and Papa Titus. Because of that, the second episode, "Sex with Pudding", aired before the pilot "Dad is Dead". Being a pilot episode, it introduced the characters, the dysfunctional family theme of the show and, most importantly, Titus' relationship with his father. "Sex with Pudding" was a "more traditional" sitcom story about Titus being overprotective of Erin and, as such, you were already expected to know the characters.
- What Could Have Been: Tommy (David Shatraw's character) was almost played by Steve Carrell.
- The Woobie: Christopher and Erin both fit.
- Yandere: One of Titus's girlfriends, Noelle, who blamed her bouts of anger and abuse on a "sugar imbalance," which Titus tried to temper by offering her Twix.
- Most of the women Ken Titus dated/married were either this or just plain crazy. Juanita (Titus's mom and Ken's second wife) qualified for the later (which is justified as she was a manic-depressive schizophrenic who preferred to medicate herself with alcohol rather than take her prescribed medication).
- The pilot episode in which Titus, Dave, Erin, and Tommy worry that Ken may be dead as he hasn't come out of his room in four days — not even to get a beer