Hey Arnold!

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
Jump to: navigation, search
Heyarnold3a.jpg

Hey Arnold! is a children's animated TV series created by Matt Groening's brother-in-law, Craig Bartlett, starring an eclectic—and more often than not eccentric—group of characters that navigate a sort of urban wonderland. Arnold is a generally mellow 4th-grader with a head shaped like an American football, who lives with his grandparents and their (also eccentric) tenants in a boarding house. Gerald is his best friend and "the Keeper of Urban Lore," who dispenses legendary tales of characters such as "Stoop Kid" (said to have been born on the stoop he can be seen, day or night, to glower from with promised vengeance to any who should think to violate his sacred site) or "Wheezin' Ed" (rumored to have a massive treasure cavern on the mysterious Elk Island). Also notable among Arnold's neighbors and classmates is Helga Pataki, a female bully who openly scoffs at Arnold's positive attitude while secretly admiring him for his optimism. As the show developed, an increasing amount of focus was put on her extremely conflicted, melodramatic character and her utter obsession with the football-headed one—she once made a shrine of his likeness, built entirely out of pieces of used gum that Arnold had chewed and left behind.

The show had a number of episodes dealing with the rather mundane aspects of childhood life, such as the crush on teacher episode, but more often ventured into the surreal, such as Arnold and Gerald encountering the labyrinthine realm of the Sewer King to retrieve Arnold's grandfather's watch, and having to duel with him to avoid being declared his "royal rat groomers." In later episodes more attention was paid to the Love Triangle between Helga, Arnold, and Lila, the sickeningly sweet country girl who likes Arnold but does not LIKE-him like him (much to Arnold's chagrin), Helga's transparently dysfunctional and unhappy family life, and the mystery of Arnold's missing parents—a story which will now never be fully told due to the show's cancellation and the aborted "Jungle Movie"... except some fans are virtually unbarred at trying to rally the masses to get the series its proper finale.

It premiered in 1996, and wound up production in 2001 (though the last episodes wouldn't be seen until around 2004). It had a movie in 2002 (although it was intended as a telefilm) titled Hey Arnold!: The Movie. Reception of the film by critics and fans of the show was very negative; after all, it was a pastiche of cliches and other sterotypes that were Played for Laughs, though one wonders how people could be so venomous about the film. Another movie had been planned, but was canceled when the telefilm was not a success. And there... we have trouble. The second movie was the impending Grand Finale of the show, now Screwed by the Network. The Jungle Movie finally was re-announced in 2015 and entered post-production in October 2017.

Currently shows on Teen Nick's The 90s Are All That programming block.

Has an excellent Wiki here.


Tropes used in Hey Arnold! include:
  • Aborted Arc: The Grand Finale never revealed what happened to Arnold's parents. Keyboards at the ready, Fanfic writers!
  • Abhorrent Admirer: Curly to Rhonda, big time. Brainy is a milder version of this trope; his presence annoys Helga to no end but all he really does is breathe down her neck.
  • Absurdly Spacious Sewer
  • Abuse Is Okay When It Is Female On Male:
    • Averted with Helga. While her bullying (of everyone, not just Arnold) is not treated as seriously as a male bully would be, it is still not portrayed as being okay by the show, pointing out repeatedly that it is a problem, and that what Helga is doing is not acceptable behaviour for anybody.
    • Played straight with Arnold's grandparents when they were kids, where his grandmother would do the same (if not worse) to his grandfather.
  • Abusive Parents: Helga and the Jolly-Olly Man both have G-rated versions of these. Helga's mother is always passed out on the couch with "smoothies" and never seems to be in a right state of mind. Her father, meanwhile, has a horrible temper, is extremely authoritarian, and is otherwise obsessed with his work. Neither of them pay any mind to Helga, always calling her by her sister Olga's name (who they dote on whenever she's around).
  • The Ace: Helga's "perfect" college-aged sister Olga only looks perfect, but she's dangerously neurotic and melodramatic thanks to having to live up to her parents' constant attention and high standards. She even tells Helga once she'd rather be The Unfavorite since that would let her be free like Helga is. Lila's a parody of this, as well as a general Parody Sue.
    • Arnold himself can do anything. By the time of the movie, most of the neighbourhood believes he can save them from having to sell up and move. And he does.
  • Acid Reflux Nightmare: In one episode, Helga started sleepwalking after eating pork rinds.
  • Acrofatic: Harold sure can move quickly for a big guy.
  • Actually Not a Vampire: "Sid The Vampire Slayer". Sid spends the whole episode believing Stinky is a vampire and tries to get proof. When he confronts Stinky, he has a perfectly logical explanation for everything and Sid leaves feeling stupid. Cut to later that night, where we see Stinky, talking to a bat and looking suspiciously like a vampire!
  • Addiction Displacement: Chocolate Boy gives up chocolate and starts eating radishes instead.
  • Adults Are Useless: Zig-Zagged.
  • Aesop Amnesia:
    • Rhonda apparently learns not to be a self-centered libby several times, Olga seems to forget all about her past visits to the Pataki household with each visit, proclaiming her wish to better connect with Helga while unconciously annoying her in all the usual ways.. In one episode, Harold gains new confidence when he learns just how smart he can be if he puts some effort in... next we see him, he's back to being the buttmonkey crybaby of the class.
    • Justified with Miriam. She learns to be a better mother a couple times; but a couple other episodes make it seem like she's back to her old ways. She relapsed.
    • At least two episodes had the characters involved immediately forget their aesops before the episode even ended, in one Rhonda isn't invited to a party because she chose to alienate everyone else, at the end of the episode she shows she realizes this was wrong, but before the episode ends quips that the next day she'll be 'popular' again and not a geek like the rest of the party who alienated her for her alienating them, thus showing she really learned nothing. Harold had one where he gained a lot of extra weight and worked hard to lose it, at the end of the episode after losing all the excess weight (not all of it, he was still the Big Eater of the show) he immediately accepts a bet of eating 50 ice cream bars, the same act that caused him to feel bad about himself at the start of the episode.
  • Affectionate Nickname: Olga always addresses Helga as "Baby Sister," and when she hangs out with Lila in one episode (as part of the "Big Sis, Little Sis" charity) addresses her as "Little Sis."
  • Air Vent Passageway: How Dino Spumoni crashes the concert of an incredible stimulation of himself.
  • The Alcoholic: Helga's mom, Miriam, according to Word of God, but this could only be implied thanks to Nickelodeon's Media Watchdogs. She drinks a lot of "smoothies," talks in a tired, slow voice, looks extremely depressed, is oblivious to her surroundings, forgets things, doesn't drive anymore (and when she did on an episode where Helga and Miriam try to bond during a road trip, she drove rather erratically), and is often found asleep (usually in strange places, like behind the couch or on the living room table). When making a "smoothie", she grabs a bottle of hot sauce.
    • To enforce this, Helga never seems to find her mother's behaviour unusual or incorrect, implying that it's been going on for so long that to her, it's perfectly normal.
    • If the spinoff The Patakis had been made, Miriam was said she would be attending AA.
    • It has been suggested that Helga merely refers to the booze as 'smoothies' for reasons ranging from basic ignorance, to being told to do so.
  • All Just a Dream: "Arnold Visits Arnie".
  • All Love Is Unrequited: In "Arnold Visits Arnie", Arnie has a girlfriend Lulu who is madly in love with Arnold, who has a crush on Hilda who falls in love with Arnie.
    • Which is just a bizarro rendering of the usual Love Triangle between Arnold, Helga and Lila. (Which also includes Brainy having a crush on Helga.)
    • It gets better; see Love Dodecahedron below.
    • And in the first season, there's Arnold's unrequited crush on Ruth.
  • All There in the Manual: The book six of the series Hey Arnold! Arnold's E-Files confirms that Brainy is in love with Helga and that he has Hidden Depths.
  • Alma Mater Song: P.S. 118 has a particularly unpopular one.
  • Alpha Bitch: Rhonda, very often. The sixth-graders that use Phoebe also fit into this category; they also move Rhonda to the back of the bus when she gets glasses.
  • Ambiguous Disorder: Arnie, Arnold's cousin. Hobbies include reading ingredient labels, counting things, and collecting lint. He also doesn't seem to know social norms; he asks Rhonda if she wants to see his ball of lint.
  • Ambiguously Gay:
    • Eugene. He has a room decorated with rainbows and unicorns, and often takes interest in anything related to dancing and musicals.
    • Mr. Simmons, Word of God states that he is in fact gay, but a kids show would never openly state so.
  • An Aesop: "Helga On The Couch" taught kids that seeing a shrink isn't a negative thing. Many episodes contained this, really.
  • Annoying Younger Sibling: Gerald's little sister, Timberly. A more realistic example. According to Jamie-O, Gerald is this to him, but it's incredibly hard to feel sympathy for him when Jamie-O is one of the biggest Jerkass characters of the series. Jamie-O does eventually decides that Gerald isn't as much of an annoying younger sibling after he points out that his relationship is parasitic.
  • Anguished Declaration of Love: In Hey Arnold!: The Movie, Helga gives one to Arnold along with a passionate kiss. Then revealed at the end that she denies it.
  • Arc Words: Insurmountable.
  • Art Evolution: Faces became more detailed and expressive as the show went on.
  • Asian and Nerdy: Phoebe.
  • Ax Crazy:
    • Curly. In spades. One episode mentions that he once bit off the head of a live chicken, though he insists it was only that one time.
    • Arnold fakes this to scare off Harold from beating his ass.
  • Back to School: Arnold's grandpa does so, passing fourth, fifth, and sixth grades all in one episode.
  • Beach Episode: "Summer Love."
  • Beneath the Mask: Helga only expresses her feelings for Arnold when alone. (Well, alone with Brainy sneaking up behind her, anyway.)
  • Beta Couple: In certain Ship Tease episodes, Gerald and Phoebe would hook up in the background. And interview with Word of God stated that had The Patakis gone through, Gerald/Phoebe would've been the "cool couple" to contrast with the somewhat dysfunctional long-distance relationship of Arnold and Helga.
  • The "B" Grade: "Olga Comes Home"
  • Big Applesauce: The city the show takes place in is pretty obviously based on New York, Brooklyn in particular. Word of God states that there are generous bits of Seattle and Portland, OR mixed in as well.
  • Big Brother Bully: Gerald's big brother Jamie-O.
  • Big Damn Movie: Originally the Trope Namer, called "Why Is Arnold Saving Something".
  • Big Eater:
    • Harold.
    • Seymour, as revealed in "Eating Contest". However, Arnold beats him.
  • Bigger on the Inside: As seen in "Phoebe Cheats" Phoebe's house has several rooms that look like they should be in a mansion, like a sparring room and a jacuzzi room.
  • Big "What?": "Spelling Bee":

Helga: Qualm. Q-u-a-l-...(looks at her father)...-x?
Bob: WHAT?!

Principle Wartz: This moment never happened.
Helga: Gotcha.

  • Birds of a Feather: Olga and Lila in "Big Sis"
  • Bittersweet Ending: "The List", "Pigeon Man", "The Journal", "Crabby Author", and the series finale.
  • Bizarro Universe: The episode where Arnold visits his country cousin and finds that his rural town has polar opposites of Arnold's friends.
  • Black Best Friend: Gerald to Arnold.
  • Born Unlucky: Eugene could practically serve as the Trope Codifier (it doesn't help that he was born on Friday the 13th). See also Butt Monkey.
  • Break the Haughty: Rhonda, constantly. There are at least three different episodes dedicated solely to the idea.
  • Broken Aesop: In one episode, Arnold and Gerald play hookey but their fear of being found out interferes with any fun they might have had. Eventually, they go to school only to learn that there was a surprise carnival day. This weakens the Aesop as skipping school is wrong because you miss class, not because you miss a fun day. The "weakness" of the episode's moral is Lampshaded at the end.
  • Broken Pedestal:
  • Broken Streak
  • But Not Too Foreign: Phoebe has a Japanese dad and a white mom. Plus, Phoebe's last name, Heyerdahl, certainly isn't Japanese - unless she and her dad took her mom's name, which is not very uncommon in Japan.
  • Butt Monkey: Eugene.
  • Camp Gay: Mr. Simmons is a toned down version of this.
  • Cast of Snowflakes: The art style makes good use of creative head shapes and various body sizes and proportions to make the characters distinctive.
  • The Cat Came Back: Subverted in "Phoebe Cheats" when out of guilt Phoebe tries to dispose of a trophy she didn't earn. There are logical reasons why it keeps coming back into her possession, but she doesn't see them and she thinks it's moving by itself.
  • Catch Phrase:
    • Grampa's - "Never eat raspberries".
    • Stinky always either says "this bites" or "this really bites" when something upsets him.
    • Sid says "boy howdy" fairly often as well.
    • The word "special" could be considered Mr. Simmons' catch phrase, as he uses it in practically every other sentence. Ditto for Lila and the phrase "oh so" or "ever so".
    • Gerald has "Are you thinkin' what I'm thinkin'?" He apparently got it from his father, who does it to Phil in the Veteran's Day episode.
      • In the April Fools episode Arnold borrows it and turns it around:

Arnold: I think you're thinking what I'm thinking.
Gerald: (whispers in Arnold's ear)
Arnold: That's even better than what I was thinking.

    • Eugune has "I'm okay..."
    • Then there's Mr. Hyunh with always calling some of the show's more eccentric characters "creepy" (which they admittedly are).
    • The Jolly Olly Man has "Who's laughing now eh? WHO'S LAUGHING NOW!?"
  • Caught on the Jumbotron: Arnold and Gerald are caught on the big screen at a baseball game while skipping school, much to their horror.
  • Celebrity Is Overrated: Stinky doesn't want to be an idiot in soda commercials, Helga is sick and tired of everyone copying her look (and expecting her to be foul-tempered on cue.).
  • Celebrity Star
  • Cerebus Retcon: Originally Helga's situation with her family was Played for Laughs. Helga's mom falls asleep all the time while making "smoothies"? Hilarious. Helga's dad always calls her by her sister's name? Hysterical. Neither of them really pay attention to her? Knee-slapping. Then came the episode "Helga on the Couch" and no one was laughing anymore.
  • Character Development: There was much character development through the series, with Harold and Helga being the most apparent.
  • Characterization Marches On: Remember when the Jolly-Olly Man used to be a simple, nameless, smiling ice cream man and not a total psychopath?
    • Remember when Arnold was eccentric and naive?
    • Remember when Harold was a Jerkass and less of a Jerk with a Heart of Gold?
    • Remember when Stinky was a bully and sidekick to Harold? Furthermore, remember when he wore those spiky wristbands?
    • Remember when Sid was just a wuss and not a whiny, overacting wuss? The guy even gained episodes dedicated to him because of it.
  • The Chew Toy:
    • Eugene, the Anthropomorphic Personification of bad luck.
    • Pick an episode where Helga's secret is in danger of some sort, and you'll get an episode where the universe itself plots against her for eleven minutes straight.
  • Chez Restaurant: Chez Pierre and Chez Paris who are right across the street from one another, the better to aid any would-be Two-Timer Date.
  • Christmas Episode: the episode where Arnold tries to help Mr. Hyunh find his daughter (whom Mr. Hyunh last saw during the end days of [what's implied to be] the Vietnam War) while Helga tries to buy Nancy Spumoni brand snow boots.
  • Chuck Cunningham Syndrome:
    • Mr. Hyunh's daughter was never seen again. Possibly justified - after all, she presumably had adoptive parents in the US, given that her father hadn't been in her life for about 2 decades.
    • Ruth Mac Doogal (the sixth grader Arnold had a crush on in the first season) also mysteriously disappears. One could guess that she simply graduated from P.S. 118, since she was already in sixth grade, and Arnold never mentions her (or his crush on her) after the Valentine's Day episode in which Arnold tries to go on a date with both Ruth (who thinks she's seeing a famous poet named "Anonymous") and his French pen pal, Cecilia, and discovers that Ruth isn't all that bright or interesting to be around.
    • Tucker, Coach Wittenburg's son. Appeared in one episode and was never seen or mentioned again. Odd, since Coach Wittenburg gets a few focus episodes. It's particularly glaring when one such episode deals with Wittenburg's estrangement from his wife.
  • Circle of Shame: This happens dozens of times. Often, several of the characters forming the circle were laughed at in an earlier episode, because Kids Are Cruel.
  • The City vs. the Country: Lila moves from a farm to the big city and is immediately resented and made fun of by the other kids. Subverted when she stays in the city and the other kids warm to her.
  • Cloudcuckoolander:
    • Arnold's Grandma.

"Hey! Crazy lady! Come back here with my bulldozer!!"

    • In the early seasons, Arnold himself was this way, being very quiet and introverted, with a tendency to frequently lapse into intense daydreams.
    • Principal Wartz, too. During the flood, he dressed in Mexican garb and danced around, then climbed onto the school roof and started singing. He later quit his job as principal for an episode to seek a career as a singer.
  • The Collector of the Strange:
    • Helga's statue of Arnold made out of wads of ABC gum the boy threw away, doubles as a Stalker Shrine.
    • Arnold's cousin Arnie collects lint.
    • Ernie has his entire appartment filled with the last brick of each building he demolished (which is over 500). Amazing the extra weight hasn't caused his floor to give in.
  • Comic Book Time: Not as extreme as other examples, but calenders and signs in the background show the series takes place in the mid to late 1990s. A sign said Gerald Field was founded in July 1997, although the episode aired in October 1996. The It Girl episode takes place in September 1998 due to a newspaper date, and the show Arnold and Helga appear on on their beach trip is filmed in July 1999. The only real other instance of this trope is the fact they have two or three episodes that take place during spring break.
  • Compressed Vice
  • Consolation World Record: The most record-breaking attempts to ever be attempted!
  • Continuity Nod: Lila mentions she gets sick on the big amusement rides in "Love and Cheese". After riding the coaster in "Timberly Loves Arnold" she's seen throwing up.
  • Cool Big Sis: Olga to Helga. Also to Lila in one episode.
  • Cool Car: Grandpa's vintage Packard; it was the focus of one episode.
  • Cool Loser: In "Cool Party" Gerald is on the "geek" list. Subverted in that Gerald was only put on the "geek" list by Rhonda because he beat her for the position of Class President in 2nd grade.
  • Cool Old Guy: Arnold's Grandpa.
  • Cool Old Lady: Arnold's Grandma.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: Sheck in the movie, who isn't above burning a historical document declaring the neighborhood where the main characters live as a national landmark just to build a huge mall.
    • Technically that wasn't corruption, that was revenge. As he wanted to destroy that neighborhood because that's where his ancestor lost.
  • Corrupt the Cutie: Arnold's Grandpa after Grandpa enters fifth grade.
  • Covert Pervert: In "Timberly Loves Arnold", Lila says this immortal line:

Lila: That is, if Arnold doesn't mind making it a threesome.

"SO HOW ABOUT A LOCK OF YOUR HAIR TO KEEP UNDER MY PILLOW?"

    • Stoop Kid. The neighborhood kids are rightfully scared of him.
  • Cuckoolandian Counterpart: Arnold's cousin Arnie. Later in the series, an episode shows there is a whole group of Cuckoolandian Counterparts to every other character in the series. Well, maybe.
  • Cute Bruiser: Helga.
  • Curb Stomp Battle: Grandpa made up a story where he beats the crap out of Hitler, he admits that after Arnold calls him out
  • Dark-Skinned Blond: Nadine. This becomes a bit more...somewhat plausible when you notice that in Parent's Day, her dad is white and her mom is black.
  • A Day in the Limelight: Despite his name being in the title, there are more than a few episodes where Arnold has absolutely no connection to the plot at all.
    • Indeed, by the end of the series, it's easier to count the secondary characters who didn't ever get an episode focusing on them;[1] practically every kid in Arnold's class and "permanent" member of the boarding house had at least one.
  • Dead Artists Are Better: In an in-universe example, one episode involves Dino Spumoni faking his death to rekindle an interest in his music and raise his sales.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Gerald.
  • Dean Bitterman: Principal Wartz.
  • Defeat Equals Friendship: Subverted in the episode "24 Hours To Live" because even though Arnold never fought Harold directly, he still gained his respect after the "fight" sequence.
  • Department of Redundancy Department: Coach Wittenburg. Repetitively.
  • Determinator:
    • Helga at times, particularly when her secret is in danger of getting out. The climax of "Helga's Parrot" in particular has her single mindedly driving herself through the roof to keep things under wraps.
    • Brainy has been given OffhandBackhands whenever he tries to be near Helga since the age of three… He now has nine, and he still does it.
  • Did Not Do the Research: Helga reads Archie Comics in a few episodes and mentions Jughead liking Veronica. Either the writers never read the comic or it's a moment of subtle Fridge Brilliance on Helga liking Arnold and him not noticing her back.
  • Dinner Order Flub: Helga, trying to pass herself off as Arnold's French pen pal whilst in disguise and with a very rudimentary knowledge of French, attempts to make a order from the menu of a fancy French restaurant. It isn't until she's happily tucking into the dish that the waiter informs her that she's eating cow brain and eggs... which prompts a dart to the bathroom. Arnold played it safe with a steak and fries.
  • Disability Superpower: The blind guy in "Das Subway" had a really good sense of smell.
  • Disappearing Box: Helga gets involved in the trick, but decides to run away instead of staying behind the secret wall, thinking what life would be like without her. It leaves Arnold trying to bring her back many times with no avail.
  • Disney Acid Sequence: Helga experiences one after drinking an (alleged) anti-love potion in "Helga's Love Potion."
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Curly's main schtick, besides (or in addition to) being completely Ax Crazy. Him terrorizing the gang through a cemetery dressed as an undead murderess because he couldn't be the one to tell a story is one thing, and him barricading himself in the principal's office and laying siege to the school with dodgeballs because he couldn't be ball monitor is another, but enacting an elaborate plot to get Eugene expelled from school simply because Eugene borrowed and chewed on his favorite pencil? That's just insane. And, "FREE THE ANIMALS!!!"
  • Distracted by the Luxury
  • Dogged Nice Guy: Arnold becomes a mild version after realizing that he's interested in Lila.
  • Downer Ending: "Arnold Betrays Iggy", "New Bully on the Block", and "Operation Ruthless."
    • "Operation Ruthess" is later revisited with "Love And Cheese," which has the same basic plot, but replaces Ruth with Lila, and ends the same way but as even more of a downer for Helga (admittedly, she brings it on herself both times and shouldn't be allowed to get away with what she does, but both endings portray her as so pitiful that you can't help but feel for her.)
  • Dream Sequence: Many in the first season when Arnold was portrayed more as a Cloudcuckoolander, but went away as the show went on.
  • Drill Sergeant Nasty: Lieutenant Major Goose, he was Arnold's teacher for short time,(after Miss Slovak and before Mr. Simmons), he's a satire of Major Payne.
    • Coach Wittenburg also had the sports discipline of a drill sergeant.
  • Duck Season! Rabbit Season!: Helga pulls this trick on Arnold in his dream in "Married".
  • Dueling Shows: With Recess, and arguably, Disney's Doug
  • During the War: Grandpa's war story. Which includes the tale that he personally beat up Hitler, and this tidbit:

Arnold: Grandpa, you did not fight Adolph Hitler! You're making this all up.
Grandpa: Okay, ya got me. I made that part up. It was Goebbels.

  • Dysfunctional Family: Dear God, the Patakis. Very much so.
  • Early Installment Weirdness: The original Stop Motion shorts are nothing like the main series. Aside from being in a different animation medium, the shorts focus not on solving real-life problems, but on drifting off into Arnold's imagination. In addition, Arnold himself is a cross between Mr. Imagination and a Cloudcuckoolander, his fascination with dinosaurs is much more apparent, and the sequences themselves are bizzare in comparison to the main series.
    • The first season is a lot different from the other seasons. The animation is of much lower quality, with lots of Off-Model scenes, there are less episodes centered around Helga, Arnold has a crush on Ruth, who is nowhere to be found after season 1, and on top of all that, Arnold is FAR more child-like and immature compared to the later seasons.
  • Easy Amnesia: Helga gets amnesia after getting hit with a baseball. Subverted in that she gets her memory back normally when she wakes up the next day, not by getting hit again. However, she continues to fake amnesia to take advantage of Arnold's kindness, and when she feels guilty about it, she intentionally hits her head again so she can pretend that she just then got her memory back.
  • Embarrassing First Name: Curly's real first name is Thaddeus.
  • Even Evil Has Standards:
    • Big Bob's greedy, but he's not a murderer. He also refuses to bulldoze a tree upon realizing there were kids up there, but mostly his kid (which in of itself is something, considering how neglectful he usually is of Helga.)
    • Helga gives Arnold a lot crap but during the parents day episode when Bob calls Arnold (who was in earshot) an orphan, she is shocked and later goes up to Arnold and apologizes for it, justified because it's probably one of the only things that can hurt him.
  • Everyone Calls Him "Barkeep": Stoop Kid, Chocolate Boy, Pigeon Man, Monkey Man, The Jolly-Olly Man, and oodles more.
  • Everyone Loves Blondes: Helga and Lila for Arnold to a certain degree.
  • Everything's Better with Rainbows: When Mr. Simmons becomes principal.
  • Everytown, America: Hillwood
  • Evil Laugh: Curly wins in the best psychotically evil laugh department, but Helga has a pretty impressive one as well. Some of the other characters get one in certain episodes: Sid for example gets on in "Sid's Revenge," and Phoebe gets a brief but creepy evil chuckle in "Phoebe Breaks A Leg."
  • Evil Overlooker: Scheck in the poster for The Movie.
  • Evil Plan: Helga, often with episodes dedicated solely to her pulling series of them. A running gag in the series is that her evil plans always fail in ways that only help the person she's trying to hurt and hurt her instead.
  • Excited Show Title!
  • Failure Is the Only Option: Arnold finding the truth about his parents, and Helga admitting her love to Arnold.
  • Fandom-Specific Plot:
    • "Jungle Movie" fanfics, write-ups, and speculatory scenes are very popular. Especially since "The Jungle Movie", had it ever been made, was supposed to resolve both the plotlines mentioned above.
    • Hey Arnold! fanfics are also particularly fond of the plot where a character (usually Helga, but used at least once for everybody) leaves / runs away from town, stays away for years, and then comes back to meet their old friends all over again, until the end of the story where they find their Love Interest again and hook up.
  • Fantasy Helmet Enforcement
  • Fat Bastard: Harold in the earlier episodes. As the series went on, he became The Big Guy with a slight hint of Jerkass.
  • Fire-Breathing Diner: "Chocolate Boy"
  • Fail O'Suckyname: After Eugene manages to wreck his and Arnold's go-karts in the go-kart episode, they have to combine their kart names... cue "The Mauve Avenger", which Gerald absolutely hates.
  • Feud Episode: "Best Friends", between both Arnold and Gerald and Dino Spumoni and his songwriting partner.
  • Flanderization:
    • Arnold's desire to help out others and completely incorruptible, Confucius-like personality.
    • Helga's obsession with Arnold.
    • Eugene's bad luck intensifies with each passing season.
    • Grandma started out eccentric and a little batty, but ultimately sane and always willing to give Arnold a little advice (even if it was delivered in a non-traditional manner), but she got slowly crazier as the series wore on and by the end of the series she's little more than a crazy old lady who lives in Arnold's house.
    • Olga started out as overachieving drama queen that would actually be treated like Helga if she wasn't successful and understood Helga's plight to.... just a content,overachieving drama queen. Also, you'll be damned if you see Miriam functioning despite drinking and scouring the city to get Helga a sold out gift for Christmas in any later season.
  • Four-Temperament Ensemble: Arnold is Phlegmatic, Helga is Choleric, Gerald is Sanguine, and Phoebe is both Melancholic and Supine.
  • Free-Range Children: The nine-year old cast runs about the city (which is quite big, mind) with little concern from any of their parents. This includes playing sports in the middle of a busy street, running away when a car comes. This particular instance doubles as Truth in Television.
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus: If you pause in "Phoebe's Little Problem", you can see that apparently they have school over the summer. Maybe they're making up the days they missed from the Teacher's Strike?
  • Freudian Excuse:
    • As seen in one of Helga's days in the limelight, "Helga on the Couch." She discusses with the school psychiatrist her obsession of Arnold which is deeply embedded into her family life. On her first day of pre-school her parents were more focused on her sister Olga playing the piano. They didn't even acknowledge her existence when she asked them to bring her. She had to walk there herself and on the way it began to rain, mud got splashed on her, and two rottweilers stole her lunch. Then Arnold gave her his umbrella, which was possibly the first time somebody showed her genuine kindness. She began her assertive personality when Harold teased her about the crush. She explained to the psychiatrist that she treats Arnold the way she does because she fears rejection like how her family seemingly rejected her. It's safe to say that not one member of the audience had a dry eye when the episode was over. And Helga was placed top of the show's Woobie list.
    • Parodied with the Jolly Olly Man: If you had to drive dialy to a wasteland of a city to sell ice cream to horrible children you will be a little crazy too (even more scary, the true source of his problems is his father, who doesn't believe in him and is clearly expecting him to fail).
  • Frothy Mugs of Water: Miriam is ambiguously alcoholic. She's shown drinking "Smoothies" and falling asleep in odd places, as well as putting Tabasco Sauce in them. She has slurred speech and signs of depression.
  • Funny Foreigner: Mr. Hyunh has shades of this at times, but Oskar Kokoshka defines this trope.
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar: Has its own page.
  • Gilligan Cut: Running Gag.

Helga: I am not taking the subway! (cut) I can't believe we're taking the subway!
Arnold: We are not calling our go-kart the "Mauve Avenger". (cut) I cannot believe we called our go-kart the "Mauve Avenger".
Helga: Look, I am not going to in there and tell them the truth and end up washing dishes. (cut) I can't believe I told them the truth and I wound up washing dishes.

  • Girly Scream: Sid, Eugene, and Mr. Simmons.
  • Glasses Girl: Phoebe.
  • Gosh Hornet: In "Helga's Boyfriend" when Helga gets attacked by bees at the park.
  • Granola Girl: Is Helga's nickname for Sheena, which seems to be more or less accurate.
  • G-Rated Drug:
    • Chocolate Boy's obsession with chocolate is very similar to a drug addiction. In one episode, he begs Arnold to help him get over this. It is revealed that his nanny who took care of him as a very young child always gave him chocolate. He was devastated when she was forced to leave him. He ate chocolate to remind him of the one person who ever loved him.
    • Miriam's "Smoothies".
  • Groin Attack: Arnold accidentally delivers one to grandpa in "Mugged" when he tried to kick a can off his head.
  • Grumpy Old Man: Grandpa Phil
  • Halloween Episode: A Whole-Plot Reference to Orson Welles' War of the Worlds radio prank.
  • Headless Horseman
  • Here We Go Again
  • Heroes Want Redheads: Arnold for Lila.
  • Heterosexual Life Partners:
    • Arnold and Gerald.
    • Principal Wartz and Mr. Simmons, at least during the "karaoke night" ending of "Principal Simmons." (Played with as according to the series creator Mr. Simmons is actually gay.
    • Helga and Phoebe, appropriately enough, considering their respective relationships with Arnold and Gerald.
  • He Who Must Not Be Seen: Gerald's informant "Fuzzy Slippers".
  • Hidden Depths: As confirmed by The book six of the series Hey Arnold! Arnold's E-Files Brainy is as eloquent as Helga… only that he cannot talk because his asthma.
  • Hikikomori:
    • Stoop Kid somehow manages to be both this and a gutterpunk at once.
    • Arnold becomes this when he loses his hat, saying that he'll never come out of the house without it.
  • Hollywood Voodoo: In one episode, Principal Wartz gives Sid detention for a prank he didn't pull. Out of revenge and his frantic paranoia, Sid carves Wartz' likeness into a bar of soap. The next day, Sid finds out that Wartz is in the hospital, and is told by the doctor that he's already "checked out." Following this is a string of signs that soap voodoo worked. Hilarity Ensues.
  • Homage: 'What's Opera, Arnold?' was a Homage to the opera Carmen, right down to altered song lyrics. It's also an homage to the Bugs Bunny cartoon, "What's Opera, Doc?"
  • Hot Teacher: Ms. Felter.
  • Huge Schoolgirl: Big Patty. Also Sheena, who's as tall as most of the adults on the show.
  • Humiliation Conga: Helga tends to get these in episodes where her evil schemes go south in particularly unpleasant ways. Rhonda, as well, gets pretty severe ones in episodes where she's particularly haughty.
  • I Can't Believe It's Not Heroin!: In one episode, Arnold helps chocolate boy quit his "obsession" with chocolate for two weeks, only to get a 10 pound bag of chocolate. After chocolate boy realizes how pathetic he has become, he wants to quit for good. Chocolate boy's mannerisms in this episode are very similar to a crackhead. Justified somewhat by the sheer quantity of chocolate Chocolate Boy consumes. Child or adult, that much caffeine and sugar will mess you up.
  • If I Had a Nickel:

Harold: If I had a dime for every time somebody called me dumb...I'd sure have a whole bunch of dimes!

Lt. Major Goose: YOUR HAIR'S NOT CURLY! WHAT'S YOUR REAL NAME?
Curly: Thaddeus.
Lt. Major Goose: {{{Beat} ...}} CURLY, GO STAND OVER THERE!

  • Irrevocable Message: Helga got high off of laughing gas and left a message on Arnold's answering machine declaring her love for him, then spent the rest of the episode trying to delete it.
  • It's All My Fault
  • I Want My Beloved to Be Happy: Word of God says this is how Brainy ultimately feels about Helga.
  • I Was Beaten by a Girl: Harold by Big Patty in an arm wrestling match. He is so upset, he attempts to escape from those mocking him by hiding under a drinking fountain. He finally gets over it by the end of the episode - after she beats him again in the citywide arm-wrestling championships - and smacks Sid and Stinky together when they trash talk about him after his loss, but not before publicly defending Patty as the better opponent. (The end of the episode implies a Relationship Upgrade for Harold and Patty due to this.)
  • I Wished You Were Dead: Sid with Principal Wartz.
  • Jerkass: Big Bob, The Jolly-Olly Man, Oskar Kokoshka, Jaime O, and Wolfgang consistently. Alot of the kids (Helga, Harold, Sid, Stinky, Rhonda, etc.) have their moments frequently as well.
  • Jerk Jock: Wolfgang, and most of the fifth-graders.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Helga, Big Patty, Harold, Stoop Kid, and (buried quite deep) Big Bob.
  • The Jinx: Eugene. To him, however, Arnold is the jinx since almost everything bad that happens to him happens whenever Arnold is around.
  • Kangaroo Court/Joker Jury: In "False Alarm", which makes Arnold's vindication of Eugene that much more effective.
  • Kafka Komedy: Almost any moment with Eugene falls under this.
  • Karma Houdini: Most of the bullies never get punished by adults. A lot of people do some very rude/mean things and get away with it. Especially the older kids like Wolfgang. Only once do we see a couple of them get told off or called out on their actions...and they were one-shot characters with no names.
    • Tearjerkingly deconstructed in "Helga and the Nanny". When Miriam gets a new job, Helga’s parents hire a nanny named Inga to look after Helga. However, while Inga actually cares for Helga, Helga feels as though Inga is trying to control her life, especially when Inga calls her out on her bad behavior, telling her that sewing is a sane way to canalize anger. Finally, Helga loses her paitence completely, and frames Inga for theft...only to be surprised when the other kids call her out. Inga is fired and has to return to her country. When Helga finds her, her guilt gets the better of her, and she confesses to the framing, only for Inga to tell her she knew it all the time. Helga is confused as to why she is getting off scot-free, until Inga explains that she is not: at the end of the day, Helga is nothing but an angry and sad kid, who damages those who care about her, and because of that she cannot be happy. The show ends with Helga in her unhappy home, sadly sewing something, realizing that her actions have cost her a happy home and someone who cares about her.
  • Keep Circulating the Tapes: The series is now hard to see on US TV nowaday, and is only watchable via Digital Downloads and On Demand (Via Nick Rewind section in both ways). Other countries, though, still air the show.
    • One aversion is that the series is available on Netflix Instant, although a few random episodes are inexplicably missing (the most notable being the important "Parent's Day").
    • Due to be averted in America thanks to The 90s Are All That, starting September 5.
  • Kids Are Cruel: If a kid is not the focus of the episode, chances are they will be part of a crowd, laughing at the current protagonist's misfortune.
  • Know Your Vines: The early camping episode ended with Big Bob Pataki rushing through a small bush to get back to his campsite after a disastrous hike, cutting off Arnold telling them to go around it. This bush was poison ivy, causing him more misery.
  • Lampshade Hanging: Later episodes (and Gerald specifically) liked to point out Arnold's need to go out of his way to help people.
  • Large Ham:
  • Laser-Guided Karma: In "Phoebe's Little Problem", Harold is the only one who still makes fun of Phoebe after she vindicates herself at the end of the episode (as well as probably being the one who made fun of her the most throughout the episode). He then wets his pants at the end of the episode, becoming the new Butt Monkey.
  • Last Day to Live: Helga gets kissed by a monkey and believes that she has contracted monkeynucleosis. She believes she's going to die and soon finds herself on her death bed, her health failing. She decides to tell everyone exactly what she really thinks of them and give them her stuff. Eventually, she brings Arnold into her room to tell him her true feelings, but before she can her friend barges in and reveals that monkeynucleosis doesn't really exist and that Helga won't die after all. And thus, Helga's secret lives on.
    • In the pilot (later remade into the episode "24 Hours To Live"), when Arnold thought he was going to be beaten to a pulp by Harold the next day, Helga followed him around and shouted "_hours, _minutes, and _seconds until you DIE!" to illustrate the point.
    • Also in the episode Grandpa's Birthday, where Grandpa believes he will die the moment he turns 81, according to family history.
  • Left Hanging: Will Arnold ever find his parents? We'll never know.
  • Leitmotif: Violins tend to start playing whenever Helga's "soft side" is shown. Also, there's a "Helga loves Arnold" theme that plays sometimes when she's goes on one of her love rants or has a special moment with him. This theme is usually played on violin, but there are some interesting variations. For instance, it's a bass riff in the Disney Acid Sequence of "Helga's Love Potion", and it gets a full orchestral upgrade in the movie when she kisses Arnold.
    • Several other characters have Leitmotif as well. Phoebe has one that is apparently, interestingly enough, a faster and slightly modified version of Helga's theme.
    • Oskar Kokoshka has a theme as well, and is apparently the only one of the boarders with a theme of their own. It plays particularly when he's being especially sneaky.
    • Grandpa Phil has a theme as well, that features heavily whenever he has a flashback to his youth.
  • Likes Older Women: Arnold, who's in fourth grade has had crushes on Ruth (a brunette girl with braces) and Maria who are sixth graders, and his teacher Ms. Felter.
  • Limited Wardrobe: Roughly 90% of the time, the kids are in the same clothes. There are quite a few episodes that subvert this, however.
    • Justified in Helga's case.
  • Loads and Loads of Characters: All of Arnold's classmates, their families, and the people living in the boarding house.
  • Long-Lost Relative: Mai Hyunh, Mr. Hyunh's daughter. They were separated during the chaos of the Vietnam War. The Christmas Episode centered around Arnold finding his daughter and reuniting them for Christmas.
  • Love Dodecahedron: Weird Cousin and Arnold visits Arnie make one of these where All Love Is Unrequited. With both towns combined, we have a chain: Arnold->Lilah->Arnie->Lulu->Arnold->Hilda->Arnie->Helga->Arnold. Graphically, this would resemble a figure-eight.
    • However, one must also consider that "Arnold Vists Arnie" is All Just a Dream, so it is unlikely that Lulu and Hilda actually exist, and they are more likely Arnold's subconscious representations of Lila and Helga.
    • Not that the actual shape of love between the non-dream characters is much better. At it's most convoluted it's around this: Brainy has a crush on Helga, who has a crush on Arnold, who has a crush on Lila, who has a crush on Arnie, who got a crush on Helga instead.
  • Love Makes You Crazy: Helga, Brainy, Arnold, the whole series centers on unrequited love that indeed makes the characters crazy.
    • Amusingly, love is also the only thing that consistently makes Arnold act in ways his conscience would normally disagree with, especially later on in the show when he's almost exclusively squeaky clean.
  • Loves My Alter Ego: Arnold, Helga, and "Cecile" make this a very odd incarnation of the trope.
  • Magic Realism: Pigeon Man, as well as Eugene's excessively bad luck.
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: In many episodes, the characters will investigate an urban legend. Almost every time something related to the tale comes up, a logical explanation for it is provided seconds later. Toward the end of the episode, they decide it was all just a story and don't believe it, only to have the episode conclude with a heavy implication or just blatant proof that the legend was true.
  • Meaningful Name: Eugene's name is ironic in that it means 'born lucky'.
  • Meganekko: Phoebe.
  • The Messiah: Arnold. For that matter Lila, although she came off as an intentional parody.
  • Mighty Whitey: Arnold's adventuring parents.
  • Million-to-One Chance
  • Miracle Rally
  • Mirror Universe: "Arnold Visits Arnie"
  • The Movie: Was a bomb. Was actually quite profitable. In fact, according to box office revenue, the film made $15 million on just a $3 million budget. Sure, it wasn't a box office smash hit, but it made a profit of $12 million. Now with the critics, yes, it did bomb.
    • One little detail, though: the film's promotional budget was around $13 million. Yep, that's over 4 times the amount it cost them to make the movie itself.
  • Mr. Imagination: Arnold, during the first season.
  • Mundane Fantastic
  • Musical Episode: "What's Opera, Arnold?" and "Eugene, Eugene!".
  • My Name Is Not Durwood: Helga's father always calls her by her sister's name, Olga.
  • Mysterious Informant
  • Naked People Are Funny: Arnold's grandma surfs with a group of nudists in "Summer Love".

Grandma: (walking by with a surfboard obscuring her) Up the establishment!
Grandpa: Aw, Pookie, nobody wants to see that!
Grandma: (laughing)

  • Named After Somebody Famous:
    • Oskar Kokoschka should consider being an artist.
    • "New Bully On The Block" Introduces Wolfgang's rival: Ludwig. There's a bit of Fridge Brilliance when it's shown that they're forced to engage in art activities such as dance and oboe.
  • The Napoleon:
    • Ernie, the construction worker that lives at the Sunset Arms. He's so short that he can fit into a briefcase (as demonstrated in the "Fighting Families" episode). Played with in "Ernie In Love," in which he falls for the Large and Lovely fashion model, Lola. He also takes a bit too much pride in his work - demolishing skyscrapers and other tall buildings.
    • Helga also calls Arnold this in "Phoebe Takes the Fall".
  • Near-Death Experience
  • Nerds Are Sexy: Gerald thinks this about Phoebe.
  • Never Learned to Read: Oskar, until Arnold helped him.
  • Never Mess with Granny: Sure, Arnold's grandma may be a little nuts, but if provoked, she will kick your ass.
  • Never Say "Die": Mostly averted, as several episodes featured death as a plot device (ie: Dino faked his death in attempt to sell more records, Grandpa spent an episode thinking he was about to die, Sid thought he murdered Principal Wartz, and a few other examples). However, when they make allusions to the afterlife, they sometimes mention heaven by name, but always use a euphemism in place of the word "hell," leading to quotes like this:

Grandpa: (after thinking he died) Well, that's it, I must be in heaven. Oh no! Oskar's here! This must be the other place!

    • However, he does say "die" after finding out he's not going to kick the bucket for another 10 years.
    • "HEY ARNOLD! 24 HOUSE UNTIL YOU DIIIEEE!!!"
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Arnold does this to Lila's heart when he reveals that he doesn't like "like" her, and regrets it afterwards because he realizes that he does genuinely like her after the fact.
  • The Nicknamer: Helga, who has a name for everybody: "Football Head", "Hair Boy", and "Arnoldo" (among many others) for Arnold; "Tall Hair Boy" and "Geraldo" for Gerald; "Pink Boy" for Harold; "Princess" and "Rhondaloid" for Rhonda; "Stinko" for Stinky; "Little Miss Perfect" for Lila. Even her best friend Phoebe isn't immune: Helga usually calls her "Pheebs", but at least that one's pretty common.
  • No Accounting for Taste: For some unexplained reason, Lila like likes Arnold's weird cousin Arnie.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: Dino Spumoni is a poor man's Frank Sinatra.
  • Noir Episode: Grandpa's Packard.
  • No Name Given: The main character himself. "Arnold...um, the last name's kind of smudged..."
  • No Swastikas: In Grandpa's war story, all of the Germans wear arm bands with frowny faces. The major's hat even has an eagle gripping a frowny face.
  • Not in Front of the Parrot: In "Helga's Parrot," the parrot nearly divulges Helga's secret because it's remembered one of Helga's poems. Luckily, the parrot is killed before it can say anything.
  • Not My Lucky Day:
    • Not Eugene's lucky life.
    • "The List", where Arnold has a huge organized list with plans for an awesome day, but everything goes wrong. The song his Grandma sings cheers him up though.
  • Obfuscating Disability:
    • One episode had Phoebe taking advantage of Helga's niceness when she thought she broke a leg, via using a fake cast.
    • Helga also fakes blindness in "April Fools Day" to get revenge on Arnold for his prank on her.
    • Helga also fakes amnesia in "Beaned" to get a guilty Arnold to take care of her.
  • Oblivious to Love: Arnold, big time. This is actually subverted in a couple of later episodes where it is implied that his subconscious knows that Helga is in love with him and is trying to get him to figure it out. Justified because he might be a little reluctant and uncomfortable being involved with someone who has given so much grief over the years...and does it right after being nice to him.
  • Odd Friendship: Rhonda and Nadine. Rhonda is a stuck-up primadonna and is into fashion, which Nadine isn't. Nadine is much more down to earth and is fascinated with bugs and arachnids, which gross Rhonda out. But despite this, they've been best friends since they were four years old.
  • Offhand Backhand: Helga frequently does this to Brainy.
  • Offscreen Teleportation: Being offscreen most of the time, it's pretty easy for Brainy to do this. Lampshaded in several episodes where he shows up behind Helga in the most improbable places, such as on Elk Island, the Supposedly haunted train, and in an Alley that Helga made sure was empty.
    • One time he appeared INSIDE A TREE!
  • Onee-Sama: In a rare Western example of this trope, Lila quickly develops this dynamic with Olga due to their similarities. To the point where Helga, who usually can't stand Olga, actually becomes jealous, proving Aw, Look -- They Really Do Love Each Other.
  • One Side of the Story: One Rashomon-tribute episode.
  • One Steve Limit:
    • It's explicitly mentioned once that there is only one "Arnold" in the school. Averted, however, by his cousin Arnie.
    • One episode also features Arnold going around the neighborhood, calling for his pet pig Abner, only for a confused man to stick his head out of his window and repeatedly call "What?!"
    • "Helga" and "Olga" are actually just different translations of the same name: German and Russian, respectively.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: Patty is called "Big Patty" until Harold stands up for her and tells Sid and Stinky to stop making fun of her and call her Patty.
  • OOC Is Serious Business: When Grandma starts acting serious you know something is wrong.
  • Operation: Jealousy:
    • Helga somehow convinces Arnold to do this with her to make Lila jealous.
    • Also done when Helga "dates" Stinky in an attempt to make Arnold jealous.
  • The Other Darrin: Played straight with Arnold who had five different voice actors (J.D. Daniels, Toran Caudell, Phillip Van Dyke, Spencer Klein, and Alex D. Linz), but averted surprisingly well with Gerald who had an episode about his voice changing just so they could continue to use his voice actor Jamil Walker Smith after his voice changed.
  • Out of Focus: One of the things that went wrong with The Movie.
  • Panty Shot: Helga in "Downtown As Fruits". There are upskirt shots of her white panties under her dress and milk carton costume when she comes on stage to stall, and inform the audience of the missing fruits in the play (Arnold as a banana, Gerald as a strawberry), when she gets stuck after being sent flying across the stage from Arnold and Gerald's entrance and when she's trying to free her own head from the hole of the carton.
  • Parental Bonus: "Oscar Kokoshka" was also the name of a real life modernist artist.
  • Parental Favoritism: Strong in the Pataki family; Olga is praised for her accomplishments and is given more attention than Helga, which causes a one-sided strain between the two. Olga actually wished she could be like Helga, without all the fussing and attention.
  • Passive-Aggressive Kombat: Mr. Simmons' boyfriend Peter and Mr. Simmons' mother indulge in a bit of this during the Thanksgiving episode.
  • Personal Raincloud: Happens at the surprise birthday party Arnold throws for Eugene.
  • Phrase Catcher: "Whatever you say, Helga." Usually said by Arnold, but has occasionally been said by a few other characters, like Gerald.
  • Placebo Effect: In "Helga's Love Potion", Helga drinks a potion to make her fall out of love with Arnold. It worked, but then she desperately wanted to reverse the effects of it because she felt empty. She was cured when she found out that all she drank was some grape soda.
  • Poisonous Friend: Helga, at times. Though she often means well in situations where she is made to help others, her idea of the right way to do something is a little... skewed. In episodes where she gives advice or puts down a plan of action, chances are that plan will be harsh, immoral, and ultimately not helpful. She lampshades it in "Deconstructing Arnold" while explaining to Arnold why he is the right person to give advice and she... isn't.

Helga: (cheerfully) Look at me! I'm terrible at helping others. I'm the worst! I have no moral conscience whatsoever.

  • The Pollyanna:
    • Eugene's optimism is almost frightening, given his bad luck.
    • Also Lila, who is devistatingly poor and has a Missing Mom, but always smiles and acts polite. This makes sense when you realize that Lila is now taking on the responsibility of caring for her father all by herself at the age of nine. This is already a tough task as an adult, but as a child it has to be even more difficult. Also considering that she doesn't want her father to worry about any of this forces Lila to smile and keep her real feelings tucked away. Much like in real life, Lila is an excellent example of what can happen if a child is burdened with a heavy load at such a young age considering her repressed dark side.
  • Post-Robbery Trauma: "Mugged" and "Monkeyman".
  • Potty Failure: In "Phoebe's Little Problem" Harold wets his pants in front of the whole school.
  • Product Placement:
    • Harold has SpongeBob SquarePants posters in his room in the episode "Weighing Harold". Said show premiered shortly after this episode aired.
    • You can actually spot CatDog in the background a couple times.
  • Put Me in Coach: Arnold and the basketball coach.
  • Put on a Bus: Arnold would have been put on one in the never-made Spin-Off The Patakis, ostensibly so that the focus could be put on Helga. Plenty of focus was already on Helga, the real reason was that with Arnold gone (after having dated her for years), she could be miserable again.
    • There was originally a tenant at the boarding house named Lana, but she disappeared after season 1 when they couldn't think of a personality for her.
  • Raised by Grandparents: Arnold.
  • Raw Eggs Make You Stronger:
    • Harold tried drinking raw eggs while training for an arm-wrestling match, but they made him want to throw up.
    • Subverted in another episode when Grandpa is trying to get in shape. He is shown cracking raw eggs into a glass...and then pours them from the glass into a frying pan to cook them.
  • Recycled Premise: A fair amount of the later episodes are retreads down the paths of older ones - for example "Helga's Parrot" is a mix of "Helga's Locket" and "Helga Blabs It All," all of which are revisitations of the early episode "Little Pink Book." In an example of Tropes Are Not Bad, most of these recycled plots allowed the writers to explore the storylines in unique and still entertaining ways.
    • The most prominent example, however, is "Love and Cheese," which is "Operation Ruthless," just with Lila replacing Ruth while showing off the deeper development the characters had been given in the years between the episodes. Fully cognizant of this, the episode is full of references to Ruthless - several lines from the first episode are repeated and/or referenced, Ruth herself cameos on several occasions in the background (despite not appearing at all in the show for quite a while), and Phoebe and Gerald are shown walking past scenes together - a reference to how they hooked up in the background during the plot of Ruthless.
  • Refuge in Audacity: In "Helga's Parrot" when the parrot starts mimicking her poem about Arnold, Helga initially tries to kill it with a chainsaw.
  • The Renaissance Age of Animation
  • Rich Bitch: Rhonda has a tendency to be this, although it's not as bad as other examples on that page.
  • Romantic False Lead: Ruth and Lila.
  • Rousseau Was Right: The series generally tends to support this.
  • Running Gag: While Helga fawns over Arnold and recites her poetry about him, Brainy will interrupt her with his heavy breathing, resulting in Helga hitting him with an Offhand Backhand Also, Brainy appears in some of the...weirdest locations. They even lampshade this, and he doesn't even know what he was doing there with them in the first place.

Helga: Look, Brainy, this is just weird. How is it that you're standing behind me again? How'd you get in this little arch? Were you waiting for me to come to this alley? What's your deal?

  • School Play: Episode of the same title.
  • Screwed by the Network:
    • One of the most Egregious offenses was holding back "Parents Day" from a U.S. airing for 3 full years.
    • The often pre-empted season 5. According to That Other Wiki, Season 4 was 1999-2000, while Season 5 was 2001-2005. That's right: it took 3 years for one season! Craig Bartlett, the creator of the show, quit because Nickelodeon tried to force him to sign a non-compete agreement, which he rejected since he was also working on a show for Cartoon Network at the time.
    • Everything related to The Movie.
  • Screw Politeness, I'm a Senior!: Grandpa Phil and Grandma Gertie...Not to Arnold, though.
  • The Scrooge: The Jolly-Olly Man. He usually acts like a general Jerkass to kid customers and sometimes drives the truck away just after stopping for waving kids. Soon revealed to be a combination of a "Well Done, Son" Guy and Calling the Old Man Out situation with him and his boss/father, since he can't hold any other jobs.
  • Serious Business:
    • HEY EVERYONE, STOOP KID'S GONNA LEAVE HIS STOOP!!! Cue the front-line news page, a news crew, which also showed up for Arnold's punishment in "Arnold Betrays Iggy", and half the city.
    • The people who play the card game in "Gerald's Game" get pretty into it, with the winners becoming kings and losers getting locked up or becoming slaves.
  • Shallow Love Interest: Ruth, the 6th grader Arnold initially was crushing on. He later loses interest after realizing she's this.
  • She Cleans Up Nicely: Big Patty. And despite her insistence that she's not pretty, Helga can look beautiful when she tries to.
  • She Is Not My Girlfriend:
    • Harold twice in the episode "Hey Harold", first to his overbearing parents then to Sid and Stinky.
    • Arnold says this about Lila in her first episode, which complicates things when he realizes he does like her.
  • Shipper on Deck: Most people who knew about Helga's feelings for Arnold were supportive of a potential relationship, especially Phoebe and Grandpa Phil. Even Lila, her supposed arch-rival, agreed to step aside for her since she actually has no romantic feelings for Arnold.
  • Shout-Out:
    • In the episode "Rhonda's Glasses", the "cool kids" discriminated against the "geeks". The episode made many references to black and white segregation as the "geeks" had to sit at the back of the bus, sit at the geek tables, and get all the bad equipment, just like the blacks did. At the end of the episode, Rhonda refused to move to the back of the bus because she had glasses just like Rosa Parks refused to move because she was black.
    • "Big Geno" has a moment where the titular grade school mafioso threatens Sid by cutting off the head of his toy rocking horse and putting it in his bed.
    • The same episode contains a Descartes reference: Sid's apartment building has the phrase "Cogito Ergo Sum" engraved on it's front door.
    • Mr. Simmons is usually shown wearing a white t-shirt, a green sweatervest, and brown pants.
    • The episode "Gerald's Game" is also the title of a Stephen King novel.
    • In the episode "Cool Jerk" where Arnold hangs out with a biker, he watches the The Wild One, there are graffiti saying "James Dean" and Rebel Without a Cause". Also outside there is graffiti saying "The Irons" near a similar looking image of Iron Maiden's Eddie The Head from their debut album.
    • Arnold's favorite author, Agatha Caufield, is a recluse who lives by herself in a cabin on Elk Island. her surname is the same as JD Salinger's character, Holden Caufield, while Salinger himself became a recluse after The Catcher in The Rye.
    • Elk Island in general, as it supposedly is home to a massive treasure trove, in a cave, that some believe is haunted...much like the real life Money Pit on Oak Island in Nova Scotia, Canada.
    • When Monkeyman gets a makeover, he resembles Gene Wilder's portrayal of Willy Wonka.
  • Sibling Yin-Yang: Helga is constantly ignored and would like some adoration from her parents, while her sister Olga gets all of the attention and would like to be left alone.
  • Sick Episode: Helga thinks she's sick with Monkeynucleousis and will die soon, but it turns out she's only being paranoid. She's also Completely Missing the Point, as she read about the disease she thinks she has in a book called Diseases Long Since Debunked By Modern Science.
  • Silly Reason for War: In one episode Grampa takes Arnold and his friends to a reenactment of the Pig War, which in their version of history erupted into all-out war (we know it's not one of Phil's tall tales because of the other people at the reenactment).
  • Single-Target Sexuality: Helga only has eyes for Arnold. Though, she does flirt a bit with Ronnie Matthews when she finds out he's a self-centered prick.
  • Single Woman Seeks Good Man: Guess who...
  • The Slacker: Oskar Kokoshka. He did, however, get a job as a paperboy, take care of his sister-in-law's baby son, and learn how to read.
  • Sleepwalking
  • Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism: Heavily idealistic overall. Arnold tended to believe that most people were good at heart and could work out their differences with one another—and, ultimately, the show tended to prove him right. The trade-off was that episodes with Downer Endings and Karma Houdinis hit just that much harder, for being in apparent opposition to the prevailing ideology.
  • Snap Back
  • So Bad It's Good: In-universe. Helga & Big Bob's reaction to Rats: The Musical of Singing Rats. Take That, indeed.
  • Social Services Does Not Exist:
    • Helga's mom is clearly alcoholic, her dad is about as abusive as you can get without being violent, and they're both often pretty neglectful of her. YMMV though - It's shown that they can take care of her, and Miriam was intended to go to Alcoholics Anonymous in The Patakis.
    • Arnold's in rather good hands; although his grandma is a Cloudcuckoolander and his grandpa has...done some things to Arnold that is child endangerment or negligence, but it's Played for Laughs. In Biosquare, when Helga starts to flood the greenhouse after breaking the sink, Grandpa mistakes their banging for help as a sign to turn the water flow up and make the greenhouse flood faster. In On the Lam, Arnold is clearly tied up and Grandpa just assumes he's playing secret agent.
    • Played entirely straight with Stoop Kid, a kid who's living by himself with no adults, looks to be well into his teens and apparently hasn't been to school before in his life (After all, Stoop Kid never leaves his stoop) and almost everyone in the neighbourhood knows who he is and he regularly yells at people going past his house. Hasn't anybody thought of calling social services on him?
  • Sorry I Left the BGM On: In "Olga Comes Home", before Helga admits to changing the grade on Olga's report card, she turns off the radio playing Mozart's Requiem which had played every time Olga was seen moping over her B+.
  • So, You Were Saying?
  • Spinning Paper
  • Stalker Shrine: Famously, Helga had a shrine in her closet made out of Arnold's used chewing gum that was shaped like Arnold's head.
  • Stalker with a Crush: Helga toward Arnold and Brainy toward Helga.
  • Status Quo Is God: This is a Kid's show, after all, without must semblence of continuity or an overarching plotline. However, there are some implications of some mini-arcs, such as Arnold's relationship with Lila. The Character Development is also an aversion.
  • Stepford Smiler:
  • Strange Minds Think Alike: This is used a lot. For example, in "Downtown as Fruits", Arnold and Gerald say "Boy, people downtown sure are friendly." when they receive a bag full of cash. They later give the rest to a family stranded with a broken-down car, who then say the same thing.
  • Stuffed Into a Trashcan:
    • Trash Can Day, as featured in the episode "Longest Monday".
    • Helga's knocking Stinky in a trashcan after his "sleeping in a closet" comment in "The Little Pink Book".
  • Stupid Statement Dance Mix: An actual in show example, played over one episode's credits. Slippage. Slippage. Slippage.
  • Subways Suck: "Das Subway".
  • Surrogate Soliloquy: Helga will often whip out her heart-shaped Arnold locket to talk to when she is alone.
  • Survival Mantra: On "Das Subway": Big. Open. Spaces. Big. Open. Spaces.
  • Talking To Herself: Whenever Helga talked to Campfire Lass, or Sheena, or Stinky's girlfriend Gloria (Helga's Boyfriend), it was Francesca Smith doing both voices.
  • Team Spirit: "Benchwarmer".
  • Technology Marches On: Big Bob makes his money selling beepers, and several of the characters use them.
  • Technology Porn: Arnold's room. Every kid in The Nineties wanted a bedroom like Arnold's.
  • Terrified of Germs: Sid, after watching a health class film about hygene.
  • Theme Naming: Helga and her sister have the same name: "Olga" is the Slavic version of the Germanic "Helga".
  • There Are No Therapists: Massively Averted in "Helga on the Couch."
  • The Ghost: Lampshaded with Mr. Smith. An episode was dedicated to Arnold and Gerald trying to track him down to deliver a package (apparently they had never seen him either). They were unsuccessful in their attempts.
  • The Show Must Go On: In "Downtown as Fruits", Helga stalls for time in her play because Arnold and Gerald aren't there when it's their turn to go on.
  • The Renaissance Age of Animation
  • Thirteen Is Unlucky: Eugene's birthday is, appropriately, Friday the 13th.
  • Throw the Dog a Bone: Arnold tries to invoke this with Eugene in "Eugene's Bike", but even that doesn't stop the poor kid from getting hit with a baseball, choking on a hot dog, and getting seasick. It sort of works in the end, though, since Eugene still thinks it was an awesome day simply because he got to do so many fun things.
    • In "Helga's Love Potion" Brainy, after countless Offhand Backhand from Helga, is kissed by her (in his forehead). He faints... of happines!
  • Time to Move
  • Title Drop: Constantly in dialogue, which makes sense given that the title is a greeting. The most common drop, though, is that Arnold's alarm clock says "Hey Arnold" constantly by way of alarm.
  • Title In
  • Title Scream: This happens in the Title sequence two or three times, which also makes it a Title Theme Tune.
  • Toilet Humor:
    • Everyone is constantly passing gas in "Fishing Trip" because the only food they had is beans. Harold claims that it was funny at first but then it just smelled.
    • The entire plot of "Phoebe's Little Problem" revolves around Phoebe being the Butt Monkey of the school after accidentally breaking wind into a microphone on stage.
  • Token Good Teammate: Edmund is this to the fifth graders, much to Wolfgang's chagrin.
  • Token Minority Couple: Some episodes had Gerald, Arnold's Black Best Friend, paired with Phoebe, Helga's half-Japanese best friend. Then again, it could be said that it is a multiracial pairing so it could be something of a subversion. Given the rest of their classmates they were probably better off.
  • Tomboy: Helga, who often hangs around the guys and scares most of them with her rough behavior and Big Patty, who beats the toughest guys in arm-wrestling.
  • Tonight Someone Kisses: Helga and Arnold in the School Play.
  • Took a Level in Jerkass: This happened to Phoebe when she became hall monitor.
  • Toyota Tripwire
  • Trademark Favorite Food:
    • Stinky often raves about his love for lemon pudding.
    • Chocolate Boy. It's his freaking name! Though his addiction switches from chocolate to radishes.
  • Trope 2000: The synthesizer that Arnold wants to buy with the prize money in "Spelling Bee" is the ToneMaster 2000.
  • True Companions: The Boarders, oddly enough.
  • Tsundere: Helga, and how. Rhonda is also one for Harold.
  • Two-Timer Date: "Valentine's Day"
  • Ugly Guys Hot Daughter: Possibly Subverted. Helga and her father both have unibrows, potato noses, and billy goat shaped ears, and Helga is comically mistaken for a boy once. At the same time, the show has an exotic and unusual style of character design, and one need look no further than the Football Head Arnold himself for proof of this. Also, older mature Helga as seen in a few episodes is dropdead gorgeous. In contrast, Olga (Helga's older sister) is obviously perceived as pretty by others in the show.
  • Ugly Guy, Hot Wife: Oskar and his wife
  • Uncanceled
  • Unrequited Love Switcheroo: "Arnold Loves Lila". "Arnold Visits Arnie" is this crossed with Bizarro Universe where Arnold pines for "Hilda" while "Lulu" won't leave him alone.
  • The Un-Reveal
  • Urban Fantasy: Some episodes fell into this, namely the ones dealing with urban legends like the demon train and ghost bride.
  • Vanity Is Feminine: Played with when the girls throw a makeover party and deliberately exclude the tomboyish Helga. When Helga tries to play with the boys instead, they mock her for being ugly and unfeminine. Helga caves and dolls herself up, then joins the other girls at the party. After a while, she starts to realize how ridiculous the whole thing is, considering their age. "We're nine years old! We don't have signs of aging!" She persuades the other girls to her side... and they wind up administering the intended makeover to one of the unfortunate boys who tried to crash their party and found himself outmatched.
  • Verbal Tic:
    • Monkeyman randomly says his name mid-sentence.
    • Coach Wittenburg and Tish have a tendency toward malapropism, and repeating themselves. Repetitively.
  • Vitriolic Best Buds:
    • Helga and Phoebe, though by the end of the show this was shown to be Helga being carelessly demanding rather than actively, intentionally controlling.
    • A very strong Type 2 in Grandpa Phil and Jimmy Kafka, who are best described as best friends who simultaneously like and hate each other. This is mostly because both of them are prideful, competitive, and incredibly stubborn. As a result, they spent decades not speaking to one another, a fact which both of them are shown to severely regret in the episode where he appears.
  • "Well Done, Son" Guy: Helga and the Jolly-Olly Man both fall under this category so much.
  • We're Still Relevant, Dammit!: In an In-Universe example, Dino Spumoni's backstory shows us that he was trying way too hard to roll with the times, such as creating a rap album in the '80s. He fared better when he went back to singing his '50s tunes.
  • We Want Our Jerk Back:
    • In "Helga's Show," the comedic imitations Helga performs showcasing her friends' idiosyncrasies cause them to shun her. Taking Phoebe's advice, she tries a kinder approach to her humor, which falls flat. Ironically, it's Arnold who suggests that she go back to the edgier material she used before, which works.
    • "Big Bob's Crisis" has the head of the Pataki clan take a kinder, simpler, less-stressful approach to life after a gas attack scare (previously thought to be a heart attack). When he begins to give up all of their modern conveniences (and she see how others start to walk all over him), Helga tells him that she relies on him being the tough, take-charge man she knows he is. After some soul-searching, Bob decides that he can be that man and still take time away to unwind.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?:
    • Tucker, Coach Wittenberg and Trish's son, is never seen after his first appearance even though his parents show up several times afterwards.
    • Helga's pet Monitor Lizard only shows up in one episode. It is possible her parents made her get rid of it.
  • Whole-Plot Reference: The episode False Alarm is this to 12 Angry Men.
  • Wide-Eyed Idealist: Eugene is very optimistic despite being a ridiculously unlucky jinx.
  • Wise Beyond Their Years:
    • Arnold.
    • Helga counts, too, due to her impressive vocabulary.
    • Also, Phoebe for obvious reasons.
    • Gerald, for knowing so many of the town's legends
  • Work Off the Debt
  • Worst News Judgment Ever: When Stoop Kid was revealed to be afraid to leave his stoop, the story dominated the front page of the newspaper. His stepping off did, too.
  • The Worst Seat in the House: Arnold and Gerald once wanted to go to a baseball game to see Arnold's favorite player play his last game before retiring. They decide to buy two tickets from a scalper promising them great seats for half the price of what they're selling at the ticket booth. It turns out that their seats are both in the nosebleed section and obstructed by a pole. Arnold decides to get closer to the action and ends up catching the home run ball from his favorite player at his final at-bat while simultaneously being chased by ushers.
  • You Fail Logic Forever: Lieutenant Major Goose gives us this gem: "YOUR HAIR'S NOT CURLY! WHAT IS YOUR REAL NAME?" Granted, he was right about it not being Curly's real name (his real name's Thaddeus), but that doesn't make it any less ridiculous. Just a lot funnier.
  • You Have 48 Hours: the episode "24 Hours to Live". After Arnold accidentally hits Harold in the face with a baseball, Helga persuades Harold to wait until the next day to fight him. And just to really rub it in, Helga spends most of that day counting down exactly how many hours, minutes, and seconds Arnold has to live with a bullhorn.
  • You Look Familiar: When the original voice of Arnold, Toran Caudell, started getting older, they switched him to the voice of Wolfgang while Phillip Van Dyke took over the voice of Arnold. Later on, Spencer Klein would replace Phillip. This all ended up being subtly referenced in the episode "New Bully on the Block", where Wolfgang, Ludwig (voiced by Phillip). and Arnold get in a war over who should own the vacant lot.
  • You Wanna Get Sued?: Subverted in "False Alarm". Helga talks about going to Wrestlemania to see Haystacks Calhoun and there isn't even a single wink or nudge at the camera.
  • You Talkin' to Me?: When Arnold becomes drunk on kung fu power.
  • Your Makeup Is Running: Happens every time Olga cries.
  • Your Television Hates You: In "Arnold's Hat," Arnold is depressed because he lost his hat. To take his mind off how he feels, he turns on the TV only to discover that it's Hat Day at the local ballpark and everyone is wearing one. It doesn't help.
  • Your Tomcat Is Pregnant: In the subway episode, it turns out that "Killer" a seeing eye dog was pregnant and has puppies in the stalled subway car.
  • Youthful Freckles: Eugene and Lila.
  1. Sheena, Park, Joey