"Phrases They Didn’t Catch"


When somebody does something like “TV Land’s 100 Greatest TV Quotes and Catchphrases”, one of its major purposes is to create “buzz” by prompting argument about what should’ve been on the list and what should’ve been left off. And it works. I’m doing it here, and I’ll be quoting other people who did it on other Internet venues.

First, a look at the least deserving phrases on the list:

It’s really easy to argue that “Boston Legal” (“Denny Crane.”), “Nip/Tuck” (“Tell me what you don’t like about yourself.”) and “The OC” (“Welcome to the O.C., bitch.”) have neither the longevity or popularity for their phrases to make the all-time list. Yet, “How I Met Your Mother’s” “Suit up!”, despite being from an even newer and not terribly high-rated show, is, IMO, an instant classic. (Yet, it could disappear if the show gets cancelled before making enough episodes for an afterlife in syndication.)

There were a couple of phrases that are far less memorable and far less deserving than the characters saying them, specifically Barney Fife’s “Nip it!” and Felix Unger’s “Never assume.” And Joey Tribiani’s “How you doin’?” Did they feel obligated to include a “Friends” quote rather than just throw in some more Seinfeld-isms? (“Not that there’s anything wrong with that.” “Serenity now!” “Spongeworthy.” “I don’t want to be a pirate!”)

And there are plenty other multiple-catchphrase candidates: I already argued that they should have used Archie Bunker’s “You Meathead” instead of “Stifle”. And Maxwell Smart could just as easily have made it for “Would you believe…?” or even “Missed it by that much” as “Sorry about that, Chief”. Is Ralph Kramden more famous for “Baby, you’re the greatest” or “To the moon, Alice!”? Is Dragnet more memorable for “This is the city” than “Just the facts, ma’am”? Why did Wayne and Garth get “Schwing” and not “We’re not worthy” or “Party on”? Why Flip Wilson’s “What you see is what you get” instead of “The devil made me do it”? And they chose Spock’s “Live long and prosper” over “Highly illogical”? That IS at least somewhat illogical.

And what about the other Star Trek co-star, DeForrest Kelley? “He’s dead Jim” or “I’m a doctor, not a (whatever)!”

Where is “Lucy, ju got some ‘splainin’ to do!”? Or “Missus Carmichael!” (Gale Gordon, the later Lucy Show, in case you forgot)? And other sitcoms… Flo in “Alice”: “Kiss my grits!” Gilligan’s Island: “Hey, little buddy”, “Sit right back and you’ll hear a tale” or “a three hour tour…”. “Gomer Pyle U.S.M.C.”: “Shazam!” “Home Improvement”: “I don’t think so, Tim.” Mister Ed’s “Willllburrrr…” or Mork’s “Nanoo nanoo” or Alf’s “Ha! I kill me!” Or from the vaguely memorable “Dinosaurs”: “I’m the baby! Gotta love me!”

And where is Andy Kaufman as Latka Gravis? “Thank you veddy much!”

The list needs something British, like “The Prisoner’s” “I am not a number, I am a free man!” or “Be seeing you.” Or “The Avengers'” “Mrs. Peel, we’re needed.” Or “Red Dwarf’s” “Smeg off!” Or Monty Pythonisms like “And now for something completely different.” “It’s an ex-parrot.” “Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition.” “I don’t like Spam!”

More game shows: “No whammy no whammy no whammy”, “Let’s see what’s behind door number three!”, “The survey says…”, “I’d like to buy a vowel”, “You are the Weakest Link. Goodbye.”

Other Laugh-In classics: “You bet your bippy.” Arte Johnson’s “Verrrry Interesting”. “Beautiful Downtown Burbank.” “And that’s the truttthhh…” Other SNL goodies: “I’m Chevy Chase and you’re not.” “Baze-bol been beddy beddy good to me.” “Nevermind.” “I’m Gumby, dammit!” “Pump… you up!” “I’m good enough, I’m smart enough and doggone it, people like me.” “Would you like to touch my monkey?” And where is SCTV? “That blowed up real good!” “Oooh… scary!” “Hoser.” And Mystery Science Theater 3000: “Robot roll call!” “Movie sign!” “Just say to yourself it’s just a show…” And Red Green! “Keep your stick on the ice.” “If women don’t find you handsome, they should at least find you handy.”

There is a serious shortage of Children’s TV quotes… Buffalo Bob on “Howdy Doody Time”: “Hey, kids, what time is it?” Mr. Rogers: “Won’t you be my neighbor?” Barney (the Dinosaur): “I like you, you like me.” Davey and Goliath: “I don’t know, Davey.” Schoolhouse Rock: “Conjunction Junction, what’s your function?”

And cartoons… Pinky & the Brain: “Are you pondering what I’m pondering?” (the one true keeper from Animaniacs’ efforts to create as many catchphrases as possible; I’m sorry, but “Hello Nurse” was not good enough). Bullwinkle: “Hey, Rocky, watch me pull a rabbit out of my hat!” “Fan mail from a flounder?”

Other Simpsons: “Eat my shorts.” “Don’t have a cow.” “Okelly Dokelly!” “Excellent!” “Worst. (Whatever). Ever.” And South Park: “Screw you guys, I’m going home!” And Futurama: “Bite my shiny metal ass!” “Good news everyone!” And, if you insist, some Family Guy: “Giggity giggity!”

More commercials: “You’re soaking in it.” “How do you spell relief?” “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up!” “He likes it! Hey Mikey!” “Mama mia, ‘at’sa spicy meatball!” (or old-old-school Alka Seltzer: “Plop plop, fizz fizz, oh what a relief it is!”) “I wish I were an Oscar Mayer weiner…” “Please don’t squeeze the Charmin.” “Please Mother, I’d rather do it myself!”

The list has already been accused of having a liberal bias for its choice of political quotes, so may I offer a little Reagan: “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall” and Clinton: “I did not have sex with that woman.” And how could you have televised news quotes without “If the glove doesn’t fit, you must acquit”?

Where are the “Mission: Impossible” quotes? “Your mission, should you decide to accept it…” “The Secretary will disavow any knowledge of your actions…” “This message will self-destruct in five seconds.”

And nothing from the Twilight Zone? “A dimension not only of sight and sound but of mind.” “You unlock this door with the key of imagination.” “Submitted for your approval…” “That’s the signpost up ahead…”

How about something from “House”: “Everybody lies.” Or a “24” cliche: “We’re running out of time!!” “Who are you working for?!?”

And so soon after Thanksgiving, how could they have missed “As God is my witness, I thought turkeys could fly”?

I’d better quit now. I haven’t even started researching IMdb’s quotes yet, and I have collected almost another hundred.

But one more thing: How long until we add “Save the cheerleader, save the world” to the list of eligable catchphrases?

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