Marking the anniversary today of the very first broadcast of Newhart in 1982…
I’m Larry, this ma brother Darryl, an’ this ma other brother Darryl.Larry (William Sanderson) on Newhart (1982–90). One of the funniest catchphrases of the ’80s, primarily thanks to Sanderson’s hayseed delivery. Each week, beginning with the show’s second episode (“Mrs. Newton’s Body Lies A’Mould’ring in the Grave” written by Katherine Green, first aired November 1, 1982), Larry would show up and inevitably introduce his siblings, paying no mind to the fact that everyone already knew who they were. In the course of 184 episodes, the brothers (who would do anything for a buck) appeared at least 85 times, but in all those appearances the Darryls only said one line: “Shut up” to their new wives in the series finale.
Though Candice Bergen became so identified as Murphy Brown that people would sometimes confuse the actress with the character (we’re talking to you Dan Quayle), she wasn’t the only actress considered for the part. Had Bergen turned down the role, it would have gone to Heather Locklear, years before her scene-stealing turn on Melrose Place.
Hey, now! –Hank Kingsley (Jeffrey Tambor) on The Larry Sanders Show (1992–98).
The brainchild of Sanders cocreators Garry Shandling and Dennis Klein, this phrase was to Hank as “Hi-yooooo!” (see entry)was to Ed McMahon. From its debut in the première episode (first aired August 15, 1992), its popularity on this faux talk show was instant, and it even became integral to some plots during the show’s run. For instance, in one episode Hank is forced to change his catchphrase to “Say, now” while doing charity work, when he learns that “Hey, now!” is the intellectual property of the show.
Series star Garry Shandling told TV critics in 1993: “Dennis and I sat around with that first script and we knew we had to come up with something that would be reminiscent of [McMahon]… . I wanted to come up with something that was a little further from ‘Hi-yo!’ than ‘Hey, now!’ but it was certainly the building block for it.”
Silly rabbit, Trix are for kids. – Ad for Trix cereal (1959).
Created by the ad agency Dancer Fitzgerald Sample, the Trix rabbit (originally the voice of Delo States) has spent the better part of a half century disguising himself in order to get his hands on his favorite sugar cereal, but always to no avail. Well, maybe not always. In 1976 it was decided that there would be a write-in poll (via box tops) to determine whether kids really wanted to share with the hare. The vote was almost unanimous: let the rabbit eat. The line endures today. In 2003, the line “Silly rabbit …” was used memorably in pop culture maven Quentin Tarantino’s film Kill Bill.
Just sit right back and you’ll hear a tale of the career that almost was. Though Russell Johnson will forever be known as The Professor (aka Roy Hinkley) on Gilligan’s Island, that seminal role probably never would have happened if Johnson had been cast in a role he was thisclose to getting… that of medical hotshot Ben Casey in 1961. That role eventually went to Vince Edwards, and though Johnson would go on to guest star on Ben Casey, the story doesn’t end there.
Russell Johnson actually took over the role of The Professor from actor John Gabriel, who was cast in, and starred in, the unaired pilot for Gilligan’s Island. Alas, the network thought he looked too young and Gabriel was let go, allowing Johnson to step in. And so, Johnson was relegated to taking the three hour tour that defined his life and career. For his part, Gabriel would go on to star on Ryan’s Hope before carving out a career as a producer.
Yabba dabba doo! – Fred Flintstone (voice of Alan Reed) on The Flintstones (1960–66).
One of those familiar cases of a line that was thought up by an actor instead of a writer. When Reed was reading a script during a recording session, he asked cocreator Joseph Barbera if he could change the word “Yahoo!” to something catchier.
The result is one of TV’s most famous phrases. But where did Reed come up with the line? In the 1994 book The Flintstones: A Modern Stone Age Phenomenon by T. R. Adams, Barbera says he doesn’t remember (“God knows where he got it”).
However, Reed is reported to have said that his idea came from his dear old mom, who often repeated a popular catchphrase herself, for the hair product Brylcream—“A little dab’ll do ya.”
Watching Home Improvement, it’s hard to believe any TV wife (or actress for that matter) could have put up with Tim “The Tool Man” Taylor. And while Patricia Richardson did a wonderful job on the show, she almost didn’t have said job. In fact, producers initially looked into TV’s past to find Tim’s wife. Laverne & Shirley star Cindy Williams (she was Shirley FYI) was thisclose to getting the role… were it not for the fact that she didn’t find the script all that funny. Too bad. So sad.
There’s no question as to who coined this ubiquitous sports catchphrase—it was Washington, D.C.–based sportscaster Wolf. The question is, exactly when did he coin it? Unfortunately, Wolf’s own recollection seems clouded. In his 2000 book Let’s Go to the Videotape: All the Plays—and Replays—from My Life in Sports Wolf says that he first used “let’s go to the videotape” while showing day-after highlights of a basketball play involving Kareem Abdul-Jabbar of the L.A. Lakers and Nate Thurmond of the Golden State (or San Francisco) Warriors. The problem, however, is that such a matchup never took place. While Thurmond was with the Warriors, Kareem was with the Milwaukee Bucks. And, while Kareem was with the Lakers, Thurmond was playing for the Cleveland Cavaliers. That makes it tough to pin down the game in question. But regardless of when it was coined (likely between 1969 and 1977, while both men were in the league together) Wolf does remember the moment surrounding the phrase’s birth.
After introducing the “Jabbar-Thurmond” matchup, Wolf told viewers they were going to get a “look” at the play from “last night.” He waited for the tape to roll but nothing happened. Wolf says he waited and reintroduced the tape. Still nothing, “Just me sitting there,” he said. Desperate, he yelled to his director, Ernie Baur, to play “the Jabbar tape.” Says Wolf: “Now I’m hoping [Ernie’s] got this racked up and ready by now so I try one more time: ‘OK, let’s go to the videotape.’” It rolled, and a catchphrase was born. As for the phrase’s legacy, Wolf is succinct, saying that when you hear the phrase today “you can practically see everyone hunch forward … leaning in to get a look at what actually transpired. You don’t tell ’em in TV. You show ’em.” You do indeed.
Films made especially for television had been around since the mid-’60s, but it wasn’t until one young TV executive decided to package and brand them that they became known under the catch-all term “Movie of the Week.” Credit Diller (now a media mogul) with coining this term to describe a weekly, 90-minute program on ABC that would feature one-off films that were, essentially, world première motion pictures.For the record, the very first “Movie of the Week” aired Nov. 18, 1969 and was called The Ballad of Andy Crocker, about a Vietnam war vet returning home. Soon, ABC’s Movies of the Week tended to be cheaply done or were simply debut episodes of ABC shows.But it wasn’t long before Diller began asking for more socially relevant content, culminating in the brilliant 1971 film Brian’s Song, which won awards and acclaim.
Thanks to the success of Brian’s Song, however, other networks began churning out quickly-made-for-TV movies so fast that they were dubbed “disease of the week” films, because they generally chronicled some person’s heroic fight with one malady or another. Since its debut in 1969, the term “Movie of the Week”—like “Afterschool Special”—has come to symbolize anything characterized by syrupy or contrived melodrama, as in “my life is a Movie of the Week right now.”
Live long and prosper.– Mr. Spock (Leonard Nimoy) on Star Trek (1967–69).
Spoken first by Spock in the “Vulcan mating ritual” episode “Amok Time” (written by Theodore Sturgeon, who also coined the line), this Vulcan dictum, used for hello and goodbye, has become a phrase repeated proudly by geeks everywhere since its debut on September 15, 1967. The line usually accompanies the Vulcan hand salute (also shown first in that episode), which Nimoy himself adopted from an old Orthodox Judaism custom.
Nimoy writes in his 1995 book I Am Spock: “[The] gesture symbolizes the Hebrew letter ‘shin,’ the first letter in the word Shaddai, “Lord”; in the Jewish Qabala, shin also represents eternal Spirit.” And it will, undoubtedly, live long and prosper.
But wait, there’s more! – Ads for Ginsu knives (1978).
This tagline, along with others like “Act now and you’ll also receive …” and “If you call before midnight tonight …” crept into the vernacular thanks to these popular spots, which also featured a man karate-kicking a watermelon. This line can probably be credited to entrepreneurs Ed Valenti and Barry Becher, but Arthur Schiff, the head of Ginsu’s marketing firm Dial Media during the Ginsu years, claimed in a 1982 TV Guide article that he made up the line. “Yes, ‘but wait, there’s more’ is mine,” he said. “I invented it because we give away quantities of stuff—with the Ginsu, about 13 other kinds of knives.” But wait, there’s more.
Schiff’s assistant at the time, Jim Cooney, told this writer in 2002 that the knife’s name, and this phrase, came about thanks to input from everyone: “Although Arthur was certainly involved with Ed and Barry in scripting the commercials as a normal part of his job, the entire process of developing the scripts … was a team effort and anything in those scripts was a result of that effort. Individual claims of who said exactly what during that process are dubious at best.” * The Fine Print: Batteries not Included. This offer not available in stores. Some assembly required.
Though it is the title of a 1961 blues song by Bobby Bland, almost everyone attributes this phrase to the mohawked Mr. T, who shot to fame as Bosco “B.A.” Baracus on The A-Team. Still, the phrase didn’t become popular because of that seminal adventure show. Its first use actually came eight months before that show’s January 23, 1983, première with the theatrical release of Rocky III on May 28, 1982.
In the film, written by star Sylvester Stallone, Mr. T plays hard-boiled boxer Clubber Lang, who when asked by a reporter if he “hates Rocky” responds: “No, I don’t hate Balboa. I pity the fool.” Despite public perception, however, the line was never used on an episode of The A-Team. A variation of it appeared in the episode “The Sheriffs of Rivertown” (written by Mark Jones, first aired November 27, 1984). It was not said by Mr. T, however, but by Dwight Schultz as Murdock: “As B.A. might say, I pity the poor man who crosses my path.” And the fool who hasn’t seen Rocky III.
Yeah, that’s it … that’s the ticket. – Tommy Flanagan (Jon Lovitz) on Saturday Night Live (1985–90).
As the Pathological Liar, Tommy was fond of cooking up stories so outrageous that sometimes he himself had trouble believing them. For instance, if he was to be believed during his 16 SNL appearances, Tommy was a CIA spy, Vietnam vet, National Geographic writer, manager of the Rolling Stones, and husband to actress Morgan Fairchild, “whom I’ve seen naked.” All of these lies were inevitably followed by “Yeah, that’s it … that’s the ticket,” which Tommy used to reassure himself that he was on the right track toward impressing the audience.
The character of Tommy, whom Lovitz had based on someone from his high school, made his debut on the stage while Lovitz was a member of the Groundlings comedy troupe in the early ’80s. The character’s first TV appearance came on March 28, 1985, when the Groundlings appeared on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, but he didn’t make a splash until his first appearance on SNL on November 16, 1985.
The catchphrase came more out of necessity than vanity. “You’re trying to create a character in three to five minutes,” Lovitz told Rolling Stone in 1990. “So it’s good to repeat a phrase over and over.” And just what did Morgan Fairchild think of all of the attention? “She said thanks for mentioning her,” Lovitz said. “And we went out to dinner and became friends.” Friends . . . yeah . . . that’s the ticket.