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26 Classic TV Catchphrases And The Story Behind Them

Ready for a throwback?

In the world of television, there are plenty of great iconic catchphrases that I'm sure everyone has heard of or seen used in different situations. We will review some classic TV catchphrases and the characters that started them all. Sometimes, there's a story behind them; other times, they just caught on and became infused with the character itself. Either way, there are plenty here; let's get started.

(Warner Bros.)
"Lucy, You Got Some 'splaining To Do!" (I Love Lucy)

Perhaps one of the most iconic TV shows of all time, I Love Lucy was a staple of television and defined the medium as a whole, setting a standard for sitcoms that are followed even today. One of the most notable catchphrases from the show was when Ricky, Lucy's husband, would say to her, "Lucy, you got some 'splaining to do!" after Lucy's antics during that episode.

Truthfully, this phrase isn't said exactly in the show, but Ricky would often say things to Lucy such as "Lucy, 'splain," or something along those lines, which leads to many people now considering this the show's catchphrase.

(Desilu Productions)
“Good Grief” (Charlie Brown)

Charlie Brown from the Peanuts franchise is known to say "Good grief," the phrase became a part of his character when it was first uttered in the print comic in 1952. Since then, the character always says it when he is bummed out.

(Apple TV+)
“That’s What She Said” (The Office)

While Steve Carell from The Office might have made this famous catchphrase popular, "That's what she said" has different origins than the show. The popular sitcom often used the phrase whenever there was a particular innuendo that Michael Scott believed a woman would say.

According to Thrillist, the phrase was used much earlier before then, including Chevy Chase using the joke in Saturday Night Live, and from way back during the Edwardian period of England. Talk about some exciting origins.

(NBC Universal)
“You Got It, Dude” (Full House)

Whenever anyone rewatches Full House, you can't miss Michelle's classic catchphrase, "You got it, dude," that she would often lovingly say to her caretakers as she grew older. According to Entertainment Weekly, John Stamos' son even says the quote now when he rewatches.

(Max)
“Is That Your Final Answer?” (Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?)

If you've ever watched the show Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? you've heard this phrase. According to Inside Edition, Regis Philbin, the show's host, coined the term, "Is that your final answer?" when a contestant would answer one of the questions that could make or break their new fortune.

(ABC)
“Hey, Hey, Hey!” (Fat Albert)

Anyone who grew up watching The Adventures of Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids also knows this phrase. Like many catchphrases that are used in television, the term "Hey, hey, hey!" would follow Fat Albert before he entered a room, letting everyone know he was there greeting everyone.

(CBS)
"Marcia, Marcia, Marcia!" (The Brady Bunch)

Fun fact – the phrase "Marcia, Marcia, Marcia" was only uttered in one epiosde of The Brady Bunch, according to The Cheat Sheet. It became such a famous line that it became a catchphrase for a particular character, Jan Brady. She says the line where she feels that Marcia gets all the credit and attention for her success, saying it's always about, "Marcia, Marcia, Marcia!" Now, everyone coins the phrase with the character.

(ABC)
“Kiss My Grits” (Alice)

"Kiss My Grits" from Alice wasn't just a catchphrase for the show – it became a famous Southern phrase in the United States, according to AL. The show was based on the film Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore, where the character, Flo, uttered, "Kiss me where the sun don't shine," but it was changed to "Kiss my grits" so it was more acceptable for TV standards at the time. The phrase won its way into the hearts of viewers.

(CBS)
“Eat My Shorts” (The Simpsons)

So many of The Simpsons' characters didn't appear until Season 2, but Bart was always on the show, and one of his signature catchphrases was "Eat my shorts." The actress who voices Bart, Nancy Cartwright, spoke in an interview with the Television Academy Foundation that the phrase was an ad-lib initially and that she did it because back in high school, it was a phrase she and her friends would say, and that they were messing around. She decided to say it for the character.

(Disney+)
“Live Long And Prosper” (Star Trek)

This is for you if you love the Star Trek movies or the original Star Trek TV show. Anyone would recognize the iconic Vulcan phrase, "Live long and prosper," and the salute that comes with it. According to StarTrek.com, the actor who originally played Spock on the TV show, Leonard Nimoy, introduced the hand sign, which is also a blessing in Judaism, a symbol of the Kohanim Jewish blessing.

(Paramount+)
“To The Batmobile!” (Batman)

Everyone thinks of "To the Batmobile" from Batman, as it's one of Batman and Robin's most iconic phrases. While we no longer say the phrase in today's iterations of Batman, the car has continued to become a staple in any media portraying the famous superhero.

(ABC)
“How You Doin’?” (Friends)

The Friends cast is hilarious in many ways, and personally, Joey Tribianni was one of the funniest with his hilarious catchphrase, "How you doin'?" There's no real origin story for the slogan. Still, anyone who knows the character understands that when Joey meets an attractive woman, this is one of the first lines he would flirtatiously deliver to score a date with them. It will always make you laugh.

(Max)
“Ay Caramba” (The Simpsons)

Bart Simpson's catchphrases were plentiful, and the actress who voices Bart, Nancy Cartwright, in an interview with the Television Academy Foundation, said that "Ay Caramba" from The Simpsons was just written into the script, and it caught on over time and ended up being on Bart Simpson T-shirts.

(Fox)
“Bazinga” (The Big Bang Theory)

"Bazinga" was a phrase that Sheldon uttered from The Big Bang Theory cast, and in the prequel series, Young Sheldon, its origins were revealed. According to Entertainment Weekly, the character began to say the word because a novelty toy company named Bazinga had a slogan that said, "if it's funny, it's a Bazinga!" After that, it became his catchphrase.

(Max)
“I Love It When The Plan Comes Together” (The A-Team)

The A-Team is a famous show from back when, where the line, "I love it when the plan comes together," was uttered by Colonel John "Hannibal" Smith in several episodes. The catchphrase even began in the pilot episode of the series. The tagline is even used now in different versions of the franchise.

(NBC)
"It's Gonna Be Legen — Wait For It — Dary." (How I Met Your Mother)

The How I Met Your Mother cast is full of stars, and Neil Patrick Harris is one of them, where he played Barney Stinson. In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, the creators of the show, Craig Thomas and Carter Bays, said it wasn't their idea, as the script for the original uttering of the line in the Season 1 episode, "The Taste of Liberty," was written by Chris Miller and Phil Lord.

(CBS)
“Dyn-O-Mite!” (Good Times)

The catchphrase "Dyn-o-mite" was synonymous with the TV show Good Times, and the actor behind it, Jimmie Walker, said that the catchphrase almost didn't happen in an interview with The Wrap. One of the EP's, Norman Lear, hated the phrase and didn't want Walker to say it, but the director, John Rich, kept it in the script, and the catchphrase caught on from there.

(CBS)
“Norm!” (Cheers)

You know he's there when he enters the bar. While it's not necessarily a catchphrase but a greeting, the shouts of "Norm!" on Cheers were a running gag whenever Norm entered the bar, as he was a regular. The show's writers even told Entertainment Weekly that it was always expected Norm would be greeted and that writing jokes for him afterward was the hardest.

(NBC)
“Suit Up!” (How I Met Your Mother)

Barney from How I Met Your Mother was a hilarious character. Neil Patrik Harris, who played him, shared the origin story of "Suit up," one of his catchphrases, in an interview with The Back Label, revealing the Bob Saget (the narrator of the show) coined the phrase, saying that he said it more than a decade before the show in a party that he and Saget both went to, and that he said the phrase so often they added it to the show.

(CBS)
“Oh My God! They Killed Kenny!” (South Park)

One of South Park's most iconic catchphrases and running gags is when Stan or Kyle would say, "Oh my god, they killed Kenny!" followed by an insult said by Kyle. The line was first said in a short, The Spirit of Christmas: Jesus vs. Frosty, but the series' creators have found different ways to take Kenny out in several various episodes.

(Comedy Central)
“D’oh!” (The Simpsons)

Homer's catchphrase from The Simpsons, "D'oh!" originated from Dan Castellaneta, the voice actor behind Homer, according to The Hollywood Reporter. The actor mainly drew inspiration from James Finlayson and the way the actor would say "Doooh!" in Laurel and Hardy films.

(Hulu)
“Clear Eyes, Full Hearts, Can’t Lose” (Friday Night Lights)

There are plenty of sports TV shows, and Friday Night Lights is one of them, with this phrase uttered to a team of high school football players, "Clear eyes, full hearts, can't lose." The creator of the series, Jason Katims, spoke with Vox about the phrase, saying that it was written in the pilot episode, but since it was such an impactful moment, they saved it for big moments in the show.

(NBC)
"Book 'Em, Danno” (Hawaii Five-0)

The phrase, "Book 'em, Danno," was said by Detective Steve McGarrett in Hawaii Five-0 whenever they would capture a villain. It became synonymous with the character overtime.

(CBS)
“And That’s The Way It Is” (CBS News)

Walter Cronkite was a famous news anchor for CBS Evening News, where he would end every broadcast with "And that's the way it is." Cronkite spoke in an interview with Archive of American Television and said that he came up with it to close out whatever news he was telling the audience so that it could fit with the story he was speaking about.

(CBS)
“That’s Hot” (The Simple Life)

Paris Hilton said, "That's hot" in The Simple Life, her reality TV show. Her memoir (via People) revealed that she stole the phrase from her little sister, who was in middle school then, saying Hilton saw it as a "positive affirmation."

(Netflix)
“Whatchoo Talkin’ ’Bout, Willis?” (Diff’rent Strokes)

In the classic TV show led by a Black actor, Diff'rent Strokes had the phrase, "Watchoo talkin' 'bout, Willis?" uttered by Arnold Jackson. It was something he said from time to time in response to his brother, Willis.

(NBC/ABC)

There are so many classic TV catchphrases out there - let's talk about them.