Classic TV quotes that are now part of everyday vocabulary
“It’s a bird! It’s a plane!” It’s a classic TV quote! Television has provided dozens of memorable lines that have become part of everyday language. They’re a kind of shorthand, understood by the millions of people who grew up watching everything from Saturday morning cartoons to nightly news shows.
Stacker collected 50 classic television quotes that have become part of everyday vocabulary, consulting surveys, reviews, reference materials, dictionaries, fan websites, media reports, and celebrity interviews.
Some are utterly silly syllables like Homer Simpson’s “d’oh” and Seinfeld’s “yada, yada, yada,” while others really do have a thoughtful meaning like “Let’s be careful out there” from “Hill Street Blues,” and the inspirational “clear eyes, full hearts, can’t lose” from “Friday Night Lights.”
Game shows and competitions contributed a fair share, from “Is that your final answer?” of “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?” to the “Come on down!” invitation to contestants on “The Price is Right.” So did superhero sagas like Superman and Batman and mere mortal talk shows with Ed Sullivan and Johnny Carson. News shows gave us “Good night, and good luck” and “That’s the way it is.”
Peppering our language the most have been cartoons, dating back to their most rudimentary black-and-white incarnations starring Bugs Bunny and his nemesis Elmer Fudd, Tweety Pie and his nemesis Sylvester, Wile E. Coyote and his nemesis the Roadrunner, Yogi Bear, Fred Flintstone, Scooby-Doo, and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, to name just a few.
A few lines that were funny at the time are still in the lexicon, but the humor has faded as public awareness and sensitivity has changed and grown. Take a look. See how many you use, and where they originated.
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With these words, sidekick Ed McMahon opened each episode of “The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson,” starting in 1962. The line took on new meaning after its improvised use in the 1980 horror movie “The Shining” by Jack Nicholson’s increasingly deranged character as he broke down a door with an axe.
‘A three-hour tour.’
Typically used to refer to something that has taken a disastrously long time, the line comes from the theme song of “Gilligan’s Island.” The ship’s passengers and crew had set off for “a three-hour tour” from Honolulu before being shipwrecked in a storm.
Best delivered in a deep slow voice, this was the catchphrase of Lurch, the laconic butler on “The Addams Family” series. It was accompanied by the sound of a gong as Lurch ran the household for Morticia and Gomez Addams, Uncle Fester and the rest of the creepy, kooky family. Despite its outsized influence, the original television show ran for just two seasons from 1964 to 1966 on ABC.
‘Th-Th-Th-That’s all folks.’
Porky Pig signed off many a Looney Tunes cartoon from 1937 to 1946 with “Th-Th-Th-That’s all folks.” The running gag of the porcine character’s stutter, which originated with a real-life stutter by the character’s first voice actor Joe Doughterty, prompted the National Stuttering Project of San Francisco to picket Warner Bros. in a 1991 protest. The studio responded with a $12,000 grant to the group and a series of public service announcements against bullying people who stutter.
‘Is that your final answer?’
Regis Philbin, the host of “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?” would ask this question of contestants on the television quiz show. Players went through rounds of increasingly difficult multiple-choice questions, with options to use their three lifelines—a 50/50 option to eliminate two of the four answers, asking the audience for its collective opinion, and phoning a friend.
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‘The tribe has spoken.’
From the very first show of the long-running hit series “Survivor,” these were the decisive words spoken to the losing contestants being sent home. Host and executive producer Jeff Probst has said that after the popularity of Regis Philbin asking “Is that your final answer?” on “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?” he knew the survival competition needed a phrase that would catch on with the public.
‘Come on down!’
Contestants on “The Price is Right” are chosen from the studio audience by the game show’s host with this invitation. On the show, which debuted in 1972, players guess the price of various items, without exceeding the amount, from appliances to vacation cruise packages and luxury cars.
‘Same Bat-time, same Bat-channel.’
This was the narrator’s reminder to viewers of the original “Batman” television series in the late 1960s to tune in for the next installment. The show’s storylines were broken up into two episodes, and the first one would end with the Dynamic Duo of Batman and Robin stuck in a seemingly hopeless cliffhanger predicament.
‘What’s up, Doc?’
Cartoon’s ultimate wise guy, Bugs Bunny, delivers this line in the Looney Tunes series, often munching on a carrot and staring down the barrel of hunter Elmer Fudd’s shotgun. The cartoon rabbit’s mannerism was inspired in part by a scene in “It Happened One Night,” in which Clark Gable was leaning on a fence, snacking on carrots.
‘Winter is coming.’
The ominous prediction came from the very first episode of what would become the hugely popular eight-season “Game of Thrones.” The warning was a call for vigilance, a need to prepare for harsh times, and a caution about the threat of lurking violence.
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