In a typical scene from “All in the Family,” Archie Bunker, right, and his son-in-law Mike Stivic engage in a typical brouhaha.
One of the great things about watching old TV shows is that many of them had special lines or signature lines that became as much a part of the show as the main characters.
Many of these catchphrases have become as much a part of Americana as apple pie.
Here are the catchphrases from some of the TV shows that were highly rated during their period and their famous signature lines.
See how many you can remember from these shows, all of which made their debuts before 1980. The shows are listed in chronological order with the oldest first.
“Dragnet” (1951-59): The TV drama followed the cases of Los Angeles Police Detective Sgt. Joe Friday (Jack Webb) and his partner Frank Smith (Ben Alexander). The show’s catchphrase, “Just the facts, ma’am,” never was said by Friday. He did say, “All we want are the facts, ma’am,” when interviewing a potential witness. It eventually was shortened to “Just the facts, ma’am.”
“Red Skelton Show” (1951-71): The variety show consisted of a plethora of skits with Skelton as well as guest stars including the Rolling Stones, who made their American TV debut on the show in 1965. Skelton’s fictional characters included George Appleby, Clem Kladiddlehopper, Deadeye, San Fernando Red and Freddie the Freeloader.
Skelton always ended every show with his signature line, “Good night, and may God Bless.”
“Life of Riley” (1953-58): William Bendix played the lead role of Chester A. Riley, a wing riveter at the Cunningham Aircraft plant in California.
When the scheming Riley, who always was looking for a fast buck, had his plan backfire, he would say, “What a revoltin’ development this turned out to be.”
“The Honeymooners” (1955-56): The half-hour comedy lasted only one season, but its reruns are still aired. Jackie Gleason starred as Ralph Kramden, a New York bus driver who lived with his wife Alice (Audrey Meadows) in a Brooklyn apartment complex. Their close friends Ed Norton (Art Carney), a New York City sewer worker, and his wife Trixie (Joyce Randolph) lived in the same complex.
Trying to make a better life for his wife, the financially-challenged Kramden always was involved in get-rich-quick schemes. Alice always found holes in Ralph’s schemes and when she was proven to be correct, Ralph would start badgering her. He would say, “One of these days … POW! Right in the kisser.” Or “OK, Alice, do you want to go to the moon … to the moon, Alice.”
“Andy Griffith Show” (1960-68): The comedy starred Andy Griffith as Andy Taylor, the sheriff of Mayberry, N.C. Co-starring with Griffith were Ron Howard, as his son, Opie; Frances Bavier, as Taylor’s Aunt Bea; and Don Knotts, as Andy’s longtime friend Barney Fife and Mayberry’s deputy sheriff.
Playing subordinate roles were Goober Pyle (George Lindsay), an auto mechanic; Floyd Lawson (Howard McNear), the town’s barber; Helen Crump (Aneta Corsaut), Opie’s teacher and Andy’s girlfriend; Otis Campbell (Hal Smith), the town drunk; Thelma Lou (Betty Lynn), Barney’s girlfriend; and Gomer Pyle (Jim Nabors), mechanic at Wally’s Filling Station.
There were a multitude of catchphrases in this show. When Barney frustrated Andy, he would respond, “You beat everything, Barn.” ... When Barney got in certain situations with the public, He would say, “Nip it, nip it, nip it.” ... When something or someone surprised Gomer, he would utter, “Shazam!” ... When Ernest T. Bass, portrayed by Howard Morris, would arrive unexpectedly in Mayberry, he would yell, “It’s me ... it’s me ... it’s Ernest T.”
“Car 54, Where Are You?” (1961-63): The comedy series featured two bungling New York police officers, Gunther Toody (Joe E. Ross) and Francis Muldoon (Fred Gwynne), who were assigned to Car 54.
When Toody got an idea — or thought he had an idea — he would always say, “Ooh, Ooh, Ooh, Ooh.”
“Mission Impossible” (1966-73): The show followed the adventures of a unit of secret government agents who were given covert missions for those challenging the U.S. Peter Graves portrayed the unit’s chief, Jim Phelps. The other members of the unit included Cinnamon Carter (Barbara Bain), Barney Collier (Greg Morris), Willy Armitage (Peter Lupus) and Rollin Hand (Martin Laudau).
The show opened with Phelps receiving the unit’s assignment through a secret tape recorder and photos and data which explained the mission. The scene ends with Phelps being told, “Should you decide to accept this assignment, Jim. … Good luck, Jim. This tape will self-destruct in five seconds.”
“Hawaii 5-0” (1968-80): The TV drama, situated in Honolulu, featured Jack Lord as Detective Lt. Steve McGarrett, who directed a special police force, and his staff, Danny Williams (James McArthur), Chin Ho Kelly (Kam Fong Chun), Kono Kalakaua (Zulu) and Ben Kokua (Al Harrington).
When McGarrett felt his unit had nailed the crime’s perpetrator, he would tell Williams to “Book ’em, Danno.”
“The Odd Couple” (1970-75): The comedy, centered in a New York Apartment, featured Jack Klugman as Oscar Madison, a sloppy New York sportswriter, and Tony Randall as Felix Unger, a fastidious photography. Both were divorced.
The show’s key line occurred when Madison would frustrate Unger with his sloppiness and a frustrated Unger would utter, “Oh, Oscar, Oscar, Oscar.”
“All in the Family” (1971-79): The comedy centered around a Queens, N.Y., family consisting of Archie Bunker (Carroll O’Connor), his wife, Edith, (Jean Stapleton), their daughter, Gloria, (Sally Struthers) and her husband, Mike Stivic, (Rob Reiner), all of whom lived in the same house.
The show was loaded with special lines. Archie would call Edith a “Dingbat” and tell her to “Stifle” when she was talking too much. Archie also referred to Mike as the “Meathead.”
“Sanford & Son” (1972-77): The harbinger of black sitcoms, the show starred Redd Foxx as the cantankerous Fred G. Sanford, who ran a salvage/junk yard in the Watts section of Los Angeles with his son, Lamont Sanford, played by Demond Wilson. Among the show’s other regulars were Lamont’s Aunt Esther (LaWanda Page), Fred’s friends Grady Wilson (Whitman Mayo) and Bubba Bexley (Don Bexley), and Fred’s love interest, Donna Harris (Lynn Hamilton).
The show abounded with memorable lines. When Fred didn’t get his way, he would feign a heart attack and call out to his late wife saying, “You hear that Elizabeth? I’m coming to join ya, honey.” … Fred regularly referred to Lamont as “You big dummy.” … The deeply religious Esther called Fred “a fish-eyed fool” and “you old heathen,” and she responded to Fred’s plethora of insults by saying, “Watch it, sucka.”
“Kojak” (1973-78): The show starred bald New York police lieutenant Theo Kojak (Telly Savalas), a tough, hard-nosed cop, but with feelings.
Extremely fond of Tootsie Roll pops, Kojak would say, “Who loves you, baby?” when interrogating certain females witnesses.
“Good Times” (1974-79): Situated in Chicago, the show focused on the trials of a black family living in the projects. The series starred Esther Rolle as Florida Evans and her husband, James, played by John Amos. They had three children, 17-year-old James Jr. or “J.J.” (Jimmie Walker), 16-year-old Thelma (Bern Nadette Stanis) and 11-year-old Michael (Ralph Carter). This was among the first weekly comedy series featuring a black cast in an urban environment.
The show’s signature line was when “J.J.” would yell, “Dy-no-mite.”
“Happy Days” (1974-84): The series reveals a version of what life was like in the mid-1950s to mid-1960s in Milwaukee. The series centered around Richie Cunningham (Ron Howard) and his family, father Howard (Tom Bosley), mother Marion (Marion Ross) and baby sister Joanie (Erin Moran), his high school friends, “Potsie” Weber (Anson Williams) and Ralph Malph (Donnie Most) and high school dropout/biker/ladies’ man Arthur “The Fonz” Fonzarelli (Henry Winkler).
The show had two primary signature lines. Known for being ultra cool, “Fonzie” would say, “Heeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeey.” When one of Richie’s friends antagonized Joanie, she would respond, “Sit on it, Ralph” or “Sit on it, Potsie.”
“Diff’rent Strokes” (1978-85): The sitcom starred black brothers Arnold (Gary Coleman) and Willis Jackson (Todd Bridges) who were adopted by Phillip Drummond (Conrad Bain) a wealthy businessman who lived on Park Avenue in Manhattan. Drummond had a daughter, Kimberly (Dana Plato).
The show’s memorable line was when Arnold would say to his brother, “What’chu talkin’ ’bout Willis?”
Barry Levine is a member of The Herald’s news copy desk and writes occasional columns. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.