Channel Surfing: The art of the catchphrase

Charlotte Kyle
Features Editor

Nobody can resist a good catchphrase, whether they are a classic sitcom junkie or a casual TV fan.

A sense of nostalgia comes back to you as you remember your favorite character’s memorable lines, and these often-repeated words can even bring people together.

For example, if you grab an orange soda to drink in the grocery store and say, “Who loves orange soda?” a stranger in the soda aisle may reply, “Kel loves orange soda.”

Don’t be alarmed: they are just finishing the thought you should have had in the first place.

You must then ask, “Is it true?” and continue the back and forth until you are both proposing the idea of a Kenan and Kel reunion on “Saturday Night Live.”

(Seriously, can this happen? It would make my life complete.)

Some catchphrases are more noticeable than others. “Family Matters” featured Steve Urkel and his wacky hijinks. Every time he would destroy something he would loudly ask, “Did I do that?”

He had others, of course, but this was by far the most popular. His catchphrases were used on a pull-string doll of the character. I never owned this doll but I promise I wanted one.

(I did have a Baby Dinosaur stuffed animal which played his catchphrases, such as “Not the mama” and “I’m the baby, gotta love me.” I did love him.)

Usually only one character would have a catchphrase, but “Full House” featured multiple characters cheekily delivering their most famous line at least once per episode.

Joey Gladstone had “Cut. It. Out” while Stephanie Tanner thought everything was “how rude.” For the first season DJ tried to get “Oh, Mylanta” to catch on but eventually the writers gave up on that one.

Jesse, meanwhile, had “have mercy” and little Michelle had two: “You’re in big trouble, mister” and “You got it, dude.”

I like to think this was one catchphrase per Olsen twin, but they were probably just trying to milk the cute factor for all it was worth.

I’m sure the cute factor is where a lot of catchphrases come in (“Whatchu talkin’ ‘bout, Willis?”) but it isn’t just the children who get in on the action.

You can’t watch “Home Improvement” without hearing, “I don’t think so, Tim.”

“I Love Lucy” wouldn’t be half as great without hearing Ricky say “Lucy, you got some ‘splainin’ to do.”

Let’s not even try to figure out the proper spelling of The Fonz’s catchphrase, but I certainly hope you said it out loud when you read this paragraph.

Even more recent shows tend to get in on the catchphrase game, from Barney Stinson’s “Legen – wait for it – dary” moments to Sawyer from “Lost” constantly muttering, “Son of a bitch.”

Go on YouTube and look for the compilation of his moments. It’s worth it.

When Josh Holloway guest-starred on the season two finale of “Community” his character even delivered the line, much to the enjoyment of his fanbase.

When done right a catchphrase can be a fun and memorable way to establish a character’s basic nature with a few words.

When done wrong? Well, let’s just say that even Abed Nadir thinks it’s not “Cool. Cool, cool, cool.”

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