Did Family Guy Start the "cutaway to gag" trend?
March 8, 2010 6:58 PM   Subscribe

What's the earliest tv show you can remember that used Family Guy - style cut-away/flashbacks?

Most of my favorite comedy shows do that now. Arrested Development, 30 Rock, Archer, and The Office a little. "This reminds me of a similar incident..." (cut to sight gag).

But Golden Girls didn't do it, and Cosby Show, and Seinfeld. Whats the earliest show you remember doing this?

I'll be somehow sad if it turns out Family Guy started this.
posted by esereth to Media & Arts (18 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
The Simpsons--you know, that show Family Guy tries so hard to be?

Yes, I do have an irrational hatred of Family Guy and a fully rational love for The Simpsons.
posted by sallybrown at 7:06 PM on March 8, 2010 [3 favorites]

Monty Pythons Flying Circus did this frequently.
posted by sharkfu at 7:14 PM on March 8, 2010

The Animaniacs might claim the title of first "animated"show to do this regularly.

I can't recall Simpson's doing this often, if at all. But the Simpson's I'm very familiar with is only seasons 1-12 or so.
posted by oblio_one at 7:26 PM on March 8, 2010 [1 favorite]

Scrubs, maybe? When Zach Braff's character has flashbacks and daydreams.
posted by amyms at 7:32 PM on March 8, 2010

Ally McBeal.
posted by peep at 7:57 PM on March 8, 2010 [2 favorites]

Tv-Tropes on the Manatee Gag - looks like Laugh In and Flying Circus were some of the earliest practitioners.
posted by Think_Long at 7:59 PM on March 8, 2010 [3 favorites]

Young Ones used it to great effect as well IIRC
posted by oldefortran at 8:00 PM on March 8, 2010

I can't recall Simpson's doing this often, if at all.

I'm fairly certain they did this a lot around Seasons 4 and 5, actually. See the "I am evil Homer" bit from "Whacking Day" and the little cutaway to the fortune cookie barrel in "The Last Temptation of Homer" (0:35 mark). I seem to remember "Cape Feare" also featured a couple, but I can't find good Youtube for it.
posted by sallybrown at 8:08 PM on March 8, 2010 [1 favorite]

The Fall and Rise of Reggie Perrin had a few of these as I recall.
posted by prufrock at 8:10 PM on March 8, 2010 [1 favorite]

Not the first, but notable: Dream On (HBO, 1990-1996) was unique because it used actual clips from old films and TV shows in its cutaways. They were not non-sequiturs like Family Guy's are.
posted by ALongDecember at 8:30 PM on March 8, 2010 [2 favorites]

Dream On (early '90s) had a similar - though not the same - conceit.
posted by LobsterMitten at 8:31 PM on March 8, 2010

Like everything else in modern comedy (slight hyperbole) it started with the BBC radio's Goon Show. The Whistling Spy Enigma is one example (recording of a reading, part 2, part 3, script). It is a radio show but it does have a lot of audio cutaway gags (e.g. the tenor). Anyway, Goon head honcho Milligan "translated" his style over to visual media, a lot of which was copied by the Pythons.
posted by Kattullus at 9:23 PM on March 8, 2010 [1 favorite]

So I found a whole bunch of Telegoons episodes that show this more clearly. Here's a random cutaway to a singing and dancing yeti.
posted by Kattullus at 10:19 PM on March 8, 2010

Is there anything in comedy that Peter Sellers didn't do first?
posted by Aquaman at 11:53 PM on March 8, 2010

Coming here to say Laugh In, but I see its already been said.
posted by strixus at 12:04 AM on March 9, 2010

Dave Letterman did it for a while during his "letters" segment. "Dave, what did you do on THanksgiving?" Cut away to Dave drinking a giant bowl of gravy.

Also, Jack Benny did it a lot. Guest star would be on, and they would cut away to their first meeting, which was almost always farcical.
posted by gjc at 6:45 AM on March 9, 2010

One of the earliest antecedents I can think of is the bizarre 1941 revue Hellzapoppin^. It uses every technique in the book, from knocking down the fourth wall to metacommentary. It was adapted, somewhat awkwardly, from a stage revue, and is better remembered for its dance sequences than its comedy, but looking at it now it's both extraordinary to see how avant-garde it was and totally understandable that it didn't catch on for another generation or so.
posted by dhartung at 12:22 AM on March 10, 2010

Coming in late to point out the Simpson's monorail episode ("Marge vs. the Monorail"). Specifically, Homer yelling "Woo-hoo! Look at that pavement fly!"in a cutaway.
posted by coolguymichael at 3:55 PM on March 11, 2010

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