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Top 10 Shows with the Best Cutaway Gags

VO: Rebecca Brayton WRITTEN BY: Trevor J Fonvergne
Some people may prefer comedy to have a flowing narrative, but these are the shows with the best cutaway gags. Cutaway gags are like pit stops that distract us from reaching our final destination. Sometimes a detour can be the most memorable part of the overall journey, though. WatchMojo ranks the shows with the best cutaway gags. What show do you think has the best cutaway gags? Let us know in the comments!
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Top 10 Shows with the Best Cutaway Gags

Not all of the gags are relevant, but that doesn’t mean we don’t love them. Welcome to WatchMojo.com, and today we’ll be counting down the top 10 shows with the best cutaway gags.

For this list, we’re looking at shows that regularly cut away from the action for a gag. These can be flashbacks or imaginary sequences, as long as they take us away from the narrative only to put us right back in.

#10: “The Simpsons” (1989-)


Though it’s not commonly associated with cutaway gags, “The Simpsons” still employs the trope every now and then. With a world as bizarre as the one Matt Groening built, there’s no shortage of random flashbacks or goings-on to cut to when Homer dives into a non sequitur. And let’s be honest: who isn’t tickled whenever a Springfield side character gets a moment in the Sun? The show tended to use cutaway gags more in earlier seasons, before another animated Fox sitcom came around and took over the trope . . . which we’ll get to a little later.

#9: “New Girl” (2011-18)


The shared history of “New Girl’s” quirky friends provides plenty of context for funny cutaways. What makes these cutaways great is that they give us either more insight into the main characters, or just a fun bit of silliness - making us laugh either way. The cast’s performances and commitment to their zaniness can inject a welcome and surprising burst of energy into an otherwise slow scene, introducing a uniquely comedic pace to the episodes. In a TV landscape heavily saturated with network sitcoms, “New Girl’s” cutaways helped it stand out.

#8: “Big Mouth” (2017-)


A show about kids going through puberty has to tackle their hormonal thoughts one way or another. Naturally, Netflix’s “Big Mouth” found a funny and subversive way to approach this. For these kids, what they’re going through can feel like climbing Mount Everest - and on one occasion the show makes just that comparison. As one of the racier shows on this list, there are a lot of cutaways that we really can’t show here. Take our word for it though, this one is worth your time, if you’re old enough to enjoy it.

#7: “How I Met Your Mother” (2005-14)


The unique format of “How I Met Your Mother” allows it to play with time in a way that few other shows can. As Ted tells the story of how he met his children’s mother, we’re treated to scenes that show us not only his future, but also his past, as well as that of his friends. We’re able to recognize these as natural situations that the show’s lovable but absurd characters would actually find themselves in. And we have to admit, here at WatchMojo, we’re suckers for all the references to Robin’s upbringing in Canada.

#6: “BoJack Horseman” (2014-)


One of the best things about “BoJack” is the wonderfully weird world it builds, in which humans and animals cohabit. Using cutaways, the writers ingeniously fill out this world and the characters that live within it. In addition to being hysterical without interrupting the show’s cast, they help us understand the characters and some of their wackier quirks. Some of them also establish a sense of congruity, by calling back to characters, events, or storylines from previous episodes. What makes them so great is how many ways they can bolster the story being told without detracting from it.

#5: “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” (2013-)


The antics of Jake Peralta and the other detectives of the Nine-Nine have made for one of the best network comedies of the decade. With a comic momentum that could give you whiplash, the show is able to easily jump from one moment to another, but never allows any of them to feel rushed. There’s no shortage of charisma among the cast, endearing us to each personalized joke. Ensemble comedies are at their best when they know how to best utilize their characters and their relationships, and no one gets the short end of the stick here.

#4: “Arrested Development” (2003-06; 2013-)


The fly-on-the-wall, semi-mockumentary style of “Arrested Development” opened the door for the formats of later single-camera sitcoms. It also allowed for some of the best use of cutaway gags on television. What makes these so unique is that they cut away to various different media, including photos, newspaper articles, and historical footage. They also often last for much longer than cutaways in most shows. In doing so, they serve to flesh out the world of the series, and also to establish the episode’s plot points in a brilliantly seamless way.

#3: “Scrubs” (2001-10)


Unlike the rest of these shows, “Scrubs”’ cutaway gags all have one basis: JD’s fantasies. As a low-ranking nurse working at Sacred Heart Hospital, he frequently escapes into his daydreams. His imagination tends to run wild, which serves to put the other characters in outlandish situations that the show wouldn’t otherwise be able to pull off. It adds to the show’s sublime slapstick humor and gives it a one-of-a-kind comic identity. Few shows on this list are able to integrate its cutaways so intrinsically into a central character, and they’re one of the biggest reasons we love the show and its protagonist.

#2: “30 Rock” (2006-13)


Tina Fey’s Emmy-winning sitcom about the production of a sketch comedy series is notorious for subverting sitcom conventions. Most notably, its ingenious cutaways managed to be both ludicrously amusing and strangely effective from a storytelling perspective. The crew was so committed to their gags that multiple days would go towards the production of scenes that lasted only seconds, but it was always worth it, and routines like “Werewolf Bar Mitzvah” still manage to crack us up. A live episode even managed to use a Julia Louis-Dreyfus cameo to keep the trope alive. It all just goes to show their commitment to the craft.

Before we reveal our top pick, here are a few honourable mentions:

“Animaniacs” (1993-98)

“Everybody Hates Chris” (2005-09)

“Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” (2015-19)

“That ‘70s Show” (1998-2006)

“Archer” (2009-)

#1: “Family Guy” (1999-2003; 2005-)


No one should really be surprised at our choice for number one. “Family Guy” is the show that popularized the trope of the cutaway gag. Even though it isn’t the first show to employ them, can you really say you that think of any other show first when the term is brought up? It even continued in its spinoff series, “The Cleveland Show,” and, to a lesser extent, creator Seth MacFarlane’s other series “American Dad.” Given their frequency, everyone who’s seen the show has one or two gags that will never fail to get a laugh. no matter how many times we’re reminded of them.
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