A clip show is an episode of a television series that consists primarily of excerpts from previous episodes. Most clip shows feature the format of a frame story in which cast members recall past events from past installments of the show, depicted with clip of the event presented as a flashback. Especially in the animation field, clip shows are also known as cheaters.
Clip shows have their origin in re-cap chapters
in theatrical serials
of the 1920s through 1940s, in which previous chapters were summarized for those who may have missed some episodes (which were unlikely to be re-run).
One variant of the modern clip show is the compilation episode, using clips from the most popular episodes, assembled together in one episode, sometimes without a frame story as such.
Another format is to have a host who describes various characters and characteristics of the show to introduce various clips from past episodes. For example, a special one hour clip show episode of All in the Family featured actor Henry Fonda discussing the main characters on the show followed by relevant clips from previous episodes; a similar two-part clip show appeared on Three's Company, hosted by Lucille Ball. This format was parodied in a clip show for The Simpsons ("The Simpsons 138th Episode Spectacular"), in which fictional actor Troy McClure — a recurring Simpsons character — introduced the clips.
A third variation, used in a two-part clip show episode of Cheers featured the entire cast of the show, including former cast members, sitting on a stage while being interviewed by talk host John McLaughlin about their characters on the show, with clips of previous episodes mixed in.
Rationale and viewer opinions
While clip shows do reduce production costs, they were originally employed in an era when there were far fewer program outlets and it was less likely that episodes from previous seasons would be aired again. Clip shows typically received strong ratings
, and it was expected for any successful comedy series to feature clip shows regularly in its later years. However, the episodes were subject to some ridicule due to their forced or "corny" framing devices (such as a family sitting peacefully around a fireplace) and the frequently awkward transitions between the frame story and the clips (such as characters staring into space while the screen blurs to represent "remembering").
More recently, fans and critics tend to view such episodes as an act of creative laziness, possibly even a sign that the show has "jumped the shark", and the increasing ability of such scorn to reverberate around the viewing community in the Internet age has tended to deter producers.
Daytime soap operas frequently present clip shows as a way to commemorate a show's milestone anniversary or the death of a long-running character. Many fans take advantage of the shows in order to see vintage clips of a particular soap opera. One example was an episode of As the World Turns in which seven of the longest running characters were stranded in a forest and remembered some of their best moments, all in honor of AtWT's 50th anniversary.
Another common rationale for a clip show is the lack of a new show to air, due to failure to meet production schedules. For example, the computer-animated series Roughnecks: Starship Troopers Chronicles used clip shows four times for this purpose, interrupting in-progress story arcs.
Clip shows today tend to offset such criticism by trying to make the frame tale surrounding the clips compelling, or by presenting clip shows without any framing device. A show might also diffuse the awkwardness by indulging in self-parody, explicitly acknowledging or intentionally over-playing the device. Many series have included parody clip shows using "clips" from episodes which never happened (see below).
Recently, the clip show has been employed more seriously as a means to bring viewers up to date on highly serialized dramas, such as on Lost and the "reimagined" Battlestar Galactica. Despite being a newer concept with American dramas, many anime dramas used similar techniques, particularly when a series ran for more episodes in one season than could be reasonably rerun (such as Mobile Suit Gundam Wing running for 49 episodes, which were originally aired weekly).
Sometimes clip shows air before a series finale as a way for audiences to reminisce about their favorite moments. Some examples of shows that have used clip shows in this sense are: Frasier, Seinfeld, Sex and the City, Friends, Everybody Loves Raymond, Stargate SG-1 and Cheers.
- Robinson Crusoe of Clipper Island (1936) was the first Republic Pictures serial to feature a re-cap chapter, similar to a clipshow in modern television, where the events of the previous chapters are repeated via clips. This may have even been the invention of the concept, which was then routinely used in serial production.
- Degrassi Junior High aired a clip show in its third season titled "Season's Greetings". A rare Degrassi episode that plays out in real time, the entirety of the story takes place in the school cafeteria during lunchtime. The character Arthur Kobalewscuy has a falling out with his best friend Yick Yu. Arthur's cousin Dorothy takes it upon herself to mediate the dispute, reminding both Arthur and Yick of experiences they shared in the past, which then leads into clips from prior episodes.
- Star Trek: The Next Generation, "Shades of Gray," aired the week of July 17, 1989, it is the only clip show in the entire Star Trek franchise. Riker falls into a coma after being attacked by an organism that targets his central nervous system. Dr. Pulaski is able to stabilize him but only after the organism has completely integrated itself into his nervous system, including the brain. Counselor Troi realizes that Riker's romantic dreams and happy memories (i.e., the clips) promote the organism's growth. She begins to stimulate the unhappy ones, and after some serious convulsions, the organism dies and Riker is restored to normal. This season was affected by the 1988 Writers Guild strike and had only 22 regular episodes. For the season finale, one more episode was needed and this show was written quickly and shot in three days. It is often regarded by many as the worst episode of the entire series.
- Lost had a special called "Lost: The Journey", which showed events from previous episodes right up to the one where Jack goes off to find Locke. Another clip show, entitled "Destination Lost", aired during the hour before the premiere of Season 2, showing events from the entire first season. Also during Season 2, a third clip show, entitled "Revelation", aired during the hour before the episode entitled "23rd Psalm" which aired after a 6 week break. The fourth clip show, "Lost: Reckoning", aired after a one week break and a week prior to the airing of "Two for the Road".
- Grey's Anatomy has done two special clip shows in its second season. Like almost all of the episodes of the show, both were named after songs ("Straight to the Heart", and "Under Pressure"), but the episodes were distinguished by their titles appearing in the main and bumper title cards. An additional difference was that the voiceovers for the episodes were provided not by title character Meredith Grey, but by Joe the bartender, a recurring minor character on the series.
- Stargate SG-1 used a clip show every few seasons, including "Politics", "Out of Mind", "Disclosure", "Inauguration", and "Citizen Joe", apparently to "sum up" the past few seasons to make the story (which was several years old) easier for new viewers to understand. Also, as clip shows are relatively cheap to produce, it was done sometimes to save money for other episodes. In the episode "200", the clip show element was parodied featuring 2 sequences that had never actually happened (SG1's encounter with the Furlings, and the "invisible O'Neill" sequence).
- The A-Teams second season finale, "Curtain Call", featured Murdock getting hit by a bullet, and the team reminiscing about his antics while trying to keep him alive and stay ahead of Colonel Decker.
- Buck Rogers in the 25th Century (the 1980s TV series) used a clip show during the 1st season, entitled "A Blast for Buck". The framing device was that Buck Rogers had to solve a mystery revolving around an imminent threat to Earth using a series of memories. These memories largely consisted of moments from previous episodes.
- The Pretender had a clip show, "Mr.Lee", where a hired Chinese hit man is chasing Jarod. The operative draws inspiration by interviewing people Jarod had helped previously. These interviews feature flashbacks to previous episodes.
- Charmed used clips shows by sending the characters back in time, and using digital effects to show the actors in the background. ("Cat house", "Crimes and Witch Demeanors", etc.)
- Leave It to Beaver. The series finale, "Family Scrapbook", was a clip show, featuring many episode show clips as June Cleaver mulled over the family history while cleaning.
- The Dick Van Dyke Show. In the penultimate episode of the series, Rob Petrie writes his autobiography and shows it to everyone. The clips illustrate events from the book. At the end of the episode Alan decides to buy the rights to the manuscript and turn it into a TV series with him as the star after he finishes the variety series.
- Family Ties did several clip shows – usually when Alex got a new girlfriend or a classmate was doing a project.
- When Justine Bateman guest hosted Saturday Night Live in the late 1980s, the cast performed a skit satirizing the unusual number of clip shows seen on Family Ties. While most clip shows feature a framing device around various reused footage, this skit showed the characters in each flashback reminiscing, which would then lead to a flashback within the flashback. In the middle of the skit, the characters reminisced about an episode of The Jeffersons that they particularly enjoyed. This led into an actual clip from The Jeffersons. The footage was from the episode "George & Louise in a Bind", which was itself a clip show.
- Friends did clip shows during its fourth ("The One with the Invitations"), seventh ("The One with the Vows"), eighth ("The One with Joey's Interview"), ninth ("The One with Christmas in Tulsa") and tenth ("The One Where Chandler Gets Caught") seasons.
- Home Improvement had a clip show in which Tim has difficulty sleeping due to stomach pains. He stays up and watches clips of his fictional TV show Tool Time to keep himself occupied.
- The Cosby Show had a clip show in which Alvin shows up at the Huxtable residence after an argument with Sondra, and the family tries to reassure him about his relationship with her.
- Seinfeld had an hour-long clip show that was put together to celebrate the 100th episode and was hosted by Jerry Seinfeld. Another hour-long clip show using an elaborate framing story involving an abortive trip to Paris and a trial for violating a Good Samaritan law served as the final episode.
- Drake & Josh had a half-hour clip show in its fourth and final season, recalling past events as they attempted to explain their constant bickering to a talk show host during an interview.
- Sister, Sister did a clip show in the episode "You Had To Be There", in which the twins Tia and Tamera are accompanied, on a double date with their respective boyfriends, by their neighbor Roger Evans, who reveals many of the twins' most embarrassing moments, which are shown to the viewers in flashback clips.
- The Golden Girls did several clips shows. The main characters were prone to lengthy reminisciences in regular episodes, so it wasn't much of a stretch to get them to talk about things that had already happened on the show, and segue into clips. Episodes from the first few seasons had clip shows which used new, original clips, as well as extended versions of existing material that had been cropped for their original airings.
- Boy Meets World did a clip show in each part of its two-part series finale, when the characters look back upon their experiences as they prepare to leave Philadelphia and enter the "real world".
- In the Scrubs episode "My Déjà vu, My Déjà vu", the main character kept experiencing déjà vu, believing that events in his life (and thus events in the show) were repeating themselves. This created an odd sort of clip show, where lines (and whole scenes) from past episodes were repeated. However, unlike the standard clip show, all the scenes were refilmed. The series included another clip show ("My Night to Remember") in its sixth season. As a frame story, a patient who attempted suicide is trying to regain his memory, which prompts JD to think to himself, "I know I'd love to forget all the painful things that have happened to me, but unfortunately I keep replaying them in my head like a bad sitcom too lazy to come up with a fresh story." With that, the scene transitions into the first of many clip montages in the episode.
- Ed, Edd, & Eddy Did a clip show parody for one episode, mainly consisting of 3 clips that were not actually featured in any previous episodes. This fact is hinted by two of the protagonists stating that they do not recall the events.
- Frasier, "Crock Tales", aired May 4, 2004. The penultimate episode, rather than use a clip show to document the changes over eleven years of the series, instead invented new scenes from previous seasons, with the cast wearing the hairstyles, clothes, and vocal and semiotic mannerisms from those previous seasons, in some cases wearing wigs.
- Australian comedian Shaun Micallef has poked fun at clip shows in two of his TV series. In The Micallef Program, season two, Shawn announced the show was stopping to farewell a friend. It was revealed he was referring to an audience member, and a package of footage was shown of him arriving with his wife, finding his seat, and watching the filming of sketches. When asked why he had to leave, he said it was because he was sick of the show. Later on for Micallef Tonight, in the first episode before the opening monologue Micallef announced, "And now we look back on some of the fond memories that have made Micallef Tonight the show it is today." At this point the show had been on air for less than two minutes, and footage of Shaun walking onto the set was shown. Cut back to Shaun with an emotional "Good times, good times."
- The cult Australian series Double the Fist featured as its eighth episode "Special Edition" (aired July 16, 2004), a clip show with a difference - all the clips were supposedly from episodes "yet to air." This was a prank and all the clips were fakes, as the punchline to the show revolved around the network cancelling the series, and the cast even pretended to be taken off the air with two minutes left to go. The network reportedly received many complaints.
- The Simpsons has done five clip shows as of its seventeenth season, each of which feature an apology from the writers for doing a clip show, and often inside jokes in the script (in the first one, for example, Grandpa Simpson says that being in a coma is "like being in one of those TV shows where they show clips of old episodes.")
- Neon Genesis Evangelion did a clip show on half of its 14th episode.
- Trigun did a clip show about halfway through the series, after Vash the Stampede defeated the first of the Gung-Ho Guns.
- Tom and Jerry has had several clip shows in which they recall moments from previous episodes that somewhat tie in with the events occurring in the episode. Tom and Jerry was not a TV-series, but a series of theatrical short animated films, designed to be shown in the cinema.
- Family Guy included real-life creator/executive producer Seth MacFarlane hosting a set of montages from previous episodes in a 100th-episode clip show. MacFarlane reprised his role as a stuffy, rich host sitting next to a fireplace, smoking a pipe – a role he used in his first The Life of Larry shorts, and used again in Adult Swim television spots. The special was intercut with interviews from more live-action people who were picked for this filming, and who only gave the series negative reviews, all of which MacFarlane intentionally ignored or misinterpreted. This special aired directly before an actual Family Guy season premiere episode (Stewie Kills Lois).
- Popeye The Sailor, another theatrical cartoon series, has also done several clip shows in the characters recall clips from earlier cartoons. Max Fleischer's studio produced four Popeye clip shows: The Adventures of Popeye (1935), I'm in the Army Now (1936), Customers Wanted (1938), and Doing Impossikible Stunts (1940), while Fleischer's successor, Famous Studios, produced another ten: Spinach Packin' Popeye (1944, reuses footage from earlier Fleischer cartoons), Spinach vs. Hamburgers (1948), Popeye's Premiere" (1949, reuses footage from earlier Fleischer cartoons), Popeye Makes a Movie (1950, reuses footage from earlier Fleischer cartoons), Friend or Phony (1952), Big Bad Sinbad (1952, reuses footage from earlier Fleischer cartoons), Popeye's Twentieth Anniversary (1954), Penny Antics (1955), Assault and Flattery (1956), and The Crystal Brawl (1957). It should also be noted that Fleischer Studios produced what is possibly the very first animation clip show, a 1925 Ko-Ko the Clown short entitled Ko-Ko's Thanksgiving''.
- Kappa Mikey featured a clip show deep into the second season, which was framed by a story of Ozu forcing Guano to complete his own clip show of LilyMu before the plane for their vacation leaves that night. Mitsuki comments on how no one would want to watch a clip show anyway, as it's "only a bunch of recycled clips set to fast rock music to make it seem exciting", right before the first clip sequence begins. While everyone can remember stuff about the unimportant character Yoshi for 6 hours, the only thing they can remember about Mitsuki is something she said earlier that day.
- The anime series Miami Guns featured as its second episode a fake clip show, where excerpts from previous stories were shown (sometimes with story titles) depicting significant events that affected the characters and even an older version of the same show, none of which really existed as episodes.
- South Park, "City on the Edge of Forever (Flashbacks)," aired June 17, 1998. With the boys trapped on a bus in an episode that ultimately proves to be a dream, they pass the time by reminiscing about tough moments in previous episodes. However, every remembered scene is slightly different from what actually took place in the show, and each ends the same way — with all the cast members getting ice cream and the person on the bus repeating the same lame punch line, "Now that's what I call a sticky situation." Eventually one early scene from the episode itself is recalled, with the same result. The characters begin to remember moments such as The Fonz jumping school buses, spoofing clip shows in general.
- Chobits, an anime series, does a 'recap' episode every now and then. This is cut out of the English series almost entirely, and is usually titled under a slight plot premise that brings two side characters to talking and reminiscing.
- The anime series Naruto and Dragon Ball Z at times have used clip sequences in episodes to show events that occurred earlier in the series, generally to refresh the viewer's memory.
- The anime Gundam Wing featured two consecutive clip shows as a result of bad production scheduling. This forced the staff to cancel its plans to animate important events from the major characters' pasts; these events would eventually be collected in the manga Gundam Wing: Episode Zero. Another Gundam anime, Mobile Suit Gundam SEED Destiny, had several clip shows.
- The Heathcliff TV cartoon had a clip show released as a theatrical film in 1986, misleadingly titled Heathcliff: The Movie.
- Pokémon: Advanced Generation had one clip show which was never dubbed and aired in America, probably because the show is rerun more often in America. It featured Ash and May, the two main characters, reminiscing on their successes in Pokemon Gym battles and Contests in the lead-up to their final league tournaments. Another clip show about Ash and Dawn occurred in Pokémon: Diamond and Pearl, which again, was never dubbed into English.
- Yu-Gi-Oh! (second series) also had a clip-show, in preparation for Yugi's duel against his possessed best friend, Joey. In the episode, Yugi tries to explain his recent adventures to his sceptical rival Seto Kaiba. There was a second clip show after Battle City in which Yugi and Tea observe child duelists around the city, and Yu-Gi-Oh! GX had a clip show where Jaden wandered the Duel Academy island, met up with the monkey Wheeler and told him stories about his past.
- Duckman featured an episode called "Clip Job" in which the title character is kidnapped by an insane television critic, who attempts to convince him that his entire life is an immoral TV program by showing clips from previous episodes and frequently breaking the fourth wall. When he is finally rescued by his family and explains his predicament, his sons Charles and Mambo tell him that if his life really were a television series, then this would have been one of those clip shows done to "spend less on original production". An outraged Duckman demands to know what sort of rotten people would perpetrate such an atrocity, and then looks out toward the audience as the credits begin and the names of the shows creators appear on screen.
- In the last episode of the French animated television series Code Lyoko, "Echoes", the major characters of the series reminisce about various experiences while shutting off the supercomputer.
- Captain N: The Game Master did a clip show at the end of its second season. Titled "When Mother Brain Rules", it featured Simon Belmont and the narrator commentating over the clips. This episode was not included on the Captain N DVD set.
- The Moetan anime had a recap after only 5 episodes due to 6th episode not aired due to "personal reasons". It is named episode 5.5.
- Zatch Bell! had two special recap episodes at the end of the first two seasons, in which Kiyo and Zatch recap the events of the season. These episodes were made exclusively for the English dub of the show.
- Death Note had half an episode dedicated to the previous story through L's eyes, after he died.
- Both versions of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles have had at least one clip show. The 1987 cartoon has "Blast from the Past", and the 2003 cartoon has "Reflections".
- Clerks: The Animated Series featured a clip show as its second episode, where characters looked back fondly on memories of the first episode. At various points, the episode reuses the same clip for multiple characters' memories. The episode reaches its climax by flashing back to events that happened a few minutes prior. One character comments, "You know, if this were a sitcom and we got locked in a freezer, we'd probably flash back to all our old episodes."
- In the Homestar Runner webtoon, in a "Strong Bad E-mail" segment called "Trevor the Vampire", Strong Bad receives an e-mail from a person named Trevor which cuts off suddenly after Trevor announces he is a vampire. Strong Bad concludes that Trevor's e-mail ends abruptly because he was hunted down and killed, and spends the rest of the segment reliving some of his "favorite Trevor memories", which basically involve replaying clips of Strong Bad reading the e-mail. Clip shows are parodied again in the Strong Bad E-mail segment "Personal Favorites". Someone asks Strong Bad what his favorite e-mails are that he has done. He begins by referencing two real ones, but then he begins to describe increasingly outlandish situations that never appeared in any previous "SBE" segment, involving such things as a knife fight on a bridge, a robot made out of a Grape Nuts box, and attempting to fly Bubs's concession stand after drinking a bottle of soy sauce.
- Stroker and Hoop's series finale had the main characters reminiscing about previous cases in order to identify their kidnapper. The first flashback is interrupted because all of the people present remember the event and don't need to hear about it. Later, Hoop recalls a chase scene and notes that he wasn't even there to see it. Eventually, they have a flashback that consists of a "Speed Buggy" clip with new dialog.
Non-animated children's programming
- Super Sentai anniversary specials involve clipshows of the red ranger roll calls and can be found at But in the 2006 season, "GouGou Sentai Boukenger", every episode from 3 to 32 involved clips of their predecessors until "Mahou Sentai MagiRanger".
- Power Rangers did a special clip show for its 500th episode in which it showed clips of the previous eleven seasons that came before the then current season, Dino Thunder. It was also used as a springboard to the reintroduction of Tommy as a Power Ranger. All Disney-era seasons, as well as a few Saban-era seasons, also have regular clip shows towards the end of the season that recap the events of that particular season.
- Pee-wee's Playhouse did clip shows for episode 35 ("I Remember Curtis") and episode 45 ("Playhouse for Sale").
- Saved by the Bell: The New Class had 1 or 2 clip shows every season, usually containing clips from that season.
- Dinosaurs had two clip shows in its four seasons, aptly named "The Clip Show" and "The Clip Show II". They featured Sir David Tushingham, a self-important archaeologist in a mockumentary about dinosaurs and trying to lure customers into the glamorous, high-paying world of paleontology by getting them to buy the "Famous Paleontologists' Home Study Course". Both were well accepted by fans.
- Drawn Together - "The Drawn Together Clip Show" (aired March 15, 2006) mocks clip shows in general, as well as televised award shows. Unlike the South Park episode, the clips played are real, but have an obviously fake laugh track added onto them, often at deliberately inappropriate moments. Also, throughout the episode, DT Fun Facts are displayed on the screen (a parody of Pop-up Video), but the "facts" that appear are jokes rather than actual trivia tidbits.
- The Powerpuff Girls - "City of Clipsville" features Blossom, Bubbles, and Buttercup reminiscing about their previous adventures while cleaning their closet. The first three flashbacks were real ones — specifically, "Cover Up", "Monkey See, Doggy Do", and "Monkey See, Doggy Two" (the latter of which being a clip show of its own) — but then Blossom holds up a baby bottle and gets no immediate response, signifying that the following clips were never seen in an episode before. The remaining flashbacks shown were Professor Utonium accidentally turning the girls into babies, the Professor turning everyone else into babies as well, the girls trying to stop Mojo Jojo without their superpowers, the girls speeding up time and becoming teenagers, the Professor marrying Miss Bellum (actually Mojo Jojo), and the Professor creating a giant pickle (the last one is deliberately made up by the Mayor of Townsville). Other, mundane flashbacks are described but never actually shown, like the Professor renewing his driver's license. In the end, it is revealed that the entire episode itself was a flashback.