10 Long TV Running Gags You Never Even Noticed

Peaky Blinders' Tommy is intentionally never shown eating on-screen.

Peaky Blinders Cillian Murphy Tommy

It's often said that we're living through the true Golden Age of Television right now, what with more high-quality, prestigious drama and comedy being available at our fingertips than ever before.

It's literally impossible to keep up with every great show these days, such is the utter embarrassment of riches we're blessed with.

Perhaps the single greatest advantage of TV over film is its larger canvas to tell more immersive, character-driven stories that build up over years and hopefully have a gratifying final payoff.

But the longer-form nature of TV also allows storytellers to set up running gags that don't merely run for a mere two hours but whole seasons and perhaps even the entire length of a multi-season TV show.

These 10 shows, from universally acclaimed dramas to goofy animated comedy series, all offered up deviously sneaky running gags that you almost certainly didn't notice - not on a first viewing, at least.

From impressively subtle character development flourishes to hilarious recurring elements you probably only ever clocked at an unconscious level, these 10 gags are sure to leave fans with their minds firmly blown...

10. C.J.'s Goldfish Bowl Contains Episode-Specific Props - The West Wing

Peaky Blinders Cillian Murphy Tommy

The West Wing boasts an especially creative and subtle running gag which endured from its first season through until its seventh and final one.

You might recall that in one of the show's first episodes Danny Concannon (Timothy Busfield) buys C.J. (Allison Janney) a goldfish for her office, but the series' prop master decided to go one further by ensuring that new episodes had a thematically appropriate new prop in the goldfish bowl.

For example, a Christmas episode had a Christmas tree in the bowl, a capital punishment episode had a fake dead fish floating in it, and when there are leaks at the White House there's plumbing pipe placed in the bowl.

There are almost 50 different versions of the gag throughout The West Wing, and yet it's just subtle enough that you couldn't be blamed for missing it.


Stay at home dad who spends as much time teaching his kids the merits of Martin Scorsese as possible (against the missus' wishes). General video game, TV and film nut. Occasional sports fan. Full time loon.