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X Called; They Want Their Y Back
Robert "Fish" Fishman: 1991 called, they want their teenage angst back.
Amelia: No, they just called again. They want that joke back.

A common put down about how someone ran headfirst into Fashion Dissonance (or something related). Often it's something that is no longer fashionable, or that famously works for someone, but almost no one else.

Runs headfirst into Totally Radical nowadays. A common variation is to replace "They want their (word) back" with "They said you can keep the (word)."

Compare If I Wanted X, I Would Y; Better by a Different Name.

Not to be confused with We Want Our Jerk Back. See Mexico Called; They Want Texas Back.


In-Universe Examples Only

    open/close all folders 

    Advertising 
  • An Australian ad for Kentucky Fried Chicken used the line, "The pigeons called. They want their lunch back."
  • American restaurant chain Ruby Tuesday released several TV advertisements regarding its image rebranding in 2007. One ad involved a spokesman removing a stained glass lamp from a restaurant saying: "The '70s called, they want their lamp back."
  • This picture posted on the Compare the Meerkat twitter feed.
  • A Nokia ad for their Lumia 1020 has the following from a Samsung User to an iPhone user: "2007 called. It wants its cameraphone back."
  • In a Super Bowl commercial, Radio Shack goes the Domino's Pizza route of Self-Deprecation with "The Eighties Called. They Want Their Store Back." In The Stinger, Slimer appears in the newly remodeled store, and is dejected when he finds out he's too late.

    Comic Books 
  • Left 4 Dead Comic: Kenny Rogers' balls called. They want their hair back from your face...
    "So... You have a close enough relationship with Kenny Rogers' balls that they called you, huh?"
  • Spider-Man
    • In one story, Peter is going undercover at a club for Vampire Vannabes. He dresses in what he thinks is appropriate goth-gear, only for an Edward Cullen lookalike to taunt "The nineties called, they want their vampire back!"
    • "Hitler called, he wants his look back." That was Aunt May from Ultimate Spider-Man. At J. freaking Jonah freaking Jameson.
  • In a story where he had Wolverine hostage, Deadpool taunted Daken like this ("It was 1986. It wants its hair..."). When he says "back", Daken had already chopped off his hand.
  • Vampirella vs. Fluffy the Vampire Killer:
    Fluffy: I'm Fluffy, I kill vampires, and the camel called.
    Vampirella: Camel?
    Fluffy: It wants its toe back!

    Comic Strips 
  • The title character of Frazz once took a long bike ride on a chilly day, ending up with only the lower half of his legs windburned.
    Caulfield: (pointing to Frazz's white-and-red legs) Poland called. They want their flag back.
  • Get Fuzzy: "Hilary Clinton called, she wants her manners back!"
  • One Foxtrot story arc had Paige's pink glitter pen accidentally put in the washer, causing it to bleed on Peter's sweatshirt.
    Jason: The Ice Capades called. They want their costume back.

    Fan Works 
  • Star Wars Fan Film The Formula.
    Tom "Servo": "It is pointless to resist?" Yeah, the Emperor just called. He wants his friggin' lines back!
  • Naruto The Abridged Comedy Fandub Spoof Series Show
    • This Abridged Series will probably single-handedly turn this into a Dead Horse Trope.
      Ino: Hey, Sakura, Christina Ricci called. She wants her giant forehead back, and her movie career.
      Sakura: Well, Renee Zellweger called. She wants her UGLY BLONDE BITCH FACE back! ...And her movie career.
    • "Spoof Movie no Jutsu"
      Filler Villain: Hey, David Bowie. The seventies called — they want their timely references back.
      Bowie-sensei: Oh yeah? Well, Advent Children called and they want their crappy villains back!
  • Firefly of "Firefly Says" manages to turn this around and burn the one who used it on her:
    Discord: The eighties called, they want their hair back!
    Firefly: (smug look) You know what they say, you can take the mare out of the eighties but you can't take the eighties out of the mare. Oh, and by the way, SARAH JESSICA PARKER CALLED, SHE WANTS HER FACE BACK!
  • The Harry Potter fanfic 30 Minutes II: The Gathering Storm, chapter 8 has this line in Harry's first potions class at Hogwarts, in reference to Professor Snape:
    Harry: (whispering) Johnny Cash called, he wants his wardrobe back.
  • The pro wrestling story, A Ring of Their Own, had FWF commentator John Bradshaw Layfield saying this during a match that began with Ivory giving Michelle McCool three armdrags in a row:
    John Bradshaw Layfield: 1987 called. They want their wrestling moves back.
  • Ponies One Half, chapter twelve: "Sonic called. He wants his theme song back!" It Makes Sense in Context.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • "1976 called. They want their hair back," was said to Joe Dirt about his mullet.
  • At the end of Oceans Eleven: "Ted Nugent called. He wants his shirt back."
  • The Rocker
    Robert "Fish" Fishman: 1991 called, they want their teenage angst back.
    Amelia: No, they just called again. They want that joke back.
  • A variation, from The Breakfast Club:
    Vernon: Any questions?
    Bender: I got a question: does Barry Manilow know that you raid his wardrobe?
  • Esther from Orphan gets this from a classmate about her old-fashioned, frilly dress. "Oh, look. Little Bo Peep texted me. She wants her outfit back."

    Live-Action TV 
  • Subverted (but to make it funnier) in How I Met Your Mother. Marshall wants to wear some really tacky pants they called "Joey Buttafuoco pants". Ted says, "Bel Biv Devoe called, even they don't want those pants back."
  • In an episode of Happy Endings: Dave has this line, which only he thinks is any good.
    Dave: Jealous called, they want much back so they can form the following sentence — "Jealous much?"
  • Dancing with the Stars
    Sonia Kruger: (about a wig) Willie Mason called. He says he wants his hair back.
  • Degrassi The Next Generation
    • Episode "It's Raining Men":
      Spinner: OK, I guess it's Straight Eye for the Gay Guy. OK... this... Enrique called. He wants his shirt back.
    • Another good example is the Wild Teen Party episode where Manny asks an increasingly drunken Emma: "Does Mexico know you've taken all of their tequila?"
  • Kyle XY, episode "What's the Frequency, Kyle?":
    Josh Trager: Hilary Duff called and she wants her shirt back.
  • Joan of Arcadia, episode "No Bad Guy":
    Luke: Copernicus called; the universe doesn't revolve around you.
    Joan: What a coincidence, because the dork police called and said they want their leader back.
  • Criminal Minds
    • Episode "Seven Seconds":
    Garcia: Believe me when I tell you the 1980s just called; they want their security system back.
  • The Office (US), episode "The Merger":
    Andy: Oh, by the way, 1985 called. It wants its car back.
    Dwight: Well 1985 better have a time machine because I drive an '87.
  • Seinfeld
    • A variation: "Hey, George! The ocean called, they're running out of shrimp." "Yeah, well, the jerk store called, they're running out of you!" "What's the difference? You're their all-time best seller."
    • Well the life support machine called...
    • And what made this a real kicker was that George had been saving this comeback up all episode, and had even gone so far as to recreate the original scenario where the first putdown had been used so that he could spring it. He wasn't prepared for a comeback to his comeback.
  • Scrubs has J.D. describe an elderly patient as a "neat old lady" and Turk tells him "the 1930s called, they want their lingo back."
  • Full House:
    Stephanie: Hey Kimmy, Big Bird called. He wants his legs back.
  • Oswald on The Drew Carey Show won a wrestling tournament, and the trophy is, well...
    "Wonder Woman called, she wants her belt back."
  • Frasier, to Niles: "Niles, I've got news for you — Copernicus called and you are not the centre of the universe!"
    • Frasier's comment to the teenage daughter of one of his dates in "Can't Buy Me Love".
  • Friends
    • Chandler tries it, but screws it up (a Throw It In, as Matthew Perry actually messed up the line):
      Chandler: Donald Trump wants his blue blazer black.
      Ross: What?
      Chandler: Blue blazer back. He, he wants it back.
    • Chandler responds to Ross' new leather pants by informing him, "Tom Jones called, he wants his pants back."
    • Chandler sees Joey making an umpteen amount of jars full of spaghetti sauce so Chandler asks if Italy called and said they were hungry.
  • From a special episode of American Idol:
    Paula: (to Jack Black) The School of Rock called, they want their diploma back...
  • Sometimes used by either Stacey London or Clinton Kelly on What Not to Wear to mock some of the outdated or unusual fashion choices made by the subjects of their show.
  • Kelso attempted this in the That '70s Show episode "Bye-Bye Basement". Fez walks in wearing a puffy shirt, and Kelso tries to make fun of him, but isn't very successful.
    Kelso: Hey, uh, puffy-shirt guy called, he wants his puffy shirt back.
  • 30 Rock. Jack uses this line a lot on Liz.
  • Saturday Night Live
    • One skit from the early '90s consisted entirely of idiots doing variations of this joke at each other.
      "Siegfried and Roy called, they want their relationship back."
    • Another one featured a parody of The Weakest Link in which Anne Robinson's shtick devolved into nothing but insults.
      "Fred Flintstone called, he wants his head back."
    • This was basically the catchphrase of David Spade's "Hollywood Minute" segments from a mid-90's Weekend Update. For example, Spade said of Skeet Ulrich, "Johnny Depp called; he wants his DNA back."
  • And speaking of The Weakest Link, this gem from the half-hour daytime edition with George Gray:
    Gino: The '70s called, they want their [sweater] back!
    George: Now, that's not nice, not everybody can afford to shop at Pimps R Us!
  • From Castle:
    Castle: Well, how about just a lowkey evening with your girlfriends? You guys can have a John Hughes marathon and fill out a Cosmo quiz.
    Alexis: Dad, the '80s just called, it wants its plan back.
  • A Mad TV sketch during the California gubernatorial recall, with a confrontation between governor Grey Davis and would-be governor Arnold Schwarzenegger:
    Grey Davis: (answering the phone mid-sentence) What's that? Okay, I'll tell him. (beat) That was Skeletor. He wants your wife's face back.
  • From an episode of The Jerry Springer Show that made it into the ads on at least one channel:
    Dad: (to a son who won't shave and has long hair) GEICO called; they want their caveman back!
  • Whose Line Is It Anyway?: Drew did this a couple of times in reference to Ryan's shoes.
    Drew: That was the Ringling Brothers; they want their shoes back. Emmett can't go on without his shoes.
  • In the Mystery Science Theater 3000 episode "The Space Children", Mike's reaction to the title of the short film Century 21 Calling is "Ooh, they want their little gold jacket back."
  • Used and then lampshaded on Psych. Gus is upset because Shawn took him away from his poached egg.
    Shawn: Dame Judi Dench called, she wants her breakfast back.
    Gus: (incredulous) Did you just do the 'something called it wants its something back' bit?
  • How to Be Indie: In "How to Put Your Best Foot Forward", Indy is wearing her brother's AJ's hand-me-down shirt that is way too back for her. Marlon says "The Western hemisphere called. It wants its shirt back".

    Magazines 
  • Entertainment Weekly has a few examples in some pages, including the "Bullseye" sections. One "Bullseye" section (Issue # 1315, June 13, 2014) says, "Mary Stuart Masterson called, Mackensie. She doesn't want her haircut back."

    Music 
  • In the rap spoof "Iraq Without Me", Saddam Hussein plays this card in the middle of berating Osama bin Laden. "By the way, Castro called — he wants his beard back!"
  • The title of a song by the Awkward Romance: "Judas Called, He Wants His Sense of Loyalty Back".
  • Referenced in Mexican hip-hop band Molotov's song Frijolero, about racial and political tensions across the border. In the final English stanza of the song:
    Why don't you look down to where your feet is planted, that U.S. Soil that makes you take shit for granted, if not for Santa Ana just to let you know that where you're standing would be Mexico!

    New Media 

    Pro Wrestling 
  • Circa 2001, Edge interrupted X-Pac, who was complaining about how he used to be a big deal.
    Edge: 1998 called, they're sick and tired of you, so feel free to join us in the year 2001 at any time.

    Video Games 
  • Ebaumsworld's game Avalanche routinely dishes out insults when you lose, one of which is "Your village called. They want their idiot back." Dramacon used a variation of this for a T-shirt: "Your village called. They want their cosplayer back."

    Web Comics 

    Web Original 

    Western Animation 
  • Subverted in The Venture Bros. episode "The Invisible Hand of Fate":
    Shoreleave: Waylon Flowers called, he wants his madam back. Boom!
    Hunter Gathers: Oh yeah? Well the Village People called, AND THEY WANT YOU TO GO FUCKING KILL YOURSELF YOU PRANCEY BASTARD!
  • The Simpsons
    • Said to Marge, commenting on her hairdo:
      Lisa: Buckingham Palace called. They want their hat back.
    • In a Halloween Episode, Dracula, Frankenstein's Monster, a mummy and a werewolf try to play the For Halloween, I Am Going as Myself trope but a bully tells them Turner Classics department called asking for the costumes back.
  • Subverted in American Dad!:
    Stan: Steve, a homosexual giant called, he wants his shirt back.
    (phone rings)
    Homosexual Giant: Sorry, false alarm, I found it under my couch...
  • MTV's CGI Spider-Man: The New Animated Series had this in "The Party", as Harry is drinking a martini.
    Peter: Harry, Double Oh Seven called, he wants his life back.
  • In Regular Show, using this phrase will literally send Y back to X. The whole plot of the episode was that Mordecai and Rigby, the lead characters, have cell phones from the 1980s. When they get a call that says, "The '80s called, they want their cell phones back!", since the two were holding the phone, they went back to the '80s. This was used at the end of the episode, where the two call their boss and (since they now know it's possible,) send the recliner he's sitting in back to the 1970s.
  • Archer
    • Played with (takes on a new meaning when you consider Archer's Ambiguous Time Period):
      Sterling: Hi, it's the 1930s. Can we have our words, clothes, and shitty airplane back? [...] Call you back, 1930s! And hey, watch out for that Adolf Hitler. He's a bad egg!
    • Upon learning how slow a rigid airship can be:
      Archer: Hello, airplanes? It's blimps. You win.
  • Mission Hill: Done by Andy, while Kevin is concentrating on his homework (by constantly saying "Bling blong").
    Andy: Hitler called, he wants his haircut back.
    • Then...
    Andy: (goosestepping, heiling and with his finger of his upper lip) I vant mien hiarcut back!
  • Inverted in, SpongeBob SquarePants, where Squidward gets one in.
    Ms. Priss: Greetings. Although your establishment seems repugnant and foul in nature, it seems not to offend our sensitivities. It is for that reason, plus the fact that we have been stuck on a tour bus for several days, that my sisters and I would like to EAT something here.
    Squidward: Okay. But first let me call the mortician and tell him his uniform's been stolen. (cracks up) Clothing zinger!

    Real Life 
  • During the 3rd 2012 presidential debate, held on Oct. 22, 2012, Barack Obama told opponent Mitt Romney, "The 1980s are calling to ask for their foreign policy back, because the Cold War's been over for 20 years." The comment was in reply to a statement Romney had made on March 26 of that year in an interview with Wolf Blitzer of CNN. In the interview, Romney stated, "Russia, this is, without question, our number one geopolitical foe. They — they fight every cause for the world's worst actors.".
  • In an Internet article saying that women doing more housework helps them lose more weight, one comment read, "The '50s called, they want their article back".
  • Meme inspired by the polar vortex that brought subzero temperatures and windchills to the American Midwest and East in the winter of 2014: "Antarctica called. It wants its weather back."
  • In response to the shitstorm that erupted over Coca-Cola's multicultural Super Bowl ad, one person on Twitter jokingly remarked "Looking forward to RNC banning Coca-Cola products at 2016 election." Someone else responded to it "MSNBC called. They want their smear campaign back."
  • This meme.

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