The characters of a TV show encounter a celebrity...who is offscreen at all times. They're pointed out at the other side of the room, referenced as having just left, something like that; or we see An Insert of a hand or an elbow or the edge of a back of a head, which could essentially belong to anyone. Basically, they couldn't get the star to appear, or the bit was too minor to bother, or they're doing a subversion of the typical Celebrity Star episode.
Less common in animation, where you can pretty much draw whoever you want and impersonate the voice.
See also Invisible President.
- Done in the beginning of The Great Mouse Detective. The titular detective, Basil, naturally happens to live right under 221B, Baker Street. In an early scene, we hear Sherlock and Watson, talking just off-screen. This particular Sherlock also happens to be the one played by Basil Rathbone, one of the most popular movie portrayals of the character and Basil's namesake. The dialogue used for Sherlock is an actual recording of the late Mr. Rathbone reading aloud in-character.
- In Monkey Business, the Marx Brothers, stowed away on a cruise liner, need a way to sneak off. Zeppo reveals that he ran into Maurice Chevalier — and stole his passport.
- In the Edie Sedgwick biopic Factory Girl, Mick Jagger arrives at one of Andy Warhol's parties, filmed briefly and entirely from the back of his head while everyone coos about him being there.
Agony Booth: Look, everyone! The back of Mick Jagger's head has arrived!
- In the film Garbo Talks a man tries to find notoriously Reclusive Artist Greta Garbo and have her visit his mother, who is a big fan and is dying. Near the end of the film he finds and talks to the back of a stand-in's head.
- For obvious reasons this doesn't happen very often in books, but there is at least one example: in the Thursday Next book First Among Sequels the two chapters before a big meeting are filled with people discussing a rumor that Harry Potter may put in an appearance. Once the meeting starts, the first announcement is that Harry couldn't make it due to copyright issues.
- Seinfeld had at least two fake cameos, by Uma Thurman and John Kennedy Jr., not to mention the innumerable back-of-the-head 'appearances' by George Steinbrenner.
- The Single Guy had an episode where Sam unearthed an old recording which, ridiculous and bad as it was, he thought was a lost Beatles track. At the end of the episode the tape was bought back by Paul McCartney himself — which is to say, a faceless man in the back of a car, doing a bad Paul McCartney impression.
- In the Doctor Who special The End of Time, President Obama is shown giving a speech, but only the back of his head is shown. Then he turns into the Master.
- Just Shoot Me!:
- Maya and Finch attend a party where Robert DeNiro spills a drink on Maya and Finch gets his photo taken with Madonna, yet strangely enough the only people we see there are total nobodies.
- In another episode, Nina was covering an awards show on TV. She announced various arrivals such as Tim Robbins and Susan Sarandon, but the camera only cut away from her when she announced the name of the actor who would become important to the plot and who only existed in-universe.
- The pilot of Angel has Cordelia pointing out celebrities in a party — none of whom are seen.
- On Mad About You Paul gets magician David Copperfield's suit by mistake. He later returns it to him — or rather, a stand-in seen only from behind.
- Ex-president Gerald Ford's appearance on That '70s Show.
- One episode of the short-lived live-action The Tick (2001) series featured Jimmy Carter. His face was never seen, though we did get to see the back of his head.
- Being a famous popstar, Hannah Montana will frequently reference other celebrities that she knows. Most of them are never actually shown, but there have been exceptions.
- How I Met Your Mother recently had a flashback to when the gang met Slash...who is never seen except for a glimpse of black hair and his hat.
- The Big Bang Theory:
- Subverted when the guys are psyched that Stan Lee is coming to town. They talk constantly about him and his visit. Cut to us hearing about the aftermath of their experience with him. But then, during The Stinger, guess who makes an appearance?
- The same subversion happens in a later episode with Stephen Hawking. Hawking as a recurring character plays it straight.
- Happened on a few episodes of The Golden Girls.
- Most notably when then-President George H. W. Bush comes to Miami and the ladies are chosen as the household he would actually visit. Each of the four women get to shake his hand through the open front door (his arm being the only part seen) while an impersonator provides his voice.
- Subverted on one episode where the ladies are set to attend a gala function and spend the entire episode talking about the celebrities who will be there. None of them are ever seen, because only Sophia gets to the party. But as the others are accusing her of making up everything she tells them about the event, Burt Reynolds shows up to invite Sophia for lunch.
- On Murphy Brown Frank was going to be on Late Night with David Letterman but he got bumped. He came in to the studio and waved. They used the footage of actor Joe Regalbuto actually doing that from a time when he was bumped on the real Late Show, but just his shot with Dave saying "sorry" heard in the background. This was the first "appearance" of David Letterman on CBS very shortly after he had signed the contract to move his show there from NBC.
- The Mary Tyler Moore Show:
- A long-running gag involves Mary's inability to throw a good party. In one late-season episode, she is promised an appearance by Johnny Carson at her latest party. After the usual run of disasters, the apartment plunges into total blackout - which is, of course, when Johnny Carson appears—or at least his voice!
- Played with and then subverted in the Washington, D.C.-set episode where Lou claims to have palled around with a number of important people before Mary shows up, including President Ford (who even left his pipe behind, though Mary doesn't believe it). We assume we won't see President Ford, and we don't—but then Betty Ford phones up, shown on camera and everything.
- In Community, Joe Biden is doing a tour of Colorado community colleges. Only the back of his head is ever seen.
- In Veronica Mars a party is held for Arnold Schwarzenegger but he is never seen.
- The Late Show with David Letterman: as the United States was transitioning from classic 4:3 aspect ratio for TV to the now-common widescreen, Dave had a recurring sketch involving a celebrity cameo who could only be seen by those with widescreen TVs, the rest just see the celebrity's hand as he shakes Dave's hand.
- In the first episode of Knowing Me, Knowing You with Alan Partridge, Alan promised an appearance by Roger Moore - who, of course, didn't show up. This had repercussions, as Alan angrily insulted him on air the next week's show (calling him a "towel thief")... and the week after that, following a (fictional) injunction by Moore's lawyers, was forced to apologise on air.
- Lampshaded on The Cheap Show, a syndicated game show from the late 70s. There were three celebrity guest podiums, and one of them was a guaranteed no-show.
- In the Atlanta episode "Champagne Papi", where Van and her friends go to a New Year's Eve party hosted by Drake at one of his mansions (and the episode is even titled after Drake's Instagram handle). We never see him and Van finds out he's not even there; he's supposedly on tour and it's implied that the house they're in might not even be his.
- At the end of M.C. Hammer's "Too Legit to Quit" video, a producer turns to someone off-screen and asks what they think of the video. A white-gloved hand raises up and performs the hands signs for "Too legit to quit."
- One notorious segment on the radio show I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue had the host repeatedly mention that they had a celebrity guest, who would be playing Mornington Crescent with the rest of the panel. When the game in question rolled around, one of the regulars won on their first turn by saying "Mornington Crescent". For some reason, listeners accused the show of mistreating Alec Guinness, even though the "celebrity" never spoke and was never named (and likely didn't exist).
- In fact, although Humphrey Lyttleton claimed in later years that the celebrity was never named, he did address him as "Sir Alec".
- Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends had both Mel Gibson and Tom Hanks.... with buckets on their heads.
- An episode of Bonkers dealt with a kidnapped Mickey Mouse, who spent the entire episode locked in a box and was referred to only as "the Mouse". This was especially unusual since we clearly hear his voice, and the show being produced by Disney seems to make this unnecessary.
- The 1990s X-Men cartoon featured a brief cameo of Spider-Man during the Phoenix Saga. However, all we see of him is his arm and a shadow on a wall.