Monday, March 23, 2015
In addition to whatever other problems it had, SELFIE was a truly terrible title. It just sounded so faux hip and trendy, and frankly “so five minutes ago.” Shows with negative connotations fight a real uphill battle. COUGAR TOWN just screamed “creepy.” Good luck getting women over 40 to watch a show called TROPHY WIFE.
TERRIERS was a good show with a bad title. No one knew what it meant.
My current favorite show is THE GOOD WIFE but honestly, that title kept me from watching the show when it debuted. I thought it was going to be a soap opera disguised as a lawyer show. Happily, it’s a classic disguised as a network show.
Some titles can confuse audiences. HAPPY ENDINGS. If you’re a pervert like me that suggests massage parlors and handjobs. Imagine my disappointment when that wasn’t what the show was about. Other more innocent people might have thought HAPPY ENDINGS was another fairy tale show like ONCE UPON A TIME. And since they never did a story where Little Red Riding Hood met urban hipsters those expectations were not met. When you see that a show is named MANHATTAN don’t you sort of think it’s about New York? The Manhattan Project is not your first association. A more appropriate title might be KABOOM. Just a suggestion.
We even had a little trouble with CHEERS at first. Before the show caught on there were those who assumed by the title the series was about high school cheerleaders. Seeing Norm must’ve really befuddled them then.
And then there was EXTANT. That was always my fear on becoming a contestant on PASSWORD. The word I would get is “extant” and everyone in America would know I had no idea what that word meant. If your show title could be mistaken for one of those eye-chart sounding arthritis drugs then it’s a bad title.
Or just using initials when they mean nothing to us. GCB. The real title was Good Christian Bitches but ABC was skittish. So they went to initials which told the audience nothing.
Producers sometime go the opposite way though, and make their titles too generic. THE JOB, GO ON, TURN, MOMS AND DADS, and GIRLS are examples. Or just stringing words together to create phrases like FRIENDS WITH BETTER LIVES. They sound generic even if they’re not.
And then there are titles that sound alike. BAD TEACHER and BAD JUDGE. I guess by putting “Bad” in the title networks think they’re edgy. Along the same lines, another trend I feel has backfired is putting profanity in the title but not saying the words. DON’T TRUST THE B**** IN APT 23 or $#@& MY DAD SAYS. It’s bad enough networks can’t say those words. Why promote that you can’t by using this B**$@% tactic?
Other similar titled shows tend to have city names. CHICAGO P.D., CHICAGO FIRE, CHICAGO HOPE, CHICAGO CODE. And then there are the R shows. RESURRECTION, REDEMPTION, REVOLUTION, REVENGE, RECKLESS. Really?
A couple of years ago there was a sitcom called PARTNERS that not only had the same title as an earlier series named PARTNERS but also stole the premise. Classy.
Another danger is making your title too long. Yes, you want to stand out but HOW TO LIVE WITH YOUR PARENTS (FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIFE) is a mouthful. Who’s going to say, “Hey, did you see HOW TO LIVE WITH YOUR PARENTS (FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIFE) last night?” You’ll never have a water cooler show if it takes the length of the office break just to say the title of the show. And good luck getting that on the back of a show jacket.
I tend to prefer short titles; one word preferably. SCANDAL is a great title. Simple, eye catching, and intriguing. HOW TO GET AWAY WITH MURDER? also gets your attention although it's a big long. But Shonda Rhimes knows what she’s doing. THE BLACKLIST is another personal favorite. What’s yours?
Titles make a difference. Make yours short, snappy, and to play it safe tack on STAR WARS to the front of it.
By Ken Levine at 6:00 AM