What’s in a TV title anyway?

How do producers come up with show titles -and what have been some of the stinkers?

2014-09-25_1246We’ve had Bringing Sexy Back, Celebrity Dog School, Kyle and Jackie O’s Night with the Stars and Teen Fat Camp which was hurriedly retitled to Teen Fit Camp.

Titles are crucial when it comes to branding your show. It hopefully tells the audience the genre and the tone of the program, and when it’s a fight just to grab a viewer’s interest, sometimes it can be the deciding factor about whether they are engaged enough to discover more.

Some of them promise much and never deliver. Did we really meet Australia’ Perfect Couple in 2009? Was the winner of My Kid’s a Star really a star? Are the girls in Winners and Losers still the multi-millionaires they began life as, or have they done a Chances backflip (both were originally shows about lottery winners)?

Those House Husbands need to stay indoors a lot more to live up to their title while The Real Housewives of Melbourne are probably TV’s biggest misnomer (arguably, part of the point).

The Project has had so many timeslot changes it eventually dumped the 7 and 6:30 from its title. George Negus was similarly shuffled along with his title. Many viewers (and even some media) still refer to 7:30 as The 7:30 Report.

Fat Tony and Co. was at pains to point out it was not Underbelly. Tractor Monkeys tried to be smart but just confused everybody. Then there is the mouthful of Foxtel’s Location Location Location Australia (seriously).

It’s hard to go past America’s Dance Your Ass Off but ABC’s Shitsville Express gave it a red hot go. By contrast America couldn’t even bring itself to say $#*! My Dad Says.

So how do producers come up with titles?

Showrunners from the new US Fall season have spoken to the Hollywood Reporter about how they arrived at theirs.

Peter Nowalk from How to Get Away With Murder said:
“A show that takes place in law school doesn’t sound like the most exciting premise, so I knew the name Professor Annalise Keating (Viola Davis) gave to her class had to be sexy and attention-grabbing. How to Get Away With Murder worked on all levels. It gives you a great first impression of Annalise as a character — that she’s bold, irreverent and controversial — and also describes the fun, dark, twisted tone of the show.”

Nick Santora from Scorpion said:
The title already existed. Walter O’Brien has a real company of genius problem-solvers called Scorpion. At first I thought it was a great name for a company but maybe not a great name for a show because you can’t really tell what the show is about from the title. But then I thought, “You don’t know what the heck Breaking Bad means and that show was amazing.” It grew on me. Truth is, it’s a cool name — it was Walter’s online hacking nickname from when he was a kid.”

Emily Kapnek from Selfie said:
“We knew reaction to the title would be polarizing, but Selfie fit the show. It described more than just the act of picture-taking, it also summed up the syndrome afflicting our main characters. I think people judging the show based on title alone will be surprised when they see how the show is evolving.”

And of course Andrew Kreisberg from The Flash said:
“The cover of the worldwide best-selling comic book told us to do it!”

9 Responses

  1. Bad titles:
    Being Lara Bingle (someone has never worked in tv again after signing off on that clunker of a name)
    I Will Survive (it didn’t)

    Good titles:
    Hill Street Blues (works on many levels)
    Arrested Development (great name/great show)
    Curb your enthusiasm (so much better than “Larry David”

  2. I don’t think “Scorpion” should be in the same paragraph as “Breaking Bad” but points to Santora for having the nurries to compare his thing with one of the very best drama series of this millennium.

    @Chuck128 – agree altho’ I also really like “Six Feet Under”.

  3. For every new reality show these days it seems about finding a song that can be made into the title theme (Bringing Sexy Back, Everybody Dance Now).

    I think the simpler the name, the better. That’s probably why they changed the name of the Adam Hills variety show on the ABC.

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