[blog title]

9/27/04

This work we’re doing is making me look much harder at the TITLES of things, especially TV shows. I’ve grown weary of the Name of the Protagonist title, which is why I never watched “Becker” or “Murphy Brown” and why I think “Kevin Hill” could have had a more electrifying moniker. I mean, it’s one thing is your name is “Veronica Mars,” “Punky Brewster,” or “Marcus Welby, M.D.” but “Kevin Hill” tells me nothing.

I appreciate a good muscular title, preferably two syllables or less, that drop-kicks your point home. “M*A*S*H,” “Taxi,” “Cheers,” even “Lost.” They didn’t call it “Sydney Bristow,” they called it “Alias.” They didn’t call it “Jack Bauer,” they used the numbers “24.”

People bemoan the spinoff-crazy “Law and Order,” “Law and Order: SVU,” “Law and Order: CI” and the many CSI’s lying about, but to me, it’s nice and informative. What they are really saying is Chex, Wheat Chex, Rice Chex and even Crispix. Same crunchiness with a slightly different flavor.

Slightly-complicated titles are okay, as long as they’re good: “Saved by the Bell,” “WKRP in Cincinatti,” “Malcolm in the Middle,” “3rd Rock From the Sun” all get the point across.

My least favorite title ever? “Designing Women.”

*horff*

0 thoughts on “[blog title]

  1. Laurie from Manly Dorm

    My guilty pleasure these days is watching all the shows on MTV. Yes, I am way beyond the limits of MTV’s age demographic, but I love those shows! I think they have the best show titles: “Jackass”, “Viva La Bam”, and “One Bad Trip”, to name a few. Very short, very catchy, and very appropriate. Particularly with Jackass.

    Reply
  2. Sean

    Two of the best written TV shows ever, with the worst titles, are “Golden Girls” and “The Nanny”. Golden Girls is always situationally funny, you laugh not because they are telling jokes, you laugh because each character is so completely them. The Nanny is hilarious, but better than that, the character was created by Fran Drescher and she owns it outright. *That’s* a success story.
    I didn’t watch Dukes of Hazzard for years because I thought it was gonna be Masterpiece Theater. I watched Battlestar Gallactica for years because it was frickin’ *AWESOME*.

    Reply
  3. thad

    “Desparate Housewives” is pretty bad, but nothing’s worse than “Wife Swap.”
    “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” was a fairly functional title. Besides name-checking the lead character, it also masked a well-written and at times incisive show, in the same way that a supernatural warrior was cloaked by a high school cheerleader.

    Reply
  4. Laurie from Manly Dorm

    I loved “Freaks and Geeks!” Great title. Same with “My So-Called Life.”
    I whole-heartedly agree with you about the importance of a name. I missed the whole first season of “The Sopranos” because I thought it was about a bunch of musicians. Yes, this sounds idiotic but it is true. I was too busy to sit and watch it, and only after reading the great reviews did I realize what I was missing. They should have called it “This Show About the Jersey Mob Is Awesome! Watch it Now!”

    Reply
  5. flaco

    bad title: A.K.A. Pablo
    good title: Chico and the Man
    a name that worked: Barney Miller
    a good one: St. Elsewhere (know what you’re getting)
    disgusting title: aftermash

    Reply
  6. jordana

    In 1972, a crack commando unit was sent to prison by a military court for a crime they didn’t commit. These men promptly escaped from a maximum security stockade to the Los Angeles underground. Today, still wanted by the government, they survive as soldiers of fortune. If you have a problem, if no one else can help, and if you can find them, maybe you can hire the A-Team.

    Reply
  7. Ian

    Oh my god, I forgot about “AfterMASH” – I just got slightly depressed.
    We keep referring to it as “Disparate Housewives,” which makes it better for the English majors.
    Jordi, did you know that the president of Paramount came up with the name “A-Team” and just told some writers to make a story around it? Awesome. The new show “Homeland Security” was sold to a network by title alone; I don’t think they had to pitch anything.

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  8. jordana

    i didn’t know that story, ian, but i would very much like to meet the guys who put together the A-Team with only the title to go on. i mean, lesser writers might have gone superhero (A-mazing!) or patriotic (A-merica!), but a falsely accused commando unit righting wrongs and evading military pursuit… genius! plus it’s got every major archetype: the vain guy, the crazy guy, the guy from BREAKFAST AT TIFFANY’S and Mr. T!

    Reply
  9. CL

    I always heard that the story was that Brandon Tartikoff was at dinner and he wrote on a napkin, “Magnificent Seven. Dirty Dozen. Mr. T. drives the van.” Mr. Tartikoff was one of my heroes as a kid for giving us kids such good shows to watch. It’s too bad he’s gone.
    Post script to that story: The New York Post inadvertently reported sighting him with his wife in their Page Six column a few months ago, even though he died of cancer a while ago. They had to print a correction. Then, two weeks ago, the Post “sighted” a dead rapper and had to print another correction. The Post sees dead people. (And WMD’s where they don’t exist.)

    Reply
  10. CL

    Oh, we’re both right, according to the internet. I didn’t know Tartikoff was later president of Paramount. A site sez (who knows how true this story is anyway):
    >>NBC, in need of heroes to save it from TV’s dungeon, called The A-Team into action Jan. 23, 1983.
    “Road Warrior, Magnificent Seven, Dirty Dozen, Mission: Impossible…and Mr. T drives the car.” Sounds like the early-’80s fever dream of a teenage boy. But it was a memo from the late Brandon Tartikoff, NBC Entertainment president, and it came to life when The A-Team debuted, helping the Peacock network rise from the ashes.

    Reply
  11. Salem

    Ian, I think Sigmund the Sea Monster might be an exception to your title rule. It doesn’t matter how hard I try. I just can’t seem to think of a better title. By some freaky circumstance I happened to catch Veronica Mars this week. I think McColl Tivo’d something on the same channel. Anyway, I was impressed. Not exactly our demographic, but really good stuff.

    Reply
  12. Annie

    A title that really breaks the rules (utterly nonspecific common-expression-as-title) but somehow could not be better is that of my favorite TV sitcom ever, “Good Times.”
    Also I’ve been thinking about the odd title of a short-lived sitcom that I adored all of its brief life: “Love, Sidney.” Or perhaps it was “Love Sidney.” In any case, gramatically a very unusual choice. And the concept of the show was the blossoming friendship of a seven- or eight-year-old girl with her fiftysomething gay neighbor, wonderfully played by Tony Randall. Very ballsy for 1986.
    I have to second Salem’s sentiment celebrating Sigmund! How I loved him!

    Reply

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