How a TV Series' Name Makes or Breaks a Show – CBR – Comic Book Resources

Titles make a statement of what a TV show is about – and a bad or even generic one can keep audiences away from an otherwise solid series.
Many writers, professional or otherwise, will admit titles are hard. A good title might entice a person to check out mediocre work while a bad title could make that same person ignore good work. But picking a good title is far from an exact science. Some TV show names go too far, some not far enough and others simply don't give any idea of what the show is about.
Shakespeare asked what’s in a name — and in TV, the answer is a lot. Better Off Ted, Don’t Trust The B in Apt. 23, and The Knights of Prosperity are just a few of the solid sitcoms that were strangled by titles that put audiences off. But a bad title doesn’t always damn a show’s prospects. Who would have thought a sitcom called That 70s Show would make it past the first week, let alone get two spinoffs? Grey's Anatomy was originally called Surgeons before it became a smash hit. It simply depends on the audience a TV show is trying to cultivate.
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Better Off Ted is no sillier a title than Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Yet Buffy — the film, the TV show and the comic books — existed in the world of exaggerated, over-the-top titles like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles which appealed to the younger audiences those shows wanted. Better Off Ted was squarely aimed at adults. The title was too throwaway, childish and meaningless to capture the attention of that audience. Another poorly titled ABC show, Don't Trust The B in Apartment 23, had a title that was both overly long and gave off the impression that the creators wanted to make a cable show but got saddled with broadcast standards and practices. That suggested to the viewer they were getting a watered down version, and it only lasted two seasons.
Several new series also have less than great monikers. Hulu's Reboot is a sitcom about rebooting a sitcom, Apple TV+ has Life by Ella, in which a 13-year-old battles cancer and tackles her fears. NBC's not at all legal drama Lopez vs. Lopez feels like a reboot of George Lopez's ABC sitcom, only this time his real-life daughter is playing his TV daughter. Their generic titles don't help when the content landscape is now so vast that their competition is not just across network, cable and streaming but also against entities like Twitch, Instagram and YouTube. Ninja has 23.8 million YouTube subscribers — more viewers than many TV shows.
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People do judge a book by its cover, and they judge a TV series by its name. Some writers have a great title and start from there, but most TV creators use a working title to be replaced when the series is fleshed out, and of course said title needs network approval. The quest is to find something just right — something that tells people what the show is about but isn't so specific that it puts the show in a box. If it's a sitcom, the title can have some humor to it, but it's better to have the title be a descriptor that doesn't leave the audience wondering before they move on to one of the many other options available.
Being simple and specific while also being creative is a real skill, and although a series can overcome a bad title (like the long-running sitcom Cougar Town), most end up in the dustbin of television history, never to have their cast applauded while gracing the stage at the Paley Center for Media. For every hugely popular sitcom like Friends, there's also a Traffic Light, which was a TV series but most people never knew it.

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