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While we can all agree that making a television show is difficult and requires a lot of hard work and creativity, we can also agree that there are some serious shortcomings when it comes to show titles. I’m not sure how some titles have made it past the brainstorming phase. The title of a show is a lot like the cover of a book, it shouldn’t REALLY matter, but it does. First impressions are vital and if a title is confusing or uninteresting, viewers won’t even tune in.
Every once in awhile shows come out with acronym titles, sometimes using common acronyms, sometimes ones that are made up. One of the more recent examples: GCB (aka Good Christian B*tches). By naming the show GCB, no one knew what it meant or what it was about, almost certainly factoring in its low ratings, and the series was quickly canceled. Acronyms aren’t necessarily a death sentence, for example Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is still around (although it is part of the Marvel cinematic universe), but that is still a rough title, especially from a journalistic standpoint. Is the punctuation really necessary?
Another way to alienate audiences is by putting a curse word in the title. ($#*! My Dad Says and Don’t Trust the B—- In Apt 23). The first reason audiences stray away from these shows is because they automatically think the shows are going to be vulgar and unwatchable for families, which is a huge demographic to exclude. In addition, using a curse word in the title makes it difficult for people to talk and write about it.
Recently, FOX decided to rename its upcoming Frankenstein series, Lookinglass. Audiences who don’t follow TV news and tune in expecting a retelling of Alice in Wonderland will be very disappointed. Decisions like that just don’t make sense. Another example of this was the ABC/TBS series Cougar Town. Many viewers thought the show was about Courtney Cox playing a character who constantly dates younger men, when, in fact, “Cougar Town” was just nickname for the town the characters lived in. An even more tragic example is Terriers, a show that received great critical acclaim, but whose title seemed to indicate it was a show about dogs when it was actually about an unlicensed private investigation business.
This is probably the most offensive type of television show title. I appreciate short titles that are to the point, but instead we get shows that force us to use crazy abbreviations. Especially in the age of social media, every world counts. The biggest offenders of this include How to Get Away with Murder (HTGAWM), How I Met Your Mother (HIMYM) and Orange is the New Black (OITNB). It makes them hard to talk about especially on social media. When social media is such a key component of a show’s online marketing. it’s almost always better to keep things short and simple.
While a bad title isn’t necessarily a death sentence to a show, it can make success even more of a struggle. Hopefully networks start getting smarter about naming shows, but until then, remember don’t judge a show by its title, you might miss a real gem.