Five Ways A TV Title Can Fail

By CB Staff 2012-11-15 13:58:40 discussion comments
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TV show titles tend to range from brilliant, clever and witty to clunky, vague, awkward and in some cases, just plain misleading. Some titles overcome their initial problems, while others go down in history as being among the more memorably bad series names. Rather than just listing off our favorite terrible TV titles, we found ourselves breaking down the title problems by category. After all, as supremely irritating as some titles can be, they often aren't the first of their kind, nor will they be the last. Of course, it needs to be said that a bad title doesn't necessarily mean a bad show. But some titles just don't work and there are a few reasons why.


Misleading or Overly Vague Titles
A TV series doesn't need to spell out the premise in its title, but there are some shows that seem to go out of their way to keep viewers from having any idea what the series might be. That issue comes up a lot with the "The" titles. The Event, The Shield, The Practice, etc. There's something to be said for the firmness of these types of titles, but they also come off a little vague and don't do much to grab a viewer's attention or give them any indication of what they might expect from the series. The Following may also fall into this category. Some one-word titles also suffer from this. Episodes, for example, is not only vague but also a little confusing when referencing (or writing about) it. On the other hand, USA's Suits gets away with the one-word title because it has a double meaning (lawsuits and dress attire). And then you have FX's excellent but short-lived detective drama Terriers, which was not about nor did it feature any terriers.

We have a similar problem with series named after their lead character. Castle, Veronica Mars Monk are so vague to non-viewers, they're practically misleading. To a non-viewer, Castle could be about a building, Monk might star Tony Shalhoub as a monk, and Veronica Mars could be about a girl from space. Anyone who actually watches those shows knows all three of those assumptions are false, but could you fault people for jumping to the wrong conclusion? Seinfeld is another example of a name-title that probably didn't do much to help the show in its earlier years. Of course, in retrospect there's no better title for the series, and Seinfeld may be the best piece of proof that a vague title doesn't necessarily hurt a show (at least not badly enough to wreck it). If the show is good enough, it can withstand a vague or confusing title. 
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