Monday, September 28, 2009

Literal TV Titles

One of the most important jobs in Hollywood is the person who picks the title for a movie. A title can make or break a film. For example, I'm convinced that Pretty Woman wouldn't have been as successful if they would have gone with the original title of "3000." I don't think teenagers would want to see a film called "Night of Anubis" and that's why George A. Romero changed the name to "Night of the Living Dead." Anubis? Not scary. Living Dead? Scary.

This same principle applies to television shows as well. Believe it or not (you probably shouldn't believe it - I made these up), these are the original titles for some popular TV shows of today:

"We're Intentionally Trying to Confuse You"

I'm glad they went with the simpler title of "Lost" on this one, because it makes it easier to reference in everyday conversation. Yes, the characters are lost, but that's really all we know. Between the viral advertising, the online message boards and the actual show, the only thing I've come to understand is that no one really knows what's going on. I mean, I've watched all five seasons and I still don't know what "the monster" introduced in season one really is! I hope that the writers of the show will explain stuff in this final season, because if the faithful watchers of Lost don't get a satisfying explanation, they're probably going to burn ABC studios to the ground.

"My Uncle's Teaching Me How to Be a Womanizer"

Seriously, why is this show still on the air? And why is it winning awards?? The few times I've tried to watch Two and a Half Men all I've seen is Charlie Sheen give some off-color advice to his nephew and then the laugh track plays at full volume. I once heard it said that this is the "most-watched sitcom" on television today. Who's watching it? I, literally, do not personally know ONE person who regularly watches this show and/or thinks it is any good. Please, 2 1/2 Men. . .go away.

"Crime-Solving Show"

Since these shows are exactly the same, it should be no surprise that the original title was the same for CSI, CSI: Miami, CSI: New York and CSI: Saskatchewan, as well as NCIS, The Mentalist, Medium, Castle, Cold Case, The Closer and Criminal Minds - Oh, and let's not forget every incarnation of Law & Order (I believe there are 183 "different" versions currently on the air). Not convinced that these are the same show? Let me give you the plot for each episode: A crime happens, there's some little piece of evidence that leads them to suspect #1, but suspect #1 isn't the real criminal, he only leads to a series of other suspects and clues. Then they finally figure out who actually committed the crime (about 3/4 into the show) and have just enough time to explain how they did it to the audience, arrest them/convict them and have some witty banter between the stars. Roll credits.


Without awkwardness there would be no sitcom called The Office. And believe it or not, the American version isn't even half as awkward as the original British version. The show revolves around the awkwardness that Michael Scott creates. If Michael Scott isn't making people feel awkward, then Dwight is doing it, or Kevin is doing it, or Andy is doing it, or Creed it doing it, or Angela is doing it, etc. They give us Jim and Pam so that we can relate to someone on the show, but let's face it, practically all of the humor on the show comes from that nervous laughter we do when we feel awkward.

"C-List Celebrities Need Some Cash"

In some ways, it's a happy thing that celebrities have a place to go when they're done being marketable - it's like sending a cow out to a beautiful pasture when it's nearing the end of it's life. Admit it, when you see a star that you actually like on Dancing with the Stars, you feel a little sad for them. Also, can they really call them "stars" if no one knows what they're famous for? Sure, you know two or three of the contestants, but then you have to go online and look up the names of the rest of them. If you're a celebrity and you're on Dancing with the Stars, it's time to get a new agent.

"Everybody Should Just Believe Dr. House"

House is right. House is always right. So why are people constantly doubting him? It's like Mulder in the X-files! Just believe him, Scully! Each episode consists of Dr. House making a diagnosis and insulting people, and then everyone surrounding him thinking that his diagnosis is wrong, until, at the end, when it turns out he is. . .you ready for this?. . . right! You'd think, after a while, the uber-educated doctors on the show would catch on to this pattern.

"Tyra's Tyra Show starring Tyra with Special Guest Tyra"

America's Next Top Model is all about Tyra. It's definitely not about the models - have ANY of the winners gone on to be household names? Can you even name the winners of each season? Each episode is about what Tyra likes, what Tyra doesn't like, what Tyra wants, what Tyra looks like and what Tyra wants you to look like. "Your eyes are like this (looks to the side), when they should be like this (looks to the side in the exact same way)!" I have a challenge for you, start a stopwatch when an episode of AMTM begins and see how long it takes for Tyra to say the word "me, my, I" or "myself." My record? 2 minutes, 45 seconds.

"Dumb Husband & Shrewish Wife"

Most of these shows are only in syndication now, but this was the working title for shows such as Home Improvement, Everybody Loves Raymond, King of Queens, Still Standing and the like. You know, the ones where the husband is a bumbling fool who constantly tries to do crazy things and the wife is constantly trying to fix things and yelling at him and trying to keep order. These kind of shows made me fear marriage and I'm glad that we seem to be moving away from this type of storyline.

"Melodramatic Doctors Creating Drama Set to Melodramatic Music"

In all fairness, I don't think I've ever seen a full episode of Grey's Anatomy, but I'm going to criticize it anyway. Every clip I've seen of this show involves someone crying, someone dying, and some singer whining in the background. Oh, and everyone is sleeping with everyone else. It's like the later "soap opera" episodes of Friends, but without the funny. I think the show was better when it was called General Hospital.

"How to Become a C-List Celebrity"

American Idol, America's Got Talent, Big Brother, Survivor, So You Think You Can Dance and The Apprentice - each one of these shows will give you your 15 minutes of fame, but that's pretty much all you're going to get. In the beginning, when reality TV was still new, the people on the shows had a chance at marketing themselves and actually becoming famous. However, now that we've become so flooded with reality TV "stars" they get their time on screen and then they're pushed to the background when the next crop of hopefuls arrive. People roll their eyes at the mere mention of the phrase "reality star" these days and it's only going to get worse.

Ok, so these aren't actually the original titles for these shows, but I thought it would be interesting if the titles of the TV shows actually reflected what the show was about. It would, at least, make decisions on what to watch each night a lot easier.


Katya said...

By that standard, my favorite shows are "Booth and Brennan Inexplicably Ignore their Sexual Chemistry for Yet Another Episode," "Sheldon Insults Someone Again," and the dearly departed "Did you Really Think a Bryan Fuller Show would get Renewed Twice?"

The Former 786 said...

Nice, Katya. I enjoy "Sheldon Insults Someone Again" and I really miss "Did you Really Think a Bryan Fuller Show would get Renewed Twice?," and while I haven't seen "Booth and Brennan Inexplicably Ignore their Sexual Chemistry for Yet Another Episode," I've heard good things about it and it's in my Netflix queue.

Sara Ann said...

My favorites are "people do stupid and embarrassing things they would never normally do all in the name of supposedly finding true love on television."

Katya said...

I've been watching "B&BIItSCfAE" kind of out of order because I started on Hulu and then started over on Netflix, so I understand that it jumps the shark a bit in season 3, but recovers nicely in season 4, so I still recommend it.

And I'm almost finished with the second incarnation of "Did you Really Think a Bryan Fuller Show would get Renewed Twice?" (a.k.a. "Inigo Montoya Swears a Blue Streak").

The Former 786 said...

You know, Sara Ann, my wife tries to get me to watch "people do stupid and embarrassing things they would never normally do all in the name of supposedly finding true love on television," but I resist - those shows are too depressing.

And thanks for the heads up, Katya.

--jeff * said...

i just had time to skim the titles; i haven't yet read the commentary on each one, but nice work. it feels like it could be a conan o'brien skit (although "the office"/"awkwardness" is your weak one).

i'll comment again when i get time to read it all and follow the links.

Lobbie said...

My favorite is the Tyra one. Although her instructions usually involve a sound that makes no sense or doing the exact same thing, but with bigger eyes that look like they've been glued open.

House though, follows this pattern (until the awesome new season opener, that is.)
1. Happy or exciting opening scene where some kind of activity with a loved one is happening
2. Sudden, TOTALLY unexpected disaster that results in fluid coming out of an orifice.
3. Banter scene with employees and incorrect diagnoses
4. MRI scan where employees talk about personal life is SUDDENLY interrupted by something crazy happening to the patient because they mis-diagnosed.
5. All seems lost and hopeless. House talks about something unrelated and suddenly gets an "ah-ha" moment from something random (Fried pork? Why didn't we test for swine flu?) and saves the day.
6.Epilogue where house discusses personal life (or lack of) with Robert Sean Leanord

Willo said...

How about "You're just watching this for Neil Patrick Harris", "Torture Works, Dammit!", and the classic Emmy winning "Idealistic Liberals Talk While Walking Down Hallway"

Qw-t said...

Excellent breakdown Lobbie.. that's why I stopped watching House even though it was my absolute favourite during seasons 1 & 2. I sacrificed it for Breaking Bad & boy am I glad!

JoeHohler3 said...

The title of House is correct, but my first thought was actually 'It's Never Lupus.'

Prospero said...

I would have called "Dumb Husband & Shrewish Wife" "Fat Guy with Inexpilcably Hot Wife."

Lobbie said...

We could also relabel lots of movies as "fat guy with inexplicably hot girl half his age"