What’s in a name? It could be a TV show’s destiny. The name of a TV series could make or break it, depending on if viewers are even willing to give it a chance. It’s a foot in the door, and sometimes that foot will get slammed if the audience is put off by its title. Remember “$#*! My Dad Says,” “GCB,” or “The Knights of Prosperity”? There’s a reason you don’t.
For the 2017 Fall TV season, IndieWire called out four shows — “9JKL,” “The Orville,” “Ten Days in the Valley,” and “Wisdom of the Crowd” — for their poor title choices. Of the lot, only “The Orville” survives, which may be more of a testament to the love for Seth Macfarlane and his specific brand of humor mixed with a love of “Star Trek.” Oddly enough, “The Orville” was probably the worst title of them all. Therefore, like Google, the Fox show was able to make a name for itself.
This year’s crop of recently announced new shows don’t have any title quite as heinous; instead, networks appear to be going in the opposite direction and trying to not stand out. This means that some titles are just mind-numbingly boring, unimaginative, or vague.
IndieWire continues this tradition by spotlighting some of the worst new titles coming this fall and suggesting how we’d fix them. But we’re also highlighting some of the best titles of the bunch and defending them in the process. Here’s how it all goes down:
”I Feel Bad” (NBC)
Evans Vestal Ward/NBC
First Impression: Is this about dread? How the nation is divided? Our regret after eating that dodgy potato salad left out in the sun? Unfortunately, if anyone wants to write a negative review of the show, the headline just writes itself. And yes, the title may have come from Orli Auslander’s book “I Feel Bad: All Day. Every Day. About Everything,” but that context is lost here. (It even gives the competition an opening to have some fun: CBS Entertainment president Kelly Kahl, while discussing his Thursday night lineup, quipped of the competition: “On Thursdays, ‘I Feel Bad’ for NBC.”)
What It’s Really About: Emet (Sarayu Rao, aka Sarayu Blue) feels bad when she isn’t the perfect wife, mom, friend, or boss. Supposedly anyone can relate to the comedy of errors that is her life.
Better Titles: “True Blue,” “Doable,“ “All the Feels,” “(I’m)Perfection”
”New Amsterdam” (NBC)
First Impression: Either this is about colonizing the New World or a futuristic city with liberal drug laws (dammit, now we want to see that series). Also, if you guessed it’s a show about a Dutch homicide detective cursed with immortality, you’re right! “New Amsterdam” was the title of a failed 2008 crime drama starring Nikolaj Coster-Waldau. Perhaps that’s not the best mojo for a new show sharing the same name.
What It’s Really About: Idealistic medical director Dr. Max Goodwin (Ryan Eggold) takes over at the oldest hospital in America — you guessed it, the New Amsterdam. He’s on a mission to bring the heart and healing back to doctoring.
Better Titles: ”Recovery,” “The Best Medicine,” “The Doctor Is In,” “Rx” (and then name the doctor Rex), “Heal Thyself,” “The Goodwin Doctor” (It worked for ABC!), “Dr. Feelgoodwin” (okay, we’re getting silly). Or there’s “Bellevue” — which was actually the original title for this pilot, and the real hospital that “New Amsterdam” is based on — but, unfortunately, also the title of a current WGN America series.
First Impression: Cringe alert. This is slang for that community of trusted people in your life, whether they’re blood-related or not. We don’t want just anyone throwing around this term, like that one awkward guy in your office who insists on using “woke” and “bae,” but now it appears that CBS has given everyone license to do so.
What It’s Really About: At least this show is about family. Sophisticated NYU history professor Jay (Tone Bell) proposes to his girlfriend Clem (Nina Dobrev), and his refined parents couldn’t be more thrilled with his choice… except it turns out her family is a total train wreck.
Better Titles: “Relatable,” “Bad Blood,” “It’s All Relative,” “Engaged,” “She Said Yes,” “Murphy’s In-Laws” (but the character’s name changes to Murphy)
”Happy Together” (CBS)
First Impression: To be honest, with this title and Damon Wayans, Jr. in the cast, this is just a reminder of our dearly departed “Happy Endings.”
What It’s Really About: Inspired by one of the British producers having Harry Styles (One Direction’s Harry Styles? Yes, one and the same) stay with him for a bit, this comedy examines what happens when a boring married couple (Wayans, Jr. and Amber Stevens West) is suddenly saddled with a British pop star as a roommate.
Better Titles: ”The Odd Throuple,” ”In Harmony,” “The Flatmate,” “Three’s Accompaniment,” “Boy Banned.” (The show’s Brit producers also suggested “Happy Days” — but, um, that has also been previously used.)
“Roswell, New Mexico” (why not just call the reboot “Roswell”?), “Magnum P.I.” (for deleting the comma and the ‘stache), “FBI” (Dick Wolf is just phoning it in), “The Code” (is the title in code? Because we don’t get it)
Craig Blankenhorn/NBC/Warner Brothers
What It’s About: When Montenegro Air Flight 828 lands, it turns out that five years have passed in the world around them. The bizarre phenomenon is a shock at first, but then the passengers must deal with all the ways the world – and families and friends – have moved on without them in addition to trying to understand what happened to them.
Why It’s a Great Title: This works on so many levels: a) it could refer to the flight’s manifest, an airplane’s list of cargo or passengers, b) it could relate to making one’s wishes into reality, c) it plays off of the idea that something is very apparent and clear when, in fact, the opposite is true on this show, d) it could be a hint at Manifest Destiny, the belief that it was settlers were destined to expand across America, and e) it’s a simple, one-word title that isn’t generic.
”God Friended Me” (CBS)
What It’s About: An outspoken atheist (Brandon Micheal Hall) has his life upended when a person named God friends him on Facebook, and suddenly he begins to make an impact on the world.
Why It’s a Great Title: Sure, it’s a goofy title but it conveys the goofy premise perfectly, and no one is going to learn about this show and suddenly forget what “God Friended Me” is about if they hear the title again.
”Whiskey Cavalier” (ABC)
What It’s About: In this action-comedy, a heartbroken FBI agent named Whiskey Cavalier (Scott Foley) and a CIA agent (Lauren Cohan) — whose name probably has to do with hard liquor also but we really can’t say — team up to lead an interagency team of spies.
Why It’s a Great Title: Don’t listen to Jimmy Kimmel, who mocked this title mercilessly during ABC’s upfront presentation — so much that ABC Entertainment president Channing Dungey and series stars Foley and Cohan appeared flustered on stage afterward. This might be an unpopular opinion because the title is so goddamn silly, but it’s memorable and really captures the flavor of the equally silly tone of the show. The name also spoofs the upscale Bond-type of spy who has a signature beverage of choice, and “cavalier” reflects the more romantic and gallant side of Foley’s lovelorn character. The title may sound cavalier, but that’s the point.