No doubt when writers are picking their name for a TV show, they aren’t anticipating every twist and turn the story is going to take. Sometimes what show creators have planned isn’t working so they have to try and redirect the show into something that audiences will respond to. Or maybe the plan works fine, but the show is such a big hit that the network offers so much money for it to continue that the writers can’t help but say yes and extend the show. There are many ways it can play out, but the fact is there are some shows where you just have to look at the title and ask “why are they even still calling it that?”
Sometimes a title just doesn’t work anymore, and you have to imagine the creators kind of regret the name they picked. This isn’t necessarily about titles that are simply bad (though we’ll definitely be touching on some titles that creators clearly regretted for that reason) but more titles that didn't fit with a show, or trapped a show over time.
A TV title should encapsulate what that story is about for its entirety, but some leave something to be desired, leading to 15 TV Shows That Regretted Their Titles.
15 HOW I MET YOUR MOTHER
How I Met Your Mother is still fresh enough for many fans that the problem with this title will be immediately obvious. The show lasted for nine seasons, and the mystery was always about who this woman was that Ted finally wound up with. After more than 200 episodes, viewers did get the answer to that question, but the satisfaction of that resolved mystery was so short-lived that many viewers were vocal in their dislike for how the series finished.
At the end of it all, it turns out the entire mystery of who was the mother of Ted's children was almost beside the point. We learn the mother is Tracy, who Ted meets in the very last episode. Then, just a few years after they have their children, she dies. Even Ted’s kids point out how his story went on for so long when it barely had anything to do with their mother, and was more about Robin.
Since Barney and Robin’s marriage fell through, Ted’s kids advise their father to give it another shot with her and the series ends there. Maybe the creators of the show wouldn’t have changed the title of the show if they had to do it again, but it’s clear that for them at least, the story of how Ted met his children's mother was not the story they really wanted to tell.
14 JANE THE VIRGIN
Jane the Virgin initially worked fine as a title for this show since the humor was derived from the fact that Jane had never even had sex, and yet she inadvertently wound up pregnant after being accidentally artificially inseminated. It was a funny set of circumstances that worked in the original Venezuelan airing of the show, and has made it a popular series in its American adaption as well. But the obvious point at which the title stops working is when Jane actually did have sex, which happened by the third season. And since Jane the Virgin is now in season four, the title doesn't exactly fit the series anymore.
The creators have openly acknowledged that the title is inaccurate now by crossing out the "virgin" part of the title in the intro now. Other descriptors of Jane get slotted into the new space, but apparently none have been catchy enough to stick around as a full rebrand of the title. Besides, it's always tricky changing a show's title since you have to rely on word getting out to everyone that the show hasn't gone away and that it just has a new name. So the creators for Jane the Virgin have just decided to use the outdated title as an opportunity to get a laugh with a little joke each week.
13 PRISON BREAK
As excited as we all are for the return of Prison Break, the title does seem rather short-sighted in retrospect. It was a perfect, succinct title for the first season, which told a story about Michael Scofield and Lincoln Burrows trying to escape from prison. The only problem is the plan to escape was so successful that Michael and Lincoln were able to get out by the end of the very first season, making the title outdated pretty quickly.
You could argue the characters staying out of prison is part of the process of a prison break, but it became clear the series was more interested in conspiracy theories than the lives of convicts. Michael and Lincoln’s primary battles became against the Vice President of the United States, government assassins, and other shadowy figures.
But then some of the characters went back to prison in season three, and again in the TV special The Final Break. It seemed like the writers regretted having their characters escape so quickly the first time and kept putting them back in prison to create more drama in attempt to actually live up to the title of the series.
12 COUGAR TOWN
Cougar Town has perhaps been one of the most blatant examples of the creators of a show really kicking themselves for the name they chose for their show. By now “cougar” is a colloquial enough term that the majority of people understand that it’s not generally referring to the animal. So when you name a show Cougar Town, it is pretty reasonable that a lot of viewers are going to assume that show is going to be about middle-aged women hanging out in bars and trying to pick up younger guys. A premise like that not only sounds lacking in depth, but is also off-putting to people who find that culture skeevy.
The good thing is Cougar Town isn’t actually about that stuff at all. The bad thing is that they did still name their show Cougar Town and were stuck with it. Lots of people have commented on the unfortunate title, and have suggested that the network should rebrand it. Even the creators of the show have acknowledged it as a mistake, making fun of the name within the show itself, and even discussing whether it would be worth swapping out the title in real life. The potential audience members they lost definitely had the creators regretting trying to be so hip and raunchy with their branding.
11 DON”T TRUST THE B---- IN APARTMENT 23
The dashes in the title for this one aren’t something we added for censorship. That’s exactly how this show title is written. It’s not what the creators wanted, though, since the original title wasn’t supposed to be censored at all. Cursing as part of a show’s title doesn’t usually fly on network TV, though, so the edginess of the show was filed off and we were left with this PG revision that just sounds like an elementary school student who wants to curse, but is afraid they’ll get in trouble.
Don’t Trust the B---- in Apartment 23 was actually a fine comedy once you got past the awkward title, but wasn’t able to find a strong enough audience to survive past two seasons. The titular “b----“ was Chloe, who would make money by taking on roommates into her apartment, getting them to pay rent up front, then driving them off by being as obnoxious as possible so she could keep the apartment to herself. The show was actually well-reviewed by critics, but the edited title was the worst of both worlds. Crass enough to put off wholesome families, but too juvenile to draw in fans of raunchier humor. No doubt the show’s creators just wish their original title had just been left intact.
10 S#*! MY DAD SAYS
Why do shows put in these half-hearted attempts at slipping cursing into their titles? If you want to have a title with cursing, that’s fine. If not, changing the title to something different is fine too. But this weird in-between of just censoring the title simply doesn’t work. If the network is afraid to write it, then why would they expect fans to be comfortable saying it? Say you’re in a store somewhere trying to have a conversation about the show, how do you discuss it if you’re worried about offending people? It just leads to awkward instances of people talking around the show, like calling it “Bleep My Dad Says.”
The show also caused some headaches for CBS, which had to deal with complaints from the Parents Television Council for airing a show with profanity in the title. CBS had to assuage any fears that the show would be indecent, but it just seemed like a silly fight to take on when changing the title to something people could actually say would have avoided the problem. S#*! My Dad Says was canceled after one season, and though it definitely wasn’t just due to the title, we imagine the creators looked back and realized getting off on the wrong foot with viewers might not have been the wisest move.
We already talked about how trying to include cursing in a show’s title hampered other shows, but GCB had it especially rough, despite the creators at least having the foresight to alter the title before it went to air. The original title was supposed to be Good Christian Bitches, based on a novel of the same name. Before the show even debuted, it was already being criticized for the derogatory language against women in the title. But even worse was that the show also attracted the ire of religious groups who perceived the show as an attack against Christianity.
Those involved with the show tried to assuage such fears about this being meant to mock anyone, but religious groups especially were already rallying people to boycott the show. To mitigate the damage, the show was initially changed to Good Christian Belles to reference the show’s Southern setting. Then the creators seemingly tried to inject a little bit of edge back into the title by renaming it the ambiguous GCB, so it was open to interpretation what that stood for. But that title change likely just left newcomers confused what the show was about. Ultimately GCB was cancelled after just one season, but the creators clearly regretted their first attempt at a title being such a focal point.
8 SCROTAL RECALL
For viewers who were willing to give a show named Scrotal Recall a chance, they got a British comedy that was praised for its writing and humor. The problem is, a lot of people are understandably going to be a bit hesitant about seeking out a show with that name. The title actually did encapsulate what the show is about, following a man who learns he has an STD as he tries to figure out which of the many women he has had sex with might have given him the ailment. But when the show was renewed for a second season, one of the biggest changes was the title.
Scrotal Recall got rebranded to Lovesick, an equally apt title, but one that doesn't force people to associate the show with scrotums. Antonia Thomas, who plays Evie on the show, was openly supportive of the name change when she was asked her thoughts on it, acknowledging that the old name wasn't doing the series any favors in finding new viewers. Sometimes a simple name is better than one that's remembered for the wrong reasons.
7 NEW GIRL
Nobody likes being the new person in the room, but the nice thing is being is that no one stays new for long. Once everyone gets used to you, or someone even newer comes along, you're not the new person anymore. At least that's how it works in real life. But for Zooey Deschanel in her role as Jess, it looks like she'll always be the new girl.
Jess was the titular New Girl when the series starts because she is looking for a new place and winds up becoming the newest roommate of three guys in an apartment. There have been multiple roommates who've joined the household since Jess-- Winston and Coach both returned, and Megan Fox's character, Reagan, replaced Jess for a time as well. At this point, the show is up to its sixth season and has aired over one hundred episodes. Jess is definitely not the new girl anymore.
This all probably explains why the original title for the show was Chicks and Dicks, since the theme of the show is a woman learning to live with a bunch of dudes, rather than her constantly being seen as the newbie. New Girl doesn't really encapsulate what the creators are telling with their story, but as apt as Chicks and Dicks might have been, we've seen how crass titles can harm a series.
6 THE LAST MAN ON EARTH
Whenever a story is about a post-apocalyptic world where only one person seems to be alive, it's usually a safe bet that they will not only encounter someone else, but even wind up finding an entire city's worth of people surviving somewhere. It would probably get pretty boring if a TV series only had one character for its entire duration, so we can't fault The Last Man On Earth a lot for not sticking to its title, but it didn't even make it past the pilot before breaking its initial premise! By the end of the first episode, Phil is no longer alone because he meets a woman named Carol, and she wants to repopulate the Earth with him.
At least Phil was still the only man around, though, so the title wasn't quite wrong. Then just a couple episodes later more male characters, like Todd, start showing up and the first season devotes a lot to who will be pairing with who to repopulate the Earth.
Being the last man on Earth doesn't sound as dramatic when it only lasts for like five episodes. The show's actual premise still makes for a funny comedy, but some critics couldn't help pointing out that the original idea of the show was more intriguing than what the creators apparently were looking to do instead.
Smallville was a pretty unique take on the Superman mythos since it was all about Clark Kent before he became Superman. The movies typically either quickly gloss over this portion of Clark's life, or else just use it as a jumping off point for Clark's inevitable alter ego. The idea that Clark's early life on the Kent farm could have actually been pretty interesting in its own right made the show pretty fresh.
The obvious stopping point for Smallville was when Clark was on the cusp of taking on his superhero identity and leaving his teenage days behind. The show actually went pretty far beyond that point, though, with Clark being Superman in all but name for a good while.
In the show's later seasons he was already interacting with fellow heroes Green Arrow, Doctor Fate, and others. Plus the setting of Smallville the town was left behind for the city of Metropolis. Clark did battle with Brainiac, General Zod, the Suicide Squad, and even Darkseid.
It made for interesting TV and everything, but the name Smallville was pretty outdated by that point. In the show's later years they may as well have just straight up switched to calling it Superman since the creators clearly wanted to get into Clark's alter ego by that point.
4 TWO AND A HALF MEN
Two and a Half Men didn’t initially sound like a title that would be too specific for the show. The only requirement for the title to work is that there are three characters, two of whom have to be men and one who is a boy maturing into a grown man. That sounds like an easy enough standard to stick to, and for the majority of the series the title does work. Then the sequence of events involving Charlie Sheen happened.
Two and a Half Men lost one of its men when Sheen’s public persona became more erratic, and he got involved in a pretty public dispute with people involved in the show. The gist of it was that Sheen was gone from the show, so to keep the title accurate they brought in Ahston Kutcher.
Angus T. Jones was already on the verge of making the title inaccurate again just due to his being on the cusp of adulthood, which would have simply made it a show about three men. But then Jones left too, citing his religious beliefs, so the show was down half a man now. At this point it seemed like the show’s team gave up on the premise of the title and just finished the series without trying to force their outdated title to work anymore.
3 LAVERNE & SHIRLEY
We've talked about shows like Two and a Half Men, which seemed to have an advantage in not being overly specific with the title. That allowed that show to at least try and salvage the title by bringing in other characters to fit the title. But that kind of strategy doesn't really work in a show named after the characters, like with Laverne & Shirley. So in season eight, when the actress playing Shirley left the show for good, two episodes into the season, it made for a very awkward transition period.
The rest of the season played out using only Laverne in the episodes, while Shirley was written out as having gone to live with her husband who she had quickly married in the season's first two episodes. What made the situation even more bizarre is that the network was initially thinking of renewing the show for a ninth season anyway. It didn't pan out, but who knows if they were planning to actually remove Shirley's name from the title. It's just a weird situation since the title Laverne & Shirley had name value, but if they kept it then they would've had a title constantly reminding everyone that one of the main characters was gone and never coming back.
2 SABRINA THE TEENAGE WITCH
Everyone knows that it is pretty common for adults to wind up playing teenagers on screen. Finding talented teenagers can be hard, and with adults, you don't have to worry about them juggling their acting career with school. It probably doesn't come across as too much of a shock that when Melissa Joan Hart signed on to play the role of Sabrina Spellman, she wasn't actually a teenager when the show debuted. In fact, Sabrina the Teenage Witch premiered in September of 1996, while Hart was born in April of 1976. So that means she turned twenty just five months before the show aired.
It wasn't just Hart not being a teenager in real life that gave the title of the show a short shelf life, though. Sabrina's story begins when she discovers her powers on her sixteenth birthday, meaning even in the show they only had four years before the title became outdated. And since the show lasted seven seasons, that obviously didn't work out so great.
By the end of the series Sabrina was in college and planning her wedding, while Hart would have been in her late twenties. Sabrina the Young Adult Witch doesn't really have the same ring to it, though.
1 TWO GUYS, A GIRL, AND A PIZZA PLACE
Besides this title being a mouthful to say every time you want to talk about the show, Two Guys, a Girl, and a Pizza Place had another problem—halfway through the series the creators decided they wanted to ditch the setting of the pizza place. This show was an interesting case of the title getting screwed up since the creators actually reacted to the change instead of pretending nothing had happened. After the second season they shortened the title to the much blander (yet quicker to say) Two Guys and a Girl.
The show's ratings did wind up taking a nose dive and led to the series being canceled after four seasons, but we doubt that was due to the name change. We can't imagine the demographic who watched just for the pizza place was very big, after all. Still, it was nice to see a show acknowledge their title needed to be tweaked instead of leaving it as an awkward reminder of things that had changed
What other TV shows can you think of that outgrew their titles? Tell us your picks in the comments!
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