Monday, April 16, 2007

TV Pilots and Titles: A Show By Any Other Name...?

Last Thursday, I spent the evening watching reruns of Across the Hall and The Gilmore Way before settling in for the new special catch-up of Complications.

Yeah, not really.

Before their pilots aired, these shows were retitled in the eleventh hour to become what we now know as Friends, Gilmore Girls, and Grey’s Anatomy, respectively.

All I can say is thank God.

What’s in a name? When it comes to television, a lot.

Grey’s Anatomy is brilliant little piece of wordplay on the title of the world-famous reference book Gray’s Anatomy. From the title, you can infer two things—sex and medicine. As a fan of the show, I can say that such an inference would be extremely accurate. Grey’s Anatomy probably has more sex than any other show I’ve ever watched. I wouldn’t be surprised to see just about any two of those characters hook up. The actors just ooze sex, to the point where everyone has sexual chemistry and tension with everyone else.

And while you can’t get all that from a title, Grey’s Anatomy comes an awful lot closer to conveying that than Complications, or the maybe-even-worse Surgeons, another almost-title.

Maybe it’s because I’ve gotten so attached to Grey’s, but I cannot imagine talking about Surgeons with Mae. (Can’t imagine talking about anything with Mae these days, since she’s become a workaholic and hasn’t returned my phone calls in a week and a half!)

Mae and I are both quite excited about the Michael Vartan/Dylan McDermott pilot. We don’t know a whole lot about it, only that our favorite dreamboat is headlining.

Let's face it, I would watch Complications if it had Michael Vartan in it.

Until recently, this new level of television sexitude was titled Boardrooms and Bedrooms.

Talk about a mouthful. I can barely get that phrase out of my mouth without tripping on it or getting bored by the sound of my own voice and just stopping mid-utterance. I mean, can you really picture standing around the watercooler saying, “Can you believe what happened on Boardrooms and Bedrooms last night?”

Boardrooms and Bedrooms is the equivalent of calling Grey’s Anatomy Sex and Medicine.

Get creative, executives! A sloppy title is usually indicative of a sloppy show. There’s a laziness and lack of confidence inherent in a poor title. You slap something stupid on a pilot, and it looks like you just didn’t care enough to give it a proper title. And if you, the creator, don’t care enough, then why should I?

Michael Vartan’s show has been renamed Perfect Gentleman, which I am much more pleased with. It seems a little more romantic comedy-esque, a little less dirty-sex-with-coworkers. I haven’t spoken to Mae about it, because, you know, she’s been on business travel for what feels like years, but I’d imagine she’s happier with this, too.

I’m still torn about the title of the Addison Montgomery spinoff, Private Practice. This title has grown on me since I heard about it a few weeks ago, but I’m still not crazy about it. Truth be told, it’s kinda boring. There’s nothing sexy about that title, unless you want to find some sort of sick double-meaning to the word “private.” I don’t think it’s there.

If you really want to upset me with a title, do what David Duchovny did and title your new show Californication. It makes me feel dirty just talking about it—I hate it. Sure, your show is on Showtime, but that doesn’t mean you have to push the envelope as far as you possibly can. (Check back here in the next few days for a blog on why I really dislike pay cable.)

Californication is like what would happen if Grey’s Anatomy was called Dark and Twisty Slutty Mistresses.

It’s so gross, David Duchovny.

I mean, you wouldn’t talk about this show around the watercooler, because you wouldn’t want your boss to overhear you say such a nasty word. Seriously.

I’d rather watch Untitled David Duchovny Project.

Let’s not kid ourselves, I’ll be watching it, because it’s going to be on after Weeds, and because it stars the man who was Foxy long before Party of Five introduced me to Matthew Fox. But I am not going to talk to my mom about it after it airs.

And not just because I was embarrassed that I kept watching The X-Files until the end, even though she stopped watching after season six.

Because I hate that slutty title.

Titles mean everything. They can be the difference between hit and flop, so naming a show should be a huge priority of pilot-sellers. So here’s hoping next season’s pilots get it right and remove dirty words from our TV Guide vocabulary.

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