No matter their level of experience, titles are difficult for many writers. A strong title may persuade someone to read substandard material, whereas a weak title may cause the same person to overlook outstanding content. But selecting a quality title is not an exact science. Some TV programme names stray too far from the show's subject matter, while others don't stray far enough or at all.
Shakespeare questioned, "What's in a name?," and on television, the answer is "a lot." The Knights of Prosperity, Better Off Ted, and Don't Trust The B in Apt. 23 are just a few examples of good sitcoms that were killed off by unappealing titles. However, a show's chances aren't always doomed by a poor title. Who would have imagined That 70s Show, a sitcom, would survive past the first week, much less get two spinoffs? Before becoming a big phenomenon, Grey's Anatomy was initially called Surgeons. Simply put, it depends on the type of viewership a TV show is seeking to attract.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer's moniker is no funnier than Better Off Ted. But Buffy—the movie, the television programme, and the comic books—existed in a world of exaggerated, outrageous characters like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles that drew in the younger audiences those shows were looking for. The target audience for Better Off Ted was adults. The title failed to pique the interest of that audience because it was too trite, silly, and meaningless. Don't Trust The B in Apartment 23 had a title that was too lengthy and suggested that the show's writers intended to create a cable show but were constrained by broadcast standards and procedures. Given that it only lasted two seasons, this gave the impression to the spectator that they were receiving a watered-down version.
Several recent series have names that may use some improvement. Reboot on Hulu is a comedy about rebooting a sitcom, and Life by Ella on Apple TV+ follows a 13-year-old girl as she fights cancer and faces her anxieties. Lopez vs. Lopez on NBC, which isn't really a legal drama, feels like a remake of George Lopez's ABC sitcom, except that this time his real daughter is playing his TV daughter. Their ambiguous titles are ineffective given the current state of the content market, which pits them against platforms like Twitch, Instagram, and YouTube in addition to networks, cable, and streaming. More people watch Ninja on YouTube than many TV programmes, with 23.8 million subscribers.
People do judge a book by its cover, just as they do with a television programme. Some authors start with a fantastic title, but most TV producers employ a working title that will be changed after the series is developed. Of course, the network must approve the working title. It's important to find the ideal description for the programme, one that conveys its main themes without being overly restrictive. If it's a sitcom, the title can be humorous, but it's preferable if it serves as a description rather than a question that the audience must ask before moving on to one of the many other alternatives.
Although a series can survive a bad title (like the long-running sitcom Cougar Town), most end up in the trash can of television history, never to have their cast receive a standing ovation while taking the stage at the Paley Center for Media. Being straightforward and specific while also being creative is a real skill. For every immensely popular sitcom like Friends, there is also a TV series called Traffic Light that few people are aware of.