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The Best TV Show Names

Names are important. In many respects, a name defines what you are; it leaves an impression, for better or for worse. A name can be mysterious and intriguing, compelling people to discover more (see: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind). Others can be so ridiculous that they turn people off completely (see: Thirty Odd Foot of Grunts).

Pondering this, I began to wonder what the most intriguing television show names were. After much agonising, I realised that they were very few and far between. Much more so than movies, TV show names are just plain boring. They tend to be overly simplistic and very literal. Sitcoms in particular are the worst purveyors of this, with Friends, Two Guys and a Girl, and Married with Children being notable examples. However, dramas are not immune to this trend either, as ER, Lost and Heroes exemplify. The other great tendency of shows of any genre is to name the programme after the central character or location, which clearly outlines the main focus of the show, but does not really scintillate the viewer in any way.

There is nothing wrong with this method of naming per se, but it does little to alleviate the image that television is the dumb little brother of film. Despite this, there is the occasional show that breaks the naming mould. Some of them seem simplistic on the surface, but closer inspection reveals underlying cleverness.

Drawn Together
Drawn Together
Drawn Together*

Drawn Together is a name that works on several levels. Firstly, being an animated show, a reference to drawn is quite fitting, although abnormally literal. Secondly, the characters within the show are self-aware and know that they are animated, which gives the title a Meta quality. Finally, the programme is a spoof of the reality format, so a reference to these mismatched souls being drawn together into a Big Brother style house results in a title that couldn’t be more apt.

Queer As Folk
Queer As Folk
Queer As Folk*

This show derives its title from a Northern English saying, ‘There’s nought so queer as folk,’ which means there is nothing as strange as people. Queer, of course, is often used now in the gay community as a term of self-identification; ownership of a word used to label them as oddities. There’s nought so queer as folk – though the actions of both sides can seem equally strange to the other.


Spaced
Spaced
Spaced*

Spaced works because of the word’s ambiguity, so it is not immediately clear to the viewer what the show is about. It actually is descriptive on two levels – firstly because it refers to the apartment space that Tim and Daisy share; secondly because it alludes to the stoner culture in which the pair belong. The writing of this programme was sharp, intelligent and witty, and in direct opposition to the sense of stupor invoked by the title.


Spin City
Spin CIty
Spin City*

As far as sitcom names go, Spin City is certainly one of the superior ones. It manages to capture the nature of the show without being literally descriptive – ‘city’ encompasses the local government setting, while ‘spin’ covers the excuses and lies involved in the protagonist’s job. The two terms together manage to outline the pervasiveness of the spin culture within government.


Carnivŕle
Carnivale
Carnivale*

If this show had simply been called Carnival, I wouldn’t be writing this entry. The unusual spelling was perfect for this unusual show – it has a sense of mystery, and even an old-world magic and enchantment.


Japanese Anime
Cowboy Bebop
Cowboy Bebop*

In general, the Japanese seem far more open to creativity when naming their anime shows. This can mean titles that verge on the absurd, such as Bubblegum Crisis Tokyo 2040. However, it often results in interesting, evocative and attention-grabbing names, such as Cowboy Bebop, Ergo Proxy and Ghost in the Shell.


So this is my list of the best names of TV shows, although it is probably apparent that I have a fondness for titles that have double meanings. To the readers out there, what other TV show titles grab you? What is in a name?

*Images courtesy of Wikipedia, and used under Fair Dealing for identification, critical commentary, and to illustrate the subject in question.


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Comments
17 Comments. [ Add A Comment ]
1. August 23rd 2007 @ 01:49. James Rickard Says:
It was hard to pass up a title like Miami Vice!
2. August 23rd 2007 @ 02:27. Nina Says:
That is a good one, James. Most of the shows I mentioned are relatively recent, so I would be interested to hear about some more older shows with good names.
3. August 23rd 2007 @ 05:22. Chic Critique Says:
Speaking of double meanings - what about Full House the show that launched the ultra famous Olsen twins? That show totally sucked though, so the title is not really that important I guess!

While it's a title about the main character, which as you mentioned earlier is a bit of a cop out, I just LOVED the title of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Although it does give a cartoony sound to a show that ended up being so much more than that.

Cheers
CC
4. August 23rd 2007 @ 06:12. KylieW Says:
Hiya Nina,

Great post. And you've chosen some good titles in there. You're right though, most titles I can think of are so obvious.

The only others I can think of that are at least a little clever are:

- Stand Off - I love that show, and the idea of a show about negotiators with a name that essentially means you're at an impasse.

- Alias - was kind of a quirky name for a show about spies.

-Numbers - It doesn't really tell you much about the show. And from the title you'd never guess it was a show about the FBI and using maths to solve crimes.

But most tv show names are, sadly, lacking in any kind of creativity.

Good to see you round!

Kylie
5. August 23rd 2007 @ 06:49. Nina Says:
Chic Critique, I was actually going to use Buffy on the list, but decided not to because it was originally a movie title. I love it because it is incredibly campy, and in stark contrast to the the darkness of the show itself.
6. August 23rd 2007 @ 06:51. Nina Says:
Kylie, Alias was another title that I was considering using. It really does sum up beautifully the nature of spy work (not to mention Sydney's endless line up of wigs).

It's great to see you again too.

Nina
7. August 23rd 2007 @ 08:12. DuskDevi Says:
Hiya Nina my pretty TV Babble-ina...

Ooooh...I like this memory game!...love this post!
I totally agree with you re 'Spin City'...very clever.
And 'Alias'.
And 'Buffy...' but yes it was a movie first.

Hmmm...okay...

Wasn't a fan of the show but...'Dukes of Hazzard' is very clever, combining names with description.

'Hawaii 5-0'...5-O being law and order in paradise.

'Knight Rider'...Michael Knight and K.I.T.T. through the...um...night.

Now I'm really showing my age...there was this American show called 'The Misadventures of Sheriff Lobo'...

'Hart to Hart'.

'Spicks and Specks'

'Enough Rope'...love this one...

...'Grey's Anatomy' as a title is pretty damn good...


Will be back when I think of more.

Hope you are well Ninabelle...I've missed you!

Dusk



Others can be so ridiculous that they turn people off completely (see: Thirty Odd Foot of Grunts).
...I think it's just...Rusty...
8. August 23rd 2007 @ 08:27. Nina Says:
Dusk,

I can't believe I forgot Enough Rope! It is truly one of the best and most fitting names ever created for a talk show.
There are some other great picks there too.

I've missed you too, Dusk. It's lovely 'seeing' you again.

Nina
9. August 23rd 2007 @ 10:05. Tracy Says:
Hellooo

I thought of Sex and the City because I'm watching it while I type.

Byeee
10. August 23rd 2007 @ 23:36. Nina Says:
Hi Tracy. Sex and the City certainly has an different quality to it than many shows of a similar ilk. Enjoy watching the show
11. August 24th 2007 @ 01:44. JohnDoe Says:
Fun choice of topic, a few that sprang to mind for me-

Dead Like Me
Get Smart
Over There
Arrested Development
The Twilight Zone
Night Stalker
Maverick
Deadwood
Moonlighting
Mission Impossible
The Avengers
The X Files
12. August 24th 2007 @ 09:00. Nina Says:
That's a fantastic list, JohnDoe. It's a great mix of classic shows, as well as some newer ones.
13. August 24th 2007 @ 12:55. Stanley Says:
i so have an unhealthy obsession with drawn together. that show makes me laugh so hard that the building vibrates.

great post btw.
14. August 24th 2007 @ 23:34. Nina Says:
Thanks Stanley. I've only recently discovered Drawn Together, and although it is strange, it can be hilarious!
15. July 12th 2008 @ 01:15. Roxy Says:
My friends and I are making our own T.V show, but we're still thinking of a name. And we know it has to be good. The show is pretty much about teenagers finding love in the summertime. RIght now we're using "Summer Life", but I know it could be so much better. Any ideas?

ps. the show is coming to youtube soon
16. January 27th 2010 @ 04:20. Destiny Says:
Your text goes here Can any of you think of new names? I have an idea for a tv show but i cant find the right name. If you wonder what its about lets just say it has a lot to do with the paranormal and the supernatural.
17. January 27th 2010 @ 04:26. Destiny Says:
And roxy how about Passion Fruit. Summer is just after spring so theres flowers all around and it ties in slightly with the plot but not to much so as to ruin the effect.Your text goes here

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