10 TV Shows That Changed Titles to Boost Ratings

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Like a book, an article, or a movie, a TV show needs a good title to grab the attention of any random viewer. However, coming up with the right words is not always easy. There are thus a few cases of shows that started with weak titles and got poor ratings as a result. The original phrasing didn’t explain what the show was all about, either because it was too brief, too long, or too complicated, turning off fans in the process. There are also cases of titles changing to reflect the change in tone or a new plot direction.

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In many of these small-screen projects, the networks and creators decided to substitute words with new ones or add a couple of new nouns, verbs, or adjectives. Others went the trimming route, leaving only one word. For some shows, such a decision was a stroke of genius, while for others, it didn’t change anything. Whatever the outcome, fans can appreciate the effort made to make the titles catchier.

10 Pennyworth: The Origins of Batman’s Butler (2019-2022)

Original Title: Pennyworth

Pennyworth
Pennyworth

Release Date
July 28, 2019

Cast
Jack Bannon , Ben Aldridge

Rating
TV-MA

Seasons
3

Pennyworth: The Origins of Batman’s Butler was a three-season-long background story of Bruce Wayne’s iconic butler, Alfred Pennyworth. The show traced his journey from his time as an SAS agent in Britain to his friendship with Bruce’s father, Thomas Wayne. The series, therefore, played out like many popular spy and conspiracy shows rather than a superhero show.

The Outcome of the Title Change

Putting the word “Batman” in the title was wise because even non-comic fans know the superhero. However, the use of the word “Pennyworth” rather than “Alfred” was a mistake. The butler is rarely addressed by his second name in any comic or adaptation, so many potential viewers might have been confused as to who or what Pennyworth was. Consequently, the name change didn’t benefit the show. After the third season, it was canceled, bringing an end to a story that might set up a great Batman sequel. Stream on Max

9 Two Guys and a Girl (1998-2001)

Original Title: Two Guys and a Pizza Place

Two Guys and a Girl followed three 20-something friends — Berg (Ryan Reynolds), Pete (Richard Ruccolo), and Sharon (Traylor Howard) — who shared an apartment in Boston. In the first two seasons, the guys worked at a pizza place while Sharon was a student. Sharon then became a corporate spokesperson in the third season.

The Outcome of the Title Change

The title change made sense because Berg and Pete were no longer working at a pizza place in Season 3. To grant them proper character development, the showrunner felt they needed to pursue new dreams. The original title was faulty, too, because it didn’t acknowledge Sharon’s existence. Still, as flawed as it was, the title Two Guys and a Pizza Place was catchier than Two Guys and a Girl. After the change, ratings tanked, leading to a cancelation after Season 4. Rent on Prime Video

8 The Hogan Family (1986-1991)

Original Title: Valery

The Hogan Family was initially about a working mom named Valery. The plot mainly revolved around her career and her frustrations about having to raise three boys alone because her husband was an airline pilot. Valery was eventually killed off the show and replaced by the boys’ aunt, necessitating a name change.

The Outcome of the Title Change

This particular title tweak was motivated by behind-the-scenes decisions rather than a thirst for ratings. Star Valerie Harper had gotten into a pay dispute with the studio, so she ended up getting fired. As sad as the situation was, the show’s quality wasn’t affected. New stars emerged and today, The Hogan Family is remembered more for being one Jason Bateman’s best shows, rather than a Valerie Harper show. Rent on Prime Video

7 NCIS (2003-Present)

Original Title: Navy NCIS

ncis
NCIS

Release Date
September 23, 2003
Cast
Mark Harmon , sean murray , Wilmer Valderrama , david mccallum , Rocky Carroll , Brian Dietzen

Seasons
17

From the outside, military personnel seem like the most disciplined (or safe) individuals out there, but NCIS has proved otherwise. The show centers around the Naval Criminal Investigative Service’s investigations of crimes involving members of the US Marine Corps and the US Navy (either as victims or perpetrators). A spinoff of JAG, the long-running series was briefly known as Navy NCIS before the title was shortened to NCIS.

The Outcome of the Title Change

The change was justified because Navy NCIS was a grammatically wrong title. Because “NCIS” stands for Naval Criminal Investigative Services, it was a mistake to also include “Navy.” After the change, the network executives might have been worried about viewers not knowing what NCIS was (the reason “Navy” had been included in the first place), but things worked out just fine. Today, it’s considered one of the essential shows about military personnel and has gone on to birth numerous spinoffs. Stream on Paramount+

Related: NCIS: Every Main Character Who Left the Show (& Why)

6 Seinfeld (1989-1998)

Original Title: The Seinfeld Chronicles

seinfeld
Seinfeld

Release Date
July 5, 1989

Seasons
9

Described as “a show about nothing,” Seinfeld focused on a fictional version of comedian Jerry Seinfeld as he dealt with life’s mundane aspects and interacted with his three friends; Costanza, Elain, and Kramer. The sitcom — now regarded as one of the best in its genre — got off to a rough start, with test audiences reacting poorly to it, and NBC almost shelving it completely.

The Outcome of the Title Change

The main reason why the title was changed was to avoid comparisons to ABC’s The Marshall Chronicles. Seinfeld later proved to be the stronger show, but the network didn’t want to take any chances, so they opted to only go with a single noun. The Marshall Chronicles was canceled after a single season, while Seinfeld lasted for nine, proving that the decision had been a wise one. Stream on Netflix

5 Ellen (1994-1998)

Original Title: These Friends of Mine

Ellen
Ellen

Release Date
March 29, 1994

Seasons
5

Before Ellen DeGeneres became one of the world’s most successful talk show hosts, she was a sitcom star. The celebrity played a bookstore owner named Ellen Morgan in Ellen, a show that was originally known as These Friends of Mine. Ellen’s character was also a member of the LGBTQ+ community, something that generated controversy at the time, but proved to be ahead of its time and is now widely appreciated for opening doors for representation on mainstream television.

The Outcome of the Title Change

The show’s producers were afraid that the sitcom’s ratings would suffer because people would confuse These Friends of Mine with NBC’s Friends. The title was, therefore, changed beginning with the second season. Whether this was a good or bad decision is debatable. Ellen’s ratings improved, enabling it to stretch until Season 5, but it has generally fallen into obscurity, mainly because the title is too similar to the star’s more successful talk show. So, the fix worked short-term, but proved costly in the long run. Buy on Prime Video

4 Parker Lewis (1990-1993)

Original Title: Parker Lewis Can’t Lose

parker lewis can't lose
parker lewis can’t lose

Release Date
September 2, 1990

Cast
Corin Nemec , Billy Jayne , Abraham Benrubi , Timothy Stack , Maia Brewton , Anne Bloom , Gerrit Graham , John Pinette

Seasons
3

Originally known as Parker Lewis Can’t Lose, Parker Lewis followed the optimistic titular character and his friends as they strove to be seen as cool in their high school. On many occasions, their fun was ruined by Parker’s sister, Shelly, and the school principal. The episodes had a cartoon-like quality and were full of pop culture references.

The Outcome of the Title Change

By the third season, the writers had opted for serious storylines, and Parker was no longer the cartoonish character audiences had known him to be. He was no longer trying too hard to prove himself either. This prompted the network to trim the title. Unfortunately, fans weren’t too happy about the change and ratings tanked. Consequently, the show wasn’t renewed for an extra season as had been anticipated. Rent on Prime Video

Related: 10 Best TV Shows About Being a Teenager

3 Saved By the Bell (1989-1992)

Original Title: Good Morning Miss Bliss

Saved By the Bell was about the experiences of high school buddies and their eccentric principal at Bayside High School in Los Angeles. Though it had a light-hearted approach to everything, the sitcom covered serious topics such as drug addiction, alcoholism, homelessness, feminism, and environmental conservation.

The Outcome of the Title Change

Initially, the focus was on the teacher, Miss Bliss, but this eventually changed, with most of the storylines now centering around the teenagers. To reflect the new direction, they switched to a new title, and it worked out for the better. The new format birthed four more seasons and spawned two equally popular spinoffs: Saved by the Bell: The College Years and Saved by the Bell: The New Class, as well as two TV movies, Saved by the Bell: Hawaiian Style and Saved by the Bell: Wedding in Las Vegas. Stream on Spectrum

2 Saturday Night Live (1975-Present)

Original Title: NBC’s Saturday Night

Saturday Night Live needs no introduction. It is widely known as one of the greatest sketch shows of all time, thanks to its marvelous monologues and skits. The long-running series has also built a reputation as the birthing ground for many of the entertainment industry’s popular comedians. Today, it remains one of the most-watched shows in America.

The Outcome of the Title Change

Viewers don’t care about networks, so NBC’s Saturday Night was never going to work. Still, that wasn’t the main reason for the change. NBC had named the sketch series that way to avoid confusion with ABC’s Saturday Night Live with Howard Cosell. Thankfully, an opening came up once again when the ABC show was canceled. NBC jumped on the chance and the rest is history. Stream on Peacock

1 Little House: A New Beginning (1975-1983)

Original Title: Little House on the Prairie

Little House: A New Beginning was about the misadventures of a family living on a farm in Plum Creek, Minnesota, in the late-1800s. The sitcom was adapted from the Little House series of children’s novels by Laura Ingalls Wilder. For a ‘70s TV show, it was considered progressive, given the way it dissected themes like prejudice and classism.

The Outcome of the Title Change

The show’s case is a rare one because the title change didn’t happen until the final season. The tweak was influenced by the departure of star Michael Landon, who was widely thought of as the glue that held everything together. Rather than end things, the producers opted to tell a new story and focus on a new family. Regrettably, fans didn’t like it. Ratings tanked, causing NBC to cancel it. Stream on Peacock

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