The success or failure of a television show depends on a lot of things, but often it’s the title of the show that makes the first impression. A great title can catch an audience’s interest without giving away too much, like Breaking Bad. A bad name can almost ruin a pilot episode’s chances of ever being picked up. Look no further than $h*t My Dad Says, a sitcom starring William Shatner, as an example of a terribly named show that was canned after just 18 episodes, despite being generally well-liked by critics.
Luckily for the shows on this list, some genius writer or network executive decided that their originally planned names were no good, and in need of a change. Would the success of Seinfeld or That 70s Show be any different if they had stuck with their original names? Who knows for sure. One thing is certain though: these original name all suck.
12. Good Morning, Miss Bliss
The one thing everyone can remember about Saved by the Bell was the catchy theme song, with the title phrase literally repeated over and over in the chorus. But not only did the show originally have a different name at one point, an entire season of episodes was made under the title Good Morning, Miss Bliss. It featured mostly the same cast of students (Zack Morris, Lisa Turtle, and Screech Powers were all present), but was set at John F. Kennedy Junior High in Indianapolis. That’s a long way from Bayside High School in sunny California, which is where Saved by the Bell took place.
Good Morning, Miss Bliss aired on the Disney channel for just a single season before being cancelled. The rights were purchased by NBC, who repackaged the series as the classic high school comedy we all love and remember.
11. The Seinfeld Chronicles
Sure, this might only seem like a minor change. But shortening The Seinfeld Chronicles to the much simpler and cleaner Seinfeld actually makes a big difference. Maybe it’s just us, but most people associate the word “chronicles” with epic sci-fi or fantasy stories. Think The Chronicles of Narnia or The Chronicles of Riddick. Not the mundane stories of a stand-up comedian and his quirky friends.
For a show about nothing, it’s much better for the name of it to be equally bland and shallow. It’s not the The Jerry Seinfeld Show or Jerry Seinfeld and Friends. It’s definitely not The Seinfield Chroncicles. Smartly, they decided on a simple yet effective name after the original pilot aired, for a simple yet hilarious show.
10. Alexis Texas
When Disney wanted to cast a teenage Miley Cyrus in a musical comedy series for kids, it was decided that the lead character would have a catchy, rhyming name that included an American state. Although they would eventually choose Hannah Montana, it wasn’t their first choice.
The working title for the show was originally Alexis Texas. Thankfully someone bothered to do a quick Google search before they ran with that title and ended up with a giant scandal on their hand. You see, Alexis Texas happens to be the stage name of Thea Samper, an award-winning adult film star (yes, they give out awards for porn movies). That would have led to a lot of confused pre-teens ending up with strange search results on the internet (and probably a lawsuit or two).
9. That Raymond Guy
We feel like they weren’t even trying with this original name for Everybody Loves Raymond. Seriously, CBS? That Raymond Guy? What an awful idea. It’s just so lazy. We can just imagine the meeting room where the decision was made:
TV Exec #1: “We have a new sitcom that needs a name. It stars Ray Romano.”
TV Exec #2: “What’s the lead character’s name?”
TV Exec #1: “Also Ray.”
TV Exec #2: “Hmm… so we’ll call the show That Raymond Guy?”
TV Exec #1: “That works for me. Let’s go get sushi!”
Eventually, that name got scrapped in favor of the more colorful Everybody Loves Raymond. The show ran for nine seasons and over 200 episodes, being nominated for 69 Primetime Emmy Awards (winning 15) and 21 Screen Actors Guild Awards (winning one) along the way.
8. NBC’s Saturday Night
Saturday Night Live has been a comedy institution on NBC for over 40 years now. Despite the ups and downs in overall quality as cast members come and go (and improve on the job), everyone knows that Saturday night is “LIVE FROM NEW YORK!” Ironically, the original name for this legendary sketch comedy show had no mention of the live aspect of the show at all. Just before NBC’s show aired its first episode, rival network ABC launched a similar show called Saturday Night Live with Howard Cosell. To avoid any confusion, NBC slapped their name in front of their version, calling it NBC’s Saturday Night.
When Cosell’s version of the show was cancelled after just a single season, NBC renamed their show Saturday Night Live to focus on the live television aspect. The rest, as they say, is history.
7. Leave The Bastard (and others)
The Good Wife was an excellent legal and political drama that aired for seven seasons on CBS. The show starred Julianna Margulies as Alicia Florrick, the wife of a disgraced politician who resumes her legal career when her husband resigns and is sent to prison in the wake of a sex and corruption scandal.
When co-creators Robert and Michelle King were pitching the show to networks, they hadn’t settled on an official name. As they were shooting the pilot, some of the names thrown around were The Whole Truth, Scandalized, and In The Spotlight. David Zucker, the president of Scott Free Productions who helped produce the show, pushed hard for the name Leave The Bastard. While it was edgy, CBS eventually decided on something more advertiser friendly.
6. Teenage Wasteland
Before the kids from That 70s Show gathered in the Foreman basement for the first time, the producers had a number of much more clever names in mind. The most prominent was Teenage Wasteland, the alternate title for the classic song “Baba O’Riley” by The Who. Unfortunately, the band refused to grant their permission (or wanted too much money). That meant Fox has to change their plans.
A bunch of other names were thrown around, including Feelin’ All Right. Eventually, they decided that the general public would probably just say to their friends, “Hey, have you been watching that 70s show?” So they figured they may as well jump the line and just use that as the official title. It worked, since That 70s Show ran for eight seasons, 200 episodes, and launched the careers of all the main stars of the show.
The original Buffy the Vampire Slayer movie was more of a comedy than a drama, with the lead character being a Valley girl cheerleader who hunts vampires. However, that’s not what writer Joss Weadon had it mind. Five years after the movie was released, he brought the Buffy franchise back to life as a TV series starring Sarah Michelle Gellar.
While the show was still in the pre-production stages, some studio execs felt that they wanted to make sure the audience would know that the TV series would be drastically different from the movie — less comedy, more drama, and a generally darker tone. The shortened name Slayer was suggested, and actually has the support of a few important people. In the end, though, it was decided to keep the original title with the slayer’s name included. It proved to be a great choice, since the show even became casually known by fans as just Buffy.
When you boil it all down, almost every main character from It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia is a complete prick. Despite being friends (we think), the gang that runs Paddy’s Pub are a bunch of terrible human beings. They have varying levels of dishonesty, greed, huge egos, selfishness, laziness, and generally act with ignorant and unethical behavior. Simply put, they are a bunch of jerks. Which is why the show was originally titled Jerks.
Later, the name was changed. According to producer Glen Howerton, the inspiration for the new title was the A-ha song “The Sun Always Shines on TV.” The original pilot episode was titled “It’s Always Sunny on TV,” and when the series was pisetting was changed from New York to Philadelphia, the name of the show changed again to incorporate the city.
3. Family Guy
Tony Soprano was a deeply complicated character. Unlike mob movies of the past, which focused mostly a character’s criminal activities, HBO’s The Sopranos was a huge success by showing how Tony (James Gandolfini) struggled to balance his real-life family with his chosen criminal family. The critically acclaimed show is often named as one of the best drama series in television history, but it didn’t always have it’s simple (but effective) name.
In keeping with the family theme mentioned above, the show was originally going to be called Family Guy. Unfortunately, HBO would soon discover that Fox had green lit an animated comedy by Seth MacFarlene with the same name. The real Family Guy would end up a huge hit in its own right, and HBO simply changed the name of their new mafia series to The Sopranos, which actually worked much better.
Lost was one of television’s greatest mysteries, even if the eventual ending left fans feeling empty and divided. But for six seasons, Lost captured the attention of millions of fans with its tale of a mysterious plane crash, smoke monsters, and dramatic character backstories. The original script for the pilot episode was written by Jeffrey Leiber, and the show was called Nowhere. But Lloyd Braun, the head of ABC at the time, didn’t like it. He ordered a new script from J.J. Abrams and demanded the show be re-named Lost.
Leiber was unhappy with the change and actually had to request an arbitration hearing from the Writers Guild of America in order to receive “Created By” credits for the show. It’s hard to argue with the results, though, as Lost became a television sensation when it debuted in 2004. Would it have had the same success under the Nowhere name?
1. Lenny, Penny and Kenny
“The Big Bang Theory is a show about smart people made for dumb people.” We can’t remember where we first heard that statement, but we maintain that it’s still true to this day — the show really isn’t that funny. Maybe that explains why it’s been so damn successful all these years, as the average TV-watching schmo thinks Sheldon screaming “BAZINGA!” with a laugh track blaring is some hilarious stuff. Anyway, we’ll stop being so pretentious about our hatred for this show now, and get to the point.
When The Big Bang Theory was still in development, the planned title was Lenny, Penny, and Kenny. That’s just boring. Also, it sounded a little too close to Kenny vs. Spenny, a Canadian comedy show that had already been on the air for a few years when TBBT debuted. It brings up an interesting question thought — who the hell is Kenny? Was Sheldon’s character renamed at the last minute? We admit that The Big Bang Theory is much better title that the original one, but it didn’t help the quality of the show, which still sucks.