Fall TV Survey: 17 Showrunners Reveal How They Chose Their Show's Title

6:00 AM 9/19/2016

by Bryn Elise Sandberg, Kate Stanhope, and Lesley Goldberg

Mike Schur, Jason Katims, Shawn Ryan and others share the stories behind how they named their series.

NBC's "This Is Us"
NBC's "This Is Us"
Ron Batzdorff/NBC

Ahead of the fall television season's debut, The Hollywood Reporter surveyed a number of this year's top showrunners about their new series, making content in 2016 and the state of broadcast TV.

Below, Mike Schur, Jason Katims, Shawn Ryan and other small screen vets share how they settled on their show's title.

  • Dan Fogelman

    'This Is Us' (NBC) and 'Pitch' (Fox)

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    "This Is Us was originally called 36, which is the age all the characters on the show are turning. I knew I didn't love 36 — it felt like thirtysomething, but I put it on the title page since I was sick of doing 'untitled Dan Fogelman.' At a certain point, it was a lyrical thing: I liked how This Is Us sounded and started thinking of the campaign: 'This is love, this is happiness, this is reality.' NBC was cool and went with it. For Pitch, I never had a title in mind. It was a communal effort with Fox and we wanted a title that said baseball but didn't alienate non-baseball fans. By the time we approached Major League Baseball, we had Pitch."

  • Liz Friedman

    Conviction (ABC)

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    "My partner, Liz Friedlander, came up with it. We thought it was great because we're looking at these convictions to see if they hold merit or not and then it's also about the lead character's commitment to this and her personal conviction. So, it has a nice double meaning there — and it's one word and looks good in red letters. What else could you want?"

  • Josh Berman

    Notorious (ABC)

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    "It came to me when creating the show. The intersection of law and media is notorious, and Notorious was perfectly suited. It's one of those times where if a one-word title can summarize it all, you grab it."

  • Scott Silveri

    Speechless (ABC)

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    "We wanted something to capture the specificity of Micah's character, J.J., non-verbal [he has cerebral palsy], but we didn't want it to just be about that. It ended up being something that spoke both to his life and Minnie's character's outrageous behavior."

  • David Guggenheim

    Designated Survivor (ABC)

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    "It was a no-brainer, [Kiefer Sutherland’s character] is the designated survivor so I had to go with it."

  • Shawn Ryan

    'Timeless' (NBC)

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    "In video village, while making the pilot, we learned that NBC thought our original title 'Time' was too simple. So cold, wet and sleep deprived we started pitching alts to each other and when someone said "Timeless" we all looked at each other and said, 'That works.' Then we went back to warming ourselves by a heat lamp."

  • Jeremy Slater

    'The Exorcist' (Fox)

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    "We had a little help from a gentleman named William Peter Blatty."

  • Rock Reuben and Bruce Helford

    'Kevin Can Wait' (CBS)

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    "'Kevin' rhymes with 'heaven.' It was easy."

  • Corinne Brinkerhoff

    'No Tomorrow' (The CW)

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    "My co-writers Scott McCabe and Tory Stanton pitched it."

  • Mark Goffman

    'Bull' (CBS)

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    "Fortunately our lead character's last name is Bull, so that was an easy one. I have Paul Attanasio and Dr. Phil to thank for that. Why is his last name Bull? Pretty much every connotation of the word fits the show's description."

  • Jason Katims

    'Pure Genuis' (CBS)

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    "The title of the show was originally Bunker Hill — but CBS felt that sounded like something between an old school Medical drama and a Revolutionary War re-enactment. So we changed the title the morning they announced the pick-up of the series."

  • Mike Schur

    'The Good Place' (NBC)

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    "I find titles to be the hardest part of creating a show, so I was relieved when the concept itself easily translated into a good, pithy name."

  • Jeff and Jackie Filgo

    'Man With a Plan' (CBS)

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    "We had a title everybody liked with the word 'Friend' in it, but when Matt LeBlanc — who was famously in Friends — came along, it suddenly sounded weird. After that it was a months long process with hundreds of choices, but we like our new one better."

  • Chris Harris

    'The Great Indoors' (CBS)

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    "Mike Gibbons (the creator) was brilliant enough to think of the perfect title, and I was brilliant enough to leave it alone."

  • Peter Lenkov

    'MacGyver' (CBS)

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    "That was actually done for me 31 years ago."

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