The Show-Title Battleground
Creators and execs tell how Leslie Moonves went back on his word, Fox execs meddled (or so says Rupert Murdoch) and Pete Townshend just said no.
CONSIDERED: That Raymond Guy; What's With Raymond?
CHOSEN: Everybody Loves Raymond
Phil Rosenthal, show creator
"I put Everybody Loves Raymond on the original script. What I loved about it was that it was like I Love Lucy, and I was trying to do an old-fashioned show -- a traditional sitcom to break out from everything hip and edgy at the time. Plus, it had that specificity: Once you knew the show, you got that the title spoke to sibling rivalries, problems with parents, problems with your wife. Before I turned it in, I showed it to Ray. He said, "You can't call it that because then we're asking for it. I'm named Raymond. I don't want that pressure of everybody having to love me. The next thing is, 'Oh yeah? I don't.' " I said, "Let's turn it in and see if the network even likes it." CBS liked the script enough to go to pilot, and the whole time Ray is calling Les Moonves, saying, "You've got to change the title." And Les was like, "Ray, you're not even on the schedule yet. Don't worry about the title." Then we get picked up to series, and Ray goes nuts. He calls Les: "Thank you for picking up the show, but you've got to change the title." Les responds, "Ray, if you become a top 15 show, you can call the show anything you want." Ray says, "OK." By that time, Ray has come up with a list of his own titles. There was That Raymond Guy, Raymond's Way, What's With Raymond? They were all terrible, which he admits now. He wrote them on a piece of paper, which we then framed and put up in our office. We do become a top 15 show, and the moment we crossed the threshold, Ray calls Les and says, "Can we change the title now?" And, of course, Les says, "You can't change the title now. You're a top 15 show!" Every introduction for the rest of Ray's life will be, "Here's the guy that everybody loves." I'm happy for the success we had together, but I do feel guilty that he has to live with that until he dies, and probably after."
CONSIDERED: Six of One; Across the Hall
David Janollari, former head of comedy development at Warner Bros. TV
"We basically sold and developed the show at NBC without a title. The first draft was delivered to me with the title Six of One. I went, "Hmm, I get it, but I'm not sure it's grabby." Then [NBC entertainment president] Warren Littlefield pitched Across the Hall because the apartments were across the hall from one another, but that didn't feel right either. We must have kicked around 100 titles. We landed on Friends Like Us and delivered the rough cut with a title sequence accompanied by R.E.M.'s "Shiny Happy People." Then somebody at the network said, "Why don't you just call it Friends?" It's an iconic title now, but at the time we were cocking our heads going, "Huh? Is that a good title?" We really weren't sure."
CONSIDERED: Pop Idol
CHOSEN: American Idol
Sandy Grushow, former Fox TV Entertainment Group chairman
"After we acquired the rights to Pop Idol, which was becoming a sensation in the U.K., we grew concerned that the audience in this country might confuse it with a show that the WB network had failed miserably with in the recent past, Popstars. In a meeting with Rupert Murdoch (and several others, including Peter Chernin), I suggested we change the title to American Idol. Rupert looked at me disdainfully and said: "What is it with you Hollywood executives? You always have to fix things that aren't broken!"
Lloyd Braun, former ABC Entertainment Group chairman
"Years ago I was watching TV and a reality show came on NBC called Lost. It was produced by Conan O'Brien, and I thought, what a great title. A couple of years later, I was sitting on a beach in Hawaii and thinking about the movie Cast Away, which had been on ABC the night before. Wouldn't it be cool to do a show about people trapped on a deserted island and then marry it with Survivor and call it Lost? I pitched it at an ABC retreat, and we decided to develop it. The first draft comes in six months later -- it's not from [series creators] J.J. Abrams or Damon Lindelof -- and I see it's called Nowhere. I'm like: "What the hell? God forbid you use the title that the network exec wanted to use!" Ultimately, we started from scratch with J.J. and Damon. My one cannot-be-changed edict was calling this show Lost."
CONSIDERED: The Whole Truth; In the Spotlight; Leave the Bastard
CHOSEN: The Good Wife
Robert and Michelle King, show co-creators
Michelle King: "It wasn't titled when we pitched it to [Scott Free Productions president] David Zucker. We had spoken about Alicia being the good wife, so when he called our agent to say, "We loved the good wife," that became the title."
Robert King: When we were shooting the pilot, we got a call from the studio. They said we had to start thinking about a new title. It was the last three days of shooting. I remember being in Vancouver, and we just got a legal pad and started writing down everything that came to mind. I think I have that piece of paper somewhere.
Michelle King: We must have generated 75 to 100 titles.
Robert King: Strangely, the one that rose to the top was The Whole Truth; there was a show on ABC called The Whole Truth that came after. The studio liked it, but the network thought it was a little generic. There were some based on the word scandal: Scandalous, Scandalized. There was some playing off the publicity aspect: In the Spotlight. There was a ridiculous one: Leave the Bastard, which David was championing. I don't know how seriously he was taking it, but Leave the Bastard had a little play there for a while.
CONSIDERED: Teenage Wasteland; The Kids Are Alright; Feelin' All Right
CHOSEN: That '70s Show
Tom Werner, executive producer
"Teenage Wasteland was our tentative title. It was on the first draft, but we couldn't get the rights to it from The Who. So we went back to the drawing board and came up with 30 titles. [Among them was The Kids Are Alright, another Who song, which songwriter Pete Townshend shot down as well.] Eventually, we came up with Feelin' All Right [which then-Fox president Peter Roth presented to advertisers at the 1998 upfront in New York]. As we got closer, the network decided that wasn't memorable enough. And frankly, it wouldn't have been. Finally, [co-creator] Bonnie Turner says, "You know, why don't we just call it That '70s Show? Because that's what everyone is going to end up calling it anyway. No matter what we come up with, they'll say, 'Did you see that '70s show?' " We all looked at her and said, "You're right." It was inspired."