Worst TV Titles

TV's Worst Show Titles: The Bizarre (Extant), Misleading (Terriers), Alienating (Buffy) and 13 Others

The series hasn’t even premiered yet, but Fox’s Lookinglass is already a bit murky.

We’re not talking about the content of the supernatural drama, which follows a corrupt sheriff brought back to life in another man’s body. We’re talking about its title, which until recently was The Frankenstein Code.

Why the change to something the average viewer won’t understand? And why, for the love of dictionaries everywhere, would the show pick an incorrect spelling?

The whole thing got us thinking about other series with titles that befuddled, irritated — grammar, please! — or alienated viewers.

There were good shows hurt by names both odd (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Terriers) and misrepresentative (Cougar Town). Then there were those that were just plain bad, like a certain UPN gem and a USA Network drama with perhaps the most generic moniker to ever grace the small screen (which may explain its cancellation).

In honor of Lookinglass‘ unfortunate name change, we’ve gathered our picks for the worst TV show titles. Click through the gallery below (or here for direct access) to view our collection, then share your selections.

Comments are monitored, so don’t go off topic, don’t frakkin’ curse and don’t bore us with how much your coworker’s sister-in-law makes per hour. Talk smart about TV!

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55 Comments
  1. c-mo says:

    I still miss Trophy Wife soooo much!

  2. I don’t know if you realize this but Life UneXpected was spelled that way because it was spelling the main characters name which was Lux. So while a little annoying the capitalization was not unnecessary.

    • Shoof says:

      Life UneXpected was just one of numerous working titles the series had too. The capitalised ‘X’ was dropped by the time the series aired anyway. Still wish this little show made it past its two seasons.

    • cc says:

      That still seems unnecessary to me. Was that supposed to be a big revelation that comes from reading the “message” behind the title? Oh, look, the show’s plot is set around its main character! Shocker!

    • DarkDefender says:

      While that may be true it doesn’t make the show any easier to type every time you have to write the title.
      .
      Also filing under awesome shows with titles writers hate typing: Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

  3. Buffy was preceded by a movie, so people knew what they were getting.

  4. maregolden says:

    If I remember correctly, when Cougar Town started, Jules, the main character, was dating much younger men. They can say now they meant sports teams, but they are just trying to rationalize their choice of a name. It’s a shame, really. Cougar Town was mostly a pretty funny show.

    • rarefied says:

      Yeah, I was going to mention that. I think the title was intentional and she was going to be dating more younger men, but then they got scare due to the blowback and slightly changed the premise. The show was still a lot of fun, though.

    • Joe says:

      Exactly. The name matched the show, then they changed the show.

    • NJMark says:

      The reference to sports wasn’t something they came up with years later. The first scene of the first show had the HS football players crashing through a “Cougars” banner.

      It was, however, the ONLY reference to Cougars as a sports team in the entire series.

  5. Ron says:

    I’m still upset about the cancellation of Trophy Wife. It was such a good show. Loved the cast, too. I’m sure the name didn’t help, but I’ll forever hold that ABC killed it by not putting it on in the post-Modern Family slot. That was the dumbest thing in the world. Of every show ABC has had since Modern Family, Trophy Wife was the show that clearly would’ve paired the best. I swear my pinky finger could be a better Network Exec than some of the ones currently running networks.

  6. herman1959 says:

    We can also add to this list any show that has had a title starting with the word Bad or Crazy…guaranteed cancellation!

  7. meatwad says:

    i honestly can’t understand how anyone chooses not to watch a show based solely off of the name.

    • NJMark says:

      There’s a lot of TV shows out there, and a person can only watch so many of them. Hearing a title and thinking “that sure sounds dumb” is as good a reason to skip a show as any.

  8. Cassie says:

    GCB! I understand why they had to change it from the original title (Good Christian Bitches) but it was just a weird name. It’s not like that’s a well known saying/abbreviation so most people had no idea what it meant. I don’t know that a different name would’ve made THAT big a difference (there are lots of people who wouldn’t have watched no matter what it was called, given what it was about) but they definitely could’ve come up with something better.

  9. doctrsnoop says:

    Caption implies that “BTVS” handicapped the show’s ratings/appeal? I say that the title roots out people who just want a bunch of killing. The title sucks in people who are in on the goofiness.

  10. Curly Girly says:

    What about 666 Park Avenue? I know people who wouldn’t watch it based on the title alone (too anti-Christian)

  11. David Stumme says:

    Complications didn’t fail because it had a bad title. It failed because after a really good pilot, it went downhill fast. Too many characters acting over-the-top stupid for me to waste my time with it.

  12. Summer says:

    Actually, Buffy’s title was pretty great. It told you exactly what you were getting, just by the title itself, but then it covered all of it’s genre bases too.

    Buffy – comedy.
    Vampire – horror.
    Slayer – action.

    • Eric says:

      Yes, for the fans of the show it was great. As I said to another poster, people don’t think that much about TV titles. If it sounds too weird, they don’t watch or turn their nose up at it without seeing a single episode or giving a chance. Buffy the Vampire Slayer is a very alienating title. It comes off silly and as a joke. It is one of my all time favorite shows and a lot of the times when I mention it, people think I’m joking. For the fans of the show, we recognize how awesome the name actually is, but for people on the outside of it, they just think it sounds silly.

      • Joey says:

        Very very true. For years I never watched Buffy based on the title alone, and one day, I was surfing through Netflix and just turned on the pilot for the heck of it, and I was in the full ride.

        • morningsong2011 says:

          Really? The title is what made me want to watch it! I’m glad you got past the title and came to join us. :-) Buffy is still my favorite show of all time.

  13. tallsy says:

    I would argue that Rush was the worse USA one word title. Complications at least tells you it’s a medical drama. Rush sounds, like the movie, as if it’s set in the world of racing.

    Graceland is pretty bad too because the implication is that it has something to do with Elvis or at the very least Memphis.

  14. Maryann says:

    I only agree with a couple of your choices; for example, I never checked out Cougar Town because I figured it was about older women dating younger men. On the other hand, I think Complications is a unique title that perfectly embodies the essence of the show, as does the title “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.” And Extant? How hard is it to pick up a pocket dictionary? Not to mention you didn’t like a title change that was very much needed: Lookingglass (sp?). Much better to give a show a unique title that reflects the name of the project than saddle it with one that feels tired before you start and doesn’t even accurately reflect the plot lines (The Frankenstein Project).

    And as for this season’s new entries! I had a few reactions to shows you didn’t mention. The Family is about as generic a title as you can get. If I did not check out detailed descriptions of every new drama, I would definitely have passed on checking it out; that title in no way calls attention to the complicated and even twisted themes it is based on. And then there is The Catch which sounds like a baseball story. I keep having to go back and refresh my memory as to which show that is. Would it be the Mireille Enos deception drama that used to have the MUCH better title of Smoke and Mirrors?

    At any rate, I think it is amazing how often titles are just spot on, either being unique and catchy, or simple and descriptive. And you are definitely right that a generic or misleading title can severely handicap a show. It would be interesting to see a poll asking viewers which of the new fall shows they feel have titles that are (1) unique and catchy in a good way (2) a good choice because they are simple and descriptive or (3) a bad choice because they are totally misleading, put the viewer off, are unique in a silly or bad way, or was totally generic and don’t lend themseles to remembering the show or the title.

  15. Joey says:

    I’m seriously forever bitter on the cancellation of Terriers. A bad title combined with proper lack of promotion from FX (compared to overpromotion of shows like American Horror Story and Sons of Anarchy) were what killed this show.

  16. Dee Dee says:

    I agree with all, except Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Everything about that show was awesome, including the title. It wasn’t alienating at all, in fact the title was what sucked me in way back in the day. I remember reading about new fall shows in an actual paper TV guide, saw that and said, “I’m in!”

  17. shagamu says:

    Shasta McNasty wasn’t a drama, although it was so unfunny it might as well have been.

  18. Javeria says:

    How stupid can someone be if they don’t know how to pronounce “Extant”?

  19. Heathers says:

    Terriers!!! Joey, I completely agree! I wonder if they had changed the name, and had aired it on Showtime, if it would’ve taken off?!!!

    • Joey says:

      The bad promotion was what really killed it in my eyes. The show itself was fantastic, especially the chemistry between Donal Logue and Michael Raymond-James.

  20. Shaun says:

    Only ones on this list should be titles that were misleading or confusing.I agree that Graceland and Rush were bad titles.Selfie actually wasn’t a bad description for who Eliza was.USA sure does love their 1 word titles.

  21. Drew says:

    Buffy was a horror movie spoof. The title was a perfect fit for that (especially early on when the spoof elements were bigger). I’ve always thought of it as the first line of defense for the series. Anyone who couldn’t get past the title wouldn’t get the show anyway.

  22. Tom says:

    Part of the whole point of Buffy was the title. It sums up the concept so perfectly. Who would think that a girl named Buffy would be able to take on vampires and demons? JossAlmighty showed us why we shouldn’t make assumptions based on names and appearance. And we are all better for his/its existence.

  23. CMG says:

    I would have nominated “Better Off Ted” for this list. Yes, it’s a reference to the main character’s name, but those who don’t watch the show won’t care about that. It also was a pun-ny take on the phrase “Better Off Dead” – but that has absolutely nothing to do with the concept of the show.

    I personally think had the show come up with a title that has *something* to do with the setting and concept of the show, it might have done better.

  24. rebecca says:

    ok i have never heard of manimal but the name instantly makes me want to watch it!

  25. Dude says:

    Buffy may not have had an accessible title but it was a great title. One of the best in my opinion.

  26. I remember two short-lived 00’s sitcoms who were probably done in by their clever/off-putting names: “It’s Like, You Know” and “Wednesday 9:30 (8:30 Central)”.

    • Tom says:

      And here I thought I was the only person that remembered It’s Like, You Know. I’ve never heard of Wednesday 9:30 (8:30 Central) that I recall

  27. Lindseyindesy says:

    It’s gotten to the point where I’m almost more inclined to watch a show on ABC if it has a terrible title. Their best shows usually have the worst titles. I loved Happy Endings (probably should have been on here), Selfie, and Trophy Wife, but I never would have watched them if I hadn’t read good things about them. I guess I’m also a sucker for shows where the title is the main character’s name: Buffy, Angel, Chuck, Veronica Mars, Ed, Merlin, Gilmore Girls, and (soon to be a favourite) Damien.

  28. Ally Oop says:

    I see nothing wrong with the title Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Shows like Trophy Wife, Selfie, Cougartown, Fresh off the Boat and especially Black-ish get my vote for worst titles (what is it with ABC’ horrible naming of comedies?)