For the first two seasons, the DC origin series about Bruce Wayne’s butler, Alfred Pennyworth, was simply known as Pennyworth. However, with the recent premiere of season 3 came a new title: The Origins Of Batman’s Butler. And during the New York Comic Con, the creator was honest about the reason for the name change, making it clear that it was initially hard for potential viewers to tell what the series was about (via Independent).
Changing the title of a TV show is an interesting choice, but not an entirely unique one. Over the past few decades, there have been several other iconic shows which opted for title change soon after the premiere or long after it like the DC show. For some, the change came with newfound popularity, whereas others were ruined by it.
Seinfeld (Original Title: The Seinfeld Chronicles)
When the sitcom premiered in July 1989, it was called The Seinfeld Chronicles. Afraid that viewers would confuse it with ABC’s The Marshall Chronicles, NBC decided to shorten the name to Seinfeld (via Cheatsheet).
Since Marshall and Seinfeld aren’t similar names, it’s likely that given the latter’s superior quality, it would still have gone on to be a hit. Nonetheless, avoiding competition was a wise move, especially for a show that studio executives initially didn’t have much hope in. Today, it would be hard to imagine one of the greatest sitcoms of all time going by any other name.
Ellen (Original Title: These Friends Of Mine)
Before becoming a talk show host, Ellen was a sitcom star. And after the first season of her first show, Ellen Degeneres had become more popular than every other character. The network thus felt that naming the show after the rising star would be a good idea.
Capitalizing on a star’s popularity is a common trend in the movie and TV landscape, hence it wasn’t surprising when this happened. After all, by the time Ellen was airing, Seinfeld had proved that naming a show after the main character worked and it’s a trend many other sitcoms would follow for years to come.
Saturday Night Live (Original Title: NBC’s Saturday Night)
A month before the sketch comedy premiered, ABC launched Saturday Night Live with Howard Cosell. To avoid confusion. NBC renamed its show but when the ABC one was canceled a year later, the original title was used once again.
TV networks rarely attach their names to shows, hence the original title might have come off as uninspiring if it has been maintained. After all, there is the risk of people that hate the network, going on to hate the show despite it being good. Fortunately, the cancelation of ABC’s show would create room for one of the greatest sketch comedy shows to shine.
NCIS (Original Title: Navy NCIS)
When the pilot aired, the spinoff show was called Navy NCIS. For the following episodes, the title of the show was shortened to the one viewers are now familiar with.
The title Navy NCIS is a poor one because it’s repetitive. After all, « NCIS » stands for Naval Criminal Investigative Services. Perhaps the creators worried that viewers wouldn’t have an idea what « NCIS » stood for. Luckily, that wasn’t a problem and the procedural has gone on to become one of the longest-running TV shows of all time.
Saved By The Bell (Original Title: Good Morning Miss Bliss)
After airing the title for Good Morning Miss Bliss, NBC passed on the show, but it was picked up by Disney. After Disney canceled it, NBC reacquired the show and changed the title.
It was an essential name change since the plan going forward was to focus on the teenagers rather than the teacher known as Miss Bliss. This was all in line with structuring it as a teen drama rather than a kid’s show. And it all worked out quite well.
Little House: A New Beginning (Original Title: Little House On The Prairie)
After the departure of the star Michael Landon, the focus of the show shifted to an entirely new family. As a result, the title was also altered to reflect the new storylines.
A name change coupled with a premise change as well as the departure of a fan-favorite character might be too much for audiences to handle. Such was the case here. Many didn’t find the new storyline appealing and the show was canceled a season later.
The Hogan Family (Original Title: Valery)
This title change had a different story behind it. Valery Harper got into a dispute over her pay but instead of her being paid more, her character was killed off. The show’s name was then edited to Valery’s Family and then to The Hogan Family.
It’s undoubtedly the saddest reason for a name change since an actor that had made a show wildly popular definitely did likely deserve a pay increase. After all, the stars of many other shows have been able to successfully renegotiate their contracts over the years.
Two Guys And A Girl (Original Title: Two Guys And A Pizza Place)
Including pizza in the title initially made sense since the main characters worked at a pizza place. But after they moved on to other things, a new title had to be created.
Unfortunately, the title change ruined the show rather than helped it. After the next season, Two Guys And A Girl was canceled, However, it could be argued that the pizza place as a location was what held the show together and its removal discouraged viewers from paying attention.
Parker Lewis (Original Title: Parker Lewis Can’t Lose)
For most of its run, the FOX teenage comedy went by its original title. But in the final season, the title was shortened to the name of the main character.
It was a justified name change since the final season adopted a more serious tone as opposed to the previous seasons when the main character was mostly portrayed as a trouble-causing teen. In the final season, he is more mature, a change that is linked to a transition into adulthood.
Pennyworth: The Origins Of Batman’s Butler (Original Title: Pennyworth)
Since its premiere, the series about one of the most important members of Bat-family has simply been known as Pennyworth. But for the upcoming season, a subtitle has now been added to it.
It all makes sense because causal fans have no idea that Alfred’s full name is Alfred Pennyworth. Perhaps simply naming the series, Alfred, could have helped boost the rating but adding Batman’s name to the title will definitely make a huge difference because he is one of the most popular superheroes of all time.