Oct 2, 2020
What’s in a name? How show creators came up with titles to this year’s new shows
How did this year’s new shows get their titles? Hollywood Reporter went straight to the creators for the answers. Sure, The Flash and NCIS: New Orleans were pretty much gimmes. Others were fairly revealing.
Peter Nowalk, How to Get Away With Murder (ABC)
A show that takes place in law school doesn’t sound like the most exciting premise, so I knew the name Professor Annalise Keating (Viola Davis) gave to her class had to be sexy and attention-grabbing. How to Get Away With Murder worked on all levels. It gives you a great first impression of Annalise as a character — that she’s bold, irreverent and controversial — and also describes the fun, dark, twisted tone of the show.
Yes, the show’s creator is Peter Nowalk, not Shonda Rhimes, although she gets all of the attention. The show’s title is a bit bulky but it’s also catchy and pitch perfect for what viewers are getting themselves into. Here we see a show creator who has a perfect understanding of what he’s created and what he’s communicating. Now let’s look at the opposite.
Jeff Lowell, Manhattan Love Story (ABC)
The original title was My Thoughts Exactly. ABC never loved the title, so during pilot production it was “Untitled Jeff Lowell Project.” It was great for my ego to walk around for weeks hearing everyone say my name, until one day I saw them towing away cars on a street we were shooting on, and I realized there were a dozen fliers with my name on them that some very angry drivers were about to find. ABC came up with Manhattan Love Story, and it was one of three finalists. … The thing that put it over the top was them commissioning artwork showing how they’d use the title to sell the show. It was tonally perfect — I immediately signed off, and that artwork is the main title card for our show.
And now we know why the name is so stunningly generic: it was something network came up with. Perhaps the network was smart in avoiding a title that focused squarely on the show’s campy conceit (we hear the main two characters’ thoughts) which is sure to quickly grow annoying. But the show is what it is; it’s not the title’s fault. By the way, here’s the artwork for the title:
Cutesy, unoriginal, and dull. Well, no one can say it’s not tonally appropriate.
Emily Kapnek, Selfie (ABC)
It was [Hollywood Reporter critic] Tim Goodman’s idea. I wasn’t sure, but he was so emphatic. I remember being like, “Are you sure, Tim?” And Tim was jumping up and down, like yes. Yes! This is it! (Just kidding, Tim hates the title.) We knew reaction to the title would be polarizing, but Selfie fit the show. It described more than just the act of picture-taking, it also summed up the syndrome afflicting our main characters. I think people judging the show based on title alone will be surprised when they see how the show is evolving.
A groan-worthy title, maybe. A nice little play on the narcissism that’s central to the show, definitely.
For the other 11 show titles, go check out the full article.
Come back Monday for HNTP’s snarky recap of the first episode of How to Get Away with Murder.