One thing that makes television so great (and different from film) is the luxury of multiple years and seasons to explore different moments and experiences in a character’s life as they naturally progress. Because of that, TV shows frequently evolve drastically from their tidy season 1 concepts, which can make their original titles a bit confusing.
With some minor spoilers ahead, here are six TV shows that might have benefited from a name change during their runs:
When the HBO comedy premiered back in 2012, Veep was the perfect fit for Julia Louis-Dreyfus’ Vice President Selina Meyer dealing with a life in politics and the politics of life. The show is fictional, but Veep still follows the general rules of American government, so it was natural to assume that Selina would seek her boss’ job at some point, and season 3’s plot on the campaign trail foreshadowed such a change. Then came the two-part finale, when Selina was actually appointed president as the current commander in chief resigned to take care of his sick wife. Like another TV VP, House of Cards’ Frank Underwood (Kevin Spacey), Selina becomes president without a single vote cast for her (which looked like the only way she was gonna become president anyway after losing primaries in Iowa and New Hampshire). But now that she’s not the Veep, should the show still have the same name? Alternative title: Peep
“Open delight or pleasure; exultant joy; exultation” – that’s how the dictionary defines “glee,” but the Ryan Murphy musical series was more referring to the high school glee club joined by a bunch of reject teens in Ohio in season 1. Now that Lea Michele is a household name, so is the idea of actually joining a school singing group. For the record, I was the veep (callback!) of my high school’s glee club before the show was on the air and before anyone really knew what a glee club was; most schools just refer to them as choirs. And although the New Directions were really a show choir and not a glee club, the idea that singing gives you open delight or pleasure still resonated in the title. But halfway through the fifth season, the show moved completely out of Ohio to New York City to further follow the young characters once they got outside the choir room. Oh, and after years of threats and attempts, Sue Sylvester disbanded the glee club before they left the Midwest for good. I’m sure that playing Fanny Brice on Broadway and having a TV show written about your too-good-to-be-true life (‘cause it is a TV show) would bring me exultant joy, but Rachel Berry ain’t in the glee club anymore. Well, actually, no one is. And if the show wants to show what it really means to be a struggling young actor without a college education in the Big Apple, it needs to get a little dark. Alternative title: Gloom
Though better than The Courteney Cox Show That Didn’t Suck, the title of the ABC (and later TBS) sitcom was a little misleading. The show takes place in a fictional Florida town nicknamed “Cougar Town” because of the high school mascot, but the show isn’t about the whole town; it’s about Cox’s character Jules, single mother exploring the truths about dating and aging after just getting a divorce. The title was justified in the first season with a relationship with a younger man played by Nick Zano, but by season 3, Jules was engaged and then married to a man her own age. By that point, the concept of the show was quite different than the pilot, and the creators actually did try and change the name multiple times. Options like Sunshine State, Grown Ups, Wine Time, The Sunshine State, and Family Jules all sounded too much like other properties, and a Twitter contest was even launched before season 3 for fan submissions. At least the producers had a sense of humor, though, with the subtitle “Not Happy About It” running in promos and the opening sequence, referring to their frustration with the lack of action on the network’s part. The show will return for a sixth and final season sometime in 2015 on TBS, and it’s still called Cougar Town. Alternative title: The One About the Show With a Bad Title
Beverly Hills, 90210
After the show premiered in 1990, what quickly became the most popular ZIP code in America was actually one of five ZIP codes that makes up Beverly Hills, California, and the creators of the show were quick to defend the numerical sequence that was making them much larger numerical sequences at the bank. The show takes place in the fictitious West Beverly Hills High School, not because the real Beverly Hills High wouldn’t allow it, but because the school is actually located in 90212. Later on in the series when the group attends (the, again, fictitious) California University, the exact location is left up to the imagination of the viewer, but most would assume it also fit the same code. Not exactly. California University was really filmed on the campus of Occidental College in Eagle Rock, California, a.k.a. 90041. And who could forget the beach apartment that Donna and Kelly shared in later seasons? For those unfamiliar with California geography, Beverly Hills is not near the beach at all. That all took place in Hermosa Beach, 90254. Alternative title: Beverly Hills, Etc.
Ask anyone on the street if they know Family Matters, and you might get mixed responses. Ask anyone on the street if they know who Steve Urkel is, and whoa, mama, you’ll probably get a more positive reaction. Family Matters began as a family sitcom centered on matriarch Harriette Winslow, with Jo Marie Payton reprising her role from Perfect Strangers for the spin-off. However, halfway through the first season, the family’s neighbor Steve Urkel was introduced as a love interest for daughter Laura and not only took over the show, but pretty much all of pop culture at the moment. The show ran for nine seasons and more than 200 episodes, eventually introducing Steve’s suave alter-ego Stefan Urquelle and his female cousin Myrtle Urkel, also played by Jaleel White. Alternative title: Only Urkel Matters
Two and a Half Men
The CBS sitcom has seen its fair share of ups and downs over the years. At one point, it was nominated for multiple Emmys while bringing in millions of viewers each week, but it will probably end up being more remembered for the controversial cast shakeups. As the title suggests, the show was about two men (Charlie Sheen and Jon Cryer) and the young son (half man) of Cryer’s character, played by Angus T. Jones. After eight seasons, Charlie Sheen went all #winning on everyone and left the show, having his character killed in the premiere of the ninth season, and was later replaced by Ashton Kutcher (still a man). After Sheen left, Jones went all religious on everyone in 2012 and called the show “filth that contradicts my moral values.” After some contract negotiations and a brief recurring status, Jones officially left the show at the end of season 10 and was replaced by Amber Tamblyn (not a full or half man) as the long-lost lesbian daughter of Sheen’s character. Since the show has lost one and a half of those two and a half men, it would seem an update would make sense. Alternative title: Two and a Half Casting Changes