From 'Alley Cats' to 'Charlie's Angels': The twisted tales behind TV titles

Changes • Can you imagine 'Friends' as 'Insomnia Cafe'?
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What's in a name? Sometimes nothing. Sometimes major confusion, if you choose the wrong title for your TV show.

And that's what "Cougar Town" creator/executive producer Bill Lawrence has been bemoaning since shortly after that show premiered in 2009 — the "incredible screw-up" of the show's title.

"Cougar Town," which returns Jan. 8 on TBS, after three seasons on ABC, was a show about a 40-year-old, newly divorced woman (Courteney Cox) who, Lawrence and Co. thought, would be dating a lot of younger men. But the show quickly morphed into an ensemble comedy about a bunch of (mostly) fortysomething friends, and the title had nothing to do with the show.

Producers had serious discussions with ABC execs about changing the title between Seasons 1 and 2, "but they decided it was would be too confusing to change it at that point," Lawrence said. "So we were stuck with it."

ABC's decision is understandable, but it's not like this has never happened before. That same network changed the title of Ellen DeGeneres' sitcom "These Friends of Mine" to "Ellen" after its first season.

Of course that's not the only time a show's titled was changed after it was already on the air. "Make Room For Daddy" became "The Danny Thomas Show." "Saturday Night" became "Saturday Night Live." "Good Morning, Miss Bliss" became "Saved by the Bell." "All In the Family" became "Archie Bunker's Place." "Enterprise" became "Star Trek: Enterprise."

And "Valerie" became "Valerie's Family" and then "The Hogan Family" after the comedy's original star, Valerie Harper, was fired in a contract dispute.

Sometimes titles are shortened. "The Misadventures of Shefiff Lobo" became "Lobo." "The Seinfeld Chronicles" became "Seinfeld."

"Two Guys, a Girl and a Pizza Place" became "Two Guys and a Girl"; "8 Simple Rules for Dating My Teenage Daughter" became "8 Simple Rules."

And the redundant "Navy NCIS" became, simply, "NCIS."

It's far more common for titles to change before a TV show premieres. Actually, this happens all the time.

Sometimes the change can be as simple as changing punctuation. "That 70's Show" was changed to "That '70s Show." The short-lived "¡Rob!" became the more manageable "Rob."

Other times, title changes can be major. Here are a few that certainly changed the perceptions of the shows they were attached to:

"The Alley Cats" • "Charlie's Angels"

"Alpha Mom" • "Up All Night"

"Chicks and Dicks" • "New Girl"

"Damage Control" • "Scandal"

"Good Christian Bitches" • "GCB" (after a stop at "Good Christian Belles")

"Have Faith" • "The Soul Man"

"Head of the Family" • "The Dick Van Dyke Show"

"It's Messy" • "The Mindy Project"

"Insomnia Cafe" • "Friends" (after a stop at "Six of One"

"New Family In Town" • "Happy Days"

"Law & Order: Sex Crimes" • "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit"

"Lenny, Penny and Kenny" • "The Big Bang Theory"

"Nothing But the Truth" • "To Tell the Truth"

"Nowhere" • "Lost"

"Oil" • "Dynasty"

"Parental Discretion Advised" • "Life Unexpected"

"Pop Idol" • "American Idol"

"The Rememberer" • "Unforgettable"

"Slayer" • "Buffy the Vampire Slayer"

"Surgeons" • "Grey's Anatomy"

"Teenage Wasteland" • "That '70s Show."

"That Raymond Guy" • "Everybody Loves Raymond"

"Those Were the Days" • "All In the Family"

"Toast of the Town" • "The Ed Sullivan Show"

"The Whole Truth" • "The Good Wife"

Oh, and "Infamous," the new NBC drama set to premiere on Jan. 7 , is now titled "Deception." —

Chicago Fire and "Chicago Fire"

When producer Dick Wolf ("Law & Order") set his new drama series about firefighters in Chicago, the show's title seemed obvious — "Chicago Fire." He said he had no idea there was already a Major League Soccer team named the Chicago Fire — he's just glad there wasn't a dispute over the title and that nobody at the Fire was upset.

"I hope that the title reflects well on all of us," Wolf said. "We hope that they're winning the championship."

There was no championship for the Fire this season, and "Chicago Fire" hasn't set the ratings on fire, either. It has been picked up for a full season, however, and is a candidate for a second season on NBC.