3 Ways Students in TV Schools Can Create Brilliant TV Show Titles

Posted on September 30th, 2016 - Written by: Trebas Toronto

Student in film school

It’s no mistake that iconic television shows have great names. It takes a stroke of creativity and some careful consideration to come up with a show name that’s unique, fitting, and memorable.

As critics, filmmakers, and film school instructors can tell you, a good title sets the stage for a great TV show, while a bad title can sour even the most promising of premises. If you pursue film and TV training, you’ll have the chance to create your own exciting projects from the ground up. You’ll learn the ins and outs of both production and post-production from real industry experts who can help you put your best ideas on film (with the best titles possible!).

Prepare for success by following these tips for choosing a great TV show title.

1. Students at Film and TV School Know: Keep it Short

“Single-word titles are very strong,” says Blue Bloods executive producer Michael Pressman. “GunsmokeBonanzaDamages—these are such dynamic titles.”

Keeping it short and sweet can be as easy as using the story’s setting (Downton Abbey, Twin Peaks, Cheers) or its main character’s names (Seinfeld, Dexter, Sherlock). It can also be effective to use a simple descriptive word or phrase that suits the general topic of the show, like Scandal, Freaks and Geeks, Law & Order, or Lost.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, titles of six words or less tend to be better-received by both critics and audiences. In the age of Twitter these shorter titles are practical, too. Professionals now know that fans will shorten their titles if they take up too much of that precious character count—think How I Met Your Mother (HIMYM) and Orange Is the New Black (OITNB). This can obscure a title’s meaning for those not in the know, and take some creative control out of the writers’ hands.

2. Choose Words and Tones that Speak to Your Prospective Audience

When you choose titles for the projects you create in and after film and TV school, it’s very important to write them for the right audience. Who will watch this show? What kind of language do they use? You’ll want to match the title to the tone of the show itself, so viewers understand what to expect and whether it’s something they’d enjoy.

“You’ve got to have something that makes people say, ‘I want to check that out,’” says David Janollari, the TV exec who chose the title of the hit show, Friends. “It has to be catchy, and it has to frame for the audience the context of the show. If a title really contextualizes the tone of a show, that’s a big factor in helping you launch a show and market and position it to an audience.”

On the flipside, poorly-chosen titles can alienate prospective viewers and misrepresent a show’s tone. Cougar Town is about a mature women balancing work and home responsibilities after a divorce, but mature, conservative, female viewers didn’t tune in because of its slang-y title. Avoid this risk by taking time to consider your audience.

3. Don’t Be Vague When Choosing TV Show Names After Film and TV School

Even for professionals, it usually takes multiple attempts to find the most unique and effective show title. For example, the Ellen DeGeneres ‘90s sitcom These Friends of Mine quickly became Ellen because ABC producers felt it was too easily confused with the other ‘90s hit Friends.

Graduates of top TV schools like Trebas know that if a title feels like it could be stuck on any one of a dozen shows, it’s probably the wrong title. When creating a TV show of your own, it’s wise to take a close look at what your show is offering that no others are, focus in on that unique element, and brainstorm from there.

Vague titles are unlikely to catch a viewer’s eye or leave a memorable impression

Vague titles are unlikely to catch a viewer’s eye or leave a memorable impression

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