The Hogan Family (1986-1991)
Valerie Harper played a woman trying to juggle her career and caring for her three sons while her airline-pilot husband was away for work. This is completely normal for a family sitcom, but when Harper got into a dispute with the show producers over increasing her salary and syndication revenue, she threatened to quit, thinking they wouldn’t let the title character go. Well, they did — by dramatically killing her off and changing the name of the series twice, from Valerie to Valerie’s Family: The Hogans, and then just The Hogan Family. The show continued under its new title for another three seasons.
Saved by the Bell (1988-1993)
Before Saved By The Bell became the teen sitcom powerhouse that lives on in the fond memories of nostalgic 20-somethings, it was a little show on the Disney Channel called Good Morning, Miss Bliss. As the title suggests, the original series was more about the teacher (Hayley Mills) interacting with Zach, Lisa, and Screech than it was about the students themselves. It only lasted on Disney for 13 episodes before being canceled and retooled to become NBC’s Saved By The Bell, but the two shows were later reintegrated into the same syndication packet with a cold open that explained the events of Miss Bliss as something that happened before the original timeline of SBTB. Is there anything retconning can’t fix?
We remember Ellen as the groundbreaking series in which Ellen DeGeneres (and her eponymous character) came out as a lesbian, but when it first appeared as These Friends of Mine on the ABC schedule, it was just another sitcom about a woman with a bunch of quirky friends. When DeGeneres became more famous as a result of the show, the network decided to capitalize on her fame and changed the name of the series. They also dropped a bunch of characters, apparently for no reason. Guess no one was really interested in “those friends of hers” after all.
Two Guys and a Girl (1998-2001)
Hoping to capitalize on the Friends formula of putting pretty 20-somethings together in an apartment, Two Guys, a Girl, and a Pizza Place was about college students who worked at a pizza joint in Boston. When the show writers decided that their two main characters couldn’t work there forever, they abandoned the pizza place in their third season and dropped the end of the title accordingly. The show itself was canceled shortly after, right in the middle of a cliffhanger pregnancy.
8 Simple Rules (2002-2005)
What began as a lighthearted family sitcom about a man coming to terms with the behavior of his three adolescent children was suddenly and completely altered when the show’s star, John Ritter, tragically died of an aortic dissection. Rather than recast the part, the second and third seasons became about the family dealing with their dad’s death, and show’s title, 8 Simple Rules for Dating My Teenage Daughter (which was inspired by a popular book told from the point of view of a father), was shortened to reflect the change in mood. The series was eventually canceled, but not because of poor ratings — ABC just didn’t know how to sell the show in syndication without Ritter.
TV critics and journalists were angry when they first heard about Rob Schneider’s new sitcom, ¡Rob! — not because the star of such celebrated classics as Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo somehow managed to land a network sitcom, but because the official title had exclamation points in it, including the very annoying-to-type upside down one. CBS responded to the criticism by removing the offending marks, and a spokesperson joked, “As a network we no longer believe in punctuation.”
NYC 22 (2012)
While CBS was busy hacking the exclamation marks off of ¡Rob!, the network also did away with the embarrassing title to its upcoming midseason New York crime drama, originally known as The 2-2. Now it sounds like the show is actually about a police precinct, as opposed to a team of rookie ballerinas or something. Our only remaining concern is that the 22nd police district of New York is in Central Park. Is that really the site of multiple seasons’ worth of exciting criminal activity, in 2012?