What 7 Classic TV Shows Were Almost Called

ABC
ABC

Just like films, TV shows often go through several name changes from original concept to pilot script to pitch meeting to "We think it would be more marketable if you called it [fill-in-the-title]." Here are 7 examples.

1. HAPPY DAYS // NEW FAMILY IN TOWN

In the early 1970s, Garry Marshall and Jerry Belson collaborated on a TV series set in idyllic 1950s Milwaukee. Paramount passed on New Family in Town, but they did eventually retool that pilot script and used it as a piece called "Love and the Happy Days" on their anthology series Love, American Style in 1972. That segment was so well-received that Marshall and Belson were hired to produce a series based on their original idea, only with a new title (Happy Days) and some new casting (Tom Bosley instead of Harold Gould).

2. IT'S ALWAYS SUNNY IN PHILADELPHIA // JERKS

When Glenn Howerton, Charlie Day, and Rob McElhenney were cobbling together the pilot script for a proposed TV series about a group of very self-centered buddies, they pitched it to various networks with a title which they felt best summed up the main characters: Jerks. FX kinda sorta liked the idea, except for the title and the locale (the show was originally set in Los Angeles). The creators changed the setting of their show to McElhenney's hometown and the new name just presented itself: It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia.

3. DIFF'RENT STROKES // 45 MINUTES FROM HARLEM

When Norman Lear was asked by Fred Silverman to build a series around 10-year-old Gary Coleman, he mapped out a basic story that had Coleman being adopted by a wealthy white man who lived in the Westchester town of Hastings-on-Hudson and called the project 45 Minutes from Harlem. Conrad Bain was brought on board to portray the pater familias, and he suggested the backstory (wealthy widower honoring his dying housekeeper's request that he adopt her two boys) that became the premise of the series. Since the millionaire's home had moved from the suburbs to nearby Manhattan, the name of the show was changed to Diff'rent Strokes.

4. THE OUTER LIMITS // PLEASE STAND BY

The science fiction anthology series The Outer Limits was originally going to be called Please Stand By. But with the Cuban Missile Crisis so fresh in America's mind, ABC decided that flashing the words "Please Stand By" on TV screens might send viewers rushing to their backyard bomb shelters.

5. THAT 70S SHOW // TEENAGE WASTELAND

That 70s Show was called Teenage Wasteland when Ashton Kutcher auditioned for the role of Michael Kelso. The pilot script underwent a few more name changes (including another Who classic, The Kids Are Alright) before it finally aired under its familiar title.

6. ROSEANNE // LIFE AND STUFF

The original title for Roseanne was Life and Stuff, which its star felt neatly summed up the premise of the show. However, by the time the pilot was filmed, the producers thought it wise to exploit the skyrocketing success of Roseanne Barr's standup comedy and named the show after the "Domestic Goddess" America seemed to love. "Life and Stuff" became the title of the premiere episode.

7. FRAGGLE ROCK // WOOZLE WORLD

When creator Jim Henson first envisioned a utopia of different Muppet creatures living together in harmony, he called them "Woozles" and tentatively titled the series Woozle World. The other "species" detailed in his early drafts included the Giant Wozles (who evolved into the Gorgs) and the Wizzles, a precursor to the Doozers. Eventually, it became Fraggle Rock.

8 Provocative Facts About the X Film Rating

iStock/tolgart
iStock/tolgart

When the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) introduced the modern movie ratings system in 1968, they couldn’t have known that one of their classifications would become the calling card of pornography. The X rating, intended to denote films not suitable for anyone under the age of 17, went from being attached to Academy Award contenders to filling video store spaces located behind saloon doors. Fifty years after its debut, we’re taking a look at the most infamous letter in moviegoing history.

1. ACCEPTING THE RATING WAS VOLUNTARY (KIND OF).

In 1968, the MPAA and its president, Jack Valenti, introduced a four-tier system to classify films. G was suitable for all audiences; M was the equivalent of PG (which replaced M in 1970), indicating that juveniles should consult with a parent before attending; R was intended for adults, or children only with a guardian present; X marked films that shouldn’t be seen by adolescent eyes. But the MPAA never forced a film studio to submit to its decision. It could release a film with no rating at all. The problem? The MPAA’s arrangement with the National Association of Theater Owners meant that an unrated film would almost certainly have difficulty finding a theater to screen it.

2. A ROBERT DE NIRO MOVIE WAS THE FIRST TO GET SLAPPED WITH AN X.

Immediately after the introduction of the new MPAA system, the advisory board got its first bona fide sample of an X-rated submission: Director Brian De Palma’s Greetings, a 1968 film starring Robert De Niro as a New Yorker confronting the possibility of being drafted, garnered the rating due to its sexually explicit content, including nudity that would likely earn an R rating today. (De Palma would later run afoul of the MPAA multiple times; 1980's Dressed to Kill, 1981's Blow Out, and 1983's Scarface were all threatened with an X before being edited.)

3. FILMMAKERS COULD GIVE THEMSELVES THE RATING.

Dustin Hoffman and Jon Voight in Midnight Cowboy (1969)
Dustin Hoffman and Jon Voight in Midnight Cowboy (1969)
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

Though it was quickly going to become taboo, there was a time when an X rating for a mainstream film was a badge of honor and an effective marketing tool that signaled a film was being made for discerning moviegoers—not just viewers looking for titillation. Arthur Krim, the head of United Artists, willingly gave 1969’s Dustin Hoffman and Jon Voight film Midnight Cowboy an X of his own volition even after he realized the MPAA would give the film an R designation. (The MPAA later applied an R to the movie in 1971.)

4. IT WAS WELCOME AT THE ACADEMY AWARDS.

The X rating was not an impediment to critical or commercial acclaim. In 1970, Midnight Cowboy won Best Picture at the Academy Awards; Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange, released in 1971, earned four Oscar nominations, including one for Best Picture; Bernardo Bertolucci's Last Tango in Paris (1972), starring Marlon Brando as a sex-obsessed American in France, got two nominations, including Brando for Best Actor.

5. THE XXX MARK MAY HAVE STEMMED FROM AN ALCOHOL DESIGNATION.

A neon XXX sign
iStock/07_av

In the hyperbole of film marketing, studios and advertisers didn’t believe one X was enough. Some films, like 1968’s Starlet!, were advertised as having an unofficial XXX designation to signify it was even more intense than other adult-oriented films. The label may have come from an old practice of denoting the strength of beer with a X, XX, or XXX label.

6. PORN TOOK OVER THE RATING DUE TO AN MPAA OVERSIGHT.

A rating of X in 1969 was no big deal. By the mid-1970s, it signaled to audiences that they were about to watch an anatomy lesson. That’s because the burgeoning adult film industry of the 1970s was screening films in theaters—VHS was not yet a household acronym—and blared advertisements with promises of “XXX” salaciousness. The MPAA never reviewed these films, and titles like 1972’s Deep Throat and 1978’s Debbie Does Dallas used the mark freely. The reason? The MPAA never bothered to copyright X as it applies to film ratings, allowing anyone to use it. In short order, the X rating became synonymous with pornography and grew into a scarlet letter for films. No reputable theaters would book such movies, and few newspapers would take ads for them.

7. PEOPLE COLLECT X-RATED FILMS.

The seedy, lurid films that applied their own X (or XXX) ratings in the 1970s and 1980s have developed a small but devout following of collectors who have a “strong desire to own, preserve, and reclaim erotic history,” according to one aficionado who spoke with The New York Times in 2014. These specialists focus mostly on the 16mm and 35mm films that were produced prior to the advent of VHS.

8. ONE STUDIO SUED OVER IT.

Antonio Banderas and Victoria Abril in 'Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down!' (1989)
Antonio Banderas and Victoria Abril in Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down! (1989)
The Criterion Collection

When the MPAA gave an X rating to the 1989 Pedro Almodóvar drama Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down!, Miramax decided to sue, claiming such a label would harm the film financially. The studio lost the suit, but it signaled the end of the war.

In 1990, a year that saw 10 movies get slapped with an X, the MPAA overhauled the ratings system. It dropped the X in favor of NC-17, which it hoped would distance films with artistic merit from pornographic material. And this time, the pornography industry couldn't co-opt it: Learning from its past mistake, the MPAA trademarked the designation.

Stranger Things's David Harbour Shared Some Season 3 Spoilers—With Absolutely No Context

Matt Winkelmeyer, Getty Images
Matt Winkelmeyer, Getty Images

While Netflix likes to keep the details of Stranger Things a mystery, David Harbour, who plays Detective Hopper, likes to have fun with his fans.

Harbour posted a cryptic image to his Instagram which, while it clearly contains Stranger Things Season 3 spoilers in both the photo and the caption, does not give away any “context,” hence leaving us with very little real information.

Harbour did share that he has wrapped filming on season 3 of Stranger Things—and that we can kiss his mustache goodbye.

The mysterious post raises a number of questions. In the photo, Harbour rocks a hat that supports a local Hawkins business. The hat reads, "Gary's Plumbing & Heating, Warming Hawkins, IN since 1972."

We’re not sure if the hat is referencing the Gary already in the show, as he is the coroner, but we can’t wait to find out.

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