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.

11 Surprising Facts About George R.R. Martin

Kevin Winter, Getty Images
Kevin Winter, Getty Images

Game of Thrones fans know the epic HBO series is based on George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire book series, but beyond the TV show, how much do they really know about the author? Sure, they know it’s taking him a really long time to finish The Winds of Winter, the sixth book in the series, but what about him as a person? Here are a few things you might not know about the man who brought us the world of Westeros.

1. As a kid, he made money selling monster stories.

The famed author grew up in Bayonne, New Jersey, where his father was a longshoreman. "When I was living in Bayonne, I desperately wanted to get away," Martin told The Independent. "Not because Bayonne was a bad place, mind you. Bayonne was a very nice place in some ways. But we were poor. We had no money. We never went anywhere."

Though his family didn't have the means to travel outside of Bayonne, Martin began to develop a love of reading and writing at a very young age, which allowed him to imagine fantastical worlds beyond his New Jersey hometown. He also learned that writing could be a profitable endeavor: he began selling his stories to other kids in the neighborhood for a penny apiece. (He later raised his prices to a nickel.) Martin's entrepreneurial efforts came to an end when his stories began giving one of his kid customers nightmares, which eventually got back to Martin's mom.

2. He is obsessed with comic books.

In 2014, Martin sat down for a Q&A about his career at the Santa Fe Independent Film Festival. Though, given his love of fantasy worlds, it might not be surprising to learn that Martin is a comic book fan, he also credits the genre with inspiring him to begin writing in the first place.

"I’m so grateful for comic books because they were really the thing that made me a reader, which in return made me a writer," Martin said. "In the 1950s in America, we had these books that taught you to read, and they were all about Dick and Jane, who were the most boring family you ever wanted to meet ... I didn’t know anyone who lived like that, and it just seemed like a horrible thing. But Batman and Superman, they had a much more interesting life. Gotham City was much more interesting than wherever it was where Dick and Jane lived.”

3. He built a library tower in Santa Fe.

In 2009, Martin bought the home across the street from his house in Santa Fe, New Mexico and turned it into an office space with a library tower built inside. The tower is only two stories tall, because of city building restrictions, but it seems only fitting that the author/history buff would want to be surrounded with books while he writes.

4. A fan letter got his professional writing career started.

Martin's love of comic books is what got his professional career rolling, too. "I had a letter published in Fantastic Four, and because my address was in there I started getting these fanzines and I started writing stories for them," Martin said during the same Santa Fe Q&A. "Funny enough, people writing stories in these fanzines at the time were just awful. They were just really bad, which was good because I looked at these awful stories and knew I could do better than that. I may not have been Shakespeare or J.R.R. Tolkien, but I was certain I could write better than the crap in the fanzines, and indeed I could."

5. A failed novel led to a television writing career.

More than 10 years before A Song of Ice and Fire debuted in 1996, Martin wrote a book called The Armageddon Rag in 1983. Though it was a critical disappointment, producer Phil DeGuere was interested in adapting the project with Martin's help. While that never came to fruition, DeGuere thought of Martin when they were rebooting The Twilight Zone in the mid-1980s and brought him on board to write a handful of episodes. He later did some writing for the live-action Beauty and the Beast series, starring Ron Perlman and Linda Hamilton.

6. Network television standards were not a fit for Martin's style of writing.

Though Martin found success as a television writer, the constant back-and-forth about what they were or were not allowed to show proved to be too much for the writer. "[T]here were constant limitations. It wore me down," Martin told Rolling Stone. "There were battles over censorship, how sexual things could be, whether a scene was too 'politically charged,' how violent things could be. Don’t want to disturb anyone. We got into that fight on Beauty and the Beast. The Beast killed people. That was the point of the character. He was a beast. But CBS didn’t want blood, or for the beast to kill people ... The character had to remain likable."

7. He owns an independent movie theater.

In 2006, The Jean Cocteau Cinema in Santa Fe closed its doors, which saddened many locals who were regular patrons, Martin among them. Several years later, Martin decided to give the theater a second life and, after a slight makeover, reopened its doors in 2013. Today, in addition to independent films, the theater holds regular special events—including screenings of Game of Thrones episodes. There's also an onsite bar that serves Game of Thrones-themed cocktails, like the signature White Walker.

8. Martin credits HBO with changing the rules of television.

Network television standards may have been too tame and regimented for Martin's tastes, but all that changed with HBO and The Sopranos, which he credits as paving the way for a series like Game of Thrones to exist in its current form at all.

"I credit HBO with smashing the damn trope that everybody had to be likable on television," Martin told Rolling Stone. "The Sopranos turned it around. When you meet Tony Soprano, he’s in the psychiatrist office, he’s talking about the ducks, his depression and that stuff, and you like this guy. Then he gets in his car and he’s driving away and he sees someone who owes him money, and he jumps out and he starts stomping him. Now how likable was he? Well you didn’t care, because they already had you. A character like Walter White on Breaking Bad could never have existed before HBO."

9. Martin thinks it's important for writers to break the rules.

While he's an admitted fan of William Goldman, Martin has a very different opinion of noted screenplay expert Syd Field. "There is a book out there by Syd and it’s his guide to writing screenplays and it’s probably one of the most harmful things that has ever been done for the movie industry,” Martin said. “For some perverse reason, it has become the bible not for writers but for what we call 'the suits,' the guys at the studios whose job it is to develop properties and give notes to supervise screenplays. They take Syd Field’s course and they buy the book and they start criticizing screenplays like, ‘Well you know, the first turn is supposed to be on page 12 and yours is not until page 17, so obviously this won’t do!'"

"Syd just writes downs these ridiculous rules," Martin continued. "If there really was a formula as he says, then every movie would be a blockbuster. We would just connect A, B, and C and we would have a great movie and everyone would pack the theater to see it. But every movie is not a blockbuster. Many movies that follow his rules precisely actually go down the toilet."

10. He’s a skilled chess player.

"I started playing chess when I was quite young, in grade school," Martin told The Independent. "I played it through high school. In college, I founded the chess club. I was captain of the chess team." Eventually, Martin discovered that he could actually make some money off this skill.

"For two or three years, I had a pretty good situation. Most writers who have to have a day job work five days a week and then they have the weekend off to write. These chess tournaments were all on the weekend so I had to work on Saturday and Sunday, but then I had five days off to write. The chess generated enough money for me to pay my bills."

11. He has a very specific way of writing, which is why he hasn't finished the winds of winter.

Fans have been waiting for a while for the next book in the A Song of Ice and Fire series, and Martin has been honest about why it's taking him so long. "Writer’s block isn’t to blame here, it’s distraction," he said. "In recent years, all of the work I’ve been doing creates problems because it creates distraction. Because the books and the show are so popular I have interviews to do constantly. I have travel plans constantly. It’s like suddenly I get invited to travel to South Africa or Dubai, and who’s passing up a free trip to Dubai? I don’t write when I travel. I don’t write in hotel rooms. I don’t write on airplanes. I really have to be in my own house undisturbed to write. Through most of my life no body did bother me, but now everyone bothers me every day."

Can You Guess the Meaning of These Dothraki Words?

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