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13 TV Shows That Changed Titles

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When these shows got retooled, their names got changed, too.

1. New Title: Seinfeld / Original Title: The Seinfeld Chronicles

Original Title

New Title

When NBC aired Jerry Seinfeld’s new TV show on July 5, 1989, its title was very different from the one we know and love today—at least for an episode. The comedy was called The Seinfeld Chronicles for its pilot episode and then changed to simply Seinfeld. NBC was worried that audiences would mistake The Seinfeld Chronicles for another TV comedy called The Marshall Chronicles on its rival network, ABC. Both TV shows aired in 1990, but only one is considered the greatest TV comedy of all-time.

2. New Title: Ellen / Original Title: These Friends of Mine

Comedian Ellen DeGeneres was at the center of the TV comedy These Friends of Mine, which premiered on ABC in 1994. During the show’s first season, DeGeneres’ star was on the rise, and she was becoming more popular than her TV friends. When These Friends of Mine returned for season two, it was re-titled Ellen to suit the titular character and to capitalize on DeGeneres’ growing popularity.

3. New Title: Saturday Night Live / Original Title: NBC’s Saturday Night

NBC’s long-running late night sketch comedy and variety show Saturday Night Live has been on the air since 1975. While we’re all familiar with its title, the widely popular TV show was originally titled NBC’s Saturday Night. A month before its initial broadcast, rival network ABC launched a like-minded variety and comedy show called Saturday Night Live with Howard Cosell. In an attempt to avoid confusion, SNL producer and creator Lorne Michaels called his show NBC’s Saturday Night. Cosell's show was canceled the following year, and Michaels dropped the “NBC” moniker and the show officially became Saturday Night Live in March 1977. For a brief time during its sixth season, SNL was alternatively known as Saturday Night Live ’80, as a way to break into a new decade of comedy.

4. New Title: Saved By The Bell / Original Title: Good Morning, Miss Bliss

Original Title

New Title

In 1987, NBC aired the pilot for a teen comedy, entitled Good Morning, Miss Bliss, which starred Hayley Mills as the titular teacher and future Beverly Hills 90210 actor Brian Austin Green as a serious, suit-and-tie-wearing student. When NBC passed on the series, The Disney Channel stepped in to pick it up in 1988. The comedy was set at the fictional John F. Kennedy Junior High School in Indianapolis, Indiana.

Disney later dropped Good Morning, Miss Bliss after 13 episodes and NBC immediately picked it up after seeing how much potential the show had on Saturday mornings. NBC re-tooled the comedy to focus on the teenage students instead of the teacher character, and relocated it from Indiana to southern California. Now under the name Saved By The Bell, NBC’s teen comedy became one of the most iconic Saturday morning TV shows of the '90s. In syndication, Good Morning, Miss Bliss is also known as Saved By The Bell: The Junior High Years.

5. New Title: The Hogan Family / Original Title: Valerie and Valerie’s Family: The Hogans

Original Title

New Title

In 1986, the family sitcom Valerie was NBC’s most popular comedy. However, when the comedy’s star Valerie Harper got into a dispute with the series’ producers over her demand for a salary increase and a share in the series’ syndication revenue, the writers killed off the comedy’s main character at the end of its second season. When it returned for its third season in 1987, the TV show’s titled changed from Valerie to Valerie’s Family: The Hogans and added a new character, the family’s aunt Sandy, played by Sandy Duncan. Also in 1987, Harper filed a lawsuit against the show’s producers, and the sitcom’s name was changed again to simply The Hogan Family for its fourth season. (Interestingly enough, Sandy Duncan had starred in her own name-changing sitcom back in 1971—originally called Funny Face, the show was retitled The Sandy Duncan Show the following year.)

6. New Title: Almost Home / Original Title: The Torkelsons

Original Title

New Title

In 1991, the short-lived family sitcom The Torkelsons aired on NBC. The show was set in a suburban Oklahoma town and followed a mother named Millicent and her five children struggling to earn a living after the children’s father left the family. But when ratings for the series were low, NBC execs decided to re-tool The Torkelsons instead of canceling it. For its second season, NBC changed the title to Almost Home and relocated Millicent and three of her five children from Oklahoma to Seattle, where she took a job as a nanny for a magazine tycoon and his two children. But the name change couldn't save the show, which was canceled after its second season.

7. New Title: Two Guys and a Girl / Original Title: Two Guys, a Girl and a Pizza Place

Original Title

New Title

The TV sitcom Two Guys and a Girl (not to be confused with the 1998 indie film Two Girls and a Guy or the 1951 comedy Two Gals and a Guy, which is also known as Baby and Me), aired as Two Guys, A Girl and a Pizza Place when it premiered on ABC on March 10, 1998. The comedy followed the Friends format of beautiful twenty-somethings living and working in a major metropolitan city—in this case, Boston. When the titular two guys embarked on more ambitious careers, the pizza place was dropped from the series’ title and premise altogether at the beginning of its season three. Two Guys and a Girl was canceled shortly after.

8. New Title: 8 Simple Rules / Original Title: 8 Simple Rules for Dating My Teenage Daughter

The family sitcom 8 Simple Rules for Dating My Teenage Daughter was a lighthearted comedy about a father coming to terms with his children’s teenage behavior. But when star John Ritter suddenly died after filming the third episode of its second season, the series changed its format and name to 8 Simple Rules. Ritter’s death was written into the show, which then followed his character's grieving family.

9. New Title: Zoe… / Original Title: Zoe, Duncan, Jack and Jane

Original Title

New Title

In 1999, The WB was the hub for teen dramas and comedies, including Felicity, Dawson’s Creek, and Charmed. The network was looking to introduce more comedy programming for their teenage viewers, and the sitcom Zoe, Duncan, Jack and Jane was born. The series followed four high school friends coming of age during their senior year in New York City. When audiences had trouble remembering the show’s title, its producers eventually simplified it to Zoe… when the TV show was re-tooled for its second season.

10. New Title: Little House: A New Beginning / Original Title: Little House on the Prairie

The long-running TV series Little House on the Prairie saw some drastic changes when it reached its ninth season in 1982. The series’ star, Michael Landon, left the show, but still stayed on as executive producer; it followed a new family living in the Ingalls’ house; and changed its name from Little House on the Prairie to Little House: A New Beginning. The series was canceled a year later due to low ratings.

11. New Title: Parker Lewis / Original Title: Parker Lewis Can’t Lose

One of the most underappreciated TV comedies of the '90s is Parker Lewis Can’t Lose, which aired on Fox from 1990 to 1993. The series followed a teenager and his friends' daily misadventures at Santo Domingo High School. While the movie Ferris Bueller’s Day Off strongly influenced the TV comedy with post-modern elements, Parker Lewis Can’t Lose injected a surreal and hyper quality to the Ferris Bueller character prototype. However, in its final season, the series’ creators toned down the show’s manic pace and re-titled the comedy to simply Parker Lewis.

12. New Title: Gargoyles: The Goliath Chronicles / Original Title: Gargoyles

Original Title

New Title

The animated series Gargoyles aired its first two seasons in syndication on Disney in an afternoon programming block that included Darkwing Duck, Goof Troop, and the TV series version of Aladdin. In its third and final season, Disney moved Gargoyles from afternoon programming to Disney’s One Saturday Morning on ABC and retitled the animated series Gargoyles: The Goliath Chronicles. As a result, the series saw a slump in quality, with new writers and producers replacing the old guard. Die-hard fans ignore The Goliath Chronicles, and series’ creator Greg Weisman doesn’t consider the third season part of Gargoyles' canon and mythology.

13. New Title: SCTV Network 90 and SCTV Channel / Original Title: Second City Television (SCTV)

Original Title

New Title

When Second City Television (SCTV) moved from Canadian broadcast network CBC to the American NBC in 1981, as a mid-season replacement for the late night variety show The Midnight Special, the highly influential sketch comedy TV series changed its broadcasting format from 30 minutes to 90 minutes. To reflect the change, SCTV also changed its name to SCTV Network 90, and then simply SCTV Network for its fourth season.

For SCTV’s last season, the sketch comedy show moved to the premium cable networks Superchannel in Canada and Cinemax in the United States. The comedy also changed its running time to 45 minutes and its name one last time to SCTV Channel.

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Karl Walter, Getty Images
When the FBI Investigated the 'Murder' of Nine Inch Nails's Trent Reznor
Karl Walter, Getty Images
Karl Walter, Getty Images

The two people standing over the body, Michigan State Police detective Paul Wood told the Hard Copy cameras, “had a distinctive-type uniform on. As I recall: black pants, some type of leather jacket with a design on it, and one was wearing combat boots. The other was wearing what looked like patent leather shoes. So if it was a homicide, I was thinking it was possibly a gang-type homicide.”

Wood was describing a puzzling case local police, state police, and eventually the FBI had worked hard to solve for over a year. The mystery began in 1989, when farmer Robert Reed spotted a circular group of objects floating over his farm just outside of rural Burr Oak, Michigan; it turned out to be a cluster of weather balloons attached to a Super 8 camera.

When the camera landed on his property, the surprised farmer didn't develop the footage—he turned it over to the police. Some local farmers had recently gotten into trouble for letting wild marijuana grow on the edges of their properties, and Reed thought the balloons and camera were a possible surveillance technique. But no state or local jurisdictions used such rudimentary methods, so the state police in East Lansing decided to develop the film. What they saw shocked them.

A city street at night; a lifeless male body with a mysterious substance strewn across his face; two black-clad men standing over the body as the camera swirled away up into the sky, with a third individual seen at the edge of the frame running away, seemingly as fast as possible. Michigan police immediately began analyzing the footage for clues, and noticed the lights of Chicago’s elevated train system, which was over 100 miles away.

It was the first clue in what would become a year-long investigation into what they believed was either a cult killing or gang murder. When they solved the “crime” of what they believed was a real-life snuff film, they were more shocked than when the investigation began: The footage was from the music video for “Down In It,” the debut single from industrial rock band Nine Inch Nails, and the supposed dead body was the group's very-much-alive lead singer, Trent Reznor.

 
 

In 1989, Nine Inch Nails was about to release their debut album, Pretty Hate Machine, which would go on to be certified triple platinum in the United States. The record would define the emerging industrial rock sound that Reznor and his rotating cast of bandmates would experiment with throughout the 1990s and even today on albums like The Downward Spiral and The Slip.

The band chose the song “Down In It”—a track with piercing vocals, pulsing electronic drums, sampled sound effects, and twisted nursery rhyme-inspired lyrics—as Pretty Hate Machine's first single. They began working with H-Gun, a Chicago-based multimedia team led by filmmakers Eric Zimmerman and Benjamin Stokes (who had created videos for such bands as Ministry and Revolting Cocks), and sketched out a rough idea for the music video.

Filmed on location among warehouses and parking garages in Chicago, the video was supposed to culminate in a shot with a leather-jacketed Reznor running to the top of a building, while two then-members of the band followed him wearing studded jumpsuits; the video would fade out with an epic floating zoom shot to imply that Reznor's cornstarch-for-blood-covered character had fallen off the building and died in the street. Because the cash-strapped upstarts didn’t have enough money for a fancy crane to achieve the shot for their video, they opted to tie weather balloons to the camera and let it float up from Reznor, who was lying in the street surrounded by his bandmates. They eventually hoped to play the footage backward to get the shot in the final video.

Instead, the Windy City lived up to its name and quickly whisked the balloons and camera away. With Reznor playing dead and his bandmates looking down at him, only one of the filmmakers noticed. He tried to chase down the runaway camera—which captured his pursuit—but it was lost, forcing them to finish shooting the rest of the video and release it without the planned shot from the missing footage in September of 1989.

Meanwhile, unbeknownst to the band, a drama involving their lost camera was unfolding in southwest Michigan. Police there eventually involved the Chicago police, whose detectives determined that the footage had been filmed in an alley in the city's Fulton River District. After Chicago authorities found no homicide reports matching the footage for the neighborhood and that particular time frame, they handed the video over to the FBI, whose pathologists reportedly said that, based on the substance on the individual, the body in the video was rotting.

 
 

The "substance" in question was actually the result of the low-quality film and the color of the cornstarch on the singer’s face, which had also been incorporated into the press photos for Pretty Hate Machine. It was a nod to the band's early live shows, in which Reznor would spew cornstarch and chocolate syrup on his band members and the audience. “It looks really great under the lights, grungey, a sort of anti-Bon Jovi and the whole glamour thing,” Reznor said in a 1991 interview.

With no other easy options, and in order to generate any leads that might help them identify the victim seen in the video, the authorities distributed flyers to Chicago schools asking if anyone knew any details behind the strange “killing.”

The tactic worked. A local art student was watching MTV in 1991 and saw the distinctive video for “Down In It,” which reminded him of one of the flyers he had seen at school. He contacted the Chicago police to tip them off to who their supposed "murder victim" really was. Nine Inch Nails’s manager was notified, and he told Reznor and the filmmakers what had really happened to their lost footage.

“It’s interesting that our top federal agency, the Federal Bureau of [Investigation], couldn’t crack the Super 8 code,” co-director Zimmerman said in an interview. As for Wood and any embarrassment law enforcement had after the investigation: “I thought it was our duty, one way or the other, to determine what was on that film,” he said.

“My initial reaction was that it was really funny that something could be that blown out of proportion with this many people worked up about it,” Reznor said, and later told an interviewer, “There was talk that I would have to appear and talk to prove that I was alive.” Even though—in the eyes of state, local, and federal authorities—he was reportedly dead for over a year, Reznor didn’t seem to be bothered by it: “Somebody at the FBI had been watching too much Hitchcock or David Lynch or something,” he reasoned.

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Courtesy of Park Circus and MGM
West Side Story Is Returning to Theaters This Weekend
Courtesy of Park Circus and MGM
Courtesy of Park Circus and MGM

As Chris Pratt and a gang of prehistoric creatures get ready to face off against some animated superheroes for this weekend’s box office dominance, an old rivalry is brewing once again on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. West Side Story—Robert Wise and Jerome Robbins’s classic big-screen rendering of Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim’s Broadway musical—is returning to cinemas for the first time in nearly 30 years.

As part of TCM’s Big Screen Classics Series, West Side Story will have special screening engagements at more than 600 theaters across the country on Sunday, June 24 at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. If you can’t make it this weekend, encores will screen at the same time on Wednesday, June 27. The film—which is being re-released courtesy of TCM, Fathom Events, Park Circus, and Metro Goldwyn Mayer—will be presented in its original widescreen format, and include its original mid-film intermission. (Though its 2.5-hour runtime is practically standard nowadays, that wasn’t the case a half-century ago.) The screening will include an introduction and some post-credit commentary by TCM’s Ben Mankiewicz.

West Side Story, which was named Best Picture of 1961, is a musical retelling of Romeo and Juliet that sees star-crossed lovers Maria (Natalie Wood) and Tony (Richard Beymer) navigate the challenges of immigration, racial tension, and inner-city life in mid-century Manhattan—but with lots of singing and dancing. In addition to being named Best Picture, the beloved film took home another nine Oscars, including Best Director, Best Supporting Actor and Actress (for George Chakiris and Rita Moreno, respectively), and Best Music—obviously.

To find out if West Side Story is screening near you, and to purchase tickets, visit Fathom Events’s website.

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