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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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)

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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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Scott Gries/Getty Images
17 Electric Facts About MTV Unplugged
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Michael Stipe of R.E.M. goes Unplugged.
Scott Gries/Getty Images

Making its debut in 1989, MTV Unplugged—in which famous musicians perform stripped-down arrangements of their biggest hits—was a hit for both the cable network and the music industry, particularly in the early- to mid-'90s. Though it lost its regular time slot in 1999, in the near-20 years since, a handful of artists have popped in for brief revivals. But now it looks as if Unplugged is ready for a reboot; MTV has announced that the series will be back beginning on September 8, 2017, with Shawn Mendes as its first guest. In the meantime, here's a look behind the scenes of the music series that became a phenomenon.


Singer/songwriter Jules Shear has said that he came up with the concept for MTV Unplugged to promote his acoustic album, The Third Party. In 1992, The New York Times wrote that Shear was inspired by Jon Bon Jovi and Richie Sambora's two-song acoustic set at the 1989 MTV Video Music Awards.

That's all well and good, but producers Jim Burns and Bob Small claim they got the idea for MTV Unplugged after Bruce Springsteen treated the two—and the thousands of other fans at one of his concerts—to a final encore featuring just himself and his acoustic guitar. (Springsteen would find his way onto Unplugged in 1992.)

Executive producer Joel Gallen has referred to Unplugged as his "baby" as well and, like Shear, was inspired by Bon Jovi and Sambora's VMA set, which he called a "jumping off point." In I Want My MTV: The Uncensored Story of the Music Video Revolution, Small said: “Please do not credit Bon Jovi for creating Unplugged. Jon Bon Jovi thinks he was the inspiration for it. He wouldn’t even do the f***ing show until almost 20 years later.”


HBO passed on Unplugged when Shear proposed the concept to the pay channel. Burns and Small pitched the series to PBS after MTV initially said no. PBS simply echoed MTV and HBO. It was only when Burns and Small ally Judy McGrath got a promotion at MTV that a pilot got a greenlight.


Bob Small said he had just four hours to set up for the Unplugged pilot, with another four hours to film it—and all on a budget of $18,000. "I couldn't get money to hire a director," Small said. "They said, 'You direct it.'"


None other than Jules Shear was the undisputed master of ceremonies for the first season. He also joined in on some songs.


Glenn Tilbrook and Chris Difford from Squeeze were the stars of the first episode, which aired on November 26, 1989. But they were unprepared. "Chris and Glenn showed up for rehearsal with electric guitars," Alex Coletti, who would end up producing the show through 2001, recalled. "I said: 'Very funny, guys. Where are the acoustics? It’s Unplugged.' They looked at each other and went, 'Riiight… Make a phone call, quick!'"


"The fifth episode was billed as Joe Walsh and Friends, and Joe showed up with only one friend—Ricky, his bass player," Coletti remembered. "We thought it meant his famous friends, but apparently that got lost in translation." Walsh had been a member of The Eagles, who had an infamous falling-out, but Walsh's claim of buddies gave MTV employees false hope. Producer Bruce Leddy found Dr. John recording at a neighboring studio and convinced him to come on and be Walsh's "friend."


Walsh's former Eagles bandmate wrote "Desperado," as well as a three-page fax explaining to MTV that he didn't want Walsh to play it and he was refusing permission to air the performance. It was after the fax that the network invited Henley to come on the show himself to perform it. Henley was the first artist to get an entire half-hour on his own as the only artist, which quickly became the status quo for Unplugged. In 1994, when The Eagles reunited, they appeared on an MTV Unplugged special.


The first Unplugged featuring rap artists took place in 1991. Pop's Cool Love backed LL Cool J, MC Lyte, De La Soul, and A Tribe Called Quest. “[It’s like] you drink milk for 10 years and then [you have to] drink fruit punch,” Quest's Q-Tip said about performing with the band. “It’s not that the fruit is bad, but you have to get used to it.”

But LL seemed able to adapt. "We rehearsed the night before and LL Cool J had never worked with a live band," Coletti said. "Before long, he was calling the shots like he'd been doing it his whole life."


"People have teased me about the deodorant for years, but I love it," he said. "It was raw! It was nasty! At least you know I wasn’t stinking.”


Before Paul McCartney, no other Unplugged artist body had thought to release their acoustic set as an album. But after he performed in 1991, the former Beatle was worried about it getting out to the masses illegally. “I figured that as Unplugged would be screened around the world there was every chance that some bright spark would tape the show and turn it into a bootleg, so we decided to bootleg the show ourselves," he admitted. "We heard the tapes in the car driving back. By the time we got home, we’d decided we’d got an album—albeit one of the fastest I’ve ever made.” He even titled the live performance collection Unplugged (The Official Bootleg).


"Slowhand" performed to acclaim in 1992, but he initially didn't think it was good enough to be released officially as a CD. So naturally, his live album Unplugged won the Grammy for Album of the Year. His "Tears in Heaven" performance in particular won Song and Record of the Year. Two years later, Tony Bennett followed suit, winning the 1994 Album of the Year prize for his time on the show.


Neil Young's Unplugged was supposed to have been taped at the Ed Sullivan Theater in New York on December 12, 1992. Instead, on that night—at that venue—the audience saw something they would probably never forget: Neil Young walking out the door after numerous mistakes. The "stunned" crew members managed to get him to come back to try again that night. Young opted to junk the performance entirely, and tried again two months later—this time with a band, and with much more success.


Amos was thrown off and "couldn't harness the energy." But unlike Young, she was able to walk back onstage, perform, and not have to try again with another set on a different night. As the singer/songwriter remembered it, she and her manager paced "beneath the MTV thing" backstage thinking about the problem. "Then my [lighting director] came down and said, 'Something just doesn't feel right. I can’t put my finger on it,'" Amos told "For 700 shows over the five years (prior to that), I'd played with the lights down. So all the lights were up to catch the audience and I felt like somebody was watching me take a shower. So they dimmed the lights, I felt better. By that point because I'd made the choice to stop it and make some changes, I felt like I began again. And I turned the whole show around."


"Maybe I shouldn't give this secret away, but I built a fake box out in front of the amp to make it look like a monitor wedge," Coletti admitted to Guitar World in 1995. "It's an acoustic guitar, but he's obviously going through an amp," he added, talking about the now iconic David Bowie cover. "I actually fought pretty hard to leave that song out [of the final edit of the show], because I felt it wasn't as genuine as the rest of the songs. But I'm a huge Bowie fan, so I couldn't fight too hard against the song."


The Nirvana drummer remembered that it was a minor miracle that the band's Unplugged performance went so well. “That show was supposed to be a disaster,” Grohl said. “We hadn’t rehearsed. We weren’t used to playing acoustic. We did a few rehearsals and they were terrible. Everyone thought it was horrible. Even the people from MTV thought it was horrible. Then we sat down and the cameras started rolling and something clicked. It became one of the band’s most memorable performances.”

As Coletti told it, Kurt Cobain was thinking of just replacing Grohl behind the kit, or maybe not using a drummer at all. “What I didn’t know was up until the day [of the Unplugged performance], there was talk of Dave [Grohl] not playing at all in the show,” the producer revealed in 2014. “Kurt wasn’t happy with the way rehearsals were going; he didn’t like the way Dave sounded playing drums with sticks."

But Grohl turned up the day of filming, and Coletti gifted him some brushes and sizzle sticks to give his drumming a softer sound. "I was afraid Dave would just roll his eyes, like, 'Oh great, the a**hole from MTV is trying to be my friend,'" the producer remembered thinking. "But instead he opened the package and said, 'Cool, I've never had brushes before. I've never even tried using them.'" The album Unplugged in New York won the Grammy for Best Alternative Music Album in 1996. It was the band's lone Grammy win.


The Led Zeppelin bandmates reunited in 1994 for the Unplugged special: No Quarter: Robert Plant and Jimmy Page Unledded, which at the time was the highest-rated episode of the series ever. MTV suggested they film it in Queens, New York. Plant suggested Morocco and Wales because it was where he wrote "Kashmir" and "Down by the Seaside," respectively. Network executives explicitly requested "Stairway" but were shot down. "I think we're in a disposable world and 'Stairway to Heaven' is one of the things that hasn't quite been thrown away yet," Plant said in 1994. "I think radio stations should be asked not to play it for 10 years, just to leave it alone for a bit so we can tell whether it's any good or not."


Oasis lead vocalist Liam Gallagher backed out of the Royal Festival Hall gig in London at the last minute due to a "sore throat," so songwriter/guitarist/brother Noel took over the vocal duties. Noel would later disclose that Liam in fact appeared an hour before showtime "sh*tfaced," and when he tried to sing it sounded "f**king dreadful." Liam watched the performance from the balcony and at times jeered the band. Noel told him to shut up. Coletti thought it was all for the best. "There's something when the songwriter himself sings it. Maybe he's a little more connected to the song."

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The Night the Brat Pack Was Born
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If Emilio Estevez had opted to pay for his movie ticket, the Brat Pack might never have been born. It was spring 1985, and Estevez—then the 23-year-old co-star of St. Elmo’s Fire—was being profiled in New York Magazine. The angle was that Estevez had just signed a deal to write, direct, and star in his own feature, That Was Then... This is Now, an opportunity that was rarely afforded to young Hollywood talent. Estevez was two years younger than Orson Welles was when he performed similar duties for 1941’s Citizen Kane.

That youthful exuberance was on display as New York writer David Blum followed Estevez in and around Los Angeles for several days gathering material for the story. With Blum in tow, Estevez decided that he wanted to catch a screening of Ladyhawke, a fantasy film starring Matthew Broderick. For reasons not made entirely clear, he preferred not to have to pay for a ticket. According to Blum, Estevez called the theater and politely asked for free admission before entering an 8 p.m. screening.

It's likely Estevez was just having a little fun with his celebrity. But to Blum, it was indicative of a mischievous, slightly grating sense of entitlement. Blum’s assessment was that Estevez was acting “bratty,” an impression he felt was reinforced when he witnessed a gathering of other young actors at LA’s Hard Rock Cafe for the same story.

What was supposed to be a modest profile of Estevez turned into a cover story declaration: Hollywood’s “Brat Pack” was here, and they had decided to forego the earnest acting study preferred by their predecessors to spend their nights partying instead.

The day the story hit newsstands, Blum received a call from Estevez. “You’ve ruined my life,” he said.

The June 1985 cover of New York magazine
New York, Google Books

Blum’s label had its roots in the Rat Pack of the 1960s, so named for the carousing boys' club led by Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, and Sammy Davis Jr. Whether it was accurate or not, the performers developed reputations for squeezing every last drink, perk, and joke they could out of their celebrity well into middle age.

That dynamic was on Blum’s mind when New York dispatched him to cover Estevez. After he arrived in California, Blum took note of the fact that a tight cluster of actors seemed to have formed a group, both on- and off-screen. Estevez was close friends with Rob Lowe and Tom Cruise, and all of them appeared in 1983’s The Outsiders; Lowe and Estevez were co-starring in St. Elmo’s Fire, a coming-of-age drama that also featured Andrew McCarthy and Judd Nelson; Estevez and Nelson gained a lot of attention for 1984’s The Breakfast Club.

To Blum, Estevez was more than just a multi-hyphenate; he appeared to be the nucleus of a group that spent a lot of time working and playing together. And in fairness to Blum, Estevez didn’t dissuade the writer from that take: Fearing he was coming off as too serious in the profile, Estevez asked Lowe and Nelson to hang out with him at Los Angeles’s Hard Rock Cafe so Blum could see the actor's lighter side.

Nelson would later recall that he felt uneasy around Blum. “Why is this guy having dinner with us?” he asked Estevez. Lowe, meanwhile, was busy flirting with women approaching their table. The group later went to a "punk rock" club, with a Playboy Playmate tagging along.

As celebrity hedonism goes, it was a tame evening. But Blum walked away with the idea that Estevez was the unofficial president of an exclusive club—attractive actors who were soaking up success while idling late into the night.

Blum returned to New York with a different angle for his editors. He wanted to capture this “Brat Pack,” a “roving band” of performers “on the prowl” for good times. Although the magazine had just run a cover story about a teenage gang dubbed “the wolf pack” and feared repetition, they agreed.

As far as Estevez and the others were concerned, Blum was busy executing a piece on Estevez’s ambitions as a writer and director. When Estevez, Nelson, and Lowe appeared on the cover—taken from a publicity still for St. Elmo’s Fire—with his newly-coined phrase, they were horrified.

Blum began getting calls from angry publicists from each of the actors mentioned in the article—and there had been a lot of them. In addition to Estevez, the de facto leader, and lieutenants Lowe and Nelson, Blum had dubbed go-to John Hughes geek Anthony Michael Hall the “mascot”; Timothy Hutton was said to be on the verge of excommunication for his film “bombs”; Tom Cruise, Sean Penn, Nicolas Cage, and Matt Dillon were also mentioned.

To the actors, the effect was devastating. Independent of how they spent their free time, all of them were pursuing serious careers as performers, with producers, directors, and casting agents mindful of their portrayal in the media. Being a Brat Packer was synonymous with being listless, or not taking their craft seriously.

Nelson recalled the blowback was immediate: Managers told him to stop socializing with his friends for fear he’d be stigmatized as unreliable. “These were people I worked with, who I really liked as people, funny, smart, committed to the work,” he said in 2013. “I mean, no one was professionally irresponsible. And after that article, not only [were] we strongly encouraged not to work with each other again, and for the most part we haven’t, but it was insinuated we might not want to be hanging out with these people.”

Universal Pictures

Some of the actors went on The Phil Donahue Show to criticize the profile, asserting that their remarks to Blum had been off-the-record. (Blum denied this.) Lowe told the media that Blum had “burned bridges” and that he was “no Hunter S. Thompson.” Andrew McCarthy called Blum a “lazy … journalist” and found the idea of an actor “tribe” absurd—he had never even met Anthony Michael Hall.

Unfortunately, the name stuck. “Brat Pack” was infectious—a catch-all for the kind of young performer emerging in the ‘80s who could be seen in multiple ensemble movies. While Blum would later express regret over the label, it’s never quite left the public consciousness. In 2005, Universal released a DVD boxed set—The Breakfast Club, Weird Science, and Sixteen Candles—as The Brat Pack Collection.

Nelson, Estevez, and Lowe never again appeared in a movie together. “Personally, the biggest disappointment about it is that ‘Brat Pack’ will somehow figure in my obituary at [the] hands of every lazy and unoriginal journalist,” Estevez told a reporter in 2011. “Warning: My ghost will come back and haunt them.”

Nelson was slightly less forgiving. In a 2013 podcast, he chastised Blum for his mischaracterization of the group of young actors. “I would have been better served following my gut feeling and knocking him unconscious.”


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