Monday, February 28, 2005

[lovebites] The Pain of Names

How did we come up with the title for our TV show? I started a competition called 'What's the worst name you can think of for our show?'

Seriously.


Click for more on the baffling true story of how we named our show ...

I feel bitter and amused by it even now, four years later. Of course the show started by being called hopeless. I say "of course" but it was equally obvious that the name had to change for three reasons:
1) Phil Hope was back from Australia so it no longer applied.
2) The movie didn't do so well so people (executives, produces and... eventually us) wanted to distance the show from it.
3) hopeless is a bad name.

Seriously. It's negative, nondescriptive, doesn't indicate that it is a comedy and only make sense after you've seen the movie. I love my little movie but just like I won't call my firstborn son 'Sexy Beauregard88', I will never again title a film on impulse without really paying attention to the wider implications.

Even this is simplifying the story a lot. We searched for a lot of new names for 'hopeless' but this is a story about lovebites. I've got to keep focused on that or this whole post's going to get infinitely recursive.

So we had to change the title. First were plays on 'hopeless', like "Here's Hoping" and "Hopeful". Positive. Upbeat. Everything from this era of titles sounded like a fresh new sitcom from the creators of Major Dad and Designining Women. There was a moment of optimism when Andrew reported that one of his mother's friends had come up with a phrase that worked, at a dinner party. But he couldn't remember what it was. So we continued to search, all the while having the perfect name that Andrew's mother's friend came up with gnawing at my brain.

Phase 2: Brainstorming. That gave us Small Poppies and Loose Change. I actually liked Small Poppies, but we got a note from the network saying that 'small' implied 'second-rate' and who wanted to watch second-raters? So Loose Change become the default.

Why'd Loose Change change? I really can't remember, but I'm pretty sure that the consistent pressure of our dislike had something to do with it. I made it a mission to find something better. I must have generated 200 names: Back on Earth, Down to Earth, All About ..., It happens. Around this time I entered that particular crazy phase where I singlemindedly and seriously pushed for Ben having a Season 1 story arc of trying to become an astronaut.

Then the competition. It was a joke. A joke.
My brother put up the first entry. Love Bites.
We laughed.
Larry saw it.
He liked it.

This is how I remember it happening. He told Caterina up at TV3. She liked it.

Now my apologies to anyone who likes the title of our show, but there are 3 reasons it's no good:
1) It sucks.
2) It reminds people of reality bites.
3) What the fuck does it have to do with anything?

But the power-hubs of the creative process like it. Think it's snappy and edgy and ... oh dear lord they're serious.
We panic.
Time passes.
The fog does not lift from their brains.

So we - or me - take it upon ourselves to make them see reason.

I compile a list, a list of 10 titles that are better than Love Bites. Not perfect, mind you, just less likely to make the 1.5 million potential viewers we're about to unleash this on say, "What were they thinking?"

Larry tells me that 10 titles are too much. Narrow the list down.
I obey. I narrow the list to 3.
He says that's too much. Just choose the best one.
I do. I choose ... I think ... "It Happens".

Caterina doesn't like it.

Our show's called 'Love Bites'.

Now, you see what happened? (a) I played by someone else's rules - because Larry was the only person who dealt with Caterina, I felt I had to do as he suggested because of course he knew best. (b) Things got narrowed down to a choice between something someone already liked and had no reason to change versus something new that wasn't so much better. In retrospect, I think I was suckered.

We had some victories. We made it one word, made it lower case, found a really cool font for the main titles. It was all just a band-aid on a chainsaw being slowly lowered onto our show's head.

I think one of the tests of a title is 'Do you cringe when you say it to people'? If you ever feel like you have to apologise for it, if you're not proud of it, then reconsider.

Well, that's it. Thank you for listening to me vent. Oh, and three months after it went to air, I did hear a phrase that I thought would have made a better title. "Quarter Life Crisis". Which, according to an internet rumour, is going to be the name of a new American sit-com.
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