Bienvenidos and welcome to the blog of Manda Newlin, professional writer/copyeditor, amateur pop-culture quipper and perennial observer. I’m nuts about words, grammar, bookstores, foreign accents, DVR and iTunes. I enjoy one-on-one conversations, eavesdropping in coffee shops, learning other peoples’ life stories and discovering universal truths. Here’s what I know ….

Sunday, June 24, 2007

TV titles are so much pun!

June is running out of steam and summer is in full swing. Naturally, the time is ripe for TV networks to begin promoting their fall programming.

One fresh entry offers a new take on the common-as-air police procedural drama. Fox’s “New Amsterdam” chronicles the life of John Amsterdam, a New York City homicide detective “cursed with immortality because he stopped the murder of a Native Indian schoolgirl in 1642 by stepping in front of a sword.”

This show is the latest in a string wherein the main character’s name appears in the title as part of a cliché or idiom. Other prime(time) examples: “Grey’s Anatomy” (Dr. Meredith Grey), “Saving Grace” (Det. Grace Hanadarko), “Crossing Jordan” (Dr. Jordan Cavanaugh) and “King of the Hill” (Hank Hill).

I haven’t decided whether this convention is clever and catchy – or indulgent and irritating ... just like newspaper and magazine articles with gaggingly cute headlines. (So help me, if I see another environmentally friendly piece titled “It’s easy bein’ green,” I can only pray I’m close to a defibrillator.)

Nevertheless, I understand why TV scriptwriters do this, because the daily pressure to join old words in new ways can be grueling. And it’s a surprisingly easy approach to developing concepts.

Play along at home by brainstorming a list of popular phrases and then imagining how each one could play out on the small screen. Consider, if you will, my humble contributions:

  • Pike’s Peak,” with Julia Pike as an overachieving businesswoman whose just-as-she-likes-it life is upended by the arrival of her estranged sister’s precocious teenage daughter (as if there’s any other kind of teenage daughter on TV).
  • Lame Duck,” featuring James ‘The Duck’ Duckworth as a cutthroat, jerky-but-genius litigator who juggles intense career pressures while dealing with a mangled right leg. (Think “House” in a courtroom.)
  • Robert’s Rules of Order,” about U.S. Sen. Robert T. McAllister, a political heavyweight who is being groomed for the presidency – but whose personal life is secretly in shambles. (You see, the title is ironic.)

Like ’em? Have your people call my people …. We’ll do lunch.


Bella Rossa said...

This is a trend that gets on my nerves sometimes, too. It brings to mind several movie titles that also use this form: "Raising Helen," "Chasing Amy," "Teaching Mrs. Tingle" (originally titled "Killing Mrs. Tingle"), and so on.

Odessa said...

Thanks for writing this.