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September 2, 2014

The Five: Episode naming patterns

by Joel Keller, posted Feb 28th 2006 9:40AM
Grey's Anatomy - they use song titles
as episode namesMost shows just offer random titles for their episodes. Some, amazingly enough, offer titles that refer to something that happened in the episode.  Yawwwwn.  BOOORINNNG.

I like the shows that follow a pattern when naming their episodes. Why? Because I want to see if they can keep it up! Some shows, like Friends and Seinfeld, painted themselves in a corner very early on with episode names, not thinking the show would last for 200 episodes or so. By the end of such a show's long run, you can tell the writers were really stretching to keep the pattern going.

Here are five of my and my fellow Squadders' favorite examples of episode naming patterns that took on a life of their own:

Friends - "The One....": Except for the pilot, each and every episode of Friends starts with the words "The One". I guess they were riffing on when people say things like, "You see that episode of Friends last night?  You know, the one where Underdog gets away?" Looking over the complete episode list, it looks like it worked pretty well for them, especially with episode titles like "The One With All The Thanksgivings."

Seinfeld - "The...": The pilot and one very early episode did not follow this format ("Male Unbonding", where Jerry tries to dump an annoying friend), but the rest of the 180 episodes did. Some titles in this format were classic: "The Contest", "The Marble Rye", "The Puffy Shirt". The title told all. But some of the others? It's almost like the "The" was placed in front as an afterthought: "The Yadda Yadda", "The Serenity Now", "The Abstinence" (By the way, The O.C. has ripped off this pattern; let's see how long they sustain it).

Scrubs - "My...", "His...", and "Her...": The overwhelming majority of episodes start with "My", like "My First Day" and "My Giggly Ball". This makes sense since most of the time we're in J.D.'s head and hear his narration. You can tell which episodes are narrated by other characters when the episodes start with "His" and "Her".  I hope I see more of those in the future...

Monk - "Mr. Monk...": I guess this works because Monk is the central part of the show, right? And it's pretty descriptive, so when you see "Mr. Monk and the Red-Headed Stranger" or "Mr. Monk Goes Home Again", you pretty much know what it's about. What's the last episode gonna be? "Mr. Monk Stops Cleaning Everything"?

Grey's Anatomy - Song titles: This pattern is a little different from the rest, and, to be honest, it's going to be the hardest one to maintain. Every episode name is a song title, one that describes the overriding theme of the episode. For instance, the most recent episode was called "What Have I Done To Deserve This?", the name of a Pet Shop Boys song. The two-part "Code Black" episodes were called "It's The End of The World" and "(As We Know It)", which means somewhere, Michael Stipe is cashing an R.E.M. royalty check. But what's going to happen if this show goes as long as ER? Are they going to start reaching back into the doo-wop era?

Other patterns we've seen here at TVS: Nip/Tuck's patient-named episodes, My Name Is Earl's karma-list-item-named episodes, 24's time-of-day-named episodes (duh!).

Has anyone else noticed any funky episode naming patterns, either in current shows or old favorites? Let me know in the comments.

[Thanks to TV.com for the episode lists]

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Ashley Boyd

Weren't Reunion's episodes named after the year in which they were set? Similar to 24 in a way.

March 17 2006 at 7:52 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Marie

Spin City

March 10 2006 at 6:59 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
xbxtv

Add to comment #22:

Remington Steele always had "Steele" in it's eptitles - most of the time alternating some phrases that content the words "still", "steal" or "steel".

For example:
1 - 1 License to Steele
1 - 2 Tempered Steele
1 - 3 Steele Waters Run Deep
1 - 4 Signed, Steeled, & Delivered
1 - 5 Thou Shalt Not Steele
1 - 6 Steele Belted
1 - 7 Etched in Steele
1 - 8 Your Steele the One For Me
1 - 9 In the Steele of the Night

March 02 2006 at 4:05 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Brent McKee

I guess "Everybody Hates Chris" is a little obvious with its "Everybody hates..." titles.

March 01 2006 at 3:42 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Ian Prest

Not that I, uh, watched it or anything, but Dawson's Creek used movie titles for all first-season episodes. I don't recall exactly why (musta been a lawsuit or something), but sometime between the first and second seasons they went back and gave the episodes new names.

February 28 2006 at 6:01 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Olivier

Desperate Housewvies : (right out of imdb)

All episodes except the pilot are named after songs and in the first season, all the song titles were from songs written by Stephen Sondheim. At Sondheim's birthday celebration, the cast filmed a segment specifically for the party, featuring the titles.

February 28 2006 at 4:47 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Jennifer

Wonderfalls had each episode named after an animal show in the show. "Muffin Buffalo," "Caged Bird," "Karma Chameleon," etc.

February 28 2006 at 4:40 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Canton

Have to dredge up Wonderfalls again. Every episode was named after a key talking animal, the pattern being a descriptive word followed by the species of animal. Examples: "Totem Mole," "Safety Canary," "Wax Lion," and "Karma Chameleon."

February 28 2006 at 4:04 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Erin

The best is Dawson's Creek - they named their first 8
or 10 episodes after movie titles but didn't ask permission or pay any royalties so they had to go back and rename them all half way thru the season after someone threatened to sue. Fitting for such a series I think.

February 28 2006 at 3:50 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
floretbroccoli

Are Desperate Housewives episodes still named for Stephen Sondheim songs?

February 28 2006 at 3:30 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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