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December 10, 2006

TV Show Naming: Profane Is the Name of the Game

When CBS announced last week that it gave a pilot commitment to a show called Fugly, I can’t say I was a bit surprised. Because the sitcom is currently “dying,” networks are desperate to increase viewership, and coming up with controversial (read: trashy) titles is one way to do so.

Does this strategy guarantee success? No.

stacked-pam-anderson.jpgJust look at the recent failure of Fox’s Stacked, a Pamela Anderson vehicle that played off her enormous...ego. Or consider the 2001 dead-on-arrival That’s My Bush from Comedy Central.

Fugly, which is a compressed name for “f*cking ugly,” comes from the creators of My Name Is Earl, a brand name that thrives on making a statement (literally) by using an eponym. The humor and charm of its name, in many ways, reflects the humor and charm of the show. Expectations set, brand promise delivered.

my-name-is-earl.jpgCan we, therefore, apply that same principle to Fugly? If so, what kind of humor should we expect after a 6- or 13- or 22-episode commitment? Can it be sustained, or is it a one-joke wonder? Or, is it a name conceived solely to shock and, therefore, entice new viewers?

It’s dangerous to name a show with borderline obscenity. Not only does a network risk polarizing potential viewers, but it may eventually turn away the ones they initially attracted.

Especially if the show cannot deliver on the expectations of ribaldry and offensiveness that its brand name conveys.

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Posted by Diane Prange at December 10, 2006 11:32 AM
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The good news is that they have only ordered a pilot, which does not guarantee it will be picked up for a regular season. It is interesting that you mentioned Pamela Anderson, as she was originally considered for one of the roles in Fugly.

Also, one of the Fugly's get's an extreme makeover (I am assuming that would have been Ms.Anderson). The show's writer has said that "They ultimately decide that they need to be beautiful to achieve their dreams." Great message there.

Also, if it does get a committment, I guarantee you the name will change before airing.


Thank you for your comments. I agree that the show's name would likely change before airing if it does get a commitment.

Fugly is still a pretty offensive word, given that it's a loose contraction of such blatant profanity.

However, we both might be surprised because there is way too much T&A in television today...and I don't mean Talent & Ability :)

I was going to write about this myself, but thought (like you did) that the name was meant to push buttons and get buzz on the Internet. Sometimes I'll do it (like with VW's accident adverts) but others (like this time) I'm just not going to play the game.

I think that Fugly could get past the TV censors. And if a network picks it up it'll get headlines for both the show and the network.

Unfortunately some still believe that any press is good press.

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