Published March 21, 2012
From “I Hate My Teenage Daughter” and “Good Christian Bitches” (now “GCB”) to “Don’t Trust the B- in Apartment 23” to “$h*! My Dad Says,” controversial titles are all the rage these days.
“The risqué titling is used not only for publicity, and appealing to a younger demographic, but also to put a new, shinier spin on the same TV tropes we’ve seen time and time again,” Chako Suzuki, managing editor of TV watching website WetPaint.com, told FOX411’s Pop Tarts. “It helps these new shows stand apart and leave a lasting impression during pilot season.”
The titles are also prompting a different kind of rage among some television watchdog groups. Melissa Henson, Director of Communications and Public Education at the Parents Television Council (PTC) said it was a shame that networks have resorted to “crass titles” and have such a poor opinion of their audience.
“Although controversial content of titles might result in some short-term attention or even a temporary ratings spike, at the end of the day you still need to give viewers a reason to come back week after week, and shock-value only goes so far,” she said.
So far, it seems she's right.
Last week Fox announced it had shelved the struggling midseason comedy "I Hate My Teenage Daughter.” Last year, CBS canceled “$h*! My Dad Says.” “GCB” is facing poor reviews and falling ratings.
And "GCB" was not the show's first title. The title of the bestselling book “Good Christian Bitches” was diluted to “Good Christian Belles” before ABC decided to go with the acronym “GCB.”
ABC also started with the name “Don’t Trust the Bitch in Apartment 23,” watered it all the way down to “Apartment 23,” before settling on the more brash but still safe “Don’t Trust the B- in Apartment 23.”
“I Hate My Teenage Daughter” was also frequently referred to during on-air promos as “Teenage Daughter.”
“There doesn’t seem to be any major, quantifiable success story to emerge out of the edgy title,” says Hollywood-based entertainment and pop culture expert Scott Huver. “It wasn’t all that long ago that a show titled ‘Sex and the City’ could only find a home on pay cable. Today, the television marketplace is more crowded than ever, so it is becoming a more routine tactic to try out an edgy title to stand out.”
However, stars and masterminds behind these head-turning titles have been quick to jump to their defense.
“As a parent, everyone has had that moment, under their breath… ‘I hate my child, oh just stop.’ But it’s not real hate,” “Teenage Daughter” star Jaime Pressly told us last year, while “$hi! My Dad Says” star William Shatner joked: “S**t is a very natural function of the body. We shouldn't discard it."
Caroline Knorr, parenting editor at Common Sense Media, said that the prevalence of these provocative show titles actually opens a window of opportunity for parents to educate their young ones.
“This marketing tactic has worked because it draws both attention and viewers to the shows. While parents can’t prevent their kids from hearing about these shows, they can talk to their kids about inappropriate and disrespectful language and why people may be offended and upset by some of those titles,” she said. “It is also a great opportunity to teach your kids to think critically about the messages kids get about the world through media.”
But with the 2012 pilot slate so far looking squeaky clean and free from implied profanity and/or shock value, it seems studios might be back to using more old-fashioned ways to generate attention.
“If shows don’t live up to the hype of their names, writers/creators might find out that it will lose an audience quickly,” Suzuki added. “Content is going to be king in the end.”