Coinkydink Or Coinkydonk? Does The (Lady’s) Name Make The (TV) Show?

Once upon a time in a nearby place, I had an epiphany.  Okay, it wasn’t so much of an epiphany as it was a drunk idea.  I thought:

Hey!  Dijoo ever notes how girls shows names flow pattern?

What that means is exactly what it says.  Television shows named after their female leads always give an indication as to what type of show that will be… without ever seeing the show.  Whether this is a Coinkydink (coincidence) or a Coinkydonk (on purpose) will be up to you.  Presenting the types:

1) The “Blank & Blank” Style

Cagney & Lacey & Hope & Faith & Kath & Kim & Hope & Gloria & Kate & Allie & Laverne & Shirley & (gasp) breathe

(continued after the jump)

Any show named in the style of Blank & Blank is going to contain:

  • Two women in a symbiotic/sisterly/mother-daughterly relationship
  • How they strive/survive/thrive in a patriarchal society as a team
  • Guaranteed barrier breaking and trailblazing

ADDENDUM: If The Last Name Paradox is employed, gravitas is promised but not delivered, as in the case of Cagney & Lacey.  If The Pun Principle (#10 below) is put into effect, as in Hope & Faith and Hope & Gloria, expect quirkiness.  (But not necessarily comedy… have you seen those shows?)

CLOSE BUT NO CIGAR: Will & Grace, Mork & Mindy, Ned & Stacy

CLOSE BUT INSULTINGLY VAGUE: Scarecrow & Mrs. King, McMillan and Wife

NOT CLOSE AT ALL: Law & Order, Parks and Recreation

2) The “All The Ladies Single” Situation

Gidget - Rhoda - Blossom - Phyllis - Maude - Alice - Roseanne - Ellen - Reba

Shows are named for one woman only in these following situations:

  • It’s based on a movie: the Gidget series, Martin Scorcese’s Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore
  • It’s based on a comic strip: Hazel, Blondie (neither pictured)
  • It’s a character spun off another popular show: Rhoda and Phyllis from The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Maude from All in the Family
  • It’s named after the star who is already a star: Roseanne, Ellen, Reba
  • The Pun Principle combines with the Hat Effect”Blossom… y’know, because she’s blossoming

*HAT EFFECT: Like The Pun Principle, quirkiness is to be expected, i.e. Rhoda and Maude.

THE BOB NEWHART AWARD: Like Bob NewhartEllen DeGeneres has had her share of shows sharing her name.  These Friends of Mine became Ellen in its second season, but she also had another short-lived sitcom called The Ellen Show, and of course her popular talk show, The Ellen DeGeneres Show.

THE BOB NEWHART HONORABLE MENTION: Valerie Harper, star of Rhoda, received a show named after herself.  Once she disputed with the show’s producers over salary, Valerie became Valerie’s Family: The Hogans, and then The Hogan Family, and then barely a blip on the radar of television history.

3) The Full Name Phenomenon

Watch out.  She’s going to be one eccentric/independent/crazy lady.

Punky Brewster - Veronica Mars - Ally McBeal - Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman (pictured once)

NOT QUITE CUTTING IT: Selma Blair was in a show called Zoe Bean, or Zoe, or Zoe, Duncan, Jack and Jane, and nobody remembers it.  Not even Selma.

4) The Star Treatment

Carol Burnett - Mary Tyler Moore - Tracey Ullman - Patty Duke (pictured once)

Tons of men get television shows named after them.  Only a few women do.  Whereas some of the men proved they had enough talent to warrant their own eponymous show, 100% of these ladies did.  And audiences watching knew what to expect… even though two shows were sketch-based… and one featured two Patty Dukes.

  • Patty Duke won an Academy Award at age 16, the youngest to do so, for her performance as Helen Keller in The Miracle Worker.
  • Mary Tyler Moore was already loved for her portrayal of Dick Van Dyke’s wife on his self-titled show.  She would also be nominated for an Academy Award for Ordinary People.
  • Carol Burnett had been successful on stage and on TV talk shows and game shows.  (It also didn’t hurt she was friends with Lucille Ball.)
  • Prior to opening the floodgate that unleash The Simpsons upon the world, Tracey Ullman achieved moderate success in the music business in the 80’s and greater success working in sketch comedy over in the UK.

5) Possessive Much?

Being a man means being the center of attention.  Right?  Then why do peacocks have all the colored feathers?

I Love Lucy - I Dream of Jeannie

Aye, aye, aye… (READ: I, I, I… ha!)

These shows are going to be “a comedy of errors,” where the “errors” are committed by the woman, and the man (or the “I” in the title) reacts.  Lucille Ball is still the queen of the sitcom (and syndication).  Her show could have been called anything.  Barbara Eden’s show could have been called “Where’s My Belly Button?”

TRANSITIONAL ENTRY: My Wife and Kids follows the same idea, but by way of…

6) The Generic Generalization

What’s in store for a show like My Wife and Kids?  A husband, his wife, and his kids.  Nothing more.  Nothing less.  Well, other than his reaction to their “errors.”

Yeah. These are the generic shows.

Since the creators of these series had no household names, humble lead actors, too many household names, or too many character names (see Zoe, Duncan, Jack and Jane above – wait, no one did), they went generic.  There’s no trick in guessing what each of these will focus on:

  • Sisters, Sister Sister (possibly subject to the Hat Effect, so… quirky), Sister Kate (also Hat Effect victim)
  • That Girl, Golden Girls, Gilmore Girls, Gossip Girl
  • Police Woman, Wonder Woman, Bionic Woman, Designing Women**
  • Desperate Housewives

**My next transitional show title…

7) The Gerund Trend

This show will be about _____, and she will be _____.

This applies to Designing Women, as it does to the shows below:

Judging Amy - Tru Calling - Saving Grace - Crossing Jordan

This show will be about Amy, and she will be judging.

This show will be about Tru, and she will have a calling to help dead people.

This show will be about Grace, and she will be saving her damned soul by doing what’s right.

This show will be about Jordan, and she will be crossing over recently deceased people on her medical examiner table.

Well, you get the idea.

8) The Grammar Patrol Option

Grammar Patrol? More like Glamour Patrol! Amiright?

Much like the Gerund Trend, this option allows for a further insight.  We may not know who these characters are (and in the case of Christina Applegate, even her character begs the question), but with a little bit of grammar, we have a clue.

  • ADVERB: Suddenly Susan (“…she’s suddenly just Susan.” – Wikipedia)
  • ADJECTIVE: Ugly Betty (she ugly), New Adventures of Old Christine (she old + having new adventures)
  • PRONOUN: Samantha Who? (she doesn’t know herself in a more obvious way than Susan)

BONUS: I could in no way or fashion put America Ferrera’s original character picture above, and I could not resist the Photoshop temptation, so voila!

"Lasers make everything better," someone was overheard saying, in the 80's.

9) The “Job Title Included In Title” Title

There’s no question what these shows will be about.  She’s a princess that’s a warrior.  She slays vampires.  A witch that’s a teenager?  Hilarity ensues.  A medicine woman and a doctor… is that like a psychologist combined with a psychiatrist?  (Bonus points if you remembered The Last Name Paradox in relation to Dr. Quinn.  Take her serious?  Are you serious?!)

Xena: The Warrior Princess - Buffy the Vampire Slayer - Sabrina, the Teenage Witch - Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman

NOT QUITE A JOB TITLE, BUT A JOB NONETHELESS: Joanie Loves Chachi

10) The Pun Principle

Quirk central.  With a splash of TLNP for Meredith Grey.

Grey's Anatomy - Grace Under Fire - Joan of Arcadia

11) The Where You At? Angle

You don’t know much about these gals, but you know where to find them…

Caroline in the City - Veronica's Closet

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