Thursday, January 06, 2005

Jot and Title

Something occurred to me while watching Seinfeld, and it was, as usual, something very geeky: I realized that the show's method of titling episodes -- having every title start with the definite article ("The Contest," "The Yada Yada") -- was borrowed from Dragnet. I don't know what kind of titles the original radio version had, but in the TV version, every episode started with "The Big": "The Big Actor," "The Big Death," "The Big Hate." When Jack Webb revived the show, all the episode titles still started with "The": "The LSD Story," "The Candy Store Robberies." So that's probably where Seinfeld got it. And no, I don't know what you're supposed to do with that information.

Speaking of episode titles, I don't think there are any shows now that actually show the episode's title on screen, the way The Dick Van Dyke Show sometimes did, and the way many dramas did in the '60s, '70s and '80s. Part of the appeal of those old, incredibly self-important Quinn Martin shows is the way they'd present the titles (Tonight's episode: "Fear in a Desert City") and even repeat them at the beginnings of acts. And then there were the shows like The Man From U.N.C.L.E. that would give the acts their own titles.

Currently, shows are more likely to try to come up with clever titles than they used to be, probably because even though the titles aren't shown, the writers know that the titles will be available on the internet, subsequent DVD releases, etc.

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