main index




Topical Tropes

Other Categories

TV Tropes Org
Artifact Title: Live-Action TV
  • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine takes place in a space station around the planet Bajor. A stable orbit does not quite qualify as a 'trek,' nor, as fans often joke, do the characters do much trekking. (This was one reason the writers gave the crew the starship Defiant.)
  • 48 Hours (not the movie) began life as a series of documentaries examining certain topics over the course of 48 hours. Eventually it was retooled into a true crime documentary series under the titles 48 Hours Investigates and later 48 Hours Mystery, eventually reverting to the original title of 48 Hours. The original idea of examining a subject over a time span of 48 hours was abandoned as the show followed various true crime murder stories, but for no particular reason "48 Hours" remains in the title.
  • The 700 Club is a Christian talk show known for its far-right politics, but the title is actually a reference to the ministry's original seven-hundred donors.
  • Blake's 7 no longer had Roj Blake in it after series 2 (except for the final episodes of both later seasons). Also, they only had seven members if you include the sentient/talking ship and separate but also sentient/talking computer.
  • Taggart no longer has a Taggart in it, since the actor playing him (Mark McManus) died. In fact it lasted far longer without its title character than it did with him.
  • Red Dwarf in Red Dwarf was completely absent in the sixth and almost all of the seventh series of the show and had little importance in series 5 and the Back to Earth special.
  • Scrubs refers to both the clothing worn in a hospital and the newbies the main cast once were, but that part lost its meaning after the third season. The German version is even worse, being subtitled "Die Anfänger" - The Beginners.
    • With the 9th season, subtitled Med School, a new generation of newbies have been introduced.
  • Space: 1999 begins in September 1999, but by the end of the series they must be well into the 2000s.
    • The Moon passes through several space/time warps. In the episode Journey to Where it is established that year on Earth is now 2120.
  • Prison Break for the second season, at least. The Hebrew name, Escapees/Escaping suits the second season even more than the original title.
    • In Australia, the second season was titled Prison Break: On The Run.
    • Gets even worse in the fourth season, where none of the characters are imprisoned or fugitives until the final telemovie.
    • As if the writers/producers realized the problem too late and got desperate, they implemented two Replacement Artifact devices: in season 3, Michael ends up in another prison, from which he is compelled to escape, and in season 4, Sara is put in prison, and they plot to break her out.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer: as the seasons go by, Buffy fights things that are clearly not vampires with so much more frequency that "Demon Slayer" would be more appropriate. In the show, she's formally just the Slayer. This happened fairly early; the first episode past the two-part pilot was deliberately about something other than vampires to make it clear to the viewers, and Giles outright states in the last scene of the pilot that there will be a variety of threats to deal with.
  • The Man from U.N.C.L.E. featured two men in the title role after the first couple of episodes.
  • McLeod's Daughters began its 8 season run with Claire and Tess McLeod being left the family farm by their father Jack. Claire died in Season 3 and Tess left in Season 6, leaving the farm to be run by McLeod's nieces.
    • Jodi was revealed to be Jack's illegitimate daughter later on, but she left in Season 7.
    • The nieces are McLeods since they are the daughters of Jack's younger brother Hugh. So the title is still right in a way.
  • When this hits like it did in Laverne and Shirley, which saw Shirley leaving the cast in the final season, it's a pretty sure sign that the show has Jumped the Shark, and it's time to pull the plug.
    • Since the actor who played Lenny was also missing in action for most of the last season, Gary Marshall jokingly considered changing the show's name to Laverne & Squiggy.
  • Similar example: the awful final season of Welcome Back, Kotter, which was largely Kotter-free.
    • Although Mrs. Kotter remained a regular, so maybe it was the "Welcome Back" part that was the Artifact Title. Then again, that probably qualified from the second season onward, since he wasn't constantly leaving and coming back.
  • Family Affairs was a British soap with the gimmick that, instead of focusing on a particular area, like EastEnders or Coronation Street, it focused on a specific family; the Harts and their inlaws the Gates. In its first Re Tool (of many), the entire Hart/Gates family was written out.
  • Most of the main characters on Desperate Housewives are no longer housewives - Bree and Lynette are career businesswomen (Edie too for that matter), Susan is teaching, and Susan, Bree, and Gabrielle have all spent time unmarried on the show. Only Gabrielle can still really be described as a housewife.
    • In the last few episodes of the show, she got a job, too.
  • Smallville was set in Smallville, Kansas for the first five seasons. But the action largely takes place in Metropolis after that. The title could be interpreted as referring to Lois' nickname for Clark, alluding to the main character rather than the former main locale.
  • The title of The Avengers relates to the plot of the first two episodes. As the page mentions, this was the last time in the series any actual avenging took place. (What's more, those episodes are now lost except for the first 20 minutes of the first one). Although, as Steed's first two main female partners were specified as (presumed) widows and Dr. Keel's own fiancée was specifically murdered, we may assume that they were waging general campaigns against crime as a larger "avenging" of their loved ones' killings. And there is the aversion in the American opening narration of the monochrome Emma Peel episodes:
    Extra-ordinary crimes against the people, and the state, have to be avenged by agents extra-ordinary...
  • On the first season of Survivor, the contestants were referred to as "castaways" since the show was set on a desert island and began with them being "shipwrecked." They've continued to be called "castaways" ever since, even in seasons that take place in locales where the term doesn't fit—such as the African savanna, the Australian Outback, the Amazonian jungle, etc. The whole focus of "surviving" in the wilderness was quickly dropped when it became clear that viewers were more interested in the contestants scheming than doing basic survival tasks.
  • Inverted in the Czech Sitcom called Comeback. The main character, a forgotten 80s pop star and a music shop owner, goes on his comeback tour in the second season.
  • The title character of Kamen Rider Amazon did not wear a mask, thus making the name a bit misleading ("kamen" is the Japanese word for "mask"; the title "Kamen Rider" literally means "masked rider").
  • The long-lived Spanish sitcom Siete Vidas ("Seven Lives") was named for its premise of "Main character comes back from a 18-year-old coma and has to get used to the current world. Hilarity Ensues." Not only the premise was dropped halfway into the first season, but said main character was eventually Put on a Bus. Word of God later claimed that the title referred to the seven main characters, since there were 7 mains at the time... but afterwards there were seasons with 6 or 8 mains.
    • In Spanish, the stock phrase is that a cat has seven lives, rather than nine as in English. The main character's "resurrection" was compared to what you would expect of a cat. In this fashion, the title logo included a black cat... and continued to do so for the whole 10 seasons it lasted, despite 8 of them airing without the original main character.
    • The writers must love this trope, because it also happened on Siete Vidas's Spin-Off Aida, since the eponymous character was jailed and ceased to appear (Her actress had to leave) and thus the reason the show has that name is gone. They attempted to paliate this by adding Aida's granddaughter, also called Aida, but she is a very secondary character and has a lot less screentime than her protagonist namesake did.
  • Brazilian Soap Opera /Teen Drama Malhação. The title means "working out", which fits the gym which was the initial setting. Then, four years later, it changed to a high school (and it continues to be set on schools, only not the same one).
  • Hey Hey Its Saturday, an Australian variety series that originally aired on Saturdays from 1971 to 1999, aired on Wednesdays when it was revived briefly in 2010.
  • The title of the soap opera Guiding Light originally referred to a lamp in the study of one of its earliest main characters - the Rev. John Ruthledge, local pastor - which served as a sign to the townsfolk that they could come for help when needed. Later on, succeeding preachers carried on Rev. Ruthledge's work, becoming the keepers of the "guiding light." Over time the show left its original locale - a fictional suburb of Chicago known as Five Points - and other families took over the spotlight. By the time the show moved to television in the 1950s, the meaning of the title had largely been forgotten.
    • Once the show lost its initial light, it replaced it with a lighthouse, indicating the light which guides one's path in life.
  • Auf Wiedersehen, Pet was so-named because it was about British workers in Germany. Or at least, Season 1 was about British workers in Germany.
  • Later... with Jools Holland, the popular BBC2 music programme, was so named because it was originally given a slot following The Late Show, an arts magazine programme. Later... has an irregular schedule, but is still going strong. The Late Show stopped broadcasting in 1995.
  • The Spanish version of Saturday Night Live was this from the beginning, since it aired on Thursdays. No wonder it got canned so fast. The Brazilian one, on Sunday, had a similar end.
    • Even the real SNL will, from time to time, air clips show specials (or even original-content specials) on Thursdays but still call them "Saturday Night Live primetime specials," lest they be mistaken for clips shows of SNL Financial or something. In 2008 and 2009, the original specials "Saturday Night Live Weekend Update Thursday" became a double artifact title, as it aired neither on Saturday nor on the weekend. Traditionally, such specials preserve the SNL style of having an opening segment that ends with somebody saying "Live from New York, it's Saturday night", even though it's Thursday night and the segment could be pre-recorded.
  • Cougar Town Lampshaded this by giving Season 2's title cards extra phrases on them, such as "still Cougar Town", "badly titled Cougar Town." The title was originally a Double Entendre as the town's high school football team was called the Cougars; this never appeared again after the pilot, until season 3 when Travis tried to kidnap the cougar statue on the college grounds and questions what cougars have to do with the town anyway.
  • Primeval became 'Nick Cutter et les portes du temps' in France. While the "doors of time" are still here, it turns out Anyone Can Die.
    • It got shortened as 'Les portes du temps' for season 4.
  • The Vampire Diaries went through a phase of this, after it (thankfully) dropped the device of Elena and Stefan reading from their diaries as a narrative lodestone. It then brought the historical journals of the town founders into play, which had the advantage of being able to introduce new plot elements while keeping the title relevant.
    • Though the title of the show was named for the book series it was based on and has largely eclipsed/stepped away from. All kinds of problems with naming the series it seems.
  • When Amos N Andy switched from a drama serial to sitcom format — and, later, when it became a TV series — Amos was a peripheral character, and most of the plots revolved around Andy and Kingfish (the latter of whom was voiced on radio by the same actor who played Amos).
  • On Happy Days, there was no Arnold at "Arnold's Drive-In" for the majority of the series' run; it was owned by Al Delvecchio. Previously, it was owned by a man named Matsuo Takahashi, who was nicknamed Arnold because he had purchased Arnold's Drive-In from a man who was named Arnold. Lampshaded on one episode in which the gang learn that Arnold was not his name and Arnold points out how expensive the sign change would be letter by letter.
  • In Treme, Ladonna owns a bar named Gigi's and notes in the pilot that no one knows who Gigi may have been, or if the bar was even named after a person. Truth in Television for many New Orleans locales.
  • Series 7 onwards of the UK version of "The Apprentice" has nothing to do with an apprentice, as the contestants are now competing for £250,000 and Lord Sugar as a buisness partner.
    • Which mirrors the US version, which since season 7 has been exclusively celebrity versions, with none of the winners becoming a Trump apprentice.
  • The beginning of Season 5 of Burn Notice Michael Westen was shown working directly with his former employers and seems to be no longer blacklisted, effectively reverting his Burn Notice that the series was based on. While Michael's personal situation may have changed the show's Myth Arc became less about his search for the truth and more about the organization that operates by burning spies.
  • Extras series one was about Ricky Gervais and Ashley Jensen both working as extras in film/TV, but by series 2, Gervais's character had got a job as writer-star of a sitcom and no longer worked as an extra.
  • The "del Ocho (8)" part of El Chavo del ocho was there merely to promote the fact that the show aired on Canal 8 (Channel 8). At some point, the show moved to Canal 2 and the series title was shortened to "El Chavo", but the character was still mentioned with his "last name" in the show and an In-Universe reason was given that it meant he actually lived in the (never seen) Apartment 8, rather than the barrel he uses as hideout. In syndication, the title is always "El Chavo", yet the show is still most commonly known by the full name.
  • Recent seasons of the Ice Road Truckers franchise have been set in mountainous tropical regions overseas. Current programs use the "IRT" abbreviation to downplay the fact that the trucks haven't been driving on ice for some time.
  • Croatian soap-opera Zabranjena ljubav (translated, Forbidden love) focused on two twins separated at birth who unfortunately fell in love with each other...and at one point one of the twins dies. The show goes on focusing on the other twin and other characters, until that twin gets left out...and the show still went on.
  • Narrowly averted with Married... with Children. The show's working title was Not The Cosbys, a Take That to The Cosby Show. Given that Married... with Children began three years after The Cosby Show and continued long after Cosby ended, Not The Cosbys would quickly have become irrelevant.
  • When Sesame Street was dubbed into German (renamed Sesamstraße) there were complaints that the "street" scenes didn't appeal to German children so they were taken out and replaced with the antics of a boy named Bumfidel and his mother. Since these stories did not take place on a street, the show's title was temporarily rendered incomprehensible. In 1978, a street set and new characters that would be more relevant to German children were introduced.
    • Telly Monster was originally a television obsessed Flat Character. His personality changed to the neurotic monster he's better known as but his name stuck.
  • The "half" in Two and a Half Men originally refered to Jake, who was just a boy when the series began. Eventually the character (and the actor playing him) grew up and could no longer count as half a man. Fan speculation suggests that the "half" now refers to the maturity of either of the two other men, particularly the emasculated Alan. And then when Angus T. Jones left the show after Season 10, the show was just "Two Men"..."and a Girl" (not to be confused with Two Guys and a Girl...the trope, or the show...)
  • Averted — the hard way — in the NBC sitcom Up All Night. The show was about a couple with a newborn, so the title made sense. In two or three years, when the baby would be a toddler, it would not, unless the child has sleeping problems and/or the couple had another child. (Or maybe if the mom — a TV producer — got a job for an early-morning show. Just saying.) The cancellation of the show rendered the problem moot.
  • An in-universe version on 30 Rock: The TV show Liz writes for was originally called The Girlie Show, a sketch comedy show for women, until Jack added Tracy to the cast and renamed it TGS with Tracy Jordan. Liz and Jenna both keep original Girlie Show memorabilia in their offices.
    • Another artifact: the Girlie Show musical theme from the pilot became Liz's leitmotif.
    • Hilariously, the original Girlie Show sign hanging in Liz's office is progressively become more and more unkempt, with many of the letters now hanging out of place and visible dirty areas.
    • When Liz finds out that TGS has been cancelled (in one of the last episodes of 30 Rock), the sign falls off her wall.
  • Late Night with Conan O'Brien featured the recurring comedy skit "In The Year 2000"...even after the year 2000.
  • ESPN's 30 for 30 is a double example. The series was intended to run 30 episodes to celebrate ESPN's 30th anniversary. The show is still going (at 55 episodes, including short episodes) in ESPN's 33rd year.
  • The trope is multiply applicable to The Real Housewives of ... series. The first one, The Real Housewives of Orange County, was a clear reference to the then-new Desperate Housewives series, which was set in Orange County, California. As later iterations were set in other locales, the "real" became artifactual as there were no corresponding fictional ones in the same area. Later, as noted elsewhere here, most of the Desperate Housewives stopped being housewives on the show, so that aspect of the title became irrelevant. Lastly, the show continued after Desperate Housewives ended its run in 2011, making the title artifactual in three ways.
    • This became clear with the Atlanta series when one of the women got married and the show covered her wedding, leaving non-viewers wondering, "Don't you have to be married to be on the show in the first place?"
  • The Suite Life of Zack and Cody referred to the the fact that the first series was set in a hotel suite in Boston. When the spinoff, The Suite Life on Deck began (which continued into The Suite Life Movie), with most of the major characters (including Zack and Cody Martin) returning, the events were set on a luxury cruise liner, rather than a hotel, but the "suite life" pun in the title remained.
  • New Girl: Jessica has been living there for at least a TV season, as The New York Times has noted. She really can't be called "new" anymore.
    • Sidestepped in the first episode after the pilot when a replacement character for one that appeared in the pilot was revealed to have been a flatmate prior to Jessica moving in, so she was still "The New Girl."
  • Boy Meets World ended after seven seasons with the title character married: very much no longer a boy.
  • The Wizards of Waverly Place special "The Wizards Return: Alex vs. Alex" is actually one. With Jerry already mortal when the series began, Max losing his powers and becoming mortal in the series finale, and David Henrie not reprising his role as Justin, Alex Russo is the only wizard returning for the special.
  • Soul Train began featuring more than just soul artists by the late 1970s as disco began to assert itself, and as hip hop came into the picture by the late 1980s and soul and R&B largely faded, those artists dominated the show. Yet the title was never changed throughout its entire run.
  • General Hospital has been flirting with this for the past decade, with less and less action at the Hospital and more surrounding Sonny Corinthos' mob. It is starting to recover, however, punctuated with the revival of the Nurses' Ball.
  • Malcolm in the Middle somewhat became this in despite the fact Malcolm really did become the middle child at some point, he was hardly the main character in later seasons (as the plot went from the misadventures of a child prodigy to showing what crazy scheme the rest of his family would do that week).
  • The Tudors, after the death of Henry's sister doesn't actually have any other main characters who are members of The House Of Tudor (Mary and Elizabeth are there, but the show stops before they actually do anything important). You could argue Henry's wives count, but the show is still mostly only about one Tudor.
    • This is not so much an Artifact Title as a title that never really made sense in the first place. The only Tudor besides Henry ever credited in the title sequence is Mary, and even she only makes it in the final season.
  • The "Vancome Lady" on Mad TV (the bigoted lady with the heavy makeup, "tcha, you know what?") is an Artifact Title herself; she is named for the place she worked for in her first appearance (in the first episode of the series), a parody of the Lancome counter, but started hopping from job to job after getting fired from Vancome in that first sketch.
    • Mad TV itself is also an artifact title, since the show's references to [[Magazine/Mad the magazine]] started fading fast after the first few seasons.
  • For its first two series, Dangerfield was about a crime-fighting doctor called Dangerfield. In the third series, he was replaced by somebody who wasn't called Dangerfield but at least he worked at the Dangerfield clinic. In the fourth series, he was directly employed by the police, rather than just helping them, didn't work at the clinic anymore and the title was now completely redundant.
  • The title of Doctor Who originally reflected the fact that the two main characters, Ian and Barbara, had been kidnapped by a mysterious old mad scientist only known to 1960s Britain as 'the Doctor' who could have been anyone or anything (it even gets a Title Drop in the first episode when the Doctor asks 'Doctor who?'). Naturally, future episodes explored his identity quite a lot more (not least explaining that he is known only as "The Doctor"), but in the process readjusted the title to be a reference to regeneration - it makes sense that a Doctor who can change his entire face and personality from time to time would have a fairly questionable identity. Then, the reboot's Series 7 began using "Doctor Who" as Arc Words, making the Doctor's real name an important MacGuffin.
  • Partway through its run, the game show Trivia Trap had its rules changed. It originally had teams playing trivia questions and working to omit all the wrong answers while avoiding the "trap" of the right one. Host Bob Eubanks didn't like the format, so it was just changed into a generic Q & A game with no real "traps" to speak of.
  • Discussed, in a Leaning on the Fourth Wall kind of way, in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.. Since S.H.I.E.L.D. is officially disbanded in "Turn, Turn, Turn" and the team erases themselves from the agency's records in "Providence", they start wondering whether they really can still be considered "agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." or if they're "agents of nothing" now.
  • Glee became this halfway through Season 5. Starting in Season 4, the show split its time between the Glee Club in Ohio and the graduates who moved to New York City. Eventually the New York storylines became more prominent, leading to Season 5 where the very Glee Club the show was named after was disbanded, and the last of the original characters graduated from high school. All of the action now takes place in New York focusing on the grads who moved there.
  • VEEP as of the end of Season 3. With the resignation of "POTUS," Selena Meyer becomes the new president and thus the show no longer depicts the "Veep."

LiteratureArtifact TitleMagazines

TV Tropes by TV Tropes Foundation, LLC is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available from
Privacy Policy