Sally Sparrow: We should set up an agency. Kathy Nightingale: Sparrow and Nightingale! That so works! Sally Sparrow: I dunno. It's a bit ITV.
TV networks have an unsettling habit of giving their shows titles which rely on puns on the lead character's name — particularly if the character's name reflects the premise and/or theme of the show. For example, in a TV series named Swift Justice
you can pretty much bet that our hero will be named something like "Jane Justice" or "John Swift" (or, Heaven help us, Federal District Court Judge "Justice Alice Swift").
This is most common in the United Kingdom, but still happens elsewhere.
In the United States, puns are more popular for titles of individual episodes
. See Knight Rider
and Remington Steele
. Also, see many animated series for individual episode title examples. See Punny Name
for characters; also compare Justified Title
Subtrope of Pun-Based Title
: if a work's name is a pun on anything other
than a character's name, it should go there.
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- Semi-example: Strange Tales was a pre-existing book, but after Doctor Strange debuted there, he eventually took over the series.
- This is somewhat common for early comics: Because they were almost all anthology titles, or had one primary story and one back-up story that would change intermittently, the titles are generally just supposed to be dynamic and interesting sounding, and sometimes reflecting their given genre; as such, some writers would just borrow their name from the title they were going to write for when coming up with the character. Hence, when Gardner Fox got an assignment for Flash Comics, he created the first incarnation of super-speedster The Flash.
- Pryde & Wisdom, a series about Kitty Pryde and Pete Wisdom.
- Runaways' original title as a mini-series, "Pride and Joy". Doubles as a Antagonist Title since revolves around the children of The Pride, a supervillain group.
- Good Will Hunting, in which the main character is named Will Hunting. Though the aforementioned main character himself is anything but good.
- Grosse Pointe Blank, a comedy about Martin Blank, a hitman who returns to his home town of Grosse Pointe for his high school reunion.
- Strangely averted in Knight and Day. The title combined with the plotline suggest that at some point in development the Action Hero male protagonist and Action Survivor female protagonist were named Knight and Day, but they don't have those surnames in the actual film.
- Major Payne
- Murphy's Law, about a L.A. cop named Jack Murphy.
- There was a movie in the '90s called Poetic Justice, about a girl named Justice who writes poetry.
- Stone Cold, in regards of the main character John Huff's alias, John Stone.
- All of the sequels to Trancers, the adventures of time-travelling cop Jack Deth, barring Trancers III, which has no subtitle: Trancers 2: Deth Lives, Trancers 4: Jack of Swords, Trancers 5: Sudden Deth, Trancers 6: Life After Deth.
- Condo Painting, a documentary about the painter named George Condo.
- Good Deeds, Tyler Perry film about Wesley Deeds, who learns to be good.
- Iron Will hangs a lampshade on this with its young protagonist, who refuses to quit while trying to win a sled dog race. The race's announcer declares that the boy has an iron will, only to be promptly told (to his surprise) that the boy's name is Will.
- The Cybil War by Betsy Byars is about a Love Triangle involving two boys and a girl named Cybil.
- The even-numbered books in the Honor Harrington series: The Honor of the Queen, Field of Dishonor, Honor Among Enemies, Echoes of Honor, War of Honor, and Mission of Honor.
Live Action TV
- Goode Behavior, a Sherman Helmsley vehicle from the first seasons of the UPN network. The title character was a con man named Willie B. Goode, who moves in with his estranged son — a college professor and successful, honest man — after making parole.
- State Of Grace, a Fox Family show about the friendship of 12-year-olds Hannah (who is Jewish) and Grace (who is Christian).
- Grace Under Fire, sitcom about a woman named Grace Kelly, surviving "under fire" from the hassles of being a single mother, a recovering alcoholic and blue collar in modern America.
- Saving Grace is about a woman named Grace who gets a "last chance angel" (named Earl) who's trying to save her from going to hell because she drinks and boinks a lot.
- Will and Grace, about roommates named... something or other.
- Greys Anatomy, a medical drama named after the main character Doctor Meredith Grey and after a classic mid-19th-century medical book, Gray's Anatomy. Just be thankful they didn't call it Grace Anatomy.
- Tru Calling, a drama about Tru Davies, who receives the "calling", an injunction to Set Right What Once Went Wrong.
- Hope And Faith, about two sisters by those names.
- Joan of Arcadia, about a girl named Joan who lives in the town of Arcadia and talks to God
- Lie to Me sounds similar to the lead character's name (Lightman), who, ironically enough, uncovers lies for a living.
- Parodied on Thirty Rock where Kenneth described his ideas for TV shows: "I have an idea for a show about a teacher named 'Art'. I call that one Art School. And one about a Jewish guy who opens an ice cream parlor. That one's called Ice Cream Cohen. And a drama about two cops: one named 'Cash' and one named 'Carry'. I don't have a title for that one."
- Also with Jenna's old role in a Police Procedural: "It was called Good Looking, and I played Alexis Goodlooking, who was also good-looking, and my special ability was being good at looking for clues."
- Similarly, parodied by Alan Partridge as a desperate programme idea to save his career - A Partridge Amongst The Pigeons. "At this stage it's just a title".
- The Royal Family (not to be confused with The Royle Family from British TV, also an example), a Dom Com starring comedian Redd Foxx as Alfonso Royal, the patriarch of the titular family. Short lived owing to Foxx's death after filming seven episodes of the show.
- New Amsterdam: The hero, detective John Amsterdam, is secretly immortal and has been living in New York since it was the Dutch colony of New Amsterdam.
- Get Smart, featuring the inept secret agent Maxwell Smart.
- Better Off Ted, a sitcom about a man named Ted who works in research and development at an unscrupulous corporation.
- The short-lived series Payne, itself a remake of Fawlty Towers, renamed the hotelier "Royal Payne" to make the pun work again.
- There's also Tyler Perrys House Of Payne.
- Joey starred in the abortive buddy cop/robot show Mac & C.H.E.E.S.E.. There was some Lampshade Hanging about the Contrived Coincidence of the robot's full title abbreviating so well...
- Castle has an In-Universe example. Several of Rick Castle's books in the Derek Storm series were in this pattern — Gathering Storm, Storm Season, Storm Rising, Storm Warning, Storm's Break, Storm Fall — and he plans on doing the same for his new character, Nikki Heat — Heat Wave, Summer Heat, In Heat, etc.
- Hart to Hart, about Jonathan and Jennifer Hart, a CEO and freelance photographer, respectively. They solve crimes!
- Crossing Jordan
- A blissfully short-lived series called Sunday in Paris. Sunday was the main character, and Paris was the one in Texas.
- The short lived, early-90s show ''Mann & Machine" featured a futuristic detective named Mann and his robot partner (played by Yancy Butler).
- Saturday Night Live had a sketch featuring a game show parody called "What is Burn Notice?" The contestants had no idea, and one of the wrong answers was a guess that it was "about the detective team of Michael Burn and Chet Notice."
- One episode of Married... with Children saw a network making a TV show based on the Bundy family; the show was titled "Pease in a Pod". No points for guessing the family's name.
- Raising Hope and Running Wilde, a pair of back-to-back sitcoms on Fox. The former is about raising a baby named Hope. The latter is about a guy named Wilde who runs an eponymous oil business.
- Martial Law, a cop drama about a Chinese police officer and martial arts expert named Sammo Law.
- Stark Raving Mad, a sitcom about a book editor working for author Ian Stark.
- Sonny With A Chance tried way too hard with this. It was once known as Welcome to Mollywood and starred a girl named Molly. Then it became Welcome to Holliwood, about a girl named... Holli. Eventually her named was changed to Sonny and the show got its final title. It's still a pun, although it seems a bit more forced in the end.
- Judging Amy - She's called Amy, and she's a judge...
- A man whose last name is Chance dies and turns into a ghost. Yes, it's a short-lived sitcom named "Ghost of a Chance".
- Hart Of Dixie - She's Zoe Hart, and she's a heart surgeon!
- Murphy's Law - He's an insurance-fraud investigator named Daedelus Patrick Murphy.
- Parodied on Arrested Development. The actor Judge Reinhold is the host of a courtroom-based reality TV show, and it's called... Mock Trial with J. Reinhold. (Featuring house band William Hung and his Hung Jury.)
- Mystery Science Theater 3000 parodies this when the title of the short film "Body Care & Grooming" appears on screen:
- Foxtrot is about the lives of the Fox family.
- Heart of the City is about a girl named Heart who lives in Center City, Philadelphia.
- Both of the Sally Forth comics. The Wally Wood comics are a better example, since they involve the characters setting out on adventures (sallying forth), while the pun in the Greg Howard comics is probably meant to be ironic.
- Too Many Cooks, a farce featuring a extended family of meddling in-laws named Cook.
- Purlie Victorious, where the hero's full name is Purlie Victorious Judson.
- Tomfoolery, a revue based on the comic songs of Tom Lehrer.
- Parodied on an episode of Clone High when George Washington Carver (as Leon Black) and Gandhi (as Tandoori Jones) made the Salt and Pepper cops "Black and Tan".
- Ben 10, about Ben Tennyson, who is 10 years old and acquires a Clingy MacGuffin that allows him to turn any of into 10 different aliens.
- The Hebrew dub of the show keeps the title, which literally means: Ben is 10 years old.
- King of the Hill is about Hank Hill and his family; to keep the pun intact, the Latin American dub is called Los Reyes de la colina, and Hank Hill was renamed Héctor Reyes.
- The Proud Family.
- Eek! The Cat, about a purple cat named Eek!.
- Pryde of the X-Men, a 1989 animated pilot (unrelated to the later animated series from the early 90's) featuring, naturally, Kitty Pryde.
- Taz-Mania - The main character is Taz and the show is set on Tasmania.
- The Roman Holidays, a 1972 Saturday morning cartoon set in ancient Rome, about a family with the surname(!?) Holiday.
- These Are The Days, a 1974 Saturday morning cartoon about a Waltons-like family with the surname Day.
- Constant Payne.
- Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends: The founder and caretaker of the home respectively, are Madame Foster and Franky Foster.
- This is used as the names of a number of comic strips in a number of British Comics, e.g. Les Pretend of The Beano.
- Rogue Trooper is about a trooper who goes rogue. Who happens to be named Rogue.
- The Now Show Book of Records has a list of the Worst TV Sitcom Premises. Sticks and Stones Will Break My Bones is about Eddie Sticks and Brian Stones, who work the bone-crusher in an abattoir. There's No Smoke Without Fire is about Eddie Smoke, who goes on holiday without his friend Brian Fire, only for Brian to track him down. Rhythm is a Dancer is about Maggie Rhythm, who is a dancer.
- All of the intended books in the Mediochre Q Seth Series have had their titles released. They are: The Good The Bad And The Mediochre; Black, White and Shades of Mediochre; Caught Mediochre-Handed; Sent Into Mediochre-drive; and Mediochrity. The title character is named after the shade of red (medi-ochre), and his name is pronounced the same as 'mediocre'.
Live Action TV
- The Good Life: About a couple named Tom and Barbara Good, who start a farm in their garden to simplify their lives.
- This was shown as Good Neighbors in the United States. The Goods went far, far beyond building a garden in an attempt to become totally self-sufficient. Of course, this did anything but simplify their lives.
- Rosemary And Thyme: About a pair of gardeners and amateur sleuths named Rosemary Boxer and Laura Thyme. This one was a bit much even for the British, and was widely mocked; the Doctor Who page quote is probably a specific reference to this.
- Fawlty Towers: About incompetent hotelier Basil Fawlty.
- The Royle Family: about a Mancunian family called the Royles.
- A Touch of Frost: About Detective Inspector William 'Jack' Frost.
- The novels on which the series was based are all titled this way: as well as A Touch of Frost, there was Winter Frost, Night Frost, Hard Frost, Frost at Christmas and A Killing Frost.
- Murphys Law: About undercover policeman Tommy Murphy.
- Distant Shores: About a family named the Shores, who move out to a remote fishing village.
- Strange: About a supernatural investigator named John Strange.
- Saving Grace: About a widow gardener who becomes a drug dealer to solve her financial problems.
- Grace And Favour (shown in the United States as Are You Being Served? Again!): About the owners/employees of "Grace Manor" (Incidentally, the original Are You Being Served? probably stands as the only show to ever feature a major character called Grace and not make a punny title out of it).
- Robins Nest: In the sequel series to Man About the House (the original British inspiration for Threes Company), newly-qualified chef Robin Tripp moves into his own place with his girlfriend, and starts a business with her father.
- Breeze Block: About the Breeze family, who live in a tower block in Newcastle. note
- The Brittas Empire: About a pompous but well-meaning oaf called Gordon Brittas who runs a leisure centre.
- Romans Empire: About a businessman called Roman.
- Parodied heavily in This Morning With Richard Not Judy which described shows such as Chalk and Cheese (Ian Chalk and Ian Cheese are two men. They are very different. However, they eventually become friends and realise they are not so different after all. With hilarious consequences), Fruit and Nuts (Ian Fruit and Ian Nuts are roommates. Ian Fruit is allergic to nuts and Ian Nuts is allergic to fruit. Ian Nuts is a homicidal maniac. Consequently, he's always trying to sneak fruit and nuts into everything they eat. With fatal consequences.) and Bent Coppers (Ian and Iain Bent are brothers who are policemen. One is corrupt and the other is homosexual. They both suffer from curvature of the spine, and they're made of copper - they're robots in the future. With hilarious consequences.)
- Similarly, a list of potential sitcom titles consisted of just strained puns such as A. Bird in the Hand (Anthony Bird is manager of the Hand pub), Anne R. in The Month (Anne R. is manager of The Month Pub) and by the end of the list coming up with There Are More Things In Heaven and Earth Than Are Dreamt of in Your Philosophy (About how Ian Thing is joined by his relatives at the Heaven and Earth Than Are Dreamt of in Your Philosophy pub).
- The Chalk and Cheese joke was also used by Dead Ringers and Private Eye, both referring to police shows - a reference to how ITV was producing a lot of them with Pun Based Titles at the time (hence the page quote).
- That Mitchell and Webb Look had a sketch featuring rival comedy duos called "Fish and Chipp" and "Pin and Cushion". Chipp and Pin leave to form their own duo (Chip & PIN being a then-new form of credit card payment); to their chagrin, Fish & Cushion are far more successful. ("That doesn't even mean anything!") To add insult to injury, Fish & Cushion went on to star in the ads for the Chip & PIN system...
- Parodied in a series of fake previews by satellite channel UK Gold to publicise its new American imports: one involved a pair of British coppers named Alan Tea and George Biscuits going over to work in the States with the obvious Fish out of Water gags - the series, naturally, was called "Tea and Biscuits".
- One Monty Python's Flying Circus episode includes a fake talk show called It's A. Tree, hosted by Arthur Tree. Who's a talking tree.
- Nelson's Column, a 1990s show about a newspaper columnist called Gavin Nelson.
- The Life Of Riley, about a Dysfunctional Family called Riley.
- Prince Amongst Men, about an arrogant ex-footballer called Gary Prince.
- Doc Martin, about Dr. Martin Ellingham. Acknowledged in-show, as the locals nickname him "Doc Martin" to his considerable displeasure.
- Scott & Bailey is an example of this trope purely for its own sake - the show has precisely nothing to do with Motte and Bailey castles, but is in fact a dramatic Buddy Cop Show about DC Janet Scott and DC Rachel Bailey. Unless of course it's a really obscure homage to Castle?
- Moon and Son, about a professional "psychic" called Gladys Moon and her genuinely psychic son Trevor.
- Black Books, about misanthropic bookshop owner Bernard Black (whose shop itself is also called "Black Books").
- A Touch Of Cloth, a spoof cop show show whose title is a riff on A Touch of Frost combined with some Toilet Humour.
- ''Whites: The title refers to chefs' uniforms, but also acknowledges the main character's surname (and by extension the name of his restaurant).
- Clare In The Community, about a social worker called Clare. note Also a radio sitcom based on the comic.
- The Importance of Being Earnest is thematically concerned with the boundaries of honesty (i.e., earnestness) and literally concerned with whether or not either of the main characters is named Ernest (Which is, indeed, important.)
- William Shakespeare's Twelfth Night is also known as What You Will which is a play not on the character names but on the playwright's.
- Banjo-Tooie is a mix of the main characters' names (Banjo-Kazooie) and "two".
- Head Over Heels, about a pair of symbiotic creatures named Head and Heels.
- Bubble & Squeak, which is a pun on British food.
- Slightly Magic, starring an apprentice magician named Slightly.
- Three Weeks in Paradise, with Wally Week's family of three.
- Rochard is about the adventures of John Rochard, an asteroid miner. See also: Punny Name.
- KateModern, about an artist named Kate (a pun on the Tate Modern art gallery).
Anime and Manga
- Darker than Black, given that the name of the Anti-Hero, Hei, is Chinese for "black".
- Hokuto no Ken, the Japanese title of Fist of the North Star, can be interpreted as both, a reference to the martial art style Hokuto Shinken (the "Hokuto Divine Fist") or the main character himself, Kenshiro (who is nicknamed Ken, as in "Ken of Hokuto"). The important word here is "Ken", which translates to "Fist".
- The Japanese for Hayate the Combat Butler, Hayate No Gotoku, literally means Just Like the Hurricane!—but, well, the hero's name is Hayate Ayasaki, and the first name just means that.
- Heroic Age: the main character is named Age, and he is heroic. Simultaneously a reference to the "heroic age" of Greek Mythology, which the series references heavily.
- A manga by Toshiki Yui titled Kagome Kagome has two characters named Kagome; its title is also the name of a Japanese children's game.
- StrikerS Sound Stage X. The X that initially appeared to just be a way to differentiate this from the standard Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha Sound Stages (which are numbered 1-4 and are simply side-stories to the current season, unlike X which is a completely new Story Arc) turned out to also refer to the Mysterious Waif named Ikusu, whose name is transcribed to romaji in the CD booklet as X.
- Maria†Holic. In this case, "Maria" refers to the Virgin Mary and therefore its Catholic girls' school setting, but sounds very similar to Mariya, the name of one of the show's central characters and Villainous Crossdresser, on whom the heroine has a crush.
- Mach GoGoGo!, the Japanese version of Speed Racer, is named after the vehicle the main character drives. "Go", aside for being a legitimate English word and the Japanese word for "five", is also used as a suffix to indicate numbers. Thus, the Mach Five is known as the Mach Go-Go (Mach No. 5). Speed Racer himself (the character) is known by the name of "Go Mifune" in Japan (Go Hibiki in the 1997 remake).
- Tantei Gakuen Q is about the "Qualified" class of a school for detectives. The main character just happens to be named Kyu.
- The title of Tenchi Muyo! comes from a Japanese idiom equivalent to the saying "This Way Up". When interpreted literally, it means "No Need for Tenchi" or "No Need for Heaven and Earth".
- Sutte Hakkun is a Japan-exclusive Nintendo game featuring a bird named Hakkun who sucks up colors and injects them into blocks. "Sutte haku" is a Japanese expression meaning "breathe in, breathe out."
- The PC Genjin (Bonk) and PC Denjin (Air Zonk) games for the PC-Engine (TurboGrafx-16) console.
- Time And Eternity has Princess Toki ("time") and her Split Personality Towa ("eternity").
- Every book in Robert Asprin's Phule's Company series is a pun on the main character's surname, which is... Phule. Hence Phule's Paradise, A Phule And His Money, Phule's Errand...
- His Myth Inc series had similarly punny titles - some off missing and some off mythic.
- The sole exception being the first novel, "Another Fine Myth", which was a pun off "Another Fine Mess". In actuality the title had been approved and solicited before the author had come up with a better pun, and he just kind of had to leave it that way.
- Lois McMaster Bujold claims that several of her Miles Vorkosigan books have had Miles to Go as a working title, but she's always come up with something better before publication.
- The German book Glennkill is about a shepherd named Glenn, who is killed.
- The German Selb trilogy by the author of The Reader: Selbs Justiz (=self justice), Selbs Betrug (=self-deception), Selbs Mord (=suicide).
Live Action TV
- Bachelors Walk is a variant in that the pun is on a specifically named place rather than a specifically named person: It's a dramedy about three unmarried men living on an oddly named Dublin street, Bachelor's Walk.
- Marshall Law, an Australian series about lawyers, two of whom have the surname Marshall.
- King of Kensington, 70s Canadian sitcom about a man from Toronto's Kensington Market neighborhood named Larry King (no, not him.)
- Met Meus en Vork is a Belgian cooking show presented by Jeroen Meus. The title is a play of words on Met mes en vork which is Dutch for With knife and fork.
- My Girlfriend Is (a) Nine-Tailed Fox (Korean). Nine-tailed fox = gumiho. In Korean, there would be no indefinite article, so the title is literally My Girlfiend is Gumiho. The main character is called Gu Mi Ho for most of the drama.
- You're Beautiful - The title in Korean is "Mi-nam-i shi-ne-yo", which can be translated to He's/She's/You're Beautiful or He's/She's/You're Mi Nam because there is no pronoun. The main character is also pretending to be "Mi Nam", or rather, she is Mi Nam.
- German tv series Stocker und Stein (related to "sticks and stones")
- The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past: The main character is named Link; he has to deal with the consequences of the past of Hyrule.
- X-Men: Mutant Apocalypse: the game centers around a mutant apocalypse which involves one of the X-Men's adversary, an evil mutant named Apocalypse.
- Will Rock: main character? Willford Rockwell.
- Wolf of the Battlefield: Commando 3 named one of its three player characters Wolf.