Sometimes when a show is trying to come up with a title for an episode, they have to take short-cuts, such as Rule of Funny
, settling for one of the Stock Episode Titles
, or just generally using an old pop-culture reference to create some sort of pun
. This trope is what happens when a show, usually a Long Runner
, ends up later coming up with a High Concept
that actually works much better with the earlier title of a previous episode.
This is very common in shows that use, or gradually adapt to, a World Of Weirdness
setting. While in the earlier episode the title may have been a metaphor for what was actually going on, say, "Shoot the moon" being about a character trying to win a game via Spring Time For Hitler
, the later episode will involve the characters actually building a ray gun and trying to shoot the moon with it.
Use of this trope is almost always accidental, and as is such, it functions mainly as an oddity while the viewers wonder why, in retrospect, the writers used the naming conventions they did.
Those curious about how inner wiki working like renames will find that a lot of them are motivated by this trope. A well-meaning troper will name a trope after an abstract concept, and several months later there will be inaccurate Pot Holes
everywhere assuming that the trope means something completely different. This is a large part of the reason why wiki policy encourages new tropes to have more easily understood names.
Film - Live Action
- Prolific fanfic writer Stefan Gagne first wrote Pulp Fanfiction, a fanfic which borrowed a single scene from Pulp Fiction and then goes on to parody Ranma 1/2 Fan Fiction in general. Then he had the brilliant idea for Pulp Fiction using the Ranma 1/2 characters and had to title this one Quentin Tarantino's Ranma 1/2 to avoid confusion with his earlier fanfic.
- Terminator 2: Judgment Day is the film where the protagonists stop Judgment Day from happening. Terminator 3 is the one where it happens anyway.
- Doctor Who does this deliberately. The seventh episode of Series 1 is entitled The Long Game, which only vaguely describes the events of the episode. The Doctor finally confronts the villain playing a 'long game' in episode 12, Bad Wolf, and the events of episode 7 turn out to have been part of the plan.
- Point of No Return would have made a better title for the Stargate SG-1 episode Failsafe, but they already used it. And Failsafe is what Tangent should have been called.
- On Sports Night:
- The episode entitled "Kafelnikov" is the episode before the one where Dan can't pronounce Yevgeny Kafelnikov's name. This could be considered Fridge Brilliance, since 'Kafelnikov' is the episode in which we get the reason why Dan can't say Yevgeny Kafelnikov's name in the following episode.
- 'Also notable is How Are Things in Glocca Morra, which was an episode a whole season before the song was a B-plot. However, that B-plot was originally intended to be a part of How Are Things in Glocca Morra before Real Life Rewrote the Plot.
- The original-series Star Trek episode "The Children Shall Lead" makes repeated thematic reference to the "enemy within". Too bad "The Enemy Within" was already the title of an episode two seasons earlier...
- The third album by The Doors bore the title Waiting for the Sun, but the song by that name wasn't released until two albums later, on Morrison Hotel.
- Ditto Led Zeppelin's Houses of the Holy, whose title track had to be held until their next release, Physical Graffiti.
- Also the Burzum album Det som engang var: the song by that name didn't appear until the next album Hvis lyset tar oss.
- Flogging Molly. Their first album was the live compilation Alive Behind the Green Door, which featured a song named "Swagger". Their next release was the studio album named Swagger... which for some reason did not include the song "Swagger". Their next studio album was Drunken Lullabies, which did include the song "Swagger". It's like they were trying to be confusing.
- Two Captain Beefheart albums fell prey to this problem:
- "Safe As Milk", initially written for the album of the same name, was recorded for a planned follow-up that never materialised and only saw release as a bonus track on the CD reissue.
- Shiny Beast takes its title from a line on "Dirty Blue Gene", which was dropped from the LP shortly before its release.
- The Meat Puppets' Golden Lies - five years after the album came out, a song of the same name showed up on Curt Kirkwood's solo album Snow.
- Camper Van Beethoven's box set Cigarettes And Carrot Juice was actually named for a lyric from "Big Dipper" by David Lowery's other band, Cracker... But years later the Camper Van Beethoven song "Long Plastic Hallway" would also mention "cigarettes and carrot juice" in it's lyrics.
- The first album by Jets To Brazil was titled Orange Rhyming Dictionary. The song the album was named for appeared two years later on the followup album, Four Cornered Night
- White Zombie's self-released debut was called Soul-Crusher. Four years and a shift in genre from Noise Rock to Groove Metal later, their major label debut La Sexorcisto included a song called "Soul-Crusher".
- Beck has an album titled Midnite Vultures, but the song of that name appeared as a B-Side a year later. Interestingly, "Midnite Vultures" wasn't even written until after the album of the same name was finished - Beck wrote it specifically to be a b-side and named it after the album just because he couldn't think of a title.
- The South Park episode "How To Eat With Your Butt" revolves around Kenny taking his school photo with his butt sticking out of the hood in his parka instead of his face. The later episode "Red Hot Catholic Love", though, is the one where Cartman actually discovers how to eat with your butt.
- The Simpsons had a season 1 episode named "Homer's Odyssey" where he crusaded for more stringent safety regulation. It would still be several more seasons before they made the episode "Lemon Of Troy" that actually mirrored the plot of The Odyssey (well, The Iliad)... and another stretch of years before they did it again with a literal re-enactment with Simpsons characters acting parts from the story of the Odyssey. Lampshaded at one point. When he reads the title "Homer's Odyssey", he wonders if its about one of his previous adventures (wrong one, but still). Specifically, he wonders if it is about that time he rented a Honda Odyssey minivan.