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, Airwolf and Remington Steele. Also, see many animated series for individual episode title examples. See Punny Name for characters; also compare Justified Title.
- 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.
- Hawk and Dove, created in 1968 and playing on the political labels "hawk" and "dove" for those supporting and opposed to the Vietnam War.
- Good Will Hunting, in which the main character is named Will Hunting.
- Grosse Pointe Blank, a comedy about Martin Blank, a hitman who returns to his home town of Grosse Pointe for his high school reunion.
- Major Payne
- 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.
- 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 Christian) and Grace (who is Jewish).
- 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.
- Grey's 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
- 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."
- 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 Perry's 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 off of 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 who's 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 undercover cop named Tommy Murphy.
- Heart of the City is about a girl named Heart who lives in Center City, Philadelphia.
- FoxTrot is about the lives of the Fox family.
- Bloodrayne stars a half-vampire woman named Rayne, who kills Nazis bloodily.
- 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.
- Parodied by comedy duo Lee & Herring, who came up with a list of potential sitcom titles consisting 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 Ever Dreamt of in Your Philosophy (About how Ian Thing is joined by his relatives at the Heaven and Earth Than Are Ever Dreamt of in Your Philosophy Pub).
- In The Eighties, there were two Double Acts with "Sparrow & Nightingale" type names; The BBC had Little & Large, and ITV had Cannon & Ball.
- Rogue Trooper is about a trooper who goes rogue. Who happens to be named Rogue.
- This is used as the names of a number of comic strips in a number of British Comics eg The Beano had Les Pretend.
- 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.
- 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. It was pretty widely mocked when it came out, showing even the British public have a limit for the trope - 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 '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.
- Murphy's 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, Are You Being Served probably stands as the only show to ever feature a major character called Grace and not make a punny name out of it).
- Robins Nest: In the sequel series to Man About the House (the original British inspiration for Three's 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.
- 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.)
- 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.
- Possibly inspired by popular 1980s double acts Little & Large and Cannon & Ball.
- 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 And 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 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").
- Clare In The Community, about a social worker called Clare. 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 both of the main characters are named Ernest.
- Older Than Steam: 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".
- Kate Modern, about an artist named Kate (a pun on the Tate Modern art gallery).
Anime and Manga
- 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).
- 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".
- Arguably Darker than Black, given that the name of the Anti-Hero, Hei, is Chinese for "black".
- 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.
- 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.
- The title of Tenchi Muyo! comes from a Japanese idiom equivalent to the saying "This End Up". When interpreted literally, it means "No Need for Tenchi" or "No Need for Heaven and Earth".
- To continue the pun visually, the North American dub puts the chapter titles in a stencil font, such as is frequently used to label boxes "this end up".
- 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.
- Tantei Gakuen Q is about the "Qualified" class of a school for detectives. The main character just happens to be named Kyu.
- 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.
- Urusei Yatsura is a pun on urusai, meaning noisy or annoying in Japanese, instead spelling it with 星 (sei) which means star or planet. So the title can only be loosely translated, to something like "Those Obnoxious Aliens" or "Annoying Star Dudes" or even "Guys from the Planet Uru". Of course, the main character is Moroboshi Ataru, which literally means "hit by a falling star", so the title is only the beginning of the Hurricane of Puns.
- 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.
- Every even-numbered novel and most of the anthologies in the main universe Honor Harrington novels have a pun on the name 'honor' somewhere in their titles. One wonders whether the reason the next novel isn't due out for a long time is that the author finally ran out of puns.
- 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.
- His Myth Inc series had similarly punny titles - some off missing and some off mythic.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.