But take it from someone who, like Netflix, has tried to recommend the series to people that would no doubt love it. It’s no use. The reaction is always the same: “Ew. No.”
No one wants to watch a show called “Scrotal Recall.” Not only is the title a stupid pun, but the word “scrotal” is among the dictionary’s ickiest of untouchables — worse than “moist,” “squirt” or even “panties.” It doesn’t just sound gross, the way “smear” does. It’s also just really… graphic.
The name makes the series seem like it’s just another example of Netflix dregs. You know, like “Bad Johnson.”
It turns out the title was a joke that stuck. Showrunner Tom Edge told Den of Geek that he presented his producers with a long list of options, adding “Scrotal Recall” as an afterthought with the bracketed caveat, “not this one obviously!”
Except the producers liked it. It seemed to perfectly blend the whole sexually transmitted disease ordeal with the show’s weekly detours down memory lane.
Added Edge during another Q-and-A: “It’s a pun. Those go stale fast. My hope is that people’s expectations of the show (from the title alone) are enjoyably confounded; and the show goes on to play further games with audience expectations. In time, hopefully the title will just fade down in volume, rather like ‘Peep Show’ did. If not, this could be my Bill Lawrence/’Cougar Town’ moment. I hate coming up with titles. It’s my worst thing.”
The U.K.’s Channel 4 has yet to announce whether the show will be renewed for a second season. The fact that Netflix picked up rights for the series seemed promising, but the lack of news has left fans panicking given that the first season ended on a real cliffhanger. So in the meantime, if another season is still a possibility, maybe the network can consider this: Change the name. If Channel 4 wants more viewers, a title switch is the best solution. Plus, Netflix can spend its marketing dollars on something other than a plea disguised as an apology.
Changing the name of a series that’s already in progress sounds like a crazy idea, but it’s not without precedent.
The first season of Ellen Degeneres’s 1990s boundary-pushing comedy, “Ellen,” had a title that belonged on primetime … in the 1970s: “These Friends of Mine.” But with the future Oscar host’s star on the rise, producers reworked the series, got rid of some of the regulars and put Degeneres’s personality front and center. It worked.
A few years later, when Berg and company stopped frequenting their favorite restaurant in Ryan Reynolds’s first big role on “Two Guys, a Girl and a Pizza Place,” the title changed to just “Two Guys and a Girl.” “Saved By the Bell” started out as “Good Morning, Miss Bliss,” and not only did the name change, but so did some of the cast and the location. Zack, Screech, Mr. Belding and Lisa all just happened to move from Indianapolis to L.A. What are the odds?
Unfortunately, the new name trick isn’t a sure bet. The early ’90s sitcom “Parker Lewis Can’t Lose” changed its title to simply “Parker Lewis” during its third season. Dropping “can’t lose” turned out to be prescient; that was the show’s final season.
But it’s worked for movies. The fact that “Toy’s House” got a lot of love on the festival circuit didn’t change the fact that another name would be better. Hence, “The Kings of Summer.” And the original title for the Will Smith movie “Hancock” was “Tonight, He Comes.” (Get your mind out of the gutter.)
Bands have done it, too. A silly name dreamed up as a joke — the way Tom Edge came up with “Scrotal Recall” — might have to go once a group gets a certain amount of acclaim. Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr., for example, is now just Jr. Jr. “Band names are a weird thing to begin with, but we figured if we named our band Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. there would be no expectations for what we were meant to sound like,” the band explained in its announcement in July. Except legal issues, plus notes from people who wanted to meet Dale Earnhardt Jr. the driver, got to be too much.
In September, the Canadian band Viet Cong admitted on its Facebook page that its name was in poor taste, so the group is rethinking it. “We are a band who want to make music and play our music for our fans. We are not here to cause pain or remind people of atrocities of the past,” they wrote.
The band has yet to decide on a new name but acknowledged that it didn’t put enough thought into its previous one. “We don’t plan to rush into this one.”
Smart choice. And let that be a lesson to name brainstormers in all corners of pop culture. Take your time. Give it some serious thought. And, when in doubt, avoid using evocative anatomical words.
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