First episodes deserve titles too

July 15, 2009

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You can file this under stray thoughts and observations: Why is it that many producers don't give the pilots of their television shows titles? Every episode of a TV show has a title. Some shows, like for example the Star Trek series, would even put the title of the episode on-screen at the beginning during the credits — although that's a practice that's not much seen. Usually you have to look at the info box on your on-screen display or TV guide (or on your DVD set) to actually see the title of a TV episode.

But why is it that the first episode of a series often gets no title? They inevitably end up on a DVD set with the prosaic title of "Pilot." I recently started watching all of Lost on DVD, and the two hours for the pilot were named "Pilot, Part 1" and "Pilot, Part 2."

The way I see it, every television pilot should be given its own unique title, even if it's made up well after the original script is filmed. I understand that a "pilot" is a sample show often made on spec, upon which other shows follow. But once a series has been ordered and produced, by the time the first episode airs, it should have its own title. Why not? Hey, all five Star Trek pilots had titles: "The Cage," "Encounter at Farpoint," "Emissary," "Caretaker" and "Broken Bow." (Although you could argue that some of those first episodes were not actually pilots since a series had already been ordered.)

Regardless. If a network is airing a new show, by the time episode No. 1 airs to the public, it should have its own title. What would you name the unnamed pilots of recent shows like The Sopranos, Lost, or The Shield? Please discuss.

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25 comments on this post

    I recently bought the first season of Mad Men and I was having your exact thought. Except the first episode of Mad Men is called "Smoke in Your Eyes," which is perfect for both the episode and the series in general (because the characters smoke so much onscreen). I don't like the "Pilot" label for the first episode either. Funny you mention Lost because JJ Abrams' show before that, Alias, titled its outstanding first episode as "Truth Be Told." Abrams didn't have enough power to overrule the network bigwigs to re-name the title of the Lost first episode?

    Unless "Pilot" was in reference to the pilot of the plane, in which case the joke's on us.


    For Lost, it could be "The Crash." It would be similar to this year's season finale "The Incident."

    Interestingly, the Farscape series pilot was called "Premiere." But that's probably because there's a character called Pilot.


    Please tell us that you will review "Lost". I have been a fan of that show since day 1, and I would be very interested to read your views on this great series. Even if you do just a recap of each season, that would be cool.
    Keep up the great work. I read through your site often.

    I think with Lost they literally meant the pilot, since they encounter the fellow in what turns out to be a major plot twist of the first episode.

    A Lost section on this site would probably be the greatest thing ever, as it's my favorite show (with BSG close behind, of course.) I think you're really going to like it, Jammer. If you opt not to go for episode-by-episode reviews, some thoughts here and there would be almost as cool. And speaking of BSG, it has the clunky title "Miniseries" for its first installment, although I suppose you could say that it's really just titled "Battlestar Galactica."

    Maybe I'll do some Lost postings, but I doubt I'll get too in depth about it. The show is just so packed with material and there are so many episodes that I might just open up each season for discussion and add a few points of my own. But it is a terrific show; I plowed through the first four seasons in about four weeks, and I'm awaiting the season five DVDs. Wish I didn't have to wait until December.

    Until then, no spoilers please (or even the slightests of hints)...

    Lost is an incredible show. People with shorter attention spans get fed up with it (not that I blame them) but anybody I talk to about it I always say, "Dont worry, it will all sort itself out in the end no matter what"

    Its the only show in this decade that I can think of that has been planned out from start to finish.

    Lost's pilot should be called Lost. It fits the overall theme of the pilot and the show's premise.

    The Shield is a bit harder to determine. Maybe something like "Crossing the Line", unless that was already used in the show (like I'd remember).

    24's pilot is named after the episode's time, same as every other episode, in that case 12:00AM-1:00AM. They didn't add Day X until season 2 was commisioned.

    ER had a pilot originally titled 24 Hours. Then it was renamed The Longest Day for syndication. Sadly ER seems to be one of the last shows to display episode titles on the screen. And now it's over as well (at least it went out with a bang).

    Babylon 5 had The Gathering as its pilot title, but that show was even more pre-planned by Straczynski than Lost ever was. Definitely not a spec script.

    Battlestar Galactica could have dropped the "minisseries" from its original title. It really doesn't do the plot justice.

    Don't watch Lost on DVD. Watch it on Blu-Ray, if you can afford it. The picture improvement is astounding. I've been buying Lost exclusively on Blu-Ray from season 3 onwards. Same with 24, and I probably intend to with the Trek series and the complete BSG collection.

    I have to say, Lost looks surprisingly good on DVD upconverted for HDTV, even though it's not true HD. Granted, Blu-ray would look even better, but Lost might be the best-looking DVD TV show I've seen.

    I have to agree, to a certain extent. I still own the first two seasons on DVD. They hold up well to upconversion, despite the DVD's resolution limitations. It still doesn't look as good on a 1080p HDTV as it does on lower-def models, but it's still surprisingly sharp and clear for a standard DVD.

    Disney really did a first-rate job in compressing the data into the DVDs while maintaining the original quality as much as possible. I still rewatch the first couple of seasons on DVD, whenever I need a fresh perspective.

    I installed my buddys HD-DVD recorder onto my TV and compared it to my upconverting DVD player, and to be honest....I cant tell the difference.

    What about movies? I'm very peeved that the latest installment of Star Trek was named..."Star Trek". WTF? 10 previous movies, all with a decent title, but now number 11 is just "Star Trek" - like it's the only one?

    For that matter, why quit numbering them? The latest one should have been something like "Star Trek XI: The Beginning" or something like that.

    I think J.J. was right to call it, simply, Star Trek. It was the best way to get his message across (start HERE, and trust that we're not trying to push the entire franchise down your throat). Any other title, I firmly believe, would've made the film a much more difficult sell, possibly costing a third (or more) of its profits to date.

    Are you watching Lost for the first time? Or rewatching on DVD? Because, if the former, I would LOVE to read your reviews of it as you watch it. Otherwise, you already know what it devolves into. Blech. Though I will stick with it, rules or no rules.

    I think one reason that some pilots are just called "Pilot" is because they started out as TV-movies with the same name as the series. I can't think of any off-hand, but that might be one reason.

    Powers &8^]

    Jammer. Great site btw.
    I think the Lost title was meant as a silly pun. It was the title. TOS's pilot was either the man trap or the cage. Next gen's pilot was called Encounter on Farpoint. DS9's the emmisary, Voyager's- care taker, and enterprise's broken bow. As for battlestar, it wasn't "pilot", but it was "the miniseries".

    As for Lost, they did save a "pilot".

    BTW, Lost is online for free. . ..

    It is a great series. I hope you enjoy it Jammer.

    The Big Bang Theory - "The Penny Paradigm"
    How I Met Your Mother - "It's a Long Story"
    Lost - Either "The Crash" or "Where Are We?"

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