Whose Name Comes First In the Title?

TNT rolled out a new legal show called Franklin & Bash the other night, of which there is nothing much to say. (Unfortunately, TNT’s best drama, Men of a Certain Age, showed that it’s a very old-skewing show, which is not surprising in view of its subject matter, but doesn’t bode well for its future. It’s another reminder, as with The Good Wife, that the stereotype of older-skewing shows being bland and unchallenging is often quite wrong.) The one thing I can think of to mention is the title, another title that has the character with more syllables going first. Starsky goes before Hutch. Rizzoli goes before Isles. Turner before Hooch. If it’s a cop or legal story, the cop – or canine cop – with a one-syllable name will go second.

However, other people pointed out to me that it’s different for comedies. Mork before Mindy. Mike before Molly. Kate before Allie. John before Marsha. I before Lucy. The formula is you use the first names (or “I”) and put the one-syllable name first. Whereas in dramas you use the last names to signal that the show is supposed to be serious, and you give the title a punchy ending. (A one-syllable ending is called a “masculine” ending in poetry, and there probably is some subliminal effect like that – the one syllable sounds tougher somehow.)

For characters with the same number of syllables in their names, of course, it doesn’t matter. Joanie goes before Chachi but Cagney and Lacey go alphabetically.

In sum, if Mork & Mindy were a show about a flaky alien detective and his cute partner, it would be called McConnell and Mork, and they would be rebels who don’t play by the rules.

Exceptions to the rule, or other examples, are welcome in comments. Questions about why I was even thinking about this are unanswerable; I’ve tried.

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