The names of some of our favorite TV characters have undergone behind-the-scenes changes for a variety of reasons, from politics to legal issues to shows on competing networks. Here are seven such examples.
When Garry Marshall was first assembling the show that eventually became Happy Days, he envisioned the local hoodlum as a tall Italian guy named Marsciarelli whose nickname would be “Mash.” By the time the show was cast, what he ended up with was a short Jewish guy (because Henry Winkler tested so well) called Arthur “Fonzie” Fonzarelli (because CBS now had their own series called M*A*S*H).
Norman Lear purchased the American rights to the hit British sitcom Till Death Do Us Part in 1968 and wrote a pilot script called And Justice for All. The lead character’s name was Archie Justice. He filmed the pilot presented it to the executives at ABC. They hated it. Lear re-cast the parts of Meathead and Gloria and filmed a second pilot. ABC passed yet again. When CBS showed interest in the pilot two years later, Lear had to change the name of the show and settled on All in the Family. With a new title in place, the “Justice” pun was lost, so Archie’s last name was changed to “Bunker.”
The original concept for I Love Lucy centered around Larry Lopez, a wealthy, internationally famous bandleader, and his actress wife, Lucy. When the pilot was filmed, the concept had been tweaked a bit so that Larry was now a moderately successful orchestra leader with a local following, and Lucy was a housewife with show biz aspirations. When CBS purchased the show, Larry Lopez became Ricky Ricardo, and Lucy Ricardo spent most of the episode in pajamas and a bathrobe to conceal Lucille Ball’s real-life pregnancy.
Cosmo Kramer of Seinfeld fame was based on Larry David’s neighbor Kenny Kramer. But naming a TV character after a real live human can be a legal minefield, so in the first draft of the pilot script the wacky neighbor was named “Hoffman.” In between the time the script was written, press releases were sent out and the episode was actually filmed, his name was changed to “Kessler.” (The TV Guide listing and early reviews of this episode refer to “Hoffman,” while Jerry himself calls the character “Kessler” in the episode.) An agreement of sorts was eventually worked out so that Kramer could revert to using his rightful name.
Quinn Martin pitched a series idea to CBS in 1973 that starred Buddy Ebsen as a retired private investigator who started working again after his son was murdered. CBS liked the idea, but hated the name Martin had given his title character – Barnaby Cobb. They thought it sounded too “cornpone” (remember, this was the network which had recently cancelled most of their “rural” hits, such as Green Acres and Petticoat Junction), so the P.I.’s name was changed to Barnaby Jones and the series ran for an impressive eight seasons.
Hannah Montana was launched as a backdoor pilot on an episode of That’s So Raven. The character’s name at that time was Zoe Stewart, but by the time the pilot for the spin-off series was finished, Nickelodeon a series of their own called Zoey 101. “Zoe” became “Miley Stewart” when Miley Cyrus was hired to play the character.
The hapless teacher-turned-superhero featured on The Greatest American Hero was named Ralph Hinckley. Just 12 days after the pilot episode aired, a deranged man named John Hinckley, Jr., attempted to assassinate President Ronald Reagan. Producers quickly changed their title character’s last name to “Hanley” wherever possible for the remainder of the first season episodes. However, so fleeting is the memory of the American public that by Season Two of the series, Reagan was fully recovered and back on the job, John Hinckley was just a small blip on the pop culture radar, and William Katt was once again known as Ralph Hinckley.
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