9 series with the best episode titles

2018-03-10 06:00

Cape Town - One of the things that internet TV gives us that regular TV doesn’t is the opportunity to check the names of each episode of our favourite series, in case that’s something we like to do (and it totally is). Since TV writers know that every detail of their series is now available to viewers online, they’ve also started putting a lot more thought into episode names than when episodes only aired once a week on linear TV. 

And some of them have really gone out of the way to give them memorable names, using a system that not only relates to each individual episode, but to the series as a whole. These ones are some of our favourites. Stream any of these shows this weekend to find out why.

1. SMILF (Showmax)

This dark, dirty comedy comes first and only on Showmax. Frankie Shaw, the writer, director, creator, producer and star of the series, based the lead character Bridgette Bird on her own experiences of being a single mom in her 20s. On top of trying to chase her dreams of becoming an actress and/or star basketball player, looking after and providing for her son Larry, and being a good daughter to her stern mother (played by Rosie O’Donnell), Bridgette is also battling her food addiction. Which is probably why all the episode titles are names of junk food, from “A Box of Dunkies and Two Squirts of Maple Syrup” to “Family-Sized Popcorn and a Can of Wine”. They represent the hits of instant gratification that Bridgette craves and gives into, sometimes in the form of sugar and, often, by taking ill-advised men to bed.

2. Mr Robot (Showmax)

Seasons 1 to 3 of this clever, compelling cyber thriller are on Showmax, and, as you’ll see, the episode titles look like encrypted file names, such as “eps2.3_logic_b0mb.hc” (Season 2, episode 3: Logic Bomb), which is appropriate since the lead character Elliot, played by Emmy Award-winner Rami Malek, is a hacker working to take down the evil E Corp from the inside. The episode titles not only reflect the theme of the series, they also act as clues to the events contained in each episode, referring to them obliquely with IT jargon. As the viewer, you have to decode the file name and then guess what it means for the characters. “Logic bomb”, for example, is a piece of code inserted into software that will execute a malicious action “only when one or more specified conditions is met”. So what could that mean for Elliot, Mr Robot and the rest of the gang of hackers in fsociety? You’ll have to watch to find out.

3. The Big Bang Theory (Showmax)

A little less obscure than some of the others on this list, the episode titles of The Big Bang Theory keep us intrigued by throwing some totally made-up scientific principles, theories and experiments in along with the real ones. Titles like “The Deception Verification” and “The Indecision Amalgamation” sound like they’re legit, but what about “The Bachelor Party Corrosion” and “The Luminous Fish Effect”? Leonard, Sheldon, Raj, Howard, Penny and Amy are on full display in all their nerdy glory on Seasons 1 to 9 of The Big Bang Theory on Showmax.

4. Friends (Showmax)

We’re all so familiar with the titles of Friends episodes that we’ve probably become inured to the fact that the writers did a very clever thing with them. When the series first aired in 1994, hardly anyone knew the episode names of their favourite shows off by heart, and resorted to talking about them with their, well, friends, by saying “Have you seen the one where …?”. And so the writers of Friends gave all 10 seasons, all 236 episodes, names like “The One with Two Parts (Part 1)” and, our personal favourite, “The One with Unagi.” You can watch all episodes of Friends on Showmax.

5. South Park (Showmax)

There are no mysteries when it comes to the episode names of South Park. If the episode is called “Douche and Danish” (Season 20, episode 5), that’s exactly what you’re going to get. Ditto “White People Renovating Houses”, “Skank Hunt” and “SUPERHARD PCness” - which you’ll find on Showmax, along with all the other episodes in Seasons 19 to 21 of this fantastically NSFW, OTT, off the wall series that has kept itself contemporary since 1997 by loading each episode with the kind of cultural and political commentary that you would not want to repeat in polite company.

6. Young Sheldon (DStv Now)

This spin-off of the Big Bang Theory takes us to the late 80s, when Sheldon Cooper was only nine years old. Sheldon’s mathematic and scientific brilliance were already in evidence, as were his complete inability to grasp social cues and his sense of superiority - which, it turns out, is just as funny and cringe-worthy to watch in a young child as in a fully grown man. Episodes of this show aren’t named after scientific theorems as in the original show, but they are some of the weirdest on TV, from “A Brisket, Voodoo and Cannonball Run” to “Poker, Faith and Eggs”. They all read like one of those tests that ask what these three things have in common. Which Sheldon would fail at spectacularly.

7. Please Like Me (Netflix)

You wouldn’t expect an Australian series about a 20-year-old getting dumped by his girlfriend because he’s gay, dragging him out of the closet he didn’t even know he was in, to have episode titles like, “Porridge”, “Parmigiana”, “Horrible Sandwiches” and “Croquembouche”, but the episode titles of this series are just one of the many charming surprises in store for you. This show was written and created by Josh Thomas, who plays Josh, who closely resembles his real self. And Josh loves to cook, which is why episodes are named after a dish he or one of his strange friends or dysfunctional family members have eaten, made, ordered, spilled, sent back or thrown to the floor in each episode. Seasons 1 to 4 are on Netflix, and if you want a sweet, funny, intelligent watch that’s as comforting as Rhubarb and Custard, or Pancakes with Faces, this is the one.

8. American Vandal (Netflix)

What kind of episode titles would you expect from a show that’s a spoof of a crime documentary, investigating the heinous crime of spray painting large penises on the cars of teachers in a high school parking lot? Bad puns about male genitalia, such as “A Limp Alibi”, “Gag Order” and “Climax”? Then you’d be, um, bang on the money. This mockumentary is incredibly well made, and will be especially hilarious to fans of actual, real crime documentaries. It’s completely ridiculous and juvenile and one of the easiest, lightest series to binge on internet TV right now.

9. Community (Amazon Prime)

This series is about a motley crew of students at Greendale Community College, jaded lawyer Jeff Winger (Joel McHale), bad-girl Britta Perry (Gillian Jacobs), on-the-spectrum TV fan Abed Nadir (Danny Pudi), ex-quarterback Troy Barnes (Donald Glover), overachiever Annie Edison (Alison Brie) and single mother Shirley Bennett (Yvette Nicole Brown) … and a monkey called Annie’s Boobs. The show is packed with meta-humour and parodies popular TV tropes, which makes it a treat for film and TV buffs like Abed. Episodes are named to resemble courses one might take at community college, and, as you’d expect from a show that’s as self-aware and smart as this, all have a deeper meaning. Critics and nerds alike particularly loved Cooperative Calligraphy (Season 2, episode 8), known as a “bottle episode”, in which only the lead characters appear on one of the regular sets, so that no new cast members, sets or props are needed - in this case, they’re in the study room looking for Annie’s lost pen - mostly because of Jeff’s yelling down the phone, “I’m doing a bottle episode!”. All six seasons are on Amazon Prime, and are compulsory viewing.

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