Shonda Rhimes defends new show's title: Too long for Twitter?

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Is Shonda Rhimes’ latest show Twitter unfriendly?

Critics at the Television Critics Association press tour questioned the wisdom of ABC’s writer-producer mogul naming her new Thursday night drama How to Get Away with Murder. Why the title alone is 20 percent of a tweet! Plus, the crime drama presumably has the “maybe difficult” Twitter hashtag of #HTGAWM.

“We don’t consider a hashtag when we’re writing a title,” said Rhimes, drawing applause from some of the press (presumably those who aren’t tweeting) at the Beverly Hilton.

In the show, Viola Davis stars as a law professor at a Philadelphia university who teaches a class called “How to Get Away with Murder” and then becomes involved in a real-life murder plot along with her students. “It was always our first instinct for the show,” explained creator Pete Nowalk. “I love that that’s what she calls her class because she likes to push buttons and she knows she has the gravity and the attention and it’s a little controversial. In terms of the Twitter stuff, I feel like the audience will decide what they want to call the show. If they want to call it by its full title or if they want to call it ‘Murder’ or whatever they want on Twitter, it’s cool that way.”

A reporter than asked the producers whether they ever considered another title. In fact, the critic even had a suggestion: How about … Murder Class!

“[Pete] came to us and said I have a show and I want to call it ‘How to Get Away with Murder,’ and we liked it,” Rhimes said definitively.

Nowalk added: “I think actually the one-word titles feel a little tired right now, so I think that’s what makes it stand out.”

Indeed, last season ABC was mocked for a schedule full of dramas that sounded like perfumes — Betrayal, Scandal, Resurrection, Revenge. 

Still, longer titles are considered tougher to communicate, and How to Get Away with Murder is the longest on the fall schedule. It’s bigger than CBS’ previously lengthy How I Met Your Mother, or ABC’s currently unwieldy Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (most reporters have gradually dropped the periods). Oftentimes long titles are shortened before they hit the air. ABC’s short-lived comedy last season How to Live With Your Parents For the Rest of Your Life was generally called How to Live With Your Parents, with the rest of the title added in parentheses for marketing clarity. And then there was Don’t Trust the B—- in Apt. 23, which lasted a bit longer, and had a title that went through several incarnations )with ABC generally using The B—- in Apt. 23 in its official press releases).

“The idea that we decide what Twitter’s going to call something is a very weird notion to me,” Rhimes said. “Twitter makes its own decisions about that kind of thing. We don’t decide what Twitter will call something. Twitter has a lovely community of people who decide stuff. It’s a very new notion now that networks are trying to push hashtags on the community of Twitter. Twitter makes stuff up and that’s far more interesting.” — Marc Snetiker contributed to this report

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