The Story Behind HBO’s Name Game

I have a theory you see. It’s a theory that is fairly unimportant — given the state of our world — but somehow allows us to consider the little hand behind the curtain of television. We are talking about the HBO Name Game and at the end of the day it all comes down to The Wire.

Many view what critics call the “best show ever made” as the seminal work of the HBO brass. Others who have been privy to the manipulation of viewer’s choice, see this as one of the clearest forms of TV fraud in history. One expert on the matter was once quoted as saying, “I will not be told what to watch.” What I’m hinting at is the discernible presence of the letter-proximity of HBO programming to “The Wire.” By naming shows with letters towards the end of the alphabet, our friends at HBO are able to manipulate our options by simply placing new shows near its flagship program.

In Scrabble, the letter ‘V’ is worth 40% of ‘Z’ and four times more than stupid fucking ‘E.’

Take the letter ‘V’ for instance. Other than the obvious V for Vendetta and movies related to Valentine’s Day, can you name any other popular shows or movies that start with V without straining your little brain? I just tried for 30 seconds and found something better to do. HBO fans know where I am going with this. Do you really expect me to trust a network with three shows that begin with a ‘V?’ Veep was perhaps an unexpected success — not to slight JLD — but was likely boosted by its placement nearly 6 years ago at the end of the HBO catalog. While it may be the funniest show on television, JLD rakes in mobs of Wire fans looking for a quick chuckle after hours of drug-addled crime drama. This is where things get fishy.

Bobby Cannavale never should have got his own show…and HBO knows it. Riding high on his moderate Hollywood successes, Cannavale somehow convinced the Brass and Scorsayz that he could be the Walter White of records. Who knows, I just know that I never watched it. But I did see all those meaningless, lackluster promotional ads (I refuse to call them trailers) that tried to make the word vinyl seem like it wasn’t just a blatant grab at the hipster demographic. After Mick Jagger likely threatened to pull his name, HBO had one final string to pull — The Wire string. I can almost hear the last ditch pitch to Jagger and Scorsayz, highlighting how the V would capture the W’s viewers through a good old fashioned piggyback. Sorry BobbyMickMartinWilde, HBO failed you.

If at virst you don’t succeed, try another a ‘V.’

I have to applaud HBO for green-lighting the title of Jody Hill’s and Kenny Powers’s next work of art. Vice Principals has been a hilarious take on ‘skool,’ and even more impressive as a follow up to Eastbound and Down. But another ‘V?’ Granted there are not many potential names for a show about two vice principals but my only defense here: what the hell is an eastbound and down? Why did this specific title have to make sense all of a sudden? HBO has a naming strategy and they could not accept another failed venture placed near The Wire. Just bank on a couple of creative showrunners and the ‘W’ will remain timeless. Because in reality this is not about gaining viewership for new shows; HBO just wants you to always remember who is boss.

I am not asking you to agree with me but I did want to raise awareness especially as we look towards the release of Westworld on HBO. The trailer had me fooled until I saw the title. We know X,Y, n Z are off limits but at least give me a ‘U.’ Please? Westworld promises to be either the best new show of 2016 or a bastardized hybrid of two genres. All while falling strikingly close to our timeless friends in Baltimore. I see you HBO.

Like what you read? Give Peter O'Reilly a round of applause.

From a quick cheer to a standing ovation, clap to show how much you enjoyed this story.