Rizzoli & Isles, a new detective series starting tonight on TNT that stars Angie Harmon and Sasha Alexander as a fashion-eschewing homicide detective and shoe-loving medical examiner, respectively, is part of a long and storied tradition: TV shows with two names in the title! (The show is also part of the “partners who bring different strategies of crime-solving to the table” tradition and perpetuates the “no-nonsense homicide detective whose life is the job” tradition.) Rizzoli & Isles’s predecessors include, but are not limited to, Starksy & Hutch, Cagney & Lacey, Laverne & Shirley, Ren & Stimpy, and many, many more. Is there any method in all this two-titled madness? Do TV shows with two names hew to rules or guidelines? Does Rizzoli & Isles? We sorted through the copious evidence and came up with a few answers.
TV shows with two names in the title tend to follow these three rules.
1. If the TV show is a drama, use last names.
Generally speaking, first-name-only titles like Will & Grace, Mork & Mindy, Dharma & Greg, Laverne & Shirley, and Kath & Kim are reserved for comedies. (This is not necessarily true for movies, as Bonnie and Clyde and Thelma & Louise make clear).
Rule followed? Yes. Rizzoli & Isles is not a comedy! And it does not use first names.
2a. Of the two names, one should be one syllable …
One syllable names are crisp, keep the title from going on, and can sound badass. Followers of this rule include: Starsky and Hutch, Turner & Hooch, Crockett & Tubbs, Cheech & Chong, Calvin & Hobbes, Tango & Cash, Ren & Stimpy, and the aforementioned Mork & Mindy and Will & Grace.
Rule Followed? We don’t know exactly how Isles is pronounced, but we are pretty sure it is one syllable.
2b. … And/or the two names should be alliterative.
Cagney & Lacey are both two syllables, but they do end with the same sound. Beavis and Butthead both start with the same sound, as do Cheech & Chong, and Mork & Mindy. The Captain & Tennille both have that nice hard T.
Rule Followed? Sort of: Rizzoli and Isles do both have an “L” sound, though in neither case is it the dominant vocative. (That’s right, we said dominant vocative.)
3. In all cases, be easy to pronounce.
On rare occasions, the two names in the title are neither one syllable nor alliterative, a means of indicating, as with Laverne & Shirley and Wallace & Gromit, the project’s madcap nature. Even so, it is easy to say Laverne.
Rule Followed? No. Isles, really sticks on the tongue.
Rizzoli & Isles: Two out of three ain’t bad?