You start to see patterns when you spend a lot of time looking through lists of episode titles for television programmes. It’s understated enough that it feels like an easter egg, so what about applying some kind of automated analysis?
I checked for two cases: common prefixes and frequent words. Any series with more than 25% of episodes sharing one of those properties was flagged; here are the interesting ones.
Seinfeld’s “The ...” titles are one of my favourite examples. Only four episodes buck the trend: two early episodes and a pair of highlight shows. Curb Your Enthusiasm continues the convention less slavishly, with a point-six-four “The”-ing. (The O.C. does even better, but that doesn’t seem to have earned it the same level of comic respect.)
Scrubs has a nice line in possessive determiners. One hundred and sixty “My ...” followed by a final season of “Our ...” (with a few “His”, “Her” and “Their”). Metalocalypse, somewhat less grammatically, begins half its episodes with “Deth”.
One show that goes a little further than lexical analysis suggests is The Mentalist. Twenty-six out of forty-six episodes include the word “Red” but, additionally, there are crimsons, scarlets, russets and a whole lot of blood.
Eighty-four episodes of 24 feature the word ‘A.M.’. Eighty-four episodes feature the word ‘P.M.’ I consider this a basic sanity check.
Probably the most overtly self-referential is Friends’ “The One With/Where...”. So what does ten years of definite articles look like in tabular form?
A “Pilot” mars the clean streak. “With”s trump “Where”s, and Rachel and Ross carve up the lion’s share of the namechecks.