Spin-offâ€™s have been around since TV began just about. Andy Griffith was a spin-off of The Danny Thomas Show. I guess it seems like a solid idea, if a cast member is a hit on one show, wouldnâ€™t it stand to reason they would be a hit in their own show? Well, sometimes that works and sometimes it doesnâ€™t. So, I wanted to take a look at the one which really worked, and the oneâ€™s which were dismal failures.
As we know, lots of shows will try this with recurring cast members, and of course there is backdoor pilot approach where he meet someone for the first time ever. For the purposes of this list, I am only talking about shows which sent a regular cast member to their own series. Dramas do this, but as usual we will be looking at sitcom examples. Of course, this is all opinion and feel free to argue, or suggest any I may have missed.
#6. Rhoda-It’s funny what will work, and what won’t. On Mary Tyler Moore, Rhoda was the loud mouth neighbor. They sent to her own show, and audiences still loved her. The show lasted a few years, and her wedding is considered one of TV’s most memorable events.
#5. A Different World-This show had its share of controversy early one. When The Cosby Show sent Denise off to college, this show premiered. It made a nice compliment to Cosby on NBC. After Lisa Bonet left after the first year she returned to Cosby and this show continued. It still qualifies as a spin-off because of how often Hillman was mentioned on Cosby. Also, Cosby regulars continued to appear.
#4. Facts of Life-This is a case of a spin-off taking after its parent show so well that it became its own hit. Mrs. Garrett was the Drummonds housekeeper when she left to be the head of Eastland Girls School. Actually, the show wasn’t so good until they added a new character named Jo, played by Nancy McKeon, and revamped the format. This show dealt with serious topics just as its parent show did, and in my opinion was actually a superior vehicle.
#3. Family Matters-This is one of those shows people forget was a spin-off. Yep, it was. On Perfect Strangers Harriet was the elevator operator. We even met her husband Carl in an episode (yes, played by Reginald Vel-Johnson). Basically the show was about a middle class African American family. Funny, it sounds a little like another show that was on around that time. Truth is, this spin-off probably would have been a big fail, had it not been for the addition of Steven Urkel to the cast.
#2. Benson-I loved this show, it was one of the first sitcoms I really enjoyed. The spin-off from the amazing Soap had the butler Benson becoming chief of staff for the governor of, some state. Through the course of the series he would become Budget Director and then Lt.Governor. Robert Guillaume was so funny on this show with his one liners and put downs, and I just wish that the rest of the series would come out on DVD someday.
#1. Frasier-Cheers was going off the air, and NBC was desperate to no lose the audience. So, they took a chance and spun Frasier Crane into his own show. He moved to Seattle and suddenly had family he never had before. The amazing thing is, this show really worked! I won’t say it is better than Cheers, but it is certainly up there with it. Something about the smart writing and witty dialogue connected with people, even if in many ways this show was just an
Honorable Mention :
The Simpsons-What? Yes, this was a spin-off my friends. The Simpsons began as a series of shorts on the Tracy Ullman Show. I never watched her show, like most people, but I know that in 1989 FOX took a chance and spun the shorts into an actual sitcom, the first animated on since The Flintstones. It was a little successful. Kidding of course, it was an enormous hit. I wonder if people in 1989 would have ever guessed people would still be watching original episodes in 2012! That is unprecedented. Truth is, I was never a loyal fan, and I think itâ€™s time for the show quietly exit, but that doesn’t mean take away from its impressive place in TV history.
Well, thatâ€™s some good examples. Now letâ€™s check out some less than stellar fare.
THE WORST :
#6. Gloria-Norman Lear’s All in the Family was a piece of television gold. It also spawned a bunch of spin-offs. Jeffersons, Good Times, Maude, and this little show. Never heard of it? That’s because it barely lasted a season.
#5. Three’s a Crowd-Most of these examples are just plain bad ideas. Here is the first one. After Three’s Company finally came to a close, someone thought it would be great to take John Ritter’s character and spin him off. He moves in with his girlfriend, and her father! Oh, the hijinks! The thing that made Three’s Company so popular was non-existent here, and this show was as forgettable as it gets.
#4. The Golden Palace-On paper, this probably seemed like a solid idea. When Golden Girls ended, Bea Arthurâ€™s Dorothy left leaving Rose, Blanche, and Sophia. Why not create a show just for them? Well, for one thing because Dorothy was the smart one, and then they had to make Rose a little stronger which flies in the face of her character. The last brilliant thing they did was have the ladies run a hotel. Just them, and Don Cheadle. Hope someone took that paper and burned it.
#3. Joanie Loves Chachie-Wow, talk about bad ideas! Happy Days had a ton of success with Laverne & Shirley and Mork & Mindy, so why not Joanie Loves Chachi? Because Joanie and Chachie aren’t that interesting! I was lucky enough to miss this show when it was on, but have heard enough about it. Did they really think Erin Moran and Scott Baio had soooo much chemistry that they could carry a show? Sorry, and the musical numbers in every episode just made matters worse. This lasted a short time, and the two were back on Happy Days before long.
#2. AfterMash-Why??? Why would the creators of MASH, one of the greatest shows in history, think that fans would flock to a new show if they took a few random cast members and made a St.Elsewhere knock off? The show featured Col.Potter, Klinger, and Father Mulcahey settling into civilian life at a hospital and was just soooo lame. The show barely lasted two seasons, and has been considered by many to be one of the worst shows of all times. For years, it was the prime example of a horrible spin-off. That was, until……
#1. Joey-NBC hoped that the magic which made Frasier a hit would happen again, so they took Joey off Friends and brought him to Los Angeles. Apparently the networks never realized that shows centered on dim witted character just don’t work. Anyone remember Flo? On Friends, Joey was there for comic relief and his dumbness worked because it was only part of the show. It just didn’t work here. Can’t say they didn’t try, but the whole feel of this show was just, wrong. In my opinion, one of the big mistakes this show made was making little to no references to Friends. Every example I mentioned, even the bad ones, had references to the parent show including occasional cameos. Frasier even had Lilith on in its first season. Joey did none of that, and I think it hurt the show. Joey’s friends were everything to him, and the idea he could just run off to LA and not even attempt to keep in touch with them was not only hard to believe, in my opinion it turned a lovable character into a bit of a jerk.
Honorable Mention :
Some shows take annoying characters and make shows for them. Amazingly enough, they donâ€™t work for some reason. Fish was the annoying Barney Miller spin-off, The Tortelliâ€™s was that OTHER Cheers spin-off, and Top of the Heap was the Married with Children spin-off no one talks about. Then there are ideas that were just stupid from the get-go. The Brady Brides anyone?
Spin-offâ€™s are a way of life in television, but as we can clearly for every one done well there are plenty more out there which are just terrible. Hope you enjoyed this, and if I missed any please feel free to