In the world of TV there is one term that can both excite the audience and fill us with dread and anguish, and that term is “spin-off.” When the TV spin-off is done well it can not only add to the original program, expanding the universe for the better, it can sometimes even surpass the original. Seeing what Frasier did to Cheers and The Flash did to Arrow, spin-offs can be a joy. However, when it is done wrong, the spin-off can not only be a big blot on the TV schedule, it can also tarnish the memory of the original. Baywatch Nights and Joey spring to mind!
With a multitude of TV channels nowadays, almost every idea has been pitched to the executives, including many spin-offs from our favorite shows. Some make it to the airwaves and others fall short. With this list we look at the 15 crazy spin-off shows that luckily never made it past the pilot stage.
15. Jackie Chiles – Seinfeld
One of the most popular and critically acclaimed shows to come out of our generation would have to be Seinfeld. Coming from the minds of Jerry Seinfeld and Larry David, Seinfeld was really a sitcom about nothing. Celebrating the mundane and uneventful moments that make up life, Seinfeld was a master at making us all laugh about nothing.
As the series was drawing to a close, a number of spin-offs hit the rumour mill. Discounting the main star, who the original show was about, every other character was talked about as having their own show. With Kramer, Elaine and George being everyone’s obvious choices to carry on the brand, many were therefore shocked to hear that it would be Jackie Chiles who might be getting the spin-off.
The Johnny Cochran style lawyer only appeared in six Seinfeld episodes but nonetheless a pilot was talked about. It would see Chiles work in an all-white law firm. Needless to say, NBC didn’t pick up the show. In fact they denied any knowledge of its existence.
14. Jackee – 227
Sometimes within a sitcom the star and focal point of the show can be overshadowed by the supporting cast. Does anyone really remember Richie Cunningham from Happy Days? No, we’re all about Fonzy. And let’s not forget that Friends was actually supposed to have Monica Geller as its main character; that is until Rachael Green took over.
A similar thing happened with sitcom 227. Focused on a group of middle-class people living in building 227, the show’s star was Marla Gibbs‘ sharped tongued character Mary Jenkins. However, as the series and the show went on, it soon became clear that Jackee Harry’s character Sandra was becoming the breakout star.
As the show entered its fourth season, the producers decided to use an episode as a backdrop to test out a possible spin-off show for Jackee. A pilot was filmed in which Sandra moved to New York and got a job in a movie studio, however the studio in question was an ‘adult’ movie only studio. Even with a pilot the show was never picked up and Sandra made her way back to 227 for season five.
13. The Art of Being Nick – Family Ties
This was the show that launched Michael J. Fox into our lives and hearts. Centered around a couple of old hippies trying to raise their children in the conservative 1980s, Family Ties ran throughout the 80s winning multiple awards, fans and plenty of critical acclaim. Over the years the conflicts between the family’s values and outlook on the world caused many rifts and laughs.
None more so than when Scott Valentine was introduced in season four as a love interest for Mallory. Playing Nick Moore, a retro hippy who makes art out of garbage and anything else he can find, Valentine would go on to become the stand out star for that season.
So popular was the character of Nick with the audience that several spin-offs involving him were pitched. The one that made it to a pilot, and to air, was The Art of Being Nick. Although the reviews and ratings proved positive, the network wanted to keep the character within Family Ties and the show was never picked up.
12. W*A*L*T*E*R – M*A*S*H
There are still people today who can tell you exactly where they were when the last episode of M*A*S*H aired. In 1983, “Goodbye, Farewell and Amen” was the most watched tv episode in American history at the time, pulling in a reported 125 million viewers. It was no wonder then that a spin-off was in the works.
Out of all the characters and situations that came up in the much loved show, it was Walter ‘Radar’ O’Reilly that got the go ahead for a pilot. Taking Radar, who wouldn’t be known as Radar from this point on, the show would see him in St. Louis working as a police officer.
The pilot was aired and saw Walter acting in a typical ‘Radar’ way as he bumbled his way around as a rookie cop, dealing with situations like getting embarrassed at a strip club brawl and taking care of a kid he’d falsely accused of a crime. The show never got picked up for a full season and we can see why really as the naive ‘Radar’ act would have worn thin very quickly.
11. Audrey Horne – Twin Peaks
David Lynch‘s surreal, bizarre and compelling crime series is set to make a comeback, and with most of the original cast signing on. The original outing for Twin Peaks won an army of fans and critics alike and became an instant cult classic, so it was no wonder that a spin-off was in the works. Out of all the strange and colorful characters in the show, it was the dark and sexy Audrey Horne who grabbed the most attention and became the subject of the spin-off.
For a long while there were rumours and plenty of chatter about a show centered around Audrey Horne. However, the show never picked up any steam and the spin-off show never got made. But if reports are to be believed then all the inspiration that Lynch had for a spin-off show went into the movie Mulholland Drive. Especially into the character portrayed by Naomi Watts.
10. Norm and Cliff – Cheers
In the 1980s, there was only one place we wanted to go, and of course, it’s a place where everyone knows our name. The popularity that surrounded Cheers was vast as we all tuned in every week to see what our favorite characters in our favorite bar were up to. With a huge list of popular character to choose from, when Cheers started to come to an end, a spin-off was inevitable, but the battle was on to see which character would get the green light.
We all know that it was Frasier Crane that would eventually get the chance to shine, and even outshine his original show, but before that, networks were fighting over the rights for a Norm and Cliff centered show. According to the original Cheers writers they were approached several times to put these two loveable characters in their own show. The idea was played with but was never taken any further than that. The writers decided that although the characters were funny, they didn’t really do much, so a show with just the two of them wouldn’t be very entertaining.
9. Frasier – Frasier
Speaking of Cheers spin-offs, we now turn to probably the most famous and popular of all the spin-offs. After Frasier Crane leaves the Boston bar for a new life in Seattle, he is reunited with his father and brother. Adding new characters that became firm favorites, Frasier became a huge success and ran for eleven seasons. With its trademark wit and high brow humor, Frasier became much watch TV.
For those of you out there that didn’t see how the show ended, then look away now! Frasier wrapped up its run when he left Seattle to take a chance on love when he followed his girlfriend to Chicago. Since the show ended there have been many talks of a reunion show, but not just that, there has also been talk of a spin-off show. That’s right, a spin-off of a spin-off! Putting Frasier in his new city, the show would focus on a completely new set of characters in a new location. So far these have all been rumours, but as the show is still popular, and greatly missed, this could be a reality soon.
8. Monsignor Martinez – King of the Hill
Set in a fictional town in Texas, King of the Hill followed the lives of the Hill family. During its thirteen season run, King of the Hill became a great slice of Americana as it showed us all a down to Earth look at the average family. Choosing a more subtle and low key approach to storytelling rather than the surreal and “off the wall” style of its counterparts such as The Simpsons and South Park, King of the Hill was a warm and funny fan favorite.
Of course the surreal element slipped into the Hill family from time to time, and none better than Monsignor Martinez. Starring in the long running telenovela Los Dias y Las Noches De Monsignor Martinez (translation: The Day and The Nights of Monsignor Martinez, in case you wondered), Martinez was a priest that also served as a hitman. Most of the time Martinez would unleash a barrage with his machine gun, killing plenty of people, more often than not inside the church. Not only did the writers of King of the Hill think that Martinez should have his own show, they actually wanted to do a live action version. The show was never picked up but a pilot was filmed and is out there somewhere.
7. Karen and Jack – Will and Grace
During the 1990s there were two big sitcoms that had us all hooked and watching on a weekly basis. Those shows were Friends and Will and Grace. The later centered on a woman and a gay man sharing an apartment together and the crazy lives they led, with even crazier friends to go with that. Will and Grace grew to be very popular and more importantly, so did the supporting characters of Karen and Jack. So when Will and Grace started to come to an end, there was talk of a spin-off show involving the two of them. Two shows in fact, one with just Karen and the other with them both.
However, this is one of those times when a completely different show put this spin-off permanently in the garbage can. When Will and Grace and Friends ended, it was Friends that rushed to do a spin-off and put Joey on the airwaves. As this proved to be a huge flop, the network was not in a rush to push another spin-off. Quite rightly so, we think.
6. Girlfriends – Friends
Speaking of Friends, the bomb that was Joey wasn’t the first spin-off idea that was tried out. When Friends went into its final season, many of the cast and crew were trying different ideas and concepts for spin-off shows. The one that came the closest was a show focusing on Phoebe Buffay. The idea was to pair the flakey hippy Phoebe with Ross Geller’s ex girlfriend Charlie. We’re not really sure what the show would have been about or how these two “girlfriends” would even have met. After all, Charlie had already left Friends by this point and Phoebe was happily married.
Evidently everyone else felt the same as the show never made it to the pilot stage. Instead they picked Joey as their mule. Although he may well have been one of the most popular characters on the show, there wasn’t really much to him and that became very apparent when he went solo. To be honest we don’t think Phoebe would have fared any better. After all, there were six main characters for a reason; not one of them could hold a tv show by themselves. So if we want good times and laughs, it’s best that these Friends stick together.
5. How I Met Your Dad
This entry always had disaster written all over it, but we can forgive all those involved for trying to milk the sitcom cash cow. Due to the success of the Friends style show that was How I Met Your Mother, a spin-off was always going to be in the cards. It was just a question of how long, or how bad, it was going to be.
The show followed a group of friends as they grew up in New York City with the focus being on main character Sally finding her true love and the father of her children. The whole show was to be a flashback of Sally telling her kids how she met their father.
Taking the same formula that made the original popular, How I Met Your Dad made it to a pilot but was never picked up by a network. Many statements have been issued about the show and not only just how similar it is to the original but also how one dimensional and predictable both the characters and the story were.
The show had reportedly signed Meg Ryan to do the voice overs. We’re still confused about the voice overs for the show. Does a male or female voice change that much in twenty years? Either way, the show is official dead and never to see the light of day.
4. The Farm – The Office
Now we delve into a possible spin-off show that comes from a remake of a show that re-wrote the rules on sitcoms. When Ricky Gervais burst onto the scene as David Brent in the original British Office, he took the world of comedy by storm. Getting rid of the studio audience and multi-camera format, The Office used a much simpler documentary style that won an army of fans, as well as a giant pile of awards.
Not long after The Office closed its door, US networks were clambering to get their hands on a remake and so the American version of The Office was born. Taking inspiration from its original source, the US Office grew into something much more than its predecessor, although it has to be said that Gervais knew when to quit while he was ahead, something that the US Office didn’t quite get. They have obviously never heard the phrase “leave the audience wanting more.”
Having said that, The Office has proved very popular and launched its actors into stardom. With the multitude of interesting characters, a spin-off was always inevitable. When an episode of The Office called “The Farm” hit the screens, little did we know that this would be a test for a Dwight sitcom. The show would focus on Dwight’s family and their wacky beet farm. Needless to say, the networks decided not to pick it up.
3. Krusty the Clown (Live Action) – The Simpsons
With a show that’s been on the air for as long as The Simpsons has, it’s completely amazing to us that there haven’t been any spin-offs from our favorite residents of Springfield. Besides The Simpsons Movie and of course Matt Groening going off to do the cult classic Futurama, The Simpsons have all stayed in one place since it first began.
Having said that, back in the mid 1990s there were a number of spin-offs talked about involving many of the characters. The studios wanted so many that The Simpsons actually did a parody of the spin-offs and had a showcase dedicated to this very idea. Who can forget Chief Wiggam and Skinner solving crimes in New Orleans or Grandpa’s dead spirit finding its way into Moe’s love tester?
All joking aside, there was one idea that actually came very close to being filmed. The idea was to take the beloved entertainer Krusty the Clown and move him to L.A. for his own talk show. Not only that, but the series was written as a live action comedy with Dan Castellaneta (the voice of Krusty, Homer and others) playing Krusty. The idea sounds intriguing but the series was scrapped. Just as well really, as the idea of a live action Krusty gave us all nightmares!
2. Rose Tyler: Earth Defence – Doctor Who
One of the longest running TV franchises has to be Doctor Who. Since the time traveling space hero first burst onto our screens fifty years ago, he has been entertaining and exciting us all. Not to mention making us hide behind the couch as young children!
So over the years many spin-off shows for its characters have been pitched, but not many of them have ever gotten off the ground. However, when Doctor Who took a break in the late 1980s, it came back with a bang in 2005 and relaunched the Doctor Who brand to a new generation. This time however it wasn’t just The Doctor that was getting all the praise, it was actually his newest companion Rose Tyler that caught the audience’s attention.
With Rose’s popularity, a spin-off show was planned. Having already had two successful spin-offs from the “new Who” (Torchwood and The Sarah Jane Adventures), the writers of Doctor Who tried for a third. After events saw Rose trapped in a parallel universe, the new spin-off would see her defending that Earth from aliens and monsters. Unfortunately the show never made it, which is a shame for all those Rose Tyler fans out there.
1. Giles/Spike/Faith – Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Number one on our list of almost spin-offs has to go to Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Not only was Buffy a hugely successful and influential show, it had already spawned an equally successful spin-off show with Angel. As well as this, Buffy deserves the top spot for the number of spin-offs that so very nearly made it to our screens.
As well as having Angel “the vampire with a soul” kicking butt in LA, there were other spin-off shows involving Sunnydale’s much loved characters. As Buffy and Angel drew to a close, the first spin-off planned involved the loveable anti-hero Spike. Then there was a show centered on the “bad” slayer Faith. Both these shows came very close to happening but unfortunately never quite made it. The spin-off show that came the closest, and is in fact still being talked about today, is a show focused on the adventures of Rupert Giles. The show would see Giles return to England to fight off the demons and monsters by himself. Called Ripper, the show even had a deal with the BBC but it never quite made it to air.
However, for all you Buffy fans out there, the show and its characters live on in comic book form.