Spin-offs are the sequels of the TV world. From a business stand point they make a lot of sense. Let’s do a show where the audience is already familiar with the characters. It works for McDonald’s, right? Give the people what they want and they’ll keep stuffing their faces until they can no longer walk and are scooter bound. Now, creatively speaking, there’s an excellent reason spin-offs mostly fail and that’s because if these characters were so strong, they’d be leads in the show they were originally spun off from.
Usually the characters are extreme which is why they catch on in the first place but with these characters, a little usually goes a long way. It’s the same way with fudge. The first three bites are amazing. The fourth is pretty good and by five you’re about to go into a diabetic coma. What goes for sugar, butter and milk heated to 240 degrees Fahrenheit goes for wacky next door neighbors. You see, for every “Rhoda” there’s a “Phyllis.” For every “Frasier,” there’s a “Tortelli’s” and for every “Laverne & Shirley” there’s a “Joanie Loves Chachi.”
With “How I Met Your Father,” “Super Natural: Bloodlines” and “NCIS: New Orleans” set to premiere this upcoming television season, let’s hope they don’t follow the piss poor examples of the following shows because they are the ten worst spin-offs in TV history.
10. The Love Boat: The Next Wave (1998)
You know, sometimes you just shouldn’t screw around with a classic. You don’t remake “Gone With the Wind” or “The Godfather” and you don’t remake “The Love Boat” because the original was lightning in a bottle. The first mistake was casting Robert Urich as the new captain. The man must hold the record for most cancelled shows. Then you cast Joan Severance as the new cruise director but with the title security chief. A smarter actress would know not to step into the shoes of Lauren Tewes. Mercifully, this show hit the proverbial iceberg after episode twenty five where it will, hopefully, reside on the ocean floor, never to be heard from again.
9. Baywatch Nights (1995)
Besides the obvious fun with this show because of the title alone, it also switched directions midway through its brief run. It started off when Gregory Alan William’s policeman character had a mid-life crisis so he quits the force and sets up a private detective agency where he was joined by his lifeguard pal, David Hasselhoff, Angie Harmon and Donna D’Errico. When the ratings went down they decided to take a more science fiction vibe. Hey, it worked for “The X-Files” so if would work with the Hoff, right? Wrong. The show also showcased the acting talents of Mr. Lou Rawls.
8. That 80’s Show (2002)
Usually with a spin-off there are familiar characters because that’s kind of the idea, right? This show was completely different from “That ’70’s Show.” True, the lead character’s cousin was Eric Forman from “That ’70’s Show,” but it’s never mentioned. Maybe the producers figured the viewers would catch onto this piece of subtext. I didn’t.
This show took place in San Diego and centered around a bunch of friends at a record store. There were plenty of 80’s references and the occasional 80’s celebrity cameo but not even Pat Benatar and Debbie Gibson could save this show.
7. Star Trek Voyager (1995)
I don’t care so much that this show was basically a rip-off of “Lost In Space,” but my bigger problem is that it was pretty dull. Captain Janeway was pretty much a female Picard which was a mistake. At times it seemed like she was more interested in winning an argument instead of making smart decisions. Also, it seemed like they didn’t utilize the uniqueness of their premise. The Voyager is seventy years from home but a lot of shows had plots that could’ve been done on any Star Trek show. Towards the end, it was like every episode involved the holodeck. So, to summarize, “Star Trek Voyager” was not so much bad as it was Sominex in space.
6. The Apprentice: Martha Stewart (2005)
On paper it seemed like a good idea. Take a successful business reality show starring a mogul and spin it off with a different mogul. Martha Stewart had a huge following and she had just gotten out of prison, so she had that going for her. Instead of using the Donald‘s catch phrase, “You’re fired,” Martha said, “You just don’t fit in.” Could a phrase be any more bland? Martha would also write a cordial letter to all the fired applicants. Very Junior League.
In the end, it just didn’t work and was cancelled after thirteen episodes. The best part is that Trump blamed the failure of Martha’s show for the decline in his own show’s ratings. Problem was that The Apprentice’s ratings were in decline for over a year before Martha’s show premiered. Like the Donald would ever let reality get in the way of blaming someone else. But perhaps the Apprentice: Martha Stewart’s finest legacy was inflicting Bethenny Frankel on the American public.
5. The Hills (2006)
We needed this show, because if there was one thing that America was thinking, it was that “we need more Laguna Beach!”
Now, what can you say about a show that gave us Spencer Pratt and Heidi Montag? Somehow thank you just doesn’t seem like enough. The show started off with Lauren Conrad as the lead but by season five even she was fed up and left. Kristin Cavallari stepped in and managed to be just as vacant as her predecessor.
The show was often criticized for being too scripted like that’s a bad thing on a reality show. Because these idiots, left to their own devices would be even more dull. Somehow, this celebration of all things banal, managed to snare two million viewers on average. Well, as H.L. Mencken famously said, “you’ll never go broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public” or, as Spencer and Heidi would say, “look at me.”
4. Saved By The Bell: The College Years (1993)
Our third show on the list with a colon in it. Note to producers; perhaps its best to avoid them. The premise, which should be self evident from the title, is that the kids from Bay Side High all go to college at California University (generic much?). Has any group of six or more friends from high school ever gone to the same college together in the history of mankind? Yes, that’s right, I’m looking for realism in Saved By The Bell: The College Years. After nineteen episodes, the gang graduated to unemployment because the show was cancelled. Fortunately, Zack and Kelly were allowed to get married in the TV reunion movie, “Saved By The Bell: Wedding In Las Vegas.” They’ve really got to learn to avoid the colon.
3. Here Comes Honey Boo Boo (2012)
This show airs on TLC which stands for The Learning Channel, so there’s dishonest statement number one. Here Comes Honey Boo Boo was spun off from “Toddlers & Tiaras” which was a show about beauty pageants for eight-year-olds. There really should be a special room in hell for anyone who tries to make prepubescent girls look sexy.
Alana Thompson is Honey Boo Boo, the star of this white trash-a-palooza. TLC can argue all they want but the point of watching this show was to enjoy looking down on these poor white country folk. For season two, TLC went to the trouble of distributing “watch ‘n’ sniff” cards which featured such smells as pork and beans, train fuel and desperation.
2. After MASH (1983)
MASH was a huge hit. It’s final episode, “Goodbye, Farewell and Amen” was the highest rated program in American history until 2010. So, it’s understandable why CBS wouldn’t want to say goodbye to these numbers without a fight, hence After Mash. The thinking being, you loved them in Korea so you’ll love the lesser characters working at a V.A. hospital in the mid west. Well, we didn’t. Hey, if the second season premiere of Max Klinger escaping from jail doesn’t grab you, nothing will.
The show went twenty nine episodes but as my mother always told me, try and look on the bright side. The bright side being that After MASH wasn’t the only MASH spin off. There was a pilot about Radar O’Reilly’s post-war exploits called W*A*L*T*E*R. It never aired.
1. Joey (2004)
Much like the number two entry on our list, “Joey” was a case of a network trying to keep a hit going for as long as possible. The character of Joey Tribbiani was an amiable dumb guy. Dumb guy’s generally don’t make good series leads. Why? Cause they’re dumb. Gomer Pyle was the exception, not the rule.
Joey was an actor trying to make it in L.A. He was joined by his older sister, Gina and her son, Michael. Most of the episodes were centered on Joey trying to make it in show business but the actor was in his mid-thirties so it never felt quite right. Other cast members, like Miguel A. Nunez, Jr. and Jennifer Coolidge, were introduced but ultimately the show just got its butt kicked by American Idol. So, when Joey, the character said his catch phrase, “How you doin’?,” Joey, the show, would have to reply, not too good.