In the wake of an insanely successful TV show are those who want to milk it as dry as a desert. How do they do this? They stretch out the show for as long as it can possibly go while ensuring the ratings stay high. New and more exciting storylines are written, in hopes of holding the audience continuously captive. Merchandise materials are created and distributed to the show’s adoring fans. The stars of the show constantly make public appearances so that it stays top of mind and when the show finally bows out, spin-offs are created.
Spin-offs can feature one of the more popular characters in the show and depict the character with their own storyline. One such successful spin-off with this theme is Frasier, which took off from the success of its parent TV show, Cheers.
Another type of spin-off can feature the same concept as the original show, but targeting an older demographic, such as the hit show Melrose Place, which followed in the wake of the original Beverly Hills 90210. Yet another kind of spin-off features a recurring character in the original show that’s elevated to main character in the spin-off. Such was the fate of Empty Nest, the spin-off of The Golden Girls.
However, not all spin-offs can successfully ride on the coattails of their parent shows. It’s hard to believe that some of the highest rated TV shows produced some of the most poorly received spin-offs in TV history.
Here’s a look at the top TV shows with the worst spin offs in the last 20 years.
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9 Saved by the Bell - Saved By The Bell: The College Years
There’s a reason why a TV show entitled Saved by the Bell is set in high school, it’s not meant to soldier on to college. The show was about the life and times of a group of high school friends and their principal, depicting the kids’ experiences as they meandered through high school. Named as one of the top 20 best school shows of all time by AOL TV, the show aired for five seasons. Producers attempted to replicate its success by following some of the characters on to college with Saved by the Bell: The College Years. Needless to say, the spin-off only lasted one season before it was cancelled.
8 Family Guy - The Cleveland Show
Seth MacFarlane, the man behind such adult animated TV hits as Family Guy and American Dad, wanted to replicate the former’s success. After all, everyone loves the antics of the Griffins in Family Guy, from Peter and Lois, to their children Meg, Chris and Stewie; and especially good, ole Brian the dog. So McFarlane made a spin-off about one of the Griffins’ neighbors, Cleveland Brown and thus was born The Cleveland Show. Though the show ran for four seasons, it received many negative reviews. Suffice to say, the show was cancelled and the Clevelands returned to Family Guy in its twelfth season.
7 Queer Eye for the Straight Guy - Queer Eye For The Straight Girl
Who would have thought a reality show would be so big that a spin-off would be created based on it? That’s exactly what happened to Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, which showed how five extremely creative gay men would give full make-overs to style-inept straight men. The show was so well-received that network executives decided to do a spin-off with the title Queer Eye for the Straight Girl. However, the title itself must not have sat well with audiences because the show wasn’t well-received and ended after just one season.
6 X-Files - The Lone Gunman
The introduction music in itself was catchy. And so was the entire X-Files series. Running for nine seasons, the plot revolved around the never-tiresome theme of whether aliens exist or not. FBI agent Fox Mulder (played by David Duchovny) seemed to think so, but his partner, Dana Scully (played by Gillian Anderson) had her doubts. The Mulder-Scully partnership turned friendship turned romantic relationship sent the show’s ratings soaring. So The Lone Gunmen was created as a lighter, more humorous version of X-Files. Unfortunately, ratings were low and the show was cancelled after one season.
6. American Idol - American Juniors
American Idol was the launching pad of many successful tinsel town A-listers, the most popular of whom are Grammy Award-winners Kelly Clarkson and Carrie Underwood, and Academy Award winner Jennifer Hudson. The show is currently on its thirteenth season and shows no sign of waning anytime soon, despite its change of judges season after season. Its spin-off, American Juniors, however suffered a different fate. Focusing on a younger set of talents, the show’s objective was to form a singing group of the top five contestants. Apparently, the concept wasn't enticing enough because the show aired for only one season.
5 Baywatch - Baywatch Nights
Who can forget the buffed hunks and trim beauties running in slow-motion along the Santa Monica shoreline, donned in orange swim suits, with the theme song, “I'll Be Ready” blasting in the background? Baywatch was a pop culture phenomenon with David Hasselhoff at the helm as the titular character, lifeguard Mitch Buchannon. Actors Pamela Anderson, Yasmine Bleeth, and Jeremy Jackson became household names because of this show. However, its spin-off Baywatch Nights didn't do so well. With the theme of crime fighting and paranormal activity-hunting, the show only lasted for two seasons before it was cancelled.
4 That '70s Show - That '80s Show
Before Ashton Kutcher and Mila Kunis became a real-life couple, they were the erstwhile couple Kelso and Jackie in That '70s Show. The hilarious TV sitcom based in the seventies featuring the quirks and antics of a group of teenagers and their parents, was such a hit, that it went on for eight seasons. However, a big part of its charm was the decade it was set in, as its spin-off That '80s Show learned the hard way. The spin-off showed very poor ratings and only ran for one season before it was promptly canned.
3 Melrose Place - Models, Inc
A spin-off that spawns a spin-off is risky business. Melrose Place was a spin-off of the widely popular teen show Beverly Hills 90210. While the latter was about the lives of rich, troubled teenagers in Beverly Hills, the former focused on yuppies living in an apartment complex called Melrose Place. Creator Aaron Spelling wanted to further bank on the 90210/Melrose success, so a Melrose spin-off was created and called Models, Inc. The show was about a modeling agency run by the mother of Heather Locklear’s Melrose character. Ratings were poor and the show was cancelled with the last episode ending with a cliffhanger.
2 Friends - Joey
Everyone thought anything that had to do with Friends could do no wrong. Touted as one of the best TV sitcoms of all time, Friends was about six twenty-something year old friends living in New York City. Everyone was sad to see Joey, Chandler, Monica, Ross, and Rachel go after ten seasons, with the finale bringing in more than 52 million viewers. Ending on a high note was the right thing to do, but making a spin-off apparently wasn’t. Joey, which followed Matt Le Blanc’s character to Los Angeles, was not the success that the TV execs hoped it would be. It met its demise after two seasons.
1 Sex and the City - The Carrie Diaries
Sex and the City took girl power to a whole different level. Following the life of Carrie Bradshaw and her fellow thirty-something year old girlfriends in cosmopolitan New York City, the show empowered women the world over. As a result of the show, women realized that it was possible to be successful in their careers and happy even without a man. Due to the show’s success, a spin-off was created in the form of a prequel, The Carrie Diaries. The spin-off focused on a teenage Carrie, her friends, and her aspirations to become a journalist. Though the show was lauded by critics, its ratings suffered. On May 8, 2014, the show was cancelled.
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