The Worst TV Spin-Offs of All Time
There’s no shame in wanting to make money off a successful TV show. If we calculate how much money has changed hands for syndication, advertising, promotional deals, and merchandise for popular TV shows, we’d be looking into the tens of billions of dollars at least.
However, a network can get into trouble if they try and monetize a successful TV show by making a spin-off. We rarely see spin-off shows that are as successful as Frasier or The Jeffersons. Instead, writers desperate to capitalize on the success of the original fail to see what made the show so beloved in the first place and churn out a vastly inferior product.
When a long-running show like Friends comes to an end, it’s natural for producers to offer audiences the chance to keep tabs on their favorite characters. In the case of Friends, the show had been on the air for 10 years and fans still weren’t ready to say goodbye.
However, producers failed to realize that it was the dynamic between the group of six that kept viewers interested for so long. When you take all that away and make a show like Joey, all you’re left with is one character’s schtick, which is not enough to sustain an entire show.
Joey follows Joey Tribbiani’s move to Los Angeles. Originally, viewership started out high, because Joey was given Friends’ prime timeslot. The show’s numbers declined exponentially as the series went on, so it was canceled in the middle of the second season.
The Brady Brides
Another show that failed to recognize that the success of the original was based on the group dynamic is The Brady Brides. This show follows the now married Marcia and Jan Brady. Fans got to see these marriages in the 1981 TV movie The Brady Girls Get Married.
For some reason, the sisters choose to live with their husbands in a house together. The show follows their interactions as they struggle to make a home without stepping on each other’s toes. The sisters, who generally got along on The Brady Bunch, are reduced to squabbling, petty drama queens. As such, the six episodes that aired are some of the most cringeworthy TV in history.
The Love Boat: The Next Wave
The Love Boat: The Next Wave is a spin-off of the successful 1970s show The Love Boat. The original was produced by Aaron Spelling, who also masterminded successful TV shows Fantasy Island and Charlie’s Angels.
Although the show did appeal to some diehard fans of the original, most people felt that it did nothing but remake the show 20 years later with a new cast. Not even a reunion episode with most of the cast from the original series could save the spin-off, which lasted for two seasons before it was canceled.
After the utter failure of The Tortellis, it’s a miracle that Frasier was made at all. Both were spin-offs of the popular show Cheers.
Made in 1987, The Tortellis was about Carla Tortelli’s slimy ex-husband Nick and his new trophy wife Annie. Even though Carla was the more popular character, producers thought that an entire series following her greasy ex-husband would succeed. The show followed the Tortellis as they moved from Boston to Las Vegas. It eventually had to explain their return to the East Coast when The Tortellis was canceled after its first season and the characters came back to Cheers.
A few years later, Frasier launched and quickly became a study in what spin-offs should be.
Saved by the Bell: The College Years
There are a ton of reasons why Saved by the Bell: The College Years was an utter failure.
For one, the original cast from Saved by the Bell that was invited back to reprise their roles was too old to successfully pass as college students. Also, not all of the characters came back, so writers were forced to invent flimsy new characters.
The biggest problem of all was that the issues facing college students tended to be less G-rated than the problems high schoolers have to deal with. The show tried to deal with adult themes like sex and drinking but couldn’t find the right tone.
The show lasted a year before it was canned in 1994.
Another show with a spin-off that had a completely different tone from the original was After MASH.
After MASH followed the soldiers from the hit 1972-1983 TV show M*A*S*H as they navigated their lives after the Korean War. Somehow Colonel Potter, Sergeant Klinger, and Father Mulcahy all found themselves working at the same veteran’s hospital, where the writers attempted to rehash their typical wartime shenanigans to drive the plot.
Most audiences found the post-war spin-off completely bland and boring. The show limped along for two seasons until it was canceled in 1985.
Joanie Loves Chachi
Happy Days, which aired between 1974 to 1984, has provided us with seven spin-offs. Some of them, like Laverne & Shirley, were extremely successful in their own right. Many never got off the ground. Others, like Joanie Loves Chachi, were developed into full seasons which dragged on until they were put out of their misery.
Joanie Loves Chachi, which follows the younger siblings of Happy Days characters Richie and Fonzie, is considered one of the worst spin-offs of all time. Joanie and Chachi are both musicians, so viewers were treated to some truly awful musical numbers as writers who had never seen Happy Days struggled to figure out what audiences wanted.
Three’s a Crowd
Three’s a Crowd is a spin-off of the more successful show Three’s Company. It follows lothario Jack Tripper (John Ritter) as he finally settles down with his new wife.
The spin-off tried to use the same odd-man-out humor that worked so well in the original, but instead of Jack being the third wheel, producers cast Robert Mandan as Jack’s wife’s father, who constantly drops in on the happy couple. Unfortunately, John Ritter was unable to carry the show as the lead and it was canceled after a single season.
It should come as no surprise that a show whose primary cast are all models would suffer from atrocious writing and terrible acting. Models Inc. was a spin-off of Melrose Place, which was itself a spin-off of Beverly Hill, 90210. All of the shows in this franchise were produced by Aaron Spelling and featured a number of actors who appeared in every show.
Models Inc. was about an elite modeling agency run by Hillary Michaels, the mother of Melrose Place’s Amanda Woodward. The show’s script was ridiculous. Full of murder, blackmail, and violent crimes that were treated as plot devices and immediately forgotten.
Although there were some good actors in the cast — like Carrie-Anne Moss, who starred in The Matrix four years later — all fell victim to the terrible writing.
In order to capitalize on the success of Baywatch, show creators wrote a vehicle for David Hasselhoff’s character Mitch Buchannon called Baywatch Nights. The premise of the show was that after a full day of running shirtless on the beach, Mitch liked nothing more than to moonlight as a private investigator. The show featured another Baywatch character, Garner Ellerbee, as Mitch’s sidekick. Also, the producers cast a brand-new female lead, another PI named Ryan McBride (played by Angie Harmon).
As the show went into its second season, the investigators started working cases involving aliens, vampires, and other supernatural creatures. The sudden switch was too much for the audience and the show was canceled in 1997.
The Girl from U.N.C.L.E.
The Man from U.N.C.L.E. is one of the most successful spy thrillers of all time. In fact, it inspired at least a dozen other spy dramas that were on the air by the end of its four-year run.
In 1966, series lead April Dancer (played by Stefanie Powers) was given her own show called The Girl from U.N.C.L.E. Unfortunately, it had all of the flash but none of the substance of the original. Instead of a gun, April was given an exploding charm bracelet and a bottle of poisoned perfume. Even worse, all the dirty work was left to her male partner.
The show lasted one season before being canceled.