Thursday, June 28, 2018

TMP Television Edition: TV Spinoffs

It's Thursday, but it's not just any Thursday. It's a Thursday on which the topic for Thursday Movie Picks, hosted by Wanderer at Wandering Through the Shelves, was chosen by yours truly. Of course that means it's the mostest, bestest, specialest topic, yet! Well, maybe not, but I picked so I'm riding with that. That topic? TV spin offs! You know spin offs - those shows that were made because some other show was so successful some corporate suit thought it would be a good idea to just snatch one (or more) of the characters away and give them their own show. Usually, this turns to be a disaster, or worse. Occasionally, the new show is as good or better than the original. Since this is my topic, we're going to look at both sides of that coin. Thoroughly. I like to end things on a good note, or so I tell myself, so I'll start with the stuff that should never have been made.

Bad Spinoffs

Joanie Loves Chachi
Spun off from Happy Days
When one of the most beloved shows of all-time ends, it's only natural that the people who profited the most would try to figure a way to keep milking that cash cow. In this case, they took the two lovesick teenagers who grew into newly minted adults and gave them their own show. It was pretty much a dumpster fire from the word go. I'm speculating, but the only reason I can come up for this ever seeing the light of day is that Henry Winkler was too smart to sign on for a Fonzie show.


The Ropers and Three's a Crowd
(1979-80)                                               (1984-85)
Spun off from Three's Company
I absolutely loved Three's Company. Every episode was essentially the same, but they were funny. It didn't hurt that I had a thing for Janet...and Chrissy...and then Cindy...then Terri. I'm getting off track. Point is, the show was great so I was sad when the landlords of the building our threesome lived in, Mr. and Mrs. Roper, left the show, but excited they were getting their own show, until I saw it. It was bad. But you know what? I'm a forgiving guy. A few years passed and they tried again with Three's a Crowd. I was all for it. I mean, it had to be good. Jack Tripper was the star. At least that's what I thought. Then I saw it. Three's Company reruns it is, then.

Baywatch Nights
Spun off from Baywatch
The original Baywatch had one thing going for it. It was the finest example of jiggle-TV the world has ever seen. At one point, it was literally the most watched TV show in the world. I didn't stutter. I said THE WORLD. So some genius Hasselhoff had the idea for a spin off where David Hasselhoff's character worked after dark as a private detective. Let that sink in for a minute. By the time season two, not sure how a second season happened, but the show become more like an imitation of The X-Files than anything to do with Baywatch, complete with vampires, aliens, and the like. As if to thumb their noses at the show's fans, there was no jiggle. No jiggle. NO JIGGLE. This forced viewers to pay attention to stuff like plots, character development, acting, etc. What kind of cockamamie idea is that?

I'm sorry guys. Before continuing I need to wipe the memory of that last show completely out of my mind.

While checking the weapon of our eventual destruction the internet to make sure I didn't forget anything I came across some shows I had frankly avoided watching and/or tried to forget they ever existed. I mean, did you know these were shows?

The Girl from U.N.C.L.E.
(From The Man from U.N.C.L.E.)

(From M*A*S*H)

The Brady Brides
(From The Brady Bunch)

The Golden Palace
(From The Golden Girls)

Woah, I just spotted Cheech Marin and Don Cheadle!

Okay, continue...

(From 21 Jump Street)

Beverly Hills Buntz 
(From Hill Street Blues)

I would, but uh, I just reminded myself of yet another one...

Girl Meets World

I can't take this anymore...

Okay, I promised you good spin offs so I'm gonna give you...

Good Spin Offs

Happy Days
Spun off from Love, American Style
Oh, you didn't know this was a spin off, huh? If you did, pat yourself on the back. And by you, I mean Joel. Sorry, that was an in-joke for you non-regulars. Anyhoo, Love, American Style was an anthology comedy series back in the day and this show started as a segment called Love and the Television Set. Yeah, Happy Days is a much better title. It was one of my favorite shows growing up despite the distinct lack of characters who look like me. Still, it crossed color lines because everyone loved Happy Days. I have a bit of trivia for you young'uns who might be reading this. This is the show responsible for the term "jumping the shark." As a stunt to boost sagging ratings, the writers dreamed up the idea of a multi-part episode culminating with having Fonzie water ski and jump over a confined shark. And I was there for every second of it. Glued.

The infamous moment, or what this post did.

Laverne & Shirley and Mork and Mindy
(1976-83)                                                               (1978-82)
Spun off from Happy Days
At the risk of turning this into a Happy Days love fest (too late?), let's talk about these two. When you leave Joanie and Chachi out of the equation, you can get a good spin off. Both shows started the same way. The titular characters, except Mindy who was created for the latter show, appeared in a couple episodes of Happy Days and were big hits with the fans, leading to their own show. Truth told, I like Laverne & Shirley better than its parent show. I also loved the latter and be forever grateful it launched the career of Robin Williams.

The Jeffersons
Spun off from All in the Family
Speaking of shows created from a guest spot, we have the one and only George Jefferson. After several battle of the wits with Archie Bunker on All in the Family, He and "Weezie," moved on up to the east side to a deeeee-luxe apartment in the sky-yi-yi. They finally got a piece of the pie. Okay, I'll stop. I did love this show, growing up. If you've ever seen it, you know that Florence the maid was the show MVP. Don't let anyone tell you different. Side note, The Jeffersons was the first show to feature a married interracial couple as major characters.

A Different World
Spun off from The Cosby Show
I know, I know, Bill Cosby is the Devil. Here's a case where two things are simultaneously true. Cos is evil and his show is a legendary piece of Americana. And it spun off this wonderful little show. It was first conceived as a vehicle for Denise, the second eldest of the Huxtable children, as she attends college. Well, lots of things happened and Lisa Bonet, who played Denise, left after the first season. The show transitioned to focus on her classmates and really found its footing in season two. By the time the series ended, it created one of African-American TV's most iconic couples in Dwayne and Whitley.

Now, these shows? They make you go...


  1. First of all I love the theme you chose….so much that I’m going to have to split my comment since you provided so much to look at! Nice balance of good and bad.

    Joanie Loves Chachi was an abomination but with that piece of human slime Baio on it how could it be otherwise.

    I wasn’t a Three’s Company fan so the off shoots weren’t for me, though I liked Mary Cadorette.

    That Baywatch thing is such an obvious ego trip by the Hoff.

    Of your laundry list I have to admit to liking The Girl from U.N.C.L.E. and Booker (was it unbelievable? Yep but then when you take into consideration it came from 21 Jump Street perhaps not as much) but the rest are best forgotten. Golden Palace…just WHY? Cool to see Don Cheadle so young though.

    Thanks for the shout-out Dell….and yes I did know Happy Days (which I loved like everyone else) was a spinoff. I LOVED Love, American Style when it was on. I’ve tried to watch it again from time to time and well, some things are just so of their period and it’s one of those things.

    Of its two spin-offs I’m much more in the L&S camp than Mork but the root show remained my fave. Mork did bring Williams to prominence and that is quite a worthwhile legacy but Penny Marshall and Cindy Williams were just fearless on their show willing to make buffoons of themselves if they thought it would get a laugh.

    I was a devout Jefferson fan as well and yes Florence had it all over the others though whenever Mother Jefferson showed up she gave her a run for her money. But then Zara Cully passed away and Marla Gibbs had no challengers.

    I never got into A Different World.

    1. Ha! I knew you knew!

      Laverne & Shirley was great and, yes, Marshall and Williams were fearless.

      Ah, Mother Jefferson. She definitely gave Florence a run for her money.

  2. My first also originated from an All in the Family guest shot but my other two were long time characters on their respective shows before branching off.

    Maude (1972-1978)-Topical comedy of liberal feminist Maude Findlay (Beatrice Arthur) living in Tuckahoe, NY with 4th husband Walter (Bill Macy), divorced daughter Carol (Adrienne Barbeau) and Carol’s son Phillip and the social issues that she outspokenly debates with best friend Vivien (Rue McClanahan-playing a character very close to Golden Girls Rose Nyland), housekeepers Florida Evans (Esther Rolle-who eventually was spun off onto her own show Good Times), tippling Englishwoman Mrs. Naugatuck and her prig of a neighbor Dr. Arthur Harmon (Conrad Bain). While geared to comedy this tackled serious hot button issues such as abortion, alcoholism, facelifts, nervous disorders and prescription drug addiction. Maude was introduced as Edith Bunker’s cousin and Archie Bunker’s nemesis on Norman Lear’s groundbreaking “All in the Family” and proved so popular she was spun off to her own wildly popular show.

    Lou Grant (1977-1982)-Continuing his character from the iconic Mary Tyler Moore show Edward Asner takes Lou Grant from the cozy hilarity of the Minneapolis WJM-TV to the far more serious drama of the daily newsroom of the Los Angeles Tribune. Working closely with his two strongest reporters Joe Rossi and Billie Newman (Robert Walden & Linda Kelsey), managing editor Charles Hume (Mason Adams) and the paper’s publisher Margaret Pynchon (the great Nancy Marchand) they cover various stories each week. One of the very few shows to move a sitcom character to a dramatic setting successfully this became another awards magnet winning multiple Emmys including Outstanding Drama as well as for Asner who became the first performer to win the statue for the same character in both comedy and drama.

    Frasier (1993-2004)-When the sitcom Cheers closed up shop in 1993 hard luck psychiatrist Frasier Crane (Kelsey Grammer) packed up his bags and moved from Boston back home to his native Seattle and became a radio shrink for 11 eventful seasons. He deals with life with his father-retired cop Martin (John Mahoney), dad’s live-in physical therapist-the somewhat psychic Daphne Moon (Jane Leeves), his fun-loving show producer Roz (Peri Gilpin) and persnickety brother Niles (David Hyde Pierce) a psychiatrist as well. There’s also his perpetually unsuccessful love life including occasional drop-ins from his severe ex-wife Lilith (Bebe Neuwirth-another Cheers alum). Full of expert writing, superior comic performers and a satellite cast of daffy, endearing and hysterical characters (brash sportscaster Bulldog Briscoe, fussy food critic Gil Chesterton, Niles never seen but wildly eccentric wife Maris, and best of all Frasier’s agent Bebe Glazer-a woman totally without shame or scruple) this was as strong when it ended as when it began because the characters evolved over the season while remaining true to their original intent.

    1. I saw Maude a few times and I remember liking it, I don't remember it that well. Same goes for Lou Grant.

      Cheers is one of my all-time favorite shows, but I never got into Frasier. I think the problem is whenever I watched it, I kept looking for Sam, Carla, and the gang to pop up and it didn't happen. I need to revisit.

    2. All the Cheers gang (except Kirstie Alley) do eventually pass through Frasier but always in a way that makes sense and never like they were being shoehorned in. The episode where Diane shows up (as full of herself as ever) is a scream and plays with the whole Cheers concept in such a fun way. But it's a one shot for all of them except Lilith which makes sense since she and Frasier share a child. But each of her shows expand on both their characters and Bebe Neuwirth and Kelsey Grammer just play off each other brilliantly. The writers also built a dynamic for Lilith with each of the other regulars (by and large rocky) so when she appears she integrates into the fabric of the show.

      Unfortunately Lou Grant never seems to be rerun now but Maude does run on Antenna TV if you get that as part of your TV package. Amazing what they talk about that would probably never get passed through in this age of political correctness. The fashions and interior designs are sometimes screamingly hideous but Bea Arthur and the rest are gold.

    3. It only makes sense that Diane would show up at some point. As for Lilith, I think I saw her on just about every episode I watched.

      MeTV is part of our antenna TV, her. I get to see a lot of old shows there. Not sure if they run Maude, or not. So many shows that run in the 70s would not make it to air in the same form if made today. The TV landscape then was the wild, wild west when compared to today.

  3. Well how apt! Baio is just the lowest form. The slime on scum's shoes.

  4. We're going to have a match on The Jeffersons when my post goes live this afternoon. MeTV has been running the first season, and the intro was much different than I remember, with Weezy almost tears over that deeeeeeee-luxe apartment in the sky. (That changed in later seasons, which is why I didn't remember it.)

    I had fun yesterday evening scouring Youtube for the relevant themes, which for me is always one of the fun parts of the TMP TV editions.

  5. I didn't know Happy Days was a spin off, but I almost went with Laverne and Shirley myself. I liked watching that.

  6. WAIT. Mork And Mindy was a spin-off from HAPPY DAYS?!?!? Wow. After that show jumped the shark they REALLY went crazy, huh?

    LOVELOVELOVE The Jeffersons, especially Isabel Sanford, but yes Marla Gibbs as Florence really was the MVP. That's the only one of these I've seen, but I do remember Baywatch Nights being a thing that happened, which... I still don't understand how everyone involved failed to understand THE ONE REASON the parent show was a hit.

    1. Yes, the later seasons got kinda weird at times with Mork visiting from Ork on occasion and hanging out with The Fonz.

      Always glad to see some love for The Jeffersons.

      The Hoff's ego is so big he thought he was THE ONE REASON Baywatch was a hit.

  7. I know all about jumping the shark and was just dumbfounded when i watched that episode when it aired. I love Love American Style and in that episode Harold Gould, I believe, played Ritchie's dad. It is quite a funny episode which they repeated on the later show. Scott Baio should stick to selling used cars and go back to the rock he climbed out of. That show was horrid. I used to watch Three's Company but find it rather dumb now. I tried watching The Roker's but it was bad. I love MASH so I did watch After MASH which was not good but I was sad to see it go. I watched The Brady Brides and we almost match with another Brady spin-off. It's funny how they tried to make it a dramady with Bobby becoming paralyzed-ughhh. We match with Mork & Mindy! I loved that show and the craziness of the great Robin Williams. I also loved The Jefferson's and the banter between their maid and George was great. Florence was great and I sometimes think Wanda Sykes channels her. Didn't Florence have her own spin-off? I think she did and Larry Linville was in it. Was Pinky Tuscadero in the shark episode? Remember her? I'm not even sure i got the name right.

    1. Every episode of Three's Company was essentially the same: someone would catch only the worst part of a conversation and make a wild assumption leading to slapstick comedy. Stupid now, but I loved it as a kid. I find Sykes to often be grating and can only take her in small doses. I can't remember if Pinky was the shark episode or not, but you did get her name right. For my money it's one of the all-time great character named.

  8. Now, tell us how you really feel.

  9. The bad ones sound so bad. And you could easily add Joey to the list. I wish all spinoffs were as good as Frasier.

  10. I have not seen any of the spinoffs in your list, but I have seen some the shows they were spun off from.
    Baywatch Nights sounds really bad...still it got 2 seasons.