10 Worst TV Spin-Offs - Rolling Stone
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10 Worst TV Spin-Offs

From ‘Beverly Hill Buntz’ to ‘Brady Brides,’ here are the creme de la crud of TV series sequels

'Joanie Loves Chachi,' 'Joey' and 'Brady Brides'

Everett (2); NBC

There have been many attempts to take characters from popular shows — your housemaids, your second bananas, your vampire boyfriends, your visiting aliens from the planet Ork — and base entire new series around them, in the hope extending a brand or keeping that fan-based excitement alive and kicking. Often, these shows can turn into unexpected hits; once or twice, they’ve even managed to become superior to the originals. Occasionally, however, these spin-offs manage to spin off of a cliff and into the abyss: For every Mash, there is a potential AfterMASH, waiting in the wings to soil a show’s good name forever.

We imagine that the makers of Better Call Saul, the highly anticipated prequel to Breaking Bad that’s debuting this weekend, are praying for a best-case scenario here. We also hope that they’ve looked at the following 10 case studies of broken, bad TV spin-offs and have learned valuable lessons from these failures. Not even Saul Goodman could have gotten these TV-series Hindenburgs out of a jam.



Ronald D. Moore's politically informed remake of Battlestar Galactica is easily the best example of someone taking an old, somewhat maligned TV property and turning it into something that was positively canon-worthy. His follow-up to the critically praised sci-fi show, however, is Exhibit A of when it's best to leave a successful concept alone and just walk away. On paper, the idea of seeing what happened to one of the 12 colonies before the Cylon War seemed intriguing; on screen, it was simply D.O.A., with actors such as Eric Stoltz and Esai Morales gamely trying to breathe life into stock storylines about fundamentalism, virtual reality addiction and the usual Promethean handwringing. Of all the spin-offs on this list, Caprica may be the one that genuinely broke our heart.


‘The Love Boat: The Next Wave’

Sure, Star Trek could get away with hitting the reboot button and essentially remake the original show with new cast members and characters. But The Love Boat was never exactly the U.S.S. Enterprise, and Aaron Spelling's all-star cheesetastic Seventies show wasn't exactly crying out for a Nineties remake. Despite having Vega$ star Robert Urich in the captain's seat, The Next Wave kept torpedoing itself from the get go (dig our intro's exciting shuffleboard game montage!), and not even an episode titled Reunion — in which the original LB cast members dropped by — could keep this ship from sinking.


‘Hello, Larry’

And goodbye, Larry. Under the weakest of pretenses — he was an old Army buddy of Diff'rent Strokes' paterfamilias Philip Drummond! — NBC designed MacLean Stevenson's new comedy as a spin-off of one of their few hit shows at the time, partially in the hopes that fans (Stroke-heads?) would follow. It was apparent from the very beginning, however, that the story of a divorced man fleeing to the Pacific Northwest to become a radio talk show host was not the thing to lift them out of their slump. (The same basic premise would be used for Frasier years later, with vastly different results.) Hello, Larry quickly went from great white hope to the butt of jokes and is still considered one of the worst sitcoms of all time.



When it came time to mount a Friends spin-off, do you think the show's producers opted for Ross and Rachel raising kids in the suburbs of Yonkers, or Phoebe taking over Central Perk's management with hilarious results? No, they went with Joey Tribbiani moving to Los Angeles to become a movie star, throwing in a tough-talking Italian-American sister (et tu, The Sopranos' Drea de Matteo?), a nephew and a horny female agent. The fact that they gave it the same prime Must-See-TV slot that the original sitcom-of-a-generation held on Thursday night must have seemed like a great idea for keeping fans tuned in. But it also invited a lot of very unflattering comparisons to the popular show — and  viewers stopped saying "I'll be there for you" to Joey's Hollywood misadventures long before its two seasons were finished. Matt LeBlanc managed to bounce back nicely (if you're not watching his meta-comedy Episodes on Showtime, you should be), but this pretty much put a stake through any future Friends' endeavors.


‘The Tortellis’

Remember Nick Tortelli, Carla's ne'er-do-well ex-husband from Cheers? What about his caricature of a  blonde-bimbo wife, Loretta? Wouldn't you want to watch them move to Las Vegas and see Nick open up a TV repair business? Wait, why are you running away, screaming? The first attempt to spin off a series from everyone's favorite show about a Boston bar was not the rousing success the producers had hoped for (they'd do much better with their second try), and as much as we love hangdog character actor Dan Hedaya, the cancelling of The Tortellis after 13 episodes felt like a mercy killing. By the time the characters reappeared on Cheers, everybody still knew their name but had blissfully forgotten their Sin City mishap.



Long before Sally Struthers was a pitchwoman for saving starving children in Africa or a wacky neighbor on Gilmore Girls, she was best known for playing Gloria Stivic — the long-suffering liberal daughter of All in the Family's Archie and Edith Bunker. The actress' run on the groundbreaking sitcom was remarkable; her turn on Gloria's solo spin-off show in the early Eighties, well, not so much. The fact that Norman Lear wasn't involved in this attempt to recast the former wife of "Meathead" as a single mother working as a veterinarian assistant in upstate New York should have been a sign that this wasn't going to be Family redux, or even Archie's Place. After 21 episodes (22 if you count the unaired pilot), CBS chose to say "Stifle it!" to the series and moved on.


‘Beverly Hills Buntz’

If Joey and this spin-off from Hill Street Blues have taught us nothing, it's that you shouldn't take a fan-favorite character from a show and relocate them to L.A. Dennis Franz's volatile, loudmouth Norman Buntz can be seen decking a superior and turning in police badge in the opening credits; quicker than you can say, "Go west, fish-out-of-water cop," we see Buntz and his buddy "The Snitch" driving through the palm-lined streets of Beverly Hills, where they'll try their hands at being private eyes. Unlike Blues, there would be no shelf full of Emmys and critical praise — in fact, there wouldn't even be a broadcast of the BHB's final four episodes. Franz would go on to play more on-the-edge police detectives, while this misbegotten series would have a long shelf life as the answer to a trivia question that would stump generations of bar patrons.



Now that the Korean War had ended, the various members of the 4077th MASH unit could finally go home to the friends and loved ones. That didn't necessarily mean that their postwar lives would make for compelling TV, however, as this two-season experiment proved. Colonel Potter, Father Mulcahy and Mash's resident cross-dresser/comic relief Klinger find themselves working together again at a Missouri hospital. Weak-tea versions of their old shenanigans are present and accounted for, along with life-lesson platitudes; yes, there will be a Radar cameo. None of these guys were Trapper John M.D. material, to say the least, and while "suicide is painless," as the long-running original dramedy's theme suggested, this spin-off was anything but.


‘The Brady Brides’

"It's a new life/for two girls named Brady…". That's right, in an attempt to mine the Brady Bunch love garnered by endless syndicated reruns of the show, producer Sherwood Schwartz and his son, Lloyd, decided to marry off the now-grown Marcia and Jan, stick the two couples into a house together and watch the sparks fly. And, for a whopping six episodes, we got to watch years of good will quickly evaporate and pray that it was all just a bad, disco-themed dream. It was proof that not all iconic characters age gracefully, and that Ann B. Davis was willing to ride that "I'm Alice!" express train to the very end of the line.


‘Joanie Loves Chachi’

Garry Marshall's Happy Days has given the world some of the very best TV spin-offs; it's also given us this, the absolute nadir of taking people from shows you loved and putting them in shows you loathed. The show tried to sell us on Erin Moran and teen heartthrob Scott Baio relocating to Chicago in the mid-Sixties and trying to make it a singer-songwriter duo — a concept that allowed for all the Moran-Baio singing duets you never, ever wanted to hear. (We're 99 percent sure that the show's theme song has been used in enhanced interrogations.) The inclusion of Al from Happy Days and the occasional Fonz guest appearance only served to remind us of how much we missed the original, and how much better these two teenagers-in-love characters worked as part of an ensemble. Joanie may have loved Chachi, but nobody loved this musical disaster, and within 19 episodes, it had gone to that great Brill Building in the sky.

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