After creating a hit show with a solid fanbase, a spin-off often seems like a natural way for some of the characters or central themes to live on. However, this is easier said than done and, more often than not, the final result ends up missing the mark.
In 2004, SyFy reimagined the 1978 sci-fi TV series Battlestar Galactica. An enormous success with critics and viewers, the series focused on the remaining human survivors after the cybernetic race the Cylons wiped out the Twelve Colonies. Lasting a total of 4 seasons (and a mini-series), Battlestar Galactica managed to balance drama, romance, action and suspense as the central crew looked for the fabled refuge of Earth. After the series came to an end, a spin-off show called Caprica was announced which promised to take fans back to before the war started. Sadly, viewers were treated to a soap opera grounded in the dull streets of urban life rather than the endless possibilities of space. The series failed to gain a sufficient fanbase and with lackluster ratings it was pulled before the end of the first series. Sadly it just couldn’t hold a torch to its predecessor. So say we all.
For 10 seasons a hit sitcom about six closely-knit pals in Manhattan graced our TV screens. Friends quickly led in the ratings and has been consistently rated as one of the top TV sitcoms of all time. In 2004, the show came to an end with a finale that attracted an audience of 52.5 million viewers, making it the 4th most watched season finale and the most watched episode of the decade. Rather than ending on a high-note, the producers decided to try their luck with a spin-off featuring the only character who didn’t end up married and happily after-ever. Thus, Joey was born. Shifting gears from the busy streets of New York to LA, audiences followed the titular star as he tries to make it big as an actor. However, rather than the smooth-talking friend you could count on, his character became an out-of-work guy who couldn’t find a job or ask a girl out. The ratings saw a sharp drop and Joey only lasted two seasons.
8. Joanie Loves Chachi
Happy Days ran for ten years and gave us an idealised version of life in 1950s America. Viewers quickly warmed to the wholesome cast of characters, especially the always likeable and cool character Arthur Fonzarelli AKA ‘the Fonz’. Season five saw the introduction of Chachi, Fonz’s younger brother, as a love interest for Joanie Cunningham. For four years the two dated before landing their own show Joanie Loves Chachi. No longer set in Wisconsin, the two travelled to Chicago as they pursued their dream of becoming rockstars. Traditional elements of a sitcom were mixed with musical performances from the two cast members – something no one asked for, nor wanted. The series lasted for 17 episodes before cancellation struck and the two characters returned to Happy Days.
7. That 80s Show
Similar to Happy Days, That 70s Show was a popular sitcom showing the lives of teens as they lived through a nostalgic era – albeit, one which was less idealised. At the height of its success, the producers decided a suitable spin-off could be set a decade later. However, unlike most spin-offs, the two casts never interacted and plotlines didn’t cross. Instead of following stoner teens dabbling in drugs and counterculture, That 80s Show focussed on collegiates struggling with their love lives. Despite high hopes, numerous guest stars and a strong lead-in, the show struggled to find success and lasted only 13 episodes.
6. The Tortellis
Cheers was a widely popular comedy which centred on a bunch of locals drinking, relaxing and socialising in the titular bar. One of the central characters was Carla; an outspoken, mean-spirited waitress. Her husband appeared occasionally on screen before leaving during her pregnancy. The Tortellis follows her ex-husband, Nick, as he travels to Vegas to win back the heart of his trophy wife. A spin-off from one of the most popular sitcoms on air at the time seemed like a no-brainer, but choosing a character who represented a dead-beat dead with was perhaps not the best idea. Despite his best efforts to promise to change his sleazy ways and open a legitimate business, audiences failed to connect. Amidst mixed critical reviews and dwindling audience numbers, the series barely made it to episode 13 before production was ended. Despite this failed attempt, Cheers had much greater success with another spin-off. Frasier lasted for 11 seasons and arguably reached equal, if not greater, success.
5. Young Americans
Teen-drama Dawson’s Creek took America by storm and was praised for its dramatic storylines which dealt with real issues surrounding teens. Catapulting its cast to stardom, the show will forever be remembered as a must-watch 90s staple. The same cannot be said for its spin-off Young Americans. Following a former classmate who returns to town, the show was heavily promoted and even saw a $6 million sponsorship fee from Coca-Cola who saw it as the next big hit. Acting as a summer-replacement for its parent show, Young Americans broadcast just 8 episodes before being cancelled. Many felt it was treading all-too familiar ground of complicated love lives, morality and gender roles.
4. Mrs Columbo
Starring Peter Falk as a homicide detective in the NYPD, Columbo debuted in 1968 and popularised the inverted detective story where the audience is shown the crime and the perpetrator at the beginning. Rather than have a ‘whodunit’ element, the plot was more focussed on how the crime will be solved. After the initial cancellation of the series, a spin-off was commissioned starring Columbo’s wife who, working as a news reporter, uncovers and solves crimes. Columbo never made an appearance in the show despite obvious references to his character. Negative critical and public reception occurred from the start of broadcast. Bizarrely, rather than simply cancelling the show, the network tried renaming it – first as Kate Columbo, then Kate the Detective, before finally Kate Loves a Mystery. By the end of its final episode, all references to Columbo had been dropped and the formerly Mrs Columbo was meant to have no connection to him at all.
3. Baywatch Nights
Baywatch will forever be remembered as the series which launched (for better or for worse) Pamela Anderson and David Hasselhoff into superstardom. The action-drama was a ratings success as audiences were treated to attractive lifeguards balancing their personal lives whilst saving the locals from shark attacks, earthquakes, nuclear bombs and, on occasion, drowning. Sadly, Baywatch Nights was not as well received and failed to muster up the audience’s interest. A last ditch effort by producers added in an element of sci-fi in hope of capitalising on the success of The X-Files, but this didn’t help and the spin-off was cancelled after season two.
Between 1972 and 1983, M*A*S*H was a ratings behemoth. Following a group of American surgeons during the Korean War, the comedy wasn’t afraid of straying into the dramatic and the tone would often shift rapidly from episode to episode. Lasting longer than the actual conflict it was set during, ‘M*A*S*H finished its run with a finale that remains as the most watched episode of any television show in history – peaking at 125 million viewers. TV executives wanted to keep the series alive and the spin-off AfterMASH was broadcast 6 months later. Despite a steady start for the first season, the show was cancelled 9 episodes into its second season after it was moved in the schedules to compete against The A-Team. A critical disaster, AfterMASH has been listed as one of the biggest TV mistakes of the century.
1. Here Comes Honey Boo Boo
TLC launched Toddlers & Tiaras in 2009. A reality show following the families of child beauty pageants, it received severe criticism for the lengths that parents put their toddlers through in order to win. This included fake tans, sexualised routines and even pretending to smoke on stage. Just when we all thought TV could sink no lower, the spin-off show proved us wrong. Here Comes Honey Boo Boo follows the family of contestant Honey Boo Boo; the breakout star of the show. Following the lives of the Boo Boo clan as they go extreme couponing, exploiting roadkill and acquiring child-support cheques from the four different fathers of the kids, the spin-off unsurprisingly provoked outrage and many questioned the mother’s ability to raise kids (at one point she is seen giving her youngest a blend of Red Bull and Mountain Dew). Shockingly, Here Comes Honey Boo Boo lasted 4 seasons before being cancelled. Rumours remain there were enough episodes filmed for another season of episodes, but off-screen drama between the family members likely caused its demise. We can only pray they don’t find a way to crawl into the limelight anytime soon.