Spinning off a new show from a hit TV series is something that television producers can’t seem to resist, even though for every Frasier there are at least 19 disasters. While it’s been difficult to choose from all the cheesy carnage over the years, here’s our list of the 10 worst spin-off ideas ever.
10. Joanie Loves Chachi
Whoever thought Happy DaysHappy Daysshark had been jumped years earlier. cast members Scott Baio and Erin Moran could carry a show of their own was ridiculously deluded. Joanie and Chachi left both home and ratings behind to move to Chicago in pursuit of music careers. Unfortunately, they failed at that, as did the show, putting Ellen Travolta back in the unemployment line. Luckily for Baio and Moran, they were welcomed back to for the final year of the series, even though the
9. That ’80s Show
It seemed like a good idea to spin That ’70s Show into the next decade for some new wave, cocaine-fueled materialistic fun, but the execution was horrendous. For some reason the writers abandoned the down-to-earth sweetness that worked so well for the ’70s, and gave in to over-the-top parody. Maybe it was some form of art school commentary on that self-absorbed decade, but the audience tuned out and the show went dark after 13 episodes, turning That ’80s Show into a killing joke all its own.
8. The Girl from U.N.C.L.E.
Imagine Alias, except at the end of every episode Jennifer Garner gets rescued by Austin Powers, and you’ve got the gist of The Girl from U.N.C.L.E. Spun off from The Man from U.N.C.L.E. in 1966, female super spy April Dancer showed the world that girl power was all about avoiding confrontation, repeatedly contemplating marriage to the villain, and looking to her partner Mark Slate to bail her out of trouble. It’s no wonder viewers liberated themselves from watching this crap and tuned in to Emma Peel of The Avengers instead.
Here’s a recipe for success if I’ve ever heard one: Take the three hacks who didn’t think it was a good idea to end the legendary M*A*S*H before it found a Korean shark to jump, move them out of the war zone and into the suburban American Midwest, and watch the hilarity ensue! Colonel Potter, Klinger, and Father Mulcahy running a veteran’s hospital in Missouri? Pure gold. It’s so sad that the only other M*A*S*H cast member they could get to appear before the show tanked was Radar, and that CBS arrogantly matched this bomb up against NBC’s top ten hit The A-Team.
6. The Bradys
It’s really not that hard to identify the worst of the three attempts at Brady Bunch spin-offs. As bad as 1977’s The Brady Bunch Hour and 1981’s The Brady Brides most definitely were, The Bradys takes the cake hands down, even with the original cast (sans Marcia) on board. Why? Let’s take an inside look at the pitch meeting:
Producer: OK, it’s the Brady kids, but all grown up with grown up problems. Think The Brady Bunch meets Thirtysomething.
Producer: Exactly. They’ll deal with real issues, like alcoholism, AIDS, paraplegia and infertility. Plus, we’ll have a laugh track.
Executive: Let’s do it.
Six episodes and out in a very Brady mercy killing.
5. Checking In
Everyone loved Florence from The Jeffersons, but that doesn’t mean anyone wanted to see her star in her own show. Marla Gibbs became the executive housekeeper of a fictional Manhattan hotel for four entire episodes before hauling ass back to George and Weezie after the St. Francis Hotel burned down in a low ratings effigy. Given that The Jeffersons was itself a spin-off of All in the Family (which created more new shows than Aaron Sorkin at a Columbian writer’s retreat), perhaps we can forgive the producers of Checking In for being dumb. I personally vote no, but that’s just me.
This one still makes me shake my head. Enos from The Dukes of Hazzard moves to Los Angeles to join the LAPD, and to ensure maximum hick hilarity, they went ahead and partnered Enos with a black guy. Woo hoo… I can’t stop laughing. I mean really… Enos the straight-laced dipstick? Sure, I can see a brand new sitcom starring Roscoe P. Coltrane or Cooter… but Enos? One year later, homeboy was back in Hazzard County where he belongs.
3. The Sanford Arms
Here’s telling proof that drug use is rampant in LA. How about we continue Sanford and Son without Fred Sanford or Lamont? That’ll work, right? After Redd Foxx and Demond Wilson left the show, the producers decided to carry on with new lead character Phil Wheeler, an old Army buddy of Fred’s who bought the junkyard and tried to rent out rooms in an adjacent building. Aunt Esther, Bubba, and Grady were expected to carry the series, and they did—for five whole episodes. Hell, even Grady’s spin-off show lasted longer, and that sucked too.
2. The Tortellis
Cheers hit a home run by spinning off Frasier, which became one of the most beloved American sitcoms ever. Not so much with the largely-forgotten initial attempt in 1987, The Tortellis. Take Carla’s sleazy ex-husband Nick Tortelli, his beautiful, bubble-headed second wife Loretta, and a healthy dose of cheap Italian-American stereotypes, and you have the recipe for one of the worst mistakes in TV spin-off history. Four months later, The Tortellis disappeared from the airwaves and became a recurring nightmare for Dan Hedaya, until he later achieved his career goals by starring as Alicia Silverstone’s father in Clueless.
1. Hello, Larry
Mention bad television to an industry insider or pop-culture aficionado, and Hello, Larry quickly becomes the prevalent punch line. McLean Stevenson’s 1979 attempt to make a funny sitcom about a radio talk show host in the Pacific Northwest (before Kelsey Grammer got it right in 1993) is the butt of more jokes than most bad television, but objectively it wasn’t any worse than many of the others on this list. Even more ironic, Hello, Larry was not technically a Diff’rent Strokes spin-off; it was an independent show that NBC decided to artificially tie in with Strokes in a lame attempt to boost ratings. No matter–it’s this confluence of pop culture misfortune that will likely keep Hello, Larry at the bottom of the bad TV spin-off heap for years to come.
Now that you’ve reviewed these 10 losers, go hunt down those Joey reruns. Sure, it’s still bad… just not as bad as you thought.