The Most Disappointing Spin-Offs in TV History
To avoid the risk of a new franchise, Hollywood sometimes turns to existing TV shows for story ideas. Such shows come with a ready audience and free advertising in the form of the previous show, so it makes sense from a business perspective.
Some spin-offs are successful, including Good Times, The Jeffersons, Angel, Lou Grant Frasier, and Laverne & Shirley. However, there are many spin-offs that never should have been made. The following 30 spin-offs don’t hold a candle to their original shows, and it’s anyone’s guess what producers saw in them.
Three’s Company was one of the most successful sitcoms of the ‘70s and ‘80s. Naturally, the show’s writers thought they could continue their success with a spin-off series, The Ropers. The Ropers (Norman Fell and Audra Lindley) were memorable characters on the original series, but they didn’t need their own spin-off.
The show followed landlord Stanley Roper and his wife as they bought a condominium in a posh neighborhood. The show added a straight man, Jeffrey P. Brookes III (Jeffrey Tambor), but let’s face it — no one could replace John Ritter. The spin-off aired for one season from 1979-80.
In theory, a prequel spin-off series sounds like a good idea, but Caprica didn’t cut it. A politically informed spin-off of the popular science-fiction series Battlestar Galactica, Caprica dove headfirst into the early years of artificial intelligence on the planet Caprica. The show followed two families, the Greystones and the Adamas.
On paper, the show sounded like a good idea. Some fans were curious about what happened before the Cylon War in Battlestar Galactica, but Caprica didn’t quite take off. Actors Eric Stoltz and Esai Morales tried their best to continue the franchise, but it was canceled after its 2010 season.
If you’ve never heard of Young Americans, the spin-off series to the popular late ‘90s and early 2000s teen drama Dawson’s Creek, you’re not alone. It focused on Pacey Witter’s (Joshua Jackson) childhood friend, Will Krudski (Rodney Scott). Will was introduced to viewers during season three of Dawson’s Creek, but no one needed an entire show about him.
Young Americans took place during Will’s summer at a boarding school. He was escaping his abusive father, taking the show in a dark direction. Canceled after one long summer season, the show didn't fill the void left behind by Dawson’s Creek.
The Cleveland Show
Family Guy is an iconic animated sitcom with many seasons to its name. The show, created by Seth MacFarlane, has many supporting characters, including Cleveland Brown. Peter Griffin’s soft-spoken friend (voiced by Mike Henry) contrasted with other characters on the show, which is probably why MacFarlane decided to give the character his own spin-off, The Cleveland Show.
In many ways, The Cleveland Show was a duplicate of Family Guy. Cleveland wasn’t that funny of a character, so viewers couldn’t understand why he had his own show. Despite the criticism, the show aired for four seasons before being canceled in 2013.
The Carrie Diaries
When it was first announced that Sex and the City would be getting its own prequel spin-off series, everyone was excited. They couldn’t wait to find out about Carrie Bradshaw’s (Sarah Jessica Parker) teenage years and how she arrived in New York City. The Carrie Diaries should have succeeded but didn't.
Starring AnnaSophia Robb as young Carrie, The Carrie Diaries had too many high expectations. Fans wanted the show to be as glamorous and sophisticated as Sex and the City, but this time, SJP wasn’t a part of it. She was greatly missed. The series was canceled after two seasons.
Ravenswood wasn’t as good as Pretty Little Liars, but that shouldn’t be too surprising. Pretty Little Liars dominated Freeform (formerly ABC Family). Fans watched the show in suspense week-after-week, so it makes sense that producers wanted to keep the momentum going.
Ravenswood premiered halfway through Pretty Little Liars’ run in 2013 as a spin-off highlighting Caleb Rivers (Tyler Blackburn). The show could have been great, but without the Pretty Little Liars themselves, it lacked a spark. This was also true with the show’s sister spin-off, Pretty Little Liars: The Perfectionists.
Grey’s Anatomy is one of the most successful medical dramas ever to exist on television, rivaled only by ER. Still going strong after many seasons, it doesn’t seem like the show will end anytime soon. The medical drama inspired its own spin-off, Private Practice.
The show followed Dr. Addison Montgomery (Kate Walsh), who left Seattle for Southern California. Addison tried her best to be the star of the show, but Private Practice didn’t capture the same charm and appeal that made Grey’s Anatomy so popular. Instead, it was a watered-down rip-off, but it still managed to last for six long seasons.
Baywatch Nights took away everything that made Baywatch a success: the beach and the beautiful lifeguards — including Pamela Anderson. Instead, the spin-off was an intense police and science-fiction drama starring David Hasselhoff. His character, Mitch Buchannon, solved crimes and investigated paranormal mysteries.
No, we’re not kidding. No one really wanted to watch the show, which is why it only lasted for two seasons from 1995-97. Baywatch wasn’t necessarily an iconic TV show, but it had the one thing viewers wanted to see: lifeguards. Once that was eliminated from Baywatch Nights, it wasn’t worth watching. At least they tried their best.
Everyone can agree that Beverly Hills 90210 was a huge success. It’s no wonder Fox decided to create a spin-off show focusing on older characters. Melrose Place (named after the apartment complex the main characters lived in) had a few good moments over seven seasons.
However, the show still received valid criticism. It was a glorified soap, and the series doesn’t have much of a fanbase in 2019. The CW attempted to make a 2009 reboot, but it only managed to run for one season. Viewers didn’t seem to care for Melrose Place. It wasn’t the same as its predecessor.
That '80s Show
That ‘70s Show was a great show for many reasons: good comedy, likable characters, wonderful chemistry amongst the cast. Fans loved how the show, which aired from 1998 to 2006, was set in the ‘70s. Naturally, producers thought viewers would also like a show set in the ‘80s.
Wrong! The show’s 2002 spin-off, That ‘80s Show, didn’t hold a candle to the original series. The show didn’t have the same vibe. After all, the ‘80s weren’t groovy like the ‘70s. The show lasted one season and it has since been forgotten.
The Lone Gunmen
The X-Files was a smash hit. Because of this, it made sense for producers to want to create a spin-off, The Lone Gunmen. There might have been good intentions behind the decision, but the show was more humorous than fans expected.
Focusing on characters who worked alongside Mulder (David Duchovny) and Scully (Gillian Anderson) on The X-Files, the spin-off felt more like a silly knockoff of an already great show. The series didn’t resonate with viewers. The Lone Gunmen lasted for one season in 2001 and viewers weren’t too upset when it went off the air.
While Melrose Place itself was a spin-off of Beverly Hills 90210, producers decided it also needed its own spin-off series: Models, Inc. Fox just wasn’t ready to cancel the glitz and glamor of the Beverly Hills 90210 franchise. The show focused on an L.A.-based modeling agency run by Amanda Woodward’s (Heather Locklear) mother, who was played by Dallas star Linda Gray.
The spin-off had plenty of flash and sophistication, but the plot and writing lacked quality. Poor acting was also a factor in why viewers didn’t want to watch the show. It was canceled after its first season in 1995.
Shows about models often don’t seem to connect with viewers. Living Dolls, a spin-off of the successful 1980’s sitcom Who’s the Boss?, focused on four teenagers pursuing a career with a New York City modeling agency. The show starred Michael Learned of The Waltons, Halle Berry and Leah Remini. The latter played Charlie, a friend of Samantha Micelli’s.
The show should have been an easy success. After all, supermodels were popular in the ‘80s. Nonetheless, critics slammed it. It was canceled after just 12 episodes.
From 1987 to 1991, Johnny Depp was a young Hollywood heartthrob on 21 Jump Street. He played an undercover police officer posing as a high school student to combat high school violence. The show was a success, but its spin-off, Booker, failed in comparison.
In Booker, rebellious police officer Dennis Booker (Richard Grieco) went undercover as an insurance investigator for the U.S. office of a Japanese company. It was an interesting concept, but it didn’t work out as well as producers hoped. The show was canceled after its first season. Instead, viewers wanted to see more of Johnny Depp.
Three's a Crowd
In 1985, Three’s Company lead man Jack Tripper (John Ritter) was finally ready to get married and settle down. In the sitcom’s spin-off, Three’s a Crowd, Jack popped the question to his stewardess girlfriend, Vicky Bradford (Mary Cadorette). Fans should have been elated, but not too many people watched the proposal.
If fans had stuck around to watch Jack’s future with Vicky, they would have seen the couple encounter more complications. This time, they had to deal with Vicky’s disapproving father instead of Mr. Roper. Even so, the spin-off wasn’t nearly the same as its predecessor, and it only lasted one season.
The Mary Tyler Moore Show is one of the most iconic TV shows of all time. A revolutionary show from the ‘70s, the series spawned spin-offs Lou Grant, Rhoda and Phyllis. All three are memorable, but Phyllis (starring Cloris Leachman) was the least successful of them.
Phyllis followed Mary Richards’ (Mary Tyler Moore) neighbor, Phyllis Lindstrom, as she left Minneapolis for San Francisco, California after the death of her husband. While Phyllis wasn’t the most likable character on The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Leachman won a Golden Globe for the spin-off series. However, ratings dropped during the second season.
As the child of Samantha (Elizabeth Montgomery) and Darrin Stephens (Dick York and later Dick Sargent) on the popular 1960’s sitcom, Bewitched, Tabitha Stephens might just be one of the most famous TV children of all time.
In the 1970’s spin-off sitcom Tabitha, the title character (played by Lisa Hartman Black) began her own life as a witch working in TV production in Los Angeles. It was a great concept for a show, but it didn’t have the same charm as the original sitcom. It was canceled after one season compared to Bewitched’s eight seasons.
Love Boat: The Next Wave
Love Boat: The Next Wave was an updated version of the popular series The Love Boat, this time focusing on recently divorced former U.S. Navy captain Jim Kennedy III (Robert Urich). He was captain of a Caribbean cruise ship, and of course exotic adventures led to romance.
Similar to the original show, each episode featured a number of guest stars, including original The Love Boat cast members. While some people were excited about the spin-off, the series didn’t resonate with enough viewers. It couldn’t hold a candle to the original Love Boat series. The show was canceled after two seasons.
All in the Family, a sitcom about the Bunker family, dominated the 1970s. When the show ended in 1979, producers wondered if they could continue the success. This happened with many spin-offs: Archie Bunker’s Place, Maude, Good Times and The Jeffersons, but not as much with Gloria.
Gloria (Sally Struthers) was the Bunkers’ memorable daughter, and her spin-off focused on her life as a single mother working as a veterinarian assistant. All in the Family creator Norman Lear wasn’t involved in the spin-off, which could be a reason the show wasn’t as successful as the original series.
CSI inspired many spin-offs, including CSI: Miami and CSI: NY. You would think that with this many spin-offs, producers would have had their fill of crime scene investigations. Well, think again. They tried their hand at another spin-off, CSI: Cyber.
The show focused on cybercrime. Cybersecurity has become a serious topic of concern in recent years, but it probably shouldn’t have been the focus of an entire TV show. Critics ridiculed the show, and it was canceled after two seasons.
The Girl From U.N.C.L.E.
One of the more popular series of the 1960s, The Man from U.N.C.L.E. captivated audiences. Viewers rooted for the good guys, who worked for the United Network Command for Law and Enforcement (U.N.C.L.E.). They fought the evil international syndicate, THRUSH.
Naturally, the successful series inspired a spin-off, this time focusing on a woman. In The Girl From U.N.C.L.E., April Dancer (Stefanie Powers) used her feminine charms and an exploding charm bracelet to continue fighting THRUSH and other enemies. The show wasn’t nearly as successful, ending after one season.
Law & Order: Trial by Jury
Law & Order is a successful franchise with many spin-offs: Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, Law & Order: Criminal Intent, Law & Order: LA and Law & Order: Trial by Jury. Each show put its own spin on a TV crime drama, but Trial By Jury was the least successful of the group.
The show incorporated Law & Order veteran actors Fred Thompson and Jerry Orbach with newcomers to the franchise such as Bebe Neuwirth and Kirk Acevedo. The spin-off focused more on the legal, law side than actual policing. The show wasn’t compelling enough to attract audiences each week and was canceled after its first season.
Time of Your Life
Fans still love the ‘90s family drama, Party of Five. Because of its success, it makes sense why producers created a spin-off series, Time of Your Life. After saying goodbye to longtime boyfriend Bailey Salinger (Scott Wolf), Sarah Reeves Merrin (Jennifer Love Hewitt) moved to New York City to find her biological father.
While there, she was exposed to a whole new world. Time of Your Life was highly promoted, but overall, it was poorly written and produced. It wasn’t as good as Party of Five — a show that’s hard to beat — and it was canceled after one season.
Everybody knew your name on Cheers, even Nick Tortelli (Dan Hedaya), Carla’s (Rhea Perlman) ex-husband. His blond wife, Loretta (Jean Kasem), was quite a caricature. No one really asked for a spin-off show focusing on the Tortellis, but viewers still received one.
The show focused on the Tortellis as they moved to Las Vegas and Nick started a TV repair business. If you’re ready to change the channel now, we don’t blame you. The show wasn’t a success and was soon canceled. At least Frasier, another spin-off, was far more successful.
The Brady Brides
The Brady Bunch was an iconic family sitcom during the ‘70s. Everyone loved the Brady family, and the show inspired many spin-offs, including The Brady Bunch Hour and The Brady Kids. The Brady Brides took the show in a new direction, focusing on the weddings of the now-grown Marcia (Maureen McCormick) and Jan (Eve Plumb).
The spin-off wasn’t as special as the original. Nothing could ever replace The Brady Bunch, but at least it was nice to see the grown-up Brady kids. But that was the only good thing about the series.
The Golden Palace
Few shows continue to attract new fans like The Golden Girls. When it ended in 1992, producers immediately decided to create a spin-off series: The Golden Palace. Minus Bea Arthur, the show focused on the three remaining roommates as they ran a hotel in Miami, Florida.
However, like many other spin-offs, the magic of the original was gone. While the show’s writing hadn’t changed, Arthur’s absence greatly affected the show. The series needed Dorothy Zbornak. Without her, the show failed, and it was canceled after one season. Our advice? Stick to the original show.
M*A*S*H was a revolutionary TV series from 1972 to 1983 that frequently pushed the boundaries for a TV sitcom. The show’s series finale is one of the most memorable finales in TV history. The Korean War had ended, but producers thought the characters’ postwar lives could be interesting enough for a spin-off, AfterMASH.
Colonel Potter (Harry Morgan), Father Mulcahy (William Christopher) and Maxwell Klinger (Jamie Farr) reunited to work in a Missouri hospital. The show tried to recreate old shenanigans, but the spin-off couldn't capture the magic of the original show. It was canceled after two seasons.
Joanie Loves Chachi
Joanie Cunningham (Erin Moran) and Chachi Arcola (Scott Baio) are one of the most iconic TV couples of all time. Joanie loved Chachi. Chachi loved Joanie. That’s all there was to it. When the couple married in the series finale of Happy Days, fans were elated. They were looking forward to the show’s spin-off, Joanie Loves Chachi.
The show relocated Joanie and Chachi to Chicago, where they tried to be a singing duo. Baio was a heartthrob and fans loved the chemistry between them, but it wasn’t enough to keep the show going. The spin-off was canceled after two seasons.
Saved by the Bell: The College Years
Television shows should know by now that teen shows belong in high school. Once students graduate, don’t move them to college. Unfortunately, Saved by the Bell made this mistake. When the sitcom ended in 1994, producers decided to move the characters into higher education in Saved by the Bell: The College Years.
The spin-off didn’t work for many reasons. New characters were introduced and adult themes were added to a show that previously possessed a sunny, innocent charm. It was a bad decision altogether.
Friends was a successful sitcom in the ‘90s and early 2000s, and it still resonates with fans. One of the most notorious failed spin-offs was Joey, which tried to build a story around Joey Tribbiani (Matt LeBlanc), the dumb yet funny actor as he moved to Los Angeles.
The show was doomed to be a failure from the very beginning. Friends was successful because it featured all six characters equally. We missed Monica, Chandler, Phoebe, Ross and Rachel in the spin-off. The character Joey didn’t have enough of a storyline to have his own show, even though LeBlanc tried his best.