So who likes a TV spinoff show? Sure, they can be tricky at best, and sometimes downright controversial. Plus there are more of them out there than you might think. The reason I bring this up? Word on the street at NBC is that The Office may get its own spinoff – starring Dunder Mifflin’s own Dwight Schrute. That means the actor Rainn Wilson may get his own TV show. Would you watch it? I’d certainly check it out. Remember when The Office itself debuted on TV and everyone said that the original British one was so fantastic the US version would never work? And now it’s a bona-fide super hit – or it certainly was. I’ve always found it pretty genius.
People seem automatically to fear a spinoff, and yet for every bomb there’s a hit. For every Flo (from Alice), every Joey (from Friends), and every Top of The Heap (from Married…With Children) we have a Knot’s Landing (from Dallas) and an Empty Nest (from The Golden Girls).
Meanwhile, everyone knows Frasier was spun off from Cheers, and Private Practice owes itself to Grey’s Anatomy – and I happen to love all four of those shows. Actually quite a few beloved programs were actually spinoffs. Maude and The Jeffersons, (along with Jeffersons’ spawn Good Times) all came from parent series All In The Family (which was also a British import, BTW). Cannon spun off into a little something called Barnaby Jones, which enjoyed several good seasons. More recently, we have Buffy and Angel, plus the (original) Beverly Hills 90210 which gave us the (original ) Melrose Place. Matlock produced Jake and the Fatman which in turn bequeathed us Diagnosis: Murder. Meanwhile think about how Happy Days gave way to Laverne & Shirley, Joanie Loves Chachi and a raft of other spinoffs – some of which were true bombs. Those shows made up an empire, and director Garry Marshall (Laverne’s brother) still knows how to assemble huge casts – he directed the movies New Year’s Eve and Valentine’s Day.
So all I’m saying is that at a time when some of the brand new shows are wavering (like Pan Am and A Gifted Man) with shows like Touch and Alcatraz in the who-knows-zone, maybe it’s smart to look to what you already know for ideas. Or at least look at beloved, established casts. At the end of the day of course, it’s a complete crapshoot. But I’d still take a chance watching Rainn Wilson starring in his own sitcom. Would you?
1) Frasier (Cheers)
2) Private Practice (Grey’s Anatomy)
3) Laverne & Shirley (Happy Days)
4) NCIS (JAG)