TV spinoffs offer ample evidence that original thinking is a rare trait among TV network executives. Whenever a TV series becomes a ratings success, it is almost inevitable that its parent network will try to create one or more spinoffs built around characters from the original series. The logic is that since the original series is a hit, the spinoffs will also be hits. It is flawed thinking at its best. This group of failed TV spinoffs offers proof that audiences are more inclined to embrace original shows rather than ones riding the coat tails of a more successful series that brought them into the world.
"AfterMASH" (1983-84): What happens when you take Colonel Potter, Father Mulchahy and Corporal Klinger out of the Korean War and put them in a Midwestern veteran's hospital? Nothing much. That was the problem with this "MASH" spinoff. Without the backdrop of war to influence storylines, the dramatic heft of "AfterMASH" was virtually non-existent. It barely lasted two seasons before biting the dust.
"The Bradys" (1990): It seems strange that anyone could think that characters from a sitcom like "The Brady Bunch" would work well in a dramatic setting. "The Bradys" tried to skew toward drama in a final attempt to cash in on the success of the original sitcom. Virtually the entire original cast – minus Maureen McCormick – returned to take part in this new series. It lasted just six episodes.
"The Ropers" (1979-80): Norman Fell goes from straight man landlord in "Three's Company" to a comic lead with the same character in "The Ropers." Give the show’s producers credit for trying something different with the character, even if the experiment failed within a year.
"Three's a Crowd" (1984-85): This "Three's Company" spinoff ignored the formula that made the original successful by marrying off Jack Tripper. It ripped away what generated laughs – living with female roommates, pretending to be gay – and left nothing with John Ritter to work with in this cookie cutter sitcom.
"Joey" (2004-06): Hey, Matt LeBlanc is funny as Joey on "Friends." So that means he can be funny as Joey on another show, right? No. "Friends" worked because of the sum of its parts. "Joey" proved taking one of those characters away and putting them somewhere else added up to a terrible idea.
"Baywatch Nights" (1995-97): Here is a case of a show that could not figure out its identity. David Hasselhoff takes his "Baywatch" character and moonlights as a private eye in season one. Then he start fighting all sorts of supernatural creatures from vampires to werewolves in season two. Huh? Everyone knows "Baywatch" was all about watching babes in swimsuits. "Baywatch Nights" never figured that out.
"Joanie Loves Chaci" (1982-83): Take Fonzie's cousin and Richie Cunningham's sister, put them in Chicago and have them start their own band. It is a formula for another winning show like "Happy Days," right? Wrong. 100 percent wrong. Between cheesy singing and cheesier acting, "Joanie Loves Chaci" became the standard bearer for all bad spinoffs.
"The Law and Harry McGraw" (1987-88): Before rising to fame on “Law and Order,” Jerry Orbach starred in this “Murder, She Wrote” spinoff about a hard-boiled Boston private eye that shows brilliance in solving cases. Nothing is here to distinguish it from any other stereotypical detective story.
"The Lone Gunmen" (2001): Even Fox Mulder would have had a tough time believing that a trio of goofy conspiracy theorists from the "X-Files" could carry their own series. "The Lone Gunmen" centered on their efforts to fight off shadowy forces wreaking havoc on innocent red-blooded Americans. The series lasted four months before kicking the bucket. The three leads lasted a year longer before meeting their doom on their original series.