Spinoff series are usually shameless cash-grabs from television networks that are desperate to continue the success of a dying series in some form or another. It’s a wonder any of them become their own beloved series. However, without spinoffs, we’d be deprived of classic TV series like Frasier, The Jeffersons, and even The Simpsons. But the shows we’re highlighting here are at the other end of that spectrum — spinoffs that did terribly because they were terrible, unlike the series that spawned them, and were quickly, mercifully forgotten. Let’s remember for a moment, shall we?
NBC was reticent to give up the consistent 10-season ratings-draw that was Friends, so they devised a series centered around fan-favorite doofus Joey Tribbiani (Matt LeBlanc) moving to Los Angeles to live with one of his many sisters (Drea de Matteo) to fill up the empty time slot. Joey, however, was never made to headline a show — his idiocy and womanizing antics quickly grew stale without the other Friends to prop him up. Most critics trashed the series, but it sustained healthy, even impressive ratings for its first season, but was cancelled for low performance midway through its second season.
M*A*S*H was one of television’s most successful shows of all-time, and its finale even set ratings records, so CBS was quick to mount a spinoff series to replace its Monday night timeslot. AfterMASH focused on the events, wouldn’t you know it, after the original series, as three of its characters returned home after the Korean War’s end. Moving the characters’ from the heat of war, a setting ripe for tragedy and compelling gallows humor, to a domestic veterans’ hospital robbed the new show of much of its vitality. As with Joey, ratings started out strong before dipping with a timeslot change in the second season that pitted it against The A-Team. Since its cancellation, AfterMASH has been consistently labeled as one of the worst TV series of all-time.
3. The Tortellis
Frasier was an acclaimed hit, but the other, original Cheers spinoff had no such success. Unlike Frasier, this series followed two of the show’s minor characters — waitress Carla’s brutish ex-husband (Dan Hedaya), his bubbly blonde spouse (Jean Kasem) and their new domesticated life in Las Vegas. The series was ill-conceived from the start, as if the creators decided to center a series on the most grating, one-dimensional characters imaginable, and ratings were low enough that NBC axed it after 13 episodes.
4. The Ropers
This spinoff series of Three’s Company lasted less than a year, shifting its focus from the sexual antics of Jack, Janet, and Chrissy to their domesticated landlords, married couple Stanley and Helen Roper (Norman Fell and Audra Lindley). The series saw a steep drop in ratings after a few schedule shufflings. Fell, desperate after the cancellation, approached the Three’s Company producers about being rehired onto the series, but the Ropers’ characters had already been replaced.
5. The Brady Bunch Hour
Yes, The Brady Bunch was deemed deserving of not one, not two, but three spinoffs. The most notorious of them all The Brady Bunch Hour, premiered in 1976, two years after the original series’ ending, and featured all the show’s main cast members, minus Jan (Eve Plumb, who was replaced by Geri Reischl), hosting a painful variety show that included a faux “behind the scenes” storyline between all the obligatory singing and dancing. The pilot, at first a standalone special, performed well, but a sporadic airing schedule meant they only produced nine episodes total. The Brady Brides and The Brady Kids are also things that exist, and they needn’t be discussed any further. Trust me.
6. Baywatch Nights
Baywatch Nights aired concurrently with the successful beachside series that spawned it. The show lasted only two seasons, following David Hasselhoff and other Baywatch cast members as they dabbled in detective work. In its second season, Baywatch Nights fascinatingly evolved into a series focused on supernatural phenomena, partially inspired by the success of The X-Files, before being cancelled for good.
7. Joanie Loves Chachi
Happy Days had seen happier days in 1982, having already literally invented the term “jumping the shark,” but the ratings were still strong enough that the suits at ABC wanted more. The show followed young lovers Joanie (Erin Moran) and Chachi (Scott Baio) as they moved to Chicago to try and make it as a rock band in the midst of a looming mid-60s British Invasion. The show attracted high ratings for a short time before plummeting to obscurity and then cancellation in its second season. The characters were moved back to Happy Days for its final season, and Joanie Loves Chachi went down in history as one of the worst spinoffs in history, not least because the leads were compelled to sing in each episode.
8. That ’80s Show
That ’80s Show is a little less than a traditional spinoff of That ’70s Show, featuring none of the same characters or storylines from its more successful counterpart, but it deserves a spot on this list, if only for how truly terrible it was. The series moved the action forwards a few years to 1984 and followed the lives of Corey Howard (Glenn Howerton, now known for writing and starring in It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia) and his group of friends. It was cancelled after 13 episodes — a good thing, to be sure, since the constant “jokes” revolving around outdated fashions were stale from day one.
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