11 Ill-Conceived TV Spinoffs That Almost Happened
Photo credit: NBC
Entertainment gossip rags are all abuzz discussing the pros and cons of a possible Dwight Schrute (of The Office fame) spinoff TV series. No doubt the producers and agents involved are too blinded by dollar signs to take the time to examine the fates of previous spinoff shows based on “can’t miss” popular characters. We hereby submit 11 such shows that barely made it past the drawing board.
This M*A*S*H spinoff had as complicated a broadcast history as plot backstory. Gary Burghoff, who’d played the loveable Cpl. Radar O’Reilly at the 4077, provided a bit of background for his upcoming solo series during a special guest appearance on an episode of yet another ill-fated spinoff, AfterM*A*S*H. There we learned that Radar’s (oops – he made it clear in the pilot that his name was “Walter”) farm had failed and he’d shipped his mom off to live with an aunt. He’d married a woman named Sandy who left him for another man during their honeymoon. He now lived in St. Louis with his cousin and was a rookie cop on the local police force. The first episode showed hapless, naïve Walter exhibiting typical Radar-like behavior, such as getting embarrassed when breaking up a fight at a strip club, and buying a soda for a kid he falsely accused of committing a crime. The pilot episode of W*A*L*T*E*R aired just once (on July 17th, 1984; the series was not picked up), and only in the Eastern and Central time zones thanks to CBS affiliates cutting to live coverage of the 1984 Democratic National Convention at 9:00pm.
2. Facts of Life: Next Generation
The proposed Facts of Life spinoff had several working titles but never made it past the two-part Facts of Life finale entitled “The Beginning of the Beginning.” It was to be a vehicle for Lisa Whelchel, whose snooty Blair Warner character would buy the financially troubled Eastland School and become its new headmistress.
3. The Art of Being Nick
Scott Valentine was introduced as Nick Moore, Mallory’s love interest on Family Ties, during the series’ fourth season. Nick was a retro-hippie “environmental” artist who made sculptures out of garbage and whose grungy appearance and lack of scholastic ambition was a sore point with Steven, Elyse and Alex. Audience reaction to Nick was so positive that not one but three different pilots for a spinoff series were filmed in 1986. The one that made it to the air in 1987 was The Art of Being Nick and co-starred a pre-Seinfeld Julia Louis-Dreyfus. Even though the ratings were encouraging, NBC honcho Brandon Tartikoff nixed the series, preferring to keep the Nick character as a semi-regular on Family Ties.
This proposed Will and Grace spinoff didn’t get as far as the pilot stage, but it was all mapped out on paper. Megan Mullally would star as Karen Walker in her mansion and most of the comedy would be the interaction between her and her servants (one of which was slated to be a butler played by Martin Short). NBC got cold feet, though, after the lackluster ratings for Joey and gave Mullally a talk show instead of a sitcom.
5. After the Honeymoon
During the 11th season of My Three Sons there was an attempt to spin off eldest son, Robbie (played by Don Grady), his wife Katie (Tina Cole) and their triplet boys onto their own series. In the pilot episode, Robbie was laid off from work and moved his family to San Francisco to accept a new job. After the Honeymoon wasn’t picked up, and Grady didn't return to My Three Sons for the 12th and final season. Tina Cole did return to the bosom of the Douglas family, and her husband’s absence was explained by having him transferred to Peru to oversee a construction job.
6. Another Man’s Shoes
The original premise of One Day at a Time – a divorcée struggling to raise two daughters as a single mom – was all but forgotten by Season Nine. Ann Romano had remarried and moved to London and both her daughters had grown up and gotten married. Who was left to spin off into their own series? Schneider, the building superintendent, of course. In the pilot, Schneider finds out that his brother has passed away and he flies to Florida to care for his now-orphaned niece and nephew (a young Corey Feldman). The children live in an apartment over an arcade that was frequented by an assortment of wacky regulars, and it just so happened the arcade owner was looking to hire a handyman. All the elements were in place for Dwayne Schneider to start life anew in Daytona Beach, but, alas, the series was not picked up.
Relations between Marla Gibbs and Jackie Harry were rather tense by the fourth season of 227, mainly because Jackee’s character, Sandra, had become the breakout star of the series. Harry filmed a pilot which aired in 1989 in which Sandra moved to New York to accept a job at a film studio. When it turned out that the studio in question made adult films, she instead took a job at a spa. The pilot had a plum slot right after The Cosby Show and finished fifth in the ratings, but NBC still declined to pick it up.
Ooh! Ooh! Guess which Sweathog almost graduated from Mr. Kotter’s class to his own series? The episode of Welcome Back Kotter entitled “There Goes Number 5” was the pilot for an Arnold Horshack series in which the geeky student becomes a surrogate father to his younger siblings after his mother’s fifth husband dies. ABC ultimately decided to green light the Barney Miller spinoff Fish instead.
9. Goober and the Trucker’s Paradise
A proposed spinoff of The Andy Griffith Show featured Gomer’s cousin Goober moving from Mayberry to Atlanta with his sister, Pearl, to open a truck stop café. The network passed on it, so Goob stayed on at Wally’s Filling Station all the way through Mayberry RFD.
A two-part episode of Who’s The Boss? was a pilot for a proposed series starring Katherine Helmond. Mona goes to visit her never-before-mentioned brother Cornelius at a hotel he’s recently purchased. Even though the place turned out to be a decrepit money pit, Mona decided to stay on and co-manage it with him. That is, until ABC gave it the thumbs-down, whereupon she returned to living over Angela’s garage.
11. Kick It with the Fly Girls
In early 1991 it was announced that the dance troupe from Fox’s In Living Color would host their own hour-long show. Kick It with the Fly Girls was to be emceed by Shawn Wayans and would feature “top performing rap and hip-hop artists and new acts.” The proposed series only got as far as holding auditions for dancers in New York and Los Angeles.
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Think the networks pulled the plug too early? Would you have watched any of these?