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11 TV Spinoffs You Might Not Have Known Existed

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The greatest testament to a television series’ endearing popularity is the inability of viewers to let its characters say goodbye. Which is why every time a popular show announces its series finale date, rumors begin swirling about the people, places, and things that might provide strong fodder for an entirely new series.

Some of these spinoff ideas go the way of Dwight Schrute and The Farm (read: nowhere). Others buck the spinoff moniker altogether and end up being as successful as the original incarnation (see: Frasier). And then there are those shows that make it to the small screen… only to find the sound of crickets chirping in place of a laugh track.

Though we won't know the fate of Young SheldonThe Big Bang Theory prequel that CBS recently confirmed will premiere in the fall—let’s take a moment to (desperately try and) remember a few spinoffs you might not have known existed.

1. THE GOLDEN PALACE (1992-1993)

Spun off of The Golden Girls (1985-1992)

Bea Arthur was the only main actress from The Golden Girls to not appear in this series, which sees Blanche, Rose, and Sophia becoming hoteliers after purchasing an Art Deco gem known as The Golden Palace Hotel. Despite Don Cheadle and Cheech Marin in supporting roles, The Golden Palace was booking at about 10 percent capacity.

2. THE LONE GUNMEN (2001)

Spun off of The X-Files (1993-2002; 2016-)

Agent Fox Mulder’s favorite trio of conspiracy theorists, better known as The Lone Gunmen, went from recurring characters to leading men in 2001. While the show­—which was co-created by Breaking Bad’s Vince Gilligan (along with Chris Carter, John Shiban, and Frank Spotnitz)—was met with critical praise, audiences simply weren’t tuning in. It was cancelled after just 13 episodes, but had the unusual opportunity to address its (unintentional) finale’s cliffhanger in the ninth season of The X-Files.

3. THE BRADY BRIDES (1981)

Spun off of The Brady Bunch (1969-1974)

Originally created as a television movie called The Brady Girls Get Married, some brilliant television executive somewhere decided that what 1981 really needed was more Marcia, Marcia, Marcia. So they turned the movie into a four-part miniseries, with the final episode serving as the pilot for a new series that sees the sisters fall in love, get married in a joint ceremony, then buy a house and all move in together. Because that’s a totally relatable storyline. NBC divorced the series 10 episodes later.

4. TABITHA (1977-1978)

Spun off of Bewitched (1964-1972)

Little Tabitha Stephens—daughter of Samantha and Darrin—is all grown up. And, like mom, she only needs to wiggle her nose in order to make magical things happen. Sound familiar? Viewers thought so. Not even witchcraft could help Tabitha get renewed for a second season.

5. THE TORTELLIS (1987)

Spun off of Cheers (1982-1993)

While Nick Tortelli—the gross-but-lovable ex-husband of foul-mouthed barmaid Carla in Cheers—was arguably one of that series’ favorite recurring characters (who was not an official bar regular), The Tortellis proved that Nick and his very blonde and very ditzy new wife, Loretta (a.k.a. Lor-ET-ta), worked better in small doses. They continued to make guest appearances on Cheers following their own cancellation.

6. DEADLINE (2000-2001)

Spun off of Law & Order (1990-2010)

Yes, even Law & Order has produced a clunker of a spinoff on occasion, including this one, in which Oliver Platt plays a tabloid journalist for the New York Ledger (a fictional newspaper often used as a prop in the Law & Order series). Despite an impressive cast, including Bebe Neuwirth, Lili Taylor, and Hope Davis, the series’ storyline was killed after 13 episodes.

7. YOUNG AMERICANS (2000)

Spun off of Dawson’s Creek (1998-2003)

Trying to take yet another bite out of the young beautiful people genre, Young Americans began its life on Dawson’s Creek. Lead character Will Krudski was introduced as an old friend of the gang in Dawson’s third season, when he visits during a break from Rawley Summer Academy, a prep school where he hangs out with Kate Bosworth and Ian Somerhalder. Summer lasted for a fleeting eight episodes.

8. WOMEN OF THE HOUSE (1995)

Spun off of Designing Women (1986-1993)

Call it “Designing Women Goes to Washington.” Delta Burke reprised her role as Suzanne Sugarbaker (surprising, given her very public battles with the original show’s producers), this time as a widow who decides to fill her husband’s congressional seat following his passing. She is surrounded, of course, by a group of sitcom stereotypes who weren’t nearly well-developed enough to get a greenlight for season two.

9. MODELS INC. (1994-1995)

Spun off of Melrose Place (1992-1999)

Models Inc. is technically a spinoff-squared, as it’s a spinoff of Melrose Place, which is a spinoff of Beverly Hills, 90210. The show’s only real purpose was to capitalize on the fact that supermodels like Cindy Crawford and Naomi Campbell were taking over the world in the mid-1990s. But Models Inc.’s only real contribution to the pop culture conversation was that it introduced the woman who would become Trinity—Carrie-Anne Moss—to the world.

10. A MAN CALLED HAWK (1989)

Spun off of Spenser: For Hire (1985-1988)

Poor Avery Brooks. After playing the badass sidekick to Spenser for three seasons, he headed off to Washington D.C. to be a hero to those in need. But he couldn’t hack it as top banana and his show was cancelled after its first season. Still, that didn’t stop Brooks from reprising his role in four made-for-television Spenser movies between 1993 and 1995.

11. AFTERMASH (1983-1984)

Spun off of M*A*S*H (1972-1983)

To be fair, attempting to replicate even a modicum of the success of M*A*S*H—one of the most beloved television shows of all time—would be akin to creating a show around The Drake following Seinfeld’s finale. It’s not that it couldn’t be entertaining; it’s just too soon (and unnecessary). Which is exactly what audiences thought of AfterMASH, which chronicles the lives of Colonel Potter, Klinger, and Father Mulcahy after the Korean War. Though AfterMASH did make it to a second season, it was cancelled nine episodes in and later called one of the 10 worst television shows of all time by TV Guide.

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17 Electric Facts About MTV Unplugged
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Michael Stipe of R.E.M. goes Unplugged.
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Making its debut in 1989, MTV Unplugged—in which famous musicians perform stripped-down arrangements of their biggest hits—was a hit for both the cable network and the music industry, particularly in the early- to mid-'90s. Though it lost its regular time slot in 1999, in the near-20 years since, a handful of artists have popped in for brief revivals. But now it looks as if Unplugged is ready for a reboot; MTV has announced that the series will be back beginning on September 8, 2017, with Shawn Mendes as its first guest. In the meantime, here's a look behind the scenes of the music series that became a phenomenon.

1. OPINIONS VARY ON WHO CAME UP WITH THE IDEA.

Singer/songwriter Jules Shear has said that he came up with the concept for MTV Unplugged to promote his acoustic album, The Third Party. In 1992, The New York Times wrote that Shear was inspired by Jon Bon Jovi and Richie Sambora's two-song acoustic set at the 1989 MTV Video Music Awards.

That's all well and good, but producers Jim Burns and Bob Small claim they got the idea for MTV Unplugged after Bruce Springsteen treated the two—and the thousands of other fans at one of his concerts—to a final encore featuring just himself and his acoustic guitar. (Springsteen would find his way onto Unplugged in 1992.)

Executive producer Joel Gallen has referred to Unplugged as his "baby" as well and, like Shear, was inspired by Bon Jovi and Sambora's VMA set, which he called a "jumping off point." In I Want My MTV: The Uncensored Story of the Music Video Revolution, Small said: “Please do not credit Bon Jovi for creating Unplugged. Jon Bon Jovi thinks he was the inspiration for it. He wouldn’t even do the f***ing show until almost 20 years later.”

2. BOTH HBO AND PBS SAID NO.

HBO passed on Unplugged when Shear proposed the concept to the pay channel. Burns and Small pitched the series to PBS after MTV initially said no. PBS simply echoed MTV and HBO. It was only when Burns and Small ally Judy McGrath got a promotion at MTV that a pilot got a greenlight.

3. IT WAS A CHEAP PILOT TO SHOOT.

Bob Small said he had just four hours to set up for the Unplugged pilot, with another four hours to film it—and all on a budget of $18,000. "I couldn't get money to hire a director," Small said. "They said, 'You direct it.'"

4. THERE WAS A HOST FOR THE FIRST 13 EPISODES.

None other than Jules Shear was the undisputed master of ceremonies for the first season. He also joined in on some songs.

5. THE FIRST GUESTS DIDN'T QUITE GRASP THE CONCEPT OF UNPLUGGED.

Glenn Tilbrook and Chris Difford from Squeeze were the stars of the first episode, which aired on November 26, 1989. But they were unprepared. "Chris and Glenn showed up for rehearsal with electric guitars," Alex Coletti, who would end up producing the show through 2001, recalled. "I said: 'Very funny, guys. Where are the acoustics? It’s Unplugged.' They looked at each other and went, 'Riiight… Make a phone call, quick!'"

6. PRODUCERS SCRAMBLED TO GIVE JOE WALSH ACTUAL FRIENDS.

"The fifth episode was billed as Joe Walsh and Friends, and Joe showed up with only one friend—Ricky, his bass player," Coletti remembered. "We thought it meant his famous friends, but apparently that got lost in translation." Walsh had been a member of The Eagles, who had an infamous falling-out, but Walsh's claim of buddies gave MTV employees false hope. Producer Bruce Leddy found Dr. John recording at a neighboring studio and convinced him to come on and be Walsh's "friend."

7. DON HENLEY WAS NOT HAPPY THAT WALSH PLAYED "DESPERADO."

Walsh's former Eagles bandmate wrote "Desperado," as well as a three-page fax explaining to MTV that he didn't want Walsh to play it and he was refusing permission to air the performance. It was after the fax that the network invited Henley to come on the show himself to perform it. Henley was the first artist to get an entire half-hour on his own as the only artist, which quickly became the status quo for Unplugged. In 1994, when The Eagles reunited, they appeared on an MTV Unplugged special.

8. LL COOL J HAD NEVER WORKED WITH A LIVE BAND BEFORE.

The first Unplugged featuring rap artists took place in 1991. Pop's Cool Love backed LL Cool J, MC Lyte, De La Soul, and A Tribe Called Quest. “[It’s like] you drink milk for 10 years and then [you have to] drink fruit punch,” Quest's Q-Tip said about performing with the band. “It’s not that the fruit is bad, but you have to get used to it.”

But LL seemed able to adapt. "We rehearsed the night before and LL Cool J had never worked with a live band," Coletti said. "Before long, he was calling the shots like he'd been doing it his whole life."

9. LL COOL J KNOWS YOU SAW HIS DEODORANT.

"People have teased me about the deodorant for years, but I love it," he said. "It was raw! It was nasty! At least you know I wasn’t stinking.”

10. PAUL MCCARTNEY WAS THE FIRST ARTIST TO OFFICIALLY RELEASE HIS UNPLUGGED SET.

Before Paul McCartney, no other Unplugged artist body had thought to release their acoustic set as an album. But after he performed in 1991, the former Beatle was worried about it getting out to the masses illegally. “I figured that as Unplugged would be screened around the world there was every chance that some bright spark would tape the show and turn it into a bootleg, so we decided to bootleg the show ourselves," he admitted. "We heard the tapes in the car driving back. By the time we got home, we’d decided we’d got an album—albeit one of the fastest I’ve ever made.” He even titled the live performance collection Unplugged (The Official Bootleg).

11. ERIC CLAPTON WAS HESITANT TO RELEASE HIS SHOW AS AN ALBUM.

"Slowhand" performed to acclaim in 1992, but he initially didn't think it was good enough to be released officially as a CD. So naturally, his live album Unplugged won the Grammy for Album of the Year. His "Tears in Heaven" performance in particular won Song and Record of the Year. Two years later, Tony Bennett followed suit, winning the 1994 Album of the Year prize for his time on the show.

12. NEIL YOUNG WALKED OUT ON HIMSELF.

Neil Young's Unplugged was supposed to have been taped at the Ed Sullivan Theater in New York on December 12, 1992. Instead, on that night—at that venue—the audience saw something they would probably never forget: Neil Young walking out the door after numerous mistakes. The "stunned" crew members managed to get him to come back to try again that night. Young opted to junk the performance entirely, and tried again two months later—this time with a band, and with much more success.

13. TORI AMOS WALKED OUT, TOO.

Amos was thrown off and "couldn't harness the energy." But unlike Young, she was able to walk back onstage, perform, and not have to try again with another set on a different night. As the singer/songwriter remembered it, she and her manager paced "beneath the MTV thing" backstage thinking about the problem. "Then my [lighting director] came down and said, 'Something just doesn't feel right. I can’t put my finger on it,'" Amos told Worstgig.com. "For 700 shows over the five years (prior to that), I'd played with the lights down. So all the lights were up to catch the audience and I felt like somebody was watching me take a shower. So they dimmed the lights, I felt better. By that point because I'd made the choice to stop it and make some changes, I felt like I began again. And I turned the whole show around."

14. ALEX COLETTI FOUGHT TO CUT "THE MAN WHO SOLD THE WORLD" FROM NIRVANA'S EPISODE.

"Maybe I shouldn't give this secret away, but I built a fake box out in front of the amp to make it look like a monitor wedge," Coletti admitted to Guitar World in 1995. "It's an acoustic guitar, but he's obviously going through an amp," he added, talking about the now iconic David Bowie cover. "I actually fought pretty hard to leave that song out [of the final edit of the show], because I felt it wasn't as genuine as the rest of the songs. But I'm a huge Bowie fan, so I couldn't fight too hard against the song."

15. DAVE GROHL WAS ALMOST UNINVITED TO NIRVANA'S SHOW.

The Nirvana drummer remembered that it was a minor miracle that the band's Unplugged performance went so well. “That show was supposed to be a disaster,” Grohl said. “We hadn’t rehearsed. We weren’t used to playing acoustic. We did a few rehearsals and they were terrible. Everyone thought it was horrible. Even the people from MTV thought it was horrible. Then we sat down and the cameras started rolling and something clicked. It became one of the band’s most memorable performances.”

As Coletti told it, Kurt Cobain was thinking of just replacing Grohl behind the kit, or maybe not using a drummer at all. “What I didn’t know was up until the day [of the Unplugged performance], there was talk of Dave [Grohl] not playing at all in the show,” the producer revealed in 2014. “Kurt wasn’t happy with the way rehearsals were going; he didn’t like the way Dave sounded playing drums with sticks."

But Grohl turned up the day of filming, and Coletti gifted him some brushes and sizzle sticks to give his drumming a softer sound. "I was afraid Dave would just roll his eyes, like, 'Oh great, the a**hole from MTV is trying to be my friend,'" the producer remembered thinking. "But instead he opened the package and said, 'Cool, I've never had brushes before. I've never even tried using them.'" The album Unplugged in New York won the Grammy for Best Alternative Music Album in 1996. It was the band's lone Grammy win.

16. YES, THEY TRIED TO GET ROBERT PLANT AND JIMMY PAGE TO PLAY "STAIRWAY TO HEAVEN."

The Led Zeppelin bandmates reunited in 1994 for the Unplugged special: No Quarter: Robert Plant and Jimmy Page Unledded, which at the time was the highest-rated episode of the series ever. MTV suggested they film it in Queens, New York. Plant suggested Morocco and Wales because it was where he wrote "Kashmir" and "Down by the Seaside," respectively. Network executives explicitly requested "Stairway" but were shot down. "I think we're in a disposable world and 'Stairway to Heaven' is one of the things that hasn't quite been thrown away yet," Plant said in 1994. "I think radio stations should be asked not to play it for 10 years, just to leave it alone for a bit so we can tell whether it's any good or not."

17. LIAM GALLAGHER HECKLED HIS BROTHER.

Oasis lead vocalist Liam Gallagher backed out of the Royal Festival Hall gig in London at the last minute due to a "sore throat," so songwriter/guitarist/brother Noel took over the vocal duties. Noel would later disclose that Liam in fact appeared an hour before showtime "sh*tfaced," and when he tried to sing it sounded "f**king dreadful." Liam watched the performance from the balcony and at times jeered the band. Noel told him to shut up. Coletti thought it was all for the best. "There's something when the songwriter himself sings it. Maybe he's a little more connected to the song."

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