TV spin-offs are a tricky thing to pull off. When a network orders a spin-off based on one of the characters from their most popular show, it seems like a no-brainer, but they rarely work out. Frasier, which managed to match the original series’ popularity, critical acclaim, and season count, is the exception that proves the rule.
For every Frasier, there’s a hundred Joeys and a hundred more The Cleveland Shows. It’s so easy for a spin-off to fail that most of the time, they don’t even make it to air. Here are 10 Planned TV Spin-Offs We Never Got To See.
10 The Farm
A spin-off from The Office was developed called The Farm, which would be set on Schrute Farms and center around Dwight’s family and personal life. A pilot was shot for the series and it aired as one of the episodes of The Office’s ninth and final season – when this is done, it’s what’s known as a “backdoor pilot.”
It sneaks in through the backdoor of another show and then forces you to watch it and judge its chances as its own thing. Since “The Farm” episode received some pretty horrible reviews, the series was not taken forward, to no one’s surprise.
9 Buffy: The Animated Series
Over the years, Joss Whedon has seen a number of Buffy-related TV projects go in and out of development, to the point that he’s been so burned out by the rejection that he’s vowed off ever pursuing any Buffy spin-offs in the future. An animated version, Buffy: The Animated Series, got so far into development that a team of writers was hired, a bunch of scripts were written, and detailed character designs had been drawn up.
However, since the show was developed for Fox Kids and that channel was shut down right before it was due to air, it was left without a home. The producers tried shopping it around, but sadly, no one wanted to snap up the rights and it remained in TV limbo.
8 Jackie Chiles
Cosmo Kramer’s fast-talking lawyer Jackie Chiles never failed to make a big impact when he showed up in an episode of Seinfeld. He began as a pretty on-the-nose parody of Johnnie Cochran fighting a case that was a pretty on-the-nose parody of the McDonald’s “hot coffee” case (it was the ‘90s), but as his relationship with Kramer grew and the actor Phil Morris carved out more of a unique voice for the character, he evolved into his own beast.
When Seinfeld ended with Jackie losing a court case for the four characters and getting them sent to jail, there were preliminary discussions about a Jackie Chiles spin-off, but the show never materialized.
7 Audrey Horne
David Lynch’s unusual, yet acclaimed movie Mulholland Drive, a surreal and satirical take on the cutthroat film industry, actually began its life as a sequel/spin-off based around the Twin Peaks character Audrey Horne.
Speaking in 2014, Sherilyn Fenn, who played Audrey in the original show, said: “The Audrey spin-off that would’ve come about, it really ended up being the original idea for Mulholland Drive. Then all those years later, David made the other one, and I didn’t have anything to do with it.” Lynch initially pitched Mulholland Drive as a primetime broadcast series, but due to the strange and violent nature of the story, he was laughed out of every network and turned it into possibly his best movie.
6 Phoebe Buffay
After the crash-and-burn failure of Joey, you’d think NBC wouldn’t want to go near another Friends spin-off with a 50-foot pole. But the producers reportedly felt that they hadn’t spun off the right character, and instead were “in talks” with Lisa Kudrow about a possible Phoebe spin-off.
Luckily, it never moved forward, because the world doesn’t need that. There was also talk at one point of a series called Girlfriends, which would see Phoebe Buffay living with Aisha Tyler’s character Charlie. That sounds slightly better, and at least gives us two characters we like as opposed to just one, but that didn’t go forward either. But what happened to Mike?
Michael Dorn himself pitched a standalone series about the adventures of his Star Trek character, the Klingon security officer Commander Worf, to CBS. However, the network turned him down and decided not to go ahead with it.
Dorn still holds out hope that such a series could happen, and with CBS All Access building up a universe of exclusive new Star Trek shows, including one that will bring back Patrick Stewart’s Jean-Luc Picard, there’s a better chance than ever that the Worf show will finally take off. Or maybe he can just be given a part in the Picard series.
Long before the CW managed to successfully build a shared universe of shows based on DC Comics in the form of what is commonly known as the “Arrowverse,” an attempt was made to expand the Smallville universe with an Aquaman show.
A pilot was made, with Justin Hartley taking on the title role, which was called Arthur “A.C.” Curry to sex it up, and Lou Diamond Phillips and Ving Rhames joining him in supporting roles. But network executives weren’t impressed, and we’d end up having to wait another decade or so before seeing Jason Momoa realize Atlantis’ superpowered ruler on the big screen. Worth it.
Right before developing his second animated series, Futurama, Matt Groening worked on a live-action Krusty the Clown spin-off, simply titled Krusty. The series would’ve seen Krusty moving from Springfield to L.A. to host his own talk show. However, the struggles of doing Simpsons-style gags in live-action proved to be too much.
As Groening explained: “We had this running joke in the script that Krusty was living in a house on stilts and there were beavers gnawing their way through the stilts. But somebody at the network pointed out how expensive it was to hire trained beavers – and an equally prohibitive cost would be to get mechanical beavers – so I said, ‘If we animated this, we wouldn’t be having this discussion.’” Frankly, the comedy community is better off having Futurama than this anyway.
2 Peggy Olson
When AMC spin-offs were all the rage and shows like Better Call Saul and Fear the Walking Dead were being rushed into development to appease fans who missed AMC’s shows when they were either off-season or over, a Mad Men spin-off was considered, revolving around Peggy Olson.
Lionsgate TV boss Sandra Stern said, “There was a time we wanted a Peggy spin-off, too, and, a la Better Call Saul, a minor character going off to L.A. Matt [Weiner, Mad Men creator] wasn’t comfortable committing to a spin-off.” Elisabeth Moss still ended up with her own TV starring vehicle. You may have heard of it, it’s called The Handmaid’s Tale.
1 How I Met Your Dad
After How I Met Your Mother ended, CBS executives were excited to keep the show’s huge fan base tuning into their network by swapping the gender of the lead character and airing a spin-off titled How I Met Your Dad.
Greta Gerwig was set to play the lead, while Meg Ryan was going to voice her future self as she told the story to her kids, Bob Saget-style. That show was called off after the network was unimpressed with the pilot, but since then, two spin-offs, one in 2016 called How I Met Your Father and one in 2017 called How I Met Your Father, have dipped in and out of development.