The entertainment industry has no shame about scraping the bottom of the barrel for ideas. When it strikes gold, it will suck a concept dry, flooding screens with sequels, merchandise, and— often worst of all—uninspired spinoffs.
In attempts to maintain relevance (and steady cash flow), some producers will go all-in on an idea for no other reason than to capitalize on titles and faces that are as established as they are recognizable. On one hand, it’s difficult to blame them – the film and television is an industry that needs to make bank like any other – but considering how poorly some of these spinoffs end up is a slap in the face to audiences.
On television, this happens all too often. Once a show earns good graces among viewers and critics, producers can’t help but cash in (see Grown-ish, Mayans MC, and Game of Thrones). To be fair, spinoffs aren’t always failures—The Simpsons, Xena, and Daria were all spinoffs, in case you didn’t know— so they’re not horrible by default. That said, though, the odds aren’t typically in their favor.
For proof of this, keep reading to check out 15 TV Spinoffs So Bad They Ruined The Original Shows.
15. Ravenswood – Pretty Little Liars
While Pretty Little Liars may have had a very particular target audience in its tween Freeform market, it hit the serial mystery nail on the head. Based on a book series of the same name, it ran for a solid seven years and earned a ranking as one of Freeform’s most popular shows. It’s spinoff, however, sadly didn’t get to bask in similar successes.
Lasting only a single season, Ravenswood tries to borrow its predecessor’s moody atmosphere and sense of mystery, but added another layer that may well have been its greatest downfall: ghosts.
As farfetched as some of the plot might have been in Pretty Little Liars, Ravenswood really jumped the shark on this one, pandering to as many tween-friendly elements as it could possibly manage. In the end, it may have aimed to high, making the fall that much more painful.
14. Private Practice – Grey’s Anatomy
Sure, it lost some of its key players along the way (including notable figures like Sandra Oh, Katherine Heigl, and Patrick Dempsey), but fans have refused to let it flatline. In fact, one of the key players it lost left with a purpose, becoming the lead in her very own Grey spinoff, Private Practice.
Leaving Seattle for SoCal,Kate Walsh stars as Dr. Addison Montgomery, carrying over her character from the show’s successor, but very little of Grey’s charm.
13. Joey – Friends
Friends tapped into a very specific (and very ’90s) kind of culture when it debuted back in 1994. Between all the cafe hangouts and comedically romantic entanglements, it ended up shaping an entire generation of fans, giving audiences a peek at the (implausibly) ideal lifestyles of young New Yorkers in the ’90s.
In 2004, its long-awaited finale marked the end of an era, giving fans plenty to laugh and cry over – especially on account of Ross and Rachel’s final moment.
However, instead of ending on a high and simply letting the series go, NBC gave it a spinoff, focusing specifically on Matt LeBlanc’s Joey Tribbiani, for some reason. His character heads west to LA in order to further pursue his career in acting.
12. Baywatch Nights – Baywatch
To be completely blunt, the main draw in Baywatch was eye candy. From David Hasselhoff to Pamela Anderson, audiences were typically less interested in the goings on of saving swimmers than they were in the beach babes of on the Bay. Still, the show was a massive success, lasting for 11 seasons, and even getting the big-screen treatment in 2016 with Dwayne Johnson and Zac Efron.
For a couple of years, however, between 1995 and 1997, the series decided to delve into spinoff territory, leading to the birth of Baywatch Nights.
In the first of its two seasons, Hasselhoff’s character teams up with his detective friend to solve crimes (seriously); then, in the second and last season, the characters started investigating paranormal mysteries (seriously).
11. Time of Your Life – Party of Five
The main draw in Party of Five was watching how five siblings dealt with each other after the sudden loss of their parents. The plot was launched off of tragedy, but created a sympathetic pull for its main characters—all of whom were endearing in their own idiosyncratic ways.
But what happens when you remove a single leg on a table?
The function of its original design fails. Which brings us to the show’s spinoff, Time of Your Life.
At around the same as the the show’s final season, Jennifer Love Hewitt’s character Sarah (Bailey’s girlfriend) moves to New York City to find out her biological mother. Only, this doesn’t happen on the actual show, but in a spinoff called Time of Your Life.
10. The Cleveland Show – Family Guy
Seth MacFarlane’s Family Guy is hardly short on supporting characters. Peter Griffin’s neighborhood alone is chock-full of animated individuals, adding an intriguing dynamic to the central characters’ already certifiable lifestyle.
One such individual was Cleveland Brown, Peter’s especially mellow, soft-spoken friend. While his personality contrasted well with the other central characters on Family Guy, it failed to work quite as well on its own when he was given his own spinoff, The Cleveland Show.
In more ways than one, The Cleveland Show felt like a carbon copy of its predecessor.
However, in terms of tarnishing the original show, one can argue that Family Guy did that to itself in later seasons, cheapening its own jokes and focusing far more on going for gross-out gags than witty humor.
9. Melrose Place – Beverly Hills 90210
Seeing that Beverly Hills 90210 was such a success, Fox wanted to double-down on LA-based drama, only this time with characters who were slightly older than the OG troupe.
Melrose Place (which was named after the apartment complex in which the show’s main characters lived) ran for seven seasons and even nabbed a few Golden Globe nominations for star Heather Locklear and Sydney Andrews, but that didn’t change the fact that the show was met with mixed critical reception.
A glorified soap opera, Melrose Place was nothing special when it premiered, and its legacy hasn’t exactly stood the test of time. The CW even tried a re-do in 2009 with a continuation of a series, but that only ended up lasting a single season.
8. Saved by the Bell: The College Years – Saved by the Bell
While Saved by the Bell never seemed ashamed of its blatant campiness, it still managed to be a success. Its main cast was a group of high schoolers who knew as much as they were willing to absorb, making the relatability factor for teen viewers a match made in sitcom heaven.
However, when they graduated high school and headed off into their College Years, neither the comedy nor the camp matured with them. Ultimately, what worked in the original show just ended up feeling annoying and stale.
Lasting only a single season – mostly on account of audiences just not caring about/relating to these characters anymore – Saved by the Bell: The College Years took an abrupt nosedive into the abyss of failed spinoffs.
7. That ’80s Show – That ’70s Show
Nostalgia can be a strong factor in fiction (just look at Stranger Things), so when Fox released That ’70s Show back in 1998, audiences flocked to it. Older viewers got the chance to relive a bygone era, while younger viewers got a chance to peek into the sort of lifestyle their parents experience growing up.
From a studio’s perspective, it was a win/win situation.
Sadly, though, that same approach didn’t seem to work for the show’s spinoff, That ’80s Show. While the nostalgia factor was obviously still very much a potential draw, the show didn’t fail because audiences preferred one era over the other, but because it was so poorly executed.
6. The Lone Gunmen – The X-Files
When you have a show as successful as The X-Files, it’s no wonder creators would try replicating its success with a spinoff. Sadly, Fox’s attempt at doing so resulted in a lackluster spinoff that was doomed to fail.
Aside from not being especially entertaining, The Lone Gunmen (based on characters who sporadically worked alongside Mulder and Scully in The X-Files) just felt like a sillier knockoff of its predecessor.
What’s worse is that it was trying to cash in on a show that was already on its way out the door.
While this tidbit of information certainly wasn’t their fault, it also didn’t help that they aired an episode six months prior to 9/11 that included a plane nearly crashing into the World Trade Center.
5. AfterMASH – MASH
When a TV series is based on a Robert Altman movie based on an acclaimed novel, it has a hell of a lot to live up to. With the CBS series MASH, the expectations riding on its shoulders were more than surpassed, turning out to be one of the most beloved television series of all time.
In fact, MASH’s series finale was the most-watched series finale ever, pulling in just under 106 million viewers.
Unfortunately, instead of going out on a record-breaking high, CBS just couldn’t bear to let the series die. Thus came the spinoff: a massively lackluster and disappointing show titled AfterMASH.
Taking place after the end of the Korean War, this pointless series failed to excite critics and audiences alike, and ultimately perished after its second season. CBS then tried again with another spinoff called WALTER, but that one didn’t even it make it to air.
4. The Tortellis – Cheers
On Cheers, stars like Ted Danson Rhea Perlman helped craft a series that was as cozy as it was comedic— which is exactly what helped bring so many viewers back, week after week.
It worked so well because of its relatability factor. Men and women work their 9-5 jobs, then, before going home, head over to the local bar for a drink and some casual chit-chat. For some reason, though, NBC didn’t realize that this was the case, which led the network centering a show around what happens when a couple of these characters head home.
Now, this did end up working with Frasier a few years later, but The Tortellis was ultimately a disaster. After a single season of viewers not bothering to give this show the time of day, the characters returned to Cheers.
3. The Bradys – The Brady Bunch
The Brady Bunch is a product of the 1960s – and that’s exactly where it belongs. Between the format, the humor, and the show’s overall ideologies, The Brady Brunch succeeded on the basis of being at the right place at the right time.
When CBS tried recapturing the magic with a spinoff in 1990, it’s no wonder they ultimately ate dust.
Portraying the Brady children as adults, the show attempted to modernize its format, adding in political drama, an extra 30 minutes onto its runtime, and darker themes that included abusive relationships and alcoholism. For some reason, though, the laugh track still popped up and every now and then.
What’s worse is that this isn’t the first Brady Brunch spinoff. Another attempt was made in 1981 called The Brady Brides, and it failed just as miserably.
2. Joanie Loves Chachi – Happy Days
Happy Days was such a success when it was on air that Garry Marshall and ABC went full tilt on spinoffs. Not satisfied with resting on their laurels, they didn’t stop at one spinoff— nor did they stop at two or three— but a whopping four.
Some of these shows succeeded in what they were trying to pull off; Laverne and Shirley was a success, as was the strange, but endearing Mork and Mindy (if only for introducing Robin Williams into the mainstream).
One particularly embarrassing misfire, however, was Joanie Loves Chachi.
Lasting only two seasons, this series centered on the titular characters played by Erin Moran and Scott Baio, respectively, harnessing their musical talents. While viewers seem at least slightly interested in the first few episodes, ratings ultimately dipped, sending the show to its early grave and the characters back to Happy Days.
1. The Golden Palace – The Golden Girls
While few shows were ever quite as simultaneously endearing and entertaining as The Golden Girls, that didn’t save its reputation in the end.
After the series finale said goodbye to the geriatric quartet back in 1992, the farewell turned out to be short-lived.
Three of the four leads leave their shared home and invest in a hotel, The Golden Palace in which they ultimately reside. Comedy was intended to ensue, but the characters never really got the chance, considering how quickly the show was canceled.
Whether you blame it on the lack of Bea Arthur, the lack of skilled writers, or the depressing inability to just let a series end with grace, The Golden Palace was as quickly forgotten as it was canceled. Which is shame, considering how beloved its predecessor was.
Which of these spinoffs do you consider to be the least watchable? Let us know in the comments!
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