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Spin-Offs: The Good, the Bad, the Unrecognizable

When it’s time for a popular series to come to an end, the decision is sometimes made to extend the story by creating a new show using secondary or background characters. Sometimes these efforts are a success ("Saved by the Bell" was a bigger hit than "Good Morning, Miss Bliss"); sometimes they could/should have worked but didn’t ("The Lone Gunmen" from "X-Files"); sometimes they were ill-conceived from the start (why was "The Raven" spun-off from "Highlander" and not, say, "The Joe and Methos Show"?).

Why do some spin-offs work and others crash and burn? How do the elements of setting, story, characters, and actors combine to create something fresh and exciting from a fading star? Are there spin-offs that might have been successful on their own merits if they weren’t being compared to a beloved predecessor? Are there examples of shows that were more successful than they merited, due to the reflected glow of their source material? Are there spin-offs-in-name-only that bore so little resemblance to their original shows that they were unrecognizable as being part of the same world?

  • Great question! Unfortunately I haven't seen any of the mentioned spin-offs or original shows. Though not equally successful I've heard good reviews for Torch Wood made from Doctor Who (but it's obviously impossible to compete with such a classic long going show). It might be interesting to look at spin offs in the new light of Agents of Shield, a tv show based on the lives of agents in the Marvel world. Is it a spin off of the comics or the newly produced Avengers movies... or both? And does coming for two backgrounds give it a better chance of success? Maybe spin offs are more or less successful because they draw from an already well established universe? – Slaidey 6 years ago
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  • This is very timely, especially with Girl Meets World and the new Vacation movie coming out soon. I don't understand the need for spinoffs, so this would be an interesting topic to raise! – Samantha Brandbergh 6 years ago
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  • There's also the new "Walking Dead" spinoff that's coming out soon. A good question to consider would be whether certain spinoffs are meaningful additions to popular stories, or if they're merely the recycling of preexisting ideas to make money. – Nicole Williams 6 years ago
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