Hollywood has unveiled some new and exciting plans for spin-offs and sequel series in the past month. With Better Call Saul living up to the expectations of Breaking Bad fans, we now have both Full House sequel Fuller House and The Walking Dead's spin-off Fear the Walking Dead to which we can look forward! Of course, spin-offs aren't exactly known for their consistently high level of quality; in fact, it's safe to say that, historically, the bad ones outweigh the good. For every Frasier, there's a million The Tortellis (the OTHER Cheers spin-off that the world has kindly chosen to forget), and it would be terrible if either of these projects ended up going down that path.
Don't get me wrong — I am totally excited for what's to come. Fuller House will star original series stars Candace Cameron and John Stamos and it looks like it's shaping up to be a pretty worthy sequel series. Meanwhile, the producers behind FTWD are saying all the right things about the Walking Dead spin-off. Excited though I may be, however, I am also a little wary.
Remember the pain you felt watching Jennifer Love Hewitt leave Party of Five to wander around New York looking for her dad? Remember when the sci-fi channel took you back to Caprica with Caprica, and it was the most boring thing ever? Remember the slings and arrows hurled at you when Zack, Slater, and Screech went to college AND THEY LEFT LISA AND JESSE BEHIND?
We've all been hurt by a spin-off or two, and it's one of the greatest pains any human can endure. So, in an effort to prevent such an atrocity from ever happening again, I'd like to present a list of do's and don'ts taken from the best and worst of TV spin-offs. Please don't break our hearts!
New Characters Have To Be New, Not Rehashes Of Old Characters
If you're going to take your characters to new and exciting chapters of their lives, make sure the people they meet are also new and exciting. Frasier didn't move to Seattle to spend all of his time with a bunch of new bar cronies; instead, we saw him in a completely different context than Cheers. His feisty radio producer Roz, his intellectual brother Niles, and the quirky caretaker Daphne were all nothing like the scrappy band of day drinkers Frasier left behind, and the show lasted 11 seasons because of it.
Bring Back As Many Old Characters As Possible
The world should be new, but that doesn't mean you can't bring back the old characters every now and then. Audiences love it. Joey had a lot of problems, but the biggest one was that none of the other Friends ever made an appearance. Didn't any of them care how Joey was doing in LA? Some of the best episodes of SVU are the crossover ones where the case is SO big that Mariska Hartigay can't do it without Jesse L. Martin and Jerry Orbach. And who didn't love it when Sam or Woody would visit Frasier in Seattle? Don't you want to see Rick Grimes at the beginning of the outbreak in Fear the Walking Dead, even if just for a scene or two?
Have A Clear Mission Statement For The Show
Jon Stewart once explained the difference between The Daily Show and The Colbert Report in very clear terms: "In the way The Daily Show is kind of a goof on the structure of news," said Stewart, "this is more of a goof on the cult of personality-type shows." That very clear understanding of why The Colbert Report was not The Daily Show is why both were able to be massive hits at the same time without stepping on each other's toes.
Change The Theme Song Completely
On some level, I respect CBS for trying to keep the Golden Girls franchise alive after Bea Arthur left the show, even though The Golden Palace was terrible, because the world needed more Golden Girls. What the world did not need, however, was a slow jazz remix of "Thank You For Being A Friend."
Whatever You Do For The Theme Song, Don't Do This
The worst part is when Joey sits on his car and stares wistfully at the sun setting over the ocean, like "this is just what you do when you move to California." It's not, Joey. It's really not.
Don't Force The Original Formula On New Characters
What worked for Donald Trump does not necessarily work for Martha Stewart, and the formula for Family Guy feels tired the 72nd time you see it on The Cleveland Show.
Maybe Just Don't?
What is it that is so especially painful about a bad spin-off? When done right, they're a pleasant surprise; when done poorly, they feel like a cheap and disrespectful attempt to wrangle more money out of an exhausted audience. So before CBS announces How I Met Your Dog or ABC whips out a sitcom where Sofia Vergara and the kid who plays Manny on Modern Family have to run a hotel in Kansas City, I ask TV executives to hold off on the green light and ask themselves, "Is this a bad idea?"
Images: ABC/Disney; Giphy (2)