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When Enough Is Enough: Worst TV Spin-Offs

February 26th, 2008 2:21pm EST
Saved by the Bell: The New ClassThe logic behind the spin-off is very sound. Take a beloved character or concept from a pre-existing series and create an entire new show. You have an established character or brand and thus a built-in fan base. It makes perfect sense, no?

Unfortunately, the reality of the situation is not quite that simple. Certainly there have been spin-offs that attracted both fans and critics and managed to create a legacy all their own. Shows like "Frasier," "Angel," and "The Jeffersons" instantly come to mind. But for every successful spin-off, there have been dozens of miserable failures. For whatever reason (thin concept, dreadful writing, bad acting) many of the clunkers have not only failed, but failed spectacularly. Let's take a look at ten of the most odious.

The Fonz and the Happy Days Gang (1980-1982)

"Happy Days," itself a spin-off, managed to produce a plethora of shows. Some were good, others were bad. This painful piece of animation was one of the bad ones. And boy was it bad.

The concept revolved around an animated Fonzie (Henry Winkler), Richie (Ron Howard) and Ralph Malph (Donny Most) who go time traveling and unfortunately can't get back home. The series chronicles their brutally awful journey. Thankfully, the "adventure" didn't last very long, and this series is now a distant (albeit painful) memory.



Saved by the Bell: The New Class (1993-2000)

The concept of "Saved by the Bell: The New Class" was identical to "Saved by the Bell." Many of the storylines were simply recycled from the original series and were not nearly as interesting the second time around. The cast of students was also quite forgettable (they were no match for Zack Morris, A.C. Slater and company). Dennis Haskins returned as Principal Belding, and he was joined in season two by his "assistant" Screech Powers (Dustin Diamond). The six years of Screech prior to "The New Class" were more than enough, and the six years that he spent on the new series were absolute torture. "The New Class" was truly an awful, awful show.

The Golden Palace (1993-1994)
Golden Girls, Golden Palace star Betty WhiteThis spin-off of the popular series "The Golden Girls" followed the title characters from the original series (minus Bea Arthur's Dorothy) as they took over an upscale hotel. The series was hideously unfunny and quickly canceled. It suffered not only from poor writing but also from the loss of Dorothy, the most popular character in the original series.

Often times, successful spin-offs take minor or supporting characters from the parent show and put them in a new series that has a different tone and style. "The Golden Palace" did neither of these things and suffered accordingly. Not even a young Don Cheadle could save it.

Private Practice (2007-present)

This "Grey's Anatomy" spin-off gets a little bit of a reprieve because the parent series is dreadful in its own right. How "Grey's" continues to dominate in the Nielsen's is truly a mystery, at least to this writer. However, just because it was spawned from a low-quality parent series does not excuse this abomination from the competition.

Despite possessing an impressive ensemble cast, "Private Practice" manages to do the unthinkable and actually top "Grey's Anatomy" in pointless melodrama and clichéd storylines. One truly does feel bad for some of the talent that is forced to work with this material on a weekly basis. Then again, the series is a ratings hit so they probably don't mind all that much.

Enos (1980-1981)

Hey guys, here's a great idea! Let's take the southern hillbilly deputy Enos Strate (Sonny Shroyer) from "Dukes of Hazzard" and move him to the big city. It's genius! Um no, it's really not. Storylines involved Enos dealing with life in L.A. and his new career as a member of the LAPD (he was a small town deputy, and now he is part of a big city police force. Hilarious, right?). Not only was Enos forced to adapt to life in La La Land, but he also had to learn to work side by side with his black partner! Imagine that. It's amazing that this "gem" didn't last.

Dr. Phil (2002-present)

Dr. PhilYep, this trash TV show most definitely counts as a spin-off. Oprah first burdened the world with this quack on her show, and he just took off from there. He has been on his own ever since, providing millions of Americans with bad advice on a daily basis, when he is not trying to create publicity by offering unsolicited advice to a certain troubled celebrity that is. One feels the need to go into therapy after being subjected to an hour with the Doc.

AfterMASH (1983-1985)

Set directly after the end of the Korean War, "AfterMASH" (like aftermath, get it?) focused on Potter (Harry Morgan), Klinger (Jamie Farr) and Father Mulcahy (William Christopher), who all inexplicably come together to run a mid-western veterans' hospital. The series tried to follow the template from the later years of "M*A*S*H" by mixing occasional humor in with bleak, wartime melodrama. It didn't work. At all. There were numerous problems with the show, but chief among them was that the three main characters were the three least interesting characters from "M*A*S*H." They didn't get any more interesting in this series.

The Ropers (1979-1980)

We're getting down to the real dregs of the list now. Up next is this "Three's Company" spin-off, which has the distinction of being the worst of several bad attempts at continuing the success of the original series. "The Ropers" focused on obnoxious landlords Stanley (Norman Fell) and Helen (Audra Lindley) moving out of their apartment to a more upscale community.

The major problem with "The Ropers" was that the title characters were not at all appealing. They were decent but not spectacular as supporting players on "Three's Company," but they were too unlikable to carry their own series. The series is an example of the risk in trying to force supporting characters into starring roles. Thankfully, their departure from "Three's Company" opened the door for Don Knotts to step in as the new landlord on that series, an immense upgrade over the Ropers.



Joanie Loves Chachi (1982-1983)

Honestly, what worst spin-offs list would be complete without "Joanie Loves Chachi?" It is the series that has become synonymous with abysmal failure. The show follows Chachi (Scott Baio) and Joanie (Erin Moran) on their journey from Milwaukee to Chicago where they have dreams of making it in the music industry.

Anyone who has had to sit through an episode of the show (even the opening credits sequence) knows quite well that they do not have the talent to make it. And the actors and writers didn't have the talent to make us care about this waste of time either. But hey, at least it provided critics with a punching bag that is still fun to knock around 25 years later.

The Tortellis (1987)

There may have been worse spin-offs than this, but not worse by much. What makes this series truly inexcusable is that it spawned from "Cheers," one of the greatest sitcoms of all time. Thankfully, "Frasier" helped eradicate some of the damage caused by this first attempt at a spin-off, but not all of it.

The central characters of "The Tortellis" were Nick (Dan Hedaya) and Loretta (Jean Kasem). Nick was Carla's (Rhea Perlman) ex-husband, and he and Loretta made several humorous appearances during the early seasons of "Cheers." Yet in larger doses the walking Italian American stereotype and his vapid blond wife proved unfunny, grating and offensive. The series was protested for its depiction of Italian Americans, but the real reason that it was pulled was because of just how awfully unfunny it was. Dan Hedaya, what in the world were you thinking?

Agree with the list? Which spin-offs do you hate the most? Comment below!

Story by Derek Krebs
Starpulse contributing writer


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