TV Spin-offs, Wikipedia, and other harbingers of wasted time

Watching reruns of The Sopranos Tivo-ed off of daytime A&E is a pretty silly affair. The curse words and sex (though NOT the violence) are ludicrously censored out. Gangsters poignantly call each other “blood suckers” (since they are in fact leeching off ordinary folk) and urge sudden and violent memory loss upon one another, with cries of “forget you!” (which implies that, like Tony, they subconsciously wrestle to repress bad memories.)

Sillier still is the *other* crap on daytime television, which one sometimes gets exposed to during this process. The other day I stumbled upon, for example, re-runs of the 80’s TV spin-off “In the Heat of the Night.” Can this really exist? According to Wikipedia, the show’s premise has the famous Mr. Tibbs re-visiting small town Mississippi where he is “persuaded to remain by the city government, which wanted to make its police department more diverse.” Come on, that’s hilarious! The film was an exploration of institutional racism…but the revamped TV show is a celebration of diversity!

So this got me wondering about other film-to-TV spin-offs and (not unexpectedly) I was able to find what looks like a pretty comprehensive list on Wikipedia.

Sometimes you’ll run across a show based on another show that itself was originally based on a film, like Trapper John M.D., but I say TV to TV spin-offs are a whole different universe.

Also as a rule I’m more interested in live action spin-offs than animated series’ simply because the later is way more common and, I think, easier to pull off. Live action spin-offs have a kind of quixotic element, as in who could believe that it’s possible to emulate a film’s success by re-casting the main roles and downgrading the budget?

Of course, M*A*S*H and The Odd Couple managed to pull this off…classic exceptions that prove the rule maybe? On the other hand, that Highlander show was pretty entertaining, while by no means classic. So you never know.

At any rate, some trivia highlights:

  • The 1990 Fall line up included an NBC Ferris Bueller spin-off (featuring Jennifer Aniston in the role of Jeanne) *as well as* a CBS Uncle Buck spin-off! Two John Hughes spin-offs in the same season. Pure madness.
  • The actress who replaced Alicia Silverstone in the role of Cher in the “Clueless” TV show also played Sally in “Flight of the Concords.”
  • Moon Unit Zappa provided “teenage consultation” for the shortlived TV spinoff of “Fast Times at Ridgemont High” (which had Kirk Cameron in place of Sean Penn). Evidently “Ms. Zappa was hired in order to research slang terms and mannerisms of teenagers, as she had just graduated from high school at the time and had a much better grasp of then-current high school behavior than the writers.”
  • Mr. Belvadere is actually a spin-off of a 1948 film, which itself spawned sequels. In fact, the show represents the last in a number of attempts to make a spin-off of said film(s).
  • Freddie’s Nightmare’s, a Nightmare on Elm Street spin-off, is described thusly: “Anthology series in the style of Tales from the Crypt. Freddie’s involvement was often limited to presenting the story.” I don’t know, I just like the succinct, matter-of-fact tone.

OK we all have more useful things to do!


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One Response to “TV Spin-offs, Wikipedia, and other harbingers of wasted time”

  1. Lisa Says:

    An even *more* interesting piece of information about Rachel Blanchard, the actress of Clueless/Flight of the Conchords fame: she was a featured member of the campfire crew in Nickelodeon’s “Are You Afraid of the Dark”!!

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