Quick Takes – TV Spin-Offs

Quick Takes - TV Spin-Offs

As hit shows “How I Met Your Mother” and “Breaking Bad” come to an end, television networks CBS and AMC have ordered pilot episodes for spin-offs for both series

Familiar themes and characters successfully draw audiences in

Television spinoffs are the epitome of hit-or-miss. Network executives face the question of whether their new show will be a novel crowd pleaser or if it will be a lame attempt at recreating the past. But spinoffs do more than greedily reap profits out of show concepts; reworked episodes move on with the themes and atmosphere fans come to love, rejuvenating them with new characters that will develop in their own way.

Preserving these shows is much more than instilling the character dynamic of Marshall Eriksen or Walter White into new bodies and faces. New characters can appeal to the same audience without being a complete reproduction of their parent personas. The show is able to live on by using the same world and struggles from before, evoking a sort of nostalgia in the fans.

One spinoff series that successfully moved on with themes and settings is Nickelodeon’s “The Legend of Korra.” Stemming off of the world developed in “Avatar: The Last Airbender,” this series develops brand-new characters — complete opposites from the original show. It’s the same world viewed from a different perspective, and that’s what made this series successful. “The Legend of Korra” averaged 3.7 million views for its first season, up from 3.2 million for “The Last Airbender,” prompting the Nickelodeon network to order three more seasons on top of the first one.

Efforts in developing these derivative series aren’t just so companies can wring out the remaining life out of an idea. It’s a combination of optimism and fan support that spurs the need to continue with themes that audiences will surely love.

— Derek Ung
Contributing Writer

Ill-fated and unpopular TV spin-offs show executives’ lack of creativity

Continuing every hit show past its prime is ultimately an unsustainable practice that bars new shows from finding new audiences. Series spinoffs tend to cling to old successes and milk them for all they are worth, coasting on viewer nostalgia to prolong characters and storylines until they’re no longer interesting or believable. However, network executives should look for what worked in past hits and translate these aspects into new shows.

Networks have become too hesitant to introduce new premises, and instead rely on worn-out characters from old, stale shows far past their peak. When the CW Network introduced “The Carrie Diaries” as a prequel for the “Sex and the City” franchise that ran for six seasons and two movies, even Sarah Jessica Parker — the series’ lead actress — was unimpressed and believed the series was odd.

A continuation of a show or character only occasionally finds its own voice and earns a loyal following. “Cheers” sequel “Frasier” matched the original show’s longevity with an 11-season run, while 1970s hit “Happy Days,” a spinoff itself from “Love, American Style,” spawned semi-popular spinoffs, “Mork & Mindy” and “Laverne & Shirley.” However, spinoffs that attempt to bask in former glory without offering anything new, end up wrung dry of profits, while audiences become jaded and grow to loathe the characters they once tuned in for.

Networks need to realize that a show does not warrant a spinoff solely on the basis of a successful run. After nine seasons of “How I Met Your Mother,” no one really wants to see “How I Met Your Father.” We’d like to see a story about somebody new.

— Allie Kiekhofer
Senior Staff Writer

Television networks utilize spin-offs as easy, low risk investments

Networks will always milk a cash cow. Once media moguls spot a show with unrealized moneymaking potential, a spinoff can mean the difference between cult obscurity and blockbuster franchise. Spinoffs to declining or ended shows serve as easy, low-risk ways to squeeze a bit more money from a once-popular series, or even catapult the series into the great wealth and fame of franchisedom.

Because spin-offs come with a built-in audience, the pre-existing fanbase saves on marketing and takes pressure off writers to develop new characters. Even if a spinoff fails, its large initial viewership makes commercial space an easy sell. Although “Joey,” the infamous spinoff of “Friends,” suffered cancellation after its second season with a low of 4.1 million viewers, it attracted 18.6 million viewers for its premiere season.

On the other hand, a successful franchise can churn out profits for generations, on and off TV. “Looney Tunes” still makes $1 billion annually off its merchandising empire built from its decades of retooled spinoffs. The original “Star Trek” ended after just three seasons. However, a total of five spinoffs spanning four decades made Star Trek the $4 billion franchise recognizable today, with its most recent films grossing $250 million each. “Law & Order” has spawned ten spinoffs and foreign adaptations; producers found a formula for profitable television and stuck with it.

Love them or hate them, spinoffs make business sense. They not only build off untapped hype from the parent show to keep the cash flowing, but also occasionally create franchise titans that rule the entertainment industry for decades to come.

— Thomas Finn
Contributing Writer

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