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March 09 2004

Why do only certain spin-offs succeed? Buffy and Angel mentions.

Why do some spin-offs succeed? I think the answer, generally speaking, is fairly simple and obvious, really. A spin-off has to be a show that deserves to exist in its own right, that is treated as its own show- Frasier, Laverne & Shirley, Angel - none of these are shows that are simply cookie-cutter imitations designed to milk the gimmick of or a popular character from the original. I.e, a good show's a good show, regardless of how or why it was created. Of course a good show isn't a guarantee of ratings success, ratings success isn't necessarily an indication of a good show, but all those lame and forgettable spin-offs are usually so lame and forgettable simply because they sucked.
Yeah and I'm not holding my breath for 'Joey' to succeed. The comparison with Frasier didn't quite work, since Frasier never degenerated on Cheers like Joey has on Friends.

On the whole I'd say Friends ran out of steam a couple of seasons ago. Main reason being that there's no change. No real growth. We're still in the coffeeshop, still mostly the same apartments, Ross is still a nerd and they laugh at his scientific knowledge. Phoebe is still a flake and they ran out of funny flakey stuff (boyfriend not doing much to add here). Monica is still a neurotic control freak, etc. etc.

Compare that to Buffy or Angel, how characters grow, how their settings changed, the themes. I know, not a fair comparison since Friends is a sitcom. But still. Cheers was tired too at the end, but I don't think the characters became such weak imitations of themselves as the Friends characters.

It's almost like at first the show was modelled after late-20's people trying to make a life in NY, and by now the show is modelled after itself. They don't look at life anymore, they look at earlier Friends seasons and try and imitate it. The characters have become cyphers. Joey especially. By now he's practically a Kelly Bundy, he's so stupid. Makes you wonder if he may be 'special'.

(Really, could he have done the 'faux-french' so it was even slightly believable that he himself really believed he said it right?? "Je m'apelle Claude." - "Bloo blah blee bloo!" WTF??)

So if they really keep Joey the same as this article suggests, count me out.

As for spin-offs I've been so curious what 'Faith' would've been like if Eliza had said yes and it'd gotten off the ground. She on a bike cruising America. (Maybe looking for new Slayers on Buffy and Giles' orders?) Spike as her ghostly Wood. (Liked him and their scenes, but NO 'ship' please) I wonder if Spike would've gotten solid there too....ah perhaps we may yet find out. Still no official word on Tru, and let's face it, the show's sinking fast.
I think that kind of downfall happens to a lot a shows towards the end. That they just become too silly, too hollow. Even shows that were always meant to be silly, that were never meant to be these serious deep shows...for example, 'Married with Children.' Compare its later seasons to its earlier seasons. Its later seasons are almost unbearable, at least to me, but look at the earlier seasons and I've found there's a surprising amount of down-to-earthness that anchors the show.

I think that did happen, to some extent anyway, to Cheers in its later years as well. Still a decent show at the end, but, I think, a little more shallow.
Oh absolutely, it happened to Cheers too. Just not as strongly as Friends now I think. And I agree about Married with Children. Another show that became a hollow, pale imitation of itself. The further they got, the further removed from reality it got.

The first seasons are definitely the best, for it was still recognisable. Plus, even though it was considered a 'guy' show, it satirized everyone equally. Parents and kids, men and women, blue and white collar, etc. Steve and Al could team up being guys vs the women, as could Peggy and Marcy. Or Al and Peggy siding together as being the 'poor' couple. This kind of eternal 'us and them' in all it's shapes was well mocked, I thought. The end started when Steve left.

And Kelly was actually a girl then. As opposed to some collection of woman parts in sexy outfits that could barely spell her name.

I do think Joss' shows have long breath because of the growth and change. The forward motion instead of repeating the formula too much. Unless you get cancelled of course....sigh. What a world, what a world.
Also a couple of other things they forgot to point out which I think should be mentioned. First they shows that succeed in Spin-offs are all as smartly if not better written and the characters are who the creators choose to spin-off not one the networks did. Secondly, an interesting point I never thought of before out-side of snydication how many hour long shows have had sucessful spin-offs, I'm not refering to franchising - I'm talking spin-off. Angel seems to be the only hour long drama based spin-off in at least a decade if not more in primetime. The only other one I can think of is Knots Landing, but in that show they took a bit player from Dallas and threw him in with a new ensemble. With Angel it was a popular character being the star of his own show and I cannot ever remember that happening and being sucessful expecially in the drama areana.
I too have my doubts about how well "Joey" will do. I used to love Friends and am just watching it now because it's the last season. But I've actually had the last two episodes on tape and am having a hard time bringing myself to watch them just because I find the cast so uninteresting. EdDantes, you said it great. They just haven't grown as characters. Joey's gotten stupider, Monica's gotten more neurotic, Ross more nerdy, Rachel more slutty, etc.

I really liked Cheers but agree, it got old near the end. But, again, they took a great character and gave him a totally different show than what Cheers was. He was still Frasier but he was now in his element.

I have my doubts that Joey will be successful. They've done so much making him stupid and just the guy for laughs I don't see how he is now going to be leading man material. You'd think they would've had him show some growth this season to put him in the position to be the sole star of a sitcom. Oh well, we'll have to wait and see if it's any good.

On both Buffy and Angel, the characters change as life happens to them, and that's reality. That's what happens to everyone of us as we go through our lives.

Angel is a hit spinoff because they took a great, strong character and a couple of other key characters from Buffy and put them in a totally different setting. The two supporting characters experienced a great amount of growth themselves and then the added characters were just as interesting. Angel was a bold move by Joss Whedon. Most producers would never yank an extremely popular character from a show and put them on their own. Can you imagine Happy Days yanking the Fonze after the first season and giving him his own show? But Joss had a plan and a great story arc for Angel.

I know a Faith spin-off would've been great. She's a great character and they really could've delved into what made Faith a much darker person than Buffy. It would've been a totally different show with it's own feel. I'm not wishing Eliza Dushku to fail on Tru Calling, but if Tru isn't renewed I hope there is still interest in a Faith spin-off. I don't know if I liked the idea of her riding around on a bike but then again I thought a show about cowboys in space didn't sound promising either.

[ edited by RTADoyle on 2007-10-27 11:32 ]
Yeah, we recently gave Curb Your Enthusiasm a try. A friend recommended it. Nothing technically wrong with it, but kind of a snore. Very Seinfeldian, obviously. But I kind of preferred the venue of Seinfeld, I guess. CYE is sort of just 'steady cam so it looks like real life' stuff which rarely interests me. And never works for comedy.
It seems as though on Friends that Ross acts exactly like a Drunken woman. It is amazing how the masses still eat up that show... I admit I've started watching it again just because its the last season, but honestly thats basically all thats keeping me there. It's amazing how similarly people on this site feel about things! haha
"The end started when Steve left."
Totally. I was recently thinking the same thing.

Friends...I haven't watched the new ones in a while. I still watch a lot of the reruns in syndication. I did give a newer episode a chance recently...and yeah, didn't really like it as much. I just plan to watch the finale.
blwessels: "I hope there is still interest in a Faith spin-off. I don't know if I liked the idea of her riding around on a bike but then again I thought a show about cowboys in space didn't sound promising either. "

Very good point. The problem for me when I heard the Faith pitch was that it reminded me of Renegade, which I don't think would be a good association for a new Joss show. But yeah Firefly trailers didn't look that great. But having watched the DVD set I gotta say, yowzah. That was some really good stuff!

But that's the problem with Joss' work. It's hard to easily sell since it's so hard to label.

"Not our fault our fave show requires intellect to watch, instead of knowing within 5 minutes that Joey's the dumb one, chandler's the wise ass, ross is the nerd, anniston is the snobby one, phoebe's the dumb one with estrogen, and monica's the OCD. "

Worse than that. They watch that show while having known all that for years and years....just to see it confirmed again every week! ;-)

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