Sunday, March 27, 2016

SitcomsOnline Book Club Review - Spinning Laughter: Profiles of 111 Proposed Comedy Spin-offs and Sequels That Never Became a Series

Happy Easter to everyone from all of us at SitcomsOnline.com! Our regular weekly TV Ratings and Analysis will return next week. Today we bring you a special edition of our SitcomsOnline Book Club.

Spinning Laughter: Profiles of 111 Proposed Comedy Spin-offs and Sequels That Never Became a Series

SitcomsOnline Book Club Review - Spinning Laughter: Profiles of 111 Proposed Comedy Spin-offs and Sequels That Never Became a Series

by Todd

The Andy Griffith Show begat Gomer Pyle: U.S.M.C. The Mary Tyler Moore Show spun-off Rhoda and Phyllis. An episode of All in the Family became Maude and another episode became The Jeffersons. You remember the successful spin-offs, but you may now know about the spin-offs that never were.

Why did the characters of Fred and Ethel Mertz from I Love Lucy never star in their own spin-off? What animated spin-off pilot could be considered a forerunner of The Simpsons? Which situation comedy has had the greatest number of attempted spin-offs? Why did the idea of a Krusty the Krown spin-off from The Simpsons never become a series? What could have been the first gay family comedy? What was the live-action Monsignor Martinez pilot from King of the Hill series all about?

Discover rare summaries of treatments, scripts, and pilots along with comments from fifty writers, directors, producers, and actors involved with proposed spin-offs and sequels; actress Elinor Donahue remarks about the Father Knows Best reunion movies; actor Patrick Cassidy talks about his audition for The Nanny spin-off; former actress Sheila James describes why her character, Zelda from The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis, never got her own series; Eddie Mekka from Laverne & Shirley comments on the Lenny & Squiggy in the Army spin-off.

Author Richard Irvin is back with his latest book with a sitcom theme. His previous books have included Sitcom Bombs: A Guide to the Most Forgettable TV Comedies, Forgotten Laughs: An Episode Guide to 150 TV Sitcoms You Probably Never Saw and George Burns Television Productions: The Series and Pilots, 1950-1981. This time he focuses on proposed sitcom spin-offs which never became a series.

The book begins with an introduction where he describes the three types of television series spin-offs: the "character-spin-off", the "planted spin-off" and the "back-door pilot". He also talks about crossovers, which are not the same as spin-offs. Crossover examples included The Beverly Hillbillies, Petticoat Junction and Green Acres. A spin-offs and imitations section describes efforts to make a female version of M*A*S*H. Front-door pilots and anthology series examples include the "Love and the Happy Days" segment on Love, American Style, which was the pilot for Happy Days.

Each of the 111 proposed sitcom spin-offs receives an individual section. The book is divided into six parts by decades. It covers potential spin-offs from the mid-1950s and continuing through 2013. Each proposed spin-off includes a background section which provides general information, such as the episode title and original airdate. A complete summary of the storyline is provided for the episodes which actually aired. A concept section is included for proposed spin-offs which never made it to air. A postscript section includes comments from select actors and crew members on why it was not picked up to be a series or never aired in some cases. Some brief where are they now updates are provided for some of the people involved.

Dwayne Hickman's Chuck McDonald character from The Bob Cummings Show was the first proposed spin-off of a regular supporting character from one series to another. The Mertzes would have featured Vivian Vance and William Frawley, but they never had a good working relationship. The first attempted comedy sequel was My Wife Irma, which was a potential sequel to My Friend Irma. The Plumber and His Daughters was the first proposed spin-off (from The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show) of an occasional character appearing on a sitcom. The first back-door pilot to air was Teenage Idol from Mr. Adams and Eve.

While many people think The Andy Griffith Show was the first sitcom spin-off in 1960, there was actually another series which spun-off from December Bride which premiered a few weeks earlier. Proposed spin-offs in the 1960s included three pilots each for possible spin-off series from The Donna Reed Show and Mister Ed. Some stars for proposed spin-offs included Miyoshi Umeki, Jack Carter, Pat Buttram and Ann B. Davis. Back-door pilots included episodes of The Ann Sothern Show, McKeever and the Colonel, The Danny Thomas Show and The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis.

The 1970s saw a number of successful spin-off series which featured characters from hit series. These spin-offs included Rhoda, Phyllis, Lou Grant, The Jeffersons, Maude, Good Times, The Facts of Life, Laverne & Shirley and Mork & Mindy. Proposed spin-offs and back-door pilots included episodes of My Three Sons, Green Acres, The Love Boat, Chico and the Man, Welcome Back, Kotter, The Brady Bunch, Laverne & Shirley, Here's Lucy, Green Acres, Happy Days, On the Rocks, The Courtship of Eddie's Father, Barney Miller and The Doris Day Show.

Gilligan's Island was attempted to be revived with The Castaways on Gilligan's Island TV movie in 1979. While The Mary Tyler Moore Show had some successful spin-offs, there was a back-door pilot with Bill Daily that never made it to series. A Father Knows Best Reunion aired in 1977. It led to a second Christmas reunion movie later that year, but a series never materialized. George Lindsey's Goober Pyle character from The Andy Griffith Show was in a proposed spin-off called Goober and the Truckers' Paradise. A proposed sequel to My Little Margie never made it beyond the treatment stage. A pilot for a sequel to Dobie Gillis aired in 1977, but it never made it to series.

NBC had only Diff'rent Strokes and The Facts of Life on its fall 1980 schedule, so their demand for more comedies led to many spin-off attempts. Of the 37 proposed spin-offs in the 1980s section, almost one-third came directly or indirectly from Norman Lear's company. The Facts of Life had five spin-off attempts, the most of any sitcom in history. One Day at a Time, Diff'rent Strokes and The Jeffersons each had one proposed spin-off. Family Ties twice attempted to spin-off Nick Moore's (Scott Valentine) character.

Other proposed spin-offs and back-door pilots in the 1980s included episodes of Webster, Gimme a Break! (three episodes), Who's the Boss? (two episodes), My Two Dads, Laverne & Shirley, Too Close for Comfort, Punky Brewster, 227 (two episodes), Kate & Allie, She's the Sheriff, Hooperman and The Cosby Show. CBS attempted to revive The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis again with the 1988 TV movie Bring Me the Head of Dobie Gillis. Animated spin-off attempts were made for Carlton Your Doorman (from Rhoda) and The Coneheads (from Saturday Night Live). The Munsters was attempted to be revived with The Musters' Revenge 1981 TV movie. A sequel to The Ropers was considered. M*A*S*H had a spin-off attempt with Gary Burghoff's Walter "Radar" O'Relly character from M*A*S*H in a pilot called W*A*L*T*E*R.

New broadcast networks and cable channels in the 1990s meant more opportunities for spin-off attempts. Charles in Charge had three proposed spin-offs in which a character from the series would play a lookalike but different relative in the proposed spin-off. They tried this with Ellen Travolta, Willie Aames and Nicole Eggert. A sequel to Clarissa Explains It All called Clarissa Now was filmed, but it wasn't picked up as a series. Phil Morris would have starred as his Jackie Chiles character from Seinfeld in the proposed The Jackie Chiles Show. A live-action Krusty the Clown (from The Simpsons) series was considered. A script for an Empty Nest spin-off was written but never shot. A spin-off of Roseanne featuring two married men taking care of a daughter was proposed but never shot. Other proposed spin-offs and back-door pilots included episodes of The Nanny, Malcolm & Eddie, Married with Children (two episodes), Martin, Evening Shade and All-American Girl.

Cable channels Nickelodeon and the Disney Channel were the major sources of spin-offs beginning in the 2000s. Proposed spin-offs were considered for The Suite Life of Zack and Cody and iCarly. Nickelodeon aired an animated spin-off of The Rugrats called The Carmichaels. NBC attempted a spin-off with Dwight Schrute (Rainn Wilson) in an episode of The Office. That's So Raven had a spin-off pilot called Goin' Hollwood. Mary Tyler Moore and Valerie Harper appeared in the Mary and Rhoda TV reunion movie in 2000, but ABC didn't move forward with a series. A live-action spin-off from King of the Hill called Monsignor Martinez was shot but never aired. Spin-offs for Daria and Hey Arnold! were proposed but never made. A Sabrina, the Teenage Witch spin-off aired as an episode, but it never became a series.

Of the 111 proposed spin-offs profiled in the book, I would have most wanted to see The Facts of Life spin-off with Lisa Whelchel. While she may not have starred as Blair Warner for as long as Kelsey Grammer played Frasier Crane in Cheers and Frasier, I think the show could have had a decent run in the late 1980s and early 1990s. The series would have featured a pre-Blossom Mayim Bialik, Seth Green and Juliette Lewis. It had all of the ingredients to be a hit.

The book is a good read at 218 pages. It includes a convenient Appendix, Endnotes and Index section. There are also 20 black and white publicity photos sprinkled throughout the pages.

I was thoroughly impressed with the book. It's well-researched, organized and contains all the information you could possibly want to know about these proposed spin-offs and sequels that never became a series. I think it's sometimes more interesting to read about the failed spin-offs rather than the successful hits. I found the comments from the fifty cast and crew members to be especially interesting and insightful. The behind-the scenes details and trivia nuggets are fascinating to read. The only thing that I would have liked to see done differently is to present the profiles in chronological order in the chapters rather than alphabetical order when they were already organized by decade, but that's a minor issue.

Overall, I highly recommend this book to all sitcom fans for their TV reference library. While there have been other books about spin-offs and revival series, this is the most comprehensive and up-to-date. The book was clearly a labor of love for Mr. Irvin who watched all of the available pilots and provided detailed summaries for them.

(5/5 stars)

To purchase this book, click below and help support SitcomsOnline.com:

Amazon.com

Check out Richard Irvin's other books:

Sitcom Bombs: A Guide to the Most Forgettable TV Comedies / Review

Forgotten Laughs: An Episode Guide to 150 TV Sitcoms You Probably Never Saw

George Burns Television Productions: The Series and Pilots, 1950-1981 / Review


New on DVD/Blu-ray (March/April)

The Jamie Foxx Show - The Complete Second Season What I Like About You - The Complete Second Season Newhart - The Final (Eighth) Season Diff'rent Strokes - The Complete Fifth Season Father Knows Best - Season Five

03/03 - The Dick Van Dyke Show - Now... In Living Color! (Blu-ray)
03/07 - The Jamie Foxx Show - The Complete Second Season
03/07 - Mama's Family - Mama's Favorites
03/07 - That '70s Show - The Complete Series - Flashback Edition (Blu-ray)
03/07 - What I Like About You - The Complete Second Season
03/07 - You Me Her - Season One
03/14 - Newhart - The Final (Eighth) Season
03/14 - Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt - Season Two
03/21 - Master of None - Season One
04/04 - Diff'rent Strokes - The Complete Fifth Season
04/11 - Father Knows Best - Season Five
04/11 - Schitt's Creek - The Complete Third Season
04/11 - Silicon Valley - The Complete Third Season (Blu-ray)
04/11 - Veep - The Complete Fifth Season
More TV DVD Releases / DVD Reviews Archive / SitcomsOnline Digest


Sitcoms Airing Tonight

Tuesday, April 25

The Middle - "Trip and Fall" (ABC, 8:00PM ET/PT) (Repeat)
Trashy neighbor Rita Glossner (Brooke Shields) talks an apprehensive Frankie into taking a road trip to an unknown destination; Mike takes an embarrassing fall at the quarry and has to deal with even more embarrassment when OSHA is called in to investigate; and Sue attempts to convince Axl to end his estrangement with the family after learning their true feelings about April.

American Housewife - "The Otto Motto" (ABC, 8:30PM ET/PT) (Repeat)
When Taylor keeps quitting school activities, Greg says that Katie, quite the quitter herself, sets a poor example. He challenges her to finally learn French after quitting lessons so long ago, so she reluctantly enrolls in a college class.

Speechless - "S-I-- SICK D-A-- DAY" (ABC, 9:30PM ET/PT) (Repeat)
When Maya gets sick, Jimmy is forced to be the mom of the house, and Dylan becomes Kenneth’s replacement for JJ when Kenneth also gets sick. Jimmy ends up doing well with Maya’s normal duties, but he tries to keep it from her to avoid her feeling bad. Meanwhile, JJ protects Dylan from a boy she’s interested in. And despite its illness, the family bands together and pulls an all-nighter to finish Ray’s school project.

Imaginary Mary - "In a World Where Worlds Collide" (ABC, 9:30PM ET/PT)
Alice freaks out when her friends want to meet Ben. But when an outing with everyone goes surprisingly well, Alice wants to meet Ben’s friends. However, Ben is hesitant but devises a plan that will impress Alice; but later, he makes a surprising admission.

Brooklyn Nine-Nine - "The Last Ride" (Fox, 8:00PM ET/PT)
In what could be their last case as partners, Jake and Charles go to great extremes to apprehend a local bike thief. Terry shockingly isn’t in the lead for “Mr. Nine-Nine” (the detective who has solved the most cases), leaving Rosa determined to boost his ego. Meanwhile, Amy spends some precious time with Holt.

The Mick - "The Implant" (Fox, 8:30PM ET/PT)
Sabrina tells Mickey she wants to augment her figure, so Mickey decides the best way to dissuade her from doing so is to do a test-run in public. Meanwhile, Jimmy takes Chip and Ben to a baseball game to teach them how to be more masculine.

Great News - "Pilot" (NBC, 9:00PM ET/PT)
Katie (Briga Heelan), a frustrated cable news producer, is horrified when her mom, Carol (Andrea Martin), gets an internship at "The Breakdown." Despite Katie's best efforts, Carol is instantly beloved by the entire office, including blowhard veteran anchor Chuck (John Michael Higgins). But when Katie hits a roadblock while producing a big story, she realizes that maybe having a mom at work isn't such a bad thing.

Great News - "Bear Attack" (NBC, 9:30PM ET/PT)
Katie (Briga Heelan) tries to set workplace boundaries with Carol (Andrea Martin), but when a big story about an escaped bear lands in her lap, her mom can't help but meddle. Meanwhile, Greg (Adam Campbell) tries to get Chuck (John Michael Higgins) and Portia (Nicole Richie) to do a little friendly banter at the end of the show.

The Detour - "The Mule" (TBS, 10:00PM ET/PT)
Robin and Nate live out their action movie fantasies as they make their way to the kids, who are actually doing fine without them.

The Detour - "The Ass" (TBS, 10:30PM ET/PT)
The family reunites, but this time Robin makes a huge mistake.

Complete TV Listings


Sitcom Stars on Talk Shows (Week of April 24)

Tuesday, April 25

  • Amanda Peet (Brockmire/Togetherness/Bent) - Catch Amanda on a repeat of Jimmy Kimmel Live! at 11:35pm on ABC. She also appears on The Late Late Show with James Corden at 12:37am on CBS.
  • Patton Oswalt (The Goldbergs/The King of Queens) - Patton stops by The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon at 11:34pm on NBC.
  • Kal Penn (We Are Men/How I Met Your Mother) - Kal is a guest on The Late Late Show with James Corden at 12:37am on CBS.
  • Sanaa Lathan (Family Guy/The Cleveland Show/LateLine) - Sanaa stops by Last Call with Carson Daly at 1:35am on NBC.
  • Reid Scott (Veep/My Boys) - Reid visits Last Call with Carson Daly at 1:35am on NBC.
  • Arden Myrin (Working) - Arden appears on @midnight on Comedy Central at midnight.
  • Hank Azaria (Brockmire/The Simpsons/Free Agents) - Hank is a guest on Conan at 11pm on TBS.
  • Andrea Martin (Difficult People/Working the Engels) - Andrea visits Watch What Happens: Live at 11pm on Bravo.
  • John Leguizamo (The Brothers Garcia) - John guest co-hosts LIVE! with Kelly, so check your listings.
  • Patti LaBelle (Out All Night) - Patti will be on ABC's Good Morning America sometime between 7-9am.
  • Andrea Martin (Great News/Difficult People/Working the Engels) - Andrea talks about Good News on NBC's Today sometime between 7-9am and in the 10am hour.
  • Alfonso Ribeiro (The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air/In the House/Silver Spoons) - Alfonso will be on NBC's Today in the 9am hour.
  • Jason Jones (The Detour) - Jason talks about The Detour on NBC's Today in the 9am hour.
  • Ross Lynch (Austin & Ally) - Ross opens up about his new movie My Friend Dahmer on People Now at 8:30am.
  • Tim Daly (Wings) - Tim is a guest on the AOL Build Show at 11am.
  • Peter Engel (Producer of Saved by the Bell/California Dreams/Hang Time) - Peter dishes about his new memoir I Was Saved by the Bell on the The Wendy Williams Show at 2am on BET or on your local stations.
  • Sherri Shepherd (Trial & Error/Less Than Perfect/Sherri) - Sherri is a guest on The Real, so check your local listings.
  • Danny DeVito (It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia/Taxi) - Danny appears on Access Hollywood Live, so check your local listings.