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


Sitcoms Airing Tonight

Wednesday, October 28

The Goldbergs - "It's All About Comptrol" (ABC, 8:00PM ET/PT)
Geoff and Erica come to a point in the relationship where they realize they are in different places in college; and Geoff makes an important decision while Beverly tries to find a new purpose in her life as she seeks political office as the city comptroller.

American Housewife - "Graudation" (ABC, 8:30PM ET/PT)
Katie goes to great lengths to appease Principal Ablin (Jerry Lambert) in order to ensure Taylor graduates high school. Meanwhile, Greg finishes ghost writing the final chapter of Lonnie’s (Matt Shively) book. And while Oliver is devastated to learn Cooper’s (Logan Pepper) family will be moving out of Westport, Anna-Kat tells Franklin (Evan O’Toole) she is ready to venture outside her comfort zone and plans to attend sleep-away camp during summer break.

The Conners - "Halloween and The Election vs. The Pandemic" (ABC, 9:00PM ET/PT)
Mary is devasted that Halloween has been canceled by the city, so Darlene and Becky enlist Jackie and the rest of the family to create an unforgettable experience. Meanwhile, Mark goes toe-to-toe with another kid at school who doesn’t believe in wearing a mask on “The Conners.” Michael Fishman, who stars as D.J. Conner, makes his directorial debut.

black-ish - "Dre at Home Order" (ABC, 9:30PM ET/PT)
Dre underestimates how hard of an adjustment operating during a pandemic will be for the Johnsons. Meanwhile, Junior’s attempts to bring his girlfriend closer to the family are stymied by the new realities of social distancing.

Tyler Perry's House of Payne - "Been a Long Time" (BET, 8:00PM ET/PT)
House of Payne is the hilarious comedy about Retired fire chief Curtis Payne and his lovely wife Ella. Together the loving couple navigate the problems of life with their quirky modern day family.

Tyler Perry's Assisted Living - "A Huge Debt" (BET, 8:30PM ET/PT)
Leah tries tracking Sandra's cell phone when she comes up missing.

Family Time - "Notorious D-O-G" (Bounce TV, 8:00PM ET/PT)
Lisa brings home a stray, despite Tony's aversion to dogs; Lisa's and Vivian's Soul Sisters Catering secure their biggest gig yet.

Complete TV Listings


Sitcom Stars on Talk Shows (Week of October 26)

Wednesday, October 28

  • Gillian Jacobs (Community/Love) - Watch Gillian on Jimmy Kimmel Live! at 11:35pm on ABC.
  • Ken Jeong (Community/Dr. Ken) - Ken appears on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon at 11:35pm on NBC.
  • Bette Midler (Bette) - Bette is a guest on Late Night with Seth Meyers at 12:36am on NBC. She also talks about New York Restoration Project’s Hocus Pocus Hulaween on NBC's Today sometime between 7-9am.
  • Chelsea Handler (Are You There, Chelsea?) - Chelsea will be on The Late Late Show with James Corden at 12:37am on CBS. She chats with the ladies of The View on ABC at 11am ET/10am CT-PT.
  • Anna Faris (Mom) - Anna appears on a repeat of A Little Late with Lilly Singh at 1:35am on NBC.
  • Natasha Lyonne (Russian Doll) - Natasha is a guest on Conan at 11pm on TBS.
  • D. L. Hughley (The Hughleys) - D. L. appears on The Talk on CBS at 2pm ET/1pm CT-PT.
  • Rickey Smiley (The Rickey Smiley Show) - Rickey will be on The Talk on CBS at 2pm ET/1pm CT-PT.
  • Thomas Middleditch (B Positive/Silicon Valley) - Thomas is a guest on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, so check your local listings.
  • Mario Cantone (Sex and the City) - Mario appears on The Wendy Williams Show, so check your local listings.
  • Emma Roberts (Scream Queens/Unfabulous) - Emma will be on The Kelly Clarkson Show, so check your local listings.
  • Phil Rosenthal (Creator of Everybody Loves Raymond) - Phil is a guest on The Kelly Clarkson Show, so check your loca listings.
  • Michael Fishman (The Conners/Roseanne) - Michael talks about the season premiere of The Conners, directing his first episode and why he has become a mental health advocate on Tamron Hall, so check your local listings.
  • China Anne McClain (Tyler Perry's House of Payne/A.N.T. Farm) - China will be on Tamron Hall, so check your local listings.
  • Ilana Glazer (Broad City) - Ilana is a guest on ABC's GMA3: What You Need to Know at 1pm.
  • Jameela Jamil (The Good Place) - Jameela talks about TBS's The Misery Index on Access Daily, so check your local listings.
  • Mindy Kaling (The Mindy Project/The Office) - Mindy will be on NBC's Today in the 10am hour.


New on DVD/Blu-ray (July/August/September/October)

Will & Grace - The Revival -Season Three - The Farewell Season Young Sheldon - The Complete Third Season Mom - The Complete Seventh Season The Flintstones - The Complete Series (Blu-ray) Head of the Class - The Complete Second Season

07/07 - Will & Grace - The Revival - Season Three - The Farewell Season
07/21 - Curb Your Enthusiasm - The Complete Tenth Season
07/21 - The Thundermans - Season 1 / Season 2 / Season 3 / Season 4
07/21 - The Unicorn - Season One
07/28 - The Thundermans - Season 1-4 Bundle
08/04 - Last Man Standing - The Complete Eighth Season
08/04 - The Neighborhood - Season One
08/11 - Awkwafina Is Nora from Queens - Season 1
08/11 - Final Space - The First and Second Seasons (Blu-ray)
09/01 - It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia - Season 14
09/01 - What We Do in the Shadows - The Complete Second Season
09/01 - Young Sheldon - The Complete Third Season (Blu-ray)
09/15 - Mom - The Complete Seventh Season
09/15 - South Side - Season 1
09/22 - Brockmire - The Complete Second Season
09/22 - Brockmire - The Complete Third Season
09/22 - Brockmire - The Complete Fourth Season
09/22 - Man with a Plan - Season Three
09/29 - The Bob Newhart Show - The Complete Series (2020 Release)
10/13 - The Jetsons - The Complete Series (Diamond Collection)
10/13 - Our Cartoon President - Season Two
10/27 - The Flintstones - The Complete Series (Blu-ray)
10/27 - Head of the Class - The Complete Second Season (WBShop.com)
More TV DVD Releases / DVD Reviews Archive / SitcomsOnline Digest


Recent SitcomsOnline.com News Blog Posts

10/28 - COZI TV Halloween Marathons of The Munsters & Roseanne; Apple TV+ Orders Another Comedy, This Time with Rose Byrne and Seth Rogen
10/27 - Freeform's The Clock Is Ticking Special with Yara Shahidi; Chilling Adventures of Sabrina Ends on New Year's Eve
10/26 - TBS Orders 3rd Season of Miracle Workers; SNL Extended to 6 New Episodes in a Row - A Record!
10/25 - Sitcom Stars on Talk Shows; This Week in Sitcoms (Week of October 26, 2020)
10/24 - SitcomsOnline Digest: Another Addams Family Reboot in the Works?; Quibi Says Goodbye After Six Months
10/23 - Fri-Yay: Archer Goes Back to Its Roots for Season 11; Everybody Loves Raymond Cast Reunion Tonight
10/22 - CBS Announces More Fall Premieres; REELZ Books Jennifer Aniston Special
10/21 - MeTV Network Acquires Looney Tunes and More Classic Cartoons; Kaley Cuoco HBO Max Series Announces Nov. 26 Premiere
10/20 - Antenna TV Officially Announces Returns of The Jeffersons and One Day at a Time; Holiday Movie Reunites Family Matters Siblings
10/19 - Disney+ Says "Simpsons Forever"; TBS Orders 4th Season of The Last O.G.
10/18 - Sitcom Stars on Talk Shows; This Week in Sitcoms (Week of October 19, 2020)
10/17 - SitcomsOnline Digest: Fried Green Tomatoes Series Starring Reba McEntire in the Works at NBC; Last Man Standing to End After Nine Seasons
10/16 - Fri-Yay: COVID-19 Storylines on TV, Will Viewers Watch?; Antenna TV's 70 Episode Jack Benny Marathon for 70th Anniversary
10/15 - Last Man Standing to Conclude After Season 9 in 2021; CBS Announces Fall 2020 Premiere Dates
10/14 - TBS Brings Out Halloween Sitcom Episodes on Halloween; Remembering Conchata Ferrell of Two and a Half Men
10/13 - Freeform's 'Kickoff to Christmas' Schedule; Celebrate 20 Years of Curb on HBO Max
10/12 - TNT Airing The West Wing Reruns on Fridays; Kate Mulgrew Joins Star Trek Animated Comedy
10/11 - Sitcom Stars on Talk Shows; This Week in Sitcoms (Week of October 12, 2020)
10/10 - SitcomsOnline Digest: Seinfeld's Newman Returns in PSA to Encourage Mail-In Voting; Showtime Cancels On Becoming a God in Central Florida
10/09 - Fri-Yay: One Day at a Time Makes Broadcast Debut As a Continuation of the Series' Unlikely Journey; Dickinson Season 2 Premiere Date and Renewal for Season 3
10/08 - Hallmark Drama Adding Cheers, Happy Days and The Brady Bunch; Chelsea Handler HBO Max Special Gets Date
10/07 - NBC Fall Pilot Review: Connecting... - Premieres Thursday (Oct. 8); Supernatural Gets Marathons on TNT as Series Finale Airs Nov. 19 on The CW
10/06 - Cobra Kai Season 3 Premiere Date, 4th Season Renewal; Busy Philipps Joins Peacock Comedy Girls5eva
10/05 - Apple TV+ Launches The Snoopy Show in 2021; Antenna TV Celebrates 70th Anniversary of The Burns and Allen Show
10/04 - Sitcom Stars on Talk Shows; This Week in Sitcoms (Week of October 5, 2020)
10/03 - SitcomsOnline Digest: Saved by the Bell Reboot Debut Date Set; South Park Pandemic Special a Ratings Hit
10/02 - Fri-Yay: The Return of Sitcoms: black-ish & Superstore; Bounce Acquires Everybody Hates Chris & Greenleaf
10/01 - NBC's Young Rock Announces Cast; OWN Gets Digital Comedy
09/30 - Saved by the Bell Reboot Launching November 25; HBO Orders Weekly Talk Show with Sam Jay
09/29 - The Addams Family Coming to FETV; Netflix Developing Korean Sitcom
09/28 - 2002-2007 Sitcom George Lopez Coming to TBS; Guests Announced for black-ish Election Special