You can’t throw a monkey at a semi-truck these days without coming up with a spin-off to a popular TV show. In fact, a monkey and a semi actually led to The Misadventures of Sheriff Lobo, which was a spin-off of BJ and The Bear. Sure, there are popular shows like CSI: New York that were proven hits after coming from other successful programs. The list of failed spin-offs, however, is even longer. Below are five flops you might not even remember, which is likely why they failed in the first place.
5. Time of Your Life (1999). The TV show Party of Five made celebrities out of every one of its stars, including Jennifer Love Hewitt. This spin-off from that popular series seemed like a surefire hit, as it was heavily promoted to the same people who watched Five and kept the same general tone. Unfortunately, it was a failure before it even aired, and had to have the pilot episode re-written and mostly re-shot. It didn’t matter, because no one really liked the show, anyway, despite Hewitt reprising her role from Party of Five, along with soon-to-be-hugely-famous Jennifer Garner along for the ride. Fox even tried to gain extra attention by giving the show a second chance in the middle of summer, but no one was watching. Life lasted less than twenty episodes, and Hewitt went on to better things, like apparently being impossible to date.
4. Law & Order: Trial By Jury (2005). By the mid 2000s, it seemed that show creator Dick Wolf could do no wrong. He already had three massively successful Law & Order shows on NBC, a sweet syndication deal, and a public that seemed in love with the idea of another L&O spin-off. Not so fast. This series, which focused on prosecuting and defense attorneys preparing their cases for criminal court, only lasted 13 episodes and was quickly removed from the NBC schedule. It never really found its audience, was put on the “Friday Death Slot” when hardly anyone really watches TV, and lost beloved Law & Order veteran Jerry Orbach, who died at the beginning of the show’s production. The loss of Orbach quite possibly added to its lack of popularity, despite the fact that Cheers and Frasier alum Bebe Neuwirth was the leading lady. By 2010, Trial By Jury was the only scripted Law & Order show canceled at all.
3. The Lone Gunmen (2001). Fans of the sci-fi series The X-Files are rabid, and their support saved that show from cancellation more than once. Too bad they didn’t have the same loyalty toward this spin-off, which followed three dorky conspiracy theorists who investigate weird shenanigans. The three leads were beloved as recurring characters on Files, but never found many viewers for their own show. Critics loved it, but no one seemed to be watching, perhaps due to the lighter, comedic tone that was a departure from the original show. Unlike its predecessor, which was given several years to really find its audience, The Lone Gunman was canceled after only 13 episodes, with a cliffhanger finale that had to be wrapped up back on The X-Files later that year. No word yet on whether or not the Gunmen will appear on Californication.
2. Booker (1989). In 1989, there were Johnny Depp fans and there were Richard Grieco fans. Due to the massive popularity of 21 Jumpstreet, Depp became a huge heartthrob as the 90s quickly approached. The then-fledgling Fox network brought Grieco to Jumpstreet in 1988 to add another handsome star to the popular cop show. The plan worked and Grieco became an instant sensation. So popular, in fact, that his star seemed about to outshine Depp’s, and a spin-off for Grieco’s character was ordered for the following year. Booker followed the exploits of cop-turned-private-investigator who solved oddball cases in a way that only a rock-star-looking PI could. Although fans loved the Booker character on Jumpstreet, they didn’t much care for him on his own show. Taking him away from busting high school kids seemed to spell the end for Booker, and the show only lasted one season. Grieco went on to star in a ton of B-movies and rumor has it that Johnny Depp is doing well for himself these days.
1. The Bradys (1990). Oh, wow, what a bad idea. How to you bring the eternally popular “Brady” family back to TV 15 years after the end of the classic sitcom The Brady Bunch? Apparently, CBS thought it should be done with a depressing hour-long drama. All the wacky characters from the early 70s show were made to be serious people with serious problems. Youngest boy Bobby crashed his race car and became a paraplegic, Marcia was an alcoholic, and everyone’s lives seemed to kind of suck. The show was awkward in that viewers really didn’t want to see their beloved characters grown-up and miserable, and yet episodes inexplicably contained a laugh track. No one was laughing, nor was anyone watching. The show only made it to six episodes before disappearing, and people went back to watching re-runs of the original classic.
Where there is success, there is often failure. Not every spin-off has the luck of being as popular as the show from which it came. For every CSI: Miami there is a Baywatch Nights. As we patiently await more hit TV shows, we can only hope that no one is actually planning Law & Order: Parking Victims Unit.