Ah, the beloved spin-off. Often a surefire hit, the spin-off sitcom takes characters from hit sitcoms and attempts to make lightning strike twice. The list of hits that spawned other hits is endless. All in the Family had a whopping five other spin-offs, Happy Days gave way to both Laverne and Shirley and Mork and Mindy. Cheers gave way to Frasier, which was not only the most successful spin-off in history, but also more successful than its predecessor. If only the same could be said for the following five failures, which went down in history as being five of the biggest flops to be spun-off from hit shows.
5. The Art of Being Nick (1986). This spin-off from the enormous 80s hit Family Ties proved that people who loved Michael J. Fox didn’t necessarily love Scott Valentine. A show that centered around the lovable dimwit Nick, boyfriend to Justine Bateman’s character on Ties, this show has been mostly forgotten about since its quick run in 1986. Also starring Julia Louis-Dreyfuss (later of Seinfeld fame) and created by one of the people who went on to success with Roseanne, this show was too oddball for regular fans. The Nick character went right back to being a recurring character and Valentine went off to be a very busy B-movie actor.
4. Top of the Heap (1991). One of three failed spin-offs of Married…with Children, this show only lasted seven episodes. Mostly known for being a failed show for Friends’ star Matt LeBlanc, even appearances from random members of The Bundy household couldn’t keep his show afloat. Where Married managed to make otherwise unlikeable characters downright adorable, Top of the Heap took sleazy people and made them look, well, sleazy. Oddly enough, the show failed and yet managed to have it’s own spin-off (!), Vinnie & Bobby, which also lasted only seven episodes.
3. The Tortellis (1987). Also known as the other spin-off from Cheers. The one that miserable failed. Full-time guest star Dan Hedaya (who has been in almost everything) and Jean Kasem (wife of Casey Kasem) starred in this show that told the story behind Carla’s (Rhea Perlman) ex-husband and new wife. Random appearances from Cheers characters (NORM!) didn’t help this awkward show with awkward characters, and it lasted only thirteen episodes. Years later, it’s mostly forgotten, especially by people who actually saw it.
2. The Golden Palace (1992). After seven successful seasons of The Golden Girls, several cast members went directly into this ill-conceived spin-off that found them suddenly living in a hotel. The original show aired on NBC for 180 episodes. Moving to CBS didn’t help this one find an audience, and it only lasted for 24. Bea Arther was sorely missed, and the show never found its audience, despite the addition of Cheech Marin to the cast. Most viewers thought it felt more like a rip-off of The Golden Girls rather than an extension of the original series.
1. AfterMASH (1983). Taking a few cast members from one of the most beloved (and longest running) sitcoms in history might have seemed like a good idea at the time, but this M.A.S.H. spin-off didn’t have either the humor or heart of its predecessor. Taking the show out of the Korean War and putting it into the suburbs changed the urgency of many of the situations, and reduced the drama that M.A.S.H. managed to mix so well with comedy. It didn’t help the fact that none of the most popular characters from the previous show appeared on the new one. On top of that, CBS had bold plans for the new show and put it up against some of the biggest competition other networks had to offer, such as the enormously popular The A-Team. Although it was born of a fanatically popular show that spanned numerous years and achieved tons of awards, AfterMASH only lasted 30 episodes and became a footnote in failed TV history.
The list of sitcom spin-off failures goes on as long as TV history itself. These are only five examples, although many more remain for another story at another time. After all, Alice was an enormous hit show…but does anyone remember Flo?