5 TV spin-offs better left unspun

Sometimes success of original can't be recaptured

By Arden Davidson, Contributing writer
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A handful of TV spin-offs have been wildly successful.

Take for example, the hit show "Frasier," which was spun off from "Cheers," or the slew of "CSI" and "Law & Order" spin-offs or "The Jeffersons" (from "All in the Family").

Unfortunately these success stories are few and far between. More often than not, TV spin-offs not only fail, but fail miserably.

Too many lovable characters have been ruined simply because someone decided they should live on forever. Some spin-offs fail because they change the character(s) too much, some fail by changing them too little, and some fail because they just flat-out stink.

Some failed so badly we hesitate to even acknowledge their existence: We're looking at you Scott Baio and Erin Moran.

To "honor" these clunkers, we have put together a list of the top five worst TV spin-offs of all time. Check it out and see if you agree ...

No. 5: "AfterMASH"

When it comes to not knowing when to let go, the conversation should start and end with "AfterMASH," a short-lived spin-off of the long-running hit dramedy "M*A*S*H."

The show, which lasted for less than two seasons starting in 1983, saw Colonel Potter, Sergeant Klinger and Father Mulcahy inexplicably running a Missouri veterans' hospital following the Korean War.

The premise proved about as fresh as its title, a trying-too-hard play on words. "AfterMASH" and "aftermath." Get it?

Although the show's first season scored decent ratings, the second season was nothing less than a disaster. Of course, a schedule change that slotted the sophomore season against "The A-Team" and Mr. T's Mohawk didn't exactly help.

But the real problem was the spin-off took three of the original's least interesting characters and put them in uninteresting surroundings. If you're doing the math at home, that would be: Boring + boring = failure.

What could be worse than that? Let's find out ...

No. 4: "Baywatch Nights"

If you ever wondered what David Hasselhoff's "Baywatch" lifeguard Mitch Buchannon did with his free time once the sun set, well, you're to blame for "Baywatch Nights."

The 1995 spin-off of the wildly successful syndicated original saw Mitch moonlighting as a detective alongside his cop buddy ("Baywatch" regular Gregory Alan Williams). But besides introducing the world to Angie Harmon, who would go on to star in the original "Law & Order," the show offered nothing worth seeing.

After all, the original succeeded thanks to attractive women -- particularly Pamela Anderson -- in swimsuits. But once you leave the beach and the sun behind, there just aren't many bikinis to be found.

Things only got worse during the show's second-and-final season. Seeking to piggyback on the success of "The X-Files," the show went paranormal. Unfortunately, even fewer people wanted to see lifeguard extraordinaire Mitch take on demons and vampires than wanted to see Hasselhoff "act."

If you think that's scary, you haven't seen anything yet ...

No. 3: "The Tortellis"

Carla Tortelli was one of "Cheers" least likeable characters. Sure, she was funny. But she was also sadistic, loud and, at times, infuriating.

So what would make TV producers think that having a whole family of Carla Tortelli clones running around could possibly be a hit?

Making the choice to do this spin-off was especially perplexing considering that the show did NOT star Rhea Pearlman as Carla. Although she made some guest appearances during the brief five-month period in 1987 that the show aired on NBC, the "plot" centered on her obnoxious ex-husband Nick and his helium-voiced wife, Loretta.

The two characters were funny in small doses on "Cheers," but why give them their own half-hour sitcom? Scraping a fork on a plate was less irritating than this ill-conceived spin-off.

Of course, sometimes even good ideas fail miserably ...

No. 2: "Joey"

Joey Tribbiani was a highly popular character on a highly popular TV sitcom. For many years, Matt LeBlanc's portrayal of the "lovable dumb guy" on "Friends" had fans laughing and applauding.

So it seemed only logical that when the "Friends" parted ways, Joey was the one ideally suited for a spin-off series.

This show could have been a major success. After all, Joey Tribbiani is good-looking, likable and pretty darn funny. Unfortunately, he just couldn't carry a series without his merry band of "Friends" co-stars, even with "Sopranos" star Drea de Matteo along for the ride.

As it turned out, the bulk of Joey's charm was based on his interactions with Chandler, Ross, Phoebe, Rachel and Monica. Without these other ensemble cast members to bounce his personality off, it simply fell flat.

But at least Joey stayed in right genre ...

No. 1: "The Bradys"

What do you get when you take a classic sit com where the family members' biggest problems revolve around sharing one bathroom, and turn it into a melodrama fit for an After School Special? "The Bradys," that's what.

"The Bradys" was one of several spin-offs from the original "Brady Bunch" series, but it was by far the worst of "the bunch." Although it lasted only six episodes (in 1990), audiences really didn't want to deal with the fact that Bobby was now in a wheelchair or that Jan and her husband were having problems in the bedroom.

This was the "TMI" show that never should have been. The beauty of the Bradys was that their lives were so simple and innocent and uncomplicated.

We don't want to see them dealing with alcoholism and infertility and debilitating car crashes. It's just wrong. There are plenty of other melodramas we can watch if we want to see that -- like the 6 o'clock news.

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