Monday, March 27, 2017

TV: Spin-offs

Spin-offs are never easy.  But they've been around forever -- case in point, ABC's THE RIFLEMAN had a 1959 spin-off entitled LAW OF THE PLAINSMAN.

There were many other spin-offs -- ABC's SURFSIDE 6 in 1960 (from BOURBON STREET BEAT), for example.  Another early interesting one was CBS' OUR PRIVATE WORLD which featured Geraldine Fitzgerald and Nicolas Coster and starred Eileen Fulton playing her AS THE WORLD TURNS character Lisa Hughes.  The spin-off aired 38 episodes during CBS prime time during 1965.

A year later, NBC attempted a spin-off of THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E. and THE GIRL FROM U.N.C.L.E. (starring Stefanie Powers) lasted 28 episodes.


The 70s would see ABC's HAPPY DAYS emerge as an episode of LOVE AMERICAN STYLE and, later, its own series which would lead to multiple spin-offs including LAVERNE & SHIRLEY, MORK & MINDY and JOANIE LOVES CHACHI (among others) while CBS would score spin-offs from two successful shows.  THE MARY TYLER MOORE SHOW would lead to the spin-offs RHODA, PHYLLIS and LOU GRANT while ALL IN THE FAMILY would lead to MAUDE (which would spin-off GOOD TIMES), THE JEFFERSONS, GLORIA and ARCHIE BUNKER'S PLACE.

Other notable spin-offs include THE BIONIC WOMAN (Lindsay Wagner spinning-off her character from THE SIX MILLION DOLLAR MAN), BENSON (Robert Buillaume spinning-off his character from SOAP) and THE FACTS OF LIFE (Charlotte Rae spinning-off her character from DIFF'RENT STROKES).

One of the most notorious spin-offs would be NBC's JOEY.

That spin-off of the hugely popular FRIENDS was everything that can go wrong: bad scripts, ill thought out supporting cast and a complete lack of point of view.

NBC didn't grasp that and kept the series -- one that never should have aired -- on the schedule for two years.

It hurt Thursday nights.

NBC couldn't get the message.

It appears to be an ingrained problem for the network.

Currently, NBC  has farmed out the bulk of its prime time on weeknights to Dick Wolf and his Chicago shows: CHICAGO FIRE, CHICAGO P.D., CHICAGO MED and CHICAGO JUSTICE.  The ratings are awful.  Friday nights, on CBS, BLUE BLOODS often gets four million more viewers an episode than any of the Chicago shows -- Friday nights -- wrap your mind around that.

NBC has allowed this Chicago stink to destroy their prime time.

Which is why THE TONIGHT SHOW WITH JIMMY FALLON is suffering in the ratings.

Why would you want the same show on four times a week?

Americans soured quickly on WHO WANTS TO BE A MILLIONAIRE? once ABC started airing the show five nights a week.

Or think of FOX and when thought, because FAMILY GUY was semi-popular, audiences would watch a block of FAMILY GUY and two similar shows: AMERICAN DAD and THE CLEVELAND SHOW.

NBC's also attempted to spin-off THE BLACKLIST.

THE BLACKLIST REDEMPTION has its flaws but it also has its strengths.

Chief among the assets?

The cast -- led by Famke Janssen (Scottie), Ryan Eggold (Tom) and Edi Gathegi (Matias).

Each of the five episodes so far have been fast paced and interesting.

The liabilities?

Scottie is Tom's mother.

Stop treating it as something to postpone.

It's what's going to help the show stand out.

That constant tease is probably the show's main flaw.

A plus is what they're doing with Scottie.

Her 'dead' husband is alive.

But Scottie's seeing prostitute Trevor (Dan Amboyer).

Part of her attraction to Trevor is that he does "filthy things" (Scottie's words) but she also enjoys using him as a sounding board and she has her assistant Kat (Theodora Miranne) have him sign a non-disclosure agreement.

It's been an interesting angle that allows us to get to know Scottie and the chemistry between Janssen and Amboyer is convincing.

But while the male writers and directors have been willing to explore that, we were bothered by episode five's directing.

This s the only episode directed by a woman, Elodie Keene, and what was the problem?

First off, one of the terrorists -- thank goodness, the attractive one -- is stripped down to his black boxer briefs and laid out on a parachute on top of the snow.

Why didn't we see his body?

Two scenes involve this.

And we get a tiny glance of his body.


Most shots were close ups of his face.

Why was his body ignored?

If this had been a woman in her underwear, we doubt her body would have been ignored.

In addition to those two scenes, Scottie had a post-sex scene with Trevor.

We get a brief glance of Trevor in a chair with a towel over him.

A very brief glance -- in a very long scene.

Is Elodie Keene uncomfortable with the male form?

Did she think she was making some sort of statement?

The only statement she made was: Prude.

TV relies far too much on close ups and the episode too frequently played out like a really bad 70s episode of THE YOUNG & THE RESTLESS with its over reliance on close ups.

To distinguish itself from THE BLACKLIST and to make its own mark, the show needs to find ways to stand out.

That's true of any spin-off.

THE BLACKLIST REDEMPTION could have been better thought out before it started filming but it's not a bad show and if it would strive to highlight its differences it could be something unique.

Which is the problem with any spin-off.

For it to catch on with viewers, it has to be of interest as its own self-contained show.  But for the network to really get behind it, it has to come off like a carbon copy of the show it's been spun off from.

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