Spin-offs are risky to try and pull off in the television world. On one hand, it is a way to expand the universe of the original show whilst also centering entire storylines around characters who stole the show as supporting characters. On the other hand, a lot more can go wrong with a spin-off than go right. For starters, there is such thing as too much of a good thing. That character we all loved on that original show may not be strong enough to handle being the focus of a show. Maybe that same character will become annoying with more screen time. Maybe the material and scripts provided for that character on the new show is not up to stuff compared to the original show.
Or the new show is focused on an entirely new cast within the same universe, and all of these characters just suck. A lot can go wrong with a spin-off. We have seen plenty of spin-offs that were actually great. Other spin-offs have been really awful. It can go either way when a spin-off goes into production, and we are going to talk about the good, the bad, and even the ugly of television spin-offs.
15. RUINED: DRAGON BALL GT
Dragon Ball Z continues to be hailed as one of the most beloved animes in the history of the sub genre, but most fans were not entirely satisfied with how the show ended. To rectify this, plans went underway to provide a spin-off called Dragon Ball GT as final closure for the fans to have the ending they deserve. As a result, an even worse show was produced. Dragon Ball GT seems to have become universally hated over the years.
So much so that another spin-off was made to give fans proper closure, Dragon Ball Super. Imagine that. Creating a spin-off to give the fans a perfect send off, only to botch that deal badly enough to not only feel obliged to make another spin-off to give a real finale, but to apologize to fans for how bad the last one was.
14. BETTER: ANGEL
Buffy the Vampire Slayer was able to age with its audience over the course of seven years, but unfortunately, that ceiling for growth ends around the late teenage years. Meaning that the show doesn’t age very well for those who are any older than late teens. Since Angel is a spin-off that treated its audience seriously like adults (the show’s core demographic), Angel seems to have aged better between the two.
Not to mention that between the two lead characters, Angel always read as the most interesting. While we could always relate to Buffy as a young girl who feels like she has the entire weight of the world on her shoulders, there is just something more naturally compelling about a vampire with a soul who can never experience true happiness without going crazy.
13. RUINED: THE PLUCKY DUCK SHOW
Plucky Duck — the spiritual counterpart to Daffy Duck — proved to be a fan favorite among the cast of Tiny Toon Adventures, which in itself is a spin-off of Looney Tunes. That love from the fans managed to get Plucky Duck his very own show. In its inception, The Plucky Duck Show seemed like a great idea, but in its execution, there was a lot that was left to be desired.
While the show did have some original skits that focused on Plucky Duck as a central character, it was a bonafide clip show for the most part that mostly showed old skits from Tiny Toon Adventures. Audiences found little interest in this set-up and opted not to give it the time of day. The Plucky Duck Show was cancelled after a single season of 13 episodes.
12. BETTER: XENA: WARRIOR PRINCESS
The character of Xena originally appeared on some episodes of Hercules: The Legendary Journeys as an evil captain of a pirate ship. When she got her own show, Xena: Warrior Princess, the premise focused on Xena learning the error of her ways and trying her best to make up for her dark past by doing some good in the world.
That redemption arc ultimately made Xena the more compelling of the two shows. Not to mention that Xena seemed to always be the more ambitious of the two. The wider scope of the series felt like something more cinematic than anything made for television at the time. For these reasons alone, Xena seems to be the better show that has held up better overall in retrospect.
11. RUINED: THE ZETA PROJECT
While Batman Beyond was enjoying an immensely popular run on television, Warner Bros. thought that it would be a smart idea to use it to provide a backdoor pilot for another series that they had in development. The episode “Zeta” introduced the title character, a humanoid robot and a former assassin who finds himself on the run from the National Security Agency with a runaway teen after vowing never to kill again.
Shortly afterwards, Zeta got his own spin-off in The Zeta Project. Despite running for two seasons on the air, The Zeta Project produced little fanfare. Those who did watch it gave the show mixed reviews for the most part, but none of it was enough to keep the show on the air.
10. BETTER: STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION
By 1986, it had already been several years since the Star Trek franchise had any sort of presence in the television world. To rectify this, plans were in place to bring Star Trek back to the small screen with a rebooted television series, but the salary demands of both Leonard Nimoy and William Shatner made it difficult to create a direct sequel using the original actors.
A spiritual successor to the franchise was put into production instead, and it was called Star Trek: The Next Generation. Drawing in 27 million viewers into its pilot premiere episode, the show was an instant success and years later is remembered as one of the best incarnations of Star Trek. Some would even argue it to be the best one in the franchise yet.
9. RUINED: PLANET SHEEN
As a movie, Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius turned out to be a surprise hit at the box office and its subsequent animated series adaptation on Nickelodeon wound up being an even more successful effort. So, naturally, when the show wrapped up its final season, there were plans to bring its universe back to television for a spin-off. These plans saw Jimmy’s best friend Sheen inadvertently blast himself off into outer space and onto an alien planet.
Unlike its predecessor, Planet Sheen was the furthest thing from a hit show. In fact, ratings were so bad that Nickelodeon relocated the series to its Nicktoons channel block to finish its run. After one season on the air, Planet Sheen was cancelled after receiving little fanfare and poor reviews.
8. BETTER: THE SIMPSONS
Sometimes, a spin-off is so good that it transcends its source material so much that people forget that the show is a spin-off to begin with. That is the case with The Simpsons. While producer James L. Brooks was working on The Tracey Ullman Show, he decided to incorporate animated sketches into every episode that would appear before and after the commercial breaks. At one point, he called upon Matt Groening to produce an animated version of Groening’s Life in Hell comic strips.
However, to avoid having to rescind his publication rights, Groening quickly brainstormed the idea for a middle class family that would become The Simpsons. Following the positive response to the shorts on The Tracey Ullman Show, Fox decided to adapt it into a half hour show. Almost 30 years later, we’re still talking about it.
7. RUINED: 24: LEGACY
If there is anything that the Fox network should have learned through the blunder of Universal Pictures’ The Bourne Legacy, it is that a lamer spin-off starring completely different lead characters never do well with audiences. The same proved to be the case with 24: Legacy when Kiefer Sutherland’s Jack Bauer character was replaced by Corey Hawkins’s Eric Carter character for a whole new television show.
At first, the future looked bright for the series after a strong 17.8 premiere rating, but by the end of the season, interest had waned. Not only did the season end with only 3.4 million viewers watching, but the series demographic rating was down to 0.8, a record low for the franchise. Obviously, 24: Legacy will not return for a second season.
6. BETTER: AQUA TEEN HUNGER FORCE
Aqua Teen Hunger Force was one of the early TV shows that aired on Adult Swim that put the midnight cartoon block on the map, but it was a rather interesting road to television for the series. Originally, the three central characters — Master Shake, Frylock, and Meatwad — were created for an episode of the popular show Space Ghost Coast to Coast where they all represented corporate mascots for the fictional fast food chain, Burger Trench.
The episode they were set to make their debut in, “Baffler Meal,” did not air until several years later. It wasn’t even animated or produced until long after the series had become popular. The episode was re-written as “Kentucky Nightmare” and before we knew it, our favorite unadulterated trio made their TV debut.
5. RUINED: TORCHWOOD
The concept of giving Captain Jack Harkness from Doctor Who his own show is, admittedly, too good of an idea to pass up. Not only did John Barrowman give an utterly charismatic turn, but there is loads of potential in a bisexual con man coming to grips with becoming immortal. Unfortunately, the spin-off that Russell T. Davies chose to give us was Torchwood.
Granted, there is a small handful of episodes that turned out to be gems, but for the most part, every episode is hard to sit through because so many of the main cast members are so annoying. Much of the nearly world ending plot points are a direct result of a dumb thing that the characters did. Speaking of dumb, one word: Cyberwoman. That is just one of the many dumb things to happen on this show.
4. BETTER: DARIA
Another spin-off that fans forget was actually a spin-off, the character of Daria originally found herself among the cast of Beavis and Butt-Head as a recurring character. One day, during an episode of one of the show’s final seasons, MTV approached story editor Glenn Eichler about crafting a spin-off starring Daria.
Mike Judge agreed to give up the character of Daria and would have no involvement in the writing or production of the brand new show. While Beavis and Butt-Head remains a funny show in its own right, Daria managed to age better with time due to how surprisingly endearing the show is. It’s dry humor is a huge plus as well, but for an animated comedy, Daria is unexpectedly self aware as a smart social satire.
3. RUINED: THE CLEVELAND SHOW
In light of the massive success of Family Guy due in part to the show’s lovable characters, it was a no-brainer to give the universe a spin-off starring one of the show’s fan favorite supporting characters. Oddly enough, Seth MacFarlane decided to give Cleveland Brown a spin-off despite the fact that Cleveland seemed to be the least beloved character among Peter’s friends. Most fans were more interested in the prospect of someone like Quagmire, Stewie, or even Brian having a show.
To be fair, giving someone like Cleveland his own show was an ambitious move on MacFarlane’s behalf, but it failed to produce any favorable results. More than anything else, The Cleveland Show failed by giving audiences a carbon copy of Family Guy rather than a funny alternative.
2. BETTER: THE FLASH
Before he was given his own show, the character of Barry Allen was given a backdoor pilot on Arrow, appearing in two of the show’s episodes. The pilot received such glowing reviews that the network decided to give the character a full series, and a larger budget to flesh out Allen’s place within the confines of the Arrowverse. The Flash wound up receiving even more critical acclaim than that of its predecessor.
Audiences who believed that Arrow had become too stale or too dark, The Flash proved to be a fun, lighthearted, and worthy alternative. The Flash not only has managed to enrich and further the exploits of the Arrowverse, the show manages to work as a stand alone project for anyone who isn’t able to catch up on the other superhero shows that The CW offers.
1. RUINED: LOONATICS UNLEASHED
There was once a time when it was widely believed that the Looney Tunes franchise could do no wrong. This is, after all, the same cast of characters that played basketball with Michael Jordan, broke into Hollywood with Brendan Fraser, and crossed paths with Mickey Mouse on Who Framed Roger Rabbit. All strange scenarios, but all of which have their own audience.
One incarnation of these Looney Tunes that no one seems to like is the short lived animated series Loonatics Unleashed. The show re-imagined everyone’s favorite Looney Tunes characters — or, rather, the descendants of those characters — as superheroes in a post-apocalyptic future. While the premise might intrigue some, the execution left a lot to be desired and was critically panned by just about everyone who watched it.
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