A Show By Any Other Name Would Be Just A Spin-off

“There is nothing new in art except talent,” words by Anton Chekhov that I was forced to look up because I’ve already cited Ecclesiastes in a prior post. They’re also words that I feel forced to grasp firmly on to as I’m faced with the deluge of television spin-offs soon to flood your televisions and my laptop with more and more of the same. With that being the worst case scenario, of course.

That being said, I’m going to try my best to take the stance I typically take on these sorts of things, which is that ultimately execution trumps everything else. Chances are that you wouldn’t have thought that a movie about a guy with his arm trapped under a rock would be able to hold your attention, but 127 Hours is great. The premise of a work of art does not damn it, though it certainly colours how audiences choose to approach and experience that work.

Before we truly begin let us consider that:

a) this is nothing new in the world of television [see CSI: Crime Scene Investigation and its children NY and Miami]

and

b) this has actually turned out really well [see Frasier, which spun out of Cheers, and The Colbert Report, borne out of The Daily Show]

Now on to the two spin-off shows that I’ve been meaning to share with you all, with the first being a series that takes place in the same world as The Walking Dead. Honestly, I am a person who stopped watching after the third season, but I think I know enough to comment that we can certainly expect more grisly zombie deaths and . . . uh, there’s certain to be more . . . hm. Rick, a little help?

Yes, that’s the word I was looking for! Things. We’re sure to be in for many more things. Don’t get me wrong, a world overrun by reanimated corpses has a number of different places it can go, but if it’s anything like the original show it’s sure to be a dreary, angst-ridden forty minutes of television. It’s even been described as being focused “on an all-new cast unrelated to Rick Grimes’ (Andrew Lincoln) dwindling band of survivors,” further increasing the likelihood of it being excessively similar to The Walking Dead

There’s an undeniable amount of thrilling suspense involved in watching a ragtag bunch of people do all they can to avoid being chowed down on by the deceased, which is why this has become AMC’s crown jewel since Breaking Bad [*sob*] ended. Still, we can only hope that Kirkman and co. will be able to bring something truly fresh to liven up the franchise, pun fully intended.

This second show truly came as a surprise to me, because there is no way that you could have convinced me prior to now that there might one day be a show on the air called How I Met Your Father. It’s so incomprehensible that my reaction was a combination of both Ted’s and Barney’s, with my drink simply pouring out of a mouth wide open in horror. Nonetheless, this is the world we live in, folks.

Deadline tells us that the How I Met Your Mother spin-off “would feature a new group of New York friends and chronicle a female member of the group’s quest to meet her future husband,” or in other words, “exactly what it sounds like.” Oh man. I’m going to have to slow down and take a breath.

Unlike The Walking Dead I continue to watch HIMYM, and feel vindicated by my decision to do so as we are now in the ninth season and on the verge of Ted finally meeting his bride-to-be. That in mind, do we really need to watch nearly another decade of a hip twenty-something becoming a bitter thirty-something and making horrible life and love decisions along the way? Does a different set of reproductive organs really make everything that fresh and exciting?

Similar to AMC and its zombies CBS is getting a lot out of Ted and his vastly more interesting friends, so why not simply duplicate a winning formula? Again, I’m going to try to be positive and take some advice from Mr. Mosby-

Sir, you are not wrong. The American version of The Office really took off in its second season, and it takes time for a show to come into its own. But really, though, the exact same premise? This isn’t like the aforementioned workplace sitcom either, as this new show will in part be helmed by HIMYM creators and executive producers Carter Bays and Craig Thomas. Yes, Emily Spivey will come along to add her own bit of flair and creativity, but will it be enough?

I chose to spotlight these two shows for a number of reasons, the first and most important being that I’ve actually watched a lot of both of them. Their popularity and so on, while also being significant, aside, there’s also the fact that they both bear the most promise of being more of the same.

Worried? S’all good, man!

Better Call Saul, for all of those coming off of their Breaking Bad addiction will star the titular Saul Goodman, which is a far cry from the meth-slinging mishaps of Walter White. Even the life of Phil Dunphy’s Dinkleberg-equivalent Gil Thorpe appears to be sitcom material [Fairly Oddparents references, everyone!], and you just know that’s going to be nothing like Modern Family‘s multigenerational, multiracial, and sexual orientation varied extended family. These are the very definitions of spin-offs, following character previously introduced in other shows, but they’re so very, very different.

“There is nothing new in art except talent,” says Mr. Chekhov, and I agree with him. The Walking Dead spin-off could in fact follow a very different group from the Rick’s gang, maybe chronicling the adventures of survivors who aren’t rife with distrust and grief; I realize how unlikely this is. How I Met Your Father, thoroughly groan-worthy title aside, could feature a cast of characters who are actually representative of the multiethnic capital they live in. Can you imagine, five friends some of who are non-White?

I’m unable to thoroughly write off either of these upcoming series in spite of all they are, since it’s ultimately up to the producers, writers, and actors to craft TV shows that truly grasp their audiences and, ideally, yours truly. We may no longer be able to hope for media to be original, but we can at least hope for it to be done well.

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8 responses to “A Show By Any Other Name Would Be Just A Spin-off

  1. I still don’t know how I feel about the Walking Dead spinoff. I’m not thrilled, but I’m open to it. It’ll have to diverge from the original show pretty strongly to maintain my interest. Any ideas for how they should structure it from TWD fans?

    • One option would be to have it take place within a single small town, and have the survivors be at least relatively familiar with one another. That way you could have the workaholic dad who lives in the city joining up with the kid who fills his car with gas falling in with the remnants of a ladies’ book club. There would certainly still be moving around from place to place, of course, but it wouldn’t feel like this constant, endless trek.

  2. I wonder if there will come a day where we become so disgusted with the fact that all we’re doing is regurgitating the same material that, instead of spin-offs, we just make cross-overs by mashing together two old shows/movies in a desperate attempt to have some variety. Imagine “How I Met Your Mother: A Series of Unfortunate Events” or “CSI: Downton” or the all-too-imaginable “Hannibal vs. Dexter.” The idea seems laughable, but it’s basically a spin-off that doesn’t require a new cast…

    • I hope you know how extremely popular your TV mashups would turn out to be if they actually existed. “Hannibal vs. Dexter” would, as they say, “destroy the internet.”

  3. I can appreciate the potential of a good spin-off, but the sheer laziness built into calling it “How I Met Your Father” fires off every warning bell in my brain. I know there’s nothing new under the sun, I just prefer material that hasn’t been tanned to a crisp. Though it would be nice, as you said, to see a version of the series where my complexion exists.

  4. There has already been plenty of media surrounding The Walking Dead. It started as a comic book series and was adapted into the television show on AMC. The TellTale games are basically spinoffs from the universe of either one (though, technically, the book), chronicling the adventures of separate characters in the same world. Having followed all three, I can easily say that TellTale’s take on it is my favorite.
    I’d give HIMYF a try, especially if they ironed out the kinks from the current series. It doesn’t sound likely.

    What I’d really like to see is a spin-off of 127 hours, where a young, adventurous female is forced to cut off her own leg after a tree falls on top of it in the amazon jungle. This time, there are panthers and poisonous frogs and anacondas and stuff.

  5. Pingback: Culture War Correspondence: How We Would Do TV | Culture War Reporters

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