Whatever happened to predictability? It used to be that sitcoms were a hotbed of spinoffs, either by sending away popular characters (Frasier, Family Matters) or bringing in backdoor pilots by introducing new characters onto a popular show (Happy Days, Mork & Mindy). But that practice has since been in decline, at least outside of the multigestational world of reality TV brands are constantly reworked into new versions of the same trope. So what happened to the spinoff? How did it begin and what’s become of it?
Vulture looks into the TV spinoff in its latest installment of “Secret History Of Television.” They examine some successes and failures, how networks previously used their shows as breeding grounds for future shows, and how the “anthology” format is changing television (a subject that was recently explored in an excellent essay). So fans of AfterMASH and Joey, be glad the shows got their moments in the sun (many backdoor pilots have failed to launch) while everyone else simply mutters, “Oh right, that was a thing they tried to make happen once.”