Hollywood loves the spin-off. Ideally, it’s a way of turning one success into two or three (or four or more) successes. Happy Days alone begat Laverne & Shirley, Mork & Mindy, and, Joanie Loves Chachi. But not every great spin-off idea becomes a reality, as Mental Floss’ Mike Rugnetta explains in an episode of The List Show called “29 Spin-Offs That Almost Happened.” Cynics might think of this as “29 Times The American Viewing Public Dodged A Bullet,” but there are some intriguing could-have-been shows in here, too. Friends fanatics, for instance, might have genuinely enjoyed Girlfriends, a proposed series built around Lisa Kudrow’s Phoebe Buffay character. Archer star Aisha Tyler would have co-starred in that circa-2003 project. The Simpsons, meanwhile, could have spawned at least two adjunct shows: a live action series devoted to Krusty The Clown and an animated one about what the other residents of Springfield are doing when they’re not serving as supporting characters in the lives of Homer, Bart, et al.
Some of these never-to-be spin-offs existed only as scripts or concepts. But a few made it to the “backdoor pilot” stage. That’s when an entire episode of an existing series is used as the launchpad for a potential spin-off. There were unsuccessful ”backdoor pilots” on Star Trek, The Brady Bunch, Who’s The Boss?, Sabrina The Teenage Witch, and more. Maybe the most prominent recent example is “The Farm,” an episode of NBC’s The Office that would have served as the starting point for a spin-off series about Dwight Schrute and his beet-farming family.
As for the weirdest concept here, it’s a toss-up. Rugnetta mentions a Mad Men follow-up series set in the present day, so pretty much all the characters except Sally Draper are long dead of lung cancer and cirrhosis of the liver. And who wouldn’t want to tune in every week to see Horshack from Welcome Back, Kotter raising his siblings after the death of his stepfather? Sounds like a million laughs.