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Spinning wheels: Why some TV spinoffs work and others fall flat

Jimmy Fallon, host of the "Tonight Show," reunited the cast of "Saved by The Bell," much to the glee of 30 something year olds who grew up watching the boys and girls from Bayside High School. Fallon played himself as a high school student and all the cast members (aside from Dustin Diamond's "Screech") reprised their roles in what can only be described as a pop culture sentiment of epic proportions.
Fans undoubtedly watched the clip over and over, and harkened back to their Saturday morning days of syndication bliss. They also couldn't help but notice just how the original cast looked as though they didn't age (aside from Mr. Belding and a few stray bags under some eyes).
Here's another thought that may have popped into their heads by about the 20th or 21st time they watched the video: how much they loved the original but just how bad the spinoff "Saved By The Bell: The College Years" was.
Even an iconic, cult followed show like "Saved By The Bell" couldn't produce a successful spinoff series, which only reaffirms just how difficult that type of show can be. Success of an original hardly guarantees success. Think about how beloved and adored "Friends" was, but how miserably bad and lethargic the spinoff "Joey" was. The show, with Matt LeBlanc reprising the title role from his characters from "Friends," scored monstrous ratings for the first episode, but then something happened: fans realized how uninspired and lazy the show was and tuned out.
Conversely, some spinoffs succeed in epic proportions even if fans only got a small glimpse of the idea that would give way to its own show. "The Tracy Ullman Show" more than 20 years ago featured short, cartoon skits featuring a weird, yellow tinted family known as "The Simpsons." Who would have thought the show would have been a remarkable hit for FOX and still have a spot on the prime time Sunday night lineup more than two decades later?

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Some of the more traditional spinoffs follow the path that the aforementioned "Joey" should have followed but didn't. They simply took a character from a popular show and truly developed that into a show with staying power. "Cheers" speaks for itself as far as television success and longevity is concerned, and "Frasier," the spinoff turned into a bona fide ratings winner and stood proudly on its own as a series worth noting.
The same could be said for other spinoffs of that same ilk: "The Jeffersons," "Maude" or "Mork and Mindy," with the first two coming courtesy of "All in the Family" and lastly "Happy Days."
No one is quite sure just how successful a spinoff is going to be since the formula that seems to work isn't full proof. Starting with a power initial show seems to be the best course to take, but even that hardly is a guarantee.

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