In the game of television, few moves are a bigger roll of the dice than launching a spinoff.
Born of popular pre-existing shows, spinoffs have great potential. Look no further than the just-wrapped Better Call Saul, a critically lauded offshoot of Breaking Bad, or the ratings smash that is House of the Dragon, a prequel to Game of Thrones. Of course, spinoffs can also flop. Just ask any Friends fan how they really feel about Joey, if they even remember it.
Then there are lost spinoffs, and we’re not talk about new shows set in the Lost universe. We mean the potential spinoffs that were developed, cast and in many cases filmed… that fans will never get to see because executives opted to pull the plug.
In the spirit of reflecting upon what could have been, TVLine is looking back at 15 spinoffs of hit shows that almost made it to primetime — from a Los Angeles-set Gossip Girl prequel starring Krysten Ritter and Brittany Snow to a Buffy the Vampire Slayer offshoot centered around Eliza Dushku’s Faith.
Read on for a breakdown of would-be TV spinoffs, then drop a comment with your own picks. Which of these shows would you have watched?
Marvel's Most Wanted (Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.)
This offshoot would have followed ex-S.H.I.E.L.D. agents Bobbi Morse and Lance Hunter (played by Adrianne Palicki and Nick Blood) as they go on the run after the events of their mid-Season 3 exit, eventually allying with adventurer Dominic Fortune (Delroy Lindo). Bobbi and Lance, PLUS Delroy Lindo AND Oded Fehr (as a “well-known character” from the comics)? Y.E.S.
Faith the Vampire Slayer (Buffy)
We almost rode shotgun with Eliza Dushku’s freshly sprung Faith as she traveled around on a hog trying to find her place in the world. The Scooby-adjacent slayer would’ve been the perfect character to continue Buffy’s genre-bending wit, but Dushku ultimately declined the pitch of “Faith meets Kung Fu,” opting to roll the dice on a new series instead (Tru Calling). Ripper (a Giles-centric series) and an animated Buffy also fell by the wayside, and yes, we are still mourning all of these… potentials.
Though Mermaid was more of a spiritual companion than an official spinoff, we’re endlessly curious about this would-be fishy drama from Charmed’s producing team. The pilot, which was filmed for The WB in 2005, starred Dynasty‘s Nathalie Kelley as a mermaid-turned-human working as a waitress in
a cocktail barMiami, where she mingled with a cast that included the likes of Geoff Stults and Roger Daltry. Though the pilot wasn’t picked up to series, Kelley would eventually play a siren in the final season of The CW’s Vampire Diaries (2016–2017), so that’s… something.
Rose Tyler: Earth Defence (Doctor Who)
Originally envisioned as a holiday special that in success might spawn follow-ups, this offshoot — about the former companion’s new life as a member of the Torchwood Institute in Pete’s World — was commissioned by BBC One but ultimately spiked by EP Russell T. Davies, who worried it’d lessen the impact of Rose’s sendoff at the close of Series 2’s “Doomsday” episode.
Untitled Game of Thrones Prequel
The world of TV development is dark and full of terrors, including the alleged budget overruns, personnel issues and creative differences that led to this “troubled” Thrones prequel getting scrapped. But with Oscar nominee Naomi Watts in the lead role, and a storyline taking place thousands of years before the mothership series, the offshoot sounded like a fresh, compelling addition to this fictional universe.
Don’t get us wrong, we’re enjoying House of the Dragon, but we’ll always wonder what could have been.
Valley Girls (Gossip Girl)
The penultimate episode of Gossip Girl’s second season flashed back to Serena’s mother’s teenage years, serving as a backdoor pilot for a potential spinoff about young Lily (played by Brittany Snow) raising hell in Los Angeles. We’re honestly surprised this one didn’t make it to series, especially considering we would agree to watch a show based solely on this awesomely ‘80s snapshot of Snow and Krysten Ritter, who played Lily’s sister Carol. In fact, The CW probably regrets passing on this spinoff over some of the shows it did order that season. (Sure, we got The Vampire Diaries, but we also got the Melrose Place reboot. And something called The Beautiful Life: TBL.)
Take Your Pick (Lizzie McGuire)
No, really, choose between any of the three potential spinoffs of this hit Hilary Duff sitcom, which originally aired from 2001 to 2003.
* The first proposed spinoff was an ABC comedy that would follow Lizzie and her friends as they navigated high school, but contract negotiations ultimately led to its undoing. As Duff’s former momager Susan told Entertainment Weekly in 2003: “Disney thought they’d be able to bully us into accepting whatever offer they wanted to make, and they couldn’t. We walked away from a sequel. They walked away from a franchise. We weren’t feeling the love. They weren’t giving Hilary the respect she deserved.”
* The second was a Disney Channel comedy starring none other than Selena Gomez as Stevie, the younger sister of Lizzie’s bestie Miranda (played by Lalaine, who would also appear in the spinoff). Like Lizzie, Stevie would be accompanied by an animated version of herself. Unfortunately, Disney Channel opted not to pick up this pilot in 2004, instead giving a series order to — wait for it — Hannah Montana.
* The third spinoff, which was technically also a revival, would have reunited fans with a 30-something Lizzie in 2020. But Duff and series creator Terri Minsky wanted the show to be more adult (aka realistic) than Disney+ was willing to allow, causing the project to be scrapped in the middle of production. Disney even ignored Duff’s (perfectly logical) plea to get the show moved to Hulu. No dice.
Sue Sue in the City (The Middle)
While fans of The Middle can rest easy knowing that Frankie and Mike’s daughter eventually settled down with Sean, it was still a disappointment when ABC decided to put the kibosh on this offshoot, which would have seen Sue move to Chicago with BFF Brad and pursue a career in hotel management.
The Farm (The Office)
Near the end of The Office‘s run, we met the extended Schrute clan when Dwight attended his Aunt Shirley’s funeral. The backdoor pilot ultimately didn’t get picked up by NBC, but it had an oddball flair and a stellar cast, including Majandra Delfino, Matt Jones and future Silicon Valley star Thomas Middleditch. Plus, more Cousin Mose is never a bad thing.
Power Book IV: Influence (Power)
With two Power spinoffs already underway, Starz began developing Power Book IV: Influence, which would have centered on slippery politician Rashad Tate as he continued “his cutthroat quest for power.”
Influence was originally poised to be the third in a string of four spinoffs, set to premiere after Power Book II: Ghost and Power Book III: Raising Kanan, but before the Tommy-centric Force. The order eventually shifted, and Force was officially dubbed Book IV in the franchise. As for Influence, that book is closed.
Prison Break: Cherry Hill (Prison Break)
Cherry Hill was originally to revolve around Molly, an upper-middle-class housewife who, wronged by The Company, seeks out Michael Scofield for tips on revenge. When the 2007-08 WGA strike scuttled Molly’s introduction during Prison Break Season 3, the offshoot eventually lost all traction.
Wayward Sisters (Supernatural)
Supernatural‘s second attempt at an offshoot centered around a group of orphaned young women, including hunter Claire Novak (played by Kathryn Newton), who were taken in by Sheriff Jody Mills (Kim Rhodes). Despite featuring several characters from the mothership show’s canon (unlike spinoff attempt No. 1, Bloodlines), Wayward Sisters failed to score a series pickup. “We did not feel, creatively, that the show was where we wanted it to be,” CW President Mark Pedowitz explained. While the backdoor pilot wasn’t perfect, it sure would have been nice to see Supernatural live on in the form of a female-led story.
Hey, at least there’s still The Winchesters, right?
Kelsey-Centric Younger Spinoff
Chalk this one up to morbid curiosity.
We won’t deny that Younger fully exhausted every conceivable storyline by the time it wrapped its seven-season run, but we still would have tuned in to see what Darren Star had cooked up for Hilary Duff’s Kelsey, who moved to Los Angeles in the series finale.
Following the finale, Star told TVLine that the spinoff — which had only been in talks at that point — was “pretty much off the table,” and that Kelsey would have relocated to California “regardless of any notion of a spinoff.”