We get it: When a TV series is a hit, it’s tempting to launch a spinoff. Why settle for one successful show when you can have two, right? Or even more than two — The Walking Dead, CSI and NCIS all inspired at least a trio of offshoots, thanks to their blockbuster ratings. And back in the day, All in the Family launched a whopping five spinoffs (if we count Archie Bunker’s Place as a spinoff rather than a continuation).
But here’s the thing — and it ain’t a good thing: For every Young Sheldon and Frasier that comes down the pike, there’s an AfterMASH and a Joey. And these misbegotten flops not only fail on their own (de)merits, they tarnish the legacy of the original series, if ever so slightly.
Maybe you’ve managed to wipe the worst of them from your memory. We wouldn’t blame you. However, we haven’t been able to do that. So we’ve decided to share the pain by ranking the 20 most dreadful spinoffs in television history, from pretty bad to borderline unforgivable — progeny of, among other shows, The Brady Bunch, Cheers and Pretty Little Liars that have haunted us for far longer than they even aired.
Do you dare to revisit these atrocities? The bold can check out our picks below. If you think we missed a misfire, hit the comments with your addition to the list.
The Golden Palace
CBS fought hard to steal away from NBC this one-and-done Golden Girls spinoff, only to discover that viewers weren’t nearly as eager to check in to a hotel run by Rose, Blanche and Sophia as they were to hang out on the lanai with Rose, Blanche, Sophia and Dorothy.
We can’t blame Fox for wanting to expand the American Idol empire once it became a ratings juggernaut, but this kiddie version hosted by Ryan Seacrest — with child singers competing to join a five-member singing group — hit all the wrong notes. It did introduce us to the talents of a young Lucy Hale, though!
Curses! Despite the supernatural element that ran through this short-lived Pretty Little Liars spinoff, it failed to enchant fans of the original series. So, almost as soon as the offshoot was launched, its title was being engraved on a tombstone right next to Caleb’s name.
Three's a Crowd
ABC should’ve just cut its losses and moved on after Three’s Company ended. Instead, it spun off John Ritter’s Jack Tripper into a mediocre spinoff that kept him at odds with his girlfriend’s disapproving dad.
Once Upon a Time in Wonderland
In the wake of Once Upon a Time‘s strong launch, ABC delved further into the world of fairy tales to dream up this dark reimagining of Alice in Wonderland. It looked fantastic, but nonsensical storytelling condemned it to less than a storybook ending. At least fan favorite Michael Socha was later able to reprise his Will Scarlet role on the Once Upon a Time mothership.
This Sanford and Son spinoff that featured neither Sanford nor son (but a buncha supporting players from the original series) was so poorly received that it was tossed on the junk heap after only four episodes and completely disregarded when Redd Foxx later reprised his old role in another offshoot.
Note to producers: Putting “Cyber” in your show’s title does not automatically make it cool and cutting-edge. Despite the presence of Emmy winners Patricia Arquette and Ted Danson, this technobabble-heavy add-on to the CSI franchise just did not compute.
If you said the world had never needed a Dukes of Hazzard spinoff, we’d nod our heads in agreement. But if you said that the world had never needed a Dukes spinoff that followed Sheriff Rosco P. Coltrane’s country-fried deputy to L.A., we’d have nodded so hard, we’d have needed a neck brace when we were done.
Hey look, it’s Lucy Hale again! The former American Juniors finalist followed up her Pretty Little Liars success with this middling Riverdale spinoff, playing an aspiring fashion designer in a bright and colorful New York City. Alas, even a few character crossovers couldn’t save it from a swift cancellation.
Fear the Walking Dead
AMC’s mega-hit zombie thriller The Walking Dead spawned a number of uninspiring spinoffs, led by this long-running but not fondly admired offshoot that squandered its early promise before its first season was through. Fear’s quality varied wildly over the years, from actually half-decent to downright abysmal, and we got whiplash trying to keep up with all the cast changes and ham-fisted plot developments. (Good and evil twins? Seriously?) Since by this point we’ve stopped caring about even the few characters we once liked, we’re not exactly mourning the show’s upcoming end date.
Joanie Loves Chachi
Sure she did. Unfortunately, nobody loved this Happy Days offshoot that followed Richie Cunningham’s kid sister and Fonzie’s cousin as they moved to the Windy City and tried to become pop stars. Who did they think they were, Donny Most?
The Blacklist: Redemption
NBC tried to capitalize on The Blacklist‘s popularity by giving Ryan Eggold’s secret agent Tom Keen his own series, paired up with Famke Janssen as Tom’s mother Scottie. This was the rare double fail, though: Not only did Redemption tank after just eight episodes, but Tom Keen’s absence left a gaping void on the original Blacklist, leading to Eggold slinking back to the original series following Redemption‘s demise.
The Brady Brides
“I do… not want to watch this,” said fans of The Brady Bunch when NBC got the bright idea to turn its Brady Girls Get Married TV movie into a blah sitcom that tried to cast Marcia (Marcia! Marcia!) and Jan’s yin-and-yang husbands as a new Odd Couple.
After the original Battlestar Galactica was axed, fans wrote in in droves, begging ABC to reverse its decision. Instead of doing so, the network green-lit a godawful spinoff that lacked two of the series’ big draws (Richard Hatch and Dirk Benedict), chucked its time-travel conceit after one episode, and never addressed the fate of robodog Muffit.
Saved by the Bell: The New Class
Turns out you can’t just find a Zack Morris or a Kelly Kapowski in every high school hallway. When the original Baysiders moved on to college, NBC tried to reboot the Saturday morning staple with a fresh cast of zany students. Mr. Belding was still there to fume at their antics, and Screech even came back to be Mr. Belding’s assistant, but a revolving door of cast members failed to find the same caliber of future stars. In fact, Peacock’s recent sequel series didn’t even acknowledge the New Class crew.
Beverly Hills Buntz
“Take an edgy cop character from a popular drama and make him the lead in a private-eye comedy,” said somebody at NBC. “What could possibly go wrong?” Everything, it turned out. So this Hill Street Blues spinoff featuring Dennis Franz’s Norman Buntz was mercifully yanked even before all 13 of its episodes had aired.
Not until CBS scheduled its second season opposite The A-Team did the network wave the white flag and cancel this ill-conceived M*A*S*H offshoot that pushed to the foreground supporting characters Col. Potter, Klinger and Father Mulcahy.
Remember how bad Baywatch was? Well, its spinoff was worse. In its first season, David Hasselhoff’s Mitch Buchannon hung up his red swim trunks to become a private eye. When that didn’t attract as many viewers as Pamela Anderson running in slo-mo, the show was reimagined in Season 2 as an X-Files ripoff. Because, you know, why not?
If you look up “ill-conceived spinoff” in the TV dictionary, a big old picture of Joey pops right up on the page. Of course NBC was eager to keep the Friends gravy train rolling, sending Matt LeBlanc’s Joey Tribbiani to Los Angeles to pursue his acting dreams. It had a decent supporting cast (Drea de Matteo, Andrea Anders… and Jennifer Coolidge!), but separating Joey from his Central Perk pals erased all of the magic, and his spinoff came to a merciful end after two seasons.
What’s that you say? You don’t even remember this tacky Cheers spinoff that focused on Carla’s loudmouthed ex, Nick, and the walking dumb-blonde joke that he married after her? Consider yourself lucky and reflect fondly on Frasier instead.