We all have our favorite and least favorite tropes. From love triangles to slow burns, tropes are often the best ways to showcase great characters and storylines. They can also be frustrating and make you question why it is even a trope at all. In this bi-weekly column, we’ll take a deep dive into some of the most classic television tropes.
We are living in the age of reboots and remakes.
But before we lived in this world filled with reboots and remakes, the best way to tell if a show was really popular was if a spin-off was in the works.
So many hit series have tried to build off the success of its show with the creation of another series in the same universe, generally with a character or two from the original show. Usually, they will test the waters with a “backdoor pilot” aka a pilot within an already established show. If there was good reception to that backdoor pilot, then a spin-off would most likely follow.
When thinking about spin-offs, I’d say I can think of more failed ones than those that have succeeded. The ones that have been able to carve their own path away from the parent show should be given a real pat on the back. It is extremely difficult for a show that was made solely because of another show become just as good or even better than the original.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer, The Fosters, Grey’s Anatomy, and Breaking Bad are what come to mind when you think of successful spin-offs creators. Good Trouble is a fantastic show that, while still following the lives of the Adams-Foster family, has really set itself apart from The Fosters. Same characters, but a much different tone. Better Call Saul has been a critical darling over the past couple years and Angel developed a following almost as big as Buffy itself. I personally believe that Private Practice, at times, was even better than Grey’s Anatomy (if only just because it knew when to end on a high note).
Of course, there are shows that not only have spawned spin-offs but an entire universe. The Vampire Diaries practically made The CW what it is today. As the flagship show of The CW, it was only natural that they would want to milk it for all it is worth. And who better to do that than the Originals who stoles the show in seasons two and three. Then, when The Originals was reaching the end of its run, we thought that we may have seen the last of supernaturals who once called Mystic Falls their home. Then Legacies was born. Who knew back in 2009 that the little show about vampires would create a massive fanbase that would allow for two other shows to follow.
There is creating spin-offs consecutively, as each show ends, and then there is creating a universe just within a span of a couple of years. You really got to hand it to The CW, they really excel in this department.
No other television network has created a powerhouse of television content like The CW did with the Arrowverse.
What started as one show in 2012 has transformed into five television shows with more on the way. Arrow, The Flash, Supergirl, DC’s Legends of Tomorrow and now Batwoman have become the backbone of superhero TV now that Marvel television has crumbled. What is even more impressive other than the mere fact that all these shows exist is the epic crossover event series that is currently unfolding.
Crisis on Infinite Earths is the television equivalent of Avengers: Endgame. It involves six different television shows spanning over five episodes. I’m hard-pressed to find any television network that has created such a massive event series. Sure, the One Chicago franchise at NBC has tried, but nowhere near the extent of this.
Arrowverse uniquely thrives because they do a fantastic job of having these shows exist as their own entity. Supergirl literally existed on a completely different Earth before recent events. She only ever interacted with Barry Allen or Oliver Queen during the multi-show crossovers. DC’s Legends of Tomorrow is a tad different, with characters from other shows popping up occasionally throughout the season.
But not all spin-offs have warmed my heart as the Arrowverse has. I will say I have some rough feelings when it comes to spin-offs due to one specific spin-off.
The year is 2013, and I was obsessed with Pretty Little Liars. Season four of Pretty Little Liars was truly its peak and my favorite relationship, Hanna and Caleb, were thriving. Then it was announced that a spin-off of Pretty Little Liars would be happening with a main character from Pretty Little Liars involved. Yep, you guessed it. It was Tyler Blackburn aka one half of Haleb.
My heart was completely crushed. Not long after the show was announced, Caleb was written off Pretty Little Liars in the dumbest way possible (I mean, the entire premise of Ravenswood was dumb let’s be real). Not only was Hanna heartbroken but so was I. As expected, Ravenswood failed after not many episodes and Tyler came back to Pretty Little Liars. But from that point on, I had a huge resentment towards spin-offs.
Unfortunately, that wasn’t the only spin-off that has led to some hatred against them. Fear the Walking Dead has taken the prize of the spin-off that had the most promise and then fizzled out. In fact, I really was into Fear the Walking Dead for a couple of seasons. But then they made the fatal move of thinking that bringing characters from the parent show a few seasons in was a good idea. I get doing that in the beginning, to ease viewers into the new show, but four seasons in makes zero sense.
At first, they brought Morgan in and then Dwight. They killed off a couple of very important and main characters that made the show as good as it was. Slowly, Morgan and Dwight took over the show and it just became The Walking Dead 2.0.
See, I believe the downfall of any spin-off to be too much of a reliance on the original content. You can have generally the same premise as all the spin-offs do in the Law & Order universe, but never depend too much on characters and storylines from the original show because that will honestly just make me tired of watching both.
Spin-offs can be really fun, especially if you are already a big fan off the original show. It is another way to be sucked into the universe you already know you love. But not all spin-offs are needed and worthwhile. So, please Hollywood executives, don’t ruin one show for the sake of trying to make money off another.