Breaking Bad came to a (super satisfying and excellently written) conclusion this week, but don’t freak out too hard if you’re already missing it- US network AMC recently announced a spin-off prequel entitled ‘Better Call Saul’, which will revolve around ‘the evolution’ of attorney Saul Goodman, played by Bob Odenkirk. The show is expected to have a completely different tone than Breaking Bad, with a more comedic feel. And that’s not the only spin-off in the works, with AMC (who is apparently really into the spin-off idea) also announcing a ‘The Walking Dead’ spin-off focusing on another group of survivors in the zombie apocalypse, and ‘Once Upon A Time: In Wonderland’ the sister show to ABC’s ‘Once Upon A Time’ set to begin this month, along with ‘The Originals’, the ‘Vampire Diaries’ new sister show. And apparently ABC is in talks to develop a ‘Modern Family’ spin-off. But are ‘Better Call Saul’ and the other new shows genius ideas that viewers will love, or should great TV shows simply be left alone?
Sometimes, spin-offs work. Take Frasier, for example. A much loved show that ran for eleven seasons, which was a spin-off of the classic ‘Cheers’, where the character of radio psychologist Frasier originated. Not only was it a great show in its own right, but it gave the characters of Cheers a chance to pop back up and continue their storylines. And then there’s ‘Angel’- the ‘Buffy The Vampire Slayer’ spin-off which saw vampire-with-a-soul Angel head to LA along with Cordelia Chase to help the helpless. But for every ‘Frasier’ and ‘Angel’, there’s a ‘Joey’. I’m pretty confident that in future generations ‘Friends’ will still be remembered as one of the greatest comedy television shows of all time. The spin-off ‘Joey?’ Uh….not so much. When Friends ended its ten season run, Joey was the only character who didn’t have his storyline wrapped up. No wife, no children, no direction in his career…it seemed there was still a lot of story left to tell. But apparently not a very funny story. ‘Joey’ was cancelled after two seasons. ‘Friends’ was a great show, but ‘Joey’ proved that everything has a time and a place, and while ‘Friends’ was a massive success, it’s probably best to just let it be. And did it ever bother anyone else that Joey never saw any of the other Friends? I vote we all just agree to pretend like ‘Joey’ never happened.
Spin-offs give a chance for great secondary characters to be featured more prominently, and to explore stories that the main shows may not have time to tell, but will be just as compelling to watch. They give writers a chance to explore the fictional world they have created even further, and they also open up the door for everyone’s favourite thing- crossovers. And lets be real: it’s also a chance for TV networks to cash in on the popularity of an already successful show. The sister shows already have a fanbase set up. AMC might be losing its greatest asset in ‘Breaking Bad’, but at least they’ve got ‘Better Call Saul’ to fall back on. And if it sucks? Well then it never happened. Just like ‘Joey.’