There have been good spinoffs and bad spinoffs). And then there have been spinoffs that were so terrible, they made a pilot and then never spoke of it again. Until now.
In failed Who's The Boss spinoff Mona, everyone's favorite sassy older gal moves to New York to help her brother run a hotel. Who's the Boss snuck this "backdoor pilot" in as an episode of their 3rd season, but actress Katherine Helmond didn't want to leave the original series. Watching the pilot now, we can be certain that the spinoff would've maintained Mona's empowered, sexually active personality, along with a healthy dose of physical comedy (there are not one, but two bits centered around someone misusing the hotel's revolving door in the first 8 minutes alone).
And though Who's the Boss went on to launch two more successful spinoffs, neither of them began with a 1941 flashback where Mona is played by Candace Cameron, PROVING ONCE AND FOR ALL my theory that Full House and Who's The Boss take place in the same universe (there's a complicated time warp involved that allows DJ/Mona to age 50+ years while moving backwards from 1992 to 1987. Check out my blog havemercyangela.wordpress.com if you want to know more.)
Opening Credits: N/APilot: B-
Inspired not by a TV show, but by the movie The Wizard of Oz, the pilot of Lost in Oz showcases all the hallmarks of terrible CW dramas: hunky young overactors, Incubus's "Drive," and lifelike dialogue like "Just do it, slick." I stopped watching after the main character and her WWII soldier friend discovered an underwater metropolis while riding their horses on water, but Wikipedia plot summary assures me that the rest of the episode was equally batshit insane:
""Lost in Oz" featured the adventures of Alexandra Wilder (Melissa George), a young woman preparing for her upcoming wedding, which she's having second thoughts about, after a cyclone hurls her into the Land of Oz. She meets World War II pilot Caleb Jansen whose call sign is "Scarecrow" (Colin Egglesfield), and is given the task of rescuing Princess Ozma from the new Wicked Witch of the West, Loriellidere (Mia Sara). They are joined by Serena, the Patchwork Girl (Sandra Allen), who guides them to Loriellidere's labyrinth. In the labyrinth, they find Ozma with Loriellidere, who attempts to kill them, but is held at gunpoint by Caleb, when Alexandra realizes that if the witch dies, she will take her place. Instead, Alexandra uses a gift from Bellardrie (Lynn Whitfield), the Good Witch of the South, to defeat the witch: a glass bottle containing a cyclone. Unfortunately, the cyclone was to be used to return Alex to Kansas. She and Caleb are lost in Oz, Alex possessing some of the Witch's magic, and hoping for a chance to return home."
This all happens in about 48 minutes, so you know that the appropriate emotional weight is definitely given to each individual plot development.
Theme song: CShow: A+ for utter craziness
A prequel spinoff, The Art of Being Nick takes place before Family Ties character Nick meets the Keaton family. There are some pretty fantastic opening credits here, the saxophone-heavy shots of New York interspersed with a ludicrously high number of pictures of Scott Valentine. By the way, what is it about spinoffs and characters moving to New York? People do move other places, TV executives. Whatever.
The pilot's mostly forgettable, though it does co-star Julia Louis-Dreyfus in her first sitcom role after three years on SNL. Overall, the character of Nick can't quite carry a show. In fairness to Valentine, it's generally not the best pitch to take the dumbest character from an ensemble and center a show around him (we all remember_ Joey_). Now, if the main character had been Louis, the precocious kid who chains himself to a desk in the pilot to protest getting a D on a project about Gandhi, we'd all be singing a different tune. A way cooler tune.
Opening Credits: A+ for hilariousnessPilot: C-
Clarissa Now was the 1995 attempt to pick up where Clarissa Explains It All left off, in which the main character moves to New York (duh) to intern at a newspaper. It also co-stars standup Robert Klein, who went on to have a long and storied career as the boss in romantic comedies.
True to its Nickelodeon roots, the pilot kicks off with the original "Na na" theme song, but this time it's slower and with jazzier harmonies, because she's MATURE now. And that's where the similarities end. The pilot twists the once-sharp and -sarcastic Clarissa into a wide-eyed naïve yokel who wouldn't dream of calling her little brother "Ferganerd." Also, there's not a single fun hand-drawn graphic when she talks to the camera! This pilot is a disgrace to the good Darling name.
Opening Credits Grade: C+Pilot Grade: D for disgracefulness
No surprise that this celebrity version of Double Dare didn't take off beyond the pilot. I mean, celebrities partaking in humiliating competitions for prize money? It's a little too much pandering, don't you think? A show like that could never succeed.
Theme song: A for 80s-nessPilot: D+