Thursday, June 26, 2014

TV Spin-offs: the Good, the Bad and the Ugly

It may seem like a no-brainer. Take a popular show and make a spin-off show out of it featuring one or more of the characters. Some work out well, (think Laverne and Shirley or The Jeffersons) and some are flops (like Joanie Loves Chachi or The Bradys), lasting only a few episodes. Here are some notable spin-offs, listed after the original show the were based upon. How many do you remember?

All in the Family...The Jeffersons...Archie Bunker's Place...Maude
Several spin-offs emerged from the groundbreaking All in the Family, produced by TV titan Norman Lear.

Happy Days...Joanie Loves Chachi...Laverne and Shirley...Mork and Mindy
Laverne and Shirley also lived in Milwaukee, like the Cunningham family. Mork (Robin Williams) had appeared on Happy Days. Happy Days' Ron Howard and Laverne and Shirley's Cindy Williams appeared together in the film American Graffiti, directed by George Lucas.

Cheers...Frasier...The Tortellis
Frasier Crane (Kelsey Grammer) had a long running sitcom after Cheers ended, playing a Seattle radio talk show host. The Tortellis, featuring Nick and Loretta Tortelli, was short-lived and failed to attract an audience.

Three's Company...Three's a Crowd...The Ropers
After the end of Three's Company, Jack Tripper (John Ritter) had a show called Three's a Crowd. Mr. and Mrs. Roper (Norman Fell and Audra Lindley) had their own spin off.

Diff'rent Strokes...The Facts of Life
Mrs. Garrett from Diff'rent Strokes went on to supervise the girls at the boarding school in The Facts of Life. Both shows enjoyed many successful seasons.

The Cosby Show...A Different World
A Different World was a spin-off created for Lisa Bonet as she left the Huxtable family and went off to college.

The show MASH was such a smash hit, garnering record setting ratings for its final episode. After MASH featured only 3 of the original MASH cast members, and it was a ratings disappointment that was quickly cancelled.

The Golden Girls...Empty Nest...The Golden Palace
The Golden Girls was a smash, Empty Nest lasted for a few years. The Golden Palace had the original ladies from Golden Girls except for Bea Arthur. It did not fare well.

The Danny Thomas Show...The Andy Griffith Show...Gomer Pyle, USMC...Mayberry RFD
These were shows from the early days of television that featured much loved characters. Of course little Opie from Andy Griffith was Ron Howard, who went on to star in Happy Days, which spawned several spin-offs.

Perfect Strangers...Family Matters
Some may not recall that characters from Family Matters had appeared in Perfect Strangers.

The Tracey Ullman Show...The Simpsons
The Simpsons animated shorts, created by Matt Groening, appeared on Tracey Ullman's comedy show, in the early days of the Fox network.

Friends was a smash hit for NBC and it was a big break for Jennifer Aniston, Courtney Cox and more. Joey was a short lived show and a disappointment for Matt LeBlanc who hoped for a continuation of the Friends magic.

That 70's Show...That 80's Show
That 70's Show, big hit with Ashton Kutcher, Laura Prepon, Mila Kunis and more. That 80's show, one decade later, much worse in the ratings.

The Brady Bunch...The Bradys
The Bradys took a more serious tone but it did not last long, and people had seen enough of this family.

Mary Tyler Moore...Rhoda...Lou Grant
People loved the character of Mary Richards played by Mary Tyler Moore. Valerie Harper had her own show as Rhoda. Ed Asner reprised his role as the crusty newsman Lou Grant.

Beavis and Butt-Head...Daria
Daria was a spin-off featuring a dour yet unquestionably more mature friend of Beavis and Butt-Head.

Jackass...Viva La Bam
Skateboarding pro Bam Margera had his own show where he would play wacky stunts on his family members. The Jackass guys would appear on his show regularly.

Family Guy...The Cleveland Show
Cleveland Brown became the focus of his own show, separate from Family Guy's Griffin family.


Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Live from New York it's...Howard Cosell?

I was listening to Billy Crystal's book on tape called "Still Foolin' 'Em" and he mentioned that he had worked on a show called Saturday Night Live. We know he worked on the NBC sketch comedy show that started in the 1970s with legendary comics like John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd. Crystal was known for playing Fernando Lamas ("You look mahvelous") and Sammy Davis Jr. But, he was not referring to that show. He was talking about an ABC variety show hosted by sportscaster Howard Cosell. Maybe the creators of the show figured that Cosell's popularity as a sportscaster could transfer to success as a variety show host. This show only lasted 18 episodes from September of 1975 to January of 1976. It aired from 8 pm to 9 pm and it had a cast of comics that included Bill Murray, his brother Brian Doyle-Murray and Christopher Guest. They were called the "primetime players". The show was ripped apart by critics. TV Guide called it one of the worst shows of all time. The first episode had some strong guests including Frank Sinatra, Paul Anka and John Denver. It originated from New York's Ed Sullivan Theatre at 53rd and Broadway, which would later become the home of Late Show with David Letterman in 1993.

In 1977, after the departure of Cosell's show, the NBC sketch show changed its name to Saturday Night Live from simply Saturday Night. Now we know the meaning of the SNL cast being called the "not ready for primetime players". I had wondered why the say "Live from New York, it's Saturday Night".

Read more abut this show here.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

CBS Television City in 1953

1953 CBS Television City shows, and the studios from which they originated;

THE RED SKELTON SHOW 31 (Johnny Carson's big break came on the Red Skelton show. Carson was a writer on the show. Red was injured, and Johnny filled in for him. Red predicted a bright future for the young Carson).

Information from Eyes Of A Generation Facebook page.

Thursday, June 05, 2014

"Chef" is a Film Feast for Foodies

The star/writer/director of the new film Chef is Jon Favreau. This could be called food porn for its beautiful culinary photography, so it's a perfect film for foodies. It has an all-star cast including Dustin Hoffman, Sofia Vergara, John Leguizamo, Oliver Platt, Robert Downey Jr., Scarlett Johansson and more. I get the impression that this work was a labor of love for Favreau, like his breakout film that he wrote, Swingers, from 1996. Favreau plays Carl Casper, a chef who works in a restaurant that is owned by Dustin Hoffman. His ex-wife is played by Sofia Vergara and they have a son together, Percy (Emjay Anthony). Chef Casper wants to be creative with his food and take chances but his boss wants him to appeal to the masses. The chef gets poor reviews from a food blogger played by Oliver Platt who feels like the chef should be creative and not cater to the lowest common denominator. Chefs graduate from culinary arts school, and it really is an art to create excellent food. Anyone who has watched Food Network knows that the visual element of food is important. It's like film or TV or music, one can take chances or look to appeal to the masses. Those who appeal to a wide audience may have more monetary success, but the critics will not like them. The chef ends up leaving his job and starting his own business in Miami, the El Jefe Cuban food truck. He drives the truck cross country with his son and his friend Martin, played by John Leguizamo. The trip is a way for Carl to bond with his son Percy, who teaches him about the power of Twitter to promote the business. This film will not be a blockbuster that makes hundreds of millions of dollars, but it is a fine work based on a good story with likable characters. As of June 1, the gross box office total is $6.9 million. A good film does not need special effects, sex or violence. According to, the approval rating is 88% from critics and 90% from audiences.

Information from and