At ABC, 'Grey's Anatomy' Ready To Do Additional Operating

ABC now thinks it has found its "CSI," its "Law & Order" --- the network is thinking franchise when it comes to "Grey's Anatomy." It is developing a spinoff for its big show.

To be honest, though, the "CSI" and "Law & Order" franchises aren't true spinoffs. Though they have had characters that cross over from one show to another, plotlines were never really connected.

True spinoffs have rarely worked in the past -- even for the biggest shows. Most recently, NBC's "Joey" wasn't successful moving west to Hollywood from NBC's powerhouse "Friends." Still, "Frasier" made the grade as a rare exception, moving the story line out of "Cheers."

"Grey's Anatomy" creator and executive producer Shonda Rhimes has perhaps the best reason for another "Grey's" show: She says there are way too many popular characters and not enough room for quality plot lines. So Kate Walsh, who plays Addison Shepherd, is poised to leave Seattle Grace.

With a surplus of good characters, ABC isn't trying to start from scratch. Product extensions are a natural forms of business -- but one should be careful not to get too greedy. Donald Trump blames "The Apprentice: Martha Stewart" for the downfall of the original "The Apprentice." In reality, the original "Apprentice" had been trending down with viewers.

Still, if what is said is true, expect that one spinoff for "Anatomy" won't be enough; there are many "Grey's" favorites.

Mark Sloan, known as McSteamy and played by Eric Dane, has been threatening to move back to New York City. (Perhaps where Shepard is headed). Off-air, a number of actors might be leaving anyway. For example, Isaiah Washington, who plays Preston Burke, has had his troubles -- off-air -- with T.R. Knight, playing George O'Malley. Will both actors (and/or their characters) be departing?

Is a "Grey's" spinoff good business? If the viewers really are demanding it, it is. Advertisers will follow. But, as with anything else, the show's writers don't want to spread "Grey's" too thin. Network libraries are full of shows where executives were too greedy. Didn't "Law & Order" go one bridge too far with a fourth series, "Law & Order: Trial by Jury"?

OK, ABC isn't quite at that level yet -- though "Grey's Anatomy: Special Victims Unit" has a nice ring to it.

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