TV's Big Spin -- On Or Off

In TV world, it's déclassé for any show to be called a "spin-off." Sounds like a throwaway, of sorts.

Not too many TV executives will cop to this usable, but much maligned, TV term. They might use other snooty terms - "product extension" or "line extension."

Still, ABC's "Private Practice" seems to be doing nicely -- as a spin-whatever show, about a character that used to be on "Grey's Anatomy."

In syndication, CBS Television Distribution will launch "The Doctors" next season - a talk show spin-off from the makers of "Dr. Phil," which we all know is a kind of a spin-off of "Oprah Winfrey," who gave Dr. Phil regular guest spots on the show.

It gets murkier over those same-sounding, but with different cast and plot line, procedural crime dramas. CBS's "CSI" franchises -- "Miami" and "New York" -- are just separate shows. The same could be said of "Law & Order"s - though some characters have been on multiple shows.

We like spin-offs - even though many have had a rough history. The most successful in recent years, "Frasier," came from "Cheers." On the other side, we had "Joey" from "Friends."

We believe a "Seinfeld" spin-off could have made some noise. Before his ill-found tirade, Michael Richards, as Kramer, and Wayne Knight, as Newman, would have been the basis for a great spin-off.

I could see Kramer taking a job as a receptionist in the New York Cuban Consulate, always angling for a free round of golf with the Embassy executives or dealing for some new leisure suits. Newman, now manager at the U.S. Postal Service, could be conniving up new angles to acquire and sell Cuban Cigars - taking the postal trucks on some late night runs.

TV producers have been criticized for a lack of original show creativity when producing spin-offs. Yet they took great pains to build characters --- with years of brand equity. What's wrong with continuing - if the audience wants them? National advertisers, of course, like spin-offs because they seem like a safe bets.

In this regard, Fox has reconsidered the name of its action drama "The Sarah Conner Chronicles" to reflect its popular theatrical movie moniker: Now it's "Terminator: The Sarah Conner Chronicles." with the hope of giving the show a definite new spin.

And that brings up a subtle change that perhaps needs to be made. Maybe it's not spin-off -- maybe it's spin-on. Then again, Bill O'Reilly would definitely call it the Spin Zone



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