Monday, July 5, 2004

Spin Offs

Well, the television season has been well over for awhile. It should be no surprise, then, that the networks are promoting next season's new crop of shows. Among them is another spinoff of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, it is basically, well, CSI in New York. I also known that NBC plans to debut another spinoff of Law and Order, later next season. Law and Order: Trial by Jury will take the viewer through a case from arraignment to the final verdict.

The idea of the spinoff originated in radio broadcasting. The very first spinoff occurred in 1941. It was The Great Gildersleeve, a spinoff of the radio show Fibber McGee and Molly. Beulah was another show spun off from Fibber McGee and Molly. Both The Great Gildersleeve and Beulah proved very successful, as did many spinoffs in years to come. Naturally, then, the idea of the spinoff was one that made the transition from radio to television. The Rifleman was spun off from an episode of Zane Grey Theatre. In turn, Law of the Plainsman was spun off from The Rifleman. Sometimes a spinoff proved even more successful than the show from which it was spun off. The Andy Griffith Show was spun off from an episode of Make Room for Daddy and has been a fixture of television ever since.

Of course, spinoffs can be a calculated risk. There is the theory that the decline in the ratings of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. experienced in its thrid season may largely have been due to its spinoff, The Girl From U.N.C.L.E.. Quite simply, there was too much U.N.C.L.E. on the air and viewers got burned out on it. I tend to think the decline in the ratings of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. may have been more due to the decline in quality of the series, although it is possible that the spinoff could have been a factor in its demise. Another example is Happy Days, which saw a decrease in ratings when Joanie Loves Chachi was spun off from that show.

My thought is that probably Law and Order: Trial by Jury probably won't hurt Law and Order. Producer Dick Wolf has insured that each Law and Order series is significantly different from the others and it would appear that Law and Order: Trial by Jury is probably not going to be an excepiton. Since none of the other shows follow a case through from the arraignment to the end of the trial, it will not resemble the other Law and Order series very much. On the other hand, I have my doubts about the fate of the CSI franchise. To me, CSI: Miami is not significantly different from CSI: Crime Scene Investigation; one simply takes place in Las Vegas while the other takes place in Miami. I seriously doubt that CSI: New York will differ very much from the other two CSI series. In that case, it's possible that CSI will suffer from exposure, resulting in viewers tiring of all three series, and the ultimate demise of all three series.

Of course, I could be wrong. All three CSI could remain successful for years to come. While spinoffs would seem to have a built in audience, carried over from the parent show, they can still be as unpredictable as any other TV show. Sometimes they are hits. Sometimes they even surpasss the parent show in success. Other times, they bomb. And it's often hard to tell which spinoffs will hit and which ones will miss.

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