Sometimes it seems like half the series I love end up getting a spin-off. Buffy: Angel. Vampire Diaries: The Originals. Friends: Joey. (Shudder.) And now CBS is saying How I Met Your Mother may get a spin-off/reboot in the form of How I Met Your Dad.
When we love things, we not only have a hard time letting them go, but we also want MOAR MOAR MOAR of them. Occasionally it works, but as often as not, shows and series are run into the ground by extended storylines and plots that just can’t carry the weight of an independent viewership. Shows spin out instead of spinning off, and tens of novels are written about characters we just don’t care about.
Can you tell I don’t usually go in for spin-offs?
I love Buffy, but I’ve never made it through Angel. I haven’t even tried The Originals. I only watched the pilot of the short-lived Joey show because my college friends had more loyalty to Friends than I did and insisted I should. (I regret giving in to peer pressure: that’s 30 minutes of my life I’m never getting back!) I’m only just starting to venture into the follow-up novel to Karen Marie Moning’s Fever series, which I adore and am afraid can’t continue as awesomely as it began. I can take or leave all the books that follow Jacqueline Carey’s original Kushiel trilogy. That much-later Brandon Sanderson Mistborn-follow-up, Alloy of Law? Nope, nope, nope.
I just can’t do it.
Frequently I joke that I don’t have much author loyalty*: I haven’t read any of J.K. Rowling’s other work, I’ve not read any of GRRM’s sci-fi, and I don’t have an abiding love for Lord John Grey in Diana Gabaldon’s other work. When I get into a series on screen or page, I fall fathoms deep in love with the characters and stories in front of me. If those beloved characters carry on, as in the not-so-great Buffy comics, I’ll keep slogging along in spite of my better judgement. And I am venturing into the Fever series follow-ups, because the world is rich with possibilities for new stories. But when a plot-adjacent character ventures off on his own, I won’t follow unless I really love that particular individual… and neither Angel nor Klaus was interesting enough for me want to look up after he’d moved on.
The trouble is that often when a new series spins off of the original, it doesn’t have enough independent tension to hold it together, so it unravels rather quickly. I mean, Wolfram and Hart? Evil demon lawyers? Seriously? That’s not a compelling villain, at least not to me, and while I’m willing to watch a character I love fight a weak-sauce bad guy every now and then, I’m not game for watching a protagonist who leaves me cold fight a villain who doesn’t impress me.
And frequently, the characters just aren’t well-rounded enough to act as a center of gravity for an entire new cast and plot. A hollow protagonist can’t hold an engaging love interest, won’t challenge a menacing antagonist, and doesn’t attract deep secondary characters. While I enjoyed Klaus’s dynamic with some of the original characters of The Vampire Diaries, I’m not sure he’s versatile enough to act as the pivot point for a multi-year, independent series.
Clearly, though, I stand alone in not particularly caring about spin-offs, because their creation generates enough interest and money for networks and publishers to keep unraveling original plots and casts every year. The Originals started this fall and pulls similar viewership numbers to its parent show, and Angel ran for a solid five seasons.
Beats me. I’m just not that into them.
So where do you stand? Are you a spin-off lover or hater? Do you watch them on a case-by-case basis? Are there any spin-offs you’ve liked better than the original?
*Joss Whedon may be the only** exception to this statement. I’ll watch (almost) anything the man makes.
**Guy Gavriel Kay may be another exception, but his most recent books have started to test my love.