Great spin-offs: “Rhoda,” “Maude” and … “90210”?


When I was a kid, I watched

a lot of Saturday morning television — Hong Kong Phooey, Underdog,

Krofft Superstars, etc. But even though I’ve outgrown (most) children’s

TV, I never fully broke the weekend morning TV habit. My guilty pleasure

of late has been watching Beverly Hills

on SOAPnet

on weekend mornings.

(Right now they’re in the college

years, and I keep enjoying little nuggets inspired by the year that

Darren Star and I overlapped at UCLA.)

So you’d think I’d be excited

about the news I heard the other day — a spin-off of 90210 is reportedly in the

. But, you

know, I wasn’t so much. In fact, I thought it sounded like a pretty

stupid idea. (As said, “9021-NOOOOOO!!!!”) The show ended eight years ago.

(And it should have ended at least 10 years ago.) There’s no word yet

on which cast members will return, and Darren Starr isn’t even attached

to the project. Additionally, the original audience is all grown up,

and I don’t know that they would really be interested in much more than

a reunion show. So, I don’t really get it. But apparently, it’s not

for me; it’s for the Gossip Girl crowd, and is intended to be

essentially a West Coast companion piece. Which still doesn’t explain

to me why it’s going to be a spin-off of a long-dead show.

Of course, 90210 has already

spawned one uber-successful spin-off, Melrose Place.

Melrose was one of those crazily

successful spin-offs that has probably spawned all sorts of spin-off envy

in development executives. It wasn’t a particular favorite of mine,

but I did like it in the relatively tame first season, before Michael

Mancini became Dr. Evil and when the main drama was the will-they-or-won’t-they

tension between Billy and Allison.

But rather than just puzzle

over the 90210 spin-off, I’d rather reminisce about spin-offs I recall

fondly. Here are a few of my favorites:

Rhoda (1974 —

The Mary Tyler Moore Show)

Rhoda was the first,

and best, of the three Mary Tyler Moore

spin-offs. (Phyllis and Lou Grant were the other two.)

Mary and Rhoda were a great iconic pair (remember Romy and Michelle fighting over who was the Mary and

who was the Rhoda in their relationship?), but Rhoda was a strong character

in her own right. She had great scarfs, an on-again-off-again marriage

and the most realistic New York Jewish family I’ve ever seen on television.

Maude (1972 —

All in the Family)

All in the Family spawned

so many spin-offs that even its spin-offs had spin-offs (Good Times

was a spin-off of Maude, and Checking In

was a spin-off of The Jeffersons.) Maude was the best. With Bea Arthur, Adrienne Barbeau and Mr.

Drummond, how could they go wrong? Not only was the show smart and irreverent, but

it was also daring — it featured a pre–Roe vs. Wade

. And the

show had a catch-phrase that is still rattling around in my head: “God’ll

get you for that, Walter.”


(1979 — Soap)

In all fairness, part of why

I liked Benson so much was because I loved Soap, which

was one of the best TV shows ever. As he was on Soap, Benson was the

smartest member of the household/staff. Which, I guess, explains how

he eventually ascended from butler to Lieutenant Governor. (I also had

a crush on Caroline McWilliams, who played the Governor’s secretary,

Marcy. A few years later, she played a lesbian on St. Elsewhere

and I was so happy. Even though I wasn’t fully out to myself.)

Mork and Mindy (1978

Happy Days)

A lot of people forget that

Mork and Mindy
was a spin-off of Happy Days, but there was that bizarre

episode where Mork battled Fonzie and the character proved popular,

and so the spin-off was born. Although the show lost its way once they married

and had the baby, Mearth, the early seasons were brilliant. And I used

to have a bit of a crush on Pam Dawber.


(1997 — Beavis and Butthead)

I didn’t only watch Daria

because I had a crush on her best friend, Jane. I also identified with Daria, and

loved the character development and wit of the show. My favorite moment

was when Daria and Jane were babysitting and reinventing fairy tales

and nursery rhymes for the kids. Jane popped off with, “And the dish ran away with

the spoon. But Hawaii was the only state that would recognize the marriage

as legal."


Facts of Life
(1979 — Diff’rent Strokes)

This is my favorite spin-off.

Period. Diff’rent Strokes‘ loss of Mrs. Garrett (and it

was a big loss) was Facts of Life‘s (and my) gain. Yes, it was

stupid that the school nutritionist was responsible for things such

as counting election ballots, and it was beyond contrived that the girls

lived in a room together for so many years.

Here’s a clip of the second

major contrivance keeping them together:

But, contrivances aside, I

loved that show then and I love it now. I suppose part of it was the

tension between Blair and Jo, but I also liked that in early seasons

they really hit some tough subjects — rape, suicide and teen pregnancy,

to name a few. And, to this day, I still know that “AU” is the symbol

for gold because of the episode in Season 4 when they were studying

for finals.

I guess we’ll see whether the

new 90210 becomes anyone’s new favorite spin-off. Will you be

watching? And what are your favorite spin-offs?

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