TV Gal's Rules for Spin-Off Success

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I've always loved the idea of a spin-off -- particularly if you could pull it off in real life. You know, pop into a new city, already have a great place to live, a fantastic job and a bunch of cool friends (they'll all be in the opening credits). Odds are a potential love interest will miraculously materialize in the pilot (he'll probably live next door) and you'll still be able to visit your old friends during a sweeps month.

But it's a rocky remote to having a successful spin-off. For every "Rhoda" there's a "Joey." For every "The Jeffersons," "The Tortellis." How will the "Grey's Anatomy" spin-off featuring Addison fare? On first blush, pretty well. Kate Walsh has already succeeded in making us like a character who, by all accounts, we were supposed to despise. My rules for a successful spin-off are pretty simple:

The Character Isn't Played Out: There is still information we don't know about the character -- stories left to tell, a side of him/her we haven't seen. That's why "Angel" succeeded and poor Sarah Reeves definitely didn't have the time of her life when she left "Party of Five." I think there are still stories left to tell for Addison and it will be good to get her away from all the McDreamy/McSteamy/McAlex shenanigans.

The Character Isn't One-Dimensional: The "Cheers's" spin-off "The Tortellis" didn't succeed because the Tortellis were only entertaining during their infrequent visits to "Cheers," where their stupidity and shallowness was funny. A whole show built around them simply wasn't amusing. The problem with "Joey" is that after 10 years on "Friends" he was back to season-one style Joey. And 10 years later his revolving dating door was a little less funny and a lot more sad. Addison is the best kind of TV characters: complex, multi-dimensional and her career as an ob/gyn easily lends itself to patients of the week stories.

The Show Is Completely Different: "Frasier" was a success because the producers gave Frasier a brother who was more Frasier than Frasier. They also moved Frasier out of Boston and gave him a whole new setting, new workplace, and new family. "Grey's" would be well-advised to move Addison back to New York. And if Taye Diggs is her new boss all the better.

We're Okay With the Character Leaving: Before leaving Sunnydale to join "Angel," Cordelia made amends with Xander, came through for the gang on the day of the Ascension, and was so over her crush on Wesley. A little thing called closure can make a huge difference. I can't wait for Addison to get away from whiny Meredith, increasingly annoying Isabel and the constant repetitive story lines over on "Grey's Anatomy."

Who else do I think is worthy of a spin-off? Let's take a look:

Kyle on "The Class": Ever since "The Class" went through its restructuring, Kyle has been reduced to Ethan's asexual sidekick. While the other third grade friends have veered into concerning directions (Richie's sarcasm has gone from sweetly insecure to angry), Sean Maguire's Kyle is the only character I would like to know more about. Here's what I'm thinking: he can be on a spin-off with Matthew Rhys, Kevin on "Brothers & Sisters." For one thing, we've got to get Kevin away from Chad and he is my favorite Walker sibling. Plus maybe then Ethan can visit Kyle and have a nonexistent romantic life.

Sun and Jin on "Lost": You all know they have long been my favorite back story on "Lost." I'd love to see a whole series based on what their life before they got on that fateful plane.

Kellerman on "Prison Break": Network TV keeps searching for an anti-hero (see "The Black Donnellys") and I think Kellerman, a fantastic character on an progressively mediocre show, is the perfect choice. Plus, I really want Paul Adelstein to have his own series. Who could be his deliciously evil partner in crime? Sylar, played by the equally fabulous Zachary Quinto, of course.

Abby on "ER": If "ER" does end after next year, I would still follow Abby Lockhart. Maybe she and Elliot from "Scrubs" could open their own practice.

Who would you like to see have their own spin-off? Write me at amytvgal@zap2it.com and let me know.

Where Have I Seen Them Before?

I voted this most fun familiar face of the week. Don't have a cow, man, but Nancy Cartwright, the voice of Bart Simpson on "The Simpsons," was the AA sponsor Chloe called on "24."

Michael Reilly Burke, Kevin on "Lincoln Heights," is Carson, the man who assembled the bomb to kill President Palmer on "24." He was also Brady on "Providence" and, fun fact, Rex in the original pilot of "Desperate Housewives."

Michelle recognized Tina Holmes as Kellerman's brother on "Prison Break." Holmes was Deborah on "Vanished," Maggie on "Six Feet Under" and Ms. Wade last season on "Invasion."

All of this week's bonus points go to Joe who figured out that Trent Ford, who played Benjamin Chow on "The Class," played Zoey's obnoxious French boyfriend Jean-Paul on "The West Wing."

And here's another good one. Matthew John Armstrong, the radioactive Ted Sprague on "Heroes," was Pete Pryor on "American Dreams." It took me forever to recognize him with the long hair and beard.

Quotes of the Week

"I am trying to figure out which Gilmore Girl you are." Veronica to Wallace when he tells her he saw Logan having lunch with Parker on "Veronica Mars." Thanks to Steve and Gil who were the first two to send in this week's most popular quote.

"I don't trust you." Jack to President Logan in the understatement of the year on "24."

"Wow, the manatee has become the mento." Tracy to Kenneth on "30 Rock." Thanks to Will for the quote.

"Well, look at that. Somebody's hooked on phonics." Sawyer to Jin on "Lost." Thanks to Tricia, Renee and Clarke for the quote.

"Let's get this straight. My parents live in Ohio, I live in the moment." College Ted to college Marshall on "How I Met Your Mother." Thanks to Sarah for the quote.

"Eugene and Kelly sitting in a tree, K-e-e-s-i-n-g." Esperanza to Eugene on "The Knights of Prosperity." Thanks to Wendy for the quote.

Highlights of the Week Ahead
All times listed are Eastern Time from March 5 to 11

Can I have a whoo and a hoo? Patricia Wettig reprises her role of the dastardly President Caroline Reynolds on "Prison Break" Monday at 8 p.m. on FOX. Expect a showdown between Michael and his vegetable chopping nemesis. And fun fact: that was actually Wettig's voice we heard a couple of weeks ago on the phone.

Why would I watch "Rules of Engagement" (Monday, CBS, 9:30 p.m.) this week you ask? Excellent question. Jessica Walters, the much missed Lucille on "Arrested Development," is guest starring.

Missy Peregrym, Jackie on "life as we know it," continues her debut as the newest hero on "Heroes" (Monday, NBC, 9 p.m.). NBC will also air a sneak peek of "Spiderman 3" during the hour.

Now that "The Nine" has been cancelled (sniff) I think it's high time for Audrey to make her way back to "24" (Monday, FOX, 9 p.m.). As melodramatic as Jack was with her, he's so much worse with Marilyn. Also what's up with all the missing characters this season? I know that Karen Hayes is allegedly on a plane from D.C. to Los Angeles but couldn't she at least call Bill? And we haven't seen Sandra Palmer or her boyfriend in far too long. I'd gladly catch up with them and forget about the Morris storyline (although I was so glad someone finally used the bathroom).

"What About Brian" begins its final four episodes Monday at 10 p.m. on ABC. Come one, go ahead and start watching.

You all have been suspiciously quiet about "The Black Donnellys" (Monday, NBC, 10 p.m.). Is it because you didn't like or didn't watch? Please advise. I can't quite decide if I like Joey Ice Cream as the unreliable narrator. He's adding comic relief to all the bloodshed but my gut feeling is that after awhile, I'll want him to be quiet.

Dave Matthew plays a piano savant who stays at Princeton-Plainsboro Hospital on "House" Tuesday at 9 p.m. on FOX. Kurtwood Smith ("That '70s Show") plays his father.

"Crossing Jordan" moves from Sunday night to Wednesday at 9 p.m. on NBC. It's gets a reprieve from "American Idol" this week since FOX is premiering "The Wedding Bells" (which unfortunately I didn't get in time to review for this week's column) Wednesday at 9 p.m. on FOX. I will tell you that I've heard there are a lot of exciting things coming up on "Crossing Jordan" for the rest of the season. So if you're a fan and you want to see the show return for a seventh season, make sure to watch.

Find out how you're doing in your "American Idol" office pool when the Top 12 finalist are revealed at Thursday at 8 p.m. on FOX. Is Sanjaya Malakar this year's Kevin Covais? We'll soon find out.

A friend of mine asked me the other day why he can't get into "30 Rock" (Thursday, NBC, 9:30 p.m.). While the show has improved vastly since its premiere, I can understand why people still aren't in love with it. It's still a show whose parts are funnier than its whole. I do love Liz's dating life (it's like the bizarro version of "Sex and the City") and I love Alec Baldwin, but the plots of the show widely vacillate in quality sometimes too dry, sometimes too slapstick. What do you think of "30 Rock"? Write me and let me know.

That's all for today. I'll be back next week to talk about "Grey's Anatomy" (with guest star Shohreh Aghdashloo), the return of "Six Degrees," "The Amazing Race: All-Stars," "Brothers & Sisters" and much, much more. Have a question? Seen a familiar face? Want to nominate a quote of the week? Write me at amytvgal@zap2it.com.

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