Thursday, June 28, 2018

Thursday Movie Picks - TV Edition: Spin-Off Series

Written as part of the weekly blogathon hosted by Wandering Through the Shelves. Partake in the fun by picking three movies (or TV shows, when the case calls for it) that fit the week's theme!

I was originally going to do a theme within a theme this week, but ended up deciding to just pick three of my favorite TV Spin-Offs. It's been a crazy two weeks surrounding Pride weekend here in NYC and I'm more than a little tired. But also very spiritually fulfilled.

The Jeffersons (1975-1985) Just take a moment to revel in that theme song for a bit. It's okay, it's one of the greats. This All in the Family Spin-off (of which there were four others) is every bit as good as its parent show, dealing with issues that people weren't really talking about in "polite conversation" like interracial relationships and... well... racism in general. Sherman Hemsley and Isabel Sanford are perfectly matched as the titular couple who get to move to Manhattan's Upper East Side from Queens because of Mr. Jefferson's successful dry-cleaning business. Their fights are some of the funniest couple squabbles ever shown on TV. But it's Marla Gibbs as their maid Florence who really steals the show.

Frasier (1993-2004) One of the most Emmy-rewarded sitcoms of all time is a spin-off of one of the most successful TV shows of all time, Cheers. Famous for its witty, erudite scripts and sparkling chemistry between its leads, Frasier follows the titular radio psychiatrist as he takes care of his blue-collar father and clashes with his younger brother Niles, also a psychiatrist. I didn't much like this show as a kid when it was popular, but watching it in syndication as I got older, I came to really appreciate its smarts, which it never sacrificed even when it delved into farce and physical comedy.

Pinky and the Brain (1995-1998) GOD I miss great TV theme songs! Spun off from a recurring segment on the more variety show-esque Animaniacs, Pinky and the Brain follows the titular laboratory mice as the genius grump Brain hatches convoluted plots for world domination and the idiotic but good-natured Pinky inevitably screws them up somehow. This show was a staple of my after-school viewing as a kid, and it's still a delight as an adult, thanks in large point to the inimitable voice work and the often brilliantly-conceived and executed parodies that were the show's stock in trade.


  1. Oh man Pinky and the Brain is a good choice. I actually liked that show far more than Animaniacs.

  2. Who would have expected The Jeffersons to be the title of the week!! Yes the leads, Florence and Mother Jefferson were all great but the rest of the supporting cast was deceptively strong though they were often pushed into the background (well except for Lionel who was always sort of a Dudley)

    We match with Fraiser!!! Love that show, much more than Cheers frankly. The cast and the writers just knocked it out of the park week in and week out. As great as they all were I must admit to perking up just a bit more when there was an episode where the deliciously soulless Bebe Glazer showed up.

    Given that its animation I guess its no surprise I didn't watch Pinky and the Brain.

    I actually considered doing a theme within theme too based off of the Mary Tyler Moore show with Lou Grant, Rhoda and Phyllis. But despite Cloris Leachman's brilliance the show "Phyllis" was a weak sister that seemed jinxed from the start what with second lead Barbara Colby's murder after only the third episode. So I moved on taking Lou Grant with me.

    Aside from our match on Frasier we have related picks with one of mine also springing from All in the Family. And it has an awesome theme song as well.

    Maude (1972-1978)-Topical comedy of liberal feminist Maude Findlay (Beatrice Arthur) living in Tuckahoe, NY with 4th husband Walter (Bill Macy), divorced daughter Carol (Adrienne Barbeau) and Carol’s son Phillip and the social issues that she outspokenly debates with best friend Vivien (Rue McClanahan-playing a character very close to Golden Girls Rose Nyland), housekeepers Florida Evans (Esther Rolle-who eventually was spun off onto her own show Good Times), tippling Englishwoman Mrs. Naugatuck and her prig of a neighbor Dr. Arthur Harmon (Conrad Bain). While geared to comedy this tackled serious hot button issues such as abortion, alcoholism, facelifts, nervous disorders and prescription drug addiction. Maude was introduced as Edith Bunker’s cousin and Archie Bunker’s nemesis on Norman Lear’s groundbreaking “All in the Family” and proved so popular she was spun off to her own wildly popular show.

    Lou Grant (1977-1982)-Continuing his character from the iconic Mary Tyler Moore show Edward Asner takes Lou Grant from the cozy hilarity of the Minneapolis WJM-TV to the far more serious drama of the daily newsroom of the Los Angeles Tribune. Working closely with his two strongest reporters Joe Rossi and Billie Newman (Robert Walden & Linda Kelsey), managing editor Charles Hume (Mason Adams) and the paper’s publisher Margaret Pynchon (the great Nancy Marchand) they cover various stories each week. One of the very few shows to move a sitcom character to a dramatic setting successfully this became another awards magnet winning multiple Emmys including Outstanding Drama as well as for Asner who became the first performer to win the statue for the same character in both comedy and drama.

    Frasier (1993-2004)-When the sitcom Cheers closed up shop in 1993 hard luck psychiatrist Frasier Crane (Kelsey Grammer) packed up his bags and moved from Boston back home to his native Seattle and became a radio shrink for 11 eventful seasons. He deals with life with his father-retired cop Martin (John Mahoney), dad’s live-in physical therapist-the somewhat psychic Daphne Moon (Jane Leeves), his fun-loving show producer Roz (Peri Gilpin) and persnickety brother Niles (David Hyde Pierce) a psychiatrist as well. There’s also his perpetually unsuccessful love life including occasional drop-ins from his severe ex-wife Lilith (Bebe Neuwirth-another Cheers alum). Full of expert writing, superior comic performers and a satellite cast of daffy, endearing and hysterical characters (brash sportscaster Bulldog Briscoe, fussy food critic Gil Chesterton, Niles never seen but wildly eccentric wife Maris, and best of all Frasier’s agent Bebe Glazer-a woman totally without shame or scruple) this was as strong when it ended as when it began because the characters evolved over the season while remaining true to their original intent.

  3. As you know, we have a match with The Jeffersons. Great call by you.

    I loved Cheers, but like you I didn't really like Frasier when it was popular. I haven't gone back, yet. I feel like I should.

    Pinky and the Brain!!!!!! YESSSSS!!!!!!! Whenever anyone in my real asks "What are you gonna do today?," or some variation, I always have the same answer: "The same thing we do every day, Pinky, try to take over the world."

  4. Yeah for Pinky and The Brain! I love that show and Anamaniacs even though I was in my 30’s when this was on. We match with the Jefferson’s which is a grea5 show and Frasier is simply brilliant. I love, love, love tha5 show and thought it would be popular today which it is. I love Rob and the evil Bebe

  5. Pinky and the Brain! i used to love that show as a kid. That and Dexter's Laboratory

  6. I watch Frasier mostly in reruns too which is why I can't believe it ended its run more than a decade ago.