The Walking Dead: Are Spin Off Shows Really A Good Idea?
Apologies for the lack of new postings here at Remote Patrolled recently. I’ve been crazy busy on a trio of new network projects which I’ll hopefully be able to talk about very soon! What it does mean is that I’m knee deep in scripts and shooting at the moment. But being busy is definitely a good thing – so no complaints here!
Anyway back to business. As you may have read this week it looks like AMC ratings powerhouse The Walking Dead is on the verge of gaining a spin off in the near future, another zombie series following a fresh group of survivors in a totally different setting.
The announcement follows hot on the heels of news of an upcoming Breaking Bad spin off. And the trend is likely to continue as cable networks adopt the model of the broadcast networks who have been spinning off shows for years (NCIS, CSI, Law and Order, Private Practice, to name just a few). But are spin off shows really a good idea – or do they just dilute your brand?
This season ABC is spinning off Once Upon A Time In Wonderland and The CW is launching Vampire Diaries spin off, The Originals. I think the latter will be fine. The Vampire Diaries is still going strong and there seems to be an audience appetite for the spin off. That said when The Originals premiered as a backdoor pilot in April its ratings (2.24 million) weren’t spectacular.
Once Upon A Time In Wonderland on the other hand feels like a show that’s arrived a year too late. In it’s first season Once Upon A Time was an instant, buzzy hit. But season 2 fell sharply in the ratings and frankly fans feel over the show. Wonderland probably felt like a good idea at the time it was conceived. Now – not so much so.
Obviously there is a long TV history of successful spin offs – from Melrose Place to Frazier to Angel and so on. What the best spin offs do is create their own worlds. When a new series clicks it’s often because it has a unique tone, style and setting, often different from the original series that launched it. And the timing has to be right.
That’s certainly the case with The Walking Dead which couldn’t be hotter these days – it is, after all, the highest rated drama for 18-49 year olds on TV! Plus the Dead spin off has the blessing and the creative input of the key Walking Dead team.
The challenge of course will be making the show feel different to the original. With a show as dark as The Walking Dead it’s going to be tough to create a vastly different tone for the spin off series (‘wow, these new cast members are so funny!’) At the same time if the new show is just another bunch of survivors abandoned in the middle of nowhere… well it’ll just be The Walking Dead. A new setting – perhaps the city for example – could instantly help brand the spin off.
Of course it will help The Walking Dead that it’s a limited run cable series that only airs for 16 weeks of the year. There’s room for another show in this universe – and on the schedule. And the fans are hungry for it… for now.
But will they feel the same way by 2015, when The Walking Dead is well into its 5th season? We’ll see…
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And Happy Halloween everyone!