The 2013 fall season features the premiere of two major spin-offs. The Originals brings the first family of vampires from The Vampire Diaries to New Orleans. Once Upon a Time in Wonderland follows Alice as she battles Jafar (from Aladdin) to rescue her genie quasi-boyfriend. No offense guys, but neither series is ready to spin-off.
All in the Family spawned two major spin-offs, The Jeffersons and Maude. Frasier was a spin-off from Cheers and kept Camille Kelsey Grammer rolling in dollars. But not all series can launch a spin-off or risk losing major characters.
Here are a few major spin-offs that were a little premature:
Klaus (Joseph Morgan) and Rebecca (Claire Holt) were a great in-flux of new blood into The Vampire Diaries. They have great salty lines and offer an evil alternative to the squeaky clean vampires. There also is room for them in the series with Kat Graham and Michael Trevino appearing in less of the show. There was never enough character development for them so a spin-off could does make some sense. However, pairing them with flat model types and constantly relying on flashbacks isn’t as endearing as it is on The Vampire Diaries. Also, Phoebe Tonkin is wasted as a baby incubator when she was the best part of her first American series, The Secret Circle.
Once Upon a Time in Wonderland
Once Upon a Time is a fluke. The edgy comic book series Fables is much better at bringing fairy tale characters into the “real world.” Using the whitewashed Disney versions of the popular stories makes each episode feels like gross product placement for the Disney house of horrors vault. The saving grace is likable actors like the lovable Ginnifer Goodwin, Robert Carlyle, and the deliciously evil Lana Parrilla. However, Wonderland is just a cheap, shameless sequel that only cannibalizes the few possible storylines for later seasons of the original. Naveen Andrews dressed in an elaborate leather costume is laughable. Poor Emma Rigby as The Red Queen seems like a porn star on the wrong set. It’s also a total waste of actors like John Lithgow and rock legend Iggy Pop.
By the last season of Friends, each character feels like an outlandish stereotype. Except of course Jennifer Aniston who was playing A-list actress Jennifer Aniston. Joey (Matt LeBlanc) was so stupid and unaware that he didn’t seem functional enough to drive a Matchbox car, let alone carry a series. The spin-off finds him in Los Angeles with his sister (Drea de Matteo) and working on being an actor. It wasn’t horrible but there wasn’t enough juice in the character to keep the show alive.
Kate Walsh is magic! She added such great energy to Grey’s Anatomy as Dr. Addison Forbes Montgomery-Shepherd. It seemed like a great idea to take her to the sun-soaked beaches of Los Angeles on a hunt for love. The series wasn’t a total fail but it did rob Grey’s Anatomy of one of its greatest characters. It also had trouble finding its sea legs and a format for the show that would work.
Richard Grieco added a lot more edge and man candy to 21 Jump Street. However, it was ill advisedly decided to give him a spin-off. After it tanked, there was an attempt to bring him back to the series but it tanked. Had he stayed on 21 Jump Street he may have been able to take over when Johnny Depp unceremoniously left in the third season.
Charmed Lives/Living Dolls
Successful syndication has proved Who’s the Boss? is a part of television history. Sadly, lightning was not able to strike twice…no matter how hard they tried. Fran Drescher and Donna Dixon were dueling models working with Angela (Judith Light). They were spun-off into an odd couple precursor to 2 Broke Girls. Angela also got a modeling job for Samanta’s friend Charlie (Leah Remini) gets recruited as a model for one of Angela’s contacts she moves in to a house full of models including Halle Berry. Despite this notable casting, neither series lasted very long.
The tragic opera tells the story of a disfigured musical genius (Gerald Butler) who haunts the catacombs beneath the Paris Opera waging a reign of terror over its occupants [cue the organ music]. Think The Elephant Man meets The Hunchback of Notre Dame--except this particular "monster" has some serious sex appeal. I mean honestly his only "disfigurement" is some scarring on one side of his face which he covers with a rather classy mask. No big whoop. But I digress. When he falls desperately in love with the lovely ingénue Christine (Emmy Rossum) who has lived in the opera house for most of her life the Phantom devotes himself to molding the young soprano into a star exerting a strange sense of control over her as he nurtures her extraordinary talents. But when Christine falls for the dashing Raoul (Patrick Wilson) all hell breaks loose as the Phantom's growing jealousies threatens to tear everyone apart [OK now it's really time to cue the organ music].
Fans will no doubt be happy their favorite musical has finally made it to the big screen but the musical's original stars Michael Crawford and Sarah Brightman have been replaced in the movie version by hot young actors. This is a very wise decision considering the film's rather longwinded nature. In other words even though the Phantom performers keep singing and singing and then sing some more at least they are appealing to watch (and they did do all their own singing). Butler (Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life) is particularly effective as the Phantom all brooding mysterious and far more intriguing a suitor than pretty boy Raoul played blandly by Wilson (HBO's Angels in America). With her alabaster skin and long luscious locks Rossum (The Day After Tomorrow) also does a nice job as Christine. But she is unfortunately limited to only a few range of emotions--either all doe-eyed and somber over her Phantom doe-eyed and gushy over Raoul or just plain doe-eyed. As for the supporting players Minnie Driver nearly steals the show as the Italian soprano diva La Carlotta. As the only breath of fresh air in the musty opera house you definitely crave more of her.
It's taken about 15 years to bring Webber's smash hit to the big screen. Apparently after winning every known theater award for Phantom the legendary producer-composer approached director Joel Schumacher in 1988 to do the movie after being impressed by Schumacher's work on The Lost Boys. Hmmm The Lost Boys to Phantom of the Opera--I'm still trying to tie that one together. Anyway Webber had to postpone production for personal reasons and then Schumacher was busy doing such films as Tigerland and Phone Booth. Finally the time was ripe to make Phantom coming on the heels of the musical movie boom started by Moulin Rouge and Chicago. Schumacher certainly incorporates all the right elements from the young and talented cast to the opulent sets and magnificent costumes. The problem is the material: Phantom really isn't all that compelling of a story. Sure the stage production was and still is a theatrical event especially as the Phantom moves on catwalks all over the theater and the impressive chandelier comes crashing down on the stage. But for the film adaptation there needs to be something more than just grand posturing set pieces and operatic music. Maybe a little more dialogue? A sex scene? Anything?