There have been more than a dozen successful TV spinoffs launched over the past couple of decades. And there has also been “Sunset Division.”
If you don’t remember that little gem, a would-be offshoot of “Crossing Jordan,” you’re not alone. But it was once a real-live possibility to make NBC’s schedule for the 2003-04 season, and viewers got a tease of it in April 2003, when “Jordan” followed Woody Hoyt (Jerry O’Connell) to Los Angeles on a case.
The show didn’t go forward from there, however, which makes it one of those would-be spinoffs that actually got a trial on-air run as part of their parent shows but never advanced beyond that. Six of them, including Woody’s ill-fated adventures in L.A., from the last 15 years are below.
One caveat: We’re not talking about proposed shows, a la the long-discussed “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” spinoff “Ripper,” that have never put any action on film, or would-be spinoffs that filmed pilots separate from their parent shows and didn’t make their respective networks’ schedules. The shows below actually had put their concepts before viewers and ended up not as shows of their own, but out-of-character episodes of their parent series.
Where it came from: The murder of Woody’s (O’Connell) mentor in his Wisconsin hometown leads him to Los Angeles, where he ends up working with the operatives of Sunset Division, who have all the latest crime-fighting technology at their disposal.
What happened: “Crossing Jordan” wasn’t exactly “The Wire” in terms of gritty authenticity, but it felt like the picture of realism compared to this episode (co-written by future “Lost” showrunner Damon Lindelof and “Jordan”/”Heroes” creator Tim Kring). Even by the standards of TV cop shows, “Sunset Division” felt implausibly slick, and it was scarcely mentioned again once Woody returned to Boston.
The “Gilmore Girls”-Jess spinoff
Where it came from: Toward the end of “Gilmore Girls'” third season, creator Amy Sherman-Palladino sent Luke’s (Scott Patterson) nephew Jess (Milo Ventimiglia) to Los Angeles in search of his estranged dad (Rob Estes) in an episode called “Here Comes the Son.”
What happened: The WB balked at spending the money to shoot the show on location in Venice Beach, and Jess became a much smaller presence on “Gilmore Girls” after that (Ventimiglia made six more appearances on the show’s final four seasons). One other note: Sherilyn Fenn, who played Estes’ girlfriend in the back-door pilot, turned up in Stars Hollow later as Anna Nardini, the mother of Luke’s daughter.
“Army Wives”-“Murder in Charleston”
Where it came from: In an episode of the Lifetime series that aired in
August, former cop Pamela (Brigid Brannagh) gets tied up in a murder
case and gets assigned to show a detective from Atlanta (Gabrielle
Union) around Charleston.
What happened: The filming of the back-door pilot attracted some
controversy when “Army Wives” executive producer Mark Gordon was accused
of using racial slurs on set. That didn’t appear to have anything to do
with the spinoff’s fate, however; Lifetime decided to pass a couple
weeks after the episode aired.
The “House”-Lucas spinoff
Where it came from: Early in the 2008-09 season, House (Hugh Laurie) hired a private investigator Lucas Douglas (Michael Weston) to spy on Wilson (Robert Sean Leonard) and later on other members of his team. Lucas eventually manages to get under everyone’s skin, including House’s.
What happened: “House” executive producers David Shore and Katie Jacobs decided the character wasn’t strong enough to carry a show, but Shore hasn’t let the private-eye idea go: He worked on a remake of “The Rockford Files” for NBC earlier this year.
The “Gossip Girl”-Lily spinoff
Where it came from: A May 2009 episode of “Gossip Girl” flashed back to Southern California in the 1980s, where we saw a teenage Lily (Brittany Snow), recently kicked out of boarding school, returning home to her family and friends.
What happened: Despite initial statements from CW chief Dawn Ostroff that the spinoff would be in the mix for midseason last year, it never materialized.
Where it came from: This would-be spinoff of “Xena: Warrior Princess”
(itself a spinoff of “Hercules: The Legendary Journeys”) starred Selma
Blair as a contemporary high-school girl who’s transported back in time
and lands in the hands of the Amazons.
What happened: The pilot filmed in 1997 and never aired in its complete
form (though it was passed around among some “Xena” fans). Portions of
it were incorporated into a 2000 “Xena” episode called “Lifeblood.”
For a look at TV spinoffs that actually made it out of the pilot stage (however briefly), see Zap2it’s gallery of the best and worst spinoffs since 1990.
Photo credits: Getty Images, Lifetime