Spinoff Stories - Who’s The Boss [Article II]

ABC endured some troubled waters until the late '80s, with Tuesday sensation Who's The Boss being one of its shining jewels during its lean years.  A Top-20 performer from 1985-90, Who's The Boss became an ideal candidate in the eyes of the network to help launch more successful franchises.  What they discovered, however, was not all who reach the top of the charts are capable of spawning successful franchises. 

For another great read on other spinoffs, click HERE to read about Three's Company, a long successful show forced to bow out the same season Who's the Boss launched.

The Original Hit Machine:
Who's The Boss (1984-92) 
It is no wonder Who's The Boss became a solid performer in the '80s, as it bent the gender stereotypes.  Beautiful, savvy businesswoman Angela Bower (Judith Light) hires a male housekeeper, former minor league pitcher Tony Micelli (Tony Danza, fresh off hisrun on Taxi).  Together they maintained an unorthodox household comprised of his tomboyish daughter, Samantha (Alyssa Milano) and her sensitive son, Jonathan (Danny Pintauro).  Rounding out the ensemble was Angela's late-in-life (and promiscuous) collegiate mother, Mona Robinson (Katherine Helmond).  The ensemble jelled to perfection, never deviating in cast changes.  The driving force behind the sitcom was the romantic notions Tony and Angela flirted with, not explored until later in the series. 

The First Spinoff 
Charmed Lives (1986) 

Fran Drescher on Who's The Boss?  Those two concepts sounded incompatible in the same sentence, save for the Season 2 finale featuring a backdoor pilot for Charmed Lives.  The premise?  A marketing campaign Angela is working on needs a young Italian lady for its advertisement image for a spaghetti sauce distributor.  She is shown up by an earthy photographer (Donna Dixon, otherwise knows as Mrs. Dan Aykroyd).  Both women do not get the gig, but decide their odd couple pairing would make suitable roommates.  Sound believable?  Viewers didn't think so either, and ABC hocked it after 4 episodes. 

The Second Spinoff 
Mona (Never Aired) 

Integrating established characters from a parent series increases the odds of a series surviving.  ABC sought to transplant scene-stealing Mona in 1987 into her own series which she relocates to New York to help her brother run a dilapidated hotel.  The premise sounded promising, even with Season 3's cliffhanger leading Mona into this adventure.  Then, the network did the math and realized tinkering with the 10th Place show on the air would damage it and scrapped the spinoff.  Mona was indeed a scene stealer on Who's The Boss, but Helmond delivered more than zany laughs.  Mona was an active woman of age, not only in her sheets, but in her collegiate forays and careers.  She bridged the communication gap between her grandchildren and their parents, as well riling up her uptight, polished daughter.  Without Helmond, an ingredient would have been missing in the nuclear chemistry of the cast. Wise decision, ABC, as the series rose to 6th Place the following season. 

The Third Spinoff 
Living Dolls (1989) 

The last and most "successful" spinoff of Who's the Boss outlived the last efforts to colonize elsewhere by multiple episodes.  If gaining 12 episodes is a clever way to market being a flop.  At the close of Season 5, Samantha gets a visit from her Brooklyn friend, Charlie Briscoe (Leah Remini, of King of Queens and Kevin Can Wait fame).  Charlie is snagged by modeling agency executive, Trish Carlin (Michael Learned, The Waltons), and integrated with an ensemble of teen models including Emily (Halle Berry, pre-fame).  Critics vomited more acid than the series' bulimic models.  If ABC didn't get the memo, the ratings registered a paltry 6.9 in 88th Place of the 96 shows that season.  Ouch! 

Tie-Ins to Parent Series 

The two series which came to conception featured guest stars, and all ties were promptly severed from Who's the Boss?  Smart move, ABC, as that show's ensemble was its Nielsen weapon!  Why pollute the magic with failed characters? 

Why These Spinoffs Failed 

Timing is key to launching successful spinoffs.  Charmed Lives and Mona splintered during the proper 2-3 season marks.  However, what killed all of these shows was the characters being plucked from Who's the Boss.  No one cared who Fran Drescher or Donna Dixon were, as they were featured extras who sorely stuck out of the sophisticated cast.  And Remini, like Dixon and Drescher, was a capable actress saddled with a hill of horse droppings for material to act.  Katherine Helmond was beyond capable of carrying her own show, but leaving Who's the Boss would have ruined both her character and the cast remains.  The pilot idea would have been suitable as a continuation had Who's the Boss ended, but this was never pursued.  Who's the Boss could have supported a successful spinoff, but they never developed supporting characters who gained a viewer following to transplant elsewhere. 

Share this

Related Posts

Next Post »