First off, let's make a distinction between a sequel TV series and a spinoff:
Sequel shows are when much of the original cast is back and/or the story of the original show is continued in a new series with a slightly altered focus. In this category are shows like Girl Meets World (a sequel to Boy Meets World), All Grown Up! (a sequel to Rugrats), and Legend of Korra (a sequel to Avatar: The Last Airbender).
A spinoff is when a TV executive figures that if one show is really good and popular, then the individual pieces of it must be just as good. Frasier spun off from Cheers, Joey came from Friends, Torchwood from Doctor Who, The Cleveland Show from Family Guy, etc.
There have been way too many spinoffs in television history to mention here. But I could knock out a list of sequel shows in a few lines. Sequels fail nearly as often as they're greenlit, which explains why I was surprised to find that some of TVs most iconic shows were given sequels that should never have been made.
#5. Clarissa Now Was a Sequel to Clarissa Explains It All
Suzanne Collins, the author of the Hunger Games books, got her start as a writer on Clarissa Explains It All, the classic '90s Nickelodeon sitcom. That's not surprising when you think about it. Both series revolve around teenage girls who don't feel like they've been written to pander to little girls, or to be a sexual idols for boys who aren't quite sure what sex is yet (but their gut instinct tells them they'll like whatever it turns out to be). They're just ... cool people.
Though a fight between the two would be quick and horrific.
Clarissa Darling was a character way ahead of her time. She had wit, she had charm, and she propelled those qualities with direct-to-camera monologues that long predated the era of the YouTube star. In a time when adult network sitcoms all employed the same bland visual style and storytelling techniques, Clarissa Explains It All feels stylistically closer to today's sitcoms. It has cutaways, non-sequiturs, flashbacks, silly fantasy sequences -- it felt like the children's version of 30 Rock or Scrubs long before either was even a thought ...... which is probably why the 1995 sequel series ordered by CBS didn't even make it past its pilot episode: Clarissa Explains It All ended its Nickelodeon run in December of 1994. In 1995, CBS ordered a pilot for Clarissa Now, a sitcom that continued the story of Clarissa Darling as she entered adulthood. Instead of being the cool kid handling her teenage issues like the witty badass she was, she was an 18-year-old intern at a big time New York City newspaper. She had demanding bosses and dealt with mean New Yorkers. She went from being every little boy and girl's best friend to being an adult working in the harsh real world. The main set on Clarissa Explains It All was a colorful, vibrant bedroom beaming with personality:
The main set on Clarissa Now was, as far as I can tell, a series of browns:
Every character was a shitstain of a human, and there in the middle was the ever-optimistic, ever-perky Clarissa, getting shat upon by them all. But that wasn't the show's main issue -- its existence was the problem. The two shows were only separated by a matter of months. Kids who had been watching Clarissa Explains It All hadn't had a chance to grow up yet. Clarissa was moving into adulthood, but the character's audience was still getting the hang of not pissing the bed.
#4. Gilligan's Planet Was a Sequel to Gilligan's Island
Those morons on Gilligan's Island eventually made it off the island. They then immediately crash-landed on an alien planet.Wait. I may have skipped a step there. Here, this will explain it:
Gilligan's Island's ratings were never great by the standards of its era. It pulled in anywhere between 13 million to 11 million viewers per episode -- middling numbers for the '60s, but amazing by today's standards. It made up for its waning ratings by being a pop cultural success. Think of it as the 1960s version of Mad Men -- relatively low ratings, but a massive cultural footprint.
Gilligan Island's legacy carried on into the '80s, when an animated sequel series was produced. The Professor, who couldn't patch a hole in a boat, made a spaceship out of wood.
The ship successfully launched, only to overshoot their landing spot by a few light years and crash on an alien planet that could sustain human life. The odds of that happening are astounding.
The show only lasted 12 episodes, or about as long as it took for its producers to sober up from their three-month-long peyote binge and see the evils they had wrought upon man. Sadly, the Harlem Globetrotters never crash-landed on their planet for a rematch. Their ship was left stranded in cartoon space for eternity after the show's cancellation and the Harlem Globetrotters' death.
#3. The Munsters Today Was a Sequel to The Munsters
If you like shows where the premise can be summed up as, "Because fuck you, that's why!" then you'll love The Munsters, a show that never once tried to explain why, in 1960's suburban California, a bunch of dead people were being witty like every other sitcom family, pretending being dead was cool but then wondering why normal humans would freak out when they saw a bunch of revived flesh and a werewolf boy walking around and talking like that shit was cool.
Like Gilligan's Island, the ratings sucked (because in 1964, 13 million viewers was the ratings equivalent of the viewing public suffocating a show with a pillow). Since then, three made-for-TV movies have come out, and recently, the show was revamped and then canceled by NBC as Mockingbird Lane. But in 1988, the original show was brought back with a sequel called The Munsters Today.
The sequel series begins with an entirely original premise: everyone falls asleep in an experimental sleeping chamber ...
20th Century Fox Television
Scene from the pilot episode.
... only to wake up and discover that 22 years have passed, and it is now 1988.
20th Century Fox
Scene from the pilot episode, alternate angle.
As soon as they're out, the Munsters get right to work on bringing the laughs by stealing the best joke from Back To The Future, in an attempt to prove right all the critics who called the show a tired rehash.
It ran for three full seasons, none of which was carried by a specific network in America, as it was put into syndication from the start. Though three seasons seems excessive. I've watched a handful of episodes on YouTube, and the kindest thing I can say about the show is that it is truly remarkable that the episodes continued to play in spite of all the holy water I threw at my screen.