The main set on Clarissa Now was, as far as I can tell, a series of browns:
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.
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 ...
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.
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.
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.
Sony Pictures Television
In the '80s, every popular movie got a cartoon spinoff. John Rambo sure does kill a lot of people in his movies. Get some Koreans to draw him and slap it on TV every Saturday.
Hey, in Robocop, wasn't a police officer gruesomely murdered by a gang of drugged-up psychos? Whatever. Make it a cartoon.
The Real Ghostbusters followed the same logic. The show kind of / sort of took place in the same universe as the movies, so it continued the adventures of the Ghostbusters team we already knew and loved. Though, good luck trying to convince six-year-old me that this Peter Venkman ...
Columbia TriStar Television/
Sony Pictures Television
Fun Fact: voiced by Dave Coulier in seasons three-seven.
... is the same as this Peter Venkman:
Voiced by Dave Coulier in movies one and two.
The show was a hit. So the studio wanted to make it hit again almost ten years later. In 1997, Extreme Ghostbusters hit the air. It was part sequel to The Real Ghostbusters, part reboot. After the events of The Real Ghostbusters, the team goes out of business due to a lack of ghosts to bust. Egon lives in the firehouse and watches over the containment unit. When ghosts start making a comeback, he recruits the Burger King kid's club gang to be his new Ghostbusters team.
Sony Pictures Television/Burger King
The team is so forcefully diverse they must have been a part of a sinister experiment by Egon to see how long it would take whites and minorities to obliterate each other with proton packs. There was an Hispanic slacker, and even though I am one of those, I'm going to stamp that as almost racist. There was a black tech genius who is wedged somewhere in the background of every group picture online. There was a white goth girl, because anything other than a white goth girl would be too unrealistic. And there was a paraplegic, because they were quickly running out of races and needed another demographic to pander to. I guess different types of people working together is what made the show "extreme."
The show only lasted one season. Good. They only deserved one season after what they did to the classic Ghostbusters theme song. If you've ever wanted to hear your uncle's midlife crisis post-grunge garage band cover the Ghostbusters theme, here you go:
The best thing to come from Extreme Ghostbusters is the official website for the show, which is still up and hasn't been updated since 1998. Here, have fun exploring.
Just a few days before I began writing this entry, I caught a handful of episodes of the original Knight Rider series very late at night on a channel so obscure I think it might be broadcasting from an underground bunker in the past. The show has not aged well. Hasselhoff mugs with such porn star gusto after every line that it wouldn't be surprising if the conversation topic shifted to sausage and the camera panned down to show his cock sticking out of a pizza. It was terribly written, terribly acted, terribly directed, terribly lit, and terribly edited. I find it shocking that it was ever popular, and even more shocking that it spawned not one but two -- GODDAMN TWO -- sequel shows.
The first was Team Knight Rider. After over a decade off the air, a deranged idiot who lied his way into a TV executive job carried out the desires of the multitude of voices in his head that cried out for a sequel to Knight Rider. The show supposed that the Foundation for Law and Government (the shadowy organization that Michael Knight worked for in the original series) has expanded its operations from the back of an 18-wheeler in the original series to a high-tech military cargo jet.
Sorry. Wrong picture of a show about a shadowy government agency that uses a cargo plane as a home base.
Instead of one person driving a super-intelligent, crime-fighting talking car, it was five (in five separate vehicles; they weren't all crammed into one Trans Am). Five is precisely how many no-name actors it takes to fill the shoes of one David Hasselhoff.
Team Knight Rider lasted one season, and ended with a cliffhanger meant to signal the return of Hasselhoff as Michael Knight:
The second sequel was 2008's part sequel, part reboot series for NBC. Twenty-five years after the events of the original show, Michael Knight's son fills the indentation of his father's ass in K.I.T.T.'s driver seat. He and his team went on adventures and fought crime and did all manner of Knight Rider-y shit for 17 viewer-less episodes, before the show was canceled and the world collectively decided it was time to stop trying to revive the skeletal remains of an '80s show, which I am convinced people only watched to hear its dope-ass opening theme song.
In the end, the Knight Rider franchise has a lot in common with its star, David Hasselhoff: it's corny and not particularly good at what it tries to do, yet it keeps coming back in new, painfully embarrassing ways.
Luis wonders if any of you know the actor who played Clarissa's dad, and if he was indeed the person who helped a young Luis and his mom with a flat tire on the south-bound lane of I-95 after a trip to Universal Studios Orlando circa 1993. He swears it was him. You can find Luis on Twitter and Tumblr.
For more from Luis, check out 5 Actors Who Got Typecast in Bizarrely Specific Ways and The 3 Most Ridiculous VCR Board Games.
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