Wednesday, 7 December 2011
TV spin-offs generally fall into two camps. They're either runaway successes that leave the mothership without a backward glance. Or they fall flat on their arse with ensuing death threats to the writers and actors, even The Radio Times. We all know the good guys - Frasier (from Cheers), Knowing Me, Knowing You with Alan Partridge (The Day Today) Parsley (The Herbs) to name but three. And the baddies - Going Straight (Porridge - what were Clement and Le Frenais thinking?), Charles Endell Esq. (Budgie - probably the only time Keith Waterhouse took his eye off the ball), The Pebbles And Bam Bam Show (The Flinstones), Joey (Friends) and so the list goes on.
But I think the filing cabinet should have two more drawers; the writers (sometimes) give us a brief glimpse of what could have been: Matt Groening knew that Chief Wiggum could have gone the distance - we all remember The Simpsons Spin-Off Showcase and the all too brief Wiggum PI. And then there's the bottom drawer. Spin-offs that were only ever made in our heads. My candidates for this treatment would include the identically dressed Howard and Hilda from Ever Decreasing Circles who would often leave dinner parties early to listen to The Shipping Forecast. I'd also pluck the two hapless Detectives from The Beiderbecke Trilogy who, with the help of Alan Plater, were given some fabulous lines. But, if push came to shove, my first choice would be Light Fingered Fred - Parker's jailbird buddy from Thunderbirds. Gerry Anderson gave the blundering con enough pathos to guarantee ratings week in week out, if he'd have so wished. In fact I'd have put the pair on at The National in Waiting For Godot. Well they gave it to Rick and Vivian, didn't they? Sorry, Mayall and Edmondson; who were, in turn, spin offs themselves.