Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Series, Sequels, & SpinOffs

by Anita Mae Draper

I've always loved reading books that came in series the same way I loved watching TV mini-series or movies with sequels and prequels. It's probably the same reason some people watch daytime soaps or evening drama series - the ones that tell the story and are best watched in sequence.

Remember when Dynasty and Dallas led the evening soaps of the 80's?

We were glued to those shows because we loved and wanted the best for the characters, or we disliked them intensely and wanted them to get their comeuppance. (Yes, I'm a Christian, but I don't waste time praying for fictional characters.)

Sure, I enjoy the stand-alone shows where you can miss a week or month and then watch an episode and you haven't missed anything because every show stands on it's own merit and the show doesn't hinge on the characters' personal lives. But the shows that really draw my attention are the ones like Castle, NCIS, Murdoch Mysteries, etc, where I can't wait for the next episode because I care what happens to the characters and I want to be there through the hills and valleys of their lives.

I was devastated at the end of Murdoch Mysteries Season 4 when Dr. Ogden married someone else because Murdoch was too - I hesitate to use the word wimpy - and didn't chase after her until it was too late. Granted, the appeal of the show is learning about 1890 forensics and turn of the century inventions, but it's the relationship between Det. Murdoch and Dr. Ogden that ensures I don't miss a single episode.

What I didn't realize is that unlike most other weekly tv shows, Murdoch Mysteries is based on the Murdoch Mystery novels by Canadian author Maureen Jennings.

This is a perfect example of how a novel need not end on the last page.

Maureen Jennings first wrote A Murdoch Mystery, then turned it into a 7-book series. In 2008, three Murdoch Mysteries made-for-tv movies aired.

The tv series soon followed on the heels of that success and it's now in its 5th season with production to start on Season 6 soon. This is fantastic news not only because there are so few shows out there in the late Victorian period, but because it shows us that as writers, if we have the courage to write about it, there's no telling how far our work can go.

That's where the spinoffs come in... some successful shows give birth to spinoffs - like NCIS Los Angeles, which I didn't watch for the first year because I felt it was trying to usurp the NCIS characters - people whom I cared about. The funny thing is, the writers of the show are so great, that when I finally watched an episode, I realized I really like the new characters. Each of them had dreams and foibles which make them unique and caught my interest. I now watch every episode because I care about them.

Drama shows aren't the only ones with spinoffs, however, as they are created frequently from situation comedies (sitcoms). For instance, do you recognize this sign...

Central Perk sign from the set of Friends

I took the photo from the set of Friends when Inky Susie and I were on the Warner Bros studio tour while in California for the Romance Writers of America (RWA) conference at the end of July.

Inkies Anita Mae Draper and Suzie Johnson on the sofa of
 the Friends set at Warner Bros Studios, July 2012

And here's the original cast of the show, Friends, which ran for 10 seasons.

Friends commemorative wallpaper courtesy of

After the show ended, the producers created the spinoff, Joey, which ran 2 seasons. Some say it died because the producers panicked when the first season showed good returns, but they wanted great returns. It's also rumoured that a second spinoff called, Gunther, was based on the coffee barista at the Central Perk coffeehouse, but never made it to the air.

What does this prove? I think it proves that the spinoff was created in a rush to satisfy what was perceived as public demand, yet even the adoring public didn't stick around for what has been hailed as a badly crafted character since they took the original Joey and changed him into someone to whom the public couldn't relate.

Which leads me back to series books. There is really no telling how far a well crafted series can spread with all the media we have available today.

What is your favourite spinoff either from a book series or a tv show?


Anita Mae Draper is retired from the Canadian Armed Forces and lives on the prairie of southeast Saskatchewan, Canada with her hubby of 30 plus years and 2 of their 4 kids. She writes stories set on the prairies of Saskatchewan, North Dakota, Montana and Wyoming. Anita Mae has semi-finaled in the Historical Romance category of the ACFW's 2011 Genesis contest and finaled in the Inspirational category of the 2011 Daphne du Maurier, the 2011 Fool for Love, the 2011 Duel on the Delta and 2009 Linda Howard Award of Excellence contests. Anita Mae is represented by Mary Keeley of Books and Such Literary Agency. You can find Anita at


  1. First - I have to say that I have Murdoch Mysteries on queue to watch from start to finish so I'm glad to know you love them so much.

    And, Dallas is coming back. That's almost a bit frightening to me. Dallas, Dynasty, Knot's Landing, and Falcon Crest - Those were my escapes when I had little ones. (Magnum PI topped the list but it was more action than drama, the character progressions were much slower)

    I think that Knot's Landing was a spin of of Dallas. I can't say it was my favorite spinoff but it was successful.

    Gene Roddenberry not only created the starship Enterprise, but certainly is responsible for the biggest spin off mega-machine ever. Novels and tv series based on the original Star Trek still live long and prosper!

    I have to think about this question on a personal level.

    1. Excellent ones, Debra. I'd forgotten about the whole Star Trek enterprise. :) and I loved every spinoff except for Deep Space 9. I couldn't relate to the characters as much.

      Yes, Knot's Landing was a spinoff of Dallas and I was glued to that one too.

      Oh, and wasn't 't the Colby's a spinoff of Dynasty?

  2. My favorite series was CSI until Grissom left - his character fascinated me. Didn't particularly care for CSI:Miami (but my husband likes it), I preferred CSI:NY with Gary Sinese (he's a great actor, IMHO).
    I enjoy both NCIS shows, even though I watch mostly re-runs on a different cable channel. My tv viewing seems to be consumed by toddler programming of late *heh*. I can tell you all about Blues Clues, Dora the Explorer, Go Diego Go, Bubble Guppies, Team UmiZoomi, and Dino Dan...
    At least I don't mind that too much because so much is animation and that's my gig. Grown up shows have been put to the back burner.

    the Murdoch Mysteries sound really cool. if i can't watch the show, i can always read the books. i love series books. when I was young it was Anne MacCaffrey's Dragonriders of Pern and the Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys books. I still like YA book series now and then.

    Oops, got long winded here. Sorry. Great post Anita. Cool subject.

    1. Hey, DebH, nice to see you here. :)

      That's the same reason I stopped watching CSI. It was never the same after that, and neither of the spinoffs captured my attention.

      Dragonriders of Pern sound like something my teens would read. For the past few years, they've been enthralled with the series Percy Jackson and the Olympians, and the sequel series, which I can't recall offhand as I'm waiting for them in the dentist's waiting room, but it has something to do with Olympus.

      I hope you enjoy the Murdoch Mystery books although I haven't read them myself. I do know they're avail On amazon, etc, so I'd assume you can get them through your library. They also have audio books out on the originals. :)

      Thanks, Deb.

  3. I love the Rizzoli and Isles spin off of Tess Gerritsen's books, and I loved The Next Generation spin off of Star Trek.

    The new Dallas is fabulous and exciting and surprising. I think in huge part because they stayed true to the original show. They kept the major original characters and cast. And - they kept the theme music! That, for me, was the topper. I love it!

    1. Suzie, I saw when the premiere episode of Dallas 2012 aired, but didn't watch it. I assumed it was a one-time thing, and then found out it was a new series. Who'da thunk? Especially with the same characters?

      And I just read that the series has already been contracted for a second season. Hmmmm

      That music is what I used to exercise to every day after work because the Dallas soundtrack was used for Barbie Allen's Dancercise album. Uh - that name just came to me and I haven't thought of it for years so I may have her name wrong. I loved to Dancercise but my knees can't take it anymore. :(

  4. Nice work, Anita!
    I'll have to check out the Murdoch Mysteries--I had no idea--but it sounds like fun. :)

    Love Rizzoli and Isles; I guess it's that Boston thing. ;)

    1. Thanks, Cheryl. :)

      Murdoch Mysteries is fun. It's also a historical lesson because it delves into certain prejudices on the time - like the fact that Detective Murdoch will never be promoted to Inspector because he's a Roman Catholic, or Papist, as they say in the show.

      That they strive for historical accuracy makes for some lighthearted as well as sobering moments.

      I'm not familiar with Rizzoli and Isles. :(

      Thanks for dropping by, Cheryl.

  5. I'm in the Rizzoli and Isles camp too.

    And Anita, If you're looking for late Victorian I saw an ad over the weekend for a new series on BBC called Copper. It looks absolutely fascinating. Boo hoo, I don't get BBC. Waaah! But maybe you do?

    1. You're right, Lisa, I saw those commercials too, but can't remember which channel... Probably CBC as we don't get BBC. Also, because it kept appearing during the Olympics which was CBC. And yes, I'm very interested in that one.

      Thanks, Lisa. I'll go make a note of it now. :)

  6. Copper is on BBC America. One of the channels I'd pick if I could go ala carte...

    Forgot about the Colby's. So Dallas has started? I suppose I better see what's going on. I only watch movies.

    Deb H - my favorite is WonderPets. I guess because I miss my guinea pig still...

    I'm watching Foyle's War on my Kindle, but it's going to take me a long time to get through them. They are 1.5 hrs each and I only watch them at night when I'm restless and can't write or read. And I think there are many many seasons. Maybe I should jump over to my Murdoch list...

  7. I don't get BBC America either. Sigh.

    I love Star Trek, especially TNG. Team Jean-Luc!

    I've enjoyed the two episodes of Major Crimes, spin-off of the Closer. I always thought the supporting cast was part of what made the show so special, so I'm glad I didn't have to tell those characters goodbye.

    1. Susie, I agree about Team Jean-Luc. Very endearing characters, and like so many others, I couldn't see them in any other roles.

      Although we get The Closure, I've never watched the show. :(

      Thanks, Susie.

  8. Yours truly, the friendly curmudgeon, watched 3-4 episodes of Murdock. Enjoyed the first one, but thought it went downhill rapidly after that, so I gave up very quickly. There's your alternative POV on the series for the day.

    I enjoy reading a series -- but only up to a point. I think there comes a time when it's hard to keep a series "fresh." Has anyone ever read a book or attended a workshop about the life cycle of a series? Would be interesting to know as an author when is the best time to end a series and move on to something else.

    1. That's okay, CJ, it would be a boring world if we all liked the same things.

      About the length of a series, I think it depends on the author as well. Some authors spend a percentage of every book going into the past history of cameo characters. That bores me to death. But other authors seem able to keep things fresh.

      Thanks for your input, CJ.

  9. CJ, I totally agree with you on an author knowing when to end a series. There was a cozy mystery series I used to love. I'd anticipate the next book and always buy as soon as it was available. She had some quirky secondary characters, but after about the sixth book - those quirks seemed to get more and more outrageous until the books just became stupid. I'm not even tempted any longer the buy one just to see if she's redeemed them. I quit caring.

  10. Listening to the Dallas theme song is like going to a baseball game. The adrenaline starts flowing and you just know something exciting is about to happen. I honestly don't know any other theme song that affects me that way.

    1. I guess that's why they picked it for Dancercise. :D

  11. Thanks for the Copper info, Deb.

    Well isn't that a sign of our times when you can lie in bed and watch a show/movie on your Kindle/iPod etc. :D

  12. Well, gosh the star of Copper is a cutie! (and who doesn't look even better in historical garb?)

    Okay, CJ, I appreciate your review of Murdoch and see where I fall in the spectrum between you and Anita Mae.

  13. Debra, his co-star, Kevin Ryan, looks pretty good, too.

    I was just checking the Copper page at IMDB and it says the series was filmed in Toronto. Yay Canada. :D

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  15. Did some more checking and found that although we don't get the BBC America channel up here in Canada, we will be getting the new TV series Copper on the Showcase channel. The premiere airs on Sunday August 26, 2012.

    Another Yay!


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