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One way to lessen the difficulty of introducing so many new programs at the start of a TV season is to expand already proven franchises.

Indeed, the most talked about new programs in development for fall include Fox' "Time of Your Life," a "Party of Five" spinoff featuring teen fave Jennifer Love Hewitt; The WB's "Angel," a "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" spinoff revolving around the adventures of that show's hunky resident vampire, as portrayed by David Boreanaz; and UPN's "Mo'Nique" and "Daddio," spinoffs of "Moesha" and "Malcolm & Eddie," respectively.

CBS' "Sons of Thunder," a spinoff of "Walker, Texas Ranger" which CBS tested on its Saturday schedule this spring, also is a contender.

In recent seasons this concept has been largely confined to the cloning of such network newsmagazines as NBC's "Dateline" and ABC's "20/20." But when the broadcast networks announce their fall lineups later this month, look for current entertainment programs to serve as platforms for several new series.

In other words, the spinoff is back.

There haven't been so many networks preparing so many spinoffs of popular prime-time programs since the '70s, when numerous characters from series such as CBS' "All in the Family" and "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" and ABC's "Happy Days" were given high-profile vehicles of their own.

In these increasingly uncertain times, it makes sense that the broadcast networks -- many of which have suffered ongoing household and demographic erosion throughout the late '90s -- would turn to proven characters and performers to fill gaping holes in their lineups.

The escalating failure rate of the networks' new fall product in recent seasons further supports the idea of going with essentially pre-sold commodities, rather than shiny new product that must be introduced to a perpetually distracted

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