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TV spinoffs that never quite made it to air

In the modern era of endless Hollywood sequels, reboots, reunions, alternate network pickups, and spinoffs, no successful screen property ever really seems to be finished. When it comes to television in particular, a series' big finale or cancellation doesn't necessarily spell the end anymore, because there's always a chance audience interest will compel a network or streaming service to breathe a little extra life into the show.

A lot of times, it's a no-brainer that an ultra-popular original series will earn some kind of spinoff, to double down on that ad revenue or at least continue capitalizing on the fanfare long after the original show's story is over. However, every now and again, audiences fall in love with a show that seems like a shoo-in for the spinoff treatment, only to see its would-be follow-up fizzle out before it can make its way to the small screen. Here are a few of the TV spinoffs that never quite made it to the air.

On second thought, we don't care how you met our dad

How I Met Your Mother was massively popular, earning Emmys galore and attracting millions of faithful viewers who stuck with it for nine seasons to find out the full story of how Ted Mosby (Josh Radnor) met his kids' mystery mom. Of course, after so many years of build-up and anticipation, the finale was bound to be a disappointment for some, but the sheer number of people left unsatisfied by the long-awaited conclusion (including certain members of the cast) was pretty deflating for everyone involved.

So much so that a spinoff series, titled How I Met Your Dad and ordered prior to the 2014 finale, was quietly shelved by the network a few months after HIMYM's farewell aired. The new series would've starred Greta Gerwig in the lead, with Carter Bays, Craig Thomas and Emily Spivey returning as creatives, but CBS was unhappy with the first pilot and unable to agree on conditions for a second. Casting and rights ownership issues were also later cited as contributing to the decision not to continue. Two years later, the network circled back to HIMYM for its spinoff potential and ordered up an entirely new pilot — with Allison Bennett holding the pen for a show that may bear a slightly different name this time: How I Met Your Father.

A 'Farm' put out to pasture

NBC's The Office was already derivative of a parent program — namely, the original UK version of the show — but that didn't stop the network from trying to make even more awkward humor happen with the Dunder Mifflin crew. In 2012, as the series' final season loomed, execs worked with Rainn Wilson to develop a potential spinoff centered around his character Dwight Schrute. Titled The Farm, the new series was poised to focus on Dwight's vegetable farm/bed and breakfast, and the myriad strange figures in his quirky personal life.

Unfortunately, the network was apparently left unimpressed. Although most of the scenes shot for the would-be backdoor pilot made it into an episode of The Office's final season, titled "The Farm," NBC had already decided before airing it that they wouldn't turn The Farm into a series. For Wilson's part, his disappointment was tempered by his desire to move on from the character; as he told Larry King Live, "I wanted it to be a series, I thought it was a really fun idea to be out on Dwight's crazy beet farm. But I'm also equally happy to be hanging up my terrible haircut and my terrible glasses." 

The Office may return yet, though. In late 2017, reports began to surface that NBC was again considering a way to revive the cult favorite comedy with a new series featuring returning stars alongside newcomers.

Down on the Valley

The CW's Gossip Girl was a very successful teen soap, at once brimming with bonkers storylines and still praised for being in on its own game. Once its second season ratings improved upon the first and the show proved to be vital to the network's core youth demographic, the wheels started turning on a potential spinoff called Valley Girls

The series would have launched with the season 2 Gossip Girl episode of the same name, which featured a flashback to the teen years of Serena van der Woosen's (Blake Lively) mother Lily (who was regularly portrayed by Kelly Rutherford in adult form), with then-up-and-comer Brittany Snow in the lead. The series was to be set in 1980s Los Angeles — hence the title — as opposed to Gossip Girl's cushy digs in the Upper East Side of Manhattan. Shortly before the episode aired, though, the CW quietly backed away from the project.

According to Entertainment Weekly, which checked out the set of the failed pilot, Valley Girls would have featured future Jessica Jones star Krysten Ritter as well as a slate of guest stars that ranged from No Doubt's Gwen Stefani to '80s icon Andrew McCarthy. No one was more excited about the prospect than the network brass, making their decision to pass all the more surprising.

A Supernatural talent for failed spinoffs

With more than a dozen seasons on the books and no signs of stopping ahead, Supernatural has elevated its co-leads, Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles, to bona fide Hollywood heartthrobs. As successful as the series has been, however, not one but two efforts to follow some of its supporting characters and guest stars on new demon-hunting journeys have been unsuccessful. The first try was 2014's Bloodlines, which was set to center on a character named Ennis (Lucien Laviscount). Unfortunately, it was laughed out of existence by TV critics after its backdoor pilot aired on Supernatural, and the network ultimately declined the opportunity to pick it up for a full season.

A few years later, the CW gave another spinoff a shot with Wayward Sisters, which was expected to center on a group of female fighters, led by Supernatural supporting character Sheriff Jody Mills (Kim Rhodes). However, despite a warm reception for its own backdoor pilot episode of the same name in early 2018, the CW decided to pass on picking it up, citing a full slate of other promising content. Thousands of fans petitioned for the network to change its mind, but alas, it looks like the demon-hunting duo will have to stand alone … for now.

Justin time for the network to change its mind

The WB hit Smallville offers another example of a superseries that enjoyed an untouchable fan following but experienced more than one spinoff spinout. The long-running drama, which followed Clark Kent's (Tom Welling) life in the title town before he becomes Superman, enjoyed strong return viewership and featured a cavalcade of characters whose lives could be explored further.

A season 5 episode featuring A.C. Curry, a.k.a. Aquaman (portrayed by future The Hunger Games star Alan Ritchson), inspired a potential standalone series for the character, which would've been played by Justin Hartley instead. The CW ultimately decided against going forward with Aquaman (also called Mercy Reef) and released it to home audiences as a standalone feature — then hired Hartley to star as another character on the parent show.

Hartley later said that around Smallville's sixth season, his new character Oliver Queen (a.k.a. Green Arrow) was in consideration as the co-lead for a different spinoff, explaining, "They wanted to do a spinoff called Metropolis or something like that, I heard whispers of that. It was Lois and Oliver in Metropolis and whatever that was. They were trying to extend the life of the show." That didn't pan out either, but as a consolation prize, Hartley did get to keep his regular role on Smallville 'til the very end.

Mariano trenched

Long before Milo Ventimiglia became known as Jack Pearson on NBC's This Is Us, he broke hearts as Jess Mariano on the WB's Gilmore Girls. As the rough-and-tumble love interest of Rory who caused a lot of pain for the Team Dean faction of fans, Jess brought some major sass to Stars Hollow while living with his Uncle Luke above the diner. The audience intrigue for Jess was almost enough to justify his own spinoff.

A late season 3 episode called "Here Comes the Son" featured Jess venturing back to Venice, California to meet his father, and if he stuck out like a sore thumb on the east coast, his gruff, leather jacket-wearing tough guy demeanor was a complete mismatch for the Pacific. The episode was intended to serve as a pseudo pilot for a spinoff titled Windward Circle, but it was never picked up, and that disappointment nearly led the actor to quit show business altogether. Ultimately, Ventimiglia thrived on other scripted programs, and he did get to return to the small-town drama when Netflix revived Gilmore Girls for A Year in the Life, which featured Jess in two of its four episodes. Meanwhile, segments of Windward Circle have managed to survive online to satisfy anyone's curiosity about how the show might've looked (spoiler: it's not good).

Witchwrong

Sabrina the Teenage Witch was a hit on both ABC and the WB, and with all the talking cats and cauldrons and magic aunts, the latter network evidently believed there was more to the world of witchcraft than the sitcom offered.

After the show moved from its original T.G.I.F. spot, the WB announced that it'd hired lead actress Melissa Joan Hart's younger sister Emily to guest star in an episode as the title character's cousin, which would serve as a backdoor pilot to introduce her own spinoff series, titled Witchright Hall. Emily Hart's character Amanda was meant to be one of several witches from the titular boarding school, but the network ultimately decided against going forward with the spinoff, and she was relegated to starring as Sabrina in the animated version of the series. 

Witchright Hall closed before it really had a chance to open, but Sabrina's characters live on. Netflix's reboot of the Archie Comics-based series, The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, features Mad Men's Kiernan Shipka as the title witch.

All wet

The 2018 effort to reboot Charmed wasn't the first time the series got a second shot at small-screen magic. The season 5 premiere episode was supposed to serve as a launchpad for Mermaid, a series which would have centered on Jaime Pressly's onetime guest character Mylie, a former mermaid who traded her tail (and immortality) for life as a landlubber and had to get used to her new life, Splash-style. There was also the matter of a sea hag (Diane Salinger) who was trying to revive an old demon, so even though the title character would have been living with other two-legged types, Mermaid would have featured some action below sea level.

Around the same time as the episode's run, though, the series as a whole suffered from budget cuts and a network merger. Although Charmed would survive another three seasons of bubble, bubble, toil and trouble, it was evidently not powerful enough to summon a full-on spinoff adventure for its mermaid pal.

Chatterboxed

With the possible exception of Steve Urkel, perhaps no sitcom star's voice has ever been quite as iconic as Fran Drescher in the title role of CBS's hit series The Nanny. As Fran the Nanny, she was at once charming and annoying, trashy and still sophisticated in her confident style. With initial ratings that were better than expected, the network had a sudden hit on its hands; as the show progressed, several characters from Fran's past (particularly her mother and grandmother) emerged to explain how she became such an absolute character, and by the show's second season, CBS was ready to consider a spinoff.

Naturally, a backdoor pilot was drawn up to air late in the second season, taking place in Fran's favorite hair salon and introducing viewers to the new characters that worked in it. Despite some earnest efforts by would-be spinoff stars Tracy Nelson, Lauren Tom, Patrick Cassidy, and J.D. Daniels to breathe life into the potential project, the Nanny spinoff — to be titled The Chatterbox — never made it onto the network's schedule.

Where no spinoff had gone before

There have been numerous efforts to reboard the Starship Enterprise in recent years — including the J.J. Abrams film reboots and CBS' Star Trek: Discovery — but Trek franchise spinoffs are nothing new. In fact, one of the earliest happened near the beginning of the original series' history. In Star Trek's second season, Gary Lansing was introduced as Gary Seven, a time-hopping alien on a mission to save humanity with his trusty cat by his side.

The episode was meant to serve as a backdoor pilot for a Seven-oriented spinoff, but the original series itself was in danger of cancellation by NBC, so Assignment: Earth was left to exist solely as an obvious effort to drum up something new between the space fleet, to no avail. Luckily, the Star Trek series has since inspired a seemingly endless number of reduxes on the silver, small, and now streaming screens. Despite its early spinoff setback, Star Trek has indeed gone on to "live long and prosper."