“The Walking Dead” still kills the competition on cable channel AMC. This mega hit sci-fi tale of zombie dead turning the world into one hellish nightmare, keeps coming back like a reanimated corpse. There’s nothing dead, dour nor nightmarish when it comes to the program’s ratings and profitable success for the creators and network, so now the powers that be over at AMC have decided to produce a companion show to fit right into the world where Rick may be humanity’s last, best hope, but who knows what potential lays with following a new cast and crew. Companion shows or spin-offs are nothing new, but many don’t work or never attain a fraction of the fan celebration compared to the show which birthed them. From “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine” to “The Six Million Dollar Man” and “The Bionic Woman”, to “Buffy: The Vampire Slayer” and “Angel”, companion shows mean continued adventures for our beloved characters and more profit for the producers who create them.
The Six Million Dollar Man & The Bionic Woman
A landmark for so many reasons, “The Six Million Dollar Man” – based upon the novel by sci-fi writer and aeronautics expert Martin Caidin – revolved around the exploits of the rebuilt astronaut, Steve Austin. Austin had barely survived a horrible crash in an experimental aircraft, and when OSI leader Oscar Goldman learned of his condition, he vowed, “Gentlemen, we can rebuild him.” The show had heavyweights like Harve Bennett – who would go on to write and produce the legendary “Star Trek” films in the 1980’s and writer/producer/director Kenneth Johnson, who would go on to create the beloved “The Incredible Hulk” TV show starring Bill Bixby and “Alien Nation” – among many other great genre shows. Johnson also developed “The Bionic Woman’, which saw Jaime Sommers, ace tennis pro and girlfriend of Austin, suffer a terrible accident of her own, which led Steve to beg Goldman to rebuild her with bionic parts. Actress Lindsay Wagner was so effective in the part, that it led to an Emmy Award win for Best Dramatic Actress Lead for her in the episode, “Deadly Ringer”.
Star Trek: The Next Generation & Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
Even though it’s set nearly 80 years after the original shows fictional timeline, and 21 years in real time, “Star Trek: The Next Generation” is technically a spin-off of the William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy and Deforest Kelley’s sci-fi fable. When Paramount found great box office success with the feature films in the 1980’s, they commissioned Gene Roddenberry to create a new show for the then fledgling syndicated TV market. Roddenberry came up with a series revolving around a bald, British accented Captain, who was of French descent, named Jean-Luc Picard. The Starship Enterprise would now be much larger and accommodate families – including young children. For the studio, it was a gamble on lots of levels, since the then budget for the pilot and first season was beyond most anything TV had seen before that time. Six years later, producers Rick Berman and Michael Piller would create “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine”, a darker, more unpredictable roller coaster into the cosmos – courtesy of a stable wormhole which connected the Alpha and Gamma Quadrants of the galaxy. Led by Commander – and then later Captain – Sisko, it related the adventures of Dr. Julian Bashir, Chief Miles O’Brien, Lt. Jadzia Dax, Major Kira Nerys, Constable Odo, the Ferengi Quark, Jake Sisko, his buddy Nog, and so many other supporting characters that it has a bond with The Simpsons – a TV show which highlights and needs a supporting cast almost as much as the main one.
Buffy: The Vampire Slayer & Angel
Creator Joss Whedon is more known these days as the man who’s behind the mega success of the feature film, “The Avengers”, but the more loyal of his fans will probably always look upon him as the man who gave them Buffy Summers, witch Willow, wishy washy Xander, whimsical Cordelia and dozens more that either made up the Scooby Gang proper, or helped them in their vampire and demon killing exploits. Buffy came from the theatrical movie, which while not doing fantastically well, left an imprint on many who saw it. Whedon had only written the script for the flick, and loved the chance to re-imagine his characters and Buffyverse for television. When it came time for a spin-off series and character, no other seemed more appropriate than the vampire with a soul, Angel, played by David Boreanaz, “Bones” on FOX. “Angel” saw many of the Buffy characters play in their world and passed more than a passing resemblance – in tone anyway – to “The Six Million Dollar Man” and “The Bionic Woman”. Whedon even gave his heroine Buffy Jaime’s last name – Summers – as a tribute to the action packed show he had enjoyed in his youth.