There are many who believe that one hit TV show is destined to create another – and this belief is responsible for spin-off shows like Angel, Frasier, and Pretty Little Liars: The Perfectionists. Though most of us can agree that some spin-off shows are better than others, sometimes TV networks don’t even leave it to the audience to decide.
For a select group of companion shows, they were canceled before they even aired their first episode. It goes to show that no matter what favorite TV series you’re connected to – be it Gossip Girl, Supernatural, or Game of Thrones – that doesn’t guarantee you a green light or a first season order. Sadly, these 19 abandoned spin-offs never came to fruition and have left us wondering ‘what if?’ forevermore.
Given Supernatural’s 14-season run, you might think that at least one spin-off show was a guarantee. There is no denying Supernatural fans are ~dedicated~ (to say the least). Yet, they’ve tried to get a companion show off the ground a couple times and every time it just… kind of fails. Their most recent attempt was with Wayward Sisters, a show about orphans in the Supernatural universe, all of whom had lost their parents because of something paranormal. Kim Rhodes played the lead. The backdoor pilot aired in January 2018, an official pilot was ordered, but then it was announced that The CW wasn’t interested the following summer.
And here’s another DOA Supernatural spin-off. A ninth season episode set in Chicago acted as the backdoor pilot, and Bloodlines was slated to hit the small screen in 2014 starring Lucien Laviscount, Nathaniel Buzolic, Danielle Savre, Melissa Roxburgh, Sean Faris, Stephen Martines, and Bryce Johnson. You know how this story goes. It never happened, and we never really learned why.
Whether or not the world needs another Marvel show is up for debate, but there almost was an Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. companion show. Jeffrey Bell and Paul Zbyszewski were chosen to write a show with Bobbi Morse and Lance Hunter in the lead, played by Adrianne Palicki and Nick Blood, respectively. But Adrianne and Nick got a raw deal. After they’d even filmed some of Marvel’s Most Wanted, the project was killed.
Before Game of Thrones fans completely lose it, it’s important to mention that just because this GOT spin-off isn’t happening doesn’t mean that there aren’t several others currently in the works at HBO. So, you can take a breath now. Jane Goldman was chosen to write a Game of Thrones prequel spin-off set in an era long, long before Jon Snow and our other faves were duking it out for power. That was until the father of this universe, George R.R. Martin confirmed that although this Age of Heroes spin-off had been vetoed by HBO, it still stood a chance to make it to the big screen. Sadly, he also mentioned that another one of the unnamed spin-off shows that had been in talks was “shelved indefinitely” – which we all know is Hollywood speak for “completely dead.”
This is a case where the creators decided that making a spin-off just might ruin the OG show – and with a series as sacred and beloved as Doctor Who, we just can’t have that. Billie Piper’s character, Rose Tyler was meant to be the central character of the new show… but Billie was never actually offered the role! Russell T. Davies, the series producer, told Doctor Who Magazine that allowing the audience to see Rose Tyler having an enchanted life without the Doctor would spoil exactly what makes Doctor Who so interesting.
This is a complicated one, so try to keep up. Smallville's season four Aquaman episode “Aqua” was a backdoor pilot for a new show following Justin Hartley playing the DC superhero slated to hit The WB in fall of 2006. Lou Diamond Phillips, Denise Quiñones, and Adrianne Palicki were casted along with the future This is Us actor. The crew filmed the pilot and things were looking good - until The CW randomly decided not to pick it up. Justin still eventually starred on Smallville playing a different superhero — Green Lantern/Oliver Queen!
Before Star Trek was the phenomenon it is today, the series almost got canceled after a massive drop in season two ratings. Trekkies ultimately saved the show with fan outreach, but while the fate of the show was still up in the air, Gene Roddenberry was searching for his next move. That’s when he thought of the premise of Assignment: Earth — a time-traveler ensures the history of the Earth goes as it should by hopping around different time periods. Gene ultimately discovered the story didn’t totally work on its own, adapted it to coincide with the Star Trek universe and then aired it as the season two finale. The show was never picked up but Assignment: Earth’s lead Gary Seven appeared in other Trek stories.
If you were a fan of Gossip Girl on The CW, then you probably remember the flashback episode during the second season that showed Brittany Snow and Kristen Ritter as a young Lily van der Woodsen and her older sister navigating L.A. in the ‘80s. The ep was meant to be a backdoor pilot for a prequel show that connected both GG and The O.C. (both series had the same creator). Can you imagine Lily and Sandy Cohen hooking up?! Yeah, no… The CW ultimately decided not to move ahead with the show and all this episode really served was some pretty glaring continuity errors about Lily's past on the later seasons of Gossip Girl.
If you were #TeamJess, this is almost-was TV spin-off show may hit you pretty hard. Milo Ventimiglia’s misunderstood Jess Mariano made his trek to California to reconnect with his deadbeat dad on Gilmore Girls, leaving his girlfriend Rory broken-hearted. He made a few future appearances on the show to see his ex, but ultimately his time as a mainstay in Stars Hollow was done by season three’s finish – and that’s because he was going to get a show of his own called Windward Circle! Like so many others on this list, there was a Gilmore Girls episode titled “Here Comes The Son” that was supposed to be a backdoor pilot for the spin-off. However, shooting on-location in Venice Beach was way too expensive for the show on the then-WB, and execs ultimately didn’t think Jess had a big enough fanbase to pull Gilmore-level audiences.
After that The Americans 2018 finale, people really, really wanted more. So much, in fact, that there were talks to give Paige, played by Holly Taylor a spin-off show. Holly voiced her interest in the project and Americans fans rejoiced. However, the spin-off was struck down almost as quickly as it emerged. Joe Weisberg, a showrunner, mentioned that the brains behind the series “feel it’s done.”
After that god-awful How I Met Your Mother final season, it would be a bit of a risk to put another show in that universe on air. But CBS ordered a show with the same premise – this time, it followed a woman telling her kids the long-winded story of how she met their dad, and it was set to have a completely different cast of characters named Sally, Juliet, Danny, Todd, Frank and Gavin. Greta Gerwig signed on for the lead role, and Meg Ryan was playing the female Bob Saget in the future. Shooting of the show was well underway when CBS decided that they weren’t big fans of who the creators had chosen to fill the roles of the core group and told the creators to go back to the drawing board. The creators demanded a 13-episode order if they were to try again. CBS vetoed that demand and the series as a whole was nixed.
We all know that Friends tried to do a spin-off, Joey, and it was really, truly, completely awful. So who would think that a different spin-off would have better luck? Lisa Kudrow, apparently, in 2017, who was reportedly in “serious talks” to bring Phoebe Buffay back to the small screen over a decade after Friends aired its final episode. Phoebs was going to be an NYC-based divorcée – and it was actually the SECOND time the quirky masseuse almost got her own show. In 2003, Phoebe and Aisha Tyler’s Charlie were allegedly moving in together and they were supposed to get a TV show of their own centered around the two polar-opposites as roomies. Raise your hand if you would’ve preferred Phoebe over Joey?
Judd Apatow has been arguably much more successful in his movies than his TV shows – but several of his early series, like Freaks and Geeks and Undeclared, have now become cult-classics that gained rabid fanbases long after their time on air. Judd almost had one more — Eric’s POV — and it was a spin-off of Undeclared. The last episode of the original show was entitled “Eric’s POV” and — you guessed it — it was supposed to be a backdoor pilot with Jason Segel, who had previously worked with Judd on Freaks and Geeks, in the lead role.
Sadly, FOX already canceled Undeclared before this backdoor pilot aired, making the spin-off’s pick up a mission that failed before its launch.
Certain TV shows seem ripe for spin-off success, and Who’s The Boss? was one of them. In fact, during the series’ run, there were three different spin-off shows proposed. Only one ever made it. The season two episode “Charmed Lives” was meant to spin off a show with Fran Drescher and Donna Dixon acting as single gals trying to make it in the male-dominated workforce. But maybe it was a tad too progressive for the ‘80s because it didn’t get picked up. Then, there was another proposed spin-off that brought Mona to NYC to run a hotel with her brother. But when ABC execs decided the WTB? NEEDED Mona to be a hit show, they canceled any idea of a spin-off of her own and brought her back to the OG show. The parts that they’d already filmed were incorporated into a season three episode and the spin-off Living Dolls with Leah Remini, Michael Learned and Halle Berry premiered in ’89.
The Whedonverse almost expanded even further with a prequel spin-off show centered around watcher/librarian Giles’s youthful rebellious years as “Ripper.” There were rumors of Anthony Stewart Head’s character getting a BBC miniseries in 2001, later, there were talks it would be a TV-movie. Joss Whedon then changed the tune again and said he would be bringing Ripper to life during a two-hour DVD special. Yet, we got nada.
Anthony described Joss’s pitch saying, “It was Giles as this sad, lonely man in England without a real reason to be. It was pretty much ghost stories. Week by week, some ghost story would somehow affect him. Then he said he didn't want to. By that time, I think he had been affected by Angel, the need to write a weekly story. I think he found at that point the drive was different, so he suggested this one film that we were going to make. He told me this story that he had written, and it's absolutely beautiful, and I hope that one day it gets made, whether it's in the guise of Ripper or whether we just tell it as a one-off TV movie.” Maybe we’ll see some of this incorporated on the Buffy reboot.
Before The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina and back while Sabrina the Teenage Witch was airing as a comedy series, there was almost a spin-off show centered around the witch’s cousin – who just so happened to be played by Melissa Joan Hart's IRL sister! The other teenage witch came to the Spellman household on StTW during a one-off episode that was supposed to act as an intro to Witchright Hall - a show about a Hogwarts-esque boarding school. Charles Shaughnessy had already been tapped as the headmaster. After all that, The WB opted not to move forward with the project.
After an episode showed Alyssa Milano’s Phoebe joining the mermaid community on a Charmed episode, fans wanted to know more about what happened unda’ the sea. Brad Kern was a man on a mission – and started seeing if he could get another show in the Charmed universe picked up. They wrote a few episodes and began filming in Miami, Florida. Brad and the cast were optimistic that The WB would be ordering a season one once they got their hands on it. But then The WB merged with UPN to create The CW and several shows were given the boot. This pilot was one of them.
We’ve all heard the rumors of The Office getting a reboot – or a reunion show – and we’ve gotta believe Rainn Wilson would be all-too-excited to get to play Dwight Shrute again considering he was adamant about keeping his character on screen after The Office stopped airing on NBC. The Office episode “The Farm” was created as a backdoor pilot for a Dwight spin-off that followed the beet farmer and the other weirdos on Shrute farm. But NBC decided that Dwight alone couldn’t keep the audiences that Michael, Jim, Pam, Andy, Erin, and the rest of the paper salespeople garnered, and decided to veto the show’s proposal.
28 years on air is bound to inspire a few companion concepts, and Krusty may have been one of the weirdest ideas to come out of The Simpsons - mostly because it was intended to make the animated Krusty the Clown character live action. Matt Groening, The Simpsons’ creator, and Michael Weithorn wrote a pilot episode for Krusty that followed the clown moving out to sunny Los Angeles with a goal to become a star in the big city. But it was decided that the jokes wouldn’t land with actual living, breathing human beings playing the parts, and this Simpsons spin-off was axed.