For all the Golden Age of TV talk everyone's been throwing around for the last few years, we still have to sift through a lot of crap on the smalls screen. And some of that crap exists because of the mistaken notion that every successful TV series should give birth to a baby TV series. I'm going to watch the hell out of Breaking Bad's Saul Goodman spin-off, and so far I'm really enjoying what Klaus, Elijah, and Rebekah are getting up to on The Originals, but the truth of the matter is, while some spin-offs turn out awesome, many of them turn out awful.
As I mentioned last week in my review of the Ravenswood pilot, the success of a spin-off depends mostly on two things: 1.) an interesting premise, and 2.) a strong, compelling lead character. In Ravenswood's case, Tyler Blackburn's Caleb might not have been the best choice of headliner for a Pretty Little Liars spin-off, but that got me thinking: What current TV characters are strong enough to carry a series on their own?
I raised the question on Twitter and received some interesting responses. Some, like Tom Haverford from Parks and Recreation, are funny, in that yeah-I'd-watch-him-on-a-web-series kind of way. But is he actually leading man material? Tom's strength lies in the fact that he's a supporting character; the reason he can be hilarious and weird is that he doesn't require too much character development/doesn't have to carry 20 minutes of plot. Others, like Sheldon and Amy from The Big Bang Theory, are definitely interesting and even good choices, but if you were to separate them from their ensemble cast, a lot of what makes their characters so great—their interactions with the rest of the group—would cease to exist.
I thought this exercise would be easy, but the more I thought about it, the harder it became as I tried to envision what a spin-off would look like for each character that came to mind. Still, I managed to come up with what I think is a solid of characters who could carry their own shows. It doesn't necessarily mean they should, but hey, if we MUST have spin-offs, why not try these ones?
Peggy Olson and Joan Holloway Harris — Mad Men
Technically, this one's a twofer, and it was a tough call as far as a Mad Men spin-off is concerned, because I have my own personal bias in favor of John Slattery's Roger Sterling (plus, the title of Sterling's Gold is just sitting there on a silver platter). Ultimately, though, Joan and Peggy are a more viable option. As we saw in Season 6, both of these women are strong, independent women who get shit done in an era when women didn't have the options that exist today. Plus, even as we're nearing the end of Don Draper's increasingly depressing saga, Peggy and Joan have a lot of life left in them. Peggy certainly has the ambition and talents, and Joan certainly has the drive and the smarts, and I'd watch the hell out of a spin-off in which they kissed both Don and Roger goodbye, pushed Pete down a flight of stairs, and started their own advertising agency.
Boyd Crowder — Justified
This is perhaps the most obvious choice in all of TV, because Walton Goggins' Boyd is essentially a lead character on Justified already. He receives a large amount of screen time on a series that's actually about Timothy Olyphant's Raylan Givens. But what's special in this case is that Boyd was only meant to appear in Justified's pilot, and the viewer reaction to the character was so strong that the show's producers made the excellent decision to bring him back and make him a series regular. By Season 4, Boyd was enjoying his own storylines that were mostly separate from Raylan's, in an effort to prove the two characters could exist separately. Their relationship is certainly one of Justified's strongest elements, but I could envision a world in which Boyd leads his own operation, completely independent of Raylan's business in Harlan County.
Donna Meagle — Parks and Recreation
As soon as Donna's name came up, I thought, "Hell yeah, Donna's hilarious!" However, as I started considering the future of Donna's character I wondered if she might fall into the same "awesome-because-they-don't-currently-require-a-lot-to-do" category as her Parks and Rec peer Tom Haverford. But then I realized that she's Donna, and she has condos all over the country, boyfriends and fiances in different cities, and is basically one big Twitter-loving, Treat Yo'self Day-inventing mystery. Plus, she's probably Pawnee's most spin-off-able character, in that hints of her life outside of work have been dropped for a long, long time, but never explored. She's got an entire other identity that we know nothing about, and you just know it's larger than life.
Jaime Lannister — Game of Thrones
To be clear, nearly any living Game of Thrones character could probably be spun off at this point, considering how many equally compelling storylines are currently running parallel to one another. And even though it can't really happen from a common sense standpoint, because removing even one person could potentially alter a ton of different plots, the beauty of Game of Thrones is that every one of its characters is already essentially the lead of his or her own story. Now, I haven't read anything past the first book, so this spin-off suggestion is based solely on the events of the TV series up to and including the Season 3 finale, and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau's performance in the role of Jaime Lannister. As of late, I've found his personal journey to be more engaging and more interesting than that any of the other characters, and I'm more invested in his future like never before. Plus he's cute and funny and conflicted and a one-handed badass—how could you NOT want to spend more time with him?
Peter Quinn — Homeland
Despite having a cast that boasts Claire Danes, Damian Lewis, and Mandy Patinkin, the only truly interesting part of Homeland's third season so far is Rupert Friend's Peter Quinn. The government operative was introduced last season as a weirdo who stabbed people's hands during interrogations and had no problem getting naked in close quarters, but since then, he's become more than just a guy you don't want to meet in a dark alley. Since Homeland isn't using him to his fullest potential, let's put the badass in a dramedy, where he can spend his days assassinating bad guys and his nights looking for love. It's either that or we start developing The Dana Brody Show, and we'd rather hang with Quinn any day.
What current TV characters do you think could star in their own spin-off series?