TV

Five Primetime Characters Begging for Spin-offs, and Why They Shouldn’t Get Them

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Dwight Schrute is getting his own show. Why not Ron Swanson?

Networks are constantly struggling to come up with programming that will turn America’s collective attention away from reality shows like American Idol, X Factor, and The Voice (which is American Idol, but with swivel chairs, right?). Though primetime sitcoms currently boast some of the best ensemble casts ever, and thus several of the greatest supporting characters around, we as a television-obsessed community know something that the network brass seems to forget: a likeable character does not a good spin-off make. With NBC planning a Dwight Schrute spin-off for The Office, here's a list of five characters who steal the shows they're on but don't necessarily deserve their own.

1. Ron Swanson from Parks and Recreation

Whether you know him as jazz saxophonist Duke Silver or the staunchly Libertarian director of the Pawnee Parks Department, the Parks & Rec character who comes closest to out-shining Amy Poehler’s Leslie Knope is Ron, played to perfection by Nick Offerman. With his sizable internet following, and the praise Offerman’s received from critics, it would seem like an easy choice for the higher-ups at NBC to want to produce a tidy half-hour companion piece to Parks. But Ron Swanson is the yang to Leslie’s yin (or is that the other way around?) — the pair need each other or their respective personalities become too cloying. Ron’s cynicism and anger is like like Snake Juice: too much and your throat starts to burn, you get angry, and eventually throw up in a wastebasket. If that’s how I wanted my night to end, I would have DVR’d Work It.

2. Victoria Grayson from Revenge

I’ll make you a deal: I will concede that Revenge is a little soapy if you will concede that sometimes, you just want a little fun. Why do you think Dallas was on so long? Even if Revenge isn’t your thing, it’s hard to deny that tormented, millionaire matriarch Victoria Grayson (played with venom by Madeleine Stowe) is a joy to watch. She’s such a complex character, you might wonder how she wormed her way to the top of the Hamptons’ food chain. But that’s the kind of thinking that gets the network honchos excited. A Victoria spin-off would most certainly mean an Upper East Side origin story. But the jumps in chronology would would require another actress to play Victoria, and Stowe is what makes this part work so effortlessly. It would be like taking Carrie Bradshaw from Sex and the City and making a show about her teen years — wait, they’re doing that?

3. Dennis Duffy from 30 Rock

Dennis Duffy has been many things: subway hero, Dateline predator, and Liz Lemon’s intermittent sex partner. And he's a classic buffoon, the butt of the joke, the clown. He remains a 30 Rock fan-favorite with his numerous guest appearances and callbacks. Wildly animated fan-favorites always make for great spin-offs right? Wrong. I’ll tell you why in one word: Joey. Joey Tribbiani was in many the archtypal sitcom buffoon — loveable, silly, and perfectly acted — but he still failed (and failed abjectly) to draw an audience on his own. Thankfully, Joey only lasted two seasons, but Friends fans still cringe when it’s brought up. Dennis is great in small doses on 30 Rock; that's where he should stay.

4. Santana Lopez from Glee

Glee is hit or miss for me. The one constant is Naya Rivera’s brutally intense cheerleader/human abuse machine, Santana Lopez. Her quick thinking and verbal attacks make her a welcome spice in a sometimes bland Glee-stew. Surely notoriously cultish Glee viewers would watch a show just for her! But even if they did, a show centered on Santana would be the televised equivalent of that one awkward Thanksgiving dinner when your grandparents said something racist and you couldn’t finish eating fast enough. A half-hour of Santana’s savage take-downs of her fellow characters’ weight or clothing would make even the sassiest Gleek want to sprint out of the room and take a nap with a teddy bear. 

5. Barney Stinson from How I Met Your Mother

Barney is a modern-day Don Draper. He wears suits, drinks scotch, and beds an impressive number of ladies. Combined with the fact that Neil Patrick Harris can basically do no wrong at this point, and it would seem that all the stars have aligned for a legendary spin-off called — wait for it — The Bro Code! But such a show would remove an essential part of Barney’s character: the mystery. Nobody knows what he does for a living. He doesn’t even know who his father is. He’s not as much a character as he is a force of nature and vehicle for absurdly masculine punch lines. To base a show on Barney would mean explaining Barney, and as everyone knows, what’s inside the box isn’t nearly as interesting as what we imagine is inside the box, unless it's Gwyneth Paltrow's head.

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