Question: All this talk about expanding The Office into a one-hour program and about the new Grey's Anatomy spin-off brought to mind two questions. 1) What do you think of spinning off The Office instead of expanding it to one hour? You could take one of the characters with less screen time, such as Karen (Rashida Jones), and spin her off in some way. She does a good job in her role, and brings a certain realness to her depiction, but her time is limited on the show. 2) Grey's Anatomy's backdoor method of launching the new show seems old-fashioned, but it seems uncommon lately. Back in the day nearly all the major soaps spun off each other in that way. Am I right, or is it still common practice? The only example I can think of is the launch of Boston Legal on The Practice, but that was replacing one show with another.
Answer: The most common form of spin-off nowadays is what they call "brand extensions," such as cloning the various CSI and Law & Order shows, in the case of CSI introducing a new team and locale within the context of a preexisting series. Or in genre TV, expanding a franchise like Stargate or Star Trek or giving Angel his own show out of Buffy. Spin-offs do seem a bit less common nowadays, in part because sitcoms (a natural incubator for spin-offs built around breakout characters) aren't exactly thriving. And I'd like to think that the impulse to spin off a successful show has been curbed by the common-sense realization that doing so can often dilute the appeal of the original as well as sap the creative energies of the show's producers. Still, there's no limit to the greed in this business in trying to milk everything possible out of something that's working. As for The Office, if the show were as popular as it was acclaimed, I could maybe imagine a spin-off. But it's not that kind of show, and I honestly don't see it selling itself out that way.