Yesterday’s news that the powers that be at Breaking Bad are contemplating a spin-off series centered on Saul Goodman, Bob Odenkirk’s sleazy lawyer, was a bit of a head-scratcher. Sure, we love Saul as much as anybody, but he’s not just a supporting character (and thus, via precedent, possible spin-off fodder) — he’s also the “comic relief” on a decidedly serious program, meaning that Better Call Saul (or whatever it might be called) would presumably have a tone, style, and length altogether removed from its predecessor. It’d be a peculiar transition, is the point — but it certainly wouldn’t be the strangest spin-off we’ve seen. Examples after the jump.
Trapper John, M.D.
Running 11 seasons (despite taking place during a three-year war), M*A*S*H was one of the most successful sitcoms of the ‘70s, though its war setting and serious themes made it much more than a standard half-hour laugher. Still, there was something odd about the notion of taking one of its central characters, moving him into the present day, and putting him at the center of an hour-long medical drama. But that’s what happened in fall of 1979, when CBS debuted Trapper John, M.D., which concerned the current activities of “Trapper” John McIntyre, played by Wayne Rogers on M*A*S*H. Pernell Roberts took over the role in its older, more dramatic form, and while the spin-off line was tenuous (and the show’s producers claimed it was spun off from Robert Altman’s M*A*S*H movie and not the TV adaptation, so they could avoid paying royalties to the other series), Trapper John M.D. lasted an impressive seven seasons.