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A Bill Kuchman Pop-Ed: Haven't We Seen This TV Show Before?

We're in a rut.

Look at the new TV shows that we've recently learned are in development. There's Better Call Saul, a spinoff of Breaking Bad. There's Girl Meets World, a spinoff of Boy Meets World. There's The Walking Dead: The New Class,* a spinoff of The Walking Dead. And there's How I Met Your Father, a spinoff of How I Met Your Mother.

Anyone see a trend here?

Look, I love all of these shows, but do we really need more of them?** Breaking Bad went out as one of the most epically badass TV shows of all time. Boy Meets World is arguably more popular now than it ever was during its original run. The Walking Dead is destroying its competition on Sunday nights. And How I Met Your Mother is ... well, it's having a final season.

People love these shows. Each one has its own strength, whether its quality writing and acting, awesome special effects or a template of how some people may or may not have believed their teenage and then adult lives would unfold. (I'm still waiting for you, Topanga.)

When TV is done right, it's something special. DVRs and online streaming may have changed how and when we watch shows, but the basics are still there. TV, like the rest of pop culture, binds us together, creating moments that stretch across generations. That final Mr. Feeny scene from Boy Meets World? You may have watched it live, but there are kids just now discovering it on YouTube, linking their pop culture lives to yours.

This process keeps happening as long as we keep finding new shows to experience together. If the world just stopped creating new TV programming when Boy Meets World ended, what would we be talking about now? Like everything in pop culture, TV needs to keep evolving. The cute TGIF shows of our childhood give way to the quirky NBC comedies that critics loved but only like 15 people watched. Those shows then gave way to the rise of acclaimed basic cable dramas like Breaking Bad and Mad Men.

It looks like we may not know what comes next if the current wave of development is any clue. With spinoffs becoming the way of TV's future, we risk stifling the next generation of creativity. The executives running the networks have seen what their counterparts at the movie studios have learned — when you find a property that makes money, you sequelize it and create as many spinoffs as possible to maximize profit. AMC knows that Breaking Bad and The Walking Dead are critical and financial hits. Why not stick with what they know?

We've seen how networks treat struggling shows that are trying to do something different. Sitcoms like Happy Endings*** attempt to break out of the regular mold, but fail to amass a large enough audience to justify being kept on the air. How do we fix this? How do we encourage networks to keep trying new things and to trust programming that might be doing something different?

Keep watching. Keep tweeting. Keep begging your friends to watch the shows you love. The networks and their advertising machines will take care of the popular shows. We need to look out for the shows that need a bit of extra attention. Maybe they won't make it in the long run, but they can still have an impact. Arrested Development lived a short life, but it impacted an entire generation of TV comedy. And, thanks to fan support and DVD viewings, the show even got to come back for an encore.

When Better Call Saul, Girl Meets World, The Walking Dead: The New Class and How I Met Your Father premiere, go ahead and watch. Hopefully those shows remind you why you loved the originals. Just remember that those originals were once doing something no other show did.

Contact Bill Kuchman on Twitter at @billkuchman.

*OK, so the Walking Dead spinoff isn't really called The Walking Dead: The New Class. Until AMC announces a title for the series, we're allowed to call it that.
**Yes, of course we need more of them.
***Happy Endings. Never forget.
A Bill Kuchman Pop-Ed: Haven't We Seen This TV Show Before? Reviewed by Bill Kuchman on 11/07/2013 Rating: 5

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