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Retro : Series Sprouts

August 08, 1993|SUSAN KING | TIMES STAFF WRITER

One of the upcoming season's highly touted new series is NBC's comedy "Frasier," starring Kelsey Grammer as the wacky psychiatrist Frasier Crane. "Frasier" just happens to be a spinoff of one of NBC's most successful series, "Cheers," which retired in May after 11 seasons and 26 Emmys.

The last "Cheers" spinoff, though, was anything but a hit. In fact, who remembers "The Tortellis," which starred Dan Hedaya as Carla's sleazy ex-husband Nick Tortelli and Jean Kasem as his new wife? That series premiered in January, 1987, and was history by May.

TV's track record of co-opting original concepts to spin off into more shows has been hit and miss. The now-classic 1962-71 CBS sitcom "The Beverly Hillbillies" spawned two certifiable hits, both situated in the fictional farm community of Hooterville. The 1963-70 comedy "Petticoat Junction" starred Bea Benaderet as Kate Bradley, the widowed owner of the Shady Rest Hotel. In 1965, CBS introduced "Green Acres," which starred Eddie Albert and Eva Gabor as Oliver and Lisa Douglas, two New York sophisticates who move to Hooterville. "Green Acres" continued until 1971.

Though Jim Nabors was only on CBS' "The Andy Griffith Show" for little more than a year, his characterization of the naive, bumbling Gomer Pyle was such a hit with audiences that CBS gave him his own series in the fall of 1964. "Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C.," which aired until 1970, followed Gomer's misadventures in the Marine Corps. When Griffith decided to call it quits in the spring of 1968 after eight seasons on his own series, CBS created "Mayberry, R.F.D.," which aired from 1968 to 1971. Several members of the "Griffith" series, including George Lindsey as Goober and Frances Bavier as Aunt Bee, were featured in this homespun show.

The beloved 1970-77 CBS comedy series "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" begat three other series. The most popular was "Rhoda," starring Valerie Harper as Rhoda Morgenstern, Mary's nebbishy neighbor. Harper's own series found Rhoda leaving Minneapolis for New York, where she met and married handsome Joe (David Groh). "Rhoda" continued for four seasons.

Cloris Leachman, who played Mary's busybody landlady, had far less success with her 1975 spinoff "Phyllis," which struggled until August, 1977.

After "Mary Tyler Moore" ended in 1977, Ed Asner's irascible Lou Grant got his own dramatic series, the Emmy-winning "Lou Grant." Though never a ratings blockbuster, "Lou Grant" aired for five seasons.

Norman Lear's landmark 1971-83 CBS comedy series "All in the Family," launched three other series. After being introduced on an episode of "All in the Family," Edith Bunker's liberal, outspoken cousin Maude (Bea Arthur) got her own show, "Maude," in the fall of 1972. "Maude" had a healthy six-season run.

In the fall of 1974, CBS introduced "Good Times," which was actually a spinoff of "Maude." Florida Evans (Esther Rolle) was Maude's maid. "Good Times," which continued until 1979, focused on Florida and her family as they struggled to make ends meet living in a high-rise ghetto on Chicago's South Side.

The following year, George Jefferson (Sherman Hemsley), Archie Bunker's acerbic next-door neighbor, was given his own series, "The Jeffersons." The comedy, which had an 11-season run, also starred Isabel Sanford as George's wife Louise, also known as Weezie, and Mike Evans as son Lionel.

And two enormously successful shows were offshoots from the 1974-84 ABC nostalgia comedy "Happy Days": "Laverne & Shirley" (1976-1983), starring Penny Marshall and Cindy Williams as the two wacky roommates, and "Mork & Mindy" (1978-82), the sitcom that made Robin Williams a star as the sweet-natured alien from Ork. Pam Dawber co-starred as his Earthly pal Mindy.

"Cheers" airs weeknights at 7 on XETV and 11 p.m. on KTLA; "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" airs Sundays-Friday s at 10 p.m. on Nickelodeon; "Rhoda" airs weekdays at 8:30 a.m. on Comedy Central; "Phyllis" airs Saturdays at 9 a.m. on Comedy Central; "Happy Days" airs Sundays at 6:30 a.m. on TBS and 10 a.m. on KTLA, weekdays at 4 p.m on KTLA and Saturdays at 2:30 p.m. on KTLA; "Mork & Mindy" airs Sundays at 8:30 p.m. on Nickelodeon; "The Beverly Hillbillies" airs weekdays at 10 a.m. and 1:30 a.m. on KDOC, 10:30 a.m. on KTTV and 4 p.m. on TBS; "Green Acres" airs weekdays at 3:30 p.m. on KDOC; "All in the Family" airs weekdays at 2 a.m. on TBS; "The Jeffersons" airs weekdays at 3 p.m. on TBS; and "The Andy Griffith Show" airs weekdays at 9:30 a.m. on KTTV, 3:30 p.m. on TBS and 3 a.m. Saturdays on TBS.

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