AMC currently has spin off shows of two of their biggest shows ever, now ranking as two of their current biggest shows… if what I just typed made sense. Breaking Bad was amazing and gave birth to Better Call Saul which is also fairly amazing. Walking Dead is a ratings behemoth and has given us Fear the Walking Dead which so far has also been a ratings hit, even if I can’t really get into it.
Thinking about how well these spinoffs have worked out, I wondered what other spin off opportunities there are for AMC. Obviously the spin off would need to be off of an actual hit show, so there aren’t a lot of options for AMC to pursue. Granted Hell on Wheels seems to be getting a little more popular and The Killing was popular enough to get a 2nd chance on Netflix, but really the only show that could offer spinoff opportunities at this point is Mad Men.
The first question is, would a Mad Men spin off want to focus on one or a few specific characters from the original the way Better Call Saul did, or just trade on the name by using the same world with some tangential connections to the original like Fear the Walking Dead. I guess another alternative is to split the difference, and take a somewhat popular character but move them into a somewhat different setting.
First, let’s rule out some characters that I wouldn’t want to be the focus of a Mad Men spin off. Peggy Olson is the first to go. I think that her character arc probably still has a lot of places to go after the Mad Men finale, but unless she decides to give up on advertising and go in a very different direction in her life, I think people would just see it as a prologue to Mad Men and not something unique unto itself. The same problem probably exists for Roger Sterling and Harry Crane as well, where having them leave the industry they are in, and do something that would be deserving of a spin off, really isn’t in their nature.
I also don’t want to see the kids of Don Draper. I’m sure there is a lot there for Sally and … the other one to deal with once their mother is dead and they are living with their cousins or something, but I don’t care about that stuff. It isn’t interesting enough to me to be the central focus of a show. Also, this may be obvious, but lets just assume we can ignore any crazy show ideas like Betty, Lane Pryce, and Bert hanging out in the after life, or the real Don Draper is actually living Dick Whitman’s life the whole time and we never knew it.
Also speaking of crazy, Stan Rizzo was great but after he went nuts I’m not sure what could be done with his character. I’m assuming a lot, but one of the reasons you do a spin off is that you are trying to capitalize on the success of what came before it. I don’t think anyone is really that interested in Stan Rizzo trying to piece his life together after getting out of a mental institution. Maybe for an episode or two, or as a cameo appearance, but I just don’t think he was ever popular enough to carry a show.
Now lets get to one of the most obvious choices. First up is Pete and Trudy Campbell. I think of Pete the same way I think of Prez on the wire. I loathed him, for good reason, during the first season. As the show went on two things happened. One, you got use to him and started to over look some of the minor shitty things about the character you might not have liked at the beginning. Second, the character got better as a person. He found a better moral center to work from. I guess a third thing, is that you also find thing to like about the character that might not have been there, or maybe were not noticed before. I feel like I should give some concrete examples here, but I’m not going to cause it is more fun to just speculate wildly on what a Pete and Trudy show could entail.
When Mad Men ended he had just reunited with Trudy and taken a job with Lear Jets in Wichita. This is fantastic obviously because not only does the job lend itself to all sort of adventures, but so does the location. Trudy and Pete would both be fish out of water in the Midwest I would think, and since Lear Jet is a private plane company he also would end up meeting all kinds of people in all kinds of industries where the only thing the clients have in common is that they have a lot of money. One week Pete could be dealing with a slimy oil executive while Trudy is dealing with School problems for their daughter, and the next week Pete is trying to keep up with a crazy rock and roll star while Trudy tries to ingratiate herself with the local mothers and their Midwest ideas of fun. Maybe a Hollywood producer or actor need the service of lear jets and it turns into an adventure for both pete and Trudy as the Hollywood types make a move for Trudy since she is played by Alison Brie and she is so god damn beautiful that it makes me hate Dave Franco.
I think the the thing that would give this spin off an edge over most other ideas is that Pete has such a strong comedic presence that they could play that up and really separate itself from Mad Men which was much more serious. Similar to Breaking Bad vs. Better Call Saul if you think about it. Also, being a part of an airplane company, means that the locations from week to week, making the story much more malleable. One week a story could take place in Kansas, the next week New York to check in on Joan Harris. Another week it is out to California to see Ken Cosgrove who has a book being turned into a motion picture in Hollywood. Then it is off to Paris where find Megan Draper doing a French TV Soup Opera.
The downside is that I am not sure what the ongoing storyline for each season would be. Granted you could argue that was kind of an issue with Mad Men. Even as a fan of the show it is always hard for me to try and explain what the focus of each season was. It really was all about the characters living their lives as they interconnected with each other and their job. In fact, towards the later half of the series, you rarely worried about big picture job related stuff like if they would land a big account or not since the business year after year always seemed to find a way to succeed. Of course this is a new show and maybe the cast of characters isn’t as big. With Mad Men you had one on going main focus in Don and then 5 or 6 other focuses that were a couple steps below. With this show maybe cut down on the number of ongoing storylines and really hone in on just a few people. In fact, it would be better if every storyline has some sort of impact on Pete and Trudy, whether directly, or indirectly via it’s impact on the kid or the business. With Mad Men I’m not sure if Rizzo cutting off his nipple ever had any affect on Don.
Oh one more thing, how awesome would it be if by some random crazy happenstance, Meredith ended up applying for, and getting a job at Lear, and ending up working with Pete. Look, whatever happens, she needs to be in the next show.
I think I’ve made my case for the Further Adventures of Pete and Trudy Campbell, although I don’t think that would be a good name and I can’t think of a better one right now. Regardless, what are some other ideas for a spin off? Joan Harris and her info video company, or whatever that was she was working on at the end of the last episode, could be a spin off. It would be a good, girl power thing. Also, she was by far one of the most popular characters on the show, even more so than Pete. She is also moving into a new industry, but she is still in new York and I feel like she would just be too likely to bump into the same people from Mad Men.
How about someone like Salvatore, Paul, Ken, or Megan? Salvatore could be out of the closet now. Paul is trying his hand at starting his own religion. Ken is going to be a full time writer. Megan is an actress who has just hit it big. There is potential for all of that, but I don’t think that any of those shows would get a big bump from the Mad Men fans like the way Fear the Walking Dead and Better Call Saul built off their pre existing fan bases.
I do have one other character that would be awesome to build a show around. Bob Benson. Seriously, what do you think happened to that guy? I’m sure it was something crazy awesome and amazing. Maybe we could get yahoo to do a half hour webseries where Bob tries to track down his friend who ran off with Pete Campbell’s mother. I would watch that. I would even watch each episode multiple times just to improve the page views for Yahoo.
One last idea. A show focused around a support group for all the women Don gave Hep C to. He didn’t know he had it, but he did, and now all these ladies get together on the third Sunday of every month to talk about the emotional and now physical pain Don’s betrayal has caused them.