There’s a lot talk these days about multiplatform bobbins. Sure it’s a great idea for a film, but what about the website, mobile phone wallpaper, ringtone etc. It’s a cynical exploitation machine and an exact science, churning up superprofitable pieces of crap. But it didn’t used to be such an exact science, in fact TV, movie and music tie-ins used to be crazier than Margot Kidder and Rick James mudwrestling over who has the biggest thumbs. I now give you a round up of some of the most bizarre spin-offs the entertainment world has thrown up, in both senses of the word.
Minder was a big deal. With over 17 million viewers, two songs in the charts, and numerous contributions to English vernacular, it was truly ITV’s ratings warhorse, spawning its own nutzoid imitators. But a computer game based on the antics of Terry and Arfur? Madness, surely. Nope, all true. In 1985, Minder the Computer Game was unleashed on a baffled public. And if you think I’m lying, the rabid Minder fans at minder.org have resurrected it in full here for you to play. Think of it as a very gentle precursor to Grand Theft Auto, if you will. It’ll be interesting to see if the remake with Shane Richie gets off the ground and whether that will lead to a Wii spinoff where you get to use the remote to take bungs and slap ponces about. One last thing, Dennis Waterman’s autobiography is called Re:Minder, although Re:Mainder might have been more accurate etc. etc.
#2 The Odd Couple
So Neil Simon writes a successful play, that then becomes an even more successful movie, and then becomes a long-running sitcom spin-off with Jack “Quincy” Klugman and Tony “proto-Niles” Randall. Surely that’s enough juice to be going on with. A couple more squeezes? You got it. Exhibit A – The Odd Couple Sings, an endeavour that could most generously be described as misjudged, particularly as Klugman’s pipes aren’t exactly what you call fit for purpose. You can download the full horror at the link above, particularly the awesome version of You’re So Vain. The indignities don’t stop there for ol’ Felix and Oscar. Oh no, after 114 hit episodes, the concept was later revived in 1982 as The New Old Couple. New, I hear you say? So, new scripts right? Not exactly. The same scripts, in fact. Then how is it new? Well, er Felix and Oscar, well, they’re er, now they’re black. So why don’t we call it The Black Odd Couple? Dude, that’s not cool.
#3 Wacko, Macca & Journey
Computer games based on not exactly appropriate music acts? Roll up. From Moonwalker where your objective is finding cowering children locked behind doors (alarm bells?) to Journey’s pompous Atari adventure all the through to the computer game version of Paul McCartney’s poor man’s One Trick Pony, Give My Regards to Broad Street, none of these make any sense, much less that anyone actually sat down and made them. That said Moonwalker is pretty decent, your special weapon makes everyone on screen do a choreographed dance routine with you and then, er, die.
A series of increasingly unlikely book spin-offs see Hawkeye and the gang in various hi-jinx in London, Vienna, Maine, Las Vegas and Hollywood. Sorry, aren’t they, like, needed for the Korean War? I’m pretty sure you don’t get to go on holiday quite that frequently during a major conflict. It’s like the cast of Are You Being Served? going on holiday to Spain makes sense, but the cast of Dad’s Army doing it just being bizarre, and well, impossible. But then again, Various Characters From M*A*S*H Get Into International Adventures after their Tour of Duty and not Under The Auspices of the US Army doesn’t quite have the same ring to it. So that’s your lot, for now. Any other examples of this kind of merchandising lunacy gratefully received.