Thursdays 8:00 PM on ABC
Greys-anatomy

Kate Walsh to Star in Grey's Anatomy Spinoff; Pilot Episode Planned For May

by at . Comments

In a bold and controversial move, ABC is surgically removing part of Grey's Anatomy to see if it can survive on its own.

Kate Walsh Getting Her Own Spin Off?The Wall Street Journal reports that ABC has decided to pursue a spinoff of the hugely successful drama, and that leaving Seattle Grace to head the cast of the new show will be one of its most popular doctors:

Addison Montgomery, the sexy neonatal-surgeon played by Kate Walsh.

The plot is still a work in progress and Grey's Anatomy creator Shonda Rhimes - who will lead production of the new series - hasn't settled on a title, says an ABC spokeswoman.

A two-hour pilot of the series is likely to air in May, the Journal said.

Rhimes recently told the cast about the project and agreed to write the special two-hour episode that will serve as the series pilot. This type of old-fashioned spinoff is rare in the risk-averse TV business.

ABC will likely air the show in May so that it is broadcast in time for the network to decide whether to pick up the spinoff before unveiling its fall schedule to advertisers and media buyers.

ABC Entertainment President Stephen McPherson declined to comment. ABC confirms it has inked a deal with Walsh, but said Rhimes and Walsh are both unavailable to comment further at this time.

No new show is a safe bet in the fickle TV business, but a spinoff is a safer bet. Rather than launching cold, spinoffs come with a built-in audience already invested in the concept or character.

There's a strong marketing hook - a crucial element as networks battle an
expanding array of entertainment options for viewer attention. And some
of TV's most popular shows have been spinoffs, including The Jeffersons, spawned by All in the Family, and Frasier, a spinoff of Cheers.

Although McPherson has dramatically transformed ABC over the past two years from the last-place broadcaster to a contender for No. 1, the network still has holes on its schedule that would benefit from a new hit.

Wednesday night has started to struggle - the castaways drama Lost is down 23 percent among adults age 18 to 49 this season compared with last - and the network has been keeping some Friday slots warm by airing reruns.

In many ways, a Grey's Anatomy spinoff would mark a departure for the modern TV industry. True spinoffs - where ancillary characters leave an established show to become the leads of a new one - are less common today than in decades past.

A big reason: There are fewer smash hits, particularly comedies, to spin off. The TV schedule is replete with strong dramas, but shows such as CSI tend to spawn new franchises with entirely new casts of characters, notes TV historian Tim Brooks, author of The Complete Guide to Prime Time.

Indeed, networks rarely have confidence to pursue a character spinoff of an hour-long drama. One of the few successes was in 1979 when Gary and Valene Ewing departed Dallas to launch Knots Landing.

More often, attempts have been spectacular flops, such as the 1987 bid to spin off Hill Street Blues by sending detective Norman Buntz, played by Dennis Franz, and his snitch Sid, played by Peter Jurasik, to California.

Beverly Hills Buntz failed within a season, although Franz went on to greater things in NYPD Blue.

With Grey's Anatomy, ABC has a white-hot hit, fueled by complex story lines and charismatic characters. Despite moving to highly competitive Thursday from Sunday last fall, Grey's Anatomy is notching some of its best ratings ever. Last week, 26 million people tuned in to watch "Drowning On Dry Land," in which the Seattle Grace team copes with the fallout of a ferry crash.

The ensemble show, now in its third season, also has an abundance of strong characters, including Ellen Pompeo as Dr. Meredith Grey and Patrick Dempsey as Dr. Derek Shepherd. Indeed, Rhimes recently told a gathering of critics that it is getting more and more difficult fitting all 12 Grey's Anatomy regulars into storylines.

She wants to be intimately involved in the potential spinoff and, to free up her schedule, has shelved another pilot of hers about a group of female journalists, which Jeffrey Dean Morgan was scheduled to appear in.

Walsh's Dr. Montgomery-Shepherd joined the show in May 2005, appearing in the last few minutes of the Season One finale. She abruptly showed up at the Seattle hospital looking for her estranged neurosurgeon husband, Derek, and discovers he has a girlfriend.

Addison confronts him with a pointed - and explicit - remark.

Although Rhimes and ABC think Walsh's character can continue to evolve on Grey's Anatomy, it became clear in recent months that her position on the show was changing, say people familiar with the matter. Now divorced from Derek and friendly with Meredith, Addison has had fewer ways to keep busy - and fewer fireworks to entertain viewers.

ABC is approaching the spinoff in a smart way, says Norman Lear, the TV producer who refined the art of the spinoff in the 1970s when his All in the Family spawned a record five new shows.

Too often networks try to force audiences to embrace a character just because they have an actor amenable to a spinoff - NBC's ill-fated Friends spinoff Joey, starring Matt LeBlanc, for instance. Instead, networks should "see who's popping and try to build something" around them, he says.

His advice to Rhimes: "Trust your instincts and don't force anything." He also notes that successfully juggling monster-sized egos - particularly those of the cast members not getting their own show - is a crucial to the spinoff process.

If the Grey's Anatomy special episode doesn't lead to a new series for ABC's fall schedule, the network has several high-profile projects in the pipeline to fall back on. One of them is Life on Mars, a remake of a BBC drama about a modern-day detective who finds himself transported back to 1973.

ABC also has hopes for a pilot called Dirty Sexy Money, a drama from Greg Berlanti (Dawson's Creek, Everwoo) focusing on an idealistic lawyer hired to tend to the legal - and often illegal - needs of a megarich New York family.

Talk about your Wednesday morning bombshell. While we'll miss Addison on Grey's Anatomy, we're hopeful that with Shonda at the helm, the new series will be a success. Congratulations to Kate for landing her own show!

Kate Walsh Is Going Private

Steve Marsi is the Managing Editor of TV Fanatic. Follow him on Google+ or email him here.

Tags:
Avatar

from a purely logical standpoint, Grey's hasn't even gone through a whole year in tv time. Addison will have been there for six,seven, eight..? months and then she just jumps ship and moves somewhere else? No right minded professional would do that. Second, she is head of Obstetrics and has the top neo-nat unit in the country according to the show. What possible job would make her give that up... Shonda has some explaining to do

Avatar

THIS BETTER BE A FRIGGING RUMOR OR THE SHOW HAS JUST BEEN SHOT TO HELL. TO HELL I SAY.

Avatar

this is to calliope who wrote:
GREY'S ANATOMY IS THE STORY OF MEREDITH AND THE INTERNS. ADDISON HASN'T A GREAT FOCUS. GOOD FOR HER IF SHE LEAVES. obviously the show is NOT just about the interns anymore, if they killed off meredith!

Avatar

erm ...and what is a "spinoff" ???

Avatar

okay okay ... i dont really get everything ^^ (cos i'm german and my english is ...well ...not good enough) but wow - kate is leaving the show and gets her own show or what? i mean shes one of my faves! In this show or episode or whatever this thing with kate is , will they show it in germany too???
oh man, it sucks ^^ shonda is a really good writer but if meredith (maybe) dies, and kate leaves the show too ...it wouldnt be the same GA ^^
and i've got another question: how many seasons will they produce (GA) ?
In germany we're on the 2nd season ... well anyway...
I love the show!!!!
mb Lari

Avatar

Nooo!!! Addison is the best character from Grey's! She can't go! What about her relation with Alex? and mark? I think she's not done with SGH, it will be so boring without her... i love Kate so i wish her the best luck with the spinoff, i hope it works, but if not she should return to Grey's. Good luck Kate!

Avatar

I love kate walsh. don't get me wrong. but i have mixed emotions with the potential GA spin-off. i mean, what about addex??? just when i was beginning to like them. and plus, SGH will not be the same without addie. she just brings a certain "something" to the show. i know i'll definitely watch kate's solo show but c'mon! it's just so difficult to accept a somewhat "break up" in the show. i love and hate it at the same time. but i will always love everyone in grey's. this sucks but you guys still rock. =)

Avatar

I'm happy for Kate. I'm wondering if Shonda will still write and produce Grey's, I hope so.

Avatar

Ok, the thing about all this stuff that has been happening recently is.....Shonda is messing around too much with a good thing. Maybe she is just testing her writing limits and trying to get Addison a show that can make her character expand more but I think that especially with the recent episodes with Meredith's death (if she has died, we'll find out soon) she's just messing it around too much. Grey's Anatomy as it is at the moment is an immensely successful show and yet Shonda and is trying to move stuff around, forcing storylines that ultimately seem a little pointless. Yes, its exciting and tense I have to admit the whole Meredith will she won't she kick it thing, but I think that the whole thing is just entirely pointless because I'm pretty certain Shonda isn't going to kill the main character - Grey's has formed around Meredith and without it, its not really anything. She knows that she will lose a large part of the fan base if she kills Meredith so I think she's just put this storyline in to get viewers. As people have said its all about the money. If Meredith does die in tonight's episode then I will have a great respect for Shonda doing something that people rarely do. Lets look at other shows, Buffy survives twice after dying, Angel comes back from the dead. People kill characters and bring them back which I believe Shonda will do as well! And with making a new show she has more ratings and therefore more money from it. I know people are saying that Addison hasn't got as big a part in the show anymore so its not a bad thing she's getting her own show but personally I love the character, and some of the scenes with Addison and Alex are the ones that really excite me about the show - its the tension between them! I think Addison is just as important as Burke, or ....Mark?! I mean what's Mark doing in there - not much really! So why is no one saying he should get his own show?! Obviously you can tell I'm rather against the idea but I guess I'll have to watch it, I'll have to fill Shonda's pockets which is what she wants! I think Addison has brought a certain quality to the show, however subtle it may be and i strongly believe that Shonda is making a mistake by taking Addison out, but I think once they've made the decision Addison can't really come back to GA so ......i think this signals the end of an amazing character!
Another point, if we look at Lost's ratings recently, they've got down by something like 25% - purely because a whole island of new characters has been introduced - as silly as it sounds viewers don't like such a big change like that! The LOST writers have been messing around too much with a perfectly good formula and they get their comeupance! I don't want to see the same happen to GA, but the way Shonda is going I think it might!
Anyway, congrats to Kate Walsh for landing her own show!

Avatar

GREY'S ANATOMY IS THE STORY OF MEREDITH AND THE INTERNS. ADDISON HASN'T A GREAT FOCUS. GOOD FOR HER IF SHE LEAVES.

Grey's Anatomy Quotes

Sometimes we have to get lost. To find each other.

Meredith

Did you say it? 'I love you. I don't ever want to live without you. You changed my life.' Did you say it? Make a plan. Set a goal. Work toward it, but every now and then, look around; Drink it in 'cause this is it. It might all be gone tomorrow."

Meredith (closing voiceover)
×