Some shows have it easy — one look at Joan Holloway wiggling across the office, and you’re a “Mad Men” fan for life. But what if you’re one of the many spin-offs, supernatural dramas or crime shows that debuted this fall? How do you wiggle and hook an audience? Some clever strategies are behind the front-runners — and lacking in the others.

 

Be smart when spinning off
When “NCIS” opened an office in L.A., the drama had an audience waiting. “Clearly, there’s an appetite for ‘NCIS.’ [The spin-off] feels organic,” says Dan Manu, site director of TelevisionWithout
Pity.com.

 

But over at “Mel-rose Place,” viewers are 17 years removed from the original. “They’re going with the Hail Mary pass in bringing in Heather Locklear,” says Manu. “But with the younger audience ... how many even know who [she] is?”

 

Timing can make or break
Airing the “Glee” pilot after “American Idol” was marketing genius. “Fox did something really smart,” says Mickey O’Connor, senior editor of TVGuide.com. “That audience really gets into the music.”

As for ABC’s “The Middle,” O’Connor predicts it might go down with the less successful “Hank,” with which the half-hour comedy shares an hour time slot.

Stick to the recipe

If you want to stand out among supernatural shows, you better do it right. “Vampire Diaries” took a tried and very true path: bloodsuckers, an established book series, high school drama. “It had a built-in audience,” says O’Connor. “The same thing happened with ‘True Blood’ — the readers tuned in.”

As for “Eastwick,” fans of the John Updike novel it was based on weren’t interested — it’s been cancelled.