We’ve seen a lot of both amazing and lackluster attempts at capitalizing on the success of a popular series via the trusty spinoff through the years, and the trend continues. The Blacklist spinoff, The Blacklist: Redemption, has gotten an order by NBC, as did 24’s next chapter, 24: Legacy. Sons of Anarchy spinoff Mayans MC, which will focus on the Mayans Motorcycle Club, is in the works, too. Even sitcoms are getting in on the action, with CBS reportedly eyeing a Big Bang Theory spinoff called Sheldon, set to explore the nerd-genius himself as a 12-year-old.
In that spirit. we’ve dipped back in time to find some of the most successful spinoff efforts through the years. Check out the 10 shows we’ve unearthed that were (or are) just as popular as the shows which birthed them, if not more so.
We’re starting off strong with perhaps one of the most surprising and beloved spinoffs ever. A continuation of the character introduced by the immensely popular NBC series, Cheers, Frasier morphed into an award-winning and popular show in its own right. Running for 11 seasons from 1993-2004, the series centered around Frasier Crane (Kelsey Grammar), who was a frequent patron at Sam Malone’s hallowed bar on Cheers. Frasier saw the titular character moving from Boston back out west to his Seattle roots. The series showed Crane as a radio psychiatrist, and introduced several quirky characters, including Frasier’s producer Roz (Peri Gilpin), father Martin (John Mahoney), brother Niles (David Hyde Pierce), and father’s live-in physiotherapist Daphne (Jane Leeves). The Crane brothers were uppity intellectuals, both searching for love, while trying (and often failing) to reconnect with their blue-collar father. The juxtaposition led to plenty of hilarious storylines and interactions that kept viewers laughing, but also brought plenty of heart.q In addition to being one of the most successful TV show spinoffs ever, Frasier has often been called one of the greatest comedies of all time.
Star Trek: The Next Generation (Star Trek)
Following the unprecedented cult success of the original Star Trek series, Star Trek: The Next Generation became the catalyst for a number of additional spinoffs that followed, including Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Star Trek: Voyager, and Star Trek: Enterprise. Not to mention that it was the basis for the 7th, 8th, 9th, and 10th Star Trek films, and inspired several novels, comic books, and video games. The sci-fi series, which aired on CBS from 1987-1994 and starred the venerable Patrick Stewart, premiered almost two decades after original went off air. Taking place 100 years later and featuring an entirely new cast, fans were drawn to the series in droves, thanks, in large part, to the method of syndicating it across multiple television stations – a concept that was uncommon at the time. STG brought all new technologies to bear, and spawned an eternal battle between fans about which was the better series.
Melrose Place (90210)
Melrose Place was the spinoff that simply had to happen. The series from which it spawned, Beverly Hills, 90210, didn’t go off the air because it was no longer popular — it had simply run its course. The series would have left a visible primetime soap opera hole on Fox, so Aaron Spelling and Darren Star filled it with Melrose Place, which ran successfully for seven seasons. The show traded high school life for more adult-drama fare in an apartment complex where several highly-attractive young adults resided. Rife with scandalous relationships, fights, and all-around drama, the show really took off when soap opera veteran Heather Locklear joined the cast as a series regular in the second season. In fact, it may just have been her villainous portrayal of the character Amanda Woodward that made the show such a big success – Locklear received Golden Globe nominations for the role four years in a row, and was named the second-biggest “TV bitch” in TV Guide’s rankings (behind only Joan Collins’ Alexis Carrington Colby, of Dynasty.)
Law & Order: Special Victims Unit (Law & Order)
As far as procedural spinoffs go, this one nears the top of the list. The SVU division deals with especially heinous, sexually-based crimes. The heavy subject matter makes the show, which is one of the longest-running primetime U.S. series of all time, particularly disturbing. The plots mirror real news headlines, including an episode that was eerily similar to the story of Eliot Spitzer, and another that echoed that of the Casey Anthony trial. With its 18th season underway on NBC, Law & Order: SVU has become just as successful as the original series that inspired it.
Fear the Walking Dead (The Walking Dead)
The start of AMC’s The Walking Dead, which saw Rick (Andrew Lincoln) waking up from a coma months after the apocalypse had already begun, left a window wide open for more story-telling. Fear the Walking Dead became the perfect catalyst for showcasing what happened before Rick was flung into the world of walkers. Not only does the series provide another perspective on the apocalypse, showing how citizens reacted before understanding their predicament, it also provides a glimpse into another part of the country, starting in Los Angeles. While The Walking Dead takes place in Georgia, Fear’s California locale serves survivors an entirely different set of challenges (and possibilities), including more accessible water travel, drug addiction, and proximity to the Mexican border. With two seasons under its belt and a third season coming in 2017, the show confidently stands on its own, and has proven to be a highly successful spinoff — the first season was broke records as the highest-rated cable series ever when it debuted.
CSI: Miami (CSI)
Love it or hate it, CBS’ police procedural CSI: Miami capitalize on the success of the original in a big way. Like Fear the Walking Dead, the series moved to an entirely new location. Naturally, the situations and settings in Miami differ greatly from CSI’s Las Vegas backdrop. That lent itself to sunglass-wearing cops like David Caruso as Lieutenant Horatio Caine. Let’s face it – the drama was as cheesy as they come. Yet fans couldn’t help but tune in, resulting in the series enjoying a lengthy run of 10 seasons, and even enjoying tremendous success outside of the U.S. The show’s sister spinoff, CSI: NY starring Gary Sinise, had a pretty good run as well. It was on the air for a total of nine seasons, and managed to sneak in another year on the air after Miami was canceled.
A Different World (The Cosby Show)
It was pretty much a foregone conclusion that NBC would try and extend its Cosby Show reach back in the late ‘80s. The network found a clever way to do so in A Different World, which ran concurrently with Cosby for six seasons before reaching its end a year after The Cosby Show went off the air. The series originally followed the life of Cosby’s second-eldest child Denise (Lisa Bonet) once she went off to college. Interestingly, Bonet left the show after its first season once she became pregnant, shifting the show’s focus to fellow students Whitley Gilbert (Jasmine Guy) and noted sunglass flipper Dwayne Wayne (Kadeem Hardison). Even without Denise, the show succeeded, garnering attention for its focus on tackling difficult and sensitive issues including race relations in a fictional, predominantly black college.
The Jeffersons (All in the Family)
Arguably the most successful spinoff from the hit show All in the Family (a list that also includes Bea Arthur series Maude), George and Louise Jefferson (Sherman Hemsley and Isabel Sanford) were already well known to viewers as the neighbors of Archie and Edith Bunker (Carroll O’Connor and Jean Stapleton). They had the opportunity to move on up to the east side (“to a de-luxe apartment in the sky”) and off they went from their working-class neighborhood in Queens to a luxury apartment in Manhattan. Once the story was setup in a 1975 episode of All in the Family, The Jeffersons debuted on CBS a week later, and didn’t look back. The show ran for 11 seasons, earned 13 Emmy nominations, and spawned one of the most recognizable television sitcom theme songs ever.
Angel (Buffy the Vampire Slayer)
Enjoying great success for five seasons on The WB, this Joss Whedon-produced series focused on Angel (David Boreanaz), a vampire who’s human soul was restored as a form of punishment, leaving him to try and redeem himself from the guilt of a century’s worth of torture and murder. The 2004 cancellation shocked fans, as the show was performing well and the character extremely popular from his Buffy roots, in which he appeared in several episodes. The open-ended finale even led to a comic book series three years later that served as an official continuation of the story. If there’s ever a spinoff ripe for a TV adaptation comeback, this one might just be it.
Better Call Saul (Breaking Bad)
A scene-stealer in Breaking Bad, it’s no surprise that AMC put its faith in Bob Odenkirk to lead a cast in a show that explored the backstory of his shady lawyer character, Saul Goodman. While he was a guy that did bad things, it was clear that Goodman wasn’t necessarily a bad guy. So how did he become the way he was? Better Call Saul explores the intricacies of Saul’s descent. It seems fans are eager to find out more about Saul’s sordid history since the series, which will begin its third season next year, has repeatedly broken viewership records. Its premiere, for example, became the highest-rated scripted series premiere ever for basic cable, and its Rotten Tomatoes rating is an impressive 97 percent.
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