Where there’s a hit show, there’s the likelihood that a spinoff will follow suit. After the success of The Flash and Arrow, the CW Network introduced a new group of superheroes who would embark on their own adventures in DC’s Legends of Tomorrow. As fans warm up to the new series, its good to understand that other spinoffs weren’t so lucky. Have you ever heard of Buddies, the spinoff of Home Improvement? Or the incredibly dismal, Brady Brides? That’s probably because they’re among the worst of the bunch.
But not every spinoff is doomed for failure. In the midst of those obvious cash grabs, there are others that actually work to expand a story or change a perspective. Ignoring the faults of a Joanie Loves Chachi, we’re looking at the ones that were just as good, if not better than their predecessors.
These are the 18 Most Successful Spinoffs of Popular TV Shows.
18 Torchwood, from Doctor Who
British sci-fi series Doctor Who first aired in 1963 and is still on television today. The long-running and much-beloved show has seen its fair share of doctors, and debates still rage on which one was the best (spoiler alert: it’s David Tennant). The same can be said about the doctor’s companions (hint: it’s probably Donna Noble) which once include the dashing and sexually ambiguous Captain Jack (John Barrowman).
The immortal ex-con landed his own series in 2006 with Torchwood, which follows the adventures of an elite team from the Torchwood Institute, a secret organization founded by the British Crown. Their mission? To protect the Earth from extraterrestrial and supernatural threats. The show lasted for 4 seasons and included former companion Martha Jones (Freema Agyeman), as well as appearances by James Marsters and current doctor, Peter Capaldi.
17 The Originals, from The Vampire Diaries
Audiences went crazy for Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson) in the Twilight saga and The Vampire Diaries offered double the supernatural teen angst on the small screen. The wildly popular series, which is still airing today, centers on a love triangle between Elena Gilbert (Nina Dobrev) and vampire brothers Damon (Ian Somerhalder) and Stefan (Paul Wesley) Salvatore. At the end of season 2, the show introduced a fearsome villain who also happened to be the oldest vampire in the world: Klaus (Joseph Morgan).
Despite being a sadistic murderer who tried to kill all of the main characters, viewers were enthralled by Klaus’s complicated backstory (and that sinister smile). In season 3, the show shifted focus toward his family’s dysfunctional dynamics, which included his older brother Elijah (Daniel Gillies) fighting for his redemption after failing to kill him. The CW tested the family’s longevity with a backdoor pilot in season 4, which was then ordered to series and officially debuted on October 3, 2013. Less than stellar ratings aside, the show was just renewed for a fourth season.
16 Fear the Walking Dead, from The Walking Dead
As the vampire craze died down, The Walking Dead ushered in a new era of zombie folklore and became AMC’s number one show. Based on the comics by Robert Kirkman, Tony Moore, and Charlie Adlard, the horror drama centers on Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln), a sheriff who wakes up from a months-long coma in the middle of a zombie apocalypse. The show is well into its sixth season and has already been picked up for a seventh.
Piggybacking off the success of the first, Robert Kirkman and Dave Erickson created a prequel series that would center on the West Coast, as opposed to the Georgia setting of the original. Set just as the zombie apocalypse is happening, the show gives viewers some insight as to how things got so out of control by the time Grimes and Darryl (Norman Reedus) join forces. Fear the Walking Dead premiered on August 23, 2015 with six episodes. Strong viewership garnered a second, 15-episode season, which will begin airing on April 10.
15 Better Call Saul, from Breaking Bad
The world fell in love with Walter White (Bryan Cranston), a high school chemistry with inoperable lung cancer who turns to a life a crime in order to pay his bills. During its five-season run, from January 20, 2008, to September 29, 2013, Breaking Bad became one of America’s most watched shows, earned 16 Emmy awards and has since etched its name on many all-time greatest lists.
Unable to let the show go away completely, fans were thrilled when Better Call Saul premiered on February 8, 2015. The show centers on the emergence of the titular character (Bob Odenkirk), first introduced on the original series, who goes from small-time lawyer to criminal attorney for White. The show was just picked up for a fourth season.
14 Fuller House, from Full House
The original family-friendly sitcom, which ran from September 22, 1987, to May 23, 1995, followed recently windowed sportscaster Danny Tanner (Bob Saget) who enlists his brother-in law Jesse Katsopolis (John Stamos) and buddy Joey Gladstone (Dave Coulier) to help raise his three daughters. The show helped launch Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen into tween billionaires and produced one of the catchiest opening songs of all time.
21 years later, the story continues in Netflix's Fuller House, with eldest daughter D.J. Tanner (Candace Cameron Bure), who is recently widowed and enlists her sister Stephanie (Jodie Sweetin) and best friend Kimmy Gibbler (Andrea Barber) to help raise her three boys. The series premiered on Netflix on February 26, 2016 to lackluster reviews, but has already been picked up for a second season.
13 Girl Meets World, from Boy Meets World
Few sitcoms stand the test of time like ‘90s classic Boy Meets World. Considered one of the greatest shows of all time, the TGIF series centers on the life of Cory Matthews (Ben Savage) who grows from clueless kid to a young man ready to take on the world over seven seasons. Those along for the ride include his girlfriend Topanga (Danielle Fishel), best friend Shawn (Rider Storng), dopey older brother Eric (Will Friedle) and the mentor we all wish we had, Mr. Feeny (William Daniels).
Fourteen years later, a new Disney series follows the life of Cory and Topanga’s daughter, Riley (Rowen Blanchard) and her best friend Maya (Sabrina Carpenter). The show premiered on June 27, 2014 and has since brought back a number of familiar faces including Shawn, Feeny, Eric, Jack Hunter (Matthew Lawrence), Angela Moore (Trina McGee) and Stuart Minkus (Lee Norris), whose son Farkle is close friends with Maya and Riley. Season 3, which finds the girls entering high school, is set to air Spring 2016.
12 NCIS, from JAG
JAG was a TV juggernaut with some not-so-spectacular beginnings. The show originally aired on NBC on September 23, 1995 and was canceled less than a year later. CBS picked it up in 1997 and, after steadily growing an audience, it lasted 10 seasons. Unlike many other TV series, the core audience was made up of people over 40. The legal Navy drama aired its 227th and final episode on April 29, 2005.
NCIS was teased in season 8, when core characters Leroy Gibbs (Mark Harmon), Tony DiNozzo (Michael Weatherly), Ducky Mallard (David McCallum) and Abby Sciuto (Pauley Perrette) appeared in the episodes “Ice Queen” and “Meltdown.” Surpassing its predecessor, the show has recently been renewed for a 14th season and has also spawned additional spinoffs NCIS: Los Angeles and NCIS: New Orleans.
11 Angel, from Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Buffy the Vampire Slayer was a campy, almost forgotten film from the early '90s until Joss Whedon adapted it for television (from his own screenplay) with then-soap opera star Sarah Michelle Gellar as the lead. Packed with witty dialogue, teen angst, super cool fight scenes and a handsomely broody Angel (David Boreanaz), the show turned into a cult hit and is regarded as one of the greatest of all time. It continued for seven seasons before airing its final episode, “Chosen,” in 2003.
The Whedonverse expanded in 1999 when Angel left Sunnydale during Buffy’s third season to head his own venture in Los Angeles. Realizing you’re a terrible option for your human girlfriend who loves to sunbathe and may want kids in the future will do that to a vamp. Angel followed the ancient vamp’s quest for redemption as he solved supernatural mysteries with his own, cooler Scooby Gang made up of ex-watcher Wesley Wyndam-Pryce (Alexis Denisoff), former Buffy frenemy Cordelia Chase (Charisma Carpenter), newcomer Charles Gunn (J. August Richards), demonic lounge singer Lorne (Andy Hallett), adorably geeky Fred Burkle (Amy Acker) and later, Spike (James Marsters). The series ended in 2004 after five seasons. Both Whedon stories continue on in a comic book series that is either terrible or awesome, depending on who you ask.
10 Facts of Life, from Diff'rent Strokes
A rich, older white gentleman adopting two young, African-American boys is a bold premise for a sitcom, but it worked for Diff'rent Strokes. Airing from 1978 to 1985, the series gave us the catchphrase, “Whatchu talkin’ about, Willis,” and turned star Gary Coleman into a household name. It also crossed over into risqué territory by covering hot topics like racism and drug abuse in dramatic fashion.
After spending a season and a half as their housekeeper, Mrs. Garrett (Charlotte Rae) set off on her own in 1979’s Facts of Life. The spinoff centered on a group of boarding school girls learning about life under the guidance of their housemothers, the former Diff'rent Strokes regulars. The show went on for nine seasons, just one season longer than its predecessor.
9 A Different World, from The Cosby Show
Say what you will about Bill Cosby now, but his family-oriented sitcom remains important for its positive portrayal of an affluent black family. The squeaky-clean series, which aired from 1984 to 1992, centered on the lives of the Huxtables: an obstetrician named Cliff (Cosby) and his lawyer wife, Claire (Phylicia Rashad); daughters Sondra (Sabrina Le Beauf), Denise (Lisa Bonet), Vanessa (Tempestt Bledsoe) and Rudy (Keshia Knight Pulliam); and a son named Theo (Malcolm-Jamal Warner).
As with life, the children grew older and Denise was soon off to college. The first season of A Different World in 1987 followed her sophomore year at Hillman College, a predominately black (and fictional) school in Virginia. She departed in the second season and the series then shifted focus toward southern belle Whitley Gilbert (Jasmine Guy) and math genius Dwayne Wayne (Kadeem Hardison). The bold series tackled heavy topics like the L.A. riots, black pride, sexual assault and more with a cast of diverse African-American personalities ranging from outspoken feminists to the bourgeoisie to the geeky. The show lasted a stealthy six seasons.
8 The Jeffersons, from All in the Family
Before Al Bundy in Married With Children, TV’s Crudest Dad title belonged to Archie Bunker (Carroll O'Connor), a working class World War II veteran, in All in the Family. Like Bundy, he was particularly grumpy but he was also a bigot and would often display such a quality during arguments. Running from 1971-1979, the edgy series tackled everything from racism and homosexuality to women's rights, the Vietnam War, menopause, and impotence.
Archie’s perspective slightly changed when an African-American couple settled in next door. However, they wouldn’t be there for long and the Jeffersons, George (Sherman Hemsley) and Louise (Isabel Sanford), quickly moved on up to Manhattan to a deluxe apartment in the sky. The sitcom followed their adventures in New York City, which included conflict with other tenants and George’s schemes for greater upward mobility. The show went on for an impressive 11 seasons before ending in 1985.
7 Laverne and Shirley, from Happy Days
Happy Days might have been set in 1950s’ America, but the show actually ran from 1974 to 1984. The romanticized depiction of that earlier decade centered on teenager Richie Cunningham (Ron Howard) and his clean-cut family. He befriends a greaser named Fonzie ( Henry Winkler), whose growing popularity made him the unofficial star of the show. The lighthearted comedy went on for 11 seasons and spawned the phrase “jumping the shark” after Fonzie literally leapt over a shark on water skis, signaling a stark decline in the show’s quality.
The series actually birthed two spinoffs: the much-ridiculed Joanie Loves Chachi with Scott Baio and Erin Moran, and the massively popular Laverne & Shirley starring Penny Marshall and Cindy Williams. The titular characters were first introduced as Fonzie’s associates before setting out on their own 1976. Following the roommates’ lives as single women working as bottlecappers at a fictional brewery, the comedy went for eight seasons and is often regarded as one of the all-time greatest.
6 Family Matters, from Perfect Strangers
It seems like every generation has an Odd Couple and, in the ‘80s, it was Perfect Strangers. The sitcom followed Larry Appleton (Mark Linn-Baker), a high-strung American who finally ends up living on his own after coming from a large family. That quickly ends when his laidback Mediterranean cousin Balki Bartokomous moves in with him. Airing from 1986 to 1993, the show introduced a spunky elevator operator named Harriette Winslow (Jo Marie Payton-France), whose husband Carl (Reginald VelJohnson) doesn’t appear until the fourth season.
The Winslows possessed enough humor and charm to helm their own sitcom in 1989 called Family Matters. The African-American series focused on the middle-class family which included daughter Laura (Kellie Shanygne Williams), son Eddie (Darius McCrary) and the odd predicaments caused by their clumsy neighbor and inventor, Steve Urkel (Jaleel White). The ‘90s classic found a spot on ABC’s famous TGIF lineup alongside Boy Meets World, and featured a who’s who of musical guests including New Edition, All 4 One, Immature, MC Lyte and Donna Summer. The show lasted nine seasons until ending in 1998 after 215 episodes.
5 Daria, from Beavis & Butthead
MTV wasn’t exactly aiming for high-brow comedy with their 1993 adult animated series, Beavis and Butt-Head. The show followed two impossibly dim-witted high school slackers on a perpetual quest to get laid. With no adult supervision, the two found themselves in often dangerous situations like setting the house on fire and often harmed others around them with little or no consequences. The unique show also featured music videos, which were “critiqued” by the titular characters. Disenfranchised teen Daria Morgendorffer popped up as a recurring character before landing her own series in 1997.
Mike Judge, who created and voiced both Beavis and Butt-Head, had no involvement with the Daria series, despite creating the character. Instead, writers Glenn Eichler and Susie Lewis were the masterminds behind the cult classic. The dark comedy centered on the cynical teen’s life and introduced a slew of new characters including vain and popular sister Quinn, workaholic corporate attorney mom Helen, moody dad Jake and artistic best friend Jane. The animated series ran from 1997-2002 and is still being cosplayed by superfans like Katy Perry.
4 The Game, from Girlfriends
Girlfriends was the long running UPN series following the lives of four very different African-American women in the Los Angeles area. The popular show sprouted a backdoor pilot in the sixth season titled “The Game,” which found Joan Clayton (Tracee Ellis Ross), one of the main characters, trying to convince her cousin, Melanie Barnett (Tia Mowry), not to put off medical school while waiting for her boyfriend’s (Pooch Hall) football career to take off.
As it turns out, people were very interested in seeing more of Melanie and her footballer partner, Derwin Davis (Pooch Hall). The Game officially debuted on October 1, 2006 on the CW Network to nearly 3 million viewers. The series went on for nine seasons, one season longer than its predecessor, before ending in August of 2015.
3 The Degrassi Saga, from Kids of Degrassi Street
At some point in your life, you’re probably watched an episode of this Canadian teen soap opera. Starting in 1979 with the Kids of Degrassi Street, many of those characters would go on to star in 1987’s Degrassi Junior High, which then evolved into Degrassi High in 1989. The groundbreaking series covered an array of controversial topics including AIDS, abortion, child abuse, alcoholism, suicide, depression, homophobia, racism, eating disorders and more. The final episode aired in 1991 and we thought that was to be the end of it.
However, the series was rebooted by Canadian network CTV in 2001. Degrassi: The Next Generation focused on a new crop of students (including an unknown actor named Aubrey Graham who would go on to become a successful rapper named Drake) and received mostly favorable reviews. With a revolving door of characters, the constant casting changes reflect the reality that students don’t stay young forever. Like its predecessor, the show covered several heavy topics, rape, cyberstalking, racism, etc., until it was canceled in 2015.
All is not lost, however. The Degrassi saga continues with Degrassi: Next Class now available on Netflix.
2 Frasier, from Cheers
Named after the Boston bar where everybody knows your name, Cheers featured a heavy-hitting lineup including Ted Danson, Rhea Perlman, John Ratzenberger, George Wendt, Woody Harrelson, Kirstie Alley, Shelley Long and Kelsey Grammer as Dr. Frasier Crane. Centering on the lives of those very familiar patrons, the show lasted 271 episodes over 11 seasons.
After ending in 1993, the story continued with Frasier who moves back to his hometown of Seattle to live with his dad (John Mahoney) and finds work as a radio psychologist. Along for the ride are his brother Niles (David Hyde Pierce) his father’s personal care assistant Daphne Moon (Jane Leeves) and radio producer Roz Doyle (Peri Gilpin). Like its parent series, the show lasted for 11 seasons and finds itself on the list of greatest TV comedies.
1 Law & Order: SVU, from Law & Order
Considered one of the greatest police procedurals of all time, Law & Order is definitely the longest running with 20 seasons under its belt. Familiar stars include Steven Hill as District Attorney Adam Schiff, Jerry Orbach as Detective Lennie Briscoe, S. Epatha Merkerson as Lieutenant Anita Van Buren, Jesse L. Martin as Detective Ed Green and Sam Waterston as District Attorney Jack McCoy. Airing from 1990 to 2010, the Dick Wolfe-created series kicked off a highly successful franchise with spinoffs like Law & Order: Criminal Intent and the massively popular Law and Order: Special Victims Unit.
Admit it, you know from SVU’s opening monologue that the show features an elite squad of dedicated detectives who investigate sexually-related crimes. Beginning in 1999, the beloved series featured a group of rich characters including Elliot Stabler (Christopher Meloni), Olivia Benson (Mariska Hargitay), Odafin Tutuola (Ice-T), Donald Cragen (Dann Florek), John Munch ( Richard Belzer), Dr. George Huang (BD Wong) and Dr. Melinda Warner (Taramra Tunie). The show was recently renewed for an 18th season.
Can you think of any other shows that should be on this list? Let us know in the comments!
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