Best Television Spinoffs, Ranked
Did your favorite make the cut?
It’s tempting for television producers to turn any successful series into a franchise, especially in the age of cinematic universes. Spinoffs have been produced for decades upon decades, and while a lot of them fail to live up to their original counterparts, some have been worthy successors (in a few cases, even surpassing the parent show). Here are our 10 best spin-offs in TV history.
10. Mork & Mindy
The popularity of the original Star Wars in the late 1970s led to Happy Days producers creating the alien character of Mork, played by the late Robin Williams. Originally slated to be a one-episode wonder, the character’s popularity led to the creation of a spin-off series titled Mork & Mindy.
The show saw Mork move in with a woman named Mindy (played by Pam Dawber) and learning all about the planet Earth. This was a breakout role for Williams, and the show ran for four seasons from 1978-1982.
9. The Flash
When Grant Gustin guest starred as classic DC Comics mainstay Barry Allen in a couple of episodes during Arrow’s second season, it was only a matter of time before he received his own series. Set in what has since been deemed the “Arrowverse”, The Flash stars Gustin as the titular superhero, and has featured classic superheroics, appearances from popular Flash comic villains like the Reverse-Flash and Killer Frost, and time traveling adventures.
The Flash continued to cross over with Arrow and subsequent CW series based on DC Comics as its run continued, and the show is set to surpass its predecessor’s run of eight seasons when its ninth premieres in 2023.
When the long-running hit sitcom Cheers came to an end in 1993, fans were able to take solace in the fact that Kelsey Grammer’s Frasier Crane would return to the screen that fall. The show sees Frasier move across the country from Boston to Seattle and become a radio host, giving psychiatric advice to callers and taking care of his ailing father (John Mahoney), whom he has a rocky relationship with.
What those fans probably didn’t expect, however, was that the show would end up running just as long as its parent series, 11 seasons to be exact. A continuation of the series has been announced and is expected to premiere in either 2022 or 2023.
7. The Jeffersons
Another show to last 11 seasons, The Jeffersons is a spin-off of All in the Family starring Sherman Hemsley and Isabel Sanford as George and Louise Jefferson, respectively. The show sees the couple move to Manhattan after being the neighbors of the Bunkers, and, like its parent show, was known for tackling hot button subjects such as racism, gun violence, and addiction.
The Jeffersons is known for several milestones in television history. The show was the first sitcom to prominently feature an interracial married couple (the characters of Helen and Tom Willis) and to this day remains the second-longest-running television series with a primarily African America cast.
All in the Family had several successful spin-offs, and Maude was another one of them. After a couple of appearances on the original series, Bea Arthur’s Maude Findlay (Edith Bunker’s favorite cousin) ended up with a show of her own.
Maude may be even more political than All in the Family, as the titular character is an outspoken feminist and civil right advocate who often gets into conflict with those around her who disagree with her liberal beliefs. The series is also known for featuring Bea Arthur and Rue McClanahan (who plays Maude’s neighbor Vivian) together before their best-known roles on The Golden Girls.
5. Family Matters
ABC’s classic TGIF sitcom block was a staple of television in the 1990s, and both Perfect Strangers and its spin-off Family Matters were part of its original lineup. Hariette and Carl Winslow (Jo Marie Payton and Reginald VelJohnson, respectively) originally appeared on the former before being spun off as the stars of the latter. Viewers were introduced to the rest of the Winslow family, and the show became one of TGIF’s most iconic programs.
Even though Family Matters soon became focused on neighboring nerd Steve Urkel, the Winslow parents remained highlights of the long-running series. The show ran for eight years on ABC before switching to CBS for its ninth and final season.
4. The Facts of Life
Original Diff’rent Strokes housekeeper Edna Garrett (Charlotte Rae) was spun off into a new show after the first season, which saw her become the house mother at a boarding school for girls. Various cast members came and went over the course of The Facts of Life’s nine-season run (including a young George Clooney) but the core cast besides Rae consisted of four girls who age from teenagers to adults while all living under the same roof.
The Facts of Life had several main settings over the years, from the Eastland School for Girls to a bakery to the most 80s store imaginable. But it’s the relationships between the four characters and the issues they encountered (like suicide, teenage prostitution, and cerebral palsy) that make the show a classic even to this day.
Beavis and Butt-head isn’t exactly a show that’s known for its intelligence, which is why it’s so surprising that it’s spin-off is still the subject of thinkpieces to this day. Daria saw the title character move away from her alternative rock-loving classmates to the town of Lawndale with her parents and sister Quinn, where she somehow winds up involved in a lot of happenings despite her dry, cynical personality and non-joiner policy.
Daria is very much a 90s show (just look at those outfits) but its messages and commentary on high school and society at large are still very much relevant today. The show is even set to get a spin-off film of its own centered on one of Daria’s classmates, Jodie.
2. Better Call Saul
Breaking Bad was a phenomenon that seemed impossible to top, but this spin-off centered on the past of Walter White’s crooked lawyer as he goes from Jimmy McGill to Saul Goodman has done just that in the minds of many critics and fans.
A semi-rare case of a prequel spin-off, Better Call Saul has gripped many viewers as they’ve watched Jimmy spiral into the man they know from Breaking Bad. The show is set to end its sixth and final season in 2022, and if it’s anything like the rest of its award-winning run, the series is sure to conclude with a bang.
1. The Simpsons
What started out as a recurring short segment on The Tracey Ullman Show has become the longest running animated series of all time. Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa, Maggie, and their fellow residents of Springfield have become some of the most recognizable and beloved characters to ever appear on television.
After over three decades on the air, some say this family has more than overstayed their welcome, but the early seasons in the 90s still hold up for the most part, and many episodes in subsequent seasons are worth watching as well. The recently-concluded Season 33 has been hailed as a highlight of the show’s later years, indicating that the show may still have more golden years to come.
(featured image: Jack Rowand/The CW)
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