TV shows are always trying to capitalize on their popularity. Usually, this means spinning off as many popular characters as they can for shows of their own. But let’s be honest — most spin-offs fail terribly. They either lose the magic of the original show or sometimes never get off the ground. But once in a while, a spin-off is just as good, if not better than, the original show.
While it’s rare, some amazing spin-offs have graced our TV screens. Even a few you probably didn’t know were spin-offs because they were that good and that popular! Shows are even starting to initiate spin-offs years after they’ve ended — to, predictably, mixed results. With new spin-offs coming seemingly every day, let’s reflect on some of the best TV spin-offs of all time!
19. The Cleveland Show
Seth MacFarlane has proven to be kind of a genius when it comes to animated comedies. With Family Guy and American Dad! under his belt, he decided to go for a hat-trick. The Cleveland Show took Family Guy character Cleveland Brown (Mike Henry) and gave him a new family, a new town, and a whole new show to headline. The show only lasted four seasons, but it’s gotten new life in reruns and now it’s in the upper echelon of adult animated comedies. And who knows, maybe it’ll be just like it’s predecessor that was canceled and then revived. Revivals are all the rage now!
18. Star Trek: The Next Generation
The original Star Trek was a goldmine on television. The show was still huge in syndication years after its original run! Not to mention the dedication of “Trekkies” and the franchises leap to feature films. So execs decided to give a show another go and spin the Star Trek universe off into a new TV show. The show proved to be a huge success. It ran for eight years, pulling in new and old fans alike, and garnering a few awards along the way. Star Trek hasn’t disappeared since — there’s another spinoff on air now!
17. The Simpsons
The Simpsons is the longest running half-hour show in the history of television but America’s favorite animated family actually began on a different show. The Simpsons family was featured in several shorts on The Tracey Ullman Show before being spun off into their own animated series. This is one instance of the spin-off far surpassing the original series it originated with. The Simpsons is one of the most revered comedies ever — even if the quality has waned a bit since its inception.
16. Melrose Place
Towards the end of Beverly Hills, 90210’s soapy second season, a new guy came into the picture: Jake (Grant Show). He wooed Kelly (Jennie Garth) and got his own damn show out of it. The Jake-Kelly romance carried the first part of the new show as she visited him in the Melrose Place-set L.A. That was resolved pretty quickly and then it was just about pretty people and their pretty people problems. It was just as dramatic as its predecessor, making it basically perfect.
15. Young Sheldon
Whether you love it or hate it, there is no denying that The Big Bang Theory is basically the biggest show on television. So it’s no surprise they made a spin-off with it! The show focuses on Sheldon Cooper (Jim Parsons in TBBT) as a nine-year-old already in high school. He has to deal with growing up with an amazing intellect and some so-so socialization skills. So, basically how he is in the original show. The show is only in its first season and it’s already found a massive audience. We’re pretty sure this is one spin-off show that will be on TV for a long time.
14. Family Matters
Before Harriette (Jo Marie Payton) and Carl (Reginald VelJohnson) Winslow were trying to kick Steve Urkel (Jaleel White) out of their home, they were on a TV show called Perfect Strangers. The couple and their family was spun off to helm their own show when their parent show ended. It was a modest hit at first with decent ratings. And then Steve Urkel came into the picture and it exploded. Family Matters was such a hit that it went on to the be one of the longest-running sitcoms with a predominantly African-American cast ever!
13. Mork and Mindy
This out-of-this-world sitcom was a spin-off of the mega-hit Happy Days. The character of Mork (Robin Williams) appeared in one episode of the OG series but proved so popular that the network gave him his own show! The show focuses on Mork’s transition to human life after coming from his home planet Ork. It’s the show that gave then-unknown Williams his first big role, and for that, it’ll always be a classic.
Before she was the QWEEN of sarcasm, Daria (Tracy Grandstaff) she was slinging that sass on Beavis and Butthead. The character was so popular and ~relatable~ that, duh, MTV gave her a show of her own. Daria has become just as big, if not bigger, than her parent show. Because let’s be honest — we all feel a little bit (okay, a lot a bit) like Daria sometimes. She’s a misanthrope after our own people-hating hearts.
11. The Facts of Life
Diff’rent Strokes is one of the best sitcoms of all time, so of course it spawned one of the other greats. When Edna Garrett (Charlotte Rae) left her post as the Drummonds’ maid and became the housemother for an all-girls school. It was a starkly different show than its predecessor but that didn’t make it any less great. The show focuses on the turbulence of being a teenage girl and navigating growing up. So, basically required viewing for any young woman living in the world. Facts of Life ran for more than ten years, making it one of the longest-running sitcoms of all time!
10. Kenan & Kel
Back in the ’90s, All That was the ultimate sketch comedy show for kids whose parents wouldn’t let them watch Saturday Night Live yet. And the funniest duo on the show was definitely Kenan Thompson and Kel Mitchell. So it’s no surprise that the two got their own show. This comedy duo played off of each other perfectly, providing one of the all-time great kid-friendly shows of all time. Plus, the pair’s time on the show together gave us the classic film Good Burger. And if you say you don’t still watch that movie whenever it’s on, yes – even as an adult, you’re a damn liar.
9. Saved by the Bell
Saved by the Bell was a spin-off of the wreckage from a failed sitcom called Good Morning, Miss Bliss. The show was retooled to focus mainly on the kids, and less on their teacher. It worked and Saved by the Bell became one of the biggest hit teen TV shows ever. It spanned years, TV movies, and has become completely ingrained in popular culture!
8. Better Call Saul
One of the best parts of Breaking Bad was sleazy lawyer Saul (Bob Odenkirk). He injected humor into the show when it got too serious and never failed to help our anti-heroes out. After the show ended, there was such huge demand for more Breaking Bad that it only made sense to spin the TV show off. At first, fans were skeptical — will this ruin the original show? Is it too soon? But alas, it totally worked out. Better Call Saul is fun, dramatic, and gripping – just like its parent show was.
7. Viva La Bam
Jackass took the world by storm with its crazy antics and often dangerous stunts. One of the breakout stars from that show was Bam Margera — you know, the bad boy crush of teens everywhere in the early-’00s. MTV decided to give him, his friends, and his family, their very own show full of hijinks and Don Vito mutterings. It was hugely successful, running for five seasons and breeding some spin-offs of its own. These days, Margera isn’t quite the heartthrob he once was, but he still hangs out with the Jackass gang from time-to-time and it makes us SERIOUSLY nostalgic!
6. A Different World
What started out as a The Cosby Show spin-off soon turned into one of the most important sitcoms ever. The show address several issues that were largely absent from its parent show, like race relations, class status, and equal rights. It also has one of the best TV couples of all time: Whitney (Jasmine Guy) and Dwayne (Kadeem Hardison). By rejecting all of the things that made The Cosby Show popular, it was able to gain its own identity apart from being a spin-off!
Buffy the Vampire Slayer is one of the all-time greatest TV shows ever. So if you’re going to spin it off, you better do it wisely. And Joss Whedon knew just how to do it! Buffy’s (Sarah Michelle Gellar) vampire boyfriend, Angel (David Borneaz) got his own show just before their romance grew too stale but not before Angel’s story was done being told. Angel was an immortal vamp around for hundreds of years, he kind of had a lot more to do with his life than date a teenage girl. No offense, Bangel shippers! The show gave Buffy fans more to love and was great as it’s own individual show in the process. Win-win!
4. Law & Order: SVU
Law & Order is great and all, but the best installment in the franchise is undoubtedly not the original — it’s Law & Order: SVU. The show focuses on sex crimes in New York City and gave us the dream team of Stabler (Christopher Meloni) and Benson (Mariska Hargitay). It has become one of those shows that you can watch over and over and over again and never get tired of it. And that’s actually super easy to do considering it’s on TV 85% of the day and there are an estimated one trillion episodes. We’re not complaining, though! This is one spin-off way better than the original!
3. The Hills
Anyone in their teen years (okay, or older) during the mid-’00s has soft spot for Laguna Beach. It’s the show that gaves us reality-TV MVP’s like Lauren Conrad and Kristin Cavallari. When the teens graduated high school, though, no one wanted the show to end — so it didn’t. Conrad had cameras following her for her own show, The Hills, capturing her journey to make it in the fashion business and choose crappy dudes over Paris. Sorry Lauren, we’ll never forget. The spin-off has a serious legacy — from the incarnation of Spiedi to that all-too-real final scene. But, to be honest, we definitely didn’t co-sign Spiedi spinning-off the show into their own sad careers and we’re hoping they quietly go away soon!
2. The Colbert Report
One of the greatest satirical late-night shows of all time was spun off of another great satirical late-night show: The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. Stephen Colbert served as a correspondent on Jon Stewart’s show for several years before getting his own desk. The show went on for almost ten years before Colbert left to host a late-night show on a major primetime network. Comedy Central to CBS isn’t a bad deal! Colbert still makes us laugh on the reg, but we can’t help but wonder what The Colbert Report would deliver during this era of political craziness!
How often does one amazing show breed another equally-amazing show? Almost never. But this is proof that it can happen! Cheers is revered as possibly the best sitcom created in the ’80s and it’s where we met the character Frasier Crane (Kelsey Grammer). Capitalizing on Cheers’ success, NBC decided to give Grammer his own show playing that same character. The spin-off sitcom was smart, witty, hilarious, and full of heart. It didn’t pander to its audience or get by on cheap jokes. It came fully formed, in a comedically pretentious package. There is no spin-off that has seen more success than Frasier and we’d be willing to say there never will be!