The Best Spin-Offs In Entertainment

Due to Netflix, YouTube, and other streaming options, TV fans have a whole lot to choose from these days. Many of history’s greatest shows are now easily accessible for first-time viewers or for those who want to revisit their favorite programs. Following is a list of some of TV’s greatest spin-offs. A handful are still on the air, and the rest longest-running definitely worth watching again. Some have made television history, and others are just plain entertaining. Check them all out here…

This show held the record for the most number of Emmy Awards until a little HBO show about dragons beat it.

Frasier Is One Of TV History’s Most Beloved Sitcoms

frasier
Gale Adler/Paramount

The character of Dr. Frasier Crane (Kelsey Grammer) made a name for himself in Cheers but returned to Seattle to work as a radio psychiatrist in the successful spin-off, Frasier. The series held the record for most Emmy awards (37!) in a comedy or drama until Game of Thrones unseated it in 2016.

Other beloved characters included Niles, Daphne, Roz, and Martin (although Eddie the dog got more fan mail than any of his human costars). Fun fact: Grammer was nominated for an Emmy award for playing Frasier on three different shows: Cheers, Frasier, and Wings, in which he made a guest appearance.

This animated show made TV history.

The Simpsons Is The Longest Running Prime-Time Comedy

simpsons
FOX via Getty Images

The Simpsons recently celebrated the premiere of its 30th anniversary season with an episode about Bart, Homer, and Flanders making a Christian-themed movie that takes in $100 million. The series initially appeared as a segment on The Tracey Ullman Show. Who knew that three decades later it would become the longest-running prime-time comedy series on television.

Matt Groening developed the animated show, which he based on his own family. It aired as an interstitial for three seasons on Tracey Ullman before a Christmas special in 1989 led to a full series. Characters also include blue-haired matriarch Marge, overachieving daughter Lisa and baby Maggie.

This popular AMC series is actually a prequel.

Better Call Saul Is A Cable Hit

saul
Sony Pictures Television

Better Call Saul is a prequel to Breaking Bad and takes place six years before the hugely popular cable series. It centers on criminal attorney Jimmy McGill (Bob Odenkirk), who works in Albuquerque, New Mexico. It’s set in the same environment as its parent show, and Saul Goodman is a pseudonym creators chose because it sounded Jewish and like the phrase “It’s all good man.”

The series had the second highest debut ratings in cable history, with 6.9 million viewers tuning in to the first episode. The show, which is still on the air, is not expected to go past six seasons to avoid butting into the timeline of Breaking Bad.

This ’70s situation comedy starred a future Golden Girl.

Maude Dealt With Serious Topics In The ’70s

GettyImages-515388444
Bettmann/contributor Getty Images

The ’70s series Maude starred Bea Arthur as Maude Findlay, cousin of Edith Bunker from All In The Family. The complete opposite of the infamous Archie Bunker, Maude was a liberal, independent woman who lived with her fourth husband in New York. The series wasn’t afraid to cover controversial themes, including abortion, alcoholism, and depression.

Rue McClanahan also appeared on Maude. She and Arthur would later costar in The Golden Girls. In the series finale, Maude became a congresswoman. Arthur made the decision to end the show because she got tired of playing the character.

This next show featured an interracial couple.

The Jeffersons Aired For 11 Seasons

jeffersons
Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

The Jeffersons was a groundbreaking series centering on an African-American family who moved “to a deluxe apartment in the sky.” It starred Sherman Helmsley as George and Isabel Sanford as his wife Louise. It was the longest-running sitcom to feature nearly an all African-American cast.

The show aired for 11 seasons and was the longest-airing All In The Family spin-off. It also included an interracial kiss between neighbors Tom and Helen Willis, which some CBS execs wanted to edit out. The show canceled a proper finale, so the cast reunited many years later in a stage production to bring it to a worthy end.

This primetime show was a dram-driven soap opera.

Backstabbing & Scandals Were At The Heart Of Melrose Place

melrose
Fotos International/Getty Images

The prime-time soap Melrose Place was a thinly veiled spin-off of Beverly Hills, 90210. Actor Grant Show appeared in two episodes of 90210, and several of that show’s cast appeared in the pilot of Melrose Place as well as a few subsequent episodes. Melrose Place centered on young adults living in an apartment complex in California and navigating their careers and romances.

One polarizing character was advertising exec Amanda (Heather Locklear), who was the show’s villain. She and the other characters became wrapped up in various scandals, affairs, and drama throughout its run. The series went off the air in 1999, and crew members bottled up some water from the set’s swimming pool to sell on eBay.

One of TV’s most adorable aliens appeared on this show.

Mork & Mindy Made Robin Williams A Star

mork
Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images

Mork & Mindy was about a strange alien (Robin Williams), who came to Earth to study humans. The Happy Days spin-off featured Mork landing in Colorado and rooming with Mindy (Pam Dawber), who quickly learned he was an extraterrestrial. The series was a huge hit when it initially debuted.

When CBS moved the show to Sunday nights, ratings dropped and never bounced back. Storylines about Mork and Mindy’s marriage and the birth of their first child also didn’t resonate with fans. The series was canceled in 1982, and while it lasted only four years, it made Williams a bona fide star.

Supernatural themes dominated this WB show.

Angel Took The Themes From Buffy The Vampire Slayer To Another Level

angel
Getty Images

In Angel, the titular character is a vampire (David Boreanaz) who leaves behind friends from Buffy The Vampire Slayer to move to Los Angeles and help others cursed with supernatural problems. Eighteen actors from Buffy appeared throughout the series. The Joss Whedon creation was a much darker version of the parent show.

Angel was cancelled in part because Whedon wanted an early renewal. WB execs felt the series was too costly to keep and dumped it after five seasons. The series was eventually continued in comic book form.

This Happy Days spin-off was comedy gold.

Laverne & Shirley Were Real-Life Pals

laverne
Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images

Laverne & Shirley aired from 1976 to 1983 but centered on single friends Laverne DeFazio (Penny Marshall) and Shirley Feeney (Cindy Williams) living in Milwaukee during the 1950s and ’60s. The two characters were friends with Fonzie on Happy Days. Other popular cast members included Michael McKean and David Lander as Lenny and Squiggy.

Cindy and Penny were friends in real life, but Cindy had to be convinced to join the series because she wanted to be a film star. She eventually agreed. The show had a cartoon spin-off, Laverne and Shirley in the Army Now as well as a potential spin-off that never made it to air starring McKean and Lander (In The Army Now.)

This crime procedural has been on air for two decades.

Law & Order: SVU Resonates With Viewers

GettyImages-1036935366
Matt Doyle/Getty Images

Dick Wolf was responsible for creating the Law & Order spin-off, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit (which was originally called Sex Crimes). The long-running show centers on a group of NYPD detectives who investigate sex crimes. Mariska Hargitay plays Olivia Benson, and Det. Elliot Stabler (Christopher Meloni) was her original partner.

The show (and Gunsmoke) are currently the longest-running scripted dramas in TV history. After nearly 20 years on air, people continue to watch the series. TV Guide reported that the cast commonly meet survivors of sexual abuse who praise them for accurately portraying their stories.

This military drama is so good it warranted its own spin-offs.

NCIS Is So Good It Has Its Own Spin-offs

NCIS
CBS Television Studios

Special Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs (Mark Harmon) leads the Naval Criminal Investigation Service’s response team in Washington, D.C. on NCIS, a spin-off of JAG. The show is one of TV’s longest-running military themed dramas. It’s easy to catch up on the show if you miss an episode because it features a different crime each week.

Creators have found a formula that resonates with viewers, and it’s one of the world’s most popular shows. Fans liked NCIS so much that it spurred its own spin-offs (NCIS: Los Angeles and NCIS: New Orleans), proving that sometimes spin-offs are even more popular than the originals.

Seventies sitcoms weren’t always politically correct.

Good Times Had Its Share Of Controversy

GettyImages-517431704
Bettmann/contributor Getty Images

The ’70s series Good Times centered on a family trying to make a life in the housing projects of Chicago. It starred John Amos and Jimmie Walker, one of TV’s most beloved characters, J.J., known for saying, “dy-no-mite!” Amos was notably fired from the show in the third season after commenting about backstage fights during an interview.

It was one of the first times a sitcom character was killed off a show. Esther Rolle left after the fourth season because she thought J.J. wasn’t a good role model for young black men. Good Times, a spin-off of Maude, was later recognized for its portrayal of an African American family on the small screen.

This show was a spin-off of an ’80s sitcom that has since been badly tarnished.

A Different World Explored Life At A Black University

GettyImages-635762219-38193
Lynn Goldsmith/Corbis/VCG via Getty Images

Lisa Bonet, Marisa Tomei and Kadeem Hardison led the cast of A Different World, which centered on students attending a black university — an environment that had not yet been explored on television. The show was a spin-off of The Cosby Show, which has a controversial legacy due to allegations of sexual misconduct against Bill Cosby.

Bonet left the series after the first season due to pregnancy. Tomei also left, leaving Hardison to carry the show, which featured a culturally diverse cast of characters. It aired from 1987 to 1993 and is credited with boosting enrollment at real-life African American universities.

A former Star Trek star carried this popular law drama.

Boston Legal Was A David E. Kelly Gem

boston
20th Century Fox

From drama series The Practice came Boston Legal, starring William Shatner and James Spader. The show centered on law firm Crane, Pool, and Schmidt. The David E. Kelly series had a rotating list of guest stars, including Taraji P. Henson and Constance Zimmer as well as several former Star Trek cast members.

Most episodes ended with Denny and Alan kicking back with a drink and cigar while recapping the episode’s events. The show aired from 2004 to 2008 and had some interesting story lines, including the fact that Denny Crane shot four people by the end of season two.

One of George Clooney’s first roles was on this ’80s sitcom.

Young Women Were The Driving Force On The Facts Of Life

acts
Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

The Facts of Life had a solid, nine-year television run from 1979 to 1988. It centered on a group of girls coming of age at a boarding school and how they navigated life later in adulthood. The series was was a spin off of the hit show Diff’rent Strokes, in which Charlotte Rae appeared.

Producers believed Rae was good enough to take on her own show. By season two, The Facts of Life had found its groove with four main characters: Blair (Lisa Whelchel), Tootie (Kim Fields), Natalie (Mindy Cohn) and Jo (Nancy McKeon). Guest stars included future A-lister George Clooney.

This popular ’80s sitcom featured the acting debut of one of America’s most well known comedians.

Benson Featured A Respectable African-American Politician

benson
Witt/Thomas/Harris Productions

Benson was a spin-off of Soap and starred Robert Guillaume as Benson DuBois, a former butler who became the head of household for a widowed governor. Later on he winds up as lieutenant governor. The series demonstrated how it’s possible to grow from humble beginnings to a high-powered career.

Guillaume was the first black man to win a Best Actor in Comedy Series Emmy Award for his role on the show. Then unknown comedian Jerry Seinfeld also made his acting debut on the series. Benson aired for seven years from 1979 to 1986 — three years longer than its parent show.

This female action star was just as awesome as her male counterpart.

The Bionic Woman Was Cheesy But So Much Fun

bionic
GAMMA/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images

Lindsay Wagner starred in Bionic Woman, a show about a female cyborg, Jamie Sommers, who carried out several spy missions after becoming bionic following a skydiving accident. Bionic Woman was known for its slow-mo action and some other cheesy special effects and storylines, including the bionic German Shepard named Maxamillion.

The series aired from 1976 to 1978 and was a spin-off of The Six Million Dollar Man. It was created after fans responded favorably to Wagner’s guest appearance on the program. Steve Austin’s female equal was great at kicking butt and taking names. Just don’t judge the series on the later made-for-TV movies that didn’t do the show justice.

Some think this space show was better than its predecessor, but others disagree.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Produced A New Generation Of Trekkies

startrek
George Rose/Getty Images

Star Trek: The Next Generation was set nearly a century after the events in the original Star Trek series. Instead of William Shatner’s Captain Kirk, the spin-off featured Jean-Luc Picard, played by Patrick Stewart, as the captain o the starship Enterprise. The show had a successful run from 1987 to 1994, winning an Emmy award for Outstanding Drama series in its final season.

The chemistry on set was real — most of the cast are lifelong friends. The program was such a hit that several other spin-offs followed, including Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Star Trek: Voyager, Star Trek: Enterprise, and the relatively new Star Trek: Discovery.

This English spin-off was much grittier than its parent show.

Torchwood Was A Grownup Doctor Who

torchwood
Starz Entertainment

The British series Torchwood centered on a secret group tasked by the government to defend the earth from alien and supernatural beings. The name “Torchwood” is an anagram of the series it came from: Doctor Who. Two regular characters, Jack Harkness and Toshiko Sato, appeared on Doctor Who.

It was the first Doctor Who spin-off to make it to series. While Torchwood was set in the same universe it featured much more adult themes and included bad language and sex. While Doctor Who is geared more towards family viewing, Torchwood took extraterrestrial threats to another, more grim level.

This Canadian show geared towards teens resonated with young men and women.

Degrassi: The Next Generation Set The Bar High

degrassi
George Pimentel/WireImage

In Degrassi: The Next Generation, students cope with typical teenage issues at Degrassi Community School. The show is more of a franchise than a spin-off, but it is responsible for putting Drake on people’s radar. He played Wheelchair Jimmy and has become one of music’s most popular and successful rappers and singers.

The Canadian show also featured a character named Adam, the first recurring scripted transgender teen character in TV history. The series tackled several serious topics, including a school shooting, sexually transmitted disease, and sexual assault. It spoke to teens without preaching and on their level.