Television producers probably believe that if a show does well, it can do it again in another form.
This reasoning has birthed many spinoffs that have tried to build on the popularity and success of their originals. Some have failed to match the energy. Others have tainted the image of the original. But, on occasion, a few come along and do better than the show before them, charting new paths and finding a new audience.
When TV lovers find these shows, they accord them the same respect as theiworst-tr forerunners. Sometimes they divide themselves into camps and debate which version of the show does it better.
This article highlights brilliant lights in the TV world: shows with worthy spin-offs. Some come from other spin-offs, too.
1. “Xena: Warrior Princess” from “Hercules: The Legendary Journeys”
Xena took on a more feminist bent, exploring what it meant to have immense power as a woman in a world dominated by men. Her character had more depth and richness than that of her male counterpart in the show Hercules, which seemed more invested in showcasing the brute strength of its demigod central character. With Xena, viewers saw the main character in difficult leadership positions and how she handled them.
Xena can revive in today's world, barring a few differences in taste, and it'll still be accepted. It inspired a video game and a fanbase that still holds strong to this day.
2. “The Originals” from “Vampire Diaries”
The Originals soared over and above its original show. While The Vampire Diaries went off track and began encircling a poorly developed love triangle between Stefan, Elena, and Damon, The Originals went back several centuries to trace a more serious story of family history. Viewers witnessed the origin story of some of the most ruthless vampires in history and why they became that way. Mature themes of family, loyalty, fatherhood, and more, spiced up the story.
The shows aired side by side, The Vampire Diaries extending to season seven while The Originals rounding off at the fifth season, but fans could tell which one swayed the audience more.
3. “The Simpsons” from “The Tracey Ullman Show “
Before becoming its own thing, The Simpsons started life on The Tracey Ullman Show on April 19, 1987. It aired as a series of animated shorts before getting its own slot as a half-hour prime-time show. Boasting a staggering 750 episodes, the show became America's longest-running sitcom and animated series. Its feature-length film, The Simpsons Movie, hit theaters worldwide on July 27, 2007, grossing over $500 million.
The show became a cultural phenomenon, entertaining the world for decades with its satire, humor, and heart. Sure, The Tracey Ullman Show did very well for itself, but The Simpsons, destined for greater things, had its own life.
4. “Frasier” from “Cheers”
Frasier continues the story of a psychiatrist, Dr. Frasier Crane, who moves back to his hometown, Seattle, to start afresh. Frasier, played by Kelsey Grammer, already starred in Cheers but branched off to this new project, which soon stole the hearts of many.
Frasier aired from September 16, 1993, to May 13, 2004, picking up a groundbreaking 37 Primetime Emmy Awards for Outstanding Comedy Series.
The show, despite its comedic outlook, tackled serious themes of family and commitment. The heart and emotional core of the show resonated with many even more than its original.
A revival spin-off will premiere on Paramount+ on October 12, 2023.
5. “Boston Legal” from “The Practice”
Boston Legal continued the story of the TV series The Practice, with several characters from the latter crossing over to the former.
The show highlights the friendship of Alan Shore (James Spader) and Denny Crane (William Shatner) from The Practice. Their chemistry makes for an interesting combination. Their ideologies differ, yet they find ways to make their friendship work. Shore often favors questionable tactics to win his cases, while Crane prefers not to dent his reputation as a lawyer. They sit on opposite sides of the political divide yet have peaceful, reflective moments with each other in every episode.
The show became a powerful hit, drawing some of the biggest audiences on TV. It also won several awards, outshining its original and cementing its place in American TV.
6. “Angel” from “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”
Angel may have started with the weight of a highly successful original on its back and stumbled a little under it. But it went on to emerge from the looming shadow of its predecessor, and stood proudly as its own show.
The eponymous character battles personal demons while fending off physical ones and their human allies. The show handled darker themes, pulling off stellar performances from its actors. Viewers regard the show as one of the best spin-offs in TV history.
7. “NCIS” from “JAG”
Owing to the success of NCIS, many may have forgotten that the series came from an earlier show, JAG. The characters first appeared in season eight of the original show before moving on to their own series.
The military police procedural started slowly, picking up low ratings in its first two seasons. Thankfully, CBS still had faith in it based on the success of its predecessor. This confidence paid off. By its sixth season, the show had claimed fifth position and held onto it for many seasons to come. By the tenth installment, it had become the most-watched scripted television series in the US. The show's longevity has inspired many other spin-offs, some of whom have done very well.
8. “The Flash” from “Arrow”
While Arrow kicked off the Arrowverse, shows like The Flash kept fans interested when viewership dwindled. It brought a much-needed light tone to the heavy action in Arrow.
The Flash slowed down on many occasions, even though the main character possessed the power to break the sound barrier. This allowed the show to focus on personal relationships and character growth. While Oliver Queen (Stephen Amell) from Arrow appears distant and emotionally detached, Barry Allen (Grant Gustin) comes off as more relatable. He cares for the people around him, and viewers can relate to his pains. These attributes set the two stories apart, drawing fans to one and leaving the other behind.
9. “Law and Order: Special Victims Unit” from “Law and Order”
Special Victims Unit shifted from the procedural court processes seen in the original series. It centered on the victims of sexual violence and portrayed their lives with passion and care. Where the original show addressed an issue from an outsider's perspective, SVU gave an in-depth rendering. It had strong female characters who carried the show effortlessly.
It drew audiences in with its emotional storytelling and tugged at their heartstrings.
10: “The Good Fight” from “The Good Wife”
A year after The Good Wife ended, having run for seven seasons, The Good Fight began. It carved a different path for itself, telling the story of Diane Lockhart (Christine Branski), who joins one of Chicago's top law firms after a financial scam destroys all her savings.
The Good Fight does a brilliant job of criticizing society. Daine often got frustrated with the Trump-era politics and always lent her voice to support the #MeToo movement. The show addressed these issues without tipping over entirely to one side, balancing its commentary with a compelling story. The show found its voice despite spin-offs' reputation for simply echoing their originals. Though not significantly different in terms of court proceedings, viewers saw characters respond to life and topical issues differently.
11. “Better Call Saul” from “Breaking Bad”
This top-tier legal crime television started out trying to fill the gigantic shoes of its predecessor. But by the end of season seven, Better Call Saul had so distinguished itself from Breaking Bad that fans of the two shows said the former had surpassed the latter.
It took its time, though. Where Breaking Bad started off blowing up buildings with locally made explosives, Saul focused on slow court cases. It built itself from the ground up. But when the pieces fit, the entire picture became grand and masterful. Unlike his last name, Saul Goodman (Bob Odenkirk) didn't represent the most honest fellows out there. He used whatever tactic at his disposal to win a case, and he mostly got the job done. His doggedness made him a joy to watch. And fans loved him as they did (or even more) than the Breaking Bad hero, Walter White.
12. “Legends of Tomorrow” from “Arrow”
This gem also surfaced from the Arrowverse even though the original show had declined. It established a large cast of interesting characters and another compelling spin-off.
Legends of Tomorrow expands the world significantly, showing us the CW's will to invest in the franchise and reward long-term followers. The show finds the perfect tone and doesn't dabble too much into chaos but doesn't come preaching sermons. Here, in the Arrowverse, the CW has done impressive work.
13. “Family Matters” from “Perfect Strangers”
Taken from Perfect Strangers, the character Harriette Winslow (Jo Marie Payton) does well enough that the show breaks free from the legacy of its original.
But halfway into the first season and later on in the series, the nerd next door, Urkel (Jaleel White) carries the series. His comical demeanor and voice set him apart from the rest of the family. It also poses him as the face of the show, contributing to its great success. Airing for nine seasons, it became the second-longest-running live-action U.S. written sitcom.
The Winslows, an African-American middle-class family, handled issues around Black families while giving audiences a good laugh. It ran for 200 episodes and will get an animated Christmas movie soon.
14. “Good Times” from “Maude”
A spin-off of another spin-off, this American sitcom had two successful forerunners. The first show, All in the Family, did so well that it spawned seven spin-offs. From those came Maude, another great show from which Good Times broke out in 1974.
Each show did well by itself and paved the way for others to follow, but Good Times became iconic. It became America's first African-American two-parent sitcom, centered on Florida (Esther Rolle), James (John Amos), and their family. James mostly tried to get out of poverty using means like gambling and working three jobs, and the show highlighted through his struggles themes of poverty in America.
15. “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine” from “Star Trek: The Next Generation”
The question of the better show between these two has sparked debates among many fans…, which gives credit to Deep Space Nine. Any debate that pitches a show alongside the classic and highly successful TNG elevates the other show.
But many fans, based on storytelling and depth, may tip DS9 ahead of its original. The show follows the events on the space station Deep Space 9 when Commander Benjamin Sisko (Avery Brooks) discovers a stable wormhole close to the planet Bajor. Unlike other Star Trek series, the events occur on the space station rather than the USS Enterprise. Commander Sisko doesn't get help from the outside when rival aliens attack the space station. The aliens intend to take over DS9 to gain control of the wormhole. But Commander Sisko and his diverse crew mount a formidable defense.
The series had a darker tone than usual, making for a different kind of show. The bold idea to set the story on the space station pushed the boundaries of the Star Trek franchise a little further, earning the respect of fans. The show also became the first in the Star Trek franchise to have an African-American as its central character.