Television spin-offs are always a challenge. Sometimes they work beautifully, adding another layer to the stories we already know, while at other times they ruin something that should have been left alone to being with.
Let’s start with some shows that did the spin-off right by building off of already loved characters. An all time classic, All in the Family, had several super successful spin-offs. Some of them you may not even know were spin-offs to being with!
All in the Family ran from 1971-1979 and it’s first spin-off Maude ran from 1972-1978, almost as long as All in the Family itself. Not too long after, another spin-off was created called Good Times, which ran from 1974-1979.
However the one of the most successful spinoffs of All in the Family was The Jeffersons, which ran from 1975-1985. The last real successful spin-off coming from the All in the Family umbrella is Archie’s Bunker Place premiering in 1979 and ending in 1983.
All in the Family had a few of other unsuccessful spin-offs (Checking In, Gloria, and 704 Hauser), but all in all, these series had an extremely successful spin-off rate without tarnishing the beauty and magic of the original.
Another spin-off that did very well for itself was Angel, the spin-off of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Both series were created and produced by Joss Whedon, so it’s no surprise that both were a huge success.
Angel ran almost as long as Buffy the Vampire Slayer, going from 1999-2004, while Buffy ran from 1997-2003. This spin-off was brilliant for several reasons, one of which was the fact that creator Joss Whedon was running both shows simultaneously and very creatively intertwined both storylines so there were some “crossover” episodes.
Whedon really hit the nail on the head with this one by making both audiences satisfied and content, while keeping the characters relationships somewhat in tact.
There are some shows you may not even have known were a spin-off because they had such tremendous solo success.
Fraiser premiered in 1993, the same year that it’s parent series Cheers ended. Both series made television history, and each ran for almost 10 years.
Knotts Landing was a spin-off from the legendary Dallas, which now has another spin-off with a modern day take on the drama.
A current series, Grey’s Anatomy, and it’s spin-off Private Practice, are still both on the air receiving good ratings and reviews.
However with all of this being said, as many of us know, spin-offs do not always work. A great example of this is the Friends spin-off Joey, which only ran for one season. One would think that if any show had a chance of a classic spin-off, it would have been Friends!
Joey premiered in 2004, right after Friends took it’s final bow, and completely tanked, even though the show was based off of the lovable character Joey Tribbiani.
Another series that did more harm than good to its franchise was Charlie’s Angels. Charlie’s Angeles premiered for the first time in 1976 and ran for five seasons. Several spin-off/remake movies were made in the early 2000s, and did relatively well, however the actual spin-off/remake series of Charlie’s Angeles could not have been worse, being cancelled after only a few episodes.
This television season we are seeing a few shows with promising spin-offs. Joss Whedon’s Agents of Shield, based off of the Avengers television show and movie, is already off to a good start. What more do you expect from the genius Joss Whedon?
Agents of Shield is not only doing extremely well for ABC, but it also has been picked up for a full season. The series is drawing in huge numbers so it truly appeals to an array of different demographics.
In addition, two hugely successful teenage dramas are getting their own spinoffs this season. Kevin Williamson and Julie Plec’s The Vampire Diaries, now has its own spin-off called The Originals on the CW. The Originals will follow “the original” family of vampires, as they take over modern day New Orleans.
Being a huge fan of The Vampire Diaries myself, I can honestly say that this spin-off is amazing! It ties in the stories from The Vampire Diaries without confusing newer viewers that did not watch the series. It took some of our favorite characters and “re-vamped” them (no pun intended) so we could see another side to these complex vampires!
Of course, they also brought in many new characters and honestly, they are all great, adding new layers to this crazy supernatural world. Some people are even saying that The Originals is better than The Vampire Diaries this season.
Marlene King’s Pretty Little Liars also premiered their first spin-off this fall called Ravenswood. Ravenswood is based on a town not too far outside of Rosewood (the town in Pretty Little Liars), in which five strangers lives become intertwined due to a deadly curse that has plagued the town for generations. No word yet when Ravenswood will come back, but it’s last episode of the season will be on November 19th.
While Ravenswood has not gotten as much hype as The Originals, there are a lot of Pretty Little Liars fans watching at the edge of their seats, I know I am!
Lastly, this article would not be complete without mentioning the legendary Star Trek and all of it’s huge spin-offs both in television and feature films. Star Trek premiered in 1966, but was only initially on for three seasons.
After the series was cancelled, Paramount Studios bought the rights from Desilu Productions so they could broadcast the reruns and recoup all of the production losses. Little did they know, syndicating Star Trek would create one of the biggest cult followings of all time. After it was apparent that Star Trek was creating one of the largest fan bases in the history of television, they of course decided to create spin-offs!
The first spin-off was the Star Trek: The Animated Series. While it only lasted for a year, it was the only show of the entire series to win a “Best Series” Emmy Award!
Next came Star Trek: Phase II, and then came … the Star Trek movies! After several hugely successful films, Trekkies went back to their roots — television, with with Star Trek: The Next Generation in 1987. Then in 1995 Paramount released a fourth spin-off series, Voyager. After Voyager, UPN produced Enterprise, which was a prequel to the original series.
And then in 2009 J.J. Abrams rebooted the franchise into a feature film once again, and THEN he created a sequel in 2013! Alright Trekkies, seems like you know whats up!
Spin-offs can be a beautiful thing, but they can also be a disaster. Do you think spin-offs work, or should they not break it if its not broken? Will this season’s spin-offs learn from the past failures of others?
It seems as though the spin-off successes are ones where the writer/creator creates a spin-off to further a character’s journey, not to just keep on raking in the cash from a pervious series success. Let’s cross our fingers that future spin-offs will help our favorite franchises instead of hurt them!
All photos in this article courtesy of Wiki Commons, including those in the feature graphic.
Sam Davidson is a graduate of The University of Southern California, but is a Midwest girl at heart. Davidson is a true television and film fanatic, with an appreciation for all different genres and formats. Sam’s love of television and film started at a very young age, so much so that as a child she had a portrait of Lucille Ball hand painted on her bedroom wall. Currently working in television production and development in Los Angeles, Sam always makes time to watch and appreciate all of her favorite shows and films!