Spin Off shows get a bad rep. A lot of us remember the failures, and have decided that it’s a format that simply doesn’t work. While spin offs can be formulaic- or just plain bad- there are a number of really great ones out there. In fact while I was working towards finalizing this list I found myself struggling for what to leave out, rather than what to include. The following are a number of spin offs that I think deserve a special nod, and prove that something great can be born from another show.
I am actually not sure how many people realize this show is a spin off. Daria was originally a character on Beavis and Butt-Head. If you didn’t know this, it’s not that big of a deal. When they decided to create Daria they set out to create an entirely different show. Where Beavis and Butt-Head was mostly toilet humor, Daria was more of a satire. It was agreed early on that distancing themselves as far from Beavis and Butt-Head as possible would be the best thing for the show, and there was only ever one reference to Daria’s roots, which was featured in a promotional video for the show. The distance worked, Daria became a hit and is well loved and remembered.
Unlike many other spin offs Fraiser actually leaned into it’s roots instead of attempting to separate itself. Fraiser was a character on Cheers. He didn’t exactly fit in with the blue collar people that populated the bar, yet developed a friendship with them. He left the show to move back to Seattle, which is where the show Fraiser comes in. Picking up after Fraiser’s return the character remains largely unchanged, and builds on what Cheers had already establish. There are even a number of episodes where Cheers cast members guest star, and Fraiser mentions his time in Boston often. Fraiser managed to hold on to Cheers while still making it’s own way.
A Different World
A Different World deserves a lot of credit in the world of spin offs. In fact most people forget that it was actually a spin off. The premise of the show was originally that it would be about Denise from The Cosby Show, going to college. The show was meant to follow her through the years, but Lisa Bonet didn’t want to continue on with the show. Despite the fact that the character that this spin off was supposed to center around only lasted one season, A Different World went on to receive a great deal of success. In fact many critics argue that Bonet leaving the show was the best thing for it. Without Denise being the central character it was able to branch out in it’s story telling and became something all it’s own.
The Colbert Report
This spin off deserves a nod because it’s rather interesting to think of it as a spin off. Stephen Colbert created the sort of satirical version of himself on The Daily Show. He was a misinformed joke on overly conservative reporters. From there an entire spoof of Fox News was created and The Colbert Report found it’s way into many people’s hearts. The show blended well with The Daily Show but still managed to be it’s own thing.
Laverne & Shirley
Laverne & Shirley got their start on Happy Days as friends of Fonzie. After getting their own show there were some references to Happy Days. Laverne & Shirley sort of existed in a grey area, they never really tried to separate themselves from Happy Days, nor did they lean into it. This could of course have a lot to do with the differences in tone and audience. Either way Laverne & Shirley was rather successful, and to some even surpassed Happy Days. They two stars were compelling characters, and the show is still well loved by those that like to watch older shows.
This show pushes the limits of what constitutes “spin off”, but it does technically count. The Simpsons began as a feature on The Tracy Ullman show. The shorts were actually featured on a number of different episodes for three seasons. Many people have long forgotten that, but The Simpsons has become something rather unforgettable. Matt Groening really embraced his chance when The Simpsons became it’s own show, and took adult animated humor to a new level.