When a TV show is highly successful, its producers usually want to harp on its popularity and keep it going, even though there’s nothing more to tell, plot-wise. So what do the TV networks do? They call for spin-offs to be created.
Spin-offs are risky business, truth be told. They can go one way or another. Either the spin-off is a successful continuation of its original show or its ratings spiral downwards and inadvertently drag down the successful TV show with it. For example, everyone was sad when Friends, one of the biggest sitcoms in TV history, came to a close after ten seasons. But the fans looked forward to watching its spin-off, Joey. Unfortunately, it bombed with the public and got canceled after a few short seasons.
But not all shows suffered the same fate as Joey. There were many spin-offs that were quite the success in their heyday. And some even surpassed the TV shows from whence they originated! Here’s a rundown of these successful spin-offs, some from decades past and some from very recent years.
12 Saved By The Bell (from Good Morning, Miss Bliss)
It may come as a surprise to the general public to know that Saved By The Bell was actually a spin-off of a little known teen sitcom called Good Morning, Miss Bliss. Having aired for just one season, the show was re-formatted into what later became Saved By The Bell. Telling the story of a group of teenagers and their principal, the show focused on the light-hearted side of teenage life, only occasionally tackling more serious issues. The show ran for four good seasons and launched the career of several of its mainstays, like Mario Lopez, Tiffani-Amber Thiessen, and Elizabeth Berkley.
11 Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (from Star Trek and Star Trek: The Next Generation)
One of the biggest science fiction franchises of all time was created in the 1960s by Gene Roddenberry in the form of Star Trek. The original TV series, which aired from 1966 to 1969, had low ratings but garnered a huge cult following. Twenty-one years later, a spin-off called Star Trek: The Next Generation was created and ran successfully for seven seasons. It was followed by yet another spin-off in the same universe called Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. This spin-off was more successful than the first and just as revered as the second, having a seven-season run.
10 Private Practice (from Grey’s Anatomy)
You’d think that people would have had their fill of medical dramas, from E.R. to House to Chicago Hope. But the medical-themed TV series Grey’s Anatomy is proof that the audience still gets a thrill out of watching what goes on in the professional and personal lives of revered doctors and nurses in the hospital setting. Producers felt that one of the show’s more enigmatic characters, Dr. Addison Montgomery, needed her own show. Thus was born Private Practice, a Grey’s Anatomy spin-off that ran for six successful seasons. Though Private Practice ran for a shorter amount of time than its mother show, it garnered high audience ratings. In fact, a chunk of its audience was from the Grey’s Anatomy fan base, which seemed to have switched to viewing Private Practice. Proof of this was in the pudding: when the first season of Private Practice aired, there was a significant drop in Grey’s Anatomy ratings from 19 million to 15 million viewers, the biggest drop since the show started.
9 Boston Legal (from The Practice)
As with the deluge of medical dramas, there has also been an almost over-saturation of law-themed TV shows. But some, such as The Practice, stood out from the rest. Running for eight seasons, the legal drama centered on the lawyers at a Boston law firm. It spawned Boston Legal, which took off from where the character Alan Shore left off in the original show. Boston Legal featured a lighter side of the goings-on in the legal field, which placed the show in the dramedy genre. It ran for five good seasons.
8 Empty Nest (from The Golden Girls)
We could never get enough of the four fabulous ladies giving us laughs every week for seven years in The Golden Girls. But like all good things, the series had to end. As luck would have it, the show’s creator decided to do a spin-off of the highly successful sitcom. Empty Nest started airing during the third season of its mother show and featured several cross-overs due to its simultaneous airing. Harry, the main character of the spin-off, was a neighbor of the golden girls and lived with his two adult daughters. The show likewise ran for seven years.
7 Melrose Place (from Beverly Hills 90210)
When the original Beverly Hills 90210 first exploded into the TV scene, teenage fans everywhere went crazy. Focusing on the lives of rich teenagers living in the posh neighborhood of Beverly Hills, the show quickly became one of the most popular of its time, running for ten seasons. At the height of its success on its second season, the show’s creator Aaron Spelling decided to create a spin-off, this time for the yuppie crowd. And so Melrose Place was born. The show, which told the story of a group of young professionals living in an apartment complex, was a big hit and ran for seven seasons.
6 Family Matters (from Perfect Strangers)
Who can forget the fun-loving cousins Larry Appleton and Balki Bartokomous in the American sitcom Perfect Strangers? In the midst of its remarkable success, a spin-off to the series was created in the form of Family Matters. The series revolved around Harriette Winslow and her husband Carl, who first appeared in Perfect Strangers, an African-American couple living in Chicago. The show ran for nine seasons, one season longer than its parent TV show, and is the second longest-running American sitcom with a predominantly African-American cast.
5 Angel (from Buffy The Vampire Slayer)
Fans of the movie Buffy The Vampire Slayer were initially skeptical about turning it into a TV show starring Sarah Michelle Gellar in the titular role. But the success of the show proved naysayers wrong and it went on to become a highly successful series. Producers felt that a spin-off was in order and on its third season, Angel started airing. A vampire with a soul, Angel was originally Buffy’s love interest, but writers felt his story deserved its own show. Angel ran for a good five seasons and closed on a high.
4 Knots Landing (from Dallas)
Back when primetime soap operas were all the rage, Dallas stood out proudly as one of the most successful ones. Running for 14 seasons, it was almost expected to be followed up by a spin-off. But producers probably didn’t expect that its spin-off, Knots Landing, would surpass its mother show in terms of popularity. Telling the story of four married couples living in a cul-de-sac, Knots Landing struck a chord in a wider audience group than Dallas, which was about the rich and famous. Knots Landing’s characters, on the other hand, were more of the middle class variety and much more relatable to the regular TV viewer.
3 The Simpsons (from The Tracey Ullman Show)
Perhaps many don’t know that The Simpsons is actually a spin-off. Homer and family were first featured in 30-second clips in The Tracey Ullman Show, a short-lived variety show featuring sketch comedy numbers, back in the late 1980s. But while the variety show faded into relative obscurity, The Simpsons became an integral part of pop culture. The show has been running for 26 seasons and has become the longest American sitcom and animated program in history. It has become a franchise all its own with a movie, comic books, video games, and a ride in Universal Studios.
2 Daria (from Beavis and Butthead, which was from Frog Baseball)
Ever heard of a spin-off of a spin-off? That’s what Daria is. Shown on MTV for five seasons, Daria originally appeared as a recurring character in another MTV animated series we all know, Beavis and Butt-head. But many don’t know that the latter was also a spin-off, of a short film called Frog Baseball. Daria, which told the tale of a cynical teenager with a perpetually deadpan look and tone of voice, ran for five seasons and gained an avid cult following. Unlike its mother show, which received many negative reviews for its controversially lewd humor, Daria was well-received by the media. It was one of MTV’s highest rated shows and The New York Times even heralded it “an indispensable blast of fresh air” as compared to Beavis and Butt-head.
1 Frasier (from Cheers)
It’s hard to believe that Cheers, one of the longest running TV sitcoms in the US, was almost canceled in its first season due to poor ratings. But things picked up from the second season and the rest, as they say, is history. After 11 successful seasons, the place “where everybody knows your name” closed shop. But upon its conclusion a new TV show was born, thanks to one of the supporting characters, Dr. Frasier Crane. Frasier followed the story of Dr. Crane and his life in Seattle as a radio talk show host, as well as his relationship with his father and brother. The show is touted as one of the most successful spin-offs in TV history, having run for 11 amazing seasons.