19 TV Show Spinoffs That Got It Right

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19 TV Show Spinoffs That Got It Right

Spinoffs are notoriously difficult to do well. Although they’re TV shows that come with built-in recommendations—if you liked this series, you might like this other show that is directly related to it—a lot of work goes into creating and developing something that can stand on its own. You need a compelling lead who can carry the new show, but you also need a story that advances the narrative and gives the show a reason to exist outside of a studio’s desire to capitalize on a show’s popularity. This is why so many spinoffs inevitably fail. But every once in a while a show breaks through and proves not only that it deserves to exist, but that it might actually be better than the show that spawned it. This list represents those rare gems. These are the TV show spinoffs that got it right.

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Better Call Saul

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Created by: Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould
Stars: Bob Odenkirk, Michael McKean, Rhea Seehorn, Jonathan Banks, Giancarlo Esposito, Michael Mando, and Patrick Fabian
Original Network: AMC

Watch on Netflix

When Bob Odenkirk showed up as sleazy lawyer Saul Goodman towards the end of the second season of Breaking Bad, it was a small shock to the system for anyone who had long appreciated his work as a writer and a comic actor on series like Saturday Night Live and Mr. Show. Little did we know that this was only the beginning of a tragic and hilarious tale that would start to take on the scope of an epic Russian novel. This prequel to Vince Gilligan’s meth drama has accomplished the nearly impossible, expanding upon the source material of Breaking Bad with dynamic and sometimes heartbreaking results. And give full credit to Odenkirk (and his co-stars Michael McKean, Rhea Seehorn, Jonathan Banks, Giancarlo Esposito, and Michael Mando) for further bringing to life how shaky a person’s morality can be, especially when there are great gobs of money involved. —Robert Ham


Legends of Tomorrow

Created by: Greg Berlanti, Marc Guggenheim, Andrew Kreisberg, Phil Klemmer
Stars: Brandon Routh, Caity Lotz, Dominic Purcell, Maisie Richardson-Sellers, Nick Zano, Tala Ashe

Watch on Netflix

“Joyful” is an underused and underrated term when it comes to TV dramas. Too many series conflate “prestige” with sorrow, violence, and horror when it can (and should) also mean happiness and splendor. Legends of Tomorrow, though, is a drama that truly understands the meaning of joy. The series, which spun off from the Arrowverse, follows a rag-tag bunch of misfits through space and time trying to “fix” historical anomalies caused by villains and supernatural beings. It can be flippant and glib, but it can also be devastatingly emotional. The bottom line is that it’s just good. For those who were turned off by its first episodes or even first season, dive in to Season 2 (or even Season 3, if you’re really strapped for time) and go from there. It gets much, much better. Legends is the rare series that learns from its mistakes, always ready to grow and innovate to bring us the most bonkers but wonderful television. And unlike most other series (especially those dealing with superheroes), it isn’t afraid to change out its cast members when things aren’t working, which keeps each season feeling fresh while the stakes remain high. —Allison Keene


Degrassi: The Next Generation

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Created by: Linda Schuyler, Yan Moore
Stars: Miriam McDonald, Aubrey Graham (aka Drake), Cassie Steele, Shane Kippel, Lauren Collins, Daniel Clark, Melissa McIntyre, Jake Epstein, Sarah Barrable-Tishauer, Jake Goldsbie, Ryan Cooley, Adamo Ruggiero, Stacey Farber, Stefan Brogen, Amanda Stepto, Pat Mastroianni, and many, many more
Original Networks: CTV (Canada), Noggin (US)

Watch on HBO Max

Technically a spinoff because it features existing characters, but also technically a reboot, Degrassi: The Next Generation is a product of the long-running Degrassi franchise, which launched in 1979 in Canada. This series, which debuted in 2001 and ran for 14 seasons, is perhaps the best example of what makesDegrassi special: it takes the very real challenges teens face and confronts them head-on with a perfect mix of educational lessons, melodrama, and self-aware humor to make must-see TV. Even as characters came and went over the years (such is the nature of a show set in high school), The Next Generation never lost its ability to reach young, impressionable audiences and tell important stories while tackling timely topics, such as teen pregnancy, drug abuse, abortion, and gang violence, just to name a few. So there’s a reason the Degrassi franchise has existed for as long as it has, but The Next Generation is the reason it’s as popular and well loved as it is. —Kaitlin Thomas


Frasier

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Created by: David Angell, Peter Casey, David Lee
Stars: Kelsey Grammer, David Hyde Pierce, Jane Leeves, John Mahoney, Peri Gilpin, Moose
Original Network: NBC

Watch on Peacock
Watch on Hulu
Watch on Paramount+

The beloved sitcom Frasier owes its existence to the beloved sitcom Cheers, as the spinoff sees Kelsey Grammer’s Frasier Crane relocate from Boston to Seattle in an attempt to start over after his divorce. But while many classic sitcoms are paeans to blue-collar family life, Frasier was the odd show that made cultural elites and eggheads somehow seem like lovable characters to a mass audience. Both Frasier and his brother Niles (David Hyde Pierce) could be infuriatingly snobbish, but audiences soon found that when their petty jealousies were directed at each other, they could also be hilarious. The show quickly became an off-hand representation of the idea of “smart comedy” on TV, but it was also still a sitcom full of relationship humor. Viewers waited a hell of a long time in particular for the long-teased relationship between Niles and Daphne (Jane Leeves) to finally come to fruition (seven full seasons). Frasier, on the other hand, was never really lucky in love, but he was always better as a semi-depressed single, turning his probing mind on himself. Perhaps there is a reason it ran for 11 seasons and became one of the most successful spinoffs in TV history. —Jim Vorel and Kaitlin Thomas


The Star Trek Universe

Watch on Paramount+

From The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine and Voyager, to new series like Lower Decks, Discovery, and spinoffs-of-spinoffs Picard and Strange New Worlds, Star Trek has undoubtedly been the most successful spinoff launcher in TV history. Its track record to boldly go where no other franchise has gone before in terms of expanding its flagship series remains unparalleled (although Star Wars is now trying over on Disney+). Paramount+ made the smart move to be the home of all things Star Trek, from The Original Series to an entirely fresh slate of shows, so no matter where you choose to start your exploration, as long as you’re a fan of compelling stories, interesting aliens, and trademark optimism when up against even the worst of foes, you cannot go wrong setting your warp drive its way. Engage! —Allison Keene


Angel

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Created by: Joss Whedon, David Greenwalt
Stars: David Boreanaz, Charisma Carpenter, Glenn Quinn, Alexis Denisof, J. August Richards, Amy Acker
Original Networks: The WB

Watch on Hulu
Watch on Amazon Prime

Few spinoffs ever outshine their parent shows, but there is a case to be made that Angel, the darker, more adult spinoff of the popular coming-of-age supernatural drama Buffy the Vampire Slayer, might actually be the better, more satisfying show overall. Sure, it might not have been as groundbreaking as Buffy, which ran for seven seasons and starred Sarah Michelle Gellar as the titular slayer who regularly defeated the forces of darkness while also navigating the horrors of high school. But Angel, which follows David Boreanaz’s eponymous vampire with a soul, benefits from the lessons already learned during the creation of Buffy. The series, which ran for five seasons, follows Angel after he departs Sunnydale for Los Angeles and becomes a private eye in order to “help the helpless.” It maintains its unique sense of humor, much of it stemming from Charisma Carpenter’s Cordelia Chase and James Marsters’ Spike (the latter of whom joined the show in Season 5 after the end of Buffy), even as it tackles dark themes on the road to saving the world. If Buffy was the influential teacher, Angel was the star pupil. —Kaitlin Thomas


The Jeffersons

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Created by: Don Nicholl, Michael Ross, and Bernie West
Stars:: Sherman Hemsley, Isabel Sanford, Mike Evans, Damon Evans, Roxie Roker, Franklin Cover, Zara Cully, Berlinda Tolbert, Paul Benedict, Marla Gibbs, and Jay Hammer
Original Network: ABC

Watch on Amazon Prime

George (Sherman Hemsley) and Louise (Isabel Sanford) Jefferson first appeared as the new neighbors of Archie (Carroll O’Connor) and Edith Bunker (Jean Stapleton) on the Norman Lear-created sitcom All in the Family. George opened a dry cleaners during the show’s first season, and it does so well that the Jeffersons are able to move from a working class neighborhood in Queens to “a deluxe apartment in the sky” in Manhattan. (The theme song really does describe it perfectly.) The Jeffersons picks up after the family’s move, when George has an entire dry cleaning franchise complete with five locations in the city. The series was so successful that it ran for 11 seasons and became the second-longest-running series (by episode count) featuring a primarily Black cast in TV history. —Krystal Drew and Kaitlin Thomas


Torchwood

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Created by: Russell T Davies
Stars: John Barrowman, Eve Myles, Burn Gorman, Naoko Mori, Gareth David-Lloyd, and Kai Owen
Original Network: BBC Three

Watch on HBO Max

A spinoff of the long-running BBC series Doctor Who, Torchwood retained some of its predecessor’s campy fun, but also seemed to be reaching for the gritty realism that had understandably escaped most sci-fi shows until Ronald D. Moore’s Battlestar Galactica remake redefined what sci-fi could be. By the second season, creator Russell T Davies seemed to conclude that Torchwood would be better suited to leave the frivolity for the good Doctor and let Harkness go to darker places. The five-episode story-arc “Children of the Earth,” is a nail-biting, epic story that never lets up and finishes with its biggest punch to the gut. Like Moore’s Battlestar Galactica, Davies has not only reimagined a classic series, he’s used his new extraterrestrial platform to explore human nature. —Josh Jackson


Ms. Fisher’s Modern Mysteries

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Created by: Deb Cox and Fiona Eagger
Stars: Geraldine Hakewill, Joel Jackson, Catherine McClements, James Mason, Toby Truslove, Louisa Mignone, and Greg Stone
Original Network: Acorn TV

Watch Modern Mysteries on Acorn TV

Ms. Fisher’s Modern Mysteries, Acorn TV’s zippy spin-off series of the 1920s-set Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries, takes the cult hit energy of the original and runs with it, kicking its wild “what if Phryne Fisher (Essie Davis), but modern?” premise off with Phryne’s long-lost niece, Peregrine (Geraldine Hakewill), inheriting her aunt’s estate after Phryne has gone missing in a plane accident in the mountains of Papua New Guinea. This change of literal affairs established, Peregrine, otherwise alone in the world, finds herself free not only to move into Phryne’s house and drive Phryne’s sports car, but also to step into Phryne’s dangerous shoes as Melbourne’s chief amateur P.I., butting heads with handsome local detective James Steed (Joel Jackson, stepping charmingly into Nathan Page’s more serious shoes). Peregrine’s adventures have a slightly different flavor than Phryne’s, of course, but one that’s more than charming enough to turn to Acorn to catch. —Alexis Gunderson


Narcos: Mexico

Created by: Carlo Bernard, Chris Brancato, Doug Miro
Stars: Michael Peña, Diego Luna, Tenoch Huerta, Mejía Alyssa Diaz, Joaquín Cosío, José María Yazpik, Matt Letscher
Original Network: Netflix

Watch on Netflix

A spinoff of Netflix’s popular Narcos, Narcos: Mexico investigates the rise of the powerful Guadalajara Cartel that began by selling cannabis and quickly escalated into cocaine and heroin. The cartel, and the story itself, is led by the conflicted figure of Félix Gallardo (Diego Luna), who wants to make drug selling a business (shades of The Wire’s Stringer Bell are evident everywhere in this portrayal), but must ultimately embrace a ruthless nature to make it work. Gallardo is being hunted by DEA agent Kiki Camarena (Michael Peña), whose fledgling organization doesn’t understand how dangerous these cartels and their growing network are becoming. Anchored by outstanding performances, Narcos: Mexico is a deeply compelling dramatization of the drug gangs that continue to plague Mexico (and to some extent, the United States) today, and concludes with a major reveal that sets up a whole new game for Season 2. Filled with twists and turns, Narcos: Mexico perhaps eclipses its predecessor with outstanding characterizations and a tense story told at a rapid, tantalizing pace. —Allison Keene


Girl Meets World

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Created by: Michael Jacobs, April Kelly
Stars: Ben Savage, Will Friedle, Rider Strong, Danielle Fishel, William Daniels, Rowan Blanchard, Sabrina Carpenter, and Peyton Meyer
Original Network: Disney Channel

Watch on Disney+

Girl Meets World is a fan-demanded trip down memory lane. Although the comedy has many callbacks to Boy Meets World, the show carved out its own place in the tween universe, while still entertaining the parents who grew up on the beloved ‘90s classic. At the series’ start, middle school student Riley Matthews (Rowan Blanchard) is the doe-eyed daughter of Cory (Ben Savage) and Topanga (Daniele Fishel). The story centers on Riley, her best friend Maya (Sabrina Carpenter), and Texas transplant, Lucas (Peyton Meyer). They’re all taught by her father, who takes over the sage educator role William Daniels played in the original. Once the group graduated to high school, the teenagers started to mature, despite the occasionally saccharine storylines. Riley and friends battle with cyber bullies, adapt from their former social labels while learning about cultural appropriation and feminism, and Maya tries to find her voice after an identity crisis affects her artistic point-of-view. It’s a real pleasure to watch these teens grow right in front of our eyes, just like Riley’s parents did. — Rachel Haas, Shaina Pearlman, Iris Barreto


The Good Fight

Created by: Robert and Michelle King, Phil Alden Robinson
Stars: Christine Baranski, Rose Leslie, Erica Tazel, Cush Jumbo, Audra McDonald, Delroy Lindo, Sarah Steele, Nyambi Nyambi, Michael Boatman, and Zach Grenier
Original Network: CBS All Access

Watch on Paramount+

The Good Fight has achieved the holy grail of the TV spinoff: It’s taken the animating question of The Good Wife—How far can you push the law?—and reinterpreted it for our own moment: Does the law even matter? As Diane (Christine Baranski) and Liz’s (Audra McDonald) “book club” debates whether or not to hack voting machines to right the disenfranchisement of voters in the 2016 presidential elections, or as Gary Carr (playing himself) shadows Roland (Michael Sheen) and Lucca (Cush Jumbo) to prepare for a role, The Good Fight is reminiscent of The Good Wife on a molecular level. And yet its characterization, aesthetic, tone and plot are utterly without nostalgia for it. “What isn’t a lie these days, though?” Gary asks Lucca when she explains why she doesn’t like TV. “Politics, art, science: Everything is TV.” The Good Fight would know: It’s one of the best shows on television. —Matt Brennan


Laverne & Shirley

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Created by: Garry Marshall, Lowell Ganz, and Mark Rothman
Stars:: Penny Marshall, Cindy Williams, Michael McKean, David Lander, Eddie Mekka, Phil Foster, and Betty Garrett
Original Network: ABC

Currently not available to stream

Best friends Laverne DeFozio (Penny Marshall) and Shirley Feeney (Cindy Williams) first appeared on our TV screens on the popular sitcom Happy Days as friends of the epitome of cool himself, Fonzie (Henry Winkler). The pair were soon ported over to their own show, Laverne & Shirley, which took place in Milwaukee and remained in the same time period as Happy Days. Although the show wasn’t as closely associated with its parent series as some other spinoffs—it easily stood on its own by effectively establishing a unique world and sense of humor—characters from both shows made the occasional guest appearance on the other. A sitcom that dealt with some heavy topics such as unplanned pregnancy and death, the show was exceptionally popular and ran for eight seasons as audiences watched the titular duo “make their dreams come true.” —Krystal Drew and Kaitlin Thomas


The Originals

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Creator: Julie Plec
Stars: Joseph Morgan, Daniel Gillies, Claire Holt, Phoebe Tonkin, Charles Michael Davis, Daniella Pineda, Leah Pipes, Danielle Campbell, Yusuf Gatewood, Riley Voelkel, Danielle Rose Russell, Steven Krueger
Network: The CW

Watch on Netflix
Purchase on Amazon Prime

It’s a rare occasion when the spinoff exceeds the original. The history of TV is littered will ill-conceived and poorly executed sequels, and for every Frasier and Boston Legal, there are dozens of shows like Joni Loves Chachi, Beverly Hills Buntz, and AfterMASH. Thankfully, The Originals falls firmly into the former camp and is actually a case in which the child has exceeded the achievements of the parent. As fun and compelling as the characters and stories on The Vampire Diaries are, that show took a little too long to really get going and was in a more limiting setting, especially in the first few seasons. The sequel, however, launched with fully formed characters (with a mythology established by the parent show), unfettered by geometry class or the constraints of a small town. Klaus Mikaelson (Joseph Morgan) is easily one of the most complex anti-heroes on TV and creator Julie Plec is unafraid to poke around in the heads of any character, even killing a few. Also, as dark and disturbing as The Vampire Diaries could be, The Originals blows it out of the water. Plec expanded on the world she helped create in The Vampire Diaries, giving her characters more room to grow emotionally and significantly more intricate challenges to face. The politics of The Originals is just as fascinating as the supernatural elements and the show feels more fully formed than The Vampire Diaries did early on. It doesn’t hurt that New Orleans is decidedly more fun to explore than an imaginary small town in Virginia, and as much as I dig the gang from The Vampire Diaries, the rich character palette with which Plec and the writers have to work with here is a cut above. —Mark Rabinowitz


grown-ish

Created by: Kenya Barris
Stars:: Yara Shahidi, Deon Cole, Trevor Jackson, Francia Raisa
Original Network:: Freeform

Watch on Hulu

Even when the process is kept entirely in-house, it’s hard to know what to expect when an established series spins fan-favorite characters off to anchor something new. For the resulting spinoff to not only shift its target demographic, but move to a whole other network, like Yara Shahidi’s college-focused grown-ish did when it landed on Freeform after breaking away from ABC’s black-ish? That was more than unexpected—it was bold. Happily, it also proved to be a savvy play, the spinoff’s charming young cast, sharp writing, and fourth-wall-breaking confessional tone combining to give it real legs. As the black-ish-exported lead, Zoey, Shahidi is of course a blast to watch (even as Zoey makes bad decision after bad decision, as young adults alone at college for the first time are wont to do), but truly no more so than the rest of the ensemble cast, any one of whom could be considered a particular standout, depending on the mood you’re in. There’s much going on on grown-ish, and while much of it is as awkward and painful as the growing pains of real young adulthood can be (especially in the age of social media), it’s never not a delight. —Alexis Gunderson


Rhoda

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Created by: James L. Brooks and Allan Burns
Stars:: Valerie Harper, Julie Kavner, Nancy Walker, Harold Gould, David Groh, Ron Silver, Ray Buktenica, Kenneth McMillan, Lorenzo Music
Original Network: CBS

Currently not available to stream

Rhoda Morgenstern, played by Valerie Harper, was the best friend of Mary Richards (Mary Tyler Moore) on the groundbreaking sitcom The Mary Tyler Moore Show. During the show’s fourth season, the character leaves Minneapolis to return to her hometown of New York City. Enter: Rhoda, the first of the series’ three spinoffs. While Rhoda was originally known as the Jewish girl who couldn’t get a boyfriend, she marries during the first season of Rhoda and spends the majority of the season working on that relationship and her self-esteem issues. Though the show ran for only five seasons compared to The Mary Tyler Moore Show’s seven, the sitcom had major ratings success. —Krystal Drew and Kaitlin Thomas


The Simpsons

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Created by: Matt Groening
Stars:: Dan Castellaneta, Julie Kavner, Nancy Cartwright, Yeardley Smith, Hank Azaria, Harry Shearer, Marcia Wallace, Pamela Hayden
Original Network: Fox

Watch on Disney+

The Simpsons might be the most popular spinoff that people don’t remember is a spinoff. With more than 30 seasons under its belt, it’s no surprise people don’t associate it with its parent series, The Tracey Ullman Show, which was a variety show that only lasted four seasons. Tracey Ullman introduced the Simpsons in a series of shorts for three seasons before producers decided to give the middle-class family its own show. A smart move as it became Fox’s first series to rank in the Top 30 ratings. The show has gone on to win numerous Emmy Awards. —Krystal Drew


Daria

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Created by: Glenn Eichler, Susie Lewis Lynn
Stars: Tracy Grandstaff, Wendy Hoopes, Julián Rebolledo, Marc Thompson, Alvaro J. Gonzalez
Original Network: MTV

Watch on Hulu

The sarcastic, acerbic Daria Morgendorffer (voiced by Tracy Grandstaff) was first seen in the world of Beavis and Butt-Head on MTV in 1993. Smarter than the two main characters, she acted as an intelligent counter to their idiocy. She became the star of her own show, titled Daria, beginning in 1997, but the series is unique in the spinoff realm as it has different creators from its parent show; Mike Judge, who created Beavis and Butt-Head, released the rights to the character to Glenn Eichler and Susie Lynn. The ensuing series is a perfect distillation of ‘90s goodness. Daria both understands and lampoons high school life. The whip-smart and misanthropic Daria was a heroine for a generation whose favorite refrain was “whatever,” as she navigated the suburban town of Lawndale, the irritation of her uber-popular sister Quinn, and her clueless work-obsessed parents. She couldn’t have done it without the help of her artist friend Jane, though (not to mention her iconic crush on Jane’s rockstar brother), or the help of a jaded, cynical view of this “Sick, Sad World” (as one of the show’s news programs is called). Daria is the poster child for Gen X and early Gen Y culture, and the series remains a delightful time capsule that still holds many truths. —Krystal Drew and Allison Keene


The Punisher

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Created by: Steve Lightfoot
Stars: Jon Bernthal, Ben Barnes, Ebon Moss-Bachrach, Deborah Ann Woll, Amber Rose Revah, Jason R. Moore, Paul Schulze, Floriana Lima
Original Networks: Netflix

Watch on Disney+

The Punisher wasn’t part of Marvel’s original plans when it joined forces with Netflix to create a new interconnected world that existed within the Marvel Cinematic Universe but wasn’t actively part of its ongoing story arcs. But after introducing the character of Frank Castle (a perfectly cast Jon Bernthal) in Season 2 of Daredevil, it was clear that the vigilante deserved to have his story told as well. The result was a compelling two-season drama that dug deep to reveal the humanity of Castle, a former Marine fueled by rage and the loss of his family who used lethal means to fight crime and injustice on his own terms. The show asked plenty of questions about morality, and sparked debates about timely topics like gun control, mental health, and veterans affairs. But while the second season failed to live up to the first in some ways, The Punisher remains one of Marvel’s best TV shows to date, even outshining its parent series, which fell victim to a few bad judgment calls and lackluster villains. Much of the reason for The Punisher’s success is a dedication to painting a well-rounded portrait of Castle the man as well as the vigilante known as The Punisher. Perhaps one day we’ll see him again. —Kaitlin Thomas


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