The 5 Best And 5 Worst TV Spin-Offs Of All Time
With Better Call Saul looking like a worthy successor to Breaking Bad and The Walking Dead ambling to new cities for brand new adventures, it’s apparent that the TV spin-off is still alive and well. It’s a tricky prospect, as there is a lot at stake for a hit show’s spawn with the scrutiny kicked up a notch as well, and we have seen many good and bad examples. Here we take a look at the best and the worst spin-offs in television history.
No. 5 – Law and Order: SVU
Law & Order reinvented the crime drama and for two decades treated audiences to riveting stories within its well-oiled procedural template. If that show was a tailored trench coat, SVU was its Snuggie stepchild–a lot looser, some gaps to simply ignore, and perhaps the very reason God created well-worn couches in the first place. From them, we’ve subjected ourselves to tales of rape, assault, genital mutilation, incest and other sexual atrocities we thought were only capable of occurring within some German red light district with the wide-eyed delight of the most shameless rubberneckers. Sixteen more episodes to follow in this SVU marathon? We’re all in.
No. 4 – Star Trek: The Next Generation
The original broadcast run of Star Trek came and went in the blink of an eye. Always plagued by low ratings, it barely managed to hold onto its perch on NBC’s primetime schedule until finally, after 79 episodes, it was canceled. But the universe saw what NBC didn’t and a successful life in reruns–followed by a big screen reboot–made the show relevant all over again. After almost 20 years spawning new generations of fans, Star Trek: The Next Generation was spun-off from the now-revered classic. “TNG” embraced its lineage wholeheartedly while striving to set itself apart from the original series. And fans stayed loyal throughout its seven acclaimed seasons on the air, reigniting the franchise into a cross between a fanboy cult and entertainment powerhouse that continues to live on today.
No. 3 – The Jeffersons
Back in the ’70s, sitcoms could take risks, particularly in regards to race. All in the Family was the leader with its amazingly controversial subject matter expertly baked into reliable laughs and insights. The tussles between “Family’s” bigoted patriarch, Archie Bunker, and George Jefferson, the head of the black household next door, were so electric that the Jeffersons were rewarded with their own spin-off. Financial success took them away from Queens to a “dee-luxe” apartment on Manhattan’s East Side. Though “The Jeffersons” shed “Family’s” sharp political narratives, it never completely abandoned the issue of race in America, even as it morphed into the more classic example of the sitcom by boasting one big silly laugh after another.
No. 2 – Frasier
As it approached the end of its 11-year run in 1993, Cheers had distinguished itself as one of television’s greatest sitcoms. The decision to give its uptight, lovelorn psychiatrist, Dr. Frasier Crane, his own spin-off may have been met with skepticism at first, but once it premiered, it was apparent that its predecessor’s shadow was not a factor. Frasier was its own show, fully formed and laugh-out-loud funny. It also brought high-brow humor back to TV, the world of its intellectual namesake generating whip smart laughs. Something network comedies usually turned away from audiences saw as needed therapy, as evidenced by its own 11 seasons.
No. 1 – The Simpsons
Before they dominated the world, everyone’s favorite cartoon family appeared as a series of shorts on The Tracey Ullman Show. The animation was cruder, the spirit a bit meaner, and Bart was the breakout star. But the laughs were hysterical, undeniably groundbreaking, and it was soon obvious that the characters deserved a show of their own. It is pretty unbelievable that 28 years later, The Simpsons is still on the air and going strong. We all owe a debt of gratitude to the citizens of Springfield–especially the inhabitants of 742 Evergreen Terrace–for providing us with DECADES of humor and hysterics for which they truly deserve the designation as best TV spin-off ever.
No. 5 – Caprica
The 2004 reboot of Battlestar Gallactica took cable television by storm and quickly developed an intensely loyal cult following. It put the SyFy Channel on the map way before Sharknado clouds ever started to form. Some even declared the show one of the greatest to ever air on television. In an attempt to repeat this interplanetary phenomenon, Caprica was rolled out six years later. The prequel was met with loads of excitement and anticipation…and quickly fell out of the sky. It never matched the intensity nor intrigue of its predecessor, and its first season was its last.
No. 4 – Time of Your Life
Whatever happened during the ’90s, Jennifer Love Hewitt always made it better. That streak ended however at the decade’s dusk, when she left the cozy confines of The Salinger’s tragedy-prone Party of Five world and leaped into a show of her own. Trading one “Party” for the Time of Your Life would normally sound like a commendable upgrade, but this spin-off was sent into a death spiral right from the start. The premise was Hewitt’s search for her past, which turned out to be a pursuit audiences were not willing to go on.
No. 3 – Joey
Friends was such a valued property to NBC that at some point they even started to add extra minutes onto the normal thirty to squeeze out as many extra ratings as they could. When the show ended, it left a big void. How to fill that void? Spin-off! Everyone loved Joey Tribbiani. Those who watch Friends reruns today still do, so giving him his own show was a logical idea. But what audiences loved most about the original group of friends was how well the sextet played off each other, and when Joey moved away to LA by his lonesome, that was gone. Quirky family members and characters couldn’t capture the magic he had with his former castmates. After two seasons, the show disappeared.
No. 2 – Snooki & Jwoww
Somewhere in between being branded a toxic waste depository and showcasing a traffic-loving governor, it was Jersey Shore’s job to besmirch the image of the Garden State which would only have had an otherwise pristine reputation. In MTV’s seminal reality experiment, eight of the East Coast’s finest bridge and tunnelers showed us why it’s so much better to watch drunks over-party from the safety of our own living rooms. When the last drop of Jager was imbibed, leaving “Shore” without any more possible storylines, chaos sprouted anew with Snooki & JWoww a spin-off featuring its predecessor’s hoochiest cast members. And if someone remarked that “Jersery Shore” couldn’t get any worse, “S&JW” was disproof. Though a true train wreck–and not the good kind–the show lasted four seasons, maybe in honor of Jersey icon Frankie Valli.
No. 1 – Joanie Loves Chachi
Audiences literally saw them grow up on the wildly popular sitcom Happy Days, but that show was in its own decline and was the inspiration for the term “Jump the Shark.” However, ratings were strong enough that producers wanted more. So Joanie and Chachi moved from Milwaukee to Chicago to become singer/songwriters. The show was bad enough, but every week viewers would also have to hear them sing. No one loved any of this and the show was cancelled after 17 episodes, sending them both back to Happy Days for its few remaining seasons. They probably wanted us to forget, but we never will.