10 Best TV Spin-Offs of All Time

Hit TV shows that start to grow a little long in the tooth or have a star looking to end their career branch out on their own often resort to the ritual suicide of the spin-off. While we all know this usually ends ugly, there are those rare exceptions that end in quality TV.

My criteria for a “Successful” spin-off:

  1. Original show must have had a respectable run.
  2. Must be a NEW show, not merely a remake of an old show.
    (Sorry, no Battlestar Galactica, Degrassi or the like.)
  3. Takes an established character(s) from an existing show
    and gives them their own show (which usually sucks).
  4. Spin-off must survive for at least tree or more years.
  5. The Spin-off must have some level of critical support.
  6. Cameos, we love to see our old friends drop in from
    time-to-time. (Helpful, not mandatory.)

Caveat: Many of my winners are from the 70’s and 80’s, because well, that’s probably the last time a good spin-off occurred.

10. Tie – CSI: Miami and CSI: NY: Yeah, that’s a cop out (no pun intended), but they are both pretty
indistinguishable. They’re good spin-offs of the original CSI (Crime Scene Investigation). The shows that coined the term “My crazy girlfriend is like CSI.”
Original Show: CSI
Years on TV: 2002 – Present and 2004 – Present Respectively
Cameos: They’re all over the freakin’ place

9. Law & Order: Criminal Intent: Another cop show spin-off, but it’s a good one. Can you turn on cable without seeing an episode of numbers 9 and 10? Who knows, this show may spin off it’s own version of the West Wing.
Original Show: Law and Order
Years on TV: 2001 – Present
Cameos: Yup, lot’s of ‘em.

8. A Different World: This is a tricky one. The star who it was created for quickly left for the safe haven of the Jello Pudding Pop filled mother ship which spawend her. However, the show did plug along without her for a while. It’s not my cup of tea, but my wife liked it, so I’ll give her a bone.
Original Show: The Cosby Show
Years on TV: 1987 – 1993
Cameos: A few in the early years.

7. The Muppet Show: Kermit from the Block stepped out on his own to be the star of this variety show. Hedging his bet though, he still kept his old role on Sesame Street.
Original Show: Sesame Street
Years on TV: 1976 – 1981
Cameos: Who could tell under all of that foam and fur?
6. The Facts of Life: There’s a time you gotta go and show you’re growin’ now you know about the Facts of Life, the Facts of Life. Don’t pretend that you don’t know all of the words. Natalie, Tootie, Blair, Joe, Miss Garrett, Blair’s MS Cousin Gerry (Oh, I’ll go there.) what’s not to love? Did I forget a pre-E.R. George the Janitor Clooney?
Original Show: Different Strokes
Years on TV: 1979 – 1988
Cameos: Whacu talkin’ bout Willis?

I guess I have to throw a bone to all of the ladies out there
5. Melrose Place:
Disclaimer, I NEVER WATCHED THIS SHOW, but I can’t exactly ignore it’s existence.
Blah, blah, blah it was great…. If you’re a chick.
Original Show: Beverly Hills 90210
Years on TV: 1992 – 1999
Cameos: How the hell would I know?

Look who’s Movin’ on Up to Number 4
4. The Jeffersons:
Wesie, George, those interracial neighbors that had Lenny Kravitz, what more do you want? I had a friend with a racist father who would not let him watch this show because of the “Race Mixing” of the neighbors. This was certainly a show that made most people forget that it was a spin-off
pretty quickly.
Original Show: All in the Family
Years on TV: 1975 – 1985
Cameos: A little light for my tastes.

Schlameil Schlamazzol (WTF?)

3. Laverne and Shirley:
This show was a classic. It spun out of one of the best shows of all time. It had it’s own great run. It had
a theme song that nobody know the words to till this day. Milk and Pepsi, Lenny Squiggie, The Big Ragu,
the L sweaters, Oh Baby.
Original Show: Happy Days
Years on TV: 1976 – 1973
Cameos: A few, but not major.
(Probably the only drawback.)

The Simpsons: yes, this is definitely the most comercially successful spin-off of all time, however, I’m deducting points for two key factors: 1. The Tracy Ulman show is neither a blockbuster nor a true “series”.
Original Show: The Tracy Ulman Show
Years on TV: 1987 – Still Kickin’
Cameos: None that I’m aware of. Another factor that cost it the gold.

Drum Roll Please…………

1. Frazier: Let’s see, it followed a show that was a monster. It had an 11 year run with an incredible 39 Emmy’s and countless more nominations. There were so many tremendous cameos that you can’t list them all. Best of all, if you never saw Cheers, this was an awesome show.
Original Show: Cheers (That’s a big set of shoes to fill, wear out, and replace with new ones!)
Years on TV: 1993 – 2004 (11 seasons at 3.5 Emmy’s per year)
Cameos: Too many to count; Diane, Lilith, Sam, Norm, etc. (Now that’s how it’s done!)

Honorable Mentions:
The Colbert Report, All of the Star Trek stuff, Knotts Landing, The Super Friends (not exactly a spin-off), The Office (British show remade), etc

Well, that’s it.


This is just my unscientific list. Please feel free to chime in.

Did I miss any?

Do you disagree with any of my choices?

Update: Next up 10 WORST TV Spin-Offs of All Time.

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16 responses on “10 Best TV Spin-Offs of All Time

  1. Pingback: TV » 10 Best TV Spin-Offs of All Time

  2. Rohan

    I’d have to say that surely Stargate Atlantis would fit the bill? I’ll confess I’m British and have never heard of half of those shows, so my viewpoint is a little skewed… :)

  3. Josh

    You must have not pay attention to The Simpsons at all. There are quite a few cameos, maybe more than Frasier. In fact, the star and a co-star of Frasier made cameos. The two links below will send you to a link of the 100 BEST cameos in The Simpsons, which means there are more.



    As a side note, looking at the top two series in their entirety, I do prefer Frasier over The Simpsons, but I’d take the best of The Simpsons over the best of Frasier.

  4. Maul

    I disagree with putting Melrose Place on there when you don’t watch it and Star Trek the next generation gets a honorable mention. Also the american office gets a honorable mention but its disqualified for being a remake not a spin off.

  5. Stargate Atlantis

    Like to watch Stargate Atlantis episodes and also Lost. I found your blog on google and read a few of your other posts. I just added you to my Google News Reader. Look forward to reading more from you in the future.

  6. Natty1010

    I’m sorry but how does the American version of The Office get an honorable mention?
    The original series was as fantastic as it was true to life and the American remake is simply an embarrassment to television

  7. Mr. Malo

    Guess I’ll throw you a bone…

    From the ’70s: Good Times was a good spinoff from Maude. In the 80’s, there were 2 of my favorites: Family Matters spinning off of Perfect Strangers. In the 90s, it was Mtv’s Daria spinoff from Beavis n Butthead. Today: The Cleveland Show from Family Guy.
    All shows I enjoyed/enjoy watching.

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