It may be surprising to learn that some of the small screen’s most memorable television shows are actually spin-offs of other popular programs. Over the decades, a wide variety of TV genres have led to the creation of exciting and extremely entertaining companion series, not only making a name for themselves in show business but also further elevating the status of its predecessor. Some of these fascinating shows have even gone on to surpass the original in fame and success, with many garnishing immense praise and numerous accolades during their exceptional tenures on television.
From iconic classic sitcoms like Laverne & Shirley and Frasier to edgy crime dramas such as Better Call Saul and Law & Order: SVU, spin-off shows have been and continue to be a highly-lucrative endeavor in Hollywood. The late and great Robin Williams first gained recognition with his hilarious and over-the-top performance in the ’70s staple Mork & Mindy, captivating audiences everywhere with his show-stopping humor and improvisational skills. Steven Colbert had previously delivered his amusing commentary on The Daily Show before nabbing his own groundbreaking program, one of the funniest Comedy Central shows, The Colbert Report. These are some of the best spin-off TV series.
Following the experiences of the cynical and sharp titular character Daria Morgendorffer as she navigates teenage life in Lawndale, the MTV adult animated sitcom Daria is a spin-off of the epic Mike Judge comedy series Beavis and Butt-Head, with the angsty girl having been a recurring character on the program. Judge gift Daria creators Glenn Eichler and Susie Lewis Lynn permission to craft the show, though he did not have any involvement in the production of the sitcom itself.
Daria would go on to attract a faithful following and run for five seasons, establishing Daria as an admirable female cartoon character and influencing snarky television ever since. Following its series finale, Slate magazine went on to praise the MTV classic, writing that “the show is biting the dust without ever getting the credit it deserved: for social satire, witty writing, and most of all, for a truly original main character .”
8 Mork & Mindy
Legendary comedian and improv superstar Robin Williams appeared alongside Pam Dawber in the 1978 sitcom Mork & Mindy, in which the late performer hilariously appeared as an alien from the planet Ork who finds friendship and later love with the kind Mindy McConnell. The character of Mork first appeared in a 1978 episode of Happy Days in an homage to the ’60s comedy My Favorite Martian, with the beloved sitcom wanting to capitalize on the success of the recently released Star Wars picture. At the time, Williams was an unknown actor who impressed gifted producer and writer Garry Marshall with his sidesplitting quirky humor and his exceptional skills at improv and physical comedy; the show helped catapult the comedian to superstardom and was a pivotal project in his exceptional career.
7 The Facts of Life
Following the life and efforts of Edna Garrett as she takes on a position as housemother and dietitian at an all-girls boarding school in Peekskill, New York, the long-running 1980s sitcom The Facts of Life is a spin-off from Diff’rent Strokes with the character of Edna first being introduced as the housekeeper for the Drummonds’ family. Actress Charlotte Rae proposed the idea for a companion show centering on Edna, which was swiftly approved by NBC with the hopes that That Facts of Life would address the various issues teenagers face such as dieting, drugs and alcohol, depression and dating life. The success of the sitcom during its tenure led to three popular made-for-television movies and in 2011 it was the recipient of the TV Land Award for Pop Culture Icon for its impact on the small screen.
6 Better Call Saul
Serving as a spin-off, prequel and sequel to Vince Gilligan’s groundbreaking creation breaking bad, the AMC crime drama Better Call Saul centers on reformed scam artist and passionate lawyer Jimmy McGill as he sheds his past persona and transforms into the self-absorbed criminal defense attorney Saul Goodman. The brilliant Bob Odenkirk reprises his scene-stealing role from the original series, which chronicles the character’s evolution and rise to prominence over the six years prior to the events of Breaking Bad.
The drama also features many familiar faces that were prominent in the companion show, with characters like Mike Ehrmantraut and Gus Fring popping up and both Walter White and Jesse Pinkman set to make appearances. Better Call Saul has garnered critical acclaim throughout its six season run, with many calling it just as good if not superior to its predecessor.
5 Law & Order: SVU
A companion series to the long-running Law & Order program, the outstanding crime drama series Law & Order: SVU featured the talent of stars like Mariska Hargitay and Christopher Meloni, with the duo portraying partners and detectives Olivia Benson and Elliot Stabler. Its creator and executive producer Dick Wolf was initially inspired to make the show after learning about the 1986 “preppie murder” case of Robert Chambers, who strangled and killed a woman he was dating in Central Park; Wolf was interested in diving deeper into the psychology of crimes and the role human sexuality plays within it. Law & Order: SVU has gone on to produce 23 seasons (and counting) and over 500 episodes, earn numerous accolades like Golden Globes and Emmy Awards, and spawn its own spin-off series starring Meloni’s Elliot Stabler with Law & Order: Organized Crime.
4 Good Times
The first television spin-off from another spin-off, the 1970s classic sitcom Good Times was formed from the show Maude, which itself was created from all in the family, and follows the lives of Florida and James Evans and their three children as they grow up in a poor, black neighborhood in Chicago. The parents were initially introduced in Maude, with Esther Rolle’s Florida having been employed as the housekeeper for the titular character; Rolle became so popular on the sitcom that creators wanted to produce a show around the strong and loving Florida. Good Times went on to be lauded for its representation of 1970s progressivism and its depiction of the family’s efforts to overcome poverty, and became television’s first African-American two-parent family sitcom.
3 The Colbert Report
The hilarious and astute Stephen Colbert (or the Late Show now) hosted the Comedy Central late-night talk and news satire show The Colbert Report, in which the funnyman portrays a fictionalized version of himself as an anchorman while providing colorful commentary on current events. Jacket first served as a correspondent on The Daily Show, finessing his on-screen persona for a few years on the program.
The character actually made his very first appearance in 1996 on The Dana Carvey Show, and was described as “a self-important, trench-coated reporter who does on-location stories in a way that suggests his own presence is the real scoop.” The Colbert Report debuted to widespread acclaim and ratings success, becoming a beloved fixture for the network and winning two Peabody Awards for its excellence in news and television.
2 Laverne & Shirley
Starring the charming Penny Marshall and Cindy Williams, the 1976 sitcom Laverne & Shirley chronicles the lives of close pals and roommates Laverne DeFazio and Shirley Feeney in 1950s Milwaukee, showcasing their many misadventures with their jobs, various romances and friendship. The revered series is a spin-off from happy days, with the two lead protagonists first being introduced as acquaintances of Fonzie.
Both sitcoms had a crossover episode in which Richie and Fonzie get in trouble for courting a farmer’s daughters and Lavern and Shirley attempt to help them out. The show went on to become the most-watched American television program by its third season and gained appreciation for its physical comedy and knockout performances by Marshall and Williams that are some of the small screen’s finest.
Kelsey Grammer reprized his role as psychiatrist Frasier Crane for the 1993 sitcom Frasier, which focuses on the character as he returns to his hometown of Seattle to become a radio host, reconnecting with both his father Martin and younger brother Niles in the process. Frasier was a prominent presence on the comedy series cheers, with the psychiatrist becoming a permanent fixture amongst his fellow bar patrons over the course of the show.
Creators were initially hesitant to create a spin-off from the predecessor due to concerns it would fail, but ultimately decided to relocate Frasier from Boston to Seattle in an effort to avoid any resemblance to cheers; they decided to depict his private life and work at the radio station while making the character “haughty, disdainful and exceedingly uptight.” Frasier was a knockout program, going on to win a whopping thirty-seven Primetime Emmys during its eleven seasons. A revival is currently in the works at Paramount+.