What’s better than having a successful TV show? Having more than one! Network execs have been known to ask successful content creators to create a new TV series once they’ve come up with one great idea.
Top TV Series That Spawned A Great Spinoff
And what better way to get audiences invested in a new group of characters than to have them tied to existing ones! Here’s a look at some successful spinoffs and the shows that helped birth them!
Beverly Hills, 90210 (1990-2000)/Melrose Place (1992-1999)
Aaron Spelling produced a successful teen series about two youths – Brandon (Jason Priestly) and Brenda Walsh (Shannen Doherty) – who came from the Midwest to America’s most famous zip code. Once that show was a hit, he came up with a companion series, Melrose Place, set in a trendy neighborhood and featured a series of twentysomethings living in an apartment complex. Heather Locklear (Dynasty) joining the show as Amanda turned the series into appointment TV.
The Big Bang Theory (2007-2019)/Young Sheldon (2017-)
Roommates Leonard (Johnny Galecki) and Sheldon (Jim Parsons) regularly referred to events in their childhood on The Big Bang Theory. So, when the show’s producers were looking at potential spinoffs, they opted to take the show’s breakout character, Sheldon, and look at his formative years as a youth who displayed remarkable intelligence. Iain Armitage (Big Little Lies) was perfectly cast in the title role. And who better than Zoe Perry to play Mary as her real-life mom, Laurie Metcalf was Mary on TBBT?
All in The Family (1971-1979)/Maude (1972-78)The Jeffersons (1975-85)/Archie Bunker’s Place (1979-83)
Norman Lear’s All in the Family broke barriers by telling stories about social issues from the perspective of conservative Archie Bunker (Carroll O’Connor). The series was so successful it spawned spinoffs featuring Archie’s liberal-minded cousin (by marriage) Maude (Bea Arthur in the title role) as well as George (Sherman Hemsley) and Louise (Isabel Sanford), Archie’s neighbors moving on up in The Jeffersons. After Archie’s beloved wife Edith (Jean Stapleton) passed away, All in the Family became Archie Bunker’s Place.
The Six Million Dollar Man (1973-1978)/The Bionic Woman (1976-78)
Steve Austin (Lee Majors) had many love interests on The Six Million Dollar Man but none of them grabbed viewers’ hearts like Jaime Sommers (Lindsay Wagner) did. “To Be Continued” appeared on the TV series’ credits after Jaime’s demise (her body rejected her bionics). But she was dead, no? After ABC decided to spin her off into her own priceless series, Dr. Michael Marchetti (Richard Lenz) brought Jaime back to life.
Cheers (1982-93)/Frasier (1993-2004)
Sam Malone (Ted Danson) shouted last call at Cheers in 1993 after a nine-year run. But the laughs continued on Frasier with Kelsey Grammer (Dr. Frasier Crane) continuing his life in Seattle. The best part was during Frasier’s tenure, Cheers cast members dropped by for visits.
Happy Days (1974-84)/Laverne & Shirley (1976-83)/Mork & Mindy (1978-1982)
Fonzie (Henry Winkler) arranged for him and his pal Richie Cunningham (Ron Howard) to go on a double-date with Laverne DeFazio (Penny Marshall) and Shirley Feeney (Cindy Williams). The episode proved so popular that Laverne & Shirley were spun off into their own series as two brewery workers who stood by each other through thick and thin as they searched for love and happiness. Also — the legendary Robin Williams did a brief turn as Mork and poof — Mork & Mindy was born! Trivia note: Happy Days itself was spun off from the anthology series Love American Style!
Wacky Races (1968-70)/The Perils of Penelope Pitstop (1969-71)/Dastardly and Muttley in Their Flying Machines (1969-71).
Spinoffs aren’t limited to live-action series. Producers of the animated program Wacky Races, about a legion of race car drivers, took some of their most popular characters and created two series that had far fewer cast members – The Perils of Penelope Pitstop and Dastardly and Muttley in Their Flying Machines!
Dallas (1978-91)/Knots Landing (1979-93)
Savvy primetime soap fans know that David Jacobs actually created Knots Landing before he came up with Dallas. However, Dallas aired first so it’s considered the mothership. J.R. Ewing (Larry Hagman) was thrilled that black sheep brother Gary (Ted Shackleford) and bride Valene (Joan Van Ark) moved to Southern California in a suburb known as Knots Landing. Both remain fan favorites today.
The Mary Tyler Moore Show (1970-77)/Rhoda (1974-78)
The supporting cast of the TV series The Mary Tyler Moore Show was one of the most talented ones ever assembled. A standout was Valerie Harper, cast as Mary’s neighbor BFF Rhoda Morgenstern. Naturally, Rhoda was spun-off into her series titled – what else – Rhoda. When Rhoda and Joe (David Groh) married on October 28, 1974, 52 million (!) viewers tuned in to see the ceremony.