TV: It’s all about spin-offs nowadays

  • TV
  • Thursday, 13 Apr 2017

There is always several characters on a TV series who end up being fan favourites and the audience just wants to see more of them. That is when an idea for a spin-off comes about. It allows the story of another character to be explored fully on a totally separate programme.

Laverne & Shirley, Mork & Mindy and Joanie Loves Chachi were all spin-offs from the hit series Happy Days, which ran from 1974 to 1984.

While we rooted for Sam and Diane (Ted Danson and Shelley Long respectively) in the 1980s sitcom Cheers, there were a couple of other characters on the show who managed to steal the show like Rhea Perlman’s Carla, George Wendt’s Norm and Kelsey Grammer’s Dr Frasier Crane. The latter is an arrogant psychiatrist who frequented the Boston bar. A year after Cheers ended, Frasier kicked off with the good doctor moving back to Seattle to take care of his cranky dad and host a radio talk show. Both Cheers and Frasier ran for 11 seasons each.

But a show doesn’t have to end before a spin-off is presented, as in the case of Buffy, The Vampire Slayer.

Angel (played by David Boreanaz) – an almost 300-year-old vampire – never quite fit in the Buffy-verse which is ultimately a series set in a high school. Two seasons after playing second fiddle on Buffy, creator Joss Whedon and co-producer David Greenwalt gave the brooding vampire his own series called Angel – where he became a detective, had adult colleagues and loads of problems (both of the grown-up and supernatural variety).

The existence of the two series at the same time then allowed for crossover episodes.

Although spin-offs have been around for quite a while now, the format has become very popular in recent times. Remember the time when CSI had so many spin-offs, we lost count?

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Continuing the CSI tradition, we have the multiple Chicago series: Chicago Fire, Chicago PD, Chicago Med and Chicago Justice (so far).

Law & Order ended after 20 seasons, but its equally successful spin-off Law & Order: Special Victims Unit is into its 18th season and still going strong. Its other spin-offs Law & Order: Criminal Intent wrapped up after 10 seasons and Law & Order: Los Angeles after, erm, just one season.

Like Law & Order: Los Angeles, sometimes, a spin-off doesn’t gain traction. Grey’s Anatomy gave birth to Private Practice, and while the original series has survived, the spin-off didn’t. Anyone remember Joey, which followed after Friends? Similarly, Golden Girls’ spin-off The Golden Palace also took a tumble.

But a few bad spin-offs haven’t deterred studios to explore spin-off ideas. The Vampire Diaries shares its vampire-world with The Originals; The Walking Dead paved the way for Fear The Walking Dead; the excellent Breaking Bad received an excellent prequel with Better Call Saul; The Closer led to Major Crimes; and Arrow has its underlings with The Flash, Legends Of Tomorrow and Supergirl.

Here are other TV spin-offs which are scheduled for releases this year:

The Blacklist: Redemption On The Blacklist, Ryan Eggold played Elizabeth’s nerdy husband, Tom Keen. But he is anything but a geek as he turns out to be a highly skilled operative. Redemption revolves around Tom and his mum, Susan Scott Hargrave (played by Famke Janssen), who is the head of a covert mercenary organisation founded by Tom’s dad (Terry O’Quinn).

Like Jack Bauer in 24, Eric Carter has to stop a terrorist attack in 24 hours in 24: Legacy.

24: Legacy If we’re being honest, Legacy is more of a reboot than a spin-off. Or so we thought, until Tony Almeida (Carlos Bernard) from the original 24 series turns up. Tony is of course the former CTU director gone bad, and he had gotten Kiefer Sutherland’s Jack Bauer in sticky situations in 24.

The Good Fight Show of hands if your favourite character on The Good Wife was Christine Baranski’s Diane Lockhart? In The Good Fight, Diane is forced out of her firm and has to work in a smaller firm – which also employs the sassy Lucca Quinn. Lucca was first seen on the final season of The Good Wife as Alicia Florrick's partner. Played by Cush Jumbo, Lucca was also a fan favourite in the original series.

MC Mayans This is a spin-off of Sons Of Anarchy. Like the original series, which ended in 2014, MC Mayans looks at a motorcyle club. The Mayans Motorcyle Club was first introduced as a rival motorcyle club in Sons Of Anarchy. In this new series, the story centres on the Reyes family (Edward James Olmos, JD Pardo, Jacqueline Obradors). It has been reported there will be cameos of characters originally seen in Sons Of Anarchy.

The Punisher The Marvel vigilante was introduced on TV in the second season of Daredevil. Actor Jon Bernthal totally owned the character – the troubled soldier Frank Castle – from the minute he appeared on the Netflix series. So, naturally, The Punisher is the obvious next step. Thirteen episodes have been confirmed for airing in November.

Raven’s Home Raven-Symone and Anneliese Van Der Pol will reprise their roles from Disney's That’s So Raven in this spin-off. The plot sees best friends Raven Baxter and Chelsea Daniels as divorced single mothers raising their respective families in one house. Variety reported that it will premiere later this year, detailing the plot further: One of Raven’s children has inherited her psychic ability.

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In the works

The Big Bang Theory’s spin-off, Young Sheldon, is a prequel of sorts which tells the story of Dr Sheldon Cooper when he was growing up in Texas with a religious mother, redneck father and a popular twin sister. This should be interesting. The cast includes eight-year-old Iain Armitage (of Big Little Lies) as the titular character and Zoe Perry as the strict Ma, Mary Cooper.

Suits is also said to be getting a spin-off. Actress Gina Torres exited as a series regular on the show’s sixth season, and was said to be exploring her options on other shows. However, the studio producing Suits wanted to keep Torres in-house, so they offered the actress a deal. It is only right that the ever smart and stylish Jessica Pearson headlines a show.

There is also talk of doing a spin-off for Game Of Thrones. The highly-rated series will end with the eighth season, scheduled to happen next year with only six episodes. What would a spin-off consist? A prequel, a sequel or an intricate look at a noble house? With a literary source as rich as George R.R. Martin’s books, the options are abundant.

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