Spinoffs: Success Stories

Just a month after its debut, “Better Caul Saul” has become one of the hottest shows on television, its early success off of creator Vince Gilligan’s prior project, “Breaking Bad.” “Better Call Saul” is a spinoff with con artist and lawyer, James McGill, a.k.a. Saul Goodman, first appearing in the second season of “Breaking Bad.” Spinoffs have a varying level of success on television. Some like “Joey,” spun off of “Friends” and “The Brady Brides,” spun off from “The Brady Brunch,” flopped almost immediately. But it’s not uncommon for spinoffs to enjoy long running success that even eclipses their parent show. Here are some of television’s most memorable spinoffs.

“Frasier” One of the sharpest and longest running sitcoms of the ‘90s, the highbrow psychiatrist Frasier Crane (Kelsey Grammer) first appeared in the third season of “Cheers” as a contrast to the blue-collar characters in everyone’s favorite Boston bar. “Frasier” saw him relocating to Seattle to give psychiatric advice on a morning radio show, which allowed for dozens of guest cameos including Ben Stiller, Jodie Foster and Stephen King. He was joined by tea toting brother Niles (David Hyde Pierce) and his father Martin (John Mahoney), a retired police officer whose old-fashioned lifestyle clashed with his son’s upper class mannerisms. “Frasier” ran for 11 seasons, and boasts the rare feat of having its main cast remain for the entirely of the show’s run.

“Daria” Before Daria Morgendorfer was throwing her cynical wit at the shallow desires and social norms of the American high school, she was the intelligent foil on “Beavis and Butthead.” A highlight of MTV’s golden age and something that could have only existed in the ‘90s, “Daria” embraced the offbeat adolescent audience who saw intelligence as more valuable than physical beauty and athleticism. Daria, accompanied by her artistic doppelganger Jane Lane, steered themselves Lawndale High, and its array of brainless jocks and teachers on the brink of insanity. The show tackled relatable teenage hurdles like finding a first job and selling out values for popularity, but also more serious issues including racial discrimination and even tragic death. “Daria” is a product of its era but has aged remarkably well, and is an essential watch for anyone on the outside of a crowd.

“The Jeffersons” Norman Lear’s groundbreaking sitcom “All In The Family” produced more spinoffs than any other television show to this day, including “Maude,” “Archie Bunker’s Place” and it’s most successful, “The Jeffersons.” Originally neighbors of Archie and Edith Bunker, George and Louise Jefferson (Sherman Hemsley and Isabel Sanford) move to Manhattan to run a dry cleaning business. The major innovation of “The Jeffersons” was one of televisions first interracial couples in the main cast. The issue of interracial love was first touched upon in “All In The Family,” but its treatment in “The Jeffersons” was a sign of progress in American culture. “The Jeffersons” ran for 11 seasons from 1975 to 1985.

“Lou Grant” Another show that sent several of its characters off into their programs was “Mary Tyler Moore,” one of the most lauded shows of the 1970s. “Rhoda” and “Phyllis” both began their runs while “Mary Tyler Moore” was still airing, but the show’s breakout character, the gruff and dry Lou Grant (Ed Asner), received his own show after its conclusion. “Lou Grant” took the title character and his environment in a more dramatic direction. Grant worked as the managing editor of a Los Angeles newspaper and dug deep into the hardest issues of the era such as the Cold War and LGBTQ rights, as well as ethical journalism. While the shift in tone made “Lou Grant” a hard sell to audiences it first, it eventually achieved great success; running for five seasons and earning multiple Emmy and Golden Globe Awards.

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