Television spinoffs are always hit or miss, and more often than not are big misses. There have been a lot of terrible spinoffs over the years, and even the most successful spinoffs are so great because they bear such a strong connection to the original show that, at least to an extent, a sentimental connection convinces fans to watch from the jump. However, some spinoffs are hardly recognizable as such, but have been amazingly successful anyway.
Melrose Place is pretty horrendous. We all know this. Heck, that’s a focal point of an episode of Seinfeld, in which all of the main characters, Jerry in particular, refuse to admit they actually watch it before all settling in on Jerry’s couch to view the latest episode. And amazingly, that guilty pleasure they were all watching is a spinoff of one of the guiltiest pleasures of them all, Beverly Hills 90210. Of course, it doesn’t really share much in common with 90210 other than a similar setting and the fact that Aaron Spelling had his name attached to both shows, but that doesn’t change the fact that the show that introduced us to Brenda and Dylan also, for better or worse, thrust Andrew Shue on an unsuspecting world.
The Facts of Life
The Facts of Life is one of the most beloved 1980’s sitcoms there is, with a woman named Mrs. Garrett running a female boarding school with a wide array of characters, including some chick named Tootie. When you were a young boy growing up in the 1980s, you could define yourself as being a Blair fan or a Jo fan, and you tended to judge your friends on which side they took. What a lot of people don’t know is that not only was the show a spinoff of Diff’rent Strokes, but Mrs. Garrett herself originated on that show, helping to take care of Arnold and Willis, of “whatchoo talkin’ ‘bout” fame.
It still seems amazing that the show NCIS, starring Mark Harmon, is the most popular show on television. It gets absolutely monstrous rating week in and week out, and has spawned its own insanely popular spinoff, NCIS: Los Angeles, with another spinoff in the works. Since CBS has a tendency to latch onto a concept that works and simply recycle it over and over, it probably doesn’t come as a huge surprise to learn that NCIS itself is a spinoff of the show JAG, which is about Naval lawyers. Naturally, those lawyers need people to do the actual investigations, though, right? And that’s where the NCIS team comes in, and that’s how the show was launched and became the absolute behemoth it is.
James Garner is one cool dude. There’s really not much denying that. When he was in his prime, he was absolutely, without question, a guy your mom would have left your dad to sleep with. The man was Jim Rockford, after all. He was also Bret Maverick, star of the show, well, Maverick, a Western about a poker player with some legitimate gun-slinging acumen. The show would eventually spawn a solid movie starring Mel Gibson and Jodie Foster, but believe it or not, it was itself a spinoff of a series called Conflict, an anthology series that also launched the show 77 Sunset Strip.
What is more amazing about The Honeymooners, which will forever be remembered as one of the most influential sitcoms in American television history: the fact that it was only on for two seasons, or that it was a spinoff? For our purposes here, we’ll focus on the fact that, believe it or not, Jackie Gleason’s most famous role, one of the most indelible characters in history, Ralph Kramden, originated in a comedy sketch as part of a show called Cavalcade of Stars, and then went on to be featured as part of The Jackie Gleason Show before becoming its own animal. Amazingly, it only remained on the air in 1955 and 1956, but its impact remains enormous decades later.