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Spin-off (media): Wikis


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Media spin-off is the process of deriving new radio programs, television programs or video games or even novels from already existing ones. Spin-offs work with varying degrees of success. Some become very popular and last for a number of seasons, whereas others exceed the popularity of the forebearing show and others are poorly received and have considerably shorter life spans.

This phenomenon was already established in radio before the advent of commercial broadcast television; for example The Great Gildersleeve was a spin-off from Fibber McGee and Molly.

Jack Benny's popular radio program spawned at least two spin-offs when blustery bandleader Phil Harris and naif Dennis Day launched their own programs after their success on Benny's show.

In genre fiction, the term parallels the usage in television; it is usually meant to indicate a substantial change in narrative viewpoint and activity from that (previous) storyline based around the activities of the series' principal protagonist(s) and so is a shift to that action and overall narrative thread of some other protagonist(s), which now becomes the central or main thread (storyline) of the new sub-series. The new protagonist generally appears first as a minor or supporting character in the main story line within a given milieu, and it is very common for the previous protagonist to have a supporting or cameo role, at the least as a historical mention, in the new sub-series.


Variants of spin-offs

Television spin-offs come in several variations, including:

  • A supporting character or characters in an existing series is given their own show in which they become the main focus. The original series continues without them and there may be some crossover of characters between the shows on occasion (e.g. The Lone Gunmen from The X-Files, Angel from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Flo from Alice, Go, Diego, Go from Dora the Explorer (Which often has the original character cameo), The Ropers from Three's Company, Daria from Beavis and Butt-head, Torchwood from Doctor Who, Softly, Softly which features the characters of Barlow and Watt from Z-Cars).
    • Sometimes, as a springboard for a character spin-off, a special "backdoor pilot" episode within the parent series will be created, to establish the new supporting characters and setting for the child series. Examples of this include an episode of Three's Company to establish The Ropers, and an episode of The Danny Thomas Show to establish The Andy Griffith Show. These special episodes usually stand out as oddities in the parent series' continuity, especially if the spin-off is unsuccessful (and therefore little-known) or even aborted without ever spinning off (e.g. an episode of Welcome Back, Kotter established family characters and a home setting for a proposed spin-off based on Arnold Horshack, but the series – to be titled Horshack – was never produced).
  • New characters are specially incorporated into an existing series for the sole purpose of being launched into their own show that will feature no regular characters from the original series, except possibly as guest appearances (e.g. Empty Nest from The Golden Girls, Melrose Place from Beverly Hills, 90210, or Boston Legal from The Practice). There are even some examples of spin-offs generating their own spin-offs, leaving the new show with virtually no connection to the original series. Examples of this type of secondary-spin-off include Good Times and Models Inc.
  • Regular characters from a series continue in their own series after the original series ends (e.g. George and Mildred and Robin's Nest from Man About the House; Frasier from Cheers; Joey from Friends). This is usually done with the same actors, though not always, such as Trapper John M.D. from M*A*S*H.
  • A new series is started with the same theme and existing in the same universe as the original series, but may not necessarily have the same characters. Examples of this type are the Star Trek, Stargate, The X-Files, Law & Order, and CSI series. These are sometimes called franchises.
  • A series that begins in one medium is branched out into other media with material that may or may not be canonically related to the primary production. Examples of this include Tokimeki Memorial, which began as a video game and later branched out into anime and CD audio dramas, and Star Wars, which includes the six feature films, numerous novels, radio dramas, television series, and video games set within the same universe.
  • In sketch comedy shows, the particular popularity of one character or setting may form the basis of a newly commissioned series, such as Da Ali G Show which originated as a part of the The 11 O'Clock Show. This can also occur for humorous skits in regular talk shows.
  • In soap operas, where the original show is broadcast 'before the watershed', spin off series may be created where the program wishes to air more controversial topics, or adult content, such as the Hollyoaks late night specials. As such, these do not introduce plot details required to understand the original series.

Examples of notable spin-offs


Name changes/retoolings

  • Having succeeded with Isa TKM, the original soap opera-like teen program from Nickelodeon Latin America, it has a spin-off named Isa TK+. With some of the same and new main characters, and new support characters.
  • After the seventh year of Da Vinci's Inquest, most of the main characters returned the next season for Da Vinci's City Hall. The new series carries over some of the same plot threads, the difference being a slight shift in themes that began in the last season of the original series. City Hall is sometimes even referred to as the eighth season of Inquest.
  • Before the final season of M*A*S*H the main cast voted as to whether or not to continue the series. The final vote was 4–3 against. William Christopher, Jamie Farr, and Harry Morgan wanted to continue work on M*A*S*H, and, after the eleventh season, they began work on AfterMASH. It lasted just two seasons and 30 episodes, with the final episode unaired.
  • The popular cartoon Batman: The Animated Series was brought back after cancellation with a new name and a new smoother animation style. The New Batman Adventures only lasted 24 episodes.
  • Six years after the British sitcom Are You Being Served? ended, a new series started up featuring five of the six cast members from the final season of the original show. The new show was entitled Grace & Favour (aired in the United States as Are You Being Served? Again!) and featured the characters from the original show transplanted into a new setting.
  • After three series of the prison based sit-com Porridge, the main character of Norman Stanley Fletcher was released from prison and the show was retooled as Going Straight. It sees Fletcher trying to re-emerge as a valued member of society, having vowed to stay away from crime on his release.

Support character getting own show (during run)

  • Hercules: The Legendary Journeys spun off Young Hercules, which relates the adventures of Hercules during his teenage years. And more notably, sister show Xena: Warrior Princess, emerged from Hercules, eventually outlasting and out-rating its parent programme.
  • The Dukes of Hazzard spun off TV series Enos starring Deputy Enos Strate. He was invited to Los Angeles to join a special police team after he had caught two infamous criminals in Hazzard. The series was canceled after one season and the character returned to The Dukes of Hazzard.
  • The series A Different World, a spin-off from The Cosby Show, was originally created as a vehicle for Lisa Bonet's character, Denise Huxtable. In an unusual turn of events, even though Bonet was written out of A Different World after the first season and returned to The Cosby Show, Different World continued – and thrived – for another five seasons without her.
  • Trapper John, M.D. was another spin-off from the movie M*A*S*H (when sued by the makers of the series M*A*S*H, the makers of Trapper John proved in court that it was instead a spin-off of the movie).
  • By 2007, the long-running BBC series Doctor Who is the show with the most spun off media, with nine in total. The first was a spin-off pilot made in 1981 based on the character of Sarah Jane Smith called K-9 and Company (the series was not picked up). In 1987 the spin-off Wartime was made, about the adventures of some of the UNIT personnel. The 1995 film Shakedown: Return of the Sontarans features one of the race of Dr. Who villains, but for licensing reasons not the Doctor himself. In the 1990s, Reeltime distributed PROBE, a series of five made-for-video movies featuring Caroline John as her Pertwee-era character, Dr. Elizabeth Shaw. BBV, on their part, produced and released a series of movies based on one of Dr. Who's villains: Auton, Auton 2: Sentinel and Auton 3. In 2006 the BBC launched another spin-off, Torchwood, aimed at a more adult audience and featuring Captain Jack Harkness from the newer series. The Sarah Jane Adventures is currently airing, however it is more child-oriented than Dr Who. K-9 is currently in production, and there is also an animated serial The Infinite Quest.
  • Even reality shows can have spin-offs. Trauma: Life in the E.R. spawned two additional reality shows in the early 2000s from a set of Trauma episodes shot at New Orleans, Louisiana's Charity Hospital, Paramedics and Code Blue New Orleans.
  • Kinnikuman spun off Tatakae!! Ramenman, which depicts Ramenman in his native country of China. However it is not the same Ramenman as in the series and is instead an ancestor of the main Ramenman.
  • Another example of reality series having spin-offs is that, The Hills was spun off of the series Laguna Beach: The Real Orange County centered around castmember Lauren Conrad leaving and moving to LA . At the end of season 4 of The Hills castmember Whitney Port moved to New York City and another spin-off was made called The City.

Support character getting own show (after original series ended)

  • The Green Green Grass was spun off from Only Fools And Horses, featuring the recurring characters of Boycie and Marlene moving from Peckham to the country.
  • Frasier is one of the most critically acclaimed and popular spin-off series of all time, based on the character Dr. Frasier Crane from the American sitcom Cheers. The series ran for eleven seasons (which is how long Cheers ran). The spin-off was arguably more popular than the original series.
  • Mary Tyler Moore spin-off Lou Grant. Unusually, Lou Grant is of a different genre (drama) than its parent show, which was a situation comedy.
  • Trapper John M.D., while being a drama and using a character from the TV M*A*S*H, was actually not a spin-off from the TV comedy-drama M*A*S*H, but was spun off from the more dramatic film (which the TV M*A*S*H was also sourced from).
  • Joey was spun off from long-running show Friends after the show's final season. Focusing on the character Joey Tribbiani, Joey ran for two seasons but was taken off the schedule before airing its final episodes.
  • Cory in the House was spun off after the series That's So Raven ended. It involves Cory and Victor moving to the White House; Raven has appeared as a guest-star.
  • The Suite Life On Deck was spun off after the series The Suite Life of Zack & Cody ended. It involves Zack Martin, Cody Martin, London Tipton and Mr. Moseby staying on a cruise ship.
  • Highlander: The Raven was spun off from Highlander: The Series, featuring the recurring character of Amanda. Highlander: The Series was itself a spin-off from the Highlander film franchise, featuring a relative of the film's protagonist.
  • Angelica and Susie's Pre-School Daze was spun off from Rugrats after the show ended the previous year. Which stars Angelica Pickles and Susie Carmichael along with Harlod in pre-school. It is the second Rugrats spin-off series.
  • Bam Margera got his own show which centered around him & his family, "Viva La Bam".
  • Michael Tse starred in the film Turning Point which was spun off from the TVB serial E.U. after the popularity he gained of portraying his character, "Laughing Gor". The film centers around "Laughing's" life before the events of E.U..

Shows from segments/episodes of anthology series

TV franchises

  • Frasier is a spin-off of the show Cheers and picked up immediately after the original show ended.
  • NCIS is a spin-off with its characters originating from JAG, and has it's own spin-off in NCIS: Los Angeles.
  • The Practice was a TV series that ran for eight seasons on ABC and then was canceled. New characters who were introduced during the later seasons became so popular they became the main characters in a spin-off, Boston Legal, which ran for five more seasons—giving the franchise a 13-year total run. The show shared such similar characters in the same universe, the show began with the working title The Practice: Fleet Street, before the name was changed.
  • Star Trek: The Next Generation, considered by some to be the most popular Star Trek series ever, earned its own spin-offs - Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Star Trek: Voyager. Contrary to popular belief, Star Trek: The Animated Series is not considered to be a spin-off to the original Star Trek, because it is a direct sequel.
  • The Law & Order series has spawned a total of seven spin-offs: Law & Order: Special Victims Unit; Law & Order: Criminal Intent; Crime & Punishment (a documentary series as opposed to scripted drama); the short-lived Trial by Jury; Conviction; Paris enquêtes criminelles, a French adaptation of Criminal Intent; and the British spin-off Law & Order: UK. Special Victims Unit (aka SVU) is an oddity, in that it is technically a spin-off of two different series: the character of Det. John Munch (played by Richard Belzer) actually originated on Homicide: Life on the Street. Prior to SVU's debut, Munch had already been established as part of the Law & Order universe, having appeared in a pair of cross-over arcs between Homicide and the original L&O. It is noteworthy that the Munch character has appeared (in both guest and recurring roles) in a total of eight different television series, a record for a character played by a single actor (see John Munch#Appearances and crossovers); the total will soon become nine because he is scheduled to appear in Paris enquêtes criminelles.
  • CSI, the popular series produced by Jerry Bruckheimer, has produced two spin-offs: CSI: Miami and CSI: NY. CSI: Miami is connected to the original series by a crossover episode, while CSI: NY started in a cross-over episode with CSI: Miami (Miami and NY have had further cross-overs in later seasons, and a three-way crossover is anticipated).
  • The VH1 celebreality show The Surreal Life has led to a long-running franchise of reality shows.
    • The Surreal Life: Fame Games, My Fair Brady, The Salt-N-Pepa Show, and Strange Love.
    • Strange Love spun off three seasons of Flavor of Love'. Additionally, Rock of Love can be seen as a conceptual spin-off of Flavor of Love (other than the similar name, it is a VH1 show featuring contestants vying for the love of a popular musician).
      • Contestants from Rock of Love's first and second seasons went on to appear in Rock of Love: Charm School.
      • Contestant Daisy De La Hoya from Season 2 of Rock of Love spun off her own show "Daisy of Love." It additionally features David Amerman aka 12 Pack from season one of "I Love New York" as a contestant.
      • Contestant Megan Hauserman from Season 2 of Rock of Love spun off her own show Megan Wants a Millionaire, which was canceled due to controversy surrounding contestant Ryan Jenkins.
      • Contestants from the first and second seasons of "Flavor of Love" went on to appear in "Flavor of Love Girls: Charm School". Contestants from the third season went on to appear in "Charm School with Ricki Lake."
      • "Flavor of Love,"'s first and second season contestant, "Tiffany Pollard," went on to two seasons of "I Love New York," in addition to "New York Goes to Hollywood," and "New York Goes to Work."
        • Contestants and brothers Kamal Givens and Ahmad Givens from the first season of "I Love New York" spun off two seasons of their own show, "Real Chance of Love."
          • Contestants from Real Chance of Love went on to appear in Charm School with Ricki Lake.
            • Contestants from Flavor of Love, Rock of Love, I Love New York, and Real Chance of Love (many of whom have also appeared in other shows listed previously) have appeared on the two seasons of I Love Money. A third season was produced, featuring contestants from "Rock of Love", "Real Chance of Love", "Daisy of Love," "Megan Wants a Millionaire," and For the Love of Ray J. It was however canceled prior to airing because of controversy surrounding contestant Ryan Jenkins, who was also rumored to have been the winner.[1]
              • Given the inclusion of contestants from "For the Love of Ray J," in the unaired third season of "I Love Money," it can be inferred that "For the Love of Ray J," is also a spin-off from the Surreal Life spin-off series.
  • The BBC show HolbyBlue is a spin-off of Holby City, which is itself a spin-off of Casualty. All shows are set within the fictional town of Holby, and characters from the various shows often appear in episodes of the other shows.

In film

In video games

In comics

Some notable examples of comic book characters who at first were supporting characters in one comic but then got their own titles include the Smurfs who originated in Johan and Peewit, Marsupilami who first appears in Spirou et Fantasio, and the Legion of Super-Heroes who first appeared in Superboy which in turn was a spin-off from Superman.

Related phenomena


One notable case which is not a spin-off is when the same series is later remade, or re-imagined. Examples include Battlestar Galactica (1978, 2003), He-Man and the Masters of the Universe (1983, 2002), and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1987, 2003).

Television remakes are particularly common as trans-Atlantic ports, where US shows are remade for the UK (see List of U.S. television series remade for the British market) or more frequently, UK shows are remade for a US market (see List of British television series remade for the U.S. market). A particularly interesting example is Three's Company, a US remake of the British Man About The House: not only was the original show re-created (with very few character or situation changes made, at least initially), but both series had spin-offs based on the Ropers (in the UK, George And Mildred, in the US, The Ropers), and both series were eventually re-tooled into series based on the male lead (in the UK, Robin's Nest, in the US, Three's A Crowd).

Another noteworthy (and increasingly common) development is the use of a successful (usually older) television series to be remade as a feature film. Often, these fare badly at the box-office and/or are considered a poor reflection on the source material (e.g. The Beverly Hillbillies, Bewitched, My Favorite Martian, Dudley Do-Right), however, some have gone on to become successful film franchises (e.g. Scooby-Doo, The Addams Family, Mission: Impossible, and Transformers).


Sometimes even where a show is not a spin-off from the other, there will nevertheless be cross-overs, where a character from one show makes an appearance on another. A notable example of this are Ursula and Phoebe Buffay, twin sisters played by Lisa Kudrow who normally are on different shows, Mad About You and Friends respectively, but sometimes meet. This is also done by Ray Romano and Kevin James with Everybody Loves Raymond and King of Queens. Additionally, Romano appeared on an episode of The Nanny where it was revealed that the characters Ray and Fran attended the same high school. Steve Urkel from Family Matters was also shown to be the cousin of one of D.J.'s friends on Full House. The title character from Ally McBeal appeared on episodes of The Practice, both David E. Kelley shows. Steven Harper, the main character from Boston Public who played the principal of a Boston high school, appeared as a client in Boston Legal a year after Boston Public was taken off the air. These two were also David E. Kelley shows. Harper also was represented by Young, Frutt and Berlutti in The Practice, the show that preceded Boston Legal. Therefore, all four shows were in the same universe.

Sometimes (often in the Simpsons and Futurama, which also have a comic series named "Crossover Crisis") characters will appear in the background, often as part of a crowd.

Sometimes crossovers are created in an attempt to provide closure to fans of another failed series. For example, Millennium’s characters Frank & Jordan Black (played by Lance Henriksen and Brittany Tiplady) appeared alongside Fox Mulder and Dana Scully in the X-Files 1999 episode "Millennium" (episode #7.05). This allowed the fans to have some closure, as none was given when Millennium was abruptly canceled prior to the 1999 season.

Sometimes show producers will re-introduce a character from an older series into a later one as a way of providing a connectivity of that particular producer's television "universe". TV producer Glen Larson is particularly known for this; for example, the character of Jonathan Chase (played by Simon MacCorkindale) from Glen Larson's failed 80's show Manimal appeared in an episode of Larson's syndicated 90's series Night Man.


  1. ^ "Jasime Fiore person of interest Ryan Jenkins desperate for cash".  

See also


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