Spin-off (media)

Spin-off (media)

In media, a spin-off, sometimes called a sidequel,[1] is a radio program, television program, video game, or any narrative work, derived from one or more already existing works, that focuses, in particular, in more detail on one aspect of that original work (e.g. a particular topic, character, or event). One of the earliest spin-offs of the modern media era, if not the first, happened in 1941 when the supporting character Throckmorton P. Guildersleeve from the old time radio comedy show Fibber McGee and Molly became the star of his own program The Great Guildersleeve (1941–1957).[2]

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. Sometimes, spin-offs generate their own spin-offs, leaving the new show only vaguely connected to the original series.


Examples of notable spin-offs

Name changes or 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.
  • The main character from All in the Family, Archie Bunker, continued in a retooled version of the series called Archie Bunker's Place.
  • After The Golden Girls ended its run, due to star Bea Arthur's decision to leave the show, the other three stars—Rue McClanahan, Betty White and Estelle Getty—reprised their characters in a follow-up series entitled The Golden Palace. It lasted 24 episodes.
  • 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 11th season of M*A*S*H the seven principal cast members voted whether that season would be the series' last. Following the series' conclusion, the three actors to vote for continuation, William Christopher, Jamie Farr, and Harry Morgan, appeared in the post-war series AfterMASH, which lasted less than two complete seasons.
  • 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.
  • The characters played by Lynda Bellingham and Julia Sawalha in the UK TV series Second Thoughts later reappeared in the series Faith in the Future.
  • 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.
  • At the end of its seventh season, Three's Company became Three's a Crowd following the marriage of Janet (Joyce DeWitt) and the departure of Terri (Priscilla Barnes). Jack (John Ritter) moves in with his girlfriend Vicky (Mary Cadorette) in an apartment above his restaurant, located in a building subsequently bought by her disapproving father (Robert Mandan). This development ended the gay ruse, with Mr. Furley (Don Knotts) taking credit for Jack's "conversion".
  • The cult Nickelodeon hit cartoon franchise The Ren & Stimpy Show was retooled as Ren & Stimpy Adult Party Cartoon which aired on Spike TV and lasted only three episodes.
  • Ben 10: Alien Force is one spin-off 5 years later of Ben 10 Original Series, of course The protagonist with 15-years old.
  • Ben 10: Ultimate Alien is a direct Spin-Off of Ben 10: Alien Force and with extencion of Ben 10, is in more monst of Alien force with a protagonist with 16-years old.

Support character getting own show (during run)

  • Angel was a popular spin-off, based on the character of Angel from Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The series ran for five seasons.
  • Private Practice is a current spin-off of the popular Grey's Anatomy, based around the life of Dr. Addison Montgomery. The spin-off itself, introducing the show's cast, was set up during a season three episode of Grey's Anatomy.
  • All in the Family is responsible for several spin-offs. Maude and The Jeffersons both featured characters that began on All in the Family.
  • The Mary Tyler Moore Show spun off Lou Grant, Rhoda and Phyllis, all of which were supporting characters, as well as several unsuccessful series pilots and one TV movie.
  • 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 animated series Count Duckula was a spin-off of DangerMouse and featured an anthropomorphic vampire duck named Count Duckula (A loose parody of Count Dracula).
  • 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.
  • The only daytime soap opera to spin off a primetime soap is As the World Turns. In 1965, the producers capitalized on the popularity of the character Lisa Miller Hughes and created a limited-run show around her character, called Our Private World. A year after the nighttime show ended, Eileen Fulton, Lisa's portrayer, returned to ATWT, where she remained until the soap's cancellation in 2010.
  • 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. BBC, 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.
  • The Daily Show correspondent Stephen Colbert received his own show The Colbert Report, a parody of shows like The O'Reilly Factor.
  • Family Guy supporting character Cleveland Brown was given his own show called The Cleveland Show.
  • The Andy Griffith Show is an example of several different types of spin-offs. The show itself was a spin-off of The Danny Thomas Show, through a backdoor pilot episode in which Thomas' character was stopped by Sheriff Andy Taylor (Andy Griffith) for speeding in the fictional town of Mayberry, North Carolina. When The Andy Griffith Show proved successful, the supporting character of Gomer Pyle (Jim Nabors) was spun off into Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C. Finally, when Griffith left the show in 1967, it was re-tooled for three more seasons as Mayberry R.F.D.
  • 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.
  • Family Matters is a spin off of Perfect Strangers. Carl Winslow, the main character of Family Matters, was featured in an episode of Perfect Strangers. Wife, Harriot Winslow, was a regular cast member as the elevator operator in "Perfect Strangers".

Supporting 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. Horses are his favorite animal!
  • 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 (the same number of seasons as Cheers).
  • 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 spin 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, featuring recurring characters Angelica Pickles, Susie Carmichael and Harold in pre-school. It is the second Rugrats spin-off series, following All Grown Up.
  • Following Jackass, 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.. He later also starred in the TV series Lives of Omission which centers around "Laughing 's" life after the events of E.U..
  • The character Sheen Estevez from The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius stars in a spin-off known as Planet Sheen. Sheen crashes on an alien planet known as Zeenu after barrowing a rocket from Jimmy Neutron. After destroying his rocket by crashing into the alien [antagonist]] Dorkus's home, he has to fix his broken rocket to get back to Earth.

Shows from segments/episodes of anthology series

TV franchises

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 and Jack of Fables which was a spin-off from the DC Vertigo comic Fables.

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 British television programmes based on American television series) or more frequently, UK shows are remade for a US market (see List of American television series based on British television series). 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, and Mission: Impossible).


Sometimes even where a show is not a spin-off from another, there will nevertheless be cross-overs, where a character from one show makes an appearance on another. A notable example of this is 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.

See also


  1. ^ [1]
  2. ^ Dunning, John R (1998). On the Air: The Encyclopedia of Old Time Radio, Oxford University Press US, ISBN 0195076788, p. 293.
  3. ^ "Jasime Fiore person of interest Ryan Jenkins desperate for cash". http://blog.zap2it.com/frominsidethebox/2009/08/jasmine-fiore-person-of-interest-ryan-jenkins-desperate-for-cash.html. 

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