5 Successful Television Series Spinoffs

Some of our favorite television series would not be possible if a character featured on an episode did not register with viewers. Many of the longest-running or popular shows of its times were created as spin-offs from other series. Often times, the spin-offs had greater success and surpassed in viewership with the total number of episodes due to its originality, subject matter, and characters. Some are even said to be making a comeback. Here’s a reminder of some of the most beloved series that were derived as spin-offs. 

Law & order SVU cast
Law & Order filming 2019 | James Devaney/GC Images

The Jeffersons

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The Jeffersons ran for 11 seasons on CBS from 1975 to 1985. With 253 episodes, the show became the longest-running series featuring a primarily African-American cast until Tyler Perry’s House of Payne surpassed The Jeffersons record in 2012 by one episode. The Jeffersons was a spin-off of All In The Family. Their first introduction was in a 1971 episode that centered on The Jeffersons moving next door from The Bunkers and the shock it drew from the All In The Family cast, who were impressed yet perplexed on how an African-American family could afford to live in the working-class section of their neighborhood in Queens, New York. The characters continued to appear on All In The Family until The Jeffersons spin-off premiered in 1975. During the January 11, 1975 episode of All in the Family, Edith Bunker (Jean Stapleton) gave a tearful good-bye to The Jefferson family as they moved from Queens to a high-rise apartment in Manhattan. The Jeffersons premiered the following week. The show was a hit for several reasons. Viewers loved the raw and bold humor from the family patriarch and it was vastly different from the shows of its time as it portrayed a working-class black family. Its content was edgy and the show made history in a myriad of ways. Isabel Sanford, who played Louise Jefferson, won the 1981 Emmy for Best Actress in a Comedy Series in 1981, making her the first African-American actress to win in the category. The Jeffersons was also the first television series to prominently feature a married interracial couple.

Maude

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Another All In The Family spin-off, Maude was the first from the series and starred Beau Arther as the outspoken, middle-aged, feminist woman living in West Chester County, New York. Maude Findlay first appeared in two season-two episodes of All in the Family: the first in 1971 and the second in 1972 which set up the premise of the Maude series. Maude was Edith Bunker’s cousin – a four-time bride whose current husband, Walter Findley (Bill Macy), owns an appliance store. Maude’s critics were split between like and dislike for its controversial subject matters the show tackled during its run. Some of the issues addressed throughout the topical show included alcoholism, politics, gay rights, social drinking, and domestic violence. The show was extremely successful, specifically in the first few seasons but took a big hit in season 4 when it went from the number four spot to 31 in the Neilson ratings. The show did not find an audience after premiering in 1979 and ended shortly after it began.

Family Matters

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A spin-off of Perfect Strangers, Family Matters premiered in 1989 and ran until 1998. The series revolved around The Winslows, a middle-class African-American family living in Chicago, Illinois. With nine seasons, the show became the third longest-running sitcom with a predominantly African-American cast, coming behind Tyler Perry’s House of Payne and The Jeffersons. The show fought to find an audience until the Winslow family introduced their nerdy next-door neighbor, Steve Urkle (Jaleel White), who became the breakout star of the show. Production switched the show’s focus from Winslow’s family matters to centering on their interactions with Urkle and ratings increased. It originally aired on ABC before switching to CBS in its final season. The show tackled a few serious issues, including gun violence, but was primarily clean in content and kid-friendly. As the show progressed, White took on a more prominent role with sub-characters he starred as, including Urkle’s cute alter-ego cousin, Stephan, and his country cousin, Myra. The ratings for Family Matters fell when transitioned to CBS and in the spring of 1998, the show was canceled, with the remaining episodes burned off in the summer.

Frasier

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Created as a spin-off of Cheers, Fraiser told the story of a psychiatrist, Frasier Crane (Kelsey Grammer) as he returned to his hometown of Seattle and transitioned into a career as a radio broadcaster while reconnecting with family and making new friends. During the eighth season of Cheers, Grammer, who also starred in the previous show, made a deal with former Cheers, producers when he knew the series would end and opted to create a new series. Though Grammer was reluctant to continue on the role as Fraiser, he agreed and he show was born with a different twist. The show was critically acclaimed, with the show itself and the cast winning thirty-seven Primetime Emmy Awards, an unprecedented record at the time for a scripted series. The series also won the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Comedy Series for five consecutive years. Frasier is said to be in talks for a revival. 

Law & Order SVU

Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, often abbreviated as Law & Order: SVU, is a spin-off of the Dick Wolf franchise, Law & Order. The show revolves around cases assigned to the Special Victims Unit of a New York City precinct and the detectives’ unorthodox methods used to solve them. The idea for the show originated with the 1986 “preppie murder” case of Robert Chambers, who strangled Jennifer Levin, a woman he dated whom he later killed during what he claimed was consensual “rough sex” in Manhattan’s Central Park. The crime inspired Wolf to write the story for the season one episode of Law & Order but continued to haunt him into creating a separate series revolving around sex crimes and the psychology behind them. The show premiered in 1999 as the second series of the Law & Order franchise. Many of the cases featured on the show are “ripped from the headlines” and inspired by true crimes. Its become the longest-running live-action series on television and has surpassed the number of the parent show. Mariska Hargitay, who stars as Captain Olivia Benson, won the 2006 Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series, making her the first actress or actor to receive an honor by any Law & Order series regular. In May 2019, NBC renewed the series for a record-breaking twenty-first season. 

All of the spin-offs listed are available for viewing on Hulu.