"'Spinoff!' Is there any word more thrilling to the human soul?"
—Troy McClure, The Simpsons, "The Simpsons Spin-Off Showcase"
Spinoffs are when part of a successful show, usually characters, but sometimes a general concept (first you have the Law, then you have the Order), are taken and given a second show of their own.
From a producer's perspective, it's a chance to explore other aspects of a concept. Actors can find opportunities to grow in their craft, as well as rise in importance by moving from just being part of an ensemble to having a show built around them. For the networks, it's a chance to establish a show with a built-in audience, making it that much easier for them to sell advertising.
Lots of spinoffs go on to be successful shows in their own right, sometimes even surpassing the parent series in popularity. Others crash and burn (Joanie Loves Chachi, anyone?), suggesting that there is no such thing as a sure thing. Nevertheless, networks keep trying them.
There are several main types of spinoffs:
- Where a character leaves a show and the two run concurrently. Characters Crossover from time to time.
- Where a show comes to an end and a character from it is given his or her own new show. Provides an opportunity to Retool the character as well.
- Where a character is brought on to an existing show simply in order to be spunoff, hopefully making some of the original audience into viewers of the new show (See Poorly-Disguised Pilot).
- The main character is revisited elsewhere in his narrative.
- Reimaginings - the concept is carried into a new show with the same basic premise but other factors and characters are completely new.
- Segment spin-offs - a recurring segment from the show becomes the main attraction.
- A type of Defictionalization - a Show Within a Show gets made into a real show of its own.
- The storyline on one show comes to an end, only to be continued in a new show with a different name.
- Official Fanzine Show - a trope usually applying to Reality TV, usually offering Behind The Scenes info or coverage that wouldn't fit into the main programme, often (but not always) broadcast immediately after the main show, on a sister channel.
- Online Spin-Off - A spin-off that's only shown online, sometimes overlaps with Segment Spin-Off, sometimes a spin-off In Name Only. Generally only an advert for the broadcast programme.
- Shared Continuity - more common nowadays, this spinoff generally carries no characters over from the show that spawned it, though both are in the same continuity that allows for Crossovers from the original.
Spinoffs are Older Than You Think. Plantagenet Palliser was a minor character in The Small House at Allington, one of the novels in the Barchester series by Anthony Trollope. Plantagenet Palliser became one of the main characters of Trollope's Palliser series, written in the 1860's and 1870's. And earlier than that, the character of Falstaff, from Henry IV parts 1 and 2, was given his own play, at Royal request, by Shakespeare.
Cases where a character leaves a show and the two run concurrently
Anime and Manga
- Fist of the North Star (Hokuto no Ken) has a series of spinoff works known as the Hokuto no Ken Gaiden series, which centers around side-characters from the original manga, depicting what happened to them prior to the events of Hokuto no Ken, although they do deviate from canon a bit. Almost all of them, with the exception of Yuria Gaiden, were published in Weekly Comic Bunch (the manga anthology that serializes Souten no Ken) at the time the Legends of the True Savior movies were released.
- Dallas → Knots Landing
- Interestingly enough, Knots Landing was actually shopped first to CBS, but rejected. When Dallas took off, they inserted one of the Ewing brothers and re-shopped KL as a spin-off.
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer → Angel
- Doctor Who → K-9 and Company, Torchwood, The Sarah Jane Adventures and K9
- Note that K9 does not fulfill the "crossover" aspect of this type of spin-off, as it was not produced by the BBC.
- Hercules: The Legendary Journeys → Xena: Warrior Princess
- Grey's Anatomy → Private Practice
- All in The Family, was the king of this trope and spun off no fewer than three shows some of which had their own spinoffs!: The Jeffersons, Maude, and Maude's housekeeper Florida, was spun off into Good Times. It also was an example of #8 below, as All In The Family became Archie Bunker's Place. Similarly, but less successfully, the Jeffersons' housekeeper Florence received her own spin-off Checking In which was cancelled after one season.
- Archie Bunker's Place itself had a one season spin-off Gloria that featured Archie's daughter Gloria , having divorced Mike, starting a new life in New York.
- The Daily Show → The Colbert Report
- The Mary Tyler Moore Show → Rhoda and Phylis.
- Happy Days → Joanie Loves Chachi
- Family Ties → The Art of Being Nick
- Perfect Strangers → Family Matters
- Upstairs, Downstairs → Thomas and Sarah
- Star Trek: The Next Generation → Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
- The Dukes of Hazzard → Enos
- Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney → Ace Attorney Investigations, featuring the prosecutor from the first game as the main character.
Cases where a show comes to an end and a character from it is given his or her own new show
- Triangle Heart 3 ～sweet songs forever～ → Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha (see From the Ashes)
- Fate/stay night → Fate/kaleid liner Prisma Illya
- After Fist of the North Star ended, subsequent gaiden animes set in the verse focused on characters such as Raoh, Yuria, Jagi and others.
- A Certain Magical Index → A Certain Scientific Railgun, starring the Unknown Rival. It also shares continuity as the two series happen in parallel.
- A Certain Magical Index → A Certain Magical Index: New Testament, a sequel to the original novels with side character Shiage Hamazura becoming a primary cast member.
- The fourth Pirates of the Caribbean movie starts a completely new plotline which goes completely unmentioned and contains only three characters from the first three.
- Cheers → Frasier
- Friends → Joey
- The Mary Tyler Moore Show → Lou Grant.
- Homicide: Life on the Street → Law & Order: Special Victims Unit (Homicide and Law and Order were already a Shared Continuity before John Munch and Captain Cragen transferred to SVU from those respective shows.)
- Peter Kay's Phoenix Nights → Max & Paddy's Road To Nowhere
- Inspector Morse → Lewis (A minor Time Skip, with the series picking up in 2007 after Inspector Morse ended in 2000.)
- That's So Raven → Cory in The House (A small Time Skip. CITH takes place some time after TSR, after Raven goes to college.)
- Caerdydd → Gwaith Cartref. (Neither Emyr nor Sara mentions Lea, Peter, or any of the other characters from the earlier show – which is strange, given how it ended.)
- The Flintstones → The Pebbles & Bamm-Bamm Show
- The finale of Hong Kong Phooey featured three inept cowboys who were unofficially named "Posse Impossible". Three years later they would get a cartoon of their own as a segment of the 1977 show CB Bears.
- The Archie Comedy Hour → Sabrina and The Groovie Goolies
- The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron → Planet Sheen
- Shrek→ Puss in Boots (a variation since its a prequel)
Anime and Manga
- Betterman → Betterman Legends
Cases where the main character is revisited elsewhere in his narrative
- There was a Manga called Ten, which was about mahjong being serious business, there was a character called Akagi which was an awesome old man who the characters feared and respected, the character was so popular the author made an spinoff prequel series focused on Akagi's early life, at one point he meets his match in an old man called Washizu, who was so popular the author made a spinoff series focused on Washizu's early life (yes, Fukumoto made a spinoff of a spinoff).
- Naruto → Rock Lee's Springtime Of Youth
- One Piece → Chopperman
- M*A*S*H → AfterMASH
- The Golden Girls → The Golden Palace
- Three's Company → Three's a Crowd
- The Suite Life of Zack and Cody → The Suite Life On Deck
- The Andy Griffith Show → Mayberry RFD (Mixed with Poorly-Disguised Pilot)
- All in The Family → Archie Bunker's Place → 704 Hauser a long forgotten 90s show that featured a new (and black) family living in the Bunkers' house, with a role reversal of the original series' dynamic, that last only six episodes.
- Da Vinci's Inquest → Da Vinci's City Hall
- Five Fwd is this for Channel Five's The Gadget Show and Fifth Gear - the former features a formalised news segment which has never been part of the main programme with a different presenter and games reviews and interviews with one of the regular presenters- something that rarely appears in the show proper.
- Monk → Little Monk
- Ugly Betty → Mode After Dark
- Offspring → The Nurses
- 30 Rock → Frank vs Lutz and Jack Donaghy: Executive Superhero.
- A concrete anime example is To Heart 2, which takes place in the same school as the original To Heart, only that it is set three years after. Some nods and cameos reinforce this.
- Puella Magi Madoka Magica has Puella Magi Kazumi Magica. Its other spin-off, Puella Magi Oriko Magica is either a Prequel or an Interquel.
- Please Twins! is set one year after the events of Please Teacher!, it shares most locations and many of the first anime characters come back either as cameo or secondary characters.
- Waiting in the Summer is set in the same universe, with no (or possibly one) returning characters.
- The Mighty Thor: Has a interesting relationship with Journey into Mystery. Thor debuted in Journey into Mystery and headlined it for a while before taking over the title completely and later getting another series. 49 years after his debut, Journey into Mystery is introduced as a spin-off taking over Thor's numbering and Thor gets another series.
- Fantastic Four: After the death of a prominent member of the book, the book ended at issue 588 and was revamped as FF ("FF" in the title standing for Future Foundation). After 11 issues of FF, Marvel revived the Fantastic Four for issue 600 (the previous issues being FF) and it will continue forward with FF also being released concurrently focusing on the non-Fantastic Four members of the Future Foundation.
- Mercy Thompson Series and Alpha and Omega, along with a few short stories set in the same unvierse.
- Most Star Trek series.
- Stargate Atlantis and Stargate Universe
- The various CSI and Law and Order spinoffs.
- The first seven seasons of Power Rangers used the few characters variant, starting with Lightspeed Rescue, they used the no character variant, all set in the same universe, with characters only returning for team-up episodes (except for Power Rangers Dino Thunder and Power Rangers Samurai, where Tommy and Bulk returned as main characters, respectively).
- Eureka and Warehouse 13 are established as a shared canon during an episode on each show in which each had a character visiting from the other.