The More The Merrier — And Funnier: 15 Of The Best Television Spin-offs
Some things are so great, so classic, so epic that they don’t need to be repeated. That wasn’t the case with these incredible spin-offs. From “Family Matters” to “Melrose Place,” television has seen some wonderful follow-ups that made us laugh, made us cry, and made us fall head over heels in love with some very special characters, like they were the originals. Check out this list of the most amazing spin-offs to ever grace out TV screens.
A Different World
There really was no other show we could have kicked things off with other than “A Different World.” A huge part of all of our upbringings, “The Cosby Show” spin-off followed a group of students at the fictional HBCU Hillman College as they worked, played and grew up. The show tackled issues as diverse as war, politics, the AIDS epidemic, racism and sexual violence in a way that was accessible, yet meaningful to its audience. And of course it had its light-hearted moments (don’t tell us you didn’t melt when Dwayne and Whitley got together).
The Game (Seasons 1-3)
A spin-off of “Girlfriends,” “The Game” (at least seasons 1-3) was a must-watch during its days on UPN. The series starred the lovely Tia Mowry as Melanie Barnett, a medical student who moves to San Diego to be with her boyfriend Derwin Davis, a pro football player with the San Diego Sabres. Comedy and a solid amount of drama ensue. While it was a shame to watch the show’s slow decline, we can certainly reflect fondly on the good old days of “The Game”.
Love & Hip-Hop: Atlanta
We decided to keep the reality shows to a minimum in our countdown, but we couldn’t help but include “Love & Hip-Hop: Atlanta”. The original “Love & Hip-Hop” was obviously entertaining, but its spin-off took entertainment to a whole new level. From Stevie J.’s indiscretions to former “Flavor of Love” standout Buckeey, this show has drama, laughs and everything in between. Definitely a winner in our eyes.
For 11 glorious seasons “The Jeffersons” gave us a lifetime of laughs. Whether it was likeable Louise “Weezy” Jefferson’s fun quips or George Jefferson and Florence’s back and forth banter, “The Jeffersons” remains one of the most beloved sitcoms in the annals of television history. Though not as politically-charged as “All in the Family,” the series still managed to address important social issues while being humorous, light-hearted and most of all, well-executed. And, come on now, who didn’t adore Sherman Hemsley back then?
We never thought a Countess Vaughn project would make a “best” list, but here we are naming “The Parkers” among television’s best spin-offs. The sister series to “Moesha,” “The Parkers” followed the adventures of Kim and Nikki (played by Mo’Nique) Parker as they attend Santa Monica College together. Sure it wasn’t an incredible work of comedic genius, but it was still very entertaining.
Now you all knew only good things would come from the minds that brought us “90210.” So it wasn’t long after the show started to dominate the ratings that we were treated to some very big drama in a very special apartment complex. “Melrose Place” featured one of the most memorable cast of characters to ever hit late-night. From the very bad Amanda Woodward to the very, very attractive Jake Hanson to the crazy, crazy Kimberly Shaw, “Melrose Place” had a little something, something for everyone. There is little denying that Melrose certainly put the pleasure in guilty pleasure for generations of soap opera fans.
The Real Housewives of Atlanta
As we mentioned earlier, we’re keeping the reality shows to a minimum, but we had to throw “The Real Housewives of Atlanta” among our favorites. A spin-off from the original “The Real Housewives of Orange County,” the show has had more infighting and more drama than we could have ever hoped for from these Georgia peaches.
The Facts of Life
You all can thank the wonderful Mrs. Garrett for this classic spin-off. An off-shoot of “Diff’rent Strokes,” “The Facts of Life” focused on housemother Edna Garrett and four girls (Jo, Blair, Tootie and Natalie) in her care. The show touched upon the requisite storylines of growing up: boys, peer pressure, gossip, etc., but in a way that was definitely new to its 1980s audience. And we have to give props to each of the young actresses (we see you, Kim Fields) who clocked in some impressive performances. Kind of a shame most of them ran into a career roadblock when the series finally came to an end.
The Colbert Report
Though not officially a spin-off, “The Colbert Report” certainly receives a prominent spot on our countdown. When conservative correspondent Stephen Colbert decided to defect from Jon Stewart’s “The Daily Show,” no one could have guessed that his show “The Colbert Report” would rival its mother series. Spreading his faux hateration of liberals far and wide, Colbert managed to do what Stewart had done: Revolutionize the way that an entire generation interacts with politics. If that doesn’t secure Stephie boy a spot on our list, we don’t know what will.
Dy-no-mite. Sorry, we couldn’t help ourselves. For six glorious seasons throughout the 1970s, “Good Times” was the show to watch in every black household. A spin-off of “Maude,” “Good Times” focused on Florida and James Evans and their children as they lived in an inner-city housing project. The show, which featured such talents as Esther Rolle, John Amos, and a pint-sized Janet Jackson, was a huge step forward in showing that a successful television show could depict a strong black family. Though the show would end less successful than when it first started, that does little to detract from the impact that “Good Times” had on future generations of black sitcoms.
No matter where you were from, “Family Matters” was a must-watch throughout the early 90s. The “Perfect Strangers” spin-off centered on the Winslow family and their dealings with nerdy neighbor Steve Urkel. Sure, in retrospect, it was ridiculously hokey and cliche. Sure the acting chops of most of the cast could easily be called into question. But there was something special about that show. Those after-school special messages and the absurdity of the situations Steve, Eddie and Laura found themselves in were fabulous. But the show was a trailblazer for African-American sitcoms and continues to hold a very special place in all of our hearts.
The Cleveland Show
The only animated spin-off to make our countdown, “The Cleveland Show” sprung from the comedic genius that is Seth MacFarlane as an off-shoot of “Family Guy”. Though it’s pretty much the brown version of “Family Guy” (complete with a ridiculous baby man — what up, Rallo), it’s still really, really funny and more importantly, very well done. Rather than trying to appeal to the lowest common denominator, “The Cleveland Show” takes a snarky, intelligent look at pop culture, trying to entertain audiences while also giving them a well-thought out analysis of things they encounter in their everyday life. Here’s to hoping “The Cleveland Show” continues its good work.
Probably not the first show to pop into your mind when it comes to awesome spin-offs, but “Angel” certainly held its own when it broke off from Joss Whedon’s popular “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.” Focusing on Buffy’s love interest, brooding vampire heartthrob angel (played by yummy philanderer David Boreanaz), the show followed several members of the fang gang to Los Angeles to engage in all forms of otherworldly shenanigans. Though the latter seasons may have been more on the questionable side (mother-son-like fornicating creeped us out), the series on a whole was definitely a success and a tribute to its predecessor.
Law & Order: SVU
There was a time not too long ago when it seemed as if every week a new “Law & Order” series was hitting the airwaves. Think what you may about the majority of those spin-offs, there’s no denying that “Law & Order: SVU” was leaps and bounds above the rest. Chronicling the work of Detectives Elliot Stabler and Olivia Benson, “Law & Order: SVU” managed to combine a likeable and wildly talented cast with storylines that were interesting, informative, relevant and often times ripped from the headlines. The show, though it has fallen prey to its share of cliched endings, has attacked sensitive subject matter in a smart way that breathed new life into the “Law & Order” brand.
Kenan and Kel
“Kenan and Kel” is probably the least-critically praised of any show on our list. Actually, it probably received no critical praise. But that doesn’t diminish the special place that mother show “All That” and spin-off “Kenan and Kel” had in all of our hearts growing up. Whether it was the off-beat humor or the glimmer of promise that we saw in Kenan Thompson, “Kenan and Kel” did provide some solid pre-teen/teenage entertainment during its four-year run on Nickelodeon.