Brooke Horan Williams dives into some of the best (and worst) TV spin-offs of all time.
The television spin-off is a time-honored tradition: when a show is particularly successful, it would be a mistake not to think about how best to possibly capitalize on its popularity. Sometimes this train of thought results in genius, and success that outstrips the original. Maude, Good Times, and The Jeffersons, for example, are three classics that all spun off from the same show, All in the Family. Just because a show is being spun off from a certified hit, however, doesn’t mean you’ve automatically got television gold on your hands (Brooke Horan Williams thinks of Young Sheldon in this case, and probably never in any other for the rest of her life).
When it comes to more recent successes, Brooke Horan Williams points to Daria as an example of a spin-off that was able to find its own unique voice totally separate from its progenitor. First appearing as a character on the MTV classic animated show Beavis and Butthead, Daria’s solo outing couldn’t be more different from the show she originated in. While Beavis and Butthead were famous for their extreme, manic energy and gross-out humor, Daria took a more nihilistic, ironic approach to humor.
The ‘90s weren’t all great for spin-offs, however. In 1995, Baywatch Nights first aired and ran until 1997. Retaining the star power of David Hasselhoff just wasn’t enough to save this insane spin-off. The concept was a simple one, at first: the show traded the sunny beaches for the nightlife, with David Hasselhoff becoming a private detective after the sun goes down. After one season, the format was flipped on its head, and they began introducing paranormal mysteries into every storyline (very much akin to X-Files, but nowhere near as good). Brooke Horan Williams urges anyone to look up the intro to this show on YouTube, as it will definitely provide you with a healthy dose of entertainment.
Perhaps one of the most well-known spin-offs in recent years, Brooke Horan Williams points out, is The Colbert Report. Spun off from The Daily Show, The Colbert Report gave comedian and reporter Stephen Colbert his own show that ran in the timeslot after The Daily Show for years. In the show, Stephen Colbert portrayed a fictional version of himself and satirized political punditry (in particular, Bill O’Reilly was named as an enormous influence on the Colbert character, with Colbert referring to him as “Papa Bear”).
The show was nominated for four Emmys during its first year on air and was nominated every year it was on the air thereafter. The Colbert Report won the Emmy for Outstanding Variety, Music, or Comedy Series in 2013 and 2015, beating The Daily Show and ending its winning streak, which was the longest in Emmys history. It’s safe to say that the success of this show led Stephen Colbert—out of character, this time—to become the host of The Late Show in 2015.
There is solid proof that spin-offs can be as good, if not better than than the original shows they were spun off from. However, Brooke Horan Williams pleads, no more Young Sheldons.