Is it possible for a spin-off series to surpass the original? Perhaps not in most cases, but that doesn’t mean that the spin-off can’t branch out into something entertaining and epic on its own. Creating a spin-off series is always a gamble. You are relying on the fans from the original series to follow the show and create a fan base with its own separate identity as well. While many spin-off series have failed to capture this difficult standard, there have been some that are so memorable that you almost forget that there was an original series that started it all. This really got me thinking about my own favorite spin-off series and why they stand out above the rest. My top 5 favorite spin-off television series of all time are:
The Originals. This show is a spin-off series of the CW’s successful hit, The Vampire Diaries. Klaus Mikaelson and his family of original vampires are introduced as dangerous and worthy villains, but their history is so rich and intriguing, not leaving The Vampire Diaries much room to explore it among its own plot. The Originals is set in New Orleans and fans were pleased to see the Mikaelson family as the center of it all, while introducing new characters as well with just as much complexity. The Originals does not shy away from its roots and all fans know where it started, however; it takes a darker and more historical approach to vampires, allowing viewers to see the full picture of how everything started. After years of watching both series, I came to ultimately prefer The Originals because it was fresher and explored darker elements. Klaus, who was previously shown as a ruthless killer with no remorse, now shows a glimmer of a soul and reveals to us how he became so broken in the midst of family and romantic betrayals.
Melrose Place. This show is a spin-off series of one of my all time favorites, Beverly Hills, 90210. 90210 was such a success and targeted a teenage audience who craved a drama with more depth and complication than your average soap opera. Some fans don’t remember that the very entertaining Melrose Place was actually a spin-off of 90210. Jake is introduced as an old friend of Dylan’s and has a fleeting romantic moment with Kelly, only to decide to ride his motorcycle off to a new town to discover a life of his own. The opening episodes of Melrose Place even feature Kelly coming to find him to see why he had broken their relationship off, strategically hooking in viewers from 90210. While a lot of the love triangles, betrayals, and outrageous plots seem familiar to 90210, Melrose Place did a good job of capturing an old generation of viewers as well, breaking out of the mold of a high school drama and paving the way for many more shows to come.
Angel. A spin-off of the hit TV series, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Joss Whedon recognized that Buffy and Angel’s story was over…or at least put on pause, leaving fans wondering where Angel would go after Buffy graduated and went off to college. Lucky for us, Angel was not done with his destiny just yet, traveling to LA with fan-favorite, Cordelia, to help innocents along the way and even start his own business while doing so, taking on one evil lawyer at a time. In Buffy, Angel’s back story is briefly explored, but his own show allows us to truly see and understand every aspect of his origin. Also, Angel was not able to shine as much in Buffy since he was obviously not the center of the show. Angel’s personality and potential were often stifled in Buffy because the focus was on more of the romantic relationship between them, rather than who Angel truly was or meant to be. This spin-off series did have a strong following and it was lined up right after Buffy on the same night of airings, but Angel did have its own identity and voice, proving that a supporting character could become a principal hero after all.
Better Call Saul. A spin-off of the hit series, Breaking Bad, Better Call Saul is a prequel to the beloved series, focusing primarily on our favorite scheming lawyer, Saul Goodman. This spin-off is one of the most successful ones I have watched and I adore both series. What’s so great about the show is that it introduces important elements and characters that fans recognize from Breaking Bad, giving us a chance to further dive into how everything started in Breaking Bad. However, this does not outshine the incredible acting by Bob Odenkirk who does an excellent job at truly embracing his character. While fans are pleased with his wit and schemes along the way, we begin to fully learn about his past life and what lead him to the decisions he made later in Breaking Bad. Saul demonstrates his work ethic and how much he wanted to be a lawyer and prove to his brother and girlfriend that he is capable of being a good man. This becomes difficult to maintain later on, but it is clear that Saul’s character is deeper and more complex than anyone could have imagined on Breaking Bad, creating something unique and separate from the series it came from.
Xena: Warrior Princess. Who could forget the fabulous and beautiful Xena, played by the brilliant and gorgeous, Lucy Lawless? While fans remember that it is a spin-off of Hercules, this series surpasses it in my opinion. Xena paved the way for strong female leads such as Buffy, proving that a female warrior can be just as dangerous as any man. Xena fights warriors and gods along the way, refusing to back down. Her iconic battle cry is still memorable along with her heart-warming and controversial friendship with her side-kick, Gabrielle. While Xena did air directly after Hercules in the lineup, fans became more excited and hooked by Xena. I did watch both shows and have to admit that once Xena came on, all bets were off. While the show was darker and more violent than Hercules, it was the character of Xena that drew me in. She wasn’t just a hero; she was jaded, and searching for forgiveness. She masked her vulnerability and weakness behind her sword, but the humanity in her provided viewers with a true connection to her character.
I hope you enjoyed the list and feel free to post your thoughts and comments below along with some of your favorite spin-off television series of all time. Happy viewing!
Amy Koto, TV Fanatic Girl