20 Best TV Spin-Offs – Rolling Stone
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20 Best TV Spin-Offs

From Mork to Maude, these were the shows that proved the second time’s a charm

Kelsey Grammer in ‘Frasier’, Robin Williams in ‘Mork and Mindy’ and Michael Dorn in ‘Star Trek: The Next Generation.'

Kelsey Grammer in ‘Frasier’, Robin Williams in ‘Mork and Mindy’ and Michael Dorn in ‘Star Trek: The Next Generation.'

Everett

We’ve been waiting for months now, anxiously pacing around our living rooms and marking off our calendars — and finally, this Sunday and Monday, we’ll get our first look at the highly anticipated, two-part premiere of the Breaking Bad spin-off Better Call Saul. The question is not whether this prequel series about the misadventures of Walter White’s shady attorney will be better than Breaking — roughly 99 percent of TV shows out there wouldn’t meet that standard, so we’re not going to judge it on that merit. Rather, it’s whether Saul will become one of those shows that sprung from a former TV hit and then went on to achieve small-screen glory on its own.

The landscape is littered with great spin-offs (and, frankly, a good deal of wretched ones as well), so while we wait to see where Vince Gilligan and Bob Odenkirk’s show falls on the spectrum, we’re looking back at the 20 best TV spin-offs of all time. Whether it was taking a supporting character and elevating him of her to star status, or simply continuing to mine a show’s universe for more adventures, these are the ones that set the bar for how to do it right.

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‘Frasier’

Imagined as a third corner of a love triangle involving Cheers' Sam Malone and his employee/bantering partner Diane Chambers, Dr. Frasier Crane was everything the show's resident alpha male was not: pompous, cerebral, and a "perfect" match for the braniac barmaid. He eventually evolved from being a stock stuffed shirt to key part of the show, though we wouldn't have picked Crane as a natural for his own sitcom.

So when Cheers' producers announced they were creating a show around Kelsey Grammer's psychiatrist and relocating him to the Pacific Northwest, visions of The Tortellis redux danced through folks' heads. Imagine our surprise, then, when the result turned into what many consider to be one of the greatest network sitcoms of all time — the equivalent of a screwball comedy pleasurably stretched out over 11 seasons. Partnered with his equally pretentious brother Niles (David Hyde Pierce earned every one of his 11 Emmy nominations and four wins), Frasier suddenly blossomed as a character; it's as if this was the show he was meant to be on all along. Throw in theater veteran John Mahoney's crusty ex-cop dad and ex-Benny Hill Show eye candy Jane Leeves as daffy caregiver Daphne, as well as one of the wittiest writers' rooms around, and you had a series that quickly set the bar for small-screen superiority. Just try and find another spin-off worth its weight in tossed salads and scrambled eggs. DF

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