The 10 best (and five worst) TV spinoffs of all time

Lainey Lewis (AJ Michalka), left, and Principal Glascott (Tim Meadows) are moving from "The Goldbergs" to its '90s-something spinoff, "Schooled."

If at first you do succeed, try, try again.

Television spinoffs, which seem to have been around since the invention of the cathode-ray tube, are in the spotlight again with this week's premieres of ABC's "Schooled" (Wednesday, 8:30 EST/PST), which jumps from '80s-something "The Goldbergs" into the next decade, and Freeform's "Good Trouble" (Tuesday, 8 EST/PST), which follows two of the now grown-up kids from "The Fosters," now in Los Angeles.  

Of the legion of offshoot alternatives, some have spun peripheral concepts into gold. Others simply became canceled dross. Our take on the best and the worst:   

The best

Host Stephen Colbert appears during the "Been There: Won That: The Returnification of the American-Do Troopscapeon" special of The Colbert Report in New York City.

'The Colbert Report' (Comedy Central) 

There's a reason Comedy Central has been having such trouble filling the post-"Daily Show" timeslot in recent years – nothing can be better than the original. "The Colbert Report" seems more like a fact of life than a spinoff in retrospect, but its origins are in Stephen Colbert's Bill O'Reilly parody from his time as a correspondent on "The Daily Show." Only a comedian with Colbert's talent could take a one-joke persona and turn it into multiple seasons of successful television, books and marches on Washington. When the comedian put aside his frameless glasses to helm CBS's "The Late Show," we lost more than a half-hour of weekly comedy. We lost the "Stephen Colbert" we'd come to love.

'The Good Wife' alum Christine Baranski, left, Audra McDonald and Rose Leslie star in the CBS All Access spinoff, 'The Good Fight.'

'The Good Fight' (CBS All Access)

If there's one gleaming reason for the CBS All Access streaming service to exist, it's this wonderful spinoff of CBS drama "The Good Wife." "The Good Fight" gave Christine Baranski's Diane Lockhart her own forum as she and Chicago's best lawyers attempt to function in the post-President Trump era. The series has everything that made "Wife" great, and none of the tics that made it frustrating. Plus, free of the FCC broadcast restrictions, "Fight" is dirtier and more profane than its predecessor, and unapologetic about political storylines. At this point, "Wife" feels like it was just a warmup for creators Robert and Michelle King.


'Daria' (MTV) 

The sullen teen Daria Morgendorffer (voiced by Tracy Grandstaff) appeared sporadically on "Beavis and Butt-head," but in her own series, she finally began to shine (although she was still pretty sullen). The clever series, which lampooned the idea that someone would actually like high school, has achieved cult status over the years, and Daria has given voice to a generation of disaffected, too-cool-for-school '90s kids.

Lucy Lawless, left, played the iconic title character in 'Xena: Warrior Princess,' a spinoff of 'Hercules: The Legendary Journeys.'

'Xena: Warrior Princess' (Syndicated) 

Few probably remember "Hercules: The Legendary Journeys," but its spinoff, "Xena: Warrior Princess," is a pop-culture touchstone that's easily identifiable even if you've never seen an episode. "Xena" outstripped "Hercules" in every way, from the magnetic talent of stars Lucy Lawless and Renee O'Connor to its irresistible campiness. 

'Angel' star David  Boreanaz as the centuries-old vampire who has been cursed with a conscience.

'Angel' (WB) 

Before he was an FBI agent or a Navy SEAL, David Boreanaz was Angel, a 200-year-old vampire with a soul, a brooding, gorgeous love interest for Buffy Summers (Sarah Michelle Gellar) on "Buffy the Vampire Slayer." Recognizing Boreanaz's star potential early, "Buffy" creator Joss Whedon spun him off into this darker, more mature take on the supernatural than "Buffy." "Angel" was never quite as good as "Buffy," but it skated through many peaks, valleys and cast changes because of Boreanaz's charm. 

Sherman Hemsley and Isabel Sanford in "The Jeffersons" (1975-85), which was spun off from "All in the Family."

‘Maude,’ ‘Good Times’ and ‘The Jeffersons’ (CBS)

These three 1970s sitcoms form the greatest group of spinoffs, all descending from Norman Lear’s masterpiece “All in the Family.” The trio dealt with the same hot-button social issues that revolutionized TV in that era. We rate “Maude” at the top of the pyramid, based on Beatrice Arthur’s tour de force performance as a liberal suburbanite waging an early war against the patriarchy while battling her own prejudices and hubris. “Good Times” was the rare show that looked at the struggles of a poor black family led by Maude's former maid, the powerful Florida (Esther Rolle), before it was “dyn-o-mited” by the success of Jimmie Walker’s catchphrase. “The Jeffersons” touched on race, prosperity and pursuit of the American dream, but compact powerhouse George Jefferson (Sherman Helmsley) also brought a physical humor that just made us laugh.   

James Spader, left, and William Shatner formed a magical partnership on 'The Practice' spinoff, 'Boston Legal.'

'Boston Legal' (ABC)

The city stayed the same, and so did the setting – a law firm – but David E. Kelley’s offbeat “Boston Legal” succeeded largely because tonally, it was worlds apart from “The Practice,” a serious, frequently dark look at gritty legal maneuvering. The wry James Spader succeeded earnest Dylan McDermott on “Practice” before embracing the comic quirkiness of “Legal”  and his larger-than-life tango partner, William Shatner. Their patio tete-a-tetes offered the ultimate in verbal jousting.

"Frasier" - which featured John Mahoney, left, Jane Leeves, Kelsey Grammer and Peri Gilpin - was a "Cheers" spinoff that became arguably TV's greatest comedy of manners.

‘Frasier’ (NBC)

“Frasier” wouldn’t have succeeded had it tried to outdo “Cheers,” one of the greatest workplace comedies of all time. The spinoff took stuffy psychologist Frasier Crane (the brilliant Kelsey Grammer), a lesser character whose pomposity and anxiety offered great comic possibility, and moved him from a Boston bar to a Seattle apartment (and radio station, but it thrived at home). With the additions of David Hyde Pierce, Jane Leeves, John Mahoney and Peri Gilpin, “Frasier” became TV’s best comedy of manners, cranking out 263 episodes (a record for studio-audience comedies recently surpassed by “The Big Bang Theory”), many of which would have been the toast of Broadway.

Rhea Seehorn, left, and Bob Odenkirk are two of the reasons AMC's "Better Call Saul," a descendant of the great "Breaking Bad," has become one of TV's best spinoffs.

'Better Call Saul' (AMC)

Spinning off a critical and popular series makes sense, but carries risk: You’ll always be compared to the original. But “Breaking Bad” progeny “Better Call Saul” has been an unqualified success. Like “Frasier,” it focuses on a minor character, Bob Odenkirk’s delightfully shady lawyer Jimmy McGill (later Saul Goodman), but it takes the opposite tack, going backward to retrofit an origin story that eventually ends with Saul's introduction to the world of “Bad’s” Walter White. So far, so good, and with "Bad" alum Jonathan Banks and Rhea Seehorn delivering stellar performances, we’re belted in for seedy Saul’s trip to the bottom.

Before becoming city editor of the Los Angeles Tribune on 'Lou Grant,' Grant (Edward Asner), right, was the news director at WJM-TV in Minneapolis on 'The Mary Tyler Moore Show.'

'Lou Grant' (CBS)

In his comedic form, irascible Minneapolis TV news director Lou Grant (Edward Asner) physically threw inane  anchorman Ted Baxter out of the station on “The Mary Tyler Moore Show.” In his dramatic form, he became a serious newspaper editor at Los Angeles’s Tribune, managing a staff of muckrakers when journalism was enjoying its post-Watergate glow. “Lou Grant” pulled off the ultimate switcheroo as an hour-long drama spun from a sitcom. Gruff, beloved Lou thrived in both environs, earning Asner Emmys in comedy and drama categories.

Goodnight, Mr. Grant: Ed Asner, seven-time Emmy winner, TV's beloved Lou Grant and star of 'Up,' dies at 91

The worst 

Matt LeBlanc as Joey Tribbiani, Drea De Matteo as Gina on "Joey."

'Joey' (NBC) 

Poor Matt Le Blanc. He gets an A for effort, but "Joey" was doomed from the start, an ill-advised spinoff of one of the most successful sitcoms of all time. Part of what made "Friends" work was that it was a well-balanced show that (most of the time) didn't let its over-the-top personalities overpower one another. With Joey Tribbiani at the center, the action moved from New York to L.A. and an annoying cast of characters was thrown in, leaving nothing about "Joey" that remotely approached the brilliance of "Friends." Just pretend his story ended with the deconstruction of the foosball table in the "Friends" finale. 

Jennifer Love Hewitt moved on from 'Party of Five' to the short-lived 'Time of Your Life.'

'Time of Your Life' (Fox) 

Jennifer Love Hewitt was the most famous cast member on "Party of Five," but she was also the most boring, making her a poor candidate to hold down her own spinoff. "Time of Your Life" was a dull drag from the very beginning. Removing the family dynamic by sending Sarah (Hewitt) to New York, and giving her a generic bunch of young-adult friends (played by Jennifer Garner and Pauley Perrette), only made things worse. 

Esai Morales played Joseph Adama in the 'Battlestar Galactica' spinoff, 'Caprica.'

'Caprica' (Syfy) 

"Caprica" was everything the beautiful, politically clever and haunting "Battlestar Galactica" wasn't: Trite, boring and phony. A prequel that showed the universe of the series before the nuclear apocalypse that kicked off "Galactica" was full of potential. Yet the final product lacked the innovation that made its parent series great.

Scott Baio and Erin Moran in the 1983 television series "Joanie Loves Chachi."

‘Joanie Loves Chachi’ (ABC) 

The problem here? Too little and too late. The 1982 not-so-“Happy Days” spinoff featured two of the least-interesting characters, Richie’s little sister, Joanie (Erin Moran) and Fonzie Lite Chachi Arcola (Scott Baio). It premiered a full five years after the “Happy Days” episode that originated the phrase “jumping the shark,” proving the original was out of ideas long before this spinoff got rolling, never a good sign. And let’s face it: Chachi’s “Wah-wah-wah” can’t hold a candle to Fonzie’s “Aaaaaay!”

Father Mulcahy (William Christopher), left front, Colonel Potter (Harry Morgan), center, and Corporal Klinger (Jamie Farr), right, fared better in war on 'M*A*S*H' than in peace on 'AfterMASH.'

‘AfterMASH’ (CBS) 

Colonel Potter (Harry Morgan), Father Mulcahy (William Christopher) and Corporal Klinger (Jamie Farr) were beloved supporting characters on one of TV’s greatest comedies, “M*A*S*H,” but a stateside VA hospital paled next to the Korean War as a sitcom setting.  Without Hawkeye, B.J. or Margaret Houlihan, the trio couldn’t support the comedy by themselves. And after 200 or so episodes of “M*A*S*H,” there may not have been much left of interest to reveal, either. The title itself suggests more a schedule placeholder than an actual series, which may have been the problem.The smarter move would have been not to re-enlist.

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