7 TV Shows You Didnt Know Were Spinoffs

Published: 18 November 2013

spinoff shows

TV spinoffs are a tricky venture. Yes, you often get a built-in audience already familiar with the character and ready to jump ship to something new. But it doesn’t always work. Remember Joey? I know, we’re also still trying to forget.

Everyone knows the famous spinoffs – Frasier was a spinoff of Cheers; Angel a spinoff of Buffy; NCIS LA is a spinoff of, erm… oh, what’s the name of it… oh ya, NCIS! But there are a few beloved shows that grew to be so much more popular than their source that everyone straight up forgot that they were actually spinoffs. Like these:

1. Melrose Place (Spun from Beverly Hills 90210)

melrose place 

Everybody remembers Melrose Place and the incredibly angelic Heather Locklear. But what everyone doesn’t remember is that it owes its origins to Beverly Hills 90210. Melrose Place was conceived by creator Aaron Spelling as an older, “sexier” version of the 90s teen favourite 90210. The introduction of Melrose characters first happened in 90210 when young Kelly fell for the older Jake, the main character of the “about to be launched” Melrose Place.


2. Models Inc. (Spun from Melrose Place)

models inc 

It all gets a bit “Inception” here, when the spinoff spun off its own spinoff. Towards the end of Season 2 of Melrose, Amanda (Heather Locklear) was reunited with her long-estranged mother Hillary (Linda Gray), who was the owner of a modelling agency. The rest is TV history, with spinoff Models Inc. becoming one of the greatest TV shows in history.

No, just kidding, it lasted one season.


3. Mork and Mindy (Spun from Happy Days)

mork and mindy 

This much-loved sitcom saw Robin Williams as a strange alien from the planet Ork that landed on Earth in a spaceship shaped like an egg. (To be fair, it was the 70s). But this wasn’t the first time audiences had seen Mork. The character first appeared in Season 5 of serial spin-off creator Happy Days, when Mork attempted to take Richie Cunningham back to Ork as a human guinea pig, but is foiled by The Fonz! Aaaaaay!

Don’t worry though, as it turned out by the end of the episode, it was all a dream... (This was back when this was considered a viable ending for anything).


4. Happy Days (Spun from Love, American Style)

happy days 

Happy Days is famous for creating spinoffs. Besides Mork & Mindy, it spun out six other shows, including Laverne & Shirley and Joanie Loves Chachi. But what you might not know is that Happy Days was itself a spinoff – its pilot episode aired as part of U.S. anthology show Love, American Style.


5. NCIS (Spun from JAG)


Naval crime series NCIS became so popular that it launched its own spinoff, NCIS LA. But what got lost amongst all the excitement was the fact that NCIS was itself a spinoff of 90s naval courtroom show JAG. In 2003, JAG aired a special two-part episode in which the main character, Harmon Rabb is arrested and the NCIS team have to prove his innocence, using their incredible powers of naval crime investigation.


6. The Simpsons (spun from The Tracey Ullman Show)

the simpsons 

TV’s longest-running animated show didn’t just appear out of thin-air (or fat-air in Homer’s case). The show originally started as a series of one-minute animated shorts on The Tracey Ullman Show. The family was first introduced in 1987 and had 48 episodes until finally getting their own show in 1989. 24 years later and they’re showing no signs of slowing down.


7. Xena: Warrior Princess (Spun from Hercules: The Legendary Journeys)


Before shrieking her way through six series and becoming a very popular Halloween costume, Xena owed her roots to the other swords-and-sandals TV epic that was airing at the time – Hercules. Xena showed up for three episodes of Hercules and was originally supposed to die in her third appearance. But the character was so popular that the producers decided that she should go solo. That was a good call as the show far surpassed its predecessor in both ratings and popularity, while also bringing metal bras back into fashion for the first time since Madonna.

Watch NCIS and spinoff NCIS LA 8.30 and 9.30 Tuesdays on TEN
Watch The Simpsons weekly on ELEVEN