Whether it’s Fear The Walking Dead, Frasier or some other show that begins with ‘F’ we’ve all got our own favourite spin-off shows. Pretty much all of them have an audience – except Joey, no-one likes Joey – but there’s a chance you’re a fan of a spin-off show WITHOUT EVEN REALISING IT.
Please allow us to break the bad news to you gently by identifying seven shows you had no idea had their origin in something else.
1. Mork & Mindy – spun from Happy Days
Mork met Fonz long before he palled up with Mindy. That’s because he made his debut in an episode of Happy Days that was conceived to appeal to the Star Wars demographic, after a son of one of the producers said he wasn’t interested in the show anymore because it didn’t have spacemen in it.
Robin Williams was literally plucked from the street to appear in it (seriously, he was a street performer, though he had done some TV), and proved to be so popular with the studio audience he was given his own show, which, confusingly, wasn’t set in the 1950s. Which is probably the reason no-one realises this one’s a spin-off.
2. Saved By The Bell – spun from Good Morning Miss Bliss
This one’s a bit bonkers. Before Saved By The Bell there was a show featuring Zack (Mark-Paul Gosselaar), Screech (Dustin Diamond), Lisa (Lark Voorhies) and Mr Belding (Dennis Haskins). Welcome to Good Morning Miss Bliss.
It was about titular teacher Miss Bliss (Hayley Mills) and her school-based struggles. Producers realised that the teenage cast was infinitely more interesting, so they cut Miss Bliss, added additional student cast members including Slater (Mario Lopez) and Kelly (Tiffani-Amber Thiessen) and called it Saved By The Bell. Mental.
3. The Muppet Show – spun from Sesame Street
A lot of people assume that The Muppet Show came before Sesame Street, but it’s actually The Muppets that originated on Big Bird’s telly show, not the other way around. Kermit preceded them both, appearing on Sam and Friends way back in 1955. He was being operated by his creator, Jim Henson, and had the same name, but looked more like a lizard than a frog back then.
Still, the fact the The Muppet Show is essentially the Muppet Babies of Sesame Street is more mind-blowing than one of Gonzo’s stunts.
4. Xena: Warrior Princess – spun from Hercules
Obviously the shows shared a lot of DNA, but few realise everyone’s favourite social justice warrior made her debut on Hercules, that thing where Kevin Sorbo played a grown-up version of Ryan Gosling.
Xena became such a pop-culture phenomenon that she easily outstripped Hercules in the zeitgeist, even though the two shows are fairly similar. By season two, it was the top-rated syndicated drama series on American television, remaining in the top five for every subsequent season.
Pretty good going for a character that was supposed to appear in three episodes before being killed off.
5. Beavis & Butthead – spun from Liquid Television
You’ll have first seen Beavis & Butthead on MTV in the ’90s, but the gruesome twosome first popped up on Liquid TV, in a Mike Judge short that was so funny it was instantly commissioned for a full series.
You might not be aware that another ace MTV cartoon, Daria, was spun-off from Beavis & Butthead, as the girl who judged the moronic metal fans went on to judge basically everything else in the world on her own show.
Heh heh, heh heh, heh – cool.
6. The Simpsons – spun from The Tracey Ullman Show
The Simpsons has been running for so long it’s easy to forget that America’s favourite family started out as a series of satirical shorts on The Tracey Ullman show, which first started airing in 1987.
You might have assumed The Simpsons was snapped up to a full series pretty much immediately, but there were an impressive 48 shorts before they were given their own show.
Dan Castellaneta, Julie Kavner, Nancy Cartwright, and Yeardley Smith were all in place for the shorts, then called The Simpson Family which means that it was a fairly easy concept to spin-off.
Considering how many shorts ran on her show, we really hope Tracey Ullman made some money from The Simpsons. What do you mean she didn’t, and tried suing Fox to get a cut of the merchandising, with the case being ruled in favour of 20th Century Fox by a Superior Court jury who dismissed Ullman’s case?
7. Sabrina: The Teenage Witch – spun from The Archie Comedy Hour
Sabrina was a ’90s TV show fondly remembered for its charming lead and its animatronic cat (don’t tell Melissa Joan Hart which of those two is more popular).
But we can guarantee that at least 95% of its fan base doesn’t realise that the character first appeared on Sabrina and the Groovie Goolies from 1970 to 1974, which itself was a spin-off of The Archie Comedy Hour in 1968. For shame.
Let’s hope that history doesn’t repeat itself when Riverdale spin-off Chilling Adventures Of Sabrina launches on Netflix in October.
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