TV Surf Report: All Hail The Return of The Spinoff


Santa Monica, CA — Blame uber-producer Norman Lear for TV’s current trend of taking a successful series and creating a spin-off of that show.  In the ’70s, Lear created All in the Family for CBS which successfully spun off Maude, Good Times, and The Jeffersons.

Spinoffs Work.

CBS has reached back into its ’70s playbook with the premieres of two big Spinoffs: The first, Young Sheldon, is a spin-off of The Big Bang Theory, the number one comedy on broadcast TV. Iain Armitage from Big Little Lies stars as the younger version of Jim Parsons, who serves as both narrator and EP. The network gave a full-season pickup to this spinoff after the first episode premiered to big numbers, and most recently, has ordered two additional seasons. That’s moxie!

The second, Star Trek: Discovery, is of course the latest in a long line of spinoffs of NBC’s Star Trek which is produced for CBS All Access by Paramount TV, a sister company of CBS in the Viacom empire. Jason Isaacs and Michelle Yeoh lead a very diversely cast ensemble crew in this prequel series which hinges on battles with The Klingons. Discovery has also been picked up for two additional seasons.

Those are two big wins.


Aside from the glut of DC spinoffs on The CW, here are some notable Spinoffs in development and/or production:

  • The Walking Dead at AMC. No title yet, but the network has announced plans for a second spinoff to its super-hit zombie drama. The first spinoff, Fear the Walking Dead, is scaring up S5.
  • Katy Keene at The CW. Riverdale spins off two characters and sends them to New York to live their dream of becoming singers. Sounds a lot like Josie & The Pussycats to me. Camille Hyde stars.
  • Jane the Virgin at The CW. The spinoff is called Jane: The Novela, and it’s an anthology with each subsequent season told in a new setting by the lead character who narrates. Jacqueline Grace Lopez stars in the pilot, which is directed by series EP Brad Silberling. Gina Rodriguez gets an EP credit, as well.
  • Grimm And The City (working title) at NBC. A female-centric group of demon-slayers from Grimm take center stage from writer/EP Melissa Glenn (Iron Fist).
  • Sue Sue in the City at ABC. Eden Sher of The Middle gets her own show following a scene-stealing 9-year run on ABC’s most unheralded family comedy. Story follows Sue Heck to Chicago. ABC passed on the pilot. Sorry, Sue Heck.
  • Law & Order: Hate Crimes on NBC. Uber-producer Dick Wolf garners a 13-episode commitment for what will surely be the feel-good show of the year. New series gets introduced via SVU later this year.
  • The Conners at ABC.  Roseanne Conner is dead. The audience doesn’t seem to mind as the first Roseanne-less season scored good ratings, and second (really, a third) season has been ordered.  EP Bruce Helford Explains Why Roseanne Conner Had To Die.
  • Star Trek at CBS All Access.  Patrick Stewart is set to reprise Jean-Luc Picard. Make it so! Earl Grey: Hot!
  • House of Cards at Netflix. Multiple spinoffs in the works as series concludes in 2018.
  • Sabrina, The Teenage Witch at Netflix. A darker contemporary version from the Riverdale universe which is too adult for The CW. More in line with the tone of The Omen and Rosemary’s Baby, spinoff is aptly titled, The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina. Spinoff has a 2-season order.
  • Pretty Little Liars: The Perfectionists at Freeform. A few Liars move on to a college town, continue to lie and continue to get caught up in murder.  I. Marlene King adapts Sara Shepard’s best-selling book and EPs. Sasha Pietese and Janel Parrish star.
  • Suits at USA.  Gina Torres’ lawyer character gets her own series set in Chicago.
  • How I Met Your Father at 20th (and presumably CBS). Spin-off of How I Met Your Mother which made a cool $1b for 21st Century Fox, so why not.


  • Game of Thrones at HBO.  The pay cabler is developing no less than five spinoffs, prequels, successors of the mega-hit adaptation of George R.R. Martin’s Song of Fire & Ice series.  Max Borenstein (Kong: Skull Island) and Jane Goldman (Kingsman) are two of the scripters. Bryan Cogman, who has been with GOT since its beginning, pens #5 much to the delight of Martin. Bodes well for fans of Westeros. Brian Hegeland and Carly Wray are two others. Meanwhile, I am still waiting for Martin to finally publish Book 7, entitled, The Winds of Winter. Goldman won the first pilot, which is set one thousand years before the current Lannister/Stark saga. Naomi Watts stars.
  • Mayans MC at FX.  Sons of Anarchy begets a new chapter.  I trust the creative brain trust at FX to get this right.  Sons of Anarchy Spinoff’s Debut is Cable’s Best in 2018, per THR.
  • College-ish at Freeform. In another very synergistic move, ABC’s Black-ish spin-off is laid off at sister network, Freeform. Eldest daughter goes to college.  Sounds like A Different World, the collegiate spin-off from The Cosby Show. Could work…again.
  • The New Pope at HBO. Paolo Sorrentino begins a new chapter following the success of limited series The Young Pope starring Jude Law. One Pope too many? John Malkovich joins the cast. I’m in!


Am sure there are more Spinoffs to come.  Some will work. Some will fail. For every Young Sheldon, there’s always an After-MASH.

Hey, that’s Show Business.

N E X T   U P:

My 53,000-mile TuneUp. An Unaffordable Care Act.


About Surfing Hollywood

Steve La Rue is an internationally recognized leader in Film & Television with 20+ years experience as a Development Executive championing such series as Buffy The Vampire Slayer, The X-Files, The Simpsons, King of the Hill, Battlestar Galactica, and Farscape. He writes, blogs, and consults on All Things Entertainment from his home at the beach in Santa Monica, CA, where he balances his life by surfing every damn day.
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