Last week, AMC premiered its highly anticipated Breaking Bad spin-off Better Call Saul, and the prequel series drew large audiences on both nights of its two-night premiere and earned pretty much universal critical acclaim. Although some, such as myself, worried that Better Call Saul may be an unnecessary spin-off and more of cash-grab taking advantage of the continued success of Breaking Bad, which ended back in 2013, the show proved that it was quality television that deserved all the hype and praise that it was receiving, and it joined the numerous other spin-off series that already populate the present TV landscape, as even more of them are currently being planned.
Even though spin-offs have been around for almost as long as television has been, with many beloved series like Frasier and The Simpsons having spun-off from successful parent shows, I’m not sure if they’ve ever been as popular as they are on TV right now. Almost every major network has at least one spin-off series (FOX and ABC are currently without them, but ABC tried and failed jst last year with Once Upon a Time in Wonderland), and some networks, like CBS and The CW, have more than one, with multiple shows spawning new series.
So what’s causing all of these spin-offs to get made? It is purely for financial reasons, as networks try to capitalize on the popularity of one show and create a franchise, or is there truly something different about TV today that is calling for these new series to be produced? While money is obviously a factor (money is always a factor, because television is, first and foremost, a business), I’d argue that there are plenty of creative reasons for why networks are green-lighting so many spin-offs.
First and foremost, television creators nowadays are creating such rich and deep worlds that allow for these stories to be more easily crafted. For example, going back to Better Call Saul, a show like that can exist because of how much detail and thought Vince Gilligan and others put into writing Breaking Bad and the depth that they gave every single character, even secondary ones like Saul that were used more for comic relief. While we explored the New Mexican crime world through the adventures of Walt and Jesse, there was so much that came before them that Saul witnessed, and we’re now getting the opportunity to experience that.
Similarly, that idea of a wide and rich world is what made The Flash such an easy show for The CW to get behind. Arrow was a bonafide hit for the network after its first season, but instead of taking anyone like Felicity or Diggle away from that show, The CW made the smart decision to introduce another DC hero, one that could carry his own series. And with the endless amounts of DC characters and the incredibly vast comic book universe that the network has the opportunity to play with, more spin-offs are certainly not out of the question, with the newest speculation being that Brandon Routh’s Ray Palmer could be getting an Atom series sometime in the near future.
Additionally, while the idea of further exploring and continuing to develop such detailed and textured worlds is a valid reason to create a spin-off, another big motivation for writers is a dynamic character, which is what we’ve seen with Joseph Morgan’s Klaus becoming the star of his own show, The Originals, after two-plus seasons on The Vampire Diaries. Julie Plec and co., who created the spin-off series, knew that there was so much depth and history to Klaus’s character, not to mention the Mikaelson family, and they wanted to explore that in a way that would not compromise the stories of the other characters on The Vampire Diaries, something that some fans of the show complained about in the very Mikaelson-heavy third and fourth seasons.
And all that’s without even getting into the Law & Order and Chicago franchises on NBC, or the CSI and NCIS spin-offs that have filled CBS’s schedule for years, especially as CSI: Cyber is set to premiere next month on CBS and Chicago Med may be on its way soon, joining Fire and P.D. on NBC.
The simple fact is that writers of series are doing a great job at not just giving fans a satisfying amount of great characters and stories but providing them with almost too many, opening the doorway for the current spin-offs that air on so many different channels and the future ones that are in the works. With so many excellent shows on TV right now, the possibility of even more spin-offs, as long as they’re made for the right reasons, is just another great problem to have as a TV fan.
What’s your favorite spin-off series currently on the air, and what’s your favorite spin-off of all-time?
[Photos via AMC & The CW]
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