In honor of this week’s premiere of AMC’s Breaking Bad spin-off Better Call Saul, I’ve decided to take a look at the best spin-offs to make it to TV in this week’s edition of Top 10 Tuesday.
10. Daria – Beavis and Butthead
Daria, despite being animated, has very little in common with Beavis and Butthead, and yet the series spun-off of the popular comedy series. Following an anti-social girl who finds her niche in a new town, Daria was like a portrait for highschool life at the time.
09. The Flash – Arrow
The most recent addition to this list, The Flash is a spin-off of Arrow. Based on the DC comics character of the same name, The Flash uses the universe provided for it by Arrow, but takes a decidedly lighter touch to the content. Arrow is often compared to Batman in its mood and pacing, as such The Flash is a lot like Spiderman, lighter, but with an emotional core.
08. Caprica – Battlestar Galactica
Though not as good as the 2003 remake of Battlestar Galactica itself, Caprica presented an exciting prequel to the popular remake. With a focus on the artificial intelligence that would one day lead to the cylon crisis, Caprica further explored the religious strife between polytheism and monotheism that was such a huge part of Battlestar’s remake. Caprica wasn’t as well received as its creators had hoped for, and it only lasted 2 seasons, but it was still a successful and fun spin-off series.
07. Boston Legal – The Practice
While The Practice was predominantly a generic legal drama, the series’ final season was greatly improved upon by the introduction of James Spader as Alan Shore, a reckless lawyer of prodigious skill and questionable methods, who had a great heart throughout. The Practice creator and Showrunner David E. Kelley used this breath of fresh air as the starting point for his finest work, Boston Legal. Boston Legal not only gave us the brilliant James Spader, but teamed him up with William Shatner, creating one of the best buddy colleagues projects of all time. The meta-references were flying, the comedy was fast, and the procedural content was handled with passion.
06. Xena: Warrior Princess – Hercules: The Legendary Journey
While many may see Hercules and Xena as slock from 90s, I look back on it as an exceptionally innovative set of series which routinely played with format. Xena in particular had a Groundhogs Day episode, a musical episode, and several meta-episodes about the making of the series itself. With wild eyed Lucy Lawless in the lead, and great guest appearances by Bruce Campbell and Ted Raimi (brother of director Sam Raimi who produced the series), Xena was always a wild ride. Even Joss Whedon himself credits Xena with much of the trailblazing that helped him establish Buffy on TV. Fun fact, Xena (and Hercules) marked the debut of Film and TV writing team Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman (Fringe, Alias, Star Trek: Into Darkness, Sleepy Hollow).
05. Stargate Atlantis – Stargate SG1
While the superiority between SG1 and Atlantis is hotly debated amongst fans of the franchise, in general, Stargate fans were quite fond of the spin-off. Stargate Atlantis took away the comfort of an earthly base, and as such became a more fanciful and alien iteration. Like SG1, though, the strength of Atlantis lied firmly in the chemistry between its performers, Joe Flanigan as Lt. Colonel John Sheppard portrayed a skilled pilot, with reckless loyalty to his comrades, and a quick and snappy wit. David Hewlett shined as the annoyingly arrogant, yet surprisingly competent Canadian scientist Dr. Meredith Rodney McKay, a reprisal of the role he also played in several SG1 episodes. And Jason Momoa, Khal Drogo himself, introduced himself to genre fans as badass Ronon Dex.
04. Torchwood – Doctor Who
We are big Whovians here at TVEnthusiast, so of course we are going to include the Doctor Who spin-off Torchwood. Lead by John Barrowman, who reprised his Doctor Who role of Captain Jack Harkness, the pansexual immortal time traveler, Torchwood was quick to please Doctor Who fans who wanted something a little edgier. But it was the mini series 3rd season, Children of Earth that really struck a chord with science fiction fans. Children of Earth was just, flat out, brilliant science fiction writing. A second mini-series season, Miracle Day, didn’t quite have the same impact as Children of Earth, which has left the possibility of yet another mini-series season in doubt. I, however, remain hopefull that we get some more Captain Jack in our lives.
03. A Certain Scientific Railgun – A Certain Magical Index
The only anime on our list, Toaru Kagaku no Railgun (known to English speakers as A Certain Scientific Railgun) is perhaps the most interesting spin-off of the bunch, as the series takes place at the same time, in the same location, and with some of the same cast of its original series Toaru Majutsu no Index (A Certain Magical Index). Railgun follows a supporting character from Index, covering many of the same events that occur in Index, but from a different angle. The 2 series together take place in Academy City, a stronghold of the scientific world that is in a sort of cold war against the magical world. Man made abilities introduced to those with talent, has given science their own form of magic, in actuality, ESP. While Index followed an ESP failure with a unique ability who came into contact with the magical world, Railgun follows an elite of the ESPers, and shows her day to day school life, often interrupted by crisis.
02. Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – Star Trek: The Next Generation
When talking about Star Trek spin-offs, debates are likely to be hard and aggressive. This, however, is my own personal list, and so I have picked the one star trek series I personally loved. Deep Space Nine is a controversial idea for Star Trek, considering it eschews the focus on exploration from the other series, by taking place within a stationary location, a giant space station. Though exploration is lost, we are given a far stronger telling of the racial divides and philosophical differences held by differing species, Themes in the series include terrorism (pre-9-11), religious persecution, racism, and even a truly brilliant take on PTSD and the return of wounded warriors. Deep Space Nine was simply dirtier and grittier than previous Star Trek series. This is largely seen as the influence of Ronald D. Moore, who would later go on to remake Battlestar Galactica.
01. Angel – Buffy: The Vampire Slayer
I once heard a great comparison between Buffy and Angel. The basic gist was that Buffy was about stopping something horrible from happening, while Angel was about struggling after something horrible happened. This makes up the tonal difference between the lighter Buffy, and the darker Angel. Both shows were brilliant, but Buffy seems to get more critical attention. This is almost assuredly due to the simple fact that Buffy existed first, but personally, most of my favorite moments from the Buffy-verse occurred in Angel. I also felt that Angel’s final season was superior to Buffy’s, though perhaps others would disagree. Angel benefited from the groundwork laid out by Buffy. Buffy had an awkward first season as it struggled to establish a serialized story in a time of episodic content. On the other side, Angel more solidly established its underlying story. In the end, Buffy and Angel are simply 2 sides of the same amazing coin. I only hope that the growing post-mortem popularity of Buffy spreads out to Angel as well.
What do you think? What are your favorite spin-offs? Tell us in our comments, and stay tuned to TVEnthusiast for more coverage of all of your favorite shows.