Sometimes, one hit show begets another, and a guest character goes off and does amazing things in their own universe. And sometimes, like the case with the forthcoming Grey’s Anatomy firefighter spinoff, Station 19, a character who’s been on the show goes off to do something entirely new.
Sometimes spinoffs are easy to spot. Most fans know that Chicago P.D. is a spinoff of Chicago Fire and that Angel is a spinoff of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, for example. But other times, spinoffs end up looking quite different from their progenitors.
Here are 19 TV shows that you probably didn’t realize were spinoffs.
NCIS is one of the most popular shows on TV, but did you know the original NCIS is actually a spinoff?
Gibbs, DiNozzo, Abby, and Ducky were first introduced on JAG Season 8 Episode 20 and 21, “Ice Queen” and “Meltdown,” which aired in the spring of 2003.
NCIS premiered later that year under the name “Navy CIS,” but later changed to NCIS since it sounded cleaner. Since its inception, it has produced two other spinoffs: NCIS: Los Angeles, and NCIS: New Orleans.
2. The Originals
In 2013, The Vampire Diaries received its own spinoff.
The storyline for The Originals debuted in the form of a backdoor pilot, where the Mikaelson siblings: Klaus, Elijah, and Rebekah revealed that a werewolf named Hayley was pregnant with Klaus’ child.
The Originals began with the original siblings returning to New Orleans for the first time since 1919 after being forced to flee from their vengeful father. In their absence, a war brewed between vampires, werewolves, and witches.
While The Originals will be ending with the upcoming Season 5, the supernatural CW drama isn’t quite ready to surrender just yet. There is some talk of a new spinoff of The Originals.
3. Better Call Saul
Sometimes, one anti-hero begets another, and that’s the case with Better Call Saul.
The Breaking Bad spinoff explores the story of small-time lawyer James Morgan “Jimmy” McGill, six years before his appearance on Breaking Bad as Saul Goodman.
Better Call Saul was conceived when Vince Gilligan began conceptualizing the idea of a series about a small-time lawyer who would do anything to stay out of a courtroom, including settling a case on the court steps.
They moved forward with Saul because he was a well-liked character, as well as the least hypocritical character, from Breaking Bad, and he was good at his job.
Since its debut in 2013, Better Call Saul has garnered lots of critical acclaim, including 23 Primetime Emmy Award Nominations.
Fans of Pretty Little Liars may remember a period of time where Caleb visited a town called Ravenswood.
Pretty Little Liars Season 4 Episode 13, “Grave New World,” served as a backdoor pilot, leading into the premiere of Ravenswood. The episode starts with Caleb boarding a bus to meet Hanna in Ravenswood where the Liars are chasing a lead regarding A and Ali.
On his way, he meets Miranda who is going to Ravenswood to meet her uncle, her last remaining relative. Later in the episode, Miranda helps Hanna escape her Uncle’s house, not realizing that she is Caleb’s girlfriend.
Later, Miranda discovers a gravestone with her name and picture on it, and before the episode ends, Hanna tells Caleb that he should stay and help Miranda find the answers she needs. When the proper series begins, Miranda and Caleb meet three other classmates whose lives are bound by a curse that has plagued their families for generations.
Fans of the TV show Daria might be surprised to know that the misanthropic teenage girl is actually a spin-off of Beavis and Butthead.
Daria Morgendorffer made recurring appearances on Beavis and Butthead before creator Mike Judge released the character to appear on her own show. Despite originating in the series, Daria’s world was entirely her own.
In fact, the only direct reference to its predecessor was in the promotional spot for the first episode when it said: “After leaving Highland, and those two, we moved to Lawndale.”
6. Mork & Mindy
Mork & Mindy is a spinoff of Happy Days. Mork originally appeared on Happy Days Season 5 Episode 23, “My Favorite Orkan,” which aired in 1978. During the episode, Mork attempted to take Richie Cunningham back to his home planet as a human specimen. The plan was foiled by Fonzie.
The original cut of the episode ended with the whole scenario being Richie’s dream. When Mork proved to be so popular, the ending was re-edited to show Mork erasing the experience from everyone’s minds and set up for the spin-off.
Set in Boulder, Colorado in the 1970s, Mork & Mindy followed Mork coming to Earth where he meets 21-year-old Mindy and eventually moves into her attic. The storylines centered around Mork trying to understand human behavior and reporting his findings back to his superior Orson.