8 Comedy Spin-offs You Forgot Were Spin-offs
Comedy begets comedy, even if we sometimes forget just which laughs came from where. Sure, we remember Frasier sat around the bar at Cheers and Young Sheldon was a Big Bang Theory character writ small. But no one will blame you if you don’t remember the origins of these eight comedy spin-offs, all of which sprang from unlikely sources…
Happy Days was the birthplace of several comedy spin-offs, from Laverne and Shirley and Joanie Loves Chachi to the little-remembered Out of the Blue and Blansky’s Beauties. But Happy Days itself was a spin-off, born out of a successful episode of the comedy anthology series Love American Style. Anyone who wants to argue that Happy Days is also a spin-off of American Graffiti won’t get any pushback from me either.
The longest-running comedy on television has an even longer history, originating as a series of Matt Groening animated shorts on The Tracey Ullman Show. Sure, the cartoons look a little raggedy today, but Homer and Marge had to start somewhere.
Urkel and company don’t seem to exist in the same universe as Perfect Strangers, but that’s where the sitcom got its start. The tie was pretty tenuous, with Harriette Winslow working as an elevator operator in Larry and Balki’s office building before being catapulted into her own TGIF sitcom, one which outlasted Perfect Strangers by 50-plus episodes.
The Facts of Life
Edna Garrett was the live-in housekeeper on Diff’rent Strokes before landing a job at Kimberly’s prep school as a housemother. Soon, she was pretty much running the damn place before Blair, Natalie, Jo and Tootie graduated. Then the whole bunch of ‘em formed a weird sitcom commune where they all baked together.
Daria was sort of the anti-Beavis and Butt-Head, the show in which she was a semi-regular before getting her own spin-off. Except for promos, the adolescent idiots never showed up on Daria.
Mork and Mindy
Unlike Laverne and Shirley, a Happy Days spin-off also set in 1950s Milwaukee, Mork and Mindy has virtually nothing to do with the show that introduced Robin Williams’ goofy alien. But by virtue of being from Ork, producers had no problem transporting the Mork character to 1970s Denver, multiple time zones and decades away.
The Colbert Report
One of the most unusual comedy spin-offs ever, with Colbert’s conservative blowhard character “Stephen Colbert” leaving The Daily Show to steal all its Emmy and Peabody Awards. But if we really want to get technical, “Stephen Colbert” first appeared as a self-important journalist on an episode of The Dana Carvey Show. Spin off that!
Proto-sitcom The Honeymooners began as a series of sketches on Calvacade of Stars, a variety show on which Jackie Gleason sometimes acted as host. After The Honeymooners’ single season on the air, Gleason would gather the gang to recreate the adventures of Ralph, Alice, Norton and Trixie once more on variety shows and specials.