Reboots, remakes, spin-offs… So many of these TV formats reek of desperation – the kind of go-to choices when the writers’ room is under-caffeinated and showrunners’ ambitions are, well, running on empty. But it doesn’t need to be that way. Many of today’s best-loved TV shows have emerged from exactly these kinds of inauspicious beginnings.

Spin-offs are especially appealing to audiences and producers alike. Unsurprising since the beauty of the concept is its innate simplicity: take a classic show that didn’t overstay its welcome, and give that loyal audience more of what they love. In some cases, it really is that straightforward. Take the blink-and-you-miss-it evolution of Bosch to Bosch: Legacy which, while nominally a spin-off with a greater focus on the relationship between Harry Bosch and his daughter Maddie as well as Bosch’s new life as a private investigator, in reality makes only minor changes from what was already a much-loved format and style.

The most satisfying spin-offs tend to succeed with a more adventurous approach. The example of Frasier is a case in point: its eponymous character, the psychiatrist Dr Frasier Crane, was originally only a minor character on another sitcom, Cheers. While Cheers remains a classic of American television, the same can be said of Frasier. Both shows ran for 11 seasons, but while Cheers featured an ensemble cast and explored the relationships between the patrons of a Boston bar, Frasier transplanted its title character to Seattle, concentrating on his relationships with his brother, Niles, and father, Marty, as he begins a new career as a radio show host.

The choice to transplant a relatively minor character to a new show was liberating for the creators of Frasier, allowing them to portray and develop his character in ways that would have been impossible with a better-known character. The beer-drinking, sports-loving, practical joker of Cheers is far removed from the more refined and conflicted character we see in Frasier. While some might see these changing characteristics as incongruous or even discrepancies, the brains behind Frasier knew better – and that it was all for the benefit of the show.

In this spirit, we imagine nine intriguing TV spin-offs that we would love to see and, in our opinion, we could all use right now. They might not be on the current slate of new shows, but never say never. Maybe they will be one day. Take a look at our list and share your suggestions with us on our Facebook page.

FLEABAG: The Return of… The Godmother

What made Fleabag such a great show? A brilliantly original comedy drama (some might say a tragi-comedy), Fleabag tells the story of a young woman – the eponymous Fleabag, who is never named – processing the loss of her mother, while mercilessly recounting her experiences of life, family, relationships and sex. Frequently breaking the fourth wall, the show does so not in a mockumentary style à la The Office, but instead shares Fleabag’s monologues as if she is confiding with the audience or even addressing an imaginary friend.

What marked The Godmother out? With Fleabag being such a tour de force for creator, writer, star and executive producer Phoebe Waller-Bridge, it would always take a truly special performer to breathe life into the role of ‘The Godmother’ – who later becomes Fleabag’s wicked stepmother – and ensure the character wasn’t a one-dimensional caricature. The peerless Olivia Colman did that and more, ensuring that The Godmother would appal and fascinate in equal measure with her pitiful, grotesque and jaw-dropping ‘did-she-really-just-go-there’ characterisation. Yes, she’s a passive-aggressive monster, but you just can’t take your eyes off her.

The Elevator Pitch: What’s next for The Godmother? Cruella meets Fleabag meets The Godfather as we learn The Godmother’s side of the story and why she might be, just possibly, misunderstood rather than entirely bad. As she undergoes therapy to deal with her conflicted opinions of Fleabag, her sister and their saintly late mother, the audience wonders if The Godmother can find redemption in her new outlook and marriage to Fleabag’s father, or will she return once and for all to her deliciously dark dark side?

Working Title: The Godmother (What else did you expect?)

FRASIER – The Return of… Niles Crane

What made Frasier such a great show? Dr Frasier Crane has left Boston and returned to Seattle to live with his retired ex-cop father, Marty, and his dog, Eddie, as well as to be closer to his brother, Niles. Marty is a beer-guzzling, sports-loving type with a down-to-earth attitude and time for anyone, while Frasier and Niles are pretentious sophisticates – often appalled by Marty’s behaviour and uncomfortable with the primitive ways of their fellow man. While Frasier is more conscious of his own idiosyncrasies, Niles stubbornly sticks to his principles in the certainty that he must always be right. The experience is full of challenges for them all (and hilarity for the audience) as they try to strengthen the bonds between them – and with their growing circle of friends and family.

What marked Niles out? Niles knows what he knows and is grateful for it – a quality that only strengthens his sense of natural superiority. While this would be overbearing in most characters, in Niles it only makes his obsession over social status, and his righteous indignation at the lack of taste and sophistication of others, all the more amusing. Amusing since he himself is also riddled with anxieties, allergies, phobias and depression at his unhappy marriage to the terrifying, but never seen Maris. One of the most unusual characters in modern popular culture, Niles is at heart an avowed romantic, a loyal and loving Cyrano de Bergerac hoping to one day win the heart of his Roxane – in this case, Marty’s live-in carer, Daphne Moon.

The Elevator Pitch: What’s next for Niles? Frasier is already set for a revival, taking the character back to a new life in Boston, but we feel his brother is also worthy of a show. Encouraged by his wife, Daphne, a mid-life crisis has led Niles to seek out a quieter lifestyle away from his psychiatric practice. On a whim he purchases Café Nervosa, his favourite coffee shop, but can’t resist diagnosing his customers’ mental states and interfering with their lives, whether they want him to or not. All the while, Niles lives in terror that his ex-wife Maris might one day enter the café in search of her favourite triple ristretto…

Working Title: Café Nervosa

MAD MEN – The Return of… Joan Holloway, Peggy Olson & Sally Draper

What made Mad Men such a great show? This televisual masterpiece was immaculately written, acted and filmed, but that’s only the beginning. More than all of that, audiences were gripped by the way in which the show offered a prism to better understand the history and social upheaval of America in the 1960s, a decade that would change the country forever. The show focused on the lives of staff in a fictional advertising agency, using this backdrop to present events as varied as the death of Marilyn Monroe through to the assassinations of JFK and MLK, the Ali-Liston fight, the influence of Beatlemania, the contraceptive pill, the civil rights movement, the moon landing and the Vietnam War.

What marked Joan, Peggy and Sally out? Mad Men portrayed a fiercely male-dominated environment. The show’s title was itself a pun on male advertising executives working on New York’s Madison (‘Mad’) Avenue, home to the biggest ad agencies. Despite that, it showed how the workplace was changing and women were taking on an ever-greater role.

Joan Holloway’s rise from office manager to agency partner is a harrowing one, both personally and professionally, but she emerges triumphant as the ultimate Comeback Kid. Peggy Olson is a generation younger and grows up at the agency, progressing from secretary to junior copywriter and eventually becoming a bona fide head of creative. She does this while overcoming the decision to give up a child for adoption, and manages it on her own merits, despite a degree of support from her boss, Don Draper, and Joan. Other characters may get more screen time, but Peggy is the challenger that the audience is rooting for. Sally Draper, Don’s daughter, starts the show as a young child and shows tenacity and imagination in navigating her parents’ divorce, as well as the difficulties of the times. Sally is the symbol for the coming generation set to rise to maturity in the 1970s and 1980s.

The Elevator Pitch: What’s next for Joan, Peggy and Sally? By the end of Mad Men, we see Joan start her own film production company (Holloway Harris) from her own apartment, and fail to persuade Peggy to join her. Where the original show was anchored in New York City, we imagine the spin-off picking up five years later with Joan heading off to Los Angeles for a new start in Hollywood. Peggy will join forces with her as Joan’s company grows, and they will both take Sally Draper under their wing as an ambitious young actress. If Mad Men documented a decade and the death knell of a male-dominated business era, the spin-off would highlight a new decade and the ascendancy of women in a new industry.

Working Title: Holloway Boulevard

MODERN FAMILY – The Return of… Pepper Saltzman

What made Modern Family such a great show? The best sitcoms have always transcended the limitations of what some critics would see as a low-brow genre to hold up a mirror to society and how we all live. So much so that the comedy often derives precisely from the tension of characters either challenged by or coming to terms with changes in society. This can be a difficult path to follow without lecturing or moralising the audience, but Modern Family did exactly that for 11 hugely successful years with its diverse characters reflecting nuclear, blended and same-sex families. The show gently poked fun at the promises they face while also reminding the audiences that we are all more alike than unalike.

What marked Pepper out? In what would otherwise be a minor recurring role at best, Nathan Lane’s memorable scene-stealing, scenery-chewing performance as wedding planner Pepper Saltzman ensured that his character could never be overlooked. The gay friend of same-sex couple Mitchell Pritchett and Cameron Tucker, Pepper is a double-entendre-loving whirlwind of theatrics, whose cutting remarks occasionally risk pushing him closer to frenemy territory.

The Elevator Pitch: What’s next for Pepper? Pepper’s middling career as a local wedding planner takes a turn for the better when he is scouted to present a new reality show where he has to rescue the wedding plans of a series of D-List celebrities. Cue a fraught Pepper and his husband. Ronaldo, shown in mockumentary style as they try to create a fresh wedding to remember each episode, plus a never-ending stream of celebrity guest appearances and acerbic observations on celebrity culture. And remember: a fraught Pepper is a hilarious Pepper…

Working Title: Pepper’s Pledge

PARKS AND RECREATION – The Return of… April Ludgate

What made Parks and Recreation such a great show? A sitcom set in the dreariest of local government departments in the dreariest of communities might not sound a promising premise, but the opposite was true. After a patchy first season, Parks and Rec went from strength to strength with its magnificent ensemble cast and sharp political satire that slyly contrasted the local events and political machinations in Pawnee, Indiana with those at the highest levels of government in America and beyond. If anyone was unsure just how smart those political parallels were, guest appearances on the show from political heavyweights such as Michelle Obama, John McCain and Joe Biden were no accident.

What marked April out? Mainstream sitcoms had never seen a character quite like April Ludgate or a performance to compare with Aubrey Plaza’s. Little wonder, since the role was created specially for her, and the character’s permanently bored and cynical outlook perfectly fitted Plaza’s monotone delivery and dark humour. One of the delights of the show was seeing how Ludgate’s character gradually opened up with her disinterested manner belying a keen intelligence and political brain, while her deepening friendships with colleagues revealed a previously unseen emotional warmth.

The Elevator Pitch: What’s next for April? A friendly bet with former colleague Tom Haverford leads to April being added to the list of mayoral candidates and, despite her best efforts, somehow being elected as Mayor of Pawnee. How can she save the future of Pawnee and undermine the nefarious plans of neighbouring community Eagleton, all while doing as little as possible and indulging her new passion for minigolf?

Title: The Mayor of Pawnee

SHAMELESS – The Return of… Kevin Ball & Veronica Fisher

What made Shameless such a great show? Although Shameless was itself an adaptation of a British show of the same name, the US incarnation took on a life and direction all of its own. Focusing on Frank Gallagher, a drug- and alcohol-addicted father, and his neglected but endlessly resourceful children Fiona, Lip, Ian, Carl, Debbie and Liam, the show made compelling viewing with its unflinching depiction of the family’s often grim, poverty-stricken and desperate struggle for survival on Chicago’s South Side. As bleak as it sounds, the grit was always offset by the underlying absurdity and humour of the Gallaghers’ misadventures, as well as the poignancy of the love they showed toward each other in moments of tragedy and crisis.

What marked Kevin and V out? Kevin ‘Kev’ Ball and Veronica ‘V’ Fisher featured in Shameless as the Gallaghers’ long-time neighbours with a bond almost as close as actual family. ‘V’ could easily have stood for ‘vivacious’, as the confident and charismatic best friend of Fiona (the eldest of the Gallagher siblings), while Kev was the likeable and perma-chilled, albeit rather slow-witted owner of neighbourhood bar The Alibi. The couple arguably provided the secret sauce that brought a different dimension to the show – especially since their outrageous problems were usually more for comedic purposes, unlike the often darker-tinged travails of the Gallaghers.

The Elevator Pitch: What’s next for Kevin and V? The original Shameless saw Kev and V move to Louisville, Kentucky in the final season to start a new life. The spin-off would start with the couple having declared bankruptcy, their dreams in ruins, and V’s mother condemning the pair as ‘useless’. Shaken and humbled by the experience, the ever-optimistic pair decide to start afresh and pursue a series of get-rich-quick schemes in the hope of turning their life around.

Title: Useless

SHERLOCK – The Return of… Moriarty

What made Sherlock such a great show? That’s elementary, surely? Take fiction’s most popular detective, transplant him to a modern context, trust in creative showrunners with experience in reinvigorating enduring characters, and fill your cast with (at the time) the very best young British acting talent. Having done all that, the other masterstroke was to focus on quality and not quantity, with short seasons that left audiences hungry for more.

What marked Moriarty out? Sherlock Holmes might be lauded as the world’s greatest ‘consulting detective’, but his arch nemesis Professor James Moriarty is no slouch himself as the world’s first ‘consulting criminal’ and ‘the Napoleon of Crime’, as Sherlock concedes. Benedict Cumberbatch may have dazzled as the brilliant intellect Holmes, but Andrew Scott was more than his match as the creepily charismatic Moriarty, first introduced to viewers as ‘Jim’.

The Elevator Pitch: What’s next for Moriarty? While Moriarty appeared to die in a past episode, no one can rule anything out in the Sherlock Holmes universe. Our spin-off starts with an explanation of how Moriarty did indeed survive, and takes him on a sabbatical from his rivalry with Sherlock. Instead, we see Jim in full criminal consultant mode as he tours the most exotic corners of the globe, helping notorious criminal organisations pull off ever more elaborate heists, and sowing seeds of sedition everywhere he goes. But how long will it be before his actions capture the attention of an old adversary back in Baker Street?

Title: Moriarty

SUCCESSION – The Return of… Connor & Willa Roy

What made Succession such a great show? A landmark in recent television history, Succession presented an epic study of what wealth, power and influence can do to individuals and to families. Over four gripping seasons, the story took on epic, Shakespearian proportions as the savage family patriarch Logan Roy headed towards his inevitable demise, and his equally unpleasant and dysfunctional family barely blinked before jostling for their claim to his media empire and fortune.

What marked Connor and Willa out? Connor was always the exception among Roy’s children, being the only one with no ambition of running his business. His hopes lay more in the political world, where he idly dreamed of the presidency despite having only minimal experience or aptitude for the role. His run as an independent in Succession ended in miserable failure, and a dubious status as the weakest and least successful of all the Roy siblings.

The Elevator Pitch: What’s next for Connor and Willa? Bolstered by a billion-dollar inheritance, Conor reaches out to his father’s former spin doctor Hugo Baker and offers a blank cheque in return for a strategy that might finally take him to the White House. Hugo devises a bizarre campaign built around Connor’s new daytime talk show – Connor’s Corner. Connor uses the platform to lambast the political status quo and repeatedly wonders if Americans might need a monarch more than a president. “Vote for me, Connor Roy, as President and I will be your King.” Miraculously, his increasingly unhinged musings win him a cult following that hangs on his every utterance, while playwright wife Willa starts to plan for a future life as First Lady. Surely Connor’s campaign couldn’t see him elected as president. Or could it?

Title: Accession

SUPERSTORE – The Return of… Sandra Kaluiokalani

What made Superstore such a great show? Superstore featured a sympathetic and diverse blend of characters that all illuminated the hidden depths and dreams of staff working in a soulless retail environment. It also succeeded in presenting a progressive equal opportunity agenda that used humour to expose the sometimes indifferent attitude of retail giants towards their underpaid and undervalued workforce. The show came into its own in season two, by which time the outstanding ensemble cast had found a perfect comedic rhythm, with much of the dialogue feeling closer to improv than being scripted.

What marked Sandra out? The character of Sandra Kaluiokalani is arguably one of the ones that develops the most on the show. Her recurring role expanded over the course of the first four seasons before she was eventually established as part of the main regular cast in the final two seasons. Sandra’s position as a shy and meek worker who was generally ignored by her colleagues earned her the immediate sympathy of the audience. While initially answering ‘yes’ to any imaginable question on the show, she would occasionally release her bottled-up emotions with fits of rage. Sandra also started to reveal more of her inner passions and creativity by inventing ever more fantastical stories to try and gain attention.

The Elevator Pitch: What’s next for Sandra? The spin-off picks up a few years after Superstore ended, with Sandra emboldened by a small inheritance to purchase her local minimart in a run-down neighbourhood of St. Louis. She renames the store Sandra’s Shack, giving it a Hawaiian theme and friendly service values. An immediate hit with a local hipster clientele, Sandra employs her former supervisor Dina Fox to help her expand the store, rapidly opening a string of minimarts across the region. Sudden success challenges Sandra in a host of ways as she battles the anger management issues beneath her meek exterior. More than that, she is beset by people trying to take advantage of her new wealth – including her high school sweetheart, Kaimana (played by Jason Momoa), who makes a guest appearance each season as he unsuccessfully tries to win back Sandra’s affection.

Working Title: Minimart

Tell us what you think of our suggestions, as well as the spin-off shows that you would like to see with classic characters that deserved to live on in new shows.

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