Same Character, Different Show; It's a Spin-off!

You turn on the television and wonder, "Didn't I see this character on a different show last season?" The truth is you're probably correct.

In recent years, it seems that Hollywood has become less creative with the production of fresh new shows and, instead, has turned to spin-offs –- and the upcoming season is no exception.

With recurring characters and elements, television spin-offs have been around since the early 1970s, with successful spin-off duos like "Rhoda" and "The Mary Tyler Moore Show," "The Jeffersons" and "All in The Family," and "Laverne and Shirley" and "Happy Days."

James Hibbard of the Hollywood Reporter calls a TV show a product. "[Spin-offs] are a safer bet than buying a new show," he said. "They see one successful brand and are able to sell more of it."

While television spin-offs reached an all-time low in the 1990s, they are certainly back in action. With many major networks seeing recent dramatic falls in their ratings, Hibbard said, "they look increasingly at shows that they already know work."

Perhaps this is the reason that networks have slated a number of spin-offs of already successful shows for the fall. Both NBC's "The Office" and Fox's "Family Guy" anticipate sibling shows that look promising to critics. While little is known about "The Office" spin-off, the one for "Family Guy" will have Cleveland Brown (from "Family Guy") as its central character.

There have been reports of other spin-offs for "House" and "Prison Break," but Hibbard believes those shows will most likely introduce new characters first, to see how they are received by the public before giving them their own series.

Sometimes a successful spin-off can lead to the birth of its own spin-off. This fall, MTV anticipates the arrival of a spin-off of "The Hills," which was originally a spin-off of "Laguna Beach." The new show will track Whitney as she moves to New York to work at a public relations firm and makes friends with a group of New York socialites.

Whitney's Co-star Brody Jenner will also be staring in his own new series, "Bromance." The show will consist of a group of guys who come to Hollywood with hopes of becoming part of Jenner's entourage. The group of young men will compete in challenges and face elimination rounds in an attempt to be a member of Jenner's elite group.

With as many as three or four shows following the first show, networks can just keep on spinning. ABCNEWS.com tracks some of the biggest hits and misses among TV spin-offs:

THE HITS

"Mary Tyler Moore Show" and "Rhoda"

"The Mary Tyler Moore Show," a favorite since its September 1970 debut, featured a single woman who moved to Minneapolis after a breakup with her fiancé. Mary Richards, played by Mary Tyler Moore, paved the way for female liberation on television by providing audiences with the image of a single working woman in a traditional society where women were expected to stay home with their families.

The show ran on CBS for seven years and became a favorite in households nationwide, while receiving numerous awards including Emmys and Golden Globes.

The success of "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" led to the birth of a sister show, "Rhoda." Rhoda Morgenstern, played by Valerie Harper, was Mary Richards' upstairs best friend. On "The Mary Tyler Moore Show," Rhoda had moved to Minnesota because she felt that she "would keep better in the cold."

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