'Big Bang Theory' to 'Goldbergs': What's Behind TV's Spinoff Trend

Goldbergs and Big Bang Theory Split- Photofest-H 2016
Courtesy of Photofest

In the era of dwindling mass-audience TV hits, networks will do just about anything to keep bankable franchises going. So it's no surprise that CBS would want a spinoff of The Big Bang Theory, TV's No. 1 comedy in the key adults 18-to-49 demo (5.5 rating) and broadcast's most watched program (20 million weekly viewers).

The network is teaming with Big Bang co-creators Chuck Lorre and Bill Prady, as well as showrunner Steve Molaro, for the prequel Sheldon. The plan is for a single-camera comedy exploring the teenage years of Dr. Sheldon Cooper, played in the current show by Jim Parsons, who would executive produce the prequel. Big Bang remains a core asset for both producer Warner Bros. TV and CBS, with the latter using the series to help launch new comedies.

The studio and network are negotiating new deals with the show's core cast in a bid to take it into an 11th season and beyond. (Stars Parsons, Johnny Galecki and Kaley Cuoco currently earn a cool $1 million per episode, plus a cut of the show's lucrative backend.) CBS and Warner Bros. declined comment.

For ABC's part, the network is looking to Adam F. Goldberg and Marc Firek to develop a 1990s-set spinoff starring Bryan Callen of '80s comedy The Goldbergs, which has become a self-starter for the Disney-owned network on Wednesdays.

TV spinoffs are nothing new, of course. CBS is using The Good Wife's Christine Baranski to launch CBS All Access' The Good Fight in February. NBC is looking to The Blacklist for a midseason spinoff, The Blacklist: Redemption, which will join its roster of Chicago spinoffs. AMC found success with Breaking Bad prequel Better Call Saul, and NBC also scored Emmy gold with Cheers spinoff Frasier (though Friends birthed dud Joey). But with so few new series delivering Big Bang-like numbers, pressure to keep hits going is growing.

HBO programming president Casey Bloys recently told THR he'd even be open to a Game of Thrones spinoff if he could find the right writers, even though it already has extended beyond the George R.R. Martin books.

A version of this story first appeared in the Nov. 18 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.