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From ‘Game of Thrones’ to ‘Big Bang Theory,’ Spinoffs Will Keep the Hits Alive

By this time next year, many of the brightest lights in the current TV universe will cease to shine.

Some of the most popular and acclaimed shows are set to air their swan songs this year and during the 2019-20 broadcast season. While programs come and go all the time, the sheer number of iconic offerings that are ending in rapid succession is notable.

HBO will say goodbye to both “Game of Thrones” and “Veep” before the year is out; “The Big Bang Theory” is ending its 12-season run this spring on CBS; both “Homeland” and “The Affair” are wrapping up on Showtime later this year; ABC’s “Modern Family” will air its final episodes next season; and The CW mainstays “Supernatural” and “Arrow” will fade out after 2020, while “Jane the Virgin” and “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” are wrapping up this spring. In all, these series have won 106 Emmys and been nominated 370 times.

For Showtime, the double-whammy loss of “Homeland” and “The Affair” may not be easy, yet according to co-president of entertainment Gary Levine, there’s an upside as well. “It’s very sad to say goodbye to these two formidable jewels in the crown of Showtime, but it also allows for renewal and opportunity,” he says. “We’re excited to put new things on, and this does create room for the next shows that will become jewels in the crown.”

Besides being Emmy magnets, “Game of Thrones” and “Big Bang Theory” are still among the highest-rated shows on television. Each routinely draws well over 10 million viewers in Live + Same Day alone, which is no small feat in the era of niche programming. “Game of Thrones” has managed to build its ratings each season, something almost unheard of nowadays. And “Supernatural,” even going into its 15th season, is one of The CW’s top originals.

Yet fans of many of these shows need not fret: A number of spinoffs are in the works or already on the air.

“Big Bang Theory” prequel “Young Sheldon” was recently picked up for a third and fourth season at CBS, with the single-camera comedy ranking as TV’s second-most-watched sitcom behind only its parent program. As the title suggests, the show follows a younger version of Jim Parsons’ character — as a child genius (played by Iain Armitage) growing up in Texas.

On the pilot side, HBO is prepping a “Game of Thrones” prequel from writer Jane Goldman and starring Naomi Watts that is due to shoot this summer. The show is said to be set thousands of years before the events of the original series and was one of five programs in development at HBO that take place in the “Game of Thrones” universe.

At The CW, “Jane the Virgin” creator Jennie Snyder Urman and series star Gina Rodriguez are among the executive producers on the spinoff pilot “Jane the Novela.” That project is described as an anthology in which each season is based on a different fictional novel “written by” Jane Villanueva (Rodriguez).

The CW is “a really inclusive network, and I think ‘Jane’ was important to them along those lines,” Urman tells Variety, concerning its desire to retain a form of the show. “They like the world and how different it is. … I think they want to develop new talent and continue to tell stories that are not seen on other networks.” 

The CW has also made various attempts to create a spinoff of “Supernatural” over the years. The most recent was in contention for the 2018-19 season. Called “Wayward Sisters,” that project aired as a backdoor pilot during the 13th season of “Supernatural” but was ultimately not ordered to series.

Levine explains that once the team behind a particular show believes the series has run its course, the network’s job is to help bring things to a close in a way that makes sense.

“We don’t want to milk these things,” says the Showtime executive. “I don’t think we want to sully it by doing pale imitations and somehow think of it as a product that we’re going to continue to exploit. The good news is that [the shows] are going to live on our site forever and be part of the legacy and the library of Showtime.”

With the most recent wave of reboots and revivals apparently waning, it seems an opportune time for a new show to break through the crowded TV landscape and become a cultural phenomenon. Where it will come from is anybody’s guess, but with the so-called Streaming Wars heating up, the one certainty is that there will be no shortage of content for fans to choose from. 

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