For almost 11 years, “Criminal Minds” has been one of CBS’ most successful series. Through 249 episodes (and counting), this drama about a team of FBI profilers who track a variety of serial killers and incredibly twisted criminals has had a loyal following, averaging 10 million to 15 million viewers a week.
That the network would want to clone that success is unsurprising. CBS is, after all, the network that has had four CSIs and currently airs three NCISes.
“Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders,” which premieres Wednesday at 9 p.m. on KUTV-Ch. 2, takes the formula of the parent show — which deals with domestic crime — and makes it international. A team of agents who work for the International Division of the FBI respond when Americans are crime victims while outside the United States.
“We thought there’s more stories to tell here, but we didn’t want to tell more stories domestically because we feel that ‘Criminal Minds’ handles that very well and has done so for 11 years,” said creator/executive producer Erica Messer. “But there’s a great big world out there where Americans are traveling more than ever before.”
Researching the show, she learned that 68 million Americans leave the country every year.
“Our brains just started ticking that there’s crime that happens to those Americans,” Messer said, “and wouldn’t it be amazing if there was a team of FBI heroes that could come save you.”
Gary Sinise — who coincidentally starred in another CBS spinoff, “CSI: NY” — stars as head of the team, and the cast includes Alana de la Garza (“Law & Order”), Daniel Henney (“Three Rivers”), Tyler James Williams (“Everybody Hates Chris”) and Annie Funke (“The Affair”).
“Criminal Minds” star Joe Mantegna makes an appearance in the premiere, and his character, agent David Rossi, has to feel right at home. The team and the crimes feel familiar.
Two women are tortured and hunted in the Philippines in the first episode; Americans are kidnapped and their organs are stolen in India in the second. As in “Criminal Minds,” it’s fairly graphic and stomach churning.
This is not the first attempt at a “Criminal Minds” spinoff. The first — “Criminal Minds: Suspect Behavior” — debuted with much fanfare in February 2011 and lasted just 13 low-rated episodes.
“Like any show, whether you’re a new show or whether you’re a spinoff, it doesn’t always work,” Gordon said. “And I think that, quite honestly, one of the things that did not help us with the audience with ‘Suspect Behavior’ was that we were trying too hard to be different.”
It’s a fine line.
“When you are creating a spinoff, you want something that’s fresh and different,” Gordon said. “But at the same time, you want to honor the show that you’re spinning off from.”
When it comes to TV success, there’s a huge upside to spinoffs. The three longest-running scripted shows in prime-time TV today were all spun off from other series. And some of the most popular shows in TV history have been spinoffs. Here’s a list of the most successful spinoffs — measured by total number of episodes:
Top 20 spinoffs
(1) “The Simpsons” (590 episodes and counting, 27 seasons, 1989-present) • Originally appearing as animated shorts in “The Tracey Ullman Show” (1987-90), this is far-and-away the most successful spinoff of all time. Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa and Maggie will be back for Season 28, which will bring that total to 615.
(2) “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” (383 episodes and counting, 17 seasons, 1999-present) • “SVU” could soon produce its 400th episode — it’s a candidate to return for Season 19. But it’s got to deliver an additional 72 episodes to equal the original “Law & Order.”
(3) “Knots Landing” (344 episodes, 14 seasons, 1979-93) • Gary and Val Ewing moved from “Dallas” to the (fictional) Los Angeles suburb of Knots Landing, and the drama continued on their cul de sac for two years after “Dallas” ended.
(4) “NCIS” (299 episodes and counting, 13 seasons, 2003-present) • Viewers often forget that “NCIS” — from which two series have been spun off — was itself a spinoff of “JAG.” CBS has already ordered two additional series of this hit, which will up the episode count past 350.
(5) “Frasier” (265 episodes, 11 seasons, 1993-2004) • This sitcom came within 10 episodes of equaling the total of the show from which it originated — “Cheers” — and it’s the most-honored spinoff in TV history. “Frasier” won 37 Emmys, including five in a row as best comedy series (1994-98).
(6) “The Jeffersons” (253 episodes, 11 seasons, 1975-85) • Archie Bunker’s next-door neighbors, George and Louise Jefferson, moved away from “All in the Family” and moved on up to the east side — to a deluxe apartment in the sky — and a long run of their own.
(7) “The Andy Griffith Show” (249 episodes, eight seasons, 1960-68) • Yes, this was a spinoff. In a February 1960 episode of “The Danny Thomas Show,” Danny Williams (Thomas) was arrested by Sheriff Andy Taylor (Griffith) in Mayberry. “The Andy Griffith Show” ran for only eight seasons, but produced between 30 and 32 episodes per season.
(8) “CSI: Miami” (232 episodes, 10 seasons, 2002-12) • During this spinoff’s run, some complained that it just wasn’t as good as the original “CSI.” Those folks complained for a decade.
(9) “Melrose Place” (226 episodes, seven seasons, 1992-98) • This guilty-pleasure soap opera, a spinoff of “Beverly Hills 90210,” produced a huge number of episodes in just seven seasons on the air — 32, 32, 32, 34, 34, 34 and 28. If we add the 18 episodes from the 2009-2010 revival, which featured the return of several of the original characters, that would bring the total to 244 episodes and move it up to No. 8 on this list.
(10) “Family Matters” (215 episodes, nine seasons, 1989-97) • Nobody ever said a show had to be good to be successful. This terrible Urkel-fest was a spinoff of the equally dreadful “Perfect Strangers” — “Family Matters’ ” mom was the elevator operator at the building where the “Strangers” worked.
The next 10 • “Facts of Life” (209 episodes, nine seasons, 1979-88); “CSI: New York” (197 episodes, nine seasons, 2004-13); “Law & Order: Criminal Intent” (195 episodes, 10 seasons, 2001-11); “Diagnosis: Murder” (178 episodes, eight seasons, 1992-2001); “Laverne & Shirley” (178 episodes, eight seasons, 1976-83); “Star Trek: The Next Generation” (178 episodes, seven seasons, 1987-94); “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine” (176 episodes, seven seasons, 1993-99); “Star Trek: Voyager” (176 episodes, seven seasons, 1995-2001); “Empty Nest” (171 episodes, seven seasons, 1998-95); and “A Different World” (144 episodes, six seasons, 1987-93)
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