Quietly Performing Sister Show

Many works receive spinoffs, sequels, sister works or an alternate continuity or two, and a large majority of those die quickly; mainly through Executive Meddling, lack of fan support, or a myriad of other issues. From what remains, some of these shows achieve critical and/or fan acclaim that equals, or even surpasses, the parent series. But what are we left with? A Quietly Performing Sister-Show. (Or QPS.)

These works will not wow the critics, getting rated anywhere from 'This isn't very good at all, avoid' to 'pretty good, but not as good as its predecessor', nor will they receive much support from the fanbase. Not to say there aren't any fans, but they will often be the minority, and even if they're not, most of the fans will agree that the original is the best. (The ones who really love the work, will generally pick it as their favourite.) Yet, the work will still perform, getting enough sales or views to continue its run. The general public will often find it an inoffensive and likeable, sometimes getting a fondness in their hearts for the show, despite its faults. If it's a show, it will probably be cancelled after a fairly long run, or the makers will call it day; but it will probably be released onto DVD.

Sometimes this ties into They Changed It, Now It Sucks, where the reason it never got the critical and fan acclaim because it was in the shadow of its predecessor. Other times, the show just might be mildly So Bad, It's Good, not strong enough to become a cult classic, but enough to entertain the public.

Contrast with More Popular Spin-off.

(NB: If a spinoff is neglected by the fanbase, but got great critical write-ups or lots of awards, then it's not this trope — they should have their own trope eventually.note  One or two awards however don't count for much on their own, and those shows stay here).

Examples:

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    Anime 
  • Tenchi Universe: It has its own section of the fanbase, while the critics and a lot of the fans consider it inferior to the original. Probably because of the changes in the characters.

    Live Action Television 
  • The Sarah Jane Adventures. Successful for its timeslot and channel and its star had a lot of love given when she passed away in 2011, but when you consider other Whoniverse shows Doctor Who and Torchwood are Saturday evening and varying post-watershed timeslots respectively, and SJA is mid-afternoon AND on the CBBC channel...
  • Empty Nest: All but forgotten now, in the wake of The Golden Girls, but it actually had a longer original run (eight seasons) and got a lot of awards (including Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series for Richard Mulligan, who won over Ted Danson, Michael J. Fox, and John Goodman).
  • Star Trek: Voyager: This show never reached the popularity or critical acclaim of its parent show Star Trek: The Next Generation, but it still received very good viewing figures when it was airing. (Unlike most examples, Voyager wasn't totally neglected but actually got plenty of attention and support from its network UPN — more than its actual sister show Star Trek: Deep Space Nine gotnote .)
  • CSI: New York: It lags behind its parent in the fanbase and critical reception department, and CSI: Miami beats it in viewing figures, but it's still a very popular show. (To the point where it arguably only just qualifies for the trope by comparison.)
  • Knots Landing: Fourteen seasons would be big enough for a lot of shows, but when your parent show was Dallas, you fall square into this trope.
  • The Electric Company had a six-season run in the 1970s and brief revival in the 2000s, which are easily overshadowed by the uninterrupted long run of its parent show, Sesame Street.
  • Parks and Recreation, sister to the US version of The Office (created by the folks who run that show and using the same mockumentary format) hasn't attracted nearly as much heat as its sibling, but its ratings are respectable and critics have rallied around it in its second season. However, by the time the show went off the air it was rivaling The Office in cultural impact
  • Wings was to Cheers what Parks and Recreation is to The Office — only without the posthumous recognition.
  • Stargate Atlantis never got the kind of love (fannish or critical) that Stargate SG-1 earned, but it still earned a good half-decade run and kept the money people happy enough to earn the franchise a third series.
  • Law & Order: Criminal Intent arguably fits. While your average American can name it as "that other Law & Order show", it tends not to make headlines, nor does it receive nearly as much attention as its older sister Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. Kathryn Erbe and Vincent D'Onofrio were criminally and perpetually snubbed at the Emmys, despite performances as good or better than those on SVU. Nevertheless it performs pretty solidly on the USA Network and has a sizeable if rather quiet fanbase. It is also one of those shows the general public will run across in reruns (and there are lots of reruns) while channel-surfing and watch to pass the time (and yet not really bother to follow) due to the show's seemingly episodic nature, making it perhaps the ultimate example of this trope.
  • Roundhouse was this for the SNICK block of programming. Clarissa Explains It All brought Melissa Joan Hart into the spotlight, The Ren & Stimpy Show is the most famous of the block, Are You Afraid of the Dark? has a very vocal fanbase, and Roundhouse was... just sort of there, although it managed to last four seasons.
  • Petticoat Junction to Beverly Hillbillies. To a lesser extent Green Acres — at the time of its original airing Acres was more or less just thought of as a reversal of the Hillbillies plotline, but in more recent years Acres has been more and more noted for its unique use of surrealism.
  • Promised Land to Touched by an Angel.
  • California Dreams to Saved by the Bell. Heck, you could probably insert any show on the TNBC block for California Dreams.
  • Breaking Bad and Mad Men, although highly acclaimed shows, were always stuck in the shadow of AMC's mega-hit The Walking Dead. The former show escaped it after its final season, and today is probably more ingrained in pop culture than The Walking Dead despite never coming close to it in viewership. The latter was not so lucky, and now has the misfortune of being stuck in the shadow of two shows rather than one.
  • To many people, House of Cards (US) is "that popular Netflix show that isn't Orange Is The New Black."
  • Many of HBO's shows of the 2010s, like Boardwalk Empire, Girls, and True Detective, while all hits, were constantly stuck in the shadow of the pop culture phenomenon that is Game of Thrones.

    Music 
  • A composer who changed the face of western classical music as much as Ludwig van Beethoven inevitably has a lot of these.
    • Among his nine symphonies, the genial No.4 in B-flat major sits between the titanic No.3 in E-flat major ("Eroica") and genre-changing No.5 in C minor. And though the three symphonies between No.5 and No.9 in D minor (whence comes the famous "Ode to Joy" finale) are overshadowed by the two symphonies bracketing them, No.6 in F major ("Pastoral") and No.7 in A major are still regarded as timeless classics; No.8 in F major was something of a look back rather than forward, although the finale stands out for a coda that is almost as long as the sonata allegro that precedes it yet never wears out its welcome.
    • The 32 piano sonatas include numerous masterworks, some of them framing and overshadowing hidden gems.
      • When pairs or sets of works were published together, one tended to stand out against its no-less-effective partners. Consider the two Fantasy-Like Sonatas (Sonata quasi una Fantasia) of Op.27: the first, in E-flat major, was something completely new, original, and vastly different from most other works for the solo piano, with a four-movements-in-one structure and a reminiscence of the third "movement" just before the final measures; the second is the so-called "Moonlight Sonata", one of Beethoven's most instantly recognisable compositions. (The "Moonlight" also overshadows the sonata published immediately after it, the charming, four-movement "Pastoral" sonata.)
      • The F major sonata, Op.54, is quite unlike anything Beethoven had written before or would write again (its two movements including a relaxed Minuet and a virtuoso toccata), and it hides nicely between the "Waldstein" sonata before it and the "Appassionata" after it. The two-movement F-sharp major sonata, Op.78, was next after the "Appassionata" and again shows Beethoven's mastery of form, but remains overshadowed by its predecessor.
      • Beethoven's last six piano sonatas are considered integral parts of his later compositional career, but the first of them, the two-movement Op.90 in E minor, very much lives in the shadow of the others, especially the mammoth "Hammerklavier". Even among the last three, Op.111 in C minor tends to overshadow Op.109 in E major (which closes with a masterful theme and variations) and Op.110 in A-flat major (another experiment in form which closes with a striking three-voice fugue).
    • The string quartets provide further examples. Although all of the last five are regarded as the crowning achievements of his post-Symphony No.9 years, the most frequently performed are Op.130 in B-flat major (with, at its heart, a Cavatina sent into space on the Voyager Golden Record; the original finale was the celebrated "Grosse fuge"), Op.131 in C-sharp minor (a seven-movements-in-one homage to Beethoven's love of opera), and Op.132 in A minor (again, featuring at its heart one of Beethoven's most beloved slow movements, the "Heiliger Dankgesang"), all of which tend to overshadow the just as beautiful Op.127 in E-flat major and Op.135 in F major. And in the shadow of all five is the other "late Beethoven" quartet, Op.95 in F minor ("Serioso"), a glorious foretaste of things to come from the master.
  • Dennis Wilson's 1977 solo album Pacific Ocean Blue was released to rave reviews and almost managed to outsell the contemporaneous The Beach Boys Love You. Even after going out of print it gained a cult following and it finally got a deluxe CD reissue in 2008.
  • Neil Young's "ditch trilogy" consists of Time Fades Away (1973), On the Beach (1974) and Tonight's the Night (1975). The last of those was met with critical acclaim and respectable sales despite its death-inspired tone, but the other two went out of print. Although they didn't "perform" commercially, they quietly gathered a cult following until Young caved and released On the Beach on CD in 2003. As of 2012, Time Fades Away remains commercially unavailable.

    Radio 

    Theatre 
  • Ruddigore: The current Ur Example, it suffered in comparisons to The Mikado and was in Gilbert's day widely (and wrongly) believed to be a flop. Its recent revivals puts it into this trope, rehabilitating it into a fairly well received comic opera.
    • The major part of this perception is based on the fact that it followed The Mikado, a Tough Act to Follow if there ever was one. The original run of The Mikado ran for over two years (672 performances), and is widely considered to be Gilbert and Sullivan's masterpiece. The original Ruddigore ran for a perfectly respectable eight months (288 performances), and made William Gilbert £7000 (over £450000 in 2014) including sheet music sales. Arthur Sullivan quipped that he wished for another bunch of failures like Ruddigore so he could retire.

    Video Games 
  • Final Fantasy IX: It sold well, but VI, VII, VIII and X completely dwarfed it in fan and critical reactions. (It didn't even get the backlash VIII recently received on the internet.)
    • Likewise, II, III, V, and XII have all settled into this. They are by no means bad games, but they did not have the same reception as the others. Final Fantasy I only escapes because Square releases a new remake every few years. Of all of these, V is the biggest sufferer, as IV and VI are considered by all to be some of the best games in the series, with different fandom factions claiming each is the best in the series.
      • XIII can also be seen as this, but it's slightly more controversial within the fandom at the moment. It did receive some of the poorest critical reception in the series, though.
    • Final Fantasy IX seems to have held up much better in hindsight. While people are now picking apart VII (due to the translation and unnecessary sequels) and VIII and X (due in large part to various online Caustic Critic personalities), IX seems to have become something of a cult classic among those willing to give it a fair shake.
  • Harvest Moon has a sibling series named River King. It predates Harvest Moon by six years, but it's completely dwarfed by its sister series.
  • Of the spin off series from Pokémon, Battrio and Ranger fall into this. The Mystery Dungeon sub-series is fairly popular and received positive reviews, but the other two are considered good but not as good as the main games. Battrio at least has this because it's exclusive to Japanese arcades; the Ranger series is viewed by some as little more than a complicated way to get rare event-only Pokemon.
  • The Gradius spinoff series Thunder Cross is considerably obscure, in large part because it never had any home conversions except for a belated and cheaply produced PlayStation 2 port of the first game.
  • Kid Icarus: Uprising plays like Super Smash Brothers if it were a third-person shooter, and has the same director. Being based on the then-dormant Kid Icarus series and not being a massive crossover like Smash, it unsurprisingly isn't as well-known.
  • Assassin's Creed: Rogue is this to Assassin's Creed: Unity. Rogue was released on older consoles and only got a PC port four months after it came out (And received little advertising from Ubisoft as well), while Unity in contrast was arguably Ubisoft's biggest game that year. However, after Unity had a notoriously buggy launch and received mixed reviews in the story department, many fans saw Rogue as being the superior experience- while Unity had a large amount of backlash, the most people say against Rogue is that it's a copy-paste of Black Flag.

    Western Animation 
  • American Dad!, a Sister Show to Family Guy (though not a spinoff). While Family Guy seems to attract both incredible popularity and publicity and an incredible Hatedom, American Dad continues going on quietly with a smaller but generally satisfied audience.
    • Ironically, Family Guy has regained some of its notoriety by doing increasingly political storylines, something American Dad was originally created to do (but which it mostly dropped by its second season.)
    • The Cleveland Show is a direct spinoff of Family Guy, following Cleveland Brown after he moved away. Sometimes both Family Guy and Cleveland Show will intertwine, for comedic effect.
      (An episode of Family Guy revives an old running joke, with in-show events causing Cleveland to fall out of his new house in his bathtub).
      Tim the Bear: I don't get it.
  • Futurama, Matt Groening's second show, also fell into this category when it was being aired on Fox. It is still wildly popular.
  • Doug was this in its run on Nickelodeon. It never became the catchphrase-spawning pop-cultural phenomenon like Ren and Stimpy or other shows, but Nick kept supporting it because it had solid ratings for its run and huge support from parents who actually wanted their kids to watch it.
    • Averted with the Disney version, oh so very much. Which brings us to...
  • Pepper Ann was this for the big three of One Saturday Morning. Doug became a mild Cash Cow Franchise, and Recess became a cult hit with adults. It still got good ratings, and lasted the entire "wave one"note  of the block.
  • King of the Hill could be seen as this to the entire Fox animation lineup, despite being an original show and not a spinoff (except, arguably, to Beavis And Butthead.) While The Simpsons and Seth MacFarlane's shows all drew attention for accusations of Jumping the Shark, controversial political humor or just plain running too long, KOTH unobtrusively ran for 13 seasons and earned a good bit of critical praise.
    • Referenced in the South Park episode "Cartoon Wars", where Cartman sets out to destroy Family Guy. At one point he and a Bart Simpson Expy get into a fight in Fox's offices; when they go through the KOTH production area, it's completely quiet and normal. (Mike Judge is friends with Matt and Trey, and actually voiced Kenny in South Park: Bigger, Longer, and Uncut.)
  • Green Lantern: The Animated Series is this in comparison to Young Justice. It constantly lags behind YJ in terms of ratings, sales on iTunes, and receiving awards or praise, due to being newer. It's also hurt by the fact that it airs earlier in the morning, meaning that people who were originally fans of YJ before GLTAS premiered will often sleep through it. That being said, it usually sits with or near YJ on charts, but while YJ will sell steadily on iTunes throughout the week, remaining in the top 5 on the animation chart until the next episode goes on sale, GLTAS will top off at #3 and be barely clinging to the top 10 by the end of the week.