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Quietly Performing Sister Show

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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 QPSS.

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 favorite.) Yet, the work will still perform, getting enough sales or views to continue its run. The general public will often find it inoffensive and likable, sometimes getting a fondness in their hearts for the show, despite its faults. If it's a show, it will probably be canceled after a decently long run, or the makers will call it day; but it will probably be released onto DVD or eventually be Vindicated by Reruns.

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 receives lower (but still good) ratings or is neglected by the fanbase but got great critical write-ups or lots of awards, or started in the shadow of a bigger show but gradually escaped it, then it's not this trope.note  One or two awards however don't count for much on their own, and those shows stay here).


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    Anime & Manga 
  • 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.
  • TomoMote (It's Not My Fault My Friend's Not Popular) is a prequel/spinoff of It's Not My Fault I'm Not Popular!.
  • While Aikatsu Stars! has a small, devoted Periphery Demographic, the series itself, as well as the game it was based on, was poorly received among the target demographic, all of whom were big fans of the original Aikatsu! series and despised the changes made to it.

    Comic Books 
  • The Transformers: Robots in Disguise sells decently enough and gets good reviews, but it will likely always be stuck in the shadow of it's sister series The Transformers: More than Meets the Eye, which is a critical darling beloved by fans and professionals alike. The main problem is that while MTMTE dedicated itself to reinventing the wheel and doing things no other TF series had dared do before, RID just quietly stuck to the typical plotlines that other TF books had explored before, often with far more success and depth.
  • Nearly anytime a superhero spins off into their own book after being introduced in another, bigger book. Some examples include Scarlet Spider, Storm, Nightcrawler, and others. Occasionally however some are able to establish identities and mythos of their own and break free of their parent book, such as Deadpool or the Thunderbolts

    Live-Action TV 
  • 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: NY was never as critically popular as the original CSI or as commercially popular as CSI: Miami, but it was still well-liked enough to chug along for nine seasons. It wasn't even the first of the CSI shows to be cancelled.
  • 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 (1971) 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.
  • The Lets Go Show was this to The Good Night Show, running for three years.
  • Wings was this to Cheers, and its other spin-off Frasier. While Wings ran for a respectable eight seasons and developed a loyal fanbase, it still fell short of the eleven seasons and critical acclaim that both Cheers and Frasier achieved.
  • Parks and Recreation was the QPSS to The Office (US), sharing many of the same executive producers and writers, and was originally pitched as a Spin-Off before it was made into its own standalone thing. It followed a similar pattern as its parent series, starting off with a short and clumsy first season that many criticized as being too similar, if not a pale imitation, of The Office before Growing the Beard and finding its own unique identity in its second season, much like how The Office itself was with regards to its own parent series. While The Office got much more attention and higher ratings, Parks and Rec was never entirely able to shake off the poor first impression Season 1 had left, struggling in the ratings and just barely avoiding cancelation for its entire run. It was ultimately Vindicated by Reruns and thanks to having lasted longer than its ratings would've normally allowed (getting seven seasons with 125 episodes), it avoided the Too Good to Last label. Nowadays, many critics and TV watchers consider it equal to, if not better than, its parent show.
  • 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. While your average American TV watcher can name it as "that other Law & Order show", it tends not to receive nearly as much attention as its older sister Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. Kathryn Erbe and Vincent D'Onofrio were perpetually snubbed at the Emmys, despite turning in performances as good or better than those on SVU, although it still has a sizeable fanbase.
  • 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 The 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 (1996) to Touched by an Angel.
  • Hang Time is considered this, despite its five-year run. While Saved by the Bell is appreciated to this day for its So Bad, It's Good, Narm and humorous qualities and California Dreams became a Cult Classic and has a well-loved soundtrack, Hang Time was just there and was looked at as a Midwestern, basketball-themed version of SBTB. Adding to its vagueness over if it were more of a comedy or a comedy-drama and multiple cast changes (including its arguable main character, played by NBA star Reggie Theus being replaced by a character played by NFL star Dick Butkus) did it no favors. Nowadays, it's mostly remembered as that show that had the Chicago sports stars and where Anthony Anderson got his start.
  • Major Crimes shocked everybody by successfully transitioning The Closer's Hero Antagonist Captain Sharon Raydor into The Hero of the After Show and has maintained its predecessor's slot as the most successful show on cable, but it's still not quite as good (or popular) as The Closer. It ended up running for six seasons, though, which speaks volumes about the show's quality.
  • Fantasy Island on ABC was a solid hit in the early '80s, but it hasn't exactly had the success of fellow Aaron Spelling ocean-based hit The Love Boat and star Ricardo Montalban tends to be more associated with Star Trek than Fantasy Island.
  • Simon & Simon was launched as a sister show to Magnum, P.I.. While it was a hit, ultimately lasting the same number of seasons and trailing it by less than ten episodes, it isn't nearly as fondly remembered.
  • Boston Public tends to be less impactful and memorable than creator David E. Kelley's other Boston shows.
  • NCIS: Los Angeles has gone on for seven seasons despite never reaching the popularity if its parent show. NCIS actually inverted this with its parent, JAG, performing better in each of the two seasons both were on the air.
  • The Marvel Cinematic Universe's ABC shows (Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Agent Carter) are considered this compared to their enormously popular Netflix programming (Daredevil (2015) and Jessica Jones (2015)). Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. managed to last seven seasons and over a hundred episodes, and got great reviews - but it was never the juggernaut like the Netflix shows and floundered as its ties to the movies became more and more tenuous.
  • Since 2014, The Flash has been consistently ranked as the most popular show in not only the Arrowverse but also the entire CW network, surpassing both its parent series, Arrow, and all of its younger sister shows. Those sister shows usually garnered higher ratings than Arrow, but they never outranked The Flash. This might be because those shows focus on lesser-known DC characters or their more brazen diversity vis-à-vis the White Male Lead of The Flash.
  • While Better Call Saul and Fear the Walking Dead both became solid hits for AMC, neither of them have come close to the popularity and cultural impact of their respective parent series.
  • The Noddy Shop is this to Shining Time Station. While both used framing devices to successfully introduce a new British series to the American market, The Noddy Shop had two factors that made it this trope. The first was that three new shows just so happened to premiere around the time it was airing: Zoboomafoo, Dragon Tales and Between the Lions, which caused a good number of PBS affiliates to give the show less attention and either move it to a graveyard or weekend slot to make room for the newer shows.note  The second was that PBS itself faced increased competition from rising subscrptions to cable and satelite networks like Nickelodeon and Disney Channel because it was now seen as affordable by many households. In comparison, Shining Time Station premiered in the late 80's, when cable was considered a luxury by many.
  • If you add up all the episodes of Saved by the Bell, its predecessor Good Morning, Miss Bliss, and sequel Saved by the Bell: The College Years (119 episodes over 6 seasons), it still didn't run as long as Saved by the Bell: The New Class (143 episodes over 7 seasons). However, the original Saved by the Bell is far better remembered.
  • The Originals did okay ratings for The CW, but remains overshadowed by The Vampire Diaries despite lasting a respectable five seasons. The third series, Legacies, looks set for the same fate.
  • Private Practice was this for it's parent show Grey's Anatomy. If you were a regular viewer you were probably surprised to see it still on, but it managed six seasons and even had a character transplant back to Greys after it ended. It's definitely this in comparison to the second spinoff, Station 19, which boasts stronger ratings and is much more connected to the parent show.

  • 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. Time Fades Away, however, did not get a reissue until 2014, when it was included as part of a vinyl box set, and was later made available as part of a CD box set and on streaming platforms.
  • Stone Sour are easily one of the most successful rock bands of the 21st century, having had eight top 10 hits on the rock charts and several more top 40s. That being said, they still have nowhere near the recognition and acclaim of Corey Taylor's other band: Slipknot.

    Professional Wrestling 
  • Full Impact Pro to Ring of Honor, getting fairly strong promotion but not nearly as much critical or fan attention as it's older sister...or it's younger sister SHIMMER, for that matter. FIP later became this in the WWN to EVOLVE, which was promoted with practically everything the group had even when the fans didn't really care, and to SHINE, which at least occupies the female niche...and in the interim all WWN affiliates were quiet performers to Dragon Gate USA, until Dragon Gate officially pulled out and all the effort on the USA side eventually went to EVOLVE.
  • Wrestling Is Respect to Chikara, which itself occupies a specific niche among independent feds. RESPECT previously served as such to ROH and SHIMMER, without the "Wrestling Is" designation, after the latter two became less associated with FIP. The whole Wrestling Is experiment was an effort to give Chikara wrestlers places to go during Chikara's off seasons and Respect was not only the best established prior but the one with the most longevity after Wrestling Is had been established.


  • The Paralympics to the Olympic Games, and to a lesser extent, the Winter Olympics to the Summer Olympics.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Red Dragon Inn has its spinoff, Battle For Greyport. The Red Dragon Inn is a long-running, easy-to-learn, relatively lightweight comedic fantasy game about a bunch of classic D&D-style fantasy adventurers hitting a bar after a big adventure to spend all that loot they just earned. It's been going for over a decade, has dozens of expansions both big and small, and is considered a bona fide classic of the hobby-game sphere. It's a competitive game where players use themed decks based on different characters to try and beat each other up, drink each other under the table, or gamble their friends' money away. Battle for Greyport, meanwhile, is a much more straightforward fantasy game wherein the cast of Red Dragon Inn fights off monsters and defends their town. It's a much more complicated cooperative deckbuilder, and is significantly more difficult to both learn and play. While nowhere near as popular as the original game, it's still had a handful of expansions (some funded via Kickstarter to make up for the game's smaller audience). In addition, certain special promotional characters have had decks released for both The Red Dragon Inn AND Battle for Greyport, at the same time.

  • 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 
  • 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, Pokémon Battrio and Pokémon Ranger fall into this. The Pokémon 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.
  • Kid Icarus: Uprising plays like Super Smash Bros. 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, and considering how popular that game was most don't see this as too big of a problem.
  • Many of Maxis' early works were this alongside their flagship SimCity series: SimEarth, SimAnt, and SimTower are just a few of the many forgotten titles.

    Web Original 

    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, along with an incredible Hatedom, American Dad continues going on quietly with a smaller but generally satisfied audience.
    Stan Smith: *runs down a list of his favorite cartoon dogs; the top one is Brian Griffin*
    Brian: Do I know you? *leaves*
    • 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.)
    • Peter even references American Dad at the end of a episode of Family Guy, only to be told it doesn't follow them anymore, to which all the characters on screen stop talking after Peter askes what follows them now and all look uncomfortably and sadly around for the last minute of the episode, not saying a word. This was after Fox cancelled American Dad, and the show was picked up by cable channel TBS.
    Peter: But you know who does carry a gun? American Dad! Take it away, Stan Smith!
    Lois: Peter, that show doesn't follow us anymore.
    Peter: Oh, I assume they replaced it with something equally as good or successful?
    • 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, thanks in part to its Channel Hop to Comedy Central and strong DVD sales.
    • More recently, Groening's streaming television debut Disenchantment is this to both Futurama and The Simpsons, continuing to run on Netflix despite little critical fanfare and a generally tepid reaction from fans of the previous shows.
  • 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.
  • Evil Con Carne was this in comparison to The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy. While Billy and Mandy remains one of the most popular and beloved Cartoon Network series of the 2000s, Evil Con Carne has a much smaller fanbase and is often given a So Okay, It's Average response.
  • Green Lantern: The Animated Series was this in comparison to Young Justice. It constantly lagged behind YJ in terms of ratings, sales on iTunes, and receiving awards or praise, due to being newer. It was also hurt by the fact that it aired in the timeslot immediately before, meaning that people who were originally fans of YJ before GLTAS premiered will often sleep through it. That being said, it usually sat with or near YJ on sales charts, but while YJ sold steadily on iTunes throughout the week, remaining in the top 5 on the animation chart until the next episode went on sale, GLTAS topped off at #3 and was barely clinging to the top 10 by the end of the week. The two shows were canceled at the same time, despite some joint efforts at saving the shows, but while YJ was eventually Un-Canceled by Time Warner-owned streaming services, GLTAS remained more obscure... until season four essentially handed half an episode over to the Lantern producers, director, storyboard artist, and actors, establishing that a Broad Strokes version of their story took place in this 'verse, and giving them the space to tie a bow on a particular character arc. This has led to a surge of interest in GLTAS, however small or brief, as older fans direct newer ones to their sister show.
  • Milo Murphy's Law to Phineas and Ferb, to the point where many fans of the latter haven't even heard of the former, despite a Shared Universe with a Crossover connecting Seasons 1 and 2 and fan favorite character Dr. Doofenshmirtz being incorporated into the central cast throughout the second season, effectively making the whole show a Stealth Sequel. It received comparatively little attention from Phineas and Ferb's base due to airing at a time when new animated shows had been regulated to Disney XD instead of the main Disney Channel, and after its crew ceased production following Season 2 to work on Phineas and Ferb The Movie: Candace Against the Universe, it remains unrenewed for a third season.