In recent years, the ability of the TV industry, especially that of the superhero genre has led to the expansion of franchises to feature their stories using multiple programmes sometimes spanning multiple networks and media. This innovation in how we follow the stories of characters in a particular universe has allowed for a much richer mythology for us to get our teeth into, and much more diverse and interesting characters.
This trend has grown recently, however there have been a few past examples worth looking at. Take for example the hit Joss Whedon cult series, Buffy the Vampire Slayer. A spinoff called Angel was created which followed the adventures of the eponymous vampire introduced in the original show, again this show was extremely popular with die-hard fans but arguably failed to hit the same viewership as Buffy. Events in one show effect events in the other and characters in one visit ones in the other. Some might suggest that the lack of popularity may due to the inaccessibility that universe sharing spinoffs have to a new audience that have never watched the original show. Angel started whilst Buffy had already had a two series to develop, so anyone who wants to start Angel with some basic understanding of the universe is forced to watch two series of a different TV show before they can start.
However, this doesn’t seem to be as much as a problem today due to the greater accessibility for people to watch TV shows (online streaming etc.) and this relatively new habit of binging TV shows makes us try to get as much out of a marathon as possible. For example, the current shape the marvel cinematic universe is all very much united, and gives great fan service through references to other series within the universe, however it is also entirely accessible to those who may not have even seen the marvel movies on the big screen. Take for example Netflix’s Jessica Jones, this series is linked to the wider Marvel universe as it depicts the gradual increase in powered people that are appearing in the world, Jessica being one of these people. However, the creators are very careful to make sure that the show is not simply a call back to the movies, only fleeting references are made to the “battle of New York” as depicted in 2012’s Avengers movie. And no cameos are made of major movie characters. I know people who claim to not be superhero or comic book fans who adore this show and would likely adore others in the same universe.
This appears to be a positive direction for shared TV universes to take. The DC TV universe, whilst maybe more explicit than Marvel due to its crossover episodes, also features entirely different stories within its 4 shows that occupy its same TV universe. And many more seem to be following suit from hit series such as; Pretty Little Liars, Breaking Bad, The Walking Dead, Dr Who, and even talk of a Game of Thrones spinoff - we can only hope.