"Cobra Kai" is such a phenomenon that when its initial streaming service, YouTube Red, crashed and burned, Netflix swooped in with the renewal. What started as a show subverting the "Karate Kid" franchise by picking up the story from the point of view of middle-aged former villain Johnny Lawrence (William Zabka), transformed over five seasons into a sprawling mini-epic involving Lawrence, former archrival Daniel LaRusso (Ralph Macchio), their families, a whole new generation of karate students, and the return of several old enemies and allies who cannot let the past go.
Once you've binged it multiple times, what next? Where else can you get the thrill of '80s heroes dealing with toxic masculinity and youthful characters supplanting them, bad guys realizing they're actually good, and lots of telenovela-level twists? Glad you asked. For some, or even all, of those TV show qualities elsewhere on your control panel, check out these 12 other shows we recommend for "Cobra Kai" fans.
Ash Vs. Evil Dead
Ash Williams (Bruce Campbell) basically is Johnny Lawrence, except for the fact that he has always been perceived as a good guy. He's sexist, arrogant, delusional, stuck in the past (figuratively always, literally sometimes), with a face that's super-punchable -- and is, indeed, frequently pummeled. Besides that, he and Johnny both have issues with father figures played by TV stars of yore. Johnny's evil stepdad is Ed Asner (Lou Grant!), while Ash's egomaniacal father is Lee Majors (the Six Million Dollar Man!). And against all odds and their own terrible intentions, both men end up being father figures to at least two younger protegees. Ash has Kelly (Dana DeLorenzo) and Pablo (Ray Santiago), while Johnny has his firstborn son Robby (Tanner Buchanan) and surrogate son-turned-stepson Miguel (Xolo Mariduena). Terrible influences aside, these youngsters, after some rough starts, ultimately become heroes any parent would be proud of. That's in no small part due to their semi-toxic would-be dads at least teaching them how to kick ass effectively.
The main difference between "Ash vs. Evil Dead" and "Cobra Kai" is that while Johnny may be haunted by metaphorical demons from his past, Ash has actual demons angry about his past as a demon-slayer. Both characters must also take on former co-stars: with Johnny, it's Martin Kove, who returns as karate bully John Kreese. With Ash, it's Lucy Lawless, whom he appeared opposite in a few episodes of "Xena: Warrior Princess." "Ash vs. Evil Dead" couldn't get a lot of fans to subscribe to Starz just to see it, but all three seasons are now easily accessible on Blu-ray and VOD.
When it comes to TV shows that are sequels to '80s movies with many of the original cast involved, only "Chucky" is a more bugnuts insane expansion of its initial premise than "Cobra Kai." Sure, "Cobra Kai" took a simple movie about a high school kid facing his bully in a karate tournament and expanded it into a soap opera about letting go of the past, while turning the entire San Fernando Valley of Southern California into a hotbed of teen-on-teen karate violence. "Chucky," on the other hand, took the simple slasher story of a killer doll and added endless complications and expansions, from his gender-fluid doll son being split into two humans by voodoo magic to the actual actress Jennifer Tilly playing herself as possessed by a lookalike killer who used to also inhabit a doll's body.
The show also features Devon Sawa in multiple roles, multiple Chuckys with different personalities that include Marlon Brando and Brad Dourif (played in a flashback by Dourif's daughter Fiona), and a surprisingly sweet love story at the center. Then there's that whole episode in which WWE's Liv Morgan, playing herself, encountered the "real" Chucky, who murdered her after seeing actual footage of her saying she wanted to be killed by (fake) Chucky on screen. Some wishes do come true!
After that, Johnny fighting with Daniel and Chozen (Yuji Okumoto) against Kreese and Terry Silver (Thomas Ian Griffith) doesn't seem quite so outlandish, does it?
"Chucky" currently airs on USA and Syfy.
Years ago, a man who was great at fighting encountered a situation that made him question himself. He decided he had to stop, but he never lost the fire inside, and now stands an older, angrier version of his former self. He's disillusioned with what his neighborhood has become, and how time has moved on. Yet when he meets a younger man who reminds him of his former self but could use some decent training, he becomes a mentor. The young man gains the wisdom of an expert martial artist ... and also his outlook on life. He'll need that to take on all the young jokers out there on the streets of his town.
That description matches Johnny and Miguel. It also matches Bruce Wayne and Terry McGinnis, the old and young Batmen of "Batman Beyond." Don't be distracted by the fact that it's a cartoon; it too drew on the love fans felt for a previous iteration of the franchise, bringing back Kevin Conroy (R.I.P.) as Bruce. Terry (Will Friedle) mostly faced all-new foes, but occasionally a veteran icon like the original Joker would make a comeback. Since the time-jump in the series didn't match any such lapse in the real world, that was easier to do than in live-action.
"Batman Beyond" is available almost everywhere.
There was a time when wrestling shows over-depended on aged, past-their-prime guys with valuable name recognition, but like "Cobra Kai," All-Elite Wrestling understands that the story works best if the story gives equal time to rising young talent alongside the veteran competitors. The best analog to Johnny Lawrence on AEW's flagship show "Dynamite" is probably Chris Jericho, the blond-haired lover of glam rock who recently formed an "appreciation society" of newcomers to mold in his image, á la Eagle Fang. William Regal might be the John Kreese figure, a veteran bare-knuckler who believes in the "power of the punch" and recently turned on his champion protege, Jon Moxley, in favor of the more treacherous MJF. Dr. Britt Baker, like Tory, is a bad girl who won't stop running her mouth, while Saraya, a second-generation fighter who recently got cleared to return, evinces shades of Samantha LaRusso.
When it comes to nutty older characters, it must also be said that both "Cobra Kai" master Chozen and AEW veteran Billy Gunn seem to equally enjoy showing their asses. Is it in the performers' contracts? Meanwhile, on both shows, the most experienced fighter of all is an outstanding kicker named Danielson/Daniel-san.
"AEW Dynamite" can be seen on TNT every Wednesday night for the foreseeable future.
The Karate Kid Animated Series
If Daniel LaRusso had actually surfed on a torpedo in search of a magic shrine being smuggled all across the globe, he'd be more than a local karate legend. Yeah, it's pretty safe to say "The Karate Kid" animated series is not considered canon to the so-called Miyagi-verse, even though the allegedly magical shrine does appear in Chozen's dojo on "Cobra Kai." Nonetheless, any fan of "Cobra Kai" and the "Karate Kid" movies will not have a complete picture without these '80s cartoon adventures of Daniel and Miyagi traveling the world. With new female companion Taki, the Miyagi-Do duo would routinely go to some new location to find the lost enchanted object, only to have it slip from their grasp at the last minute. The premise held out for 13 episodes, and Robert Ito, best known for playing Sam on "Quincy, M.E.," voiced Mr. Miyagi, with "Another World" actor Joey Dedio as Daniel, and Janice Kawaye ("My Life as a Teenage Robot") as Taki.
Given how many references and returning characters the producers of "Cobra Kai" routinely throw in from all the "Karate Kid" media, there's still about an even chance that some version of Taki could show up later. "The Karate Kid" cartoon no longer streams, but DVDs of varying degrees of apparent legitimacy aren't hard to find.
The Book Of Boba Fett
When it comes to '80s movie villains who got so popular they wound up turning good, nobody beats Boba Fett, played by Jeremy Bulloch back then, and Temuera Morrison now. The "Star Wars" bounty hunter became a hit with kids before "The Empire Strikes Back" even came out, thanks to an advance mail-away action figure, and that cartoon in the infamous Holiday Special. For decades, tie-in novels and comics served up storylines revealing how the jet-packed warrior escaped the Sarlacc's belly in Tatooine's Pit of Carkoon. Only when "The Mandalorian" arrived on Disney+ did any version of that escape become canon, spinning off into "The Book of Boba Fett."
Just like Johnny Lawrence, Fett had long-held grudges to settle against abusive former cohorts, old rivals coming out of the woodwork, and young assistants (the "Mods") to stand by his side and fight. Johnny, though, has one up on Boba. Even though the cloned Mandalorian and Fennec Shand (Ming-Na Wen) are as perfect for each other as space mercenaries get, they'll probably never hook up. However, Johnny and Miguel's mom, Carmen (Vanessa Rubio), are going to have a baby together.
"The Book of Boba Fett," like everything else "Star Wars" related, streams on Disney+.
Nobody's better at being an old legacy character who puts younger companions in insane amounts of danger than the Doctor, who debuted on TV in 1963. Played by multiple actors over the years, the Doctor is a nigh-immortal, gender-fluid Time Lord from the planet Gallifrey. The character, who is possibly centuries old, rebels against their stuffy, controlling race, and steals a time-travel vessel called a TARDIS. The Doctor develops a particular affinity for Great Britain on the planet Earth and routinely convinces human companions -- usually attractive young women -- to join them on cosmic and historical adventures. These newbs are then promptly exposed to the likes of the genocidal Daleks (space Nazi cyborgs), Cybermen (space zombie cyborgs), Sontarans (space warmonger clones), and Weeping Angels (sentient statues that send you to die in the past if you blink ... It's complicated, all right!?).
Unlike Johnny, the Doctor decidedly does not teach their young charges how to defend themselves because they (mostly) insist on being a pacifist. Except for that one time they became John Hurt and committed intergalactic mass murder, but again ... It's complicated. So, when it comes to reckless youth endangerment, Daniel and Johnny really are amateurs, relatively speaking.
While some ancient episodes of "Doctor Who" have been lost to an erase-happy BBC, most are available to stream on HBO Max or BritBox as of this writing.
Star Trek Prodigy
As legacy characters go, "Star Trek: Voyager" veteran Captain Kathryn Janeway (Kate Mulgrew) doesn't have a lot in common with Johnny and Daniel. For one thing, she possesses the self-confidence that comes from flying to the other side of the universe and back, fighting the Borg and beating them, and risking the lives of her entire crew over her personal coffee supply. Now in hologram form for "Star Trek: Prodigy," she's even cockier, only showing up to dispense potentially life-saving advice when specifically asked.
Her role, however, is similar: take a bunch of misfits -- in this case, kids -- and whip them into shape until they're a team worthy of being in her club, namely Starfleet. And not unlike Johnny's Cobra Kai class, Janeway's crew includes an awkward girl, a cocky kid with a mohawk, a geek who likes to argue, and a seemingly evil girl who really just endured a rough upbringing. There isn't a direct analog to the cute blob creature Murf, and it'd be really mean to say Paul Walter Hauser (Stingray!), so we won't.
"Prodigy" also likes to surprise fans with deep-cut returning characters, from Commander Chakotay (Robert Beltran) to "The Next Generation" one-off Thadiun Okona (Billy Campbell). That's boldly going where "Cobra Kai" has gone many times before.
"Star Trek Prodigy" streams on Paramount+.
Jurassic World: Camp Cretaceous
Johnny Lawrence might unkindly be called a metaphorical dinosaur, but that's not why this show is included. Rather, "Camp Cretaceous," like "Cobra Kai," expands a franchise by foolishly leaving a new generation of kids under the supervision of veteran franchise characters who aren't safe to be around. In this instance, that means actual dinosaurs, even though the dubious Dr. Henry Wu is also still around (albeit voiced by Greg Chun and not B.D. Wong).
Watch as today's gadget-savvy teens are flummoxed by aging predators who don't play by modern rules! See if they can channel video game skills into actual survival! Behold as adults who should have learned something over the last couple of decades of this series completely let down the youngsters who count on them!
Also -- and this is not insignificant -- dinosaurs provide proof that the notion of an "eagle fang" isn't completely absurd, evolutionarily speaking. So, Johnny's new dojo name really does rule.
"Jurassic World: Camp Cretaceous" streams on Netflix.
"Black Lightning" had an unusual and unique premise among the CW's DC superhero sagas. When it debuted as a brand-new show, it behaved like a legacy series. The lyrics to the theme tune declared, "Black Lightning's back!" and the plot implied that Black Lightning (Cress Williams) had already done a stint as a superhero years ago, was now retired, and was strongly considering a return. Occasional flashbacks looked like they came from a '70s TV show.
Similar to "Cobra Kai," the show had a lot to do with legacy, as Black Lightning's two daughters began developing superpowers and adopting different approaches to having them. Like Robby and Samantha, Thunder (Nafessa Williams) and Lightning (Jennifer Pierce) must find their own way to use the abilities their action-oriented dad once mastered, and will again. This, of course, brings them into conflict with his old enemies, including a slow-aging super-villain named Tobias Whale (Marvin Jones III), who remains as oddly youthful as "Cobra Kai" big bad Terry Silver. The latter is a supposed Vietnam veteran, though Thomas Ian Griffith, who portrays him, is too young to have served there.
"Black Lightning" is available on Blu-ray.
When first we meet John Cena's Peacemaker in James Gunn's "The Suicide Squad," he's a meatheaded, blindly order-following inflictor of violence in the service of peace. "Strike first, strike hard, no mercy," could easily be his motto, and these traits all make him a villain by the movie's end, where he's defeated by the similarly skilled Bloodsport (Idris Elba). A post-credits scene showed he survived, and HBO's "Peacemaker" series saw him having to pay off his debt by serving his country on more constructive missions.
Like Johnny Lawrence, he loves eagles and '80s rock, and can't understand why big muscles and kicking ass don't solve every problem anymore in the modern, politically correct era. His deeply toxic father, however, puts awful "Cobra Kai" mentor Kreese to shame, as Auggie Smith (Robert Patrick) is a white supremacist supervillain known as the White Dragon. Though he developed with much of his son's super-gear, he despises any hint of weakness and has a long history of physically abusing his son just for laughs. When the tables inevitably turn, it's as glorious as the time Kreese got beaten up by Mr. Miyagi for assaulting Johnny.
How I Met Your Mother
A sitcom about single guys, framed as flashbacks from the future, may not sound anything like "Cobra Kai" at all if you're not familiar with it. However, there's a strong case to be made that the show essentially spawned "Cobra Kai." During a conversation on the show between inveterate womanizer Barney Stinson (Neil Patrick Harris) and modest kindergarten teacher Lily Harris (Alysson Hannigan), the following exchange ensued (via TV Quotes):
Barney: Hey, "Karate Kid"'s a great movie. It's the story of a hopeful young karate enthusiast whose dreams and moxie take him all the way to the All Valley Karate Championship. Of course, sadly, he loses in the final round to that nerd kid. But he learns an important lesson about gracefully accepting defeat.
Lily: Wait. When you watch "The Karate Kid," you actually root for that mean blond boy?
Barney: No, I root for the scrawny loser from New Jersey who barely even knows karate. When I watch "The Karate Kid," I root for the karate kid: Johnny Lawrence from the Cobra Kai dojo. Get your head out of your ass, Lily.
In a bit of self-referential humor, Ralph Macchio and William Zabka even appeared on the show. "Cobra Kai" co-creator Josh Heald claims he had the idea before, but Barney's speech encouraged him while pitching the concept. Though "Cobra Kai" ultimately was told all from Johnny's point of view at first, the show has grown way beyond that since then, with multiple characters serving as protagonists.
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