Movies Becoming TV Shows: A Retrospective
The Veronica Mars Kickstarter project, paving the way for the cult TV show to become a movie, has gotten a lot of attention recently. But there are plenty of other franchises that went the other way around, from movies to television. It might surprise you to know which TV shows started as feature films.
One of the pilots in production for next year is an adaptation of the Hugh Grant movie About a Boy, in which a guy pretends to be a single father in order to hit on single mothers, and then finds himself mentoring the son of one of those mothers. Let’s look at some previous movies that became television series.
Going with the cynical-with-a-heart-of-gold theme, Parenthood was a movie about all the crazy, irritating parts about family like that you usually want to ignore. It became a short-lived show not long after the movie, and now another show has lasted three seasons on NBC. It’s about a different-but-similar extended family, with many of the same themes.
The series hasn’t gotten the biggest audience, but it’s well liked by the people who have found it. Of all the shows on this list, Parenthood is probably the closest to About a Boy — a relationship story you might feel a little bad for laughing at, but you laugh anyway.
Friday Night Lights
Friday Night Lights was a great show that wound up before its time. Though there was a little more of the standard teen melodrama than in the original movie, the clear hearts — er, heart, was still there. The show, like the movie before it, managed to keep from losing sight of the kids and their lives and football, even if it did have an awful lot about the Taylors.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer
The original movie was more of a novelty than anything else, but the TV show became a major cultural touchstone for a generation. Unlike the movie, which was more Hollywood-quirky, the show embraced all the weirdness of the premise and became something that, even within the fantasy genre, kids could relate to.
The Dead Zone
Originally from a Stephen King story, this was a Christopher Walken movie years before it was a minor USA show best known as an answer to, “Whatever happened to that blond kid from the John Hughes movies?” Unlike Buffy, the show didn’t do a good job of embracing the fact that it was based on, well, a Christoper Walken movie about a guy who had visions of the future, and turned into a paranormal procedural with an occasional ongoing conspiracy.
The best show adaptations are the ones that can make you forget there was a movie in the first place. Although the Robert Altman original is still worth checking out, the TV show has earned its place in entertainment history. It could get overly sentimental, like Parenthood can at moments, but it was a funny, biting, occasionally heartbreaking look at war the way it’s lived.
And then there’s the “crappy cable thriller” adaptation. The original movie was pretty low-rent, but was enjoyable for what it was. The real question is why anybody thought it would work as an ongoing series. The conspiracy story, like the one on The Dead Zone, couldn’t last.
Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles
Some movies can still be awesome even when they turn John Connor into a whiny teenage boy (Because, really, if you’d been John Connor at that age you’d be whining, too). This one also ended before its time, according to those of us who were still actually watching. Like the best parts of the film series, at its best it was both awesome and thoughtful.
Honorable Mention: The Fugitive
After being a true-crime story, it was a TV show, then it was a movie, then it was a TV show again that most people didn’t bother with. We all learned that sometimes you really can’t go home again. That, and Tim Daly is no Harrison Ford.
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