Taking the story of a movie and transferring it to the small screen isn’t a new idea. For years shows have started as movies and found a more lucrative and popular fanbase in television. Kids cartoons have been doing it for years to varied degrees of success, while older shows would use a “movie” to launch their show but what were nothing more than extended pilot episodes. One of the most successful series M*A*S*H was famously a movie first.
What has started happening is TV series being developed that take the general premise of a movie and turn it into a multiple episode tale. This has already started happening with some varying degrees of success. Fargo recently showed that using the “spirit and tone” of a show rather than taking a straight adaptation would work, while Sleepy Hollow took the Headless Horseman and Ichabod Crane and created a show around their characters, but loosely.
Other shows have done something similar in this respect. Sleepy Hollow took the characters and brought them to the modern day. Both Hannibal and Bates Hotel took a similar route: prequel shows using characters from the film but leaving the general premise of the original movies untouched.
These shows were successful and this had led networks to look for movies for inspiration. Some of their upcoming ideas seem good and could work very well while others seem like poor remakes/reboots and lack any original idea.
Examples of the former seem to fall into two specific categories; sitcoms or Sci-Fi. All sitcoms need is a loose situation to build a show around. Shows in production include School of Rock, Uncle Buck, Hitch and Big. The ideas from the movies are just the beginning of these series, with the rest of the situations coming out the initial premise. Shows like the recent About a Boy demonstrate that this can be successful.
Sci-Fi has had plenty of success in this area too. Stargate SG1 and it’s two spin-offs are more recent examples, while the 12 Monkeys TV show is getting a second series too. This can be down to the way in which Sci-Fi offers a lot of endless possibilities. Hopefully this can lead to success for shows like Westworld and Frequency, which have a rich backstory to explore and plenty of potential to develop their stories.
What seems like a bad idea is movies which have a loose premise with very little area of development. Two examples which come to mind are Marley and Me and The Notebook. Their respective movies told these stories very well and spinning them out into TV shows won’t add anything. How far can you stretch the tale of a couple getting a new dog or a couple who fall in love but can’t be together? They aren’t offering anything new or original with their premise.
The same can be said for most of the TV shows that use their movies to create nothing more than another procedural series. Limitless had a great premise about a drug which makes you everything you can potentially be – so the main character uses it to help solve crimes. Rush Hour will place a black and Asian police officer together to solve crimes. Lethal Weapon will be a reckless cop with a straight-laced one who solve crimes. Training Day will be a crooked cop with his new, rookie partner who solve crimes. Minority Report is just more solving crimes but before the crimes are committed. These are not original ideas or anything more than just packaging the same type of show with a familiar name.
Other TV shows just seem to use the name of the film and will worry about a story or series later. How they can create a series from Taken, The Devil’s Advocate or Fatal Attraction is beyond me. All of these are straight-forward, easily resolved tales that were told well-enough in a movie format. Trying to squeeze a series from a limited premise sees many shows fail and I can’t see these being any different.
Overall, creating TV shows from movies has had some success but only when the premise is one with varied potential. Sitcoms work very well, as does anything in fantasy or Science-Fiction but the many different shows based on cops which will just lead to more of the generic procedurals seems like a poor idea, as does basing a series on a film which resolved itself clearly within two hours.