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15 Movies That Were Turned Into TV Shows

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By the time 2015 has concluded, you’re likely to see at least one movie remake—voluntarily or otherwise—on the big screen. But the remake trend that has overtaken Hollywood in the past few decades is encroaching on small-screen originality, too. Just days after FX’s series remake of the Coen brothers’ Fargo took home two of its five Golden Globe nominations, Syfy is readying its newest series, 12 Monkeys, based on Terry Gilliam’s 1995 dystopian drama of the same name (which was based on Chris Marker’s 1962 short, La Jetée). And more movies-turned-series are on the way, including The Odd Couple, Scream, and School of Rock. Here are 15 other television series that began life as feature films.


The most amazing thing about Ron Howard’s 1989 family dramedy isn’t that it spawned a television series, but that it spawned two television series. The first one, which premiered in 1990, boasted a pretty impressive pedigree, with Howard as executive producer and Leonardo DiCaprio as one of its stars (he took over the role Joaquin Phoenix originated in the film). Yet it lasted only one season. Twenty years later, Howard, his producing partner Brian Grazer, and showrunner Jason Katims tried again—and this time, it worked. In 2010, Katims told Fanbolt that “what got me really excited was once I did talk to [Ron and Brian], they were really interested in only doing the show if we could reimagine it, not do something which is a copy of the movie but to look at, to let the movie inspire something that is new.” In its six seasons on the air (the series will make its final bow on January 29th), Parenthood has earned nearly two dozen award nominations.

Truth be told, producer Katims wasn’t totally new to the whole movie-turned-series concept when he launched Parenthood in 2010; he had done the same for Friday Night Lights in 2006 (and did so again last year with About a Boy).


Casablanca may be one of the most famous movies in the history of cinema, but the two series it spawned (one in 1955, the other in 1983) were completely forgettable. Both shows revolved around the adventures of Rick Blaine, the mysterious protagonist made famous by Humphrey Bogart in Michael Curtiz’s 1942 film, and were essentially prequels. The latter attempt, which starred David Soul (Starsky and Hutch’s Hutch) as Rick, Hector Elizondo as Renault, Ray Liotta as Sacha, and Scatman Crothers as Sam, lasted just one season (though it did win an Emmy for its cinematography). In 2012, Liotta talked about the series with The Huffington Post: “I think it just ran for seven episodes. Or maybe three or four. They got rid of it quick. And I don't think I had more than only one line each episode.”


You’d be hard-pressed to convince any Buffy diehard that the world’s coolest vampire-killing cheerleader could be played by anyone other than Sarah Michelle Gellar. But it was Kristy Swanson who originated the role in Fran Rubel Kuzui’s campy 1992 horror-comedy. The good news for fans of the show is that creator Joss Whedon wasn’t thrilled with the big-screen version of his kickass heroine, and made sure the television series represented the Buffy he had in mind. “I finally sat down and had written it and somebody had made it into a movie, and I felt like—well, that's not quite her,” Whedon said of his reaction to the film. “It's a start, but it’s not quite the girl.”


Earning more than $140 million at the box office made Animal House the third highest-grossing film of 1978—which prompted television executives to quickly jump on the idea of extending the movie’s success onto the small screen with Delta House, a short-lived sitcom that saw Dean Wormer (John Vernon), Flounder (Stephen Furst), D-Day (Bruce McGill), and Hoover (James Widdoes) reprising their film roles. It also marked the onscreen debut of Michelle Pfeiffer (as “The Bombshell”) who was quoted in Douglas Thompson’s book, Pfeiffer: Beyond the Age of Innocence, as saying, “It was a no-brainer, and I detested it. But it was exposure so I did the best I could with terrible scripts. I told myself: ‘There are so many unemployed actors around, you should be glad you're working at all.’”


In 1976, two years after Al Pacino earned his second Oscar nomination for the title role in Sidney Lumet’s gritty biopic of NYPD officer Frank Serpico, NBC launched a crime drama based on his life. David Birney took over the role of the courageous, corruption-fighting cop, but audiences weren’t biting; only 14 episodes aired before the show was canceled in January of 1977.


The 1990-1991 television season was full of movie adaptations, and Ferris Bueller was one of the most highly anticipated—and ultimately disappointing—of them all. John Hughes had nothing to do with its production, and reportedly asked that the network not use his name in promoting the series (in which an up-and-coming Jennifer Aniston played the role of Jeannie, Ferris’ sister). Hughes was right to fear that the series couldn’t live up to the film’s popularity. It was met with mostly negative reviews upon its August 1990 premiere. In response to a scene in which Charlie Schlatter, as Ferris, chainsaws the head off of a cutout of Matthew Broderick, The Washington Post’s Tom Shales commented, “Oh, then this is the ‘real’ Ferris Bueller? Fine. Now will the real Ferris Bueller please shut up.” The show was canceled in December.


Uncle Buck is yet another John Hughes movie that got the small-screen treatment during the 1990-1991 television season. The show continued the premise that the movie set up—slovenly Uncle Buck (played by John Candy in the film and Kevin Meaney in the series) is tasked with taking care of the nieces and nephew who barely know him—but to make it work as a series (read: to have Uncle Buck be a permanent babysitter), the series creators got morbid and killed off the parents in a car accident. A total of just 19 episodes were shot, and the series was canceled during its first season. In October 2014 it was announced that a new attempt to adapt Uncle Buck for television is in the works at ABC; the families of both the late Hughes and Candy were quick to publicly voice their disapproval of the concept.


In 2003, Syfy’s Tremors: The Series picked up where the franchise’s third entry had left off, but its broadcast didn't go according to plan. Instead of showing the series’ first two episodes on its premiere night, episodes one and six were screened instead, causing serious confusion among the show’s audience. Which forced the show’s editors to recut the season in order to make sense of it all—none of which helped its ratings (nope, not even with Michael Gross reprising his role as survivalist Burt Gummer). Only 13 episodes of the show were shot, but the series’ failure hasn’t damaged the franchise’s cult status: In 2004, Tremors 4: The Legend Begins was released, with Tremors 5 scheduled for release this year.


In 1998, the USA Network debuted The Net, a series based on the wildly outdated 1995 Sandra Bullock film of the same name. The storyline echoed the early same “early days of the Internet” vibe as the movie, with Brooke Langton stepping in as Angela Bennett, a computer pro who mistakenly receives an email about a terrorist organization’s plan to control the world via people’s PCs. Chilling stuff. Shortly before the series’ premiere, Langton told The Little Review that “I think getting to play a female lead that wasn’t La Femme Nikita, that didn’t have to be like a hired assassin, was a cool opportunity,” and noted that she was a fan of Bullock’s. “People have compared me to her, so I understood why I got the offer—we both have that dark-haired, sort of girl-next-door disposition. It’s so rare to get a really great part. She's been a great character.” The Net was canceled after one season.


Before Sandra Bullock was, well, Sandra Bullock, she was busy filling Melanie Griffith’s Reeboks as Tess McGill, the secretary-turned-titan at the center of Working Girl. Griffith earned an Oscar nomination for the 1988 film. Bullock played the part for just a dozen episodes (four of which never aired). In what might be the most era-appropriate twist of fate, Bullock only landed the role when Nancy McKeon (a.k.a. Jo from The Facts of Life) dropped out.


In 1995, Clueless turned Alicia Silverstone into one of Hollywood’s hottest commodities—which explains why Rachel Blanchard took over the star-making part of Cher Horowitz when the movie became a series, and joined ABC’s TGIF lineup in September 1996 (before moving to UPN for its final two seasons). But much of the original cast made the jump to the small screen, including Stacey Dash as Dionne, Donald Faison as Murray, Elisa Donovan as Amber, Wallace Shawn as Mr. Hall, and Twink Caplan as Ms. Geist. Perhaps presciently, writer-director Amy Heckerling initially pitched the project as a television series before turning it into a film.


Like Clueless, 10 Things I Hate About You catered to the teen crowd. Created by Carter Covington, 20 episodes of the series—which debuted in 2009, a full decade after the movie became a hit—were created for ABC Family. But it was announced in the spring of 2010 that the network was canceling the show due to low ratings. A few months later, Covington apologized to fans—by way of an interview with Entertainment Weekly—for the many cliffhangers he left. “It’s really hard for me because there’s nothing I would wish more than to have been able to have a series finale that really provided some closure for everybody,” said Covington. “In the life of the series, to me, Kat and Patrick were always going to run off into the sunset together. In a way, I’m happy that the series ended where it did because at least they were together.”


The television version of John Carpenter’s cult 1984 sci-fi film debuted in 1986, but was set 15 years after the movie. It tells the story of an alien (played by Robert Hays) who has returned to earth in the body of a deceased journalist in order to spend time with his son, only to have government conspiracies and pesky UFO investigators interrupt their father-son bonding time. The series spent just one season on ABC.


Scott Bakula took over for Michael Keaton when Gung Ho, Ron Howard’s 1986 autoworker comedy, was ordered to series. The film continues the plot set by the movie: Hunt Stevenson, the Pennsylvania-based liaison for a Japanese car company, must try to mitigate the culture clashes happening all around him. Many of the film’s original cast resumed their roles for the television version, including Clint Howard, brother to Ron. The show was canceled after one season.


Before she was antagonizing Michael Scott, Melora Hardin (Jan from The Office) was learning the cha-cha with Patrick Cassidy in this short-lived—and not well-conceived—television spinoff of the 1987 hit movie. More of a remake than a continuation, the series re-set the burgeoning romance between pro dancer Johnny and spoiled rich kid Baby (who in the case of the show is the daughter of resort owner Max Kellerman, not a guest) with enough tweaks to set the series up for a multi-season run. Unfortunately, it was not to be. CBS put Dirty Dancing in a corner after 11 episodes.

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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
Man Buys Two Metric Tons of LEGO Bricks; Sorts Them Via Machine Learning
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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva

Jacques Mattheij made a small, but awesome, mistake. He went on eBay one evening and bid on a bunch of bulk LEGO brick auctions, then went to sleep. Upon waking, he discovered that he was the high bidder on many, and was now the proud owner of two tons of LEGO bricks. (This is about 4400 pounds.) He wrote, "[L]esson 1: if you win almost all bids you are bidding too high."

Mattheij had noticed that bulk, unsorted bricks sell for something like €10/kilogram, whereas sets are roughly €40/kg and rare parts go for up to €100/kg. Much of the value of the bricks is in their sorting. If he could reduce the entropy of these bins of unsorted bricks, he could make a tidy profit. While many people do this work by hand, the problem is enormous—just the kind of challenge for a computer. Mattheij writes:

There are 38000+ shapes and there are 100+ possible shades of color (you can roughly tell how old someone is by asking them what lego colors they remember from their youth).

In the following months, Mattheij built a proof-of-concept sorting system using, of course, LEGO. He broke the problem down into a series of sub-problems (including "feeding LEGO reliably from a hopper is surprisingly hard," one of those facts of nature that will stymie even the best system design). After tinkering with the prototype at length, he expanded the system to a surprisingly complex system of conveyer belts (powered by a home treadmill), various pieces of cabinetry, and "copious quantities of crazy glue."

Here's a video showing the current system running at low speed:

The key part of the system was running the bricks past a camera paired with a computer running a neural net-based image classifier. That allows the computer (when sufficiently trained on brick images) to recognize bricks and thus categorize them by color, shape, or other parameters. Remember that as bricks pass by, they can be in any orientation, can be dirty, can even be stuck to other pieces. So having a flexible software system is key to recognizing—in a fraction of a second—what a given brick is, in order to sort it out. When a match is found, a jet of compressed air pops the piece off the conveyer belt and into a waiting bin.

After much experimentation, Mattheij rewrote the software (several times in fact) to accomplish a variety of basic tasks. At its core, the system takes images from a webcam and feeds them to a neural network to do the classification. Of course, the neural net needs to be "trained" by showing it lots of images, and telling it what those images represent. Mattheij's breakthrough was allowing the machine to effectively train itself, with guidance: Running pieces through allows the system to take its own photos, make a guess, and build on that guess. As long as Mattheij corrects the incorrect guesses, he ends up with a decent (and self-reinforcing) corpus of training data. As the machine continues running, it can rack up more training, allowing it to recognize a broad variety of pieces on the fly.

Here's another video, focusing on how the pieces move on conveyer belts (running at slow speed so puny humans can follow). You can also see the air jets in action:

In an email interview, Mattheij told Mental Floss that the system currently sorts LEGO bricks into more than 50 categories. It can also be run in a color-sorting mode to bin the parts across 12 color groups. (Thus at present you'd likely do a two-pass sort on the bricks: once for shape, then a separate pass for color.) He continues to refine the system, with a focus on making its recognition abilities faster. At some point down the line, he plans to make the software portion open source. You're on your own as far as building conveyer belts, bins, and so forth.

Check out Mattheij's writeup in two parts for more information. It starts with an overview of the story, followed up with a deep dive on the software. He's also tweeting about the project (among other things). And if you look around a bit, you'll find bulk LEGO brick auctions online—it's definitely a thing!

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Cs California, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0
How Experts Say We Should Stop a 'Zombie' Infection: Kill It With Fire
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Cs California, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0

Scientists are known for being pretty cautious people. But sometimes, even the most careful of us need to burn some things to the ground. Immunologists have proposed a plan to burn large swaths of parkland in an attempt to wipe out disease, as The New York Times reports. They described the problem in the journal Microbiology and Molecular Biology Reviews.

Chronic wasting disease (CWD) is a gruesome infection that’s been destroying deer and elk herds across North America. Like bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE, better known as mad cow disease) and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, CWD is caused by damaged, contagious little proteins called prions. Although it's been half a century since CWD was first discovered, scientists are still scratching their heads about how it works, how it spreads, and if, like BSE, it could someday infect humans.

Paper co-author Mark Zabel, of the Prion Research Center at Colorado State University, says animals with CWD fade away slowly at first, losing weight and starting to act kind of spacey. But "they’re not hard to pick out at the end stage," he told The New York Times. "They have a vacant stare, they have a stumbling gait, their heads are drooping, their ears are down, you can see thick saliva dripping from their mouths. It’s like a true zombie disease."

CWD has already been spotted in 24 U.S. states. Some herds are already 50 percent infected, and that number is only growing.

Prion illnesses often travel from one infected individual to another, but CWD’s expansion was so rapid that scientists began to suspect it had more than one way of finding new animals to attack.

Sure enough, it did. As it turns out, the CWD prion doesn’t go down with its host-animal ship. Infected animals shed the prion in their urine, feces, and drool. Long after the sick deer has died, others can still contract CWD from the leaves they eat and the grass in which they stand.

As if that’s not bad enough, CWD has another trick up its sleeve: spontaneous generation. That is, it doesn’t take much damage to twist a healthy prion into a zombifying pathogen. The illness just pops up.

There are some treatments, including immersing infected tissue in an ozone bath. But that won't help when the problem is literally smeared across the landscape. "You cannot treat half of the continental United States with ozone," Zabel said.

And so, to combat this many-pronged assault on our wildlife, Zabel and his colleagues are getting aggressive. They recommend a controlled burn of infected areas of national parks in Colorado and Arkansas—a pilot study to determine if fire will be enough.

"If you eliminate the plants that have prions on the surface, that would be a huge step forward," he said. "I really don’t think it’s that crazy."

[h/t The New York Times]