15 Movies That Were Turned Into TV Shows
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.”
3. BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER
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.”
4. DELTA HOUSE
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.
6. FERRIS BUELLER
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.
7. UNCLE BUCK
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.
9. THE NET
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.
10. WORKING GIRL
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.
12. 10 THINGS I HATE ABOUT YOU
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.
14. GUNG HO
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.
15. DIRTY DANCING
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.