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.”


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.

Discovery Channel
11 Fast Facts About Cash Cab
Discovery Channel
Discovery Channel

Between 2005 and 2012, anyone hailing a taxi in New York harbored a secret wish: that they’d wind up in the Cash Cab. The mysterious vehicle was both a licensed city taxi and a mobile game show, one where passengers could win thousands of dollars just by answering a few trivia questions on the way to their destination. After five years away, it’s back on Discovery Channel with its original cabbie host, Ben Bailey. But before you slide into the Cash Cab seat once again, check out some trivia on the series itself. Who knows—it could come in handy during your next taxi ride.


Before Cash Cab came to the U.S., it had a brief run in Britain. This Cash Cab aired on ITV with host John Moody. It kicked off in the summer of 2005 and, although producers had high hopes for the series, fizzled out by the following year.


Since the American iteration of Cash Cab became a hit, the concept has expanded across the globe. Internationally, it’s earned airtime in India, Canada, Jamaica, Egypt, and many more countries. Just stateside, the show has had additional runs outside of New York. Check out a clip from Cash Cab Chicago, with host Beth Melewski, above.


Before Ben Bailey was the host of Cash Cab, he was a stand-up comedian who drove limos to pay the bills. That side gig turned out to be useful when he auditioned for the show. According to, Bailey demonstrated his skills behind the wheel by scoring a 92 on his taxi license exam. He got the Cash Cab job, and left his old chauffeuring job behind. But he still does stand-up comedy (in fact, he’s touring now).


Cash Cab can’t run on one man or one vehicle alone; Bailey has a crew close by at all times. Esquire reported that a black van housing the audio and video team trails behind the car. Bailey also has assistants who hop into the cab after he has revealed his identity to passengers. They’ll get contestants to sign their release forms, then work the lights and music. These assistants also, crucially, keep track of how much money is on the line.


Not all passengers are chosen randomly off the street. Some are prescreened, although even that process is a little sneaky. According to previous contestants, the Cash Cab staff often approaches people by saying they work for a made-up series called Show Me New York, where residents share their favorite spots in the city. They’ll give prospective contestants a quiz. If they do well, the staffers will tell them to go to a certain location to film their segment. That’s when they get in the cab, and Bailey reveals the ruse.


Ben Bailey and the Cash Cab
Discovery Channel

While most people shriek in delight when the lights go off in the Cash Cab, not everyone is into the game. Bailey told NPR that when the show was first starting out, people regularly declined to participate. “People would kind of look at me and go, 'I don’t know what this crazy cab driver is up to, but I am out of here,'" he said. After the show gained attention, more passengers stuck around. But Bailey still got some hold-outs.

“I’ve had a couple people who burst into tears in the cab when I’ve told them what was going on,” he told Thrillist. “One time someone seemed to have some sort of panic attack, and then another time, this one woman was having an awful day—she just wanted to get in the cab and get where she needed to go. I was like, ‘Why are you crying in the Cash Cab? This is supposed to be fun, man!’”


Regardless of how well they do, contestants never pay a fare for riding in the Cash Cab. Bailey still runs the meter, because the NYC Taxi and Limousine Commission requires drivers to keep a record of the trip, but there’s no fee at the end of the trip. As Bailey puts it: The Cash Cab is one of only two free rides in New York. The other is the Staten Island Ferry.


To date, the biggest winner in Cash Cab history is a man named Sam, who took a ride with Bailey in 2011. He correctly answered a Video Bonus question about the Bonneville Salt Flats, doubling his $3100 in prize money to $6200. Anyone looking to beat Sam this season had better study up on America’s salt pans.


During the show’s original run, the Cash Cab was a Toyota Sienna minivan, sporting the taxi number 1G12. According to the Associated Press, the specs were so well-known that fans would chant the taxi number at Bailey’s standup shows in New York.


When the old Cash Cab minivan retired, it wound up in Bailey’s own garage in Morristown, New Jersey. “My neighbors are like, ‘Are you a cab driver?’” he told Entertainment Weekly. Bailey admits that he sometimes takes the car out for a drive, to “get people excited just to disappoint them.”


Bailey gets this question all the time and would like to set the record straight: Nobody has ever puked in the Cash Cab. “Surprisingly, no one has,” he told the New York Post. “Once in a while you get someone who is a little disgruntled when they lose, but no release of bodily [fluids] happens on my watch.”

Hopefully, that streak will continue with the show's return.

Hulton Archive/Getty Images
40 Years Later: Watch The Johnny Cash Christmas Show
Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Over the course of his career, Johnny Cash made a series of Christmas TV specials and recorded a string of Christmas records. In this 1977 TV performance, Cash is in great form. He brings special guests Roy Clark, June Carter Cash, The Carter Family, Jerry Lee Lewis, Roy Orbison ("Pretty Woman" starts around 23:50), Carl Perkins, and the Statler Brothers. Tune in for Christmas as we celebrated it 40 years ago—with gigantic shirt collars, wavy hair, and bow ties. So many bow ties.


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