DID YOU READ

6 Great TV Shows Adapted From Movies (and 6 Really Terrible Ones)

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Adapting a television show from a movie isn’t easy. Just because something works on the big screen doesn’t mean it can hold up to the rigors of episodic storytelling. The task of replacing actors, characters, even tone, on a fraction of the budget, can leave the best intentioned projects looking like cheap fan fiction (minus the creepy sex). And that’s ignoring those shows that were green lit as cash grabs, banking on a title, in place of a good script. There’s no steadfast rule as to what works, and what doesn’t. Here’s a look at some of the best and worse examples of this trend.

GREAT: Buffy the Vampire Slayer

An example of what can happen when a great idea is allowed room to grow, original screenwriter Joss Whendon was put in charge of the TV version of the 1992 Kristy Swanson cult favorite movie, and given a long leash to explore the world of Sunnydale High. What resulted was one of the most revolutionary shows in the medium’s history. Never happy with the film’s execution, Whedon reworked the broad humor into something far more clever, and grounded the emotions, creating an all-time classic in the process.


NOT GREAT: Uncle Buck

And then there is was the TV version of Uncle Buck, which replaced the lovable and hilarious John Candy with the less lovable and hilarious Kevin Meaney. Ironically the crass sitcom wouldn’t be entirely out of place on CBS’ current line-up of multi-camera laugh-a-thons.


GREAT: Fargo

This show had no business succeeding. Operating with the unique tone of the Coen Brothers’ original film, nearly two decades after it came out, the chances of coming off like a Halloween costume brought to life were legitimate. And yet, somehow creator Noah Hawley found a way to honor the original while carving out room for his own characters’ stories. Hiring Coen vet Billy Bob Thornton only helped this show become a worthy successor to its Oscar-winning predecessor.


NOT GREAT: Ferris Bueller

This show was doomed from its opening scene, when lead Charlie Schlatter of 18 Again! fame cut a cardboard cutout of Matthew Brodrick in half with a chainsaw, calling his performance as Ferris “too white bread.” Well, the only reason we’re watching this show is because we liked that performance, thus making us wonder, why are we watching this show? Interestingly enough, another Ferris rip-off, Parker Lewis Can’t Lose, debuted at the same time, and became a hit largely because it wasn’t so handcuffed by the original.


GREAT: Alien Nation

Much like Highlander: The Series, Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, or The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles, this show is the perfect example of a movie creating a world so rich, it needed more than a two-hour running time to do it justice. The creators of this adaptation knew television was the perfect place to explore the nuanced politics of the original over time, while still throwing in a bunch of weird alien sex and murder.


NOT GREAT: Tremors

And then there are the worlds we don’t need to know anything more about. That isn’t meant to knock the 1990 classic Tremors, but we got most of the information we needed from it at the time. Worms under the sand? Check. Fred Ward is grumpy? Check. The two straight-to-DVD sequels helped fill in the blanks for the real diehards. By the time Sci-Fi green lit this TV series, the only cast member still hanging on was ’80s TV Dad Michael Gross. When your fourth lead is now expected to carry the show, you have a problem.

GREAT: M*A*S*H

A Robert Altman classic about the futility of war, showrunner Larry Gelbart found a way to translate the film to the very specific conventions of the 1970s sitcoms. Pitch black humor and dying soldiers don’t seem to scream for a laugh track, but Gelbart and his crew of talented writers found a formula that would lead to 14 Emmys. Though it ran for twice the length of the Korean War it was set it, the all-star cast helped turn this project into one of the great sitcoms of all time.


NOT GREAT: The Net

Hey, do you remember the movie The Net? I think it starred Sandra Bullock? Came out in the 90s? Was about this new fangled thing called the Internet? Not ringing a bell? And yet someone decided that this bland, forgettable artifact of its time was just the vehicle to launch a TV series off of. Either that, or they lost a bet. Either way, it wouldn’t last a season, and would never be spoken of again. But if you like heroes trying to fight crime using dial-up AOL accounts, then this is the show for you.


GREAT: Friday Night Lights

An example of a great movie translating perfectly to the small screen, Friday Night Lights felt no need to reinvent the wheel. Shepherded by the film’s director, Peter Berg, the show found a way to use what worked about the hit movie, and then dig in even deeper to tell the story of the Dillon Panthers. Here’s a show, based on a movie, based on a book, based on a true story, and yet each iteration has somehow succeeded on its own merits.

Catch Friday Night Lights tonight at 10:15p on IFC.


NOT GREAT: Dirty Dancing

Nobody tried to reinvent the wheel here either, which turned out to be a mistake. For a movie based on the star appeal and romantic chemistry of its leads, this show became an experiment in what would happen without either. It turns out the answer was leaden performances and a series of bland dance numbers. No one had the time of their life watching this flop.


GREAT: Parenthood (2010 – 2015)

Jason Katims of My So-Called Life and Friday Night Lights fame managed to successfully turn the very ’80s Steve Martin comedy into a resonate family drama for our time.


NOT GREAT: Parenthood (1990 – 1991)

Except that it wasn’t the first time NBC tried its hand at a Parenthood show. Back in 1990, Ed Begley Jr., David Arquette, and a young Leonardo DiCaprio and Thora Birch starred in a sitcom version that skewed closer to the movie. (It even transported Randy Newman’s “I Love to See You Smile” from the movie for the theme song.) As early attempts at the single camera dramedy go, it’s not terrible. (Joss Whedon was on the writing staff.) But as adaptations of Parenthood go, it comes in a distinct second.

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New Nasty

Whips, Chains and Hand Sanitizer

Turn On The Full Season Of Neurotica At IFC's Comedy Crib

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Jenny Jaffe has a lot going on: She’s writing for Disney’s upcoming Big Hero 6: The Series, developing comedy projects with pals at Devastator Press, and she’s straddling the line between S&M and OCD as the creator and star of the sexyish new series Neurotica, which has just made its debut on IFC’s Comedy Crib. Jenny gave us some extremely intimate insight into what makes Neurotica (safely) sizzle…

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IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. 

IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. You’re great. We should get coffee sometime. I’m not just saying that. I know other people just say that sometimes but I really feel like we’re going to be friends, you know? Here, what’s your number, I’ll call you so you can have my number! 

IFC: What’s your comedy origin story?

Jenny: Since I was a kid I’ve dealt with severe OCD and anxiety. Comedy has always been one of the ways I’ve dealt with that. I honestly just want to help make people feel happy for a few minutes at a time. 

IFC: What was the genesis of Neurotica?

Jenny: I’m pretty sure it was a title-first situation. I was coming up with ideas to pitch to a production company a million years ago (this isn’t hyperbole; I am VERY old) and just wrote down “Neurotica”; then it just sort of appeared fully formed. “Neurotica? Oh it’s an over-the-top romantic comedy about a Dominatrix with OCD, of course.” And that just happened to hit the buttons of everything I’m fascinated by. 

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IFC: How would you describe Ivy?

Jenny: Ivy is everything I love in a comedy character – she’s tenacious, she’s confident, she’s sweet, she’s a big wonderful weirdo. 

IFC: How would Ivy’s clientele describe her?

Jenny:  Open-minded, caring, excellent aim. 

IFC: Why don’t more small towns have local dungeons?

Jenny: How do you know they don’t? 

IFC: What are the pros and cons of joining a chain mega dungeon?

Jenny: You can use any of their locations but you’ll always forget you have a membership and in a year you’ll be like “jeez why won’t they let me just cancel?” 

IFC: Mouths are gross! Why is that?

Jenny: If you had never seen a mouth before and I was like “it’s a wet flesh cave with sharp parts that lives in your face”, it would sound like Cronenberg-ian body horror. All body parts are horrifying. I’m kind of rooting for the singularity, I’d feel way better if I was just a consciousness in a cloud. 

See the whole season of Neurotica right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

The-Craft

The ’90s Are Back

The '90s live again during IFC's weekend marathon.

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Photo Credit: Everett Digital, Columbia Pictures

We know what you’re thinking: “Why on Earth would anyone want to reanimate the decade that gave us Haddaway, Los Del Rio, and Smash Mouth, not to mention Crystal Pepsi?”

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Thoughts like those are normal. After all, we tend to remember lasting psychological trauma more vividly than fleeting joy. But if you dig deep, you’ll rediscover that the ’90s gave us so much to fondly revisit. Consider the four pillars of true ’90s culture.

Boy Bands

We all pretended to hate them, but watch us come alive at a karaoke bar when “I Want It That Way” comes on. Arguably more influential than Brit Pop and Grunge put together, because hello – Justin Timberlake. He’s a legitimate cultural gem.

Man-Child Movies

Adam Sandler is just behind The Simpsons in terms of his influence on humor. Somehow his man-child schtick didn’t get old until the aughts, and his success in that arena ushered in a wave of other man-child movies from fellow ’90s comedians. RIP Chris Farley (and WTF Rob Schneider).

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Teen Angst

In horror, dramas, comedies, and everything in between: Troubled teens! Getting into trouble! Who couldn’t relate to their First World problems, plaid flannels, and lose grasp of the internet?

Mainstream Nihilism

From the Coen Bros to Fincher to Tarantino, filmmakers on the verge of explosive popularity seemed interested in one thing: mind f*cking their audiences by putting characters in situations (and plot lines) beyond anyone’s control.

Feeling better about that walk down memory lane? Good. Enjoy the revival.

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And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.

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Get Physical

DVDs are the new Vinyl

Portlandia Season 7 Now Available On Disc.

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In this crazy digital age, sometimes all we really want is to reach out and touch something. Maybe that’s why so many of us are still gung-ho about owning stuff on DVD. It’s tangible. It’s real. It’s tech from a bygone era that still feels relevant, yet also kitschy and retro. It’s basically vinyl for people born after 1990.

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Inevitably we all have that friend whose love of the disc is so absolutely repellent that he makes the technology less appealing. “The resolution, man. The colors. You can’t get latitude like that on a download.” Go to hell, Tim.

Yes, Tim sucks, and you don’t want to be like Tim, but maybe he’s onto something and DVD is still the future. Here are some benefits that go beyond touch.

It’s Decor and Decorum

With DVDs and a handsome bookshelf you can show off your great taste in film and television without showing off your search history. Good for first dates, dinner parties, family reunions, etc.

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Forget Public Wifi

Warm up that optical drive. No more awkwardly streaming episodes on shady free wifi!

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Inter-not

Internet service goes down. It happens all the time. It could happen right now. Then what? Without a DVD on hand you’ll be forced to make eye contact with your friends and family. Or worse – conversation.

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Self Defense

You can’t throw a download like a ninja star. Think about it.

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If you’d like to experience the benefits DVD ownership yourself, Portlandia Season 7 is now available on DVD and Blue-Ray.