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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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The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

It’s not that being single sucks, it’s that you suck if you’re single.

Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at IFC.com

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Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

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Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

It’s the final countdown to Christmas and thanks to IFC’s movie marathon all Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, you can revel in classic ’80s films AND find inspiration for your last-minute gifts. Here are our recommendations, if you need a head start:

Musical Instrument

Great analog entertainment substitute when you refuse to give your kid the Nintendo Switch they’ve been drooling over.

Breakfast In Bed

Any significant other or child would appreciate these Uncle Buck-approved flapjacks. Just make sure you’re not stuck on clean up duty.

Cocktail Supplies

You’ll need them to get through the holidays.

Dance Lessons

So you can learn to shake-shake-shake (unless you know ghosts willing to lend a hand).

Comfy Clothes

With all the holiday meals, there may be some…embigenning.



Get even more great inspiration all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC, and remember…