Three Best & Worst TV Shows Turned Into Big-Screen Films
If it's a hit, even four years after the show went off the air, the wheels will undoubtedly start turning for at least a couple of those men and women determined to milk every last cent out of their fans. But before they jump into something prematurely and make some rash story decisions, they need to do a little research on the television shows-turned-feature films that worked...and those that didn't.
1.) South Park: Bigger, Longer, & Uncut
Part of Trey Parker and Matt Stone's success with "South Park: Bigger, Longer, & Uncut" (1999) came from the fact that the film was released when the show was really finding its popularity. With a big-screen version Parker & Stone were able to get controversial jokes and images past censors that even on the cable television level were too strict. Expanding on gags already touched upon in the show proved to any still skeptical viewer that these guys were not just about potty mouths and fart humor; their once toss-off line about Brian Boitano or what Cartman deems Kyle's mom turned into full-on musical numbers, raising the bar for Parker & Stone but also for primetime cartoons everywhere. "Bigger, Longer, & Uncut" was able to reach past the normal Comedy Central audience and bring new butts in the seats, which only led new eyes to the tube when their next season began, deeming it an even bigger success than they could have initially anticipated.
2.) RENO 911! Miami
Another Comedy Central cult favorite, "RENO 911!" (2007), improvs its way through each week's thirty-minute installment, but the feature-length transition became a more crass, more skin-filled version of a Christopher Guest film. Chock full of "That Guy (and Gal)" cameos, as well as bringing on some past favorites (though some in different roles), "RENO 911! Miami" took sexual innuendos and phone-fumbling to new heights and even threw in a low-speed vehicle chase for good measure.
Joss Whedon's cult hit "Firefly" seemed almost made to be a movie from the minute it debuted on the small screen in 2002. Set in space but told in the vein of a western, its characters were involved both dimensionally and with each other, and its dialogue was snappy and fun, giving it all of the right parts to be the modern Star Wars (heck, it even had the clunky spaceship!).
In 2005 when Universal released it as "Serenity" and that spaceship crashed into theaters, it was as if it had found its home. Everything could be done bigger - offering better, flashier special effects, more suspense, and more comic relief. Without worrying about keeping characters fresh and interesting episode after episode, Whedon had more freedom with their arcs and their lives, offering bigger drama, as well.
Based on these winning examples, perhaps a successful television-to-film transformation requires a few things in its formula, one being that it focuses a good chunk on comedic elements (which luckily "Sex and the City" has going for it). Also, the show shouldn't be gone too long from our televisions and therefore our consciousnesses. Unfortunately, the longer the show is off the air, the more willing producers seem to be to just do a remake rather than come up with a new, original plot to carry their characters through to present time. More often than not, parallels to the original can't help but be drawn, and in comparison, despite any technological advancements or tongue-in-cheek humor, the new versions usually just don't work.
The most atrocious example has to be the Will Ferrell/Nicole Kidman film "Bewitched" (2005), which took the most post-modern approach to updating a classic possible by poking a self-reflexive stab at the original, and the industry in general, by having a show within a movie about a show. Despite the talent attached (supporting cast included Michael Caine, Steve Carell, and Shirley MacLaine) and a few chuckle-worthy one-liners, audiences were mostly just left scratching their heads, not tossing them back in laughter. In a way, this "redoing" of a story that reached across generations just came off as disrespectful and mocking, and audiences immaterialized from theaters as quickly as Endora herself.
2.) The Mod Squad
This film turned the procedural formula (in which crimes get solved within the hour) into a two-hour feature doomed "The Mod Squad" (1999). Instead of a finely-crafted A to B plot exercise, the writers attempted to "update" the 1975 show by filling the script with fake-outs and wrong turns but ended up getting tangled in their own twists, confusing everyone in the process. Never mind the fact that it is completely unfathomable that meek-mannered Claire Danes could be a juvenile delinquent or a toe-to-toe with drug dealers Undercover!
3.) The Dukes Of Hazzard
Without the bumble-brained Jessica Simpson, the ADD-adrenaline of Johnny Knoxville, and the "aw shucks" infancy of Seann William Scott leading its cast, "The Dukes of Hazzard" (2005) might have stood a fighting chance. When all three leads are inept, the dialogue teeters on the edge between racist and just plain offensive to intelligence, and the light-hearted, silly, family friendly family turns into a sexualized trio. However, it can't even be a fun, enjoyable fluff piece of a film. Producers and fans of the original are just embarrassed by the display.
So where does this leave some of those recently-ended fan favorites like The Sopranos, Six Feet Under, The Wire, Gilmore Girls... or even Friends? "The Sopranos" creator David Chase just signed a deal with Paramount to write, produce, and direct his first feature. Is he getting his feet wet for a big-screen adaptation of his acclaimed drama? Will more follow his lead? Only time (and the box office) will tell...
What do you think are some of the best and worst TV-to-film adaptations? Make a comment!
Story by Danielle Turchiano
Starpulse contributing writer
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