When it comes to adapting big screen movies for television, it hasn’t always gone smoothly. For every hit - Buffy the Vampire Slayer - there are at least five misses - My Big Fat Greek Life, Ferris Bueller, Working Girl, Blade, Dirty Dancing. The Coen brothers’ Fargo (they’re not involved) is taking another stab at the small screen (a pilot with Edie Falco was filmed in 1997), and by all indications the anthology series with Billy Bob Thornton and Martin Freeman looks poised to buck the trend and become a hit.
Inspired by the success of this made-in-Calgary crime drama, let’s take a look back at the best and worst movie-inspired TV shows.
After 2007’s dismal Hannibal Rising, it seemed like there were no other stories to tell about everyone’s favourite cannibalistic psychiatrist. Well, Bryan Fuller has quashed that with his creative origin tale of how FBI profiler Will Graham captures the serial killer Hannibal Lecter. Tapping into Thomas Harris’ books and the iconic films, it’s one of the best - and scariest - shows to air on network television. Its proposed seven-season arc also ensures that fans will not only get a reimagining of The Silence of the Lambs and Hanniabal, but a conclusion that Harris’ books lacked.
Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (2013-present)
With Captain America, Iron Man and Thor raking in huge box office dollars, Disney’s spinoff series should be doing better audience wise. The action has been lacking, and at times the storyline has plodded along, but we like how the program, which resurrects Agent Phil Coulson, is trying to create Marvel experience for fans who don’t like waiting six months between the movies. Bonus points for the recent Winter Soldier tie-in (no spoilers here).
From Dusk Till Dawn (2014-present)
If there’s anyone you want to bet on when it comes to reinventing his own work, its writer-director Robert Rodriguez. His inspired take on his 1996 feature film, co-written by Quentin Tarantino and starring George Clooney and Tarantino, retains much of the dark humour from the original, while giving viewers a fresh ride through the supernatural realm. So far, we like what we see.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1997-2003)
It’s probably the only show that eclipsed the film it was based on (we use that term very loosely). It made Joss Whedon a household name and, with its season eight and nine comic book continuations, finally got my wife into comics.
This adaptation of Robert Altman’s 1970 show ran for so long that most people forgot it was based on a movie. The finale was the most-watched of all time and the show spawned two spinoffs. Pretty successful if you ask me.
Star Wars: The Clone Wars (2008-2014)
Say what you want about George Lucas’ prequels, this animated series, set in between Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith, gave fans plenty to chew on. The art was a bit gimmicky, and some of the characterizations too kid-friendly, but it has done a fairly good job of keeping the Force strong in between Episode III and next year’s Episode VII.
There have been two attempts to bring this one to the small screen. But the most recent Maggie Q outing was a slick take on Luc Besson’s 1990 action film that was a ton of fun.
Honourable mentions: Friday Night Lights, Parenthood, Stargate SG-1.
Ferris Bueller (1990)
The biggest surprise is that the series, which co-starred a then-unknown Jennifer Aniston, lasted 13 episodes. It was so bad, creator John Hughes asked that his name not be used to promote it.
My Big Fat Greek Life (2003)
The 2002 feature film made almost $370 million worldwide, but the series was a dismal flop that lasted seven episodes.
Working Girl (1990)
The most interesting factoid about this one is that it starred Oscar-winner Sandra Bullock.
Police Academy: The Series (1997-1998)
Can you believe Michael Winslow (Larvelle "Motor Mouth" Jones) was the only actor to sign up for this remake? Well, considering it only lasted one season - you probably can.
Blue Thunder (1984)
How could a movie about a helicopter starring Dana Carvey last only 11 episodes? We just answered our own question.