Feature-length films being adapted into television programs is, in many ways, as commonplace a practice as that of TV series being turned into movies for theatrical release. Numerous Hollywood film releases have given rise to popular TV programs over the years (multiple iterations, in the case of Stargate). The current small screen landscape already features a handful of movie-based TV shows – Syfy’s sci-fi TV series 12 Monkeys, FX’s crime drama/comedy anthology Fargo, and MTV’s supernatural teen drama Teen Wolf and horror series Scream – that have found loyal audiences that extend beyond fans of their original film inspiration, thanks to the small screen genre entertainment they provide.
Currently, there are several movie-based television programs being in the early stages of development, like sci-fi action/comedy Galaxy Quest (now in the works at Amazon), the crime drama/thriller Training Day that’s been ordered to pilot by CBS, and even a Friday the 13th horror/mystery series that’s being put together at The CW. ABC is also expected to premiere its Mike Epps-starring Uncle Buck TV show – the second television adaptation of the John Hughes comedy – during the 2015-2016 television season (watch the trailer HERE), adding yet another family-oriented sitcom to its original programming lineup.
Here, though, we will focus in particular on 6 Movies Turned TV Shows To Watch For during the impending 2015-2016 TV season:
Minority Report (September 21st, 2015)
Set in Washington, D.C., it is 10 years after the demise of Precrime, a law enforcement agency tasked with identifying and eliminating criminals… before their crimes were committed. To carry out this brand of justice, the agency used three precogs – “precognitives” Dash, Arthur and Agatha – who were able to see the future. Now, in 2065, crime-solving is different, and justice leans more on sophisticated and trusted technology than on the instincts of the precogs. Precog Dash (Stark Sands, “Inside Llewyn Davis”) – driven by his terrifying, but fragmented visions – now has returned in secret to help a brash, but shrewd, police detective, Lara Vega (Meagan Good, “Think Like A Man” franchise, “Californication”), attempt to stop the murders that he predicts.
Fox’s upcoming Minority Report series takes place in the same universe as the 2002 Steven Spielberg film (itself a loose adaptation of the 1956 Philip K. Dick short story “The Minority Report”), and the TV show continuation of that story retains certain aesthetic elements of its cinematic predecessor – such as its depiction of technology and society in the second half of the 21st century – in addition to select supporting cast members (in particular, Daniel London as ex-Precog caretaker Wally). Nonetheless, the Minority Report TV series otherwise looks and feels like a standalone TV crime procedural with a sci-fi twist that doesn’t have a lot in common with Spielberg’s film, in terms of either its tone or themes.
FX’s Fargo series thrived during its freshman season by not just effectively carrying over the thematic texture and tonal qualities of its film predecessor (while dropping hints that the show takes place in the same universe as the film), but also carving out a unique identity for itself, at the same time. There is the same potential for the Minority Report TV show to quickly start building a similarly interesting and semi-independent mythology – perhaps one that examines political corruption within the crime system of the show’s setting – that could allow the show to stand on its own. Spielberg having decided to put his name on the project (by exercising his executive producer credit option) could be evidence that the filmmaker sees the program as a worthwhile expansion of his original film.
That being said, early reviews for Minority Report – see Deadline‘s Dominic Patten and his criticism that the pilot amounts to “a connect-the-dots drama masquerading as a creaky procedural” – provide good reason to remain skeptical that this TV series will amount to a substantial continuation of the Minority Report brand.
Limitless (September 22nd, 2015)
Based on the 2011 feature, Limitless follows Brian Finch as he discovers the power of the mysterious drug NZT. In this new drama from executive producer Bradley Cooper, explore what happens when a man unlocks his limitless potential.
Limitless, similar to Minority Report, is a TV property that takes place in the same universe as its cinematic predecessor – director Neil Burger’s movie – which is itself a loose literature adaptation (also like Minority Report), based on author Alan Glynn’s 2001 sci-fi/thriller book “The Dark Fields”. The similarities don’t end there; CBS’ Limitless TV series also uses procedural plot elements to provide a framework for the continued expansion of its own fictional science-driven world and narrative. Lastly, Limitless boasts two notable leads in Jake McDorman (Greek) and Jennifer Carpenter (Dexter), along with some big names, such as the pilot director Marc Webb, producer Alex Kurtzman, and executive producer Bradley Cooper (who also reprises his Limitless movie role on the show), all working behind the camera, too.
Marketing for Limitless has teased that Cooper could make additional appearances on the series following the pilot, but it’s unlikely his Limitless movie character will prove integral to the series’ own partly-independent storyline beyond the pilot. Limitless is based in our everyday reality, so there’s not a whole lot about this fictional world (beyond Cooper’s character) that reads as being ripe material for additional exploration; it doesn’t help that Limitless TV show trailers haven’t devoted much effort to selling the series’ main characters as being that captivating or unusual, just taken on their own merits.
Ultimately, though, it’s the show’s ability to create a captivating backstory for the NZT drug (and the effects it has on the existence on the larger world) that will determine whether or not this series can be anything more than a serviceable, yet generic show about a crime-solving “super-powered” hero (or anti-hero, be that the case). After all, in the current TV landscape, there are many successful variations on that theme already available (see: Elementary, iZombie, etc.).
Ash vs. Evil Dead (October 31st, 2015)
“Ash vs Evil Dead” follows Ash, the stock boy, aging lothario and chainsaw-handed monster hunter who has spent the last 30 years avoiding responsibility, maturity and the terrors of the Evil Dead. When a Deadite plague threatens to destroy all of mankind, Ash is finally forced to face his demons –personal and literal. Destiny, it turns out, has no plans to release the unlikely hero from its “Evil” grip.
Starz’ Evil Dead TV series reunites a number of principal players from the original Evil Dead movie trilogy, including producer Robert Tapert, director Sam Raimi, and (of course) star Bruce Campbell back in the role of Ashley J. Williams. It therefore comes as little surprise that Ash vs. Evil Dead trailer footage paints the show as being a proper continuation of the Raimi Evil Dead movies, in terms of both their stylistic approach and their blend of irreverent comedy with supernatural horror elements. This program’s cable television home also provides the necessary creative leeway for the show to match the over the top splatter-fest qualities of its predecessors, with the benefit of a cable TV series budget to bring its gory effects to life.
The main obstacle that Ash vs. Evil Dead will have to overcome is the long-form storytelling format of television, which may not necessarily lend itself to an Evil Dead narrative as well as film does. Thus far, it would appear that the series will be attempting to balance its over-arching story developments – Ash and Co. going on a journey to destroy the Necronomicon while Ruby (Lucy Lawless) goes hunting after Ash – with episodic plot threads, where Ash and his companions must deal with specific Deadite-related threats or issues on a weekly basis. Nonetheless, Ash vs. Evil Dead isn’t expected to be as plot-driven as certain other cable programs are, for better of worse.
Hence, it’s the show’s mix of laughs/scares and cast chemistry that look to really make or break Ash vs. Evil Dead – and, as mentioned before, that’s one area where showrunner Craig DiGregorio (Chuck, Workaholics) and his collaborators seem to be right on point, thus far.
Damien (Fall 2015/Early 2016)
“Damien” follows the adult life of Damien Thorn, the mysterious child from the 1976 motion picture who has grown up seemingly unaware of the satanic forces around him. Haunted by his past, Damien must now come to terms with his true destiny — that he is the Antichrist.
A&E’s Damien is headlined by Merlin and iZombie alum Bradley James as the series’ namesake, while the show was created by one-time The Walking Dead showrunner Glen Mazzara. Nevertheless, even with solid talent working on both sides of the camera, the narrative of the grown-up Damien from The Omen – the horror franchise that began with director Richard Donner’s 1976 movie of the same name – wrestling with his true identity is one that has already been explored, over the course of three Omen sequels. Furthermore, Damien (similar to the aforementioned Uncle Buck) isn’t the first time a TV adaptation of this property has been made; back in 1995, an Omen TV movie directed by Jack Sholder was meant to kick off a new series on Fox… but, of course, it failed in that quest.
That being said, Damien is a proper continuation of the first Omen movie narrative and thus exists in the same universe as its predecessor (like the majority of shows on this list). Beyond that, A&E is one for one when it comes to taking well-traveled horror movie franchises and finding new life in them by expanding their mythologies on the small screen – having done so successfully with its Psycho-based television prequel, Bates Motel. It’s difficult to say if the network can go two for two, though, without much in the way of Damien trailer footage to judge from at this point in time.
Still, it’s fair to say: A&E is certainly hoping for another Bates Motel-style score with Damien.
Rush Hour (Expected Premiere: January 2016)
RUSH HOUR, a reimagining of the hit feature film franchise, is a buddy-cop drama about a maverick LAPD detective and a by-the-book detective from Hong Kong who knock heads when they are forced to partner together.
CBS’ Rush Hour TV show, unlike the previously-listed movie-based series, is not a small screen continuation/spinoff of its big screen predecessor. This particular series is a proper TV show reboot of the original Rush Hour property, complete with new actors filling the roles originally played by Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker, respectively, during the Rush Hour movie trilogy – namely, by the book Hong Kong detective Lee (Jon Foo) and fast-talking independent LAPD officer Carter (Justin Hires). Rush Hour 1-3 director Brett Ratner will receive executive producer credit on the series, but the folks who are really running the show are pilot director Jon Turteltaub, along with the co-creators Bill Lawrence (creator of Scrubs and co-creator of Cougar Town) and Blake McCormick (a Futurama alum who also collaborated with Lawrence on Cougar Town).
Rush Hour will have a procedural format and benefits from big names backing it, a la Minority Report and Limitless; unlike those shows, Rush Hour will sink or swim based on the comedic screen dynamic between Foo and Hires, since the show’s “mythos” won’t be a hook in this case. Lawrence has a good track record when it comes to cast chemistry, but the concern is that both of the show’s leads will be held back as they attempt to do more than just imitate their predecessors’ performances (both in terms of action and comedy alike).
In short: there’s potential here, but of the shows listed so far, Rush Hour is the one that seems most in danger of suffering from what you might call “The Transporter Refueled Syndrome.” We’ll see if that outlook changes at all, once a trailer for the show has officially dropped (you can now watch a leaked preview online, though).
Westworld (Expected Premiere: Spring 2016)
‘Westworld’ is a dark odyssey about the dawn of artificial consciousness and the future of sin. The one-hour drama features actors Anthony Hopkins, Ed Harris, Evan Rachel Wood, James Marsden, Thandie Newton, Jeffrey Wright, Sidse Babett Knudsen, Rodrigo Santoro, Shannon Woodward, Ingrid Bolsø Berdal, Ben Barnes, Jimmi Simpson, Clifton Collins, Jr., Simon Quarterman and Angela Sarafyan.
Part of the reason Ash vs. Evil Dead has people excited is that there’s simply nothing else like it on cable television right now; the same could be said for Westworld, the upcoming HBO TV series based on the 1973 sci-fi thriller (with western flavoring) written and directed by the late Michael Crichton (author of the Jurassic Park novels). The series was created by Person of Interest creator Jonathan “Brother of Christopher” Nolan, with assistance from his wife and Burn Notice series writer/producer, Lisa Joy. Furthermore, its stories of A.I. beings and setting of a futuristic amusement park – where visitors can play out their wildest (and most twisted) fantasies – also have the backing of powerhouse producer J.J. Abrams.
The basic Westworld mythology and its potential – such that future seasons of the show could focus more on different areas of the series’ twisted futuristic setting – is arguably richer than that for any of the other movie-based television properties listed here. Story-wise, there appear to be elements of the series (killer A.I. on the loose, questions about consciousness) that have been explored before even on the small screen in recent memory (see Almost Human, Dollhouse, and so on), so there is the risk that Westworld could wind up feeling derivative in its exploration of similar ideas; with HBO as its home, though, there’s no reason that this show cannot meet the level of thought-provoking and emotionally-unsetttling sci-fi entertainment that its creators are intent on crafting.
Indeed, with a cast this packed with talent and several accomplished television storytellers working behind the scenes, expectations are certainly high for Westworld. If the show meets them, who knows – maybe this will be the next major HBO success.
Feel free to let us know which (if any) of these movies-turned TV shows you are anticipating, in the comment section below.